Is China a Nationalist or a Globalist?

During a speaking engagement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping praised economic globalism and referred to it as an irreversible historical trend:

“In pursuing economic globalization, we should make it more open, more inclusive, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all. China will not slow down its steps of opening up itself. We will work together with other countries to create new drivers of common development through the launching of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. We will adopt policies to promote high standards of liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment.”

Xi’s globalist rhetoric was nothing different from his speeches when he assumed dictator-like powers at the recent congress of China’s Communist Party. In that marathon 3-hour speech, Xi shared his vision of China becoming a benevolent global leader without compromising the country’s national interests.

He generally reiterated the same statements in a speech he gave at the 2016 APEC meeting at Peru; constantly gushing about how economic globalisation aligns with the principles of economics and improves the life and well-being of a nation.

Upon close inspection, what Xi says and what Xi does are polar opposites of one another.

Contrary to the inspiring rhetoric advocating international cooperation, Xi makes deals that benefit China and breaks international rules that do not favour or align with his vision.

Kristy Needham of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote a story on how China’s state-owned media or shall we say, edited, a tiny yet important detail in Xi’s hagiography:

“Among his achievements in the Chinese language version was that he had turned the South China Sea Arbitration at The Hague – which found against China – into ‘waste paper’. It was an achievement that state news agency Xinhua’s latest hymn entitled ‘Xi and His Era’ did not include in the English version for foreign consumption.”

Needham was referring to The Hague’s landmark 2016 ruling which favoured the Philippines over China in the archipelago’s claims on disputed islands in the Western Philippine Sea. China believes it has a historical claim on the islands via a “Nine Dash Line” but this was refuted and overruled at The Hague.

China immediately rejected the ruling and lambasted the Philippine government which was then under President Benigno S. Aquino for requesting arbitration.

However, the tide started to turn in favour of China when Rodrigo R. Duterte was sworn in as President of the Philippines. Duterte essentially set aside the ruling for “fears of war”. In his first visit to Beijing, Duterte secured a $24 Billion foreign assistance loan from China.

In addition to claiming islands in the vast oceans as its own, China is also massively building up its military capability.

Robert Daly of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States believes China is more interested in globalist trade than becoming a globalist superpower.

However with its blatant disregard of international rulings and the luxury of having deep pockets to finance its expansionist ventures, Xi may only be using globalist jargon to conceal his nationalist agenda.