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Discourse Power | May 24, 2023
Brand building, Major Major Major Major, and wake up and smell the Arabica
Greetings from the District of Columbia,
With all the talk about Chinese discourse power, it's easy to forget that it's also a growing concern for American policymakers. Rahm Emmanuel, Washington's ambassador to Japan and former chief of staff to former President Barack Obama, spoke to POLITICO this week about the recent G7 summit and the importance of strengthening Western democracies' ties with the "Global South":
“[We] meet it on the battlefields for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. We respect individual rights, China does not. We respect rules, China respects raw power. We respect and uphold freedom, they respect and uphold repression.”
Dan Runde, a senior vice president at CSIS, is another vocal supporter of American soft power. Runde had an extremely candid conversation with Eric Olander and Cobus Van Staden on China in the Global South Project's podcast last week to discuss his new book, which makes the case for why bolstering US soft power is critical to getting more Global South countries to side with the US over China.
Thank you for reading, and if you enjoy Discourse Power, please take a moment to share this newsletter, because why not?
“Build brands and platforms for foreign exchanges, enhance the appeal and impact of the China Story, present a credible, loveable, and respectable image of China to the world”
Two months after Xi Jinping unveiled the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), it is starting to take shape, as seen here, with chief ideologue professor Wang Huning wishing to boost China's "civilizational appeal."
Wang was promoted to the fourth-highest position in the party in the 20th Party Congress in October, and he is now serving as chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top legal advisory and a prime United Front body.
If you are not familiar with Wang, check out this primer byor listen to The China Project's Kaiser Guo in conversation with Timothy Cheek, Joseph Fewsmith, and Matthew Johnson.
Excerpts (translated by for with some additions by me):
“The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) convened in Beijing on May 16th, with the theme "Increasing the impact and influence of Chinese civilization. Wang Huning…delivered the keynote address at the conference.”
Wang: “Enhancing the dissemination and influence of Chinese civilization is an important provision made by the 20th Party Congress. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era must be taken as the fundamental basis for enhancing the dissemination and influence of Chinese civilization.
“It is necessary to build brands and platforms for foreign exchanges, enhance the appeal and impact of the China Story, present a credible, loveable, and respectable image of China to the world, and promote exchanges and cooperation among civilizations.
The report says that twenty members spoke at the meeting. They all agreed with the idea that “it is necessary to strengthen cultural self-confidence, widely publicize Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and guide the international community to form a correct view of the CPC and the country.”
They added: “It is necessary to refine and showcase the spiritual identity 文明的精神标识 and cultural essence 文化精髓 of Chinese civilization, accelerate the development of a Chinese discourse and narrative system, and deepen exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations.
“It is necessary to innovate new modes of expression and means of communication to show the achievements of Chinese civilization and the wonderful life of contemporary China people.”
Propaganda Department chief Li Shulei also spoke at the meeting, saying that “it is necessary to vigorously promote the prosperous development of Chinese culture, continuously enhance the attractiveness of Chinese culture, accelerate the construction of a strategic communication system with distinctive Chinese characteristics, and encourage the
Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) to take root.” (People’s Daily)
“We must seize the ideological initiative and take command of the international discourse power that shapes perceptions of our country”
In an era of major global flux, legal scholar Wang Weimin argues that China must “dare to struggle” by integrating Xi's Overall National Security Concept and China's major-power diplomacy, i.e., securitizing China's foreign policy.
Professor Wang is an ex-military and president and deputy party secretary of Shanghai University of Political Science and Law's (SHUPL) School of Government, specializing in Korean and American studies, big data, and national security.
Full translation of Wang’s article, published May 12th, 2023:
“Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and the Overall/Comprehensive National Security Concept 总体国家安全 are major theoretical innovations that have emerged since the 18th Party Congress [in November 2012].
“Both are important and integral components of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era. The latter was formally proposed in 2014, and in 2018, Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy was enshrined as the guiding ideology of Major Power Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics.
“Both are based on a highly consistent overall assessment of the current situation. Their core principles are complementary and mutually reinforcing, as are their ideas and practices.
“The world is now accelerating into a new round of turbulent changes 新一轮动荡变革期. China's diplomacy is forging ahead bravely despite its tortuous twists and turns, and we must consider the international strategic backdrop of our era: major crises 大危机, major security 大安全, major competition 大竞争, and major transformations 大转型.
“We must conduct in-depth research into these two major innovative theories, as well as consider the interdependent logic and mechanisms that underpin diplomacy and security.
“We will fully utilize diplomacy's critical role as a lubricant 润滑剂, booster 助推器, and bulwark 防波堤 for global security, and actively promote the successful implementation of the Overall National Security Concept’s objectives through our distinguished diplomacy 特色外交.”
