Great and major powers tend to have their own dilemmas, worldviews, sense of morality, socialization backgrounds and ideational formative experiences. Complexity is a natural feature of their strategic thinking and deliberations. Chinese worldview reflects Chinese adaptations to world events, shaped by its domestic view of national interests and also geopolitical realities. The economic developmental needs in many parts of the world, the importance of world peace and institutionalization of international organizations are some major factors shaping the Chinese worldview.
In the realm of Xi Jinping Thought (XJPT), scholars outside China have debated about its interpretations. Some domestic Chinese scholars argued that XJPT should be under the discipline of Philosophy. Consequently, Chinese intellectuals do interpretive work on XJPT under the Philosophy discipline in Chinese academic institutions.
In Beijing’s Renmin University, XJPT is studied institutionally in the Department of Marxism. Maoism was a mainstay in the study of Chinese Marxism for a long period of time. It was seen as a Chinese response to Stalinism, incorporating Chinese characteristics and then blending it with socialism and Communism as it developed in China. Parts of Leninist ideas about economic development was also integrated into Maoism.
XJPT is a product of its time. China is maturing as an economic identity and is also indigenizing and entrenching its model of development (technologically, technocratic-ally, socioeconomically, economically). XJPT appears to be a response to that maturation and emergence as a major power, especially since President Xi appears to be keen on China making major contributions to humanity from his administration’s own perspective.
In the days of Mao Zedong (1893-1976), printed media was the epitome of sophistication in mass reproduction of thoughts and opinions. His poetry, calligraphy and thoughts encapsulated in publications spread beyond the boundaries of China to Maoist states and other political entities in other regions that were left-leaning, socialist or hard-core Communist.
The technology of dissemination of information has advanced far and wide with the advent of the internet, cyberspace and social media. Digital technology has also been introduced into the XJPT franchise as workers and civil servants are compulsorily referencing XJPT. Xuexi Qiangguo (various translations have interpreted this as “Studying a Strong Country”) was officially introduced to the Chinese public by the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Mass dissemination will elicit responses for social mobilization by propagating the ideas of the leadership, its political worldviews and philosophies. Conceptually, XJPT can be contextualized and deployed flexibly to fit many different scenarios. In other words, it can be pragmatic rather than dogmatic. It becomes a conduit for the Party to legitimize the leading position of the CCP within the People’s Republic of China.
It is a directional marker for the CCP political development. The directional role of the XJPT reflects the core leadership status of the central leader. This appears to be a normative feature in the regimes of the People’s Republic of China, starting from the central role of the Great Helmsman in the Mao Zedong period, to the Paramount Leader status of the reformist Deng Xiaoping period, to the Harmonious Society low key consensus-building leadership of Hu Jintao and the current Core Leadership of Xi Jinping.
The accent in taking up global responsibilities in the Xi Jinping Core Leader Thought is clear as China embarks on a higher profile international emergence. The most important project of the Xi administration is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has two components, the maritime component and the overland component.
The XJPT hopes to promote multilateral cooperation and maintain international organizations like the United Nations in resolving crises.
The BRI aims to improve connectivity amongst participating nations and BRI is funded by institutions, such as the multilateral lending institution of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). Even before the BRI, China had already become the largest investor in the continent of Africa. 152 countries have signed up or contracted projects with BRI.
The higher profile of Chinese economic diplomacy ties in with the XJPT. BRI has had its share of successes and challenges. Given that it is about 5 years old, the Chinese leadership is fine-tuning the BRI based on lessons, challenges and experiences gained from the ventures. The higher-profile economic diplomacy appears to be correlate with the idea of how XJPT is translated into multi languages. In addition to the headway made by some BRI projects, the administration will also start to gather feedback to tackle some of the challenges that have popped up over time.
The theme of championing peace appears to be another feature in the outward manifestation of the XJPT. One of the narratives that it is gathering under the umbrella of the XJPT-era foreign policy is the intention to promote peace and continue with peaceful development. Embedded within the XJPT appears to be the element of promoting peace and avoidance of competition through collaboration. The Chinese leadership appears to cite Russo-China relations as an example of major power relations. China and Russia are celebrating the 90th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2019.
There are many ways through which China is working with other major powers. They may also include working on infrastructure like high-speed rail, as well as working with Japan, the US and Russia in the six party talks. Beijing worked hard with the US and its allies of South Korea and Japan to bring about the two Trump-Kim summits in Singapore and Hanoi.
Beijing lent its support to both Trump-Kim summits, flying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the first summit on an Air China plane and allowing railway access to Kim for the second summit in Hanoi. Chinese President Xi himself spoke to Kim on a number of occasions. China has maintained its traditional youhao (amicable) friendship with North Korea while also working with South Korea for the talks.
Ties with Japan is placed on more stable footing as both countries seek a more realistic and stable relationship without cyclical sudden downturns. Both countries are also setting up a maritime hotline at sea to prevent accidental clashes. Beijing is seeking Japanese exchanges and advisories and tapping on Tokyo’s decades-long experience in managing Asian Development Bank projects.
These are many other no-detriment functionalist, constructivist non-traditional security issues where China can play a role in cooperating with other major powers. Upholding all these peaceful initiatives fits into the XJPT narrative. A core value of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy seems to be constructing a global/international community with a common destiny for all humans, given that humans can progress or fail collectively.
By stressing this, the XJPT hopes to promote multilateral cooperation and maintain international organizations like the United Nations in resolving crises. Many challenges lie ahead and it will take major efforts from China to bring about its vision of working with other countries to bring about a better world. Only time will tell the outcomes of such ambitious efforts.