China’s power is getting more and more bullish, there is no dispute about it. However, some external forces are still squeezing China and provoking us. How to respond, whether to counter it domineeringly and to what extent, will form a long-term test for China.
First of all, we need to have an objective and sober understanding of ourselves. We are just as strong as we have ever been, both in terms of economic size and level of defense, giving us competitiveness in the world. We must overcome some resistance as we continue to develop, so when faced with malicious or even hostile provocations, many times we must be tit-for-tat, persisting and fighting back to preserve our legitimate and core interests. If we don’t do this, we will be soft and submissive when we encounter provocations. The world will not respect us, more forces will follow our example and bully us, and China’s continued development will face more resistance and struggle.
At the same time, we need to be very conscious that our biggest task in the coming period is to continue to develop, not to be belligerent and angry when provoked. Our best strategy for dealing with provocations is to quickly move past them in various ways and continue to catch up. Our greatest strategic goal should always be kept in mind as we struggle with provocations of all kinds.
It is important to see that we are still not the world’s largest and most powerful force, that the U.S. is still in a superior position in terms of overall power, and that it has a large number of allies that are developed economies, and that it is now seeking to gather those countries around China and is trying to provoke neighboring countries to intensify friction and conflict with China in an attempt to disrupt and weaken our development and to achieve the goal of ultimately putting out the fire of China’s rise. Preventing the United States from bringing its siege front to fruition and breaking its game is a major challenge for us, especially in the coming period.
China will need a very high level of strategic wisdom and art to deal with these complex situations. We need to fight all kinds of provocations and hold fast to our national interests, but also to do so without inflaming most frictions and trying to avoid a high-intensity confrontation that would give the United States and key allies the opportunity to join in and create sufficient conditions for them to mobilize their domestic strategic collision with China, leading to a premature encounter with a turning point that could seriously interrupt our continued development process.
In this we need to distinguish between what are core interests and what are non-core interests, and at the same time grasp the art of struggle so that the outside world can fully identify our core interests and be convinced of our position and determination never to retreat on them. We need to resolutely crush the will of the outside world to challenge China’s core interests, and guide the way and depth of the game in the areas of China’s non-core interests as well as in the margins of major issues, so that we can make ourselves as comfortable as possible.
In summary, China is now strong enough to defend its core interests from subversion, but we cannot yet do enough to deter outside forces from stopping harassment on those issues. When their interests overlap with our core interests, or when they perceive such overlap, some arm wrestling will still occur. But here’s the important point: time is on China’s side, and China’s strategic initiative to deal with those issues continues to grow.
China’s next continued rise will not be painful and stretchable in any way it wants. Our struggle has to be such that the outside world understands our red lines and knows what to do at key moments and on key issues. We must also reassure the outside world that China is a friendly force that will not erode the interests of other countries at will in order to expand its own, that it will not take the initiative to escalate conflicts on a large scale, and that it will not use its growing power for foreign intimidation and coercion, but is a true practitioner of equal and reasonable problem solving.
The main means by which the United States mobilizes a united front against China is to smear China for security expansion, diplomatic bullying, and economic coercion. In addition to countering such smears in public opinion, we must also convince the outside world through our actions that China is indeed not what the United States says it is, and that China is a friendly and cooperative partner in the development of all countries.
Therefore, China’s public opinion must go beyond the “bull” and “wimp” mentality. We as a public must firmly support the country’s professional diplomatic team in formulating specific diplomatic strategies in light of the situation, and when it is time to be tough and tit-for-tat, we must bear the necessary costs. When it is time for diplomacy to be flexible, we must be equally supportive. In short, we need to trust the diplomatic team’s ability to maximize national interests at minimal cost and be a strong backer for every decision they make. We must oppose the smearing of China’s “war wolf diplomacy” by outsiders and never respond to them through domestic public opinion, while also avoiding the temptation to shout and scream in the court of public opinion, putting pressure on the country’s diplomacy and providing additional excuses for the United States to promote the “China threat theory”. We would like to say that China’s perfect national strategy cannot be achieved without the active and rational participation of the public, and that public opinion is an indispensable support for a more powerful diplomacy.