“Major diplomacy for an era of major crises”
“The following are typical characteristics of an era of major crises: grave imbalance in the international system; widespread violation of international rules and regulations 规则; dereliction of conduct and morality 失范失德 by the system's dominant power (the hegemon 霸权国); fundamental failure of coordination mechanisms between the major powers; persistent competition among them as well as regional conflicts; the global economy is on the verge of collapse, and so on.
“At the moment, the US is the system's sole hegemon. It operates in the name of ‘America First’ and under the guise of establishing a liberal democratic and rules-based international order; it instigates strategic competitions between the major powers through military alliances, security guarantees, and extended deterrence 延伸威慑; and it divides and disrupts the international system by luring or pressuring the numerous countries in the intermediate zones 中间地带国家, forcing them to take sides.
“General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that ‘the world today is undergoing great changes unseen in a century.’ This theory has been tried and tested in global turbulence and in the practice of Chinese diplomacy.
“It has become a guiding theory in the current era of major international crises; it represents a strategic and forward-looking assessment of contemporary international realities, an extension of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, and a powerful theoretical weapon 强大理论武器 for us to understand and respond to changes in the international order and landscape.
“An era of major crises calls for major diplomacy. The following three elements ought to be present in China's major diplomacy:
“It must establish diplomatic guidelines that are all-encompassing 全局性 and strategic 战略性. Not only must changes be properly understood, but they must also be scientifically adjusted and actively sought. With the Overall National Security Concept as our compass, we must take the initiative to take matters into our own hands and interject ourselves 介入constructively. In the midst of upheaval, we should cultivate new situations and in the midst of crises, we ought to seek new opportunities, as we strive to improve China's overall external security environment.
“It must implement strategies and allocate resources in all directions and domains. On critical fronts, an emphasis must be placed on targeted military and security countermeasures 强调军事与安全领域的重点应对. Simultaneously, we must launch an orchestrated and appropriate counterattack against the US in the economic, scientific and technological, cultural, propaganda, social, and other spheres. We must, in particular, seize the ideological initiative and take command of the international discourse power that shapes perceptions of our country.
“It encourages everyone to actively participate in people diplomacy 全民外交. In the era of major crises, all social classes and actors in our society are expected to become practitioners and active participants in major power diplomacy. Public diplomacy and people's diplomacy can be force multipliers of soft power. When major powers' perceptions of one another deteriorate and conflicts threaten to flare up, they turn into a firebreak of last resort 阻燃器."
“Integrated diplomacy for an era of major security”
“The primary characteristics of the era of major security [threats] are the frequency of global crises, the prominence of security dilemmas, and the securitization of everything 泛安全化 [also trans. as "pan-securitization"] in every field.
“The international landscape is currently undergoing an accelerated phase of 'the gradual decline of one superpower and the reorganization of multiple major powers' 一超渐衰，多强重组.
“The intense systematic competition between the US and China is reflected not only in various areas and levels of national security in both countries but also has global repercussions.
“Furthermore, the failure of major powers to coordinate and the advent of emerging technological revolutions have resulted in the proliferation of new security threats and a vacuum in global governance concerning security issues.
“In response to the advent of this era of major security [threats], the CPC Central Committee Resolution on the Party's Major Achievements and Historical Experience over the Past Century of Struggle demands that we integrate 统筹 the following:
1) development and security; 2) opening up and security; 3) traditional and non-traditional security; 4) a country's own security and common security; and 5) the ability to safeguard and mold 塑造 national security.
“The 'Five Integrates' 五个统筹 reflect a significant shift in China's perception of national security and strategic responses, enriching and deepening the Overall National Security Concept.
“The word ‘Overall’ is the key to the Overall National Security Concept. On the one hand, it emphasizes a systemic approach 系统思维 to national security, as well as systematic optimization 体系优化 and the pooling of resources 资源整合.
“It is concerned, on the other hand, with the successful implementation of security in specific domains such as political, territorial, military, economic, cultural, social, technological, cyber, ecological, resources, offshore interests, space, deep sea, polar, biological, and other domains. Finally, as society evolves, its scope 内涵 will grow.
“In an era of major security [threats], national security governance is reflected in the diplomatic field, which emphasizes overall diplomacy, also known as ‘integrated diplomacy’ 融合外交.
“Integrated diplomacy is embodied in domestic institutional arrangements, such as China's system for determining its foreign policy, national security coordination mechanisms, and systems for managing global crises.
“Furthermore, it is reflected in the New Era's increasingly extensive outward-facing challenges, such as [protecting] the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and legal entities overseas, China's massive investments and assets abroad, the security of global industrial value chains and supply chains, among other interests and threats related to our national sovereignty, security, and development interests.
“Integrated diplomacy not only necessitates the coordination of various internal and external resources and diplomatic tools; it also requires the coordination and advancement of all relevant domestic institutions, the timely and clear communication of China's internal and external policies and global security concepts, telling the China Story well, and seizing control over international discourse power.
