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Make China great again: Communist Party seeks to seize ‘historic’ moment to reshape world order

High-profile comment piece urges country to rally around Xi and realise nation’s global aspirations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 7:16am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 8:19am

The world is in chaos, giving the Communist Party a “historic opportunity” to make China great again and reshape the world order – at least that was the message the party sought to drive home in a high-profile opinion piece in its flagship newspaper this week.

“The world has never focused on China so much and needed China so much as it does now,” a commentary on Monday’s front page of People’s Daily asserted.

The world has never focused on China so much and needed China so much as it does now
People’s Daily

The 5,500-word article is the latest rallying call for the country to unite around President Xi Jinping – its most powerful leader in decades – to rejuvenate China and achieve its global aspirations.

Under Xi, Beijing has become more confident than ever in how it sees itself in the world. It has repeatedly vowed to take on more global responsibility and provide a “China solution” to the world’s woes, at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump is retreating from its global leadership role and Europe is distracted by Brexit.

The commentary cheered China’s progress under the party’s leadership, and listed the numerous ills facing the world and its Western-centred order, ranging from flaws in democracy and existing global governance to the threats of terrorism and climate change.

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“The capitalism-led world political and economic system is full of drawbacks; the global governance system is undergoing profound changes; and a new international order is taking shape,” it said.

China, meanwhile, was at a historic point to restore itself to greatness and return to its rightful position in the world, it said.

“[China] is more confident and capable than in any given period in history to seize this opportunity,” the piece said, skipping over the challenges the country faces.

While the rhetoric is not unusual for China’s propaganda outlets, the message in the commentary could have the direct endorsement of the party elite.

It reflects the Chinese leadership’s belief that right now is a huge opportunity for China to stake out a global leadership role
Jonathan Sullivan, China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham

Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is heady rhetoric, but it is definitely worth noting because something of this nature does not get published in People’s Daily without official sanction.

“It reflects the Chinese leadership’s belief that right now is a huge opportunity for China to stake out a global leadership role.”

The commentary was published under the byline “Xuanyan”, or “Manifesto”, which like various prominent pseudonyms in the paper suggests it is the official voice of the party or a party department, rather than the opinion of an individual columnist.

The amount of publicity the article has received from the propaganda machine also sets it apart. In addition to dominating headlines on party media outlets and online news portals, it was promoted on social media the night before it went to press – rare treatment for commentaries in the paper.

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The rallying call came just days before a key gathering of the party’s ruling elite in Beijing. It also came as Xi’s administration is facing a slew of highly symbolic anniversaries, including this year’s 40th anniversary of the start of China’s economic reforms.

Next year is also the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China, while 2020 will be the year for the party to deliver on its promise to make China a moderately prosperous society. 2021 will the party’s centenary.

“The rhetoric is powerful, but the symbolism of the upcoming anniversaries and Xi’s elevation to core leader demand something more than rhetoric. Thus the key thing will be the extent to which chest-thumping rhetoric is embodied in fact – and the extent to which Chinese people will demand to see results,” Sullivan said.