(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — “Not sure whether China will be nice to self-ruled Taiwan? Wait until after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party. What’s in store for the hotly disputed, resource-rich South China Sea, where Beijing has taken a military and technological lead since 2010? Wait until after the Congress. Coffee maker wouldn’t start today? Wait until after the Congress. Wait. But you get the idea: This event, due to start Oct. 18, is monumental enough to put a lot of Asia on hold — and make it worry.”
We’re revolutionizing the news industry, but we need your help! Click here to get started. That’s how Ralph Jennings opened his piece for Forbes on Wednesday. Humor aside, the point he’s making is the same one I made at the end of September — that China’s upcoming National Congress is a really big deal. China sets the regional tone on nearly all matters, as Jennings points out in his article:
“Chinese foreign and economic policies shape much of Asia. China’s ever-growing efforts to build and fund infrastructure around the subcontinent through initiatives such as One Belt, One Road have obvious impact on smaller countries that might otherwise struggle to finance their own projects. Neighbors from Japan to India are watching China for foreign policy cues that affect their iffy diplomatic relations with the region’s major power.”
But China’s geopolitical influence extends far beyond Asia. The country has long been viewed as the rising global superpower on pace to dethrone the United States. Much has been written and said about China’s willingness to embrace this role as more and more countries turn to it for guidance.
China is highly conscious of this trend. It feels the world’s eyes aimed squarely in its direction and very much wants everything at the upcoming Congress, during which President Xi Jinping is expected to be reaffirmed as leader and appoint his own trusted allies to key positions of power, to go smoothly.
This is why, as I pointed out last month, the Chinese government has implemented a system-wide crackdown — both in the streets and in cyberspace — on political dissent ahead of the Congress. It all goes back to perception and the desire to present to the world the “One China” the country’s government says exists.
But perhaps there’s even more to it than that. It may be that once power is further solidified under Xi at the Congress, China will be ready to fully embrace the role of world leader. On Wednesday, its state-run Xinhua News Agency ran an article titled “China offers wisdom in global governance,” which opened with the following:
“With its own development and becoming increasingly closer to the center of the world stage, China has been injecting positive energy into the international community in pursuit of better global governance over recent years.”