“Our purpose should be striving for achievement 奋发有为 and taking the initiative, as well as facilitating international conflict resolutions and mediation.
“While providing Chinese-style security public goods, we must also optimize our foreign policy. This will help boost our domestic economic and social development while dispelling the West's malicious smear campaigns and diplomatic repression efforts.”
“Integrated diplomacy for an era of major competition”
“The era of major competition is defined first and foremost by major power competition, especially as it manifests itself in Sino-US relations. Faced with bad omens like the Thucydides trap and the offensive realism of the American approach to China, President Xi Jinping first proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) in 2022 at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference.
“Xi has emphasized the ‘six commitments’ 六个坚持 that articulate China's new security concept, the principles and framework for the pursuit of security, and the direction and initiatives for security governance.
“This exemplifies President Xi Jinping's concern for the current security dilemmas and regional conflicts caused by great power competition. It contributes Chinese wisdom to bridging humanity's security deficit 安全赤字 and global governance deficit 治理赤字. It further enriches Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and broadens the Overall National Security Concept.
“The ‘six commitments’ give Chinese diplomacy an integrated, global, and universal character fit for an era of major competition. The ‘integration’ is most visible in the following aspects.
“The concept of a Community with a Shared Destiny for Mankind emphasizes the high degree of integration between the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the advancement of human society. No country can tackle the complex issues affecting the world economy while going it alone 独善其身 or acting superior to others 一枝独秀. This necessitates that all countries collaborate in harmony and mutual assistance;
“it emphasizes the indivisibility of national security and the unity of international rules, regulations, and systems. The GSI promotes common, integrated, cooperative, and sustainable security. It promotes dialogue over confrontation and partnerships over alliances. It emphasizes that there is only one system in the world, the international system, with the UN at its core. There is only one set of rules, which are the fundamental norms of international relations set forth by the UN Charter;
“it promotes mutual learning and value integration among civilizations. It rejects the theory of the Clash of Civilizations and competition between systems, as well as the so-called alliance of values that is tearing apart the international community. Moreover, it advocates for the creation of a Community with a Shared Destiny for Mankind and promotes humanity's shared values: peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom.”
“Balancing offensive and defensive diplomacy for an era of major transformations”
“The world is currently entering a new period of turbulent transformation and great changes unseen in a century. The main drivers of the changes are as follows: China's continued and positive power growth, China's development feeding back peace and progress in the world, and the growing international influence and appeal of the Chinese voice and Chinese solutions.
“The countercurrents, which include the dramatic shift in US policy toward China in recent years, the intensification of great power competition, and the return of geopolitics, have set off a global chain reaction.
“The new round of scientific and technological revolutions, as well as industrial transformation, has created a new battleground for major powers. At the same time, it has created a slew of new security challenges, catalyzing and accelerating the evolution of the international system.
“How can China respond to the challenges of this new period of turbulent change while gaining new strategic opportunities? How can we deal with the all-around pressure that we are facing in an increasingly unbalanced and competitive international environment, so as to win the strategic initiative in the competition against the US?
“These two issues have become major strategic problems that China will have to face over the next decade or two. The Overall National Security Concept emphasizes the importance of integrating the maintenance of national security and the development of national security.
“We should be highly vigilant to ‘black swan’ events and guard against ‘gray rhinos’. It is necessary to prepare for risks, but also to have a high-level response and defuse risks and challenges. It is necessary to prepare for and defend against risks, but also take the strategic initiative thereby transforming the dangerzone into a sanctuary 转危为安 and crises into opportunities.
“In terms of concrete Chinese diplomacy, the Overall National Security Concept emphasizes both prevention and response, while simultaneously maintaining and shaping national security. This is precisely what China's balanced offensive and defensive diplomacy reflects at the moment.
“This mature and well-balanced major power diplomacy is farsighted, both open and reserved, and it can retreat or advance as needed. It should act as a lubricant in this era of great power confrontation 冲突, a booster for the expansion of national interests, an amplifier for China's voice, and an all-encompassing bulwark in this era of great power confrontation.
“In the face of major international changes, China must dare to struggle 敢于斗争 and put itself out there 敢于把自己放进去. We must actively lead China and the world in a new direction of shared progress while protecting our long-term national fundamental interests in adapting to, guiding 引导, and promoting the world's great changes.
“This balance between offense and defense, from the standpoint of diplomatic strategy, emphasizes the need for strategic prudence in being prepared for the known unknowns 备豫不虞, as if treading on thin ice 如履薄冰.
“It also emphasizes the strategic courage required to seek out 觅 new opportunities in the midst of a crisis and to open up new horizons 局面 through struggle. It has a clear-eyed view of the long-term and fierce Sino-US competition, as well as the massive consequences of the Western alliance's attempts to exclude China