Guest pen China has changed direction from opening to closing

In the late 2010s, China even seemed to oust the United States as an international pioneer. Now China has turned strongly inward.

Half a century ago, China was in the grip of a cultural revolution, poor, chaotic, and isolated from the rest of the world. When the gap with the Soviet Union broke, China was left with only a few friends. Little information leaked to China to the world.

Then everything changed. At the end of October 1971, the UN General Assembly approved the People’s Republic of China to replace Taiwan, which had previously represented China. Earlier this year, U.S. President Richard Nixon visited Beijing to meet with Mao Zedong.

Since then, China has rapidly expanded its international relations. In December 1978, the country’s top leader, Deng Xiaoping, announced that China would also open its national economy.

In 1980 The People’s Republic of China joined the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, and the World Bank, and the money taps opened. China established special economic zones in coastal cities and attracted investors to them.

In forty years, China’s per capita income more than increased 40-fold. At the same time, nearly 600 million people moved out of the countryside. China urbanized, industrialized, prospered and internationalized. In 2001, the country was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the pace of internationalization accelerated. At the beginning of his tenure, Xi toured the world harder than any other head of state. In 2015, Queen Elizabeth entertained her at Buckingham Palace, and in 2017, Xi was a guest of President Donald Trump on his farm in Florida.

In 2017, Xi became the first Chinese head of state to participate in the Davos World Economic Forum. For the international economic union gathered in the Alpine village, Xi emphasized globalization, free trade, the goals of sustainable development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The speech could have been given by any Western leader, and Trump shone in his absence. China seemed to step down from the world stage to replace the United States.

Coronavirus crisis during which China has turned inward again. The country has treated the pandemic with zero tolerance. China has almost completely closed its borders and maintains strict quarantine requirements.

Concerned about the slowdown in economic growth, Xi unveiled a new economic policy last year that emphasizes domestic demand but remains open to international trade and investment. China is isolating its domestic market and increasing its self-sufficiency.

China’s armaments and threats have provoked a strong backlash. The United States and its allies are intensifying their cooperation, including through the Anglo-Saxon Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance and the Quad Group of Australia, India, Japan and the United States. To counter the Chinese threat, Australia ordered nuclear-powered submarines from the United States.

China is now on its hind legs and relations have become even more strained. Restrictions on Chinese retail giant Alibaba and other businesses have made investors nervous.

China’s education authorities deny Western values ​​and have reduced their cooperation with foreign universities. The subject “Xi Jinping Thinking” has been brought to schools.

The flow of information has also become more difficult. Correspondents in China are being monitored more closely and journalists have had to leave the country. Google and Facebook withdrew from China a long time ago, and now Yahoo, too, has had enough of the “challenging business environment”.

Xi last visited abroad in January 2020. This autumn, he missed both the G20 summit in Rome and the Glasgow climate summit. In the second week, the Central Committee of the Communist Party adopted a resolution in Beijing on the historical significance of Xin. It paves the way for Xin’s third term as general secretary.

For almost 50 years, China opened up. Do we now have to learn to get along with the closing China?

Robert Wihtol

The author is an associate professor at the Asian Institute of Management.

Guest pens are the speeches of experts selected by the HS editorial board for publication. The opinions expressed in guest pens are the authors’ own views, not HS’s statements. Writing instructions: www.hs.fi/vieraskyna/.

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