Leader’s unshakeable ambition is that China’s
renaissance will smash memories of the ‘century
of humiliation’ once and for all
By Pepe Escobar
November 19, 202:
Information Clearing House
--Late last week in Beijing, the sixth plenum
of the Chinese Communist Party adopted a
historic resolution – only the third in its
100-year history – detailing major accomplishments
and laying out a vision for the future.
Essentially, the resolution poses three
questions. How did we get here? How come we were so
successful? And what have we learned to make these
The importance of this resolution should not be
underestimated. It imprints a major geopolitical
fact: China is back. Big time. And doing it their
way. No amount of fear and loathing deployed by the
declining hegemon will alter this path.
The resolution will inevitably prompt quite a few
misunderstandings. So allow me a little
deconstruction, from the point of view of a
gwailo who has lived between East and West for
the past 27 years.
If we compare China’s 31 provinces with the 214
sovereign states that compose the “international
community”, every Chinese region has experienced the
fastest economic growth rates in the world.
Across the West, the lineaments of China’s
notorious growth equation – without any historical
parallel – have usually assumed the mantle of an
Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping’s ’s famous
“crossing the river while feeling the stones”,
described as the path to build “socialism with
Chinese characteristics” may be the overarching
vision. But the devil has always been in the
details: how the Chinese applied – with a mix of
prudence and audaciousness – every possible device
to facilitate the transition towards a modern
The – hybrid – result has been defined by a
delightful oxymoron: “communist market economy.”
Actually, that’s the perfect practical translation
of Deng’s legendary “it doesn’t matter the color of
the cat, as long as it catches mice.” And it was
this oxymoron, in fact, that the new resolution
passed in Beijing celebrated last week.
Made in China 2025
Mao and Deng have been exhaustively analyzed over
the years. Let’s focus here on Papa Xi’s brand new
Right after he was elevated to the apex of the
party, Xi defined his unambiguous master plan: to
accomplish the “Chinese dream”, or China’s
“renaissance.” In this case, in political economy
terms, “renaissance” meant to realign China to its
rightful place in a history spanning at least three
millennia: right at the center. Middle Kingdom,
Already during his first term Xi managed to
imprint a new ideological framework. The Party – as
in centralized power – should lead the economy
towards what was rebranded as “the new era.” A
reductionist formulation would be The State
Strikes Back. In fact, it was way more
This was not merely a rehash of state-run economy
standards. Nothing to do with a Maoist structure
capturing large swathes of the economy. Xi embarked
in what we could sum up as a quite original form of
authoritarian state capitalism – where the state is
simultaneously an actor and the arbiter of economic
Team Xi did learn a lot of lessons from the West,
using mechanisms of regulation and supervision to
check, for instance, the shadow banking sphere.
Macroeconomically, the expansion of public debt in
China was contained, and the extension of credit
better supervised. It took only a few years for
Beijing to be convinced that major financial sphere
risks were under control.
China’s new economic groove was de facto
announced in 2015 via “Made in China 2025”,
reflecting the centralized ambition of reinforcing
the civilization-state’s economic and technological
independence. That would imply a serious reform of
somewhat inefficient public companies – as some had
become states within the state.
In tandem, there was a redesign of the “decisive
role of the market” – with the emphasis that new
riches would have to be at the disposal of China’s
renaissance as its strategic interests – defined, of
course, by the party.
So the new arrangement amounted to imprinting a
“culture of results” into the public sector while
associating the private sector to the pursuit of an
overarching national ambition. How to pull it off?
By facilitating the party’s role as general director
and encouraging public-private partnerships.
The Chinese state disposes of immense means and
resources that fit its ambition. Beijing made sure
that these resources would be available for those
companies that perfectly understood they were on a
mission: to contribute to the advent of a “new era.”
Manual for power projection
There’s no question that China under Xi, in eight
short years, was deeply transformed. Whatever the
liberal West makes of it – hysteria about neo-Maoism
included – from a Chinese point of view that’s
absolutely irrelevant, and won’t derail the process.
What must be understood, by both the Global North
and South, is the conceptual framework of the
“Chinese dream”: Xi’s unshakeable ambition is that
the renaissance of China will finally smash the
memories of the “century of humiliation” for good.
Party discipline – the Chinese way – is really
something to behold. The CCP is the only communist
party on the planet that thanks to Deng has
discovered the secret of amassing wealth.
And that brings us to Xi’s role enshrined as a
great transformer, on the same conceptual level as
Mao and Deng. He fully grasped how the state and the
party created wealth: the next step is to use the
party and wealth as instruments to be put at the
service of China’s renaissance.
Nothing, not even a nuclear war, will deviate Xi
and the Beijing leadership from this path. They even
devised a mechanism – and a slogan – for the new
power projection: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),
originally One Belt, One Road (OBOR).
In 2017, BRI was incorporated into the party
statutes. Even considering the “lost in translation”
angle, there’s no Westernized, linear definition for
BRI is deployed on many superimposed levels. It
started with a series of investments facilitating
the supply of commodities to China.
Then came investments in transport and
connectivity infrastructure, with all their nodes
and hubs such as Khorgos, at the Chinese-Kazakh
border. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),
announced in 2013, symbolized the symbiosis of these
two investment paths.
The next step was to transform logistical hubs
into integrated economic zones – for instance as in
HP based in Chongjing exporting its products via a
BRI rail network to the Netherlands. Then came the
Digital Silk Roads – from 5G to AI – and the
Covid-linked Health Silk Roads.
What’s certain is that all these roads lead to
Beijing. They work as much as economic corridors as
soft power avenues, “selling” the Chinese way
especially across the Global South.
Make Trade, Not War
Make Trade, Not War: that would be the motto of a
Pax Sinica under Xi. The crucial aspect is that
Beijing does not aim to replace Pax Americana, which
always relied on the Pentagon’s variant of gunboat
The declaration subtly reinforced that Beijing is
not interested in becoming a new hegemon. What
matters above all is to remove any possible
constraints that the outside world may impose over
its own internal decisions, and especially over its
unique political setup.
The West may embark on hysteria fits over
anything – from Tibet and Hong Kong to Xinjiang and
Taiwan. It won’t change a thing.
Concisely, this is how “socialism with Chinese
characteristics” – a unique, always mutant economic
system – arrived at the Covid-linked
techno-feudalist era. But no one knows how long the
system will last, and in which mutant form.
Corruption, debt – which tripled in ten years –
political infighting – none of that has disappeared
in China. To reach 5% annual growth, China would
have to recover the growth in productivity
comparable to those breakneck times in the 80s and
90s, but that will not happen because a decrease in
growth is accompanied by a parallel decrease in
A final note on terminology. The CCP is always
extremely precise. Xi’s two predecessors espoused
“perspectives” or “visions.” Deng wrote “theory.”
But only Mao was accredited with “thought.” The “new
era” has now seen Xi, for all practical purposes,
elevated to the status of “thought” – and part of
the civilization-state’s constitution.
That’s why the party resolution last week in
Beijing could be interpreted as the New Communist
Manifesto. And its main author is, without a shadow
of a doubt, Xi Jinping. Whether the manifesto will
be the ideal road map for a wealthier, more educated
and infinitely more complex society than in the
times of Deng, all bets are off.
is correspondent-at-large at
His latest book is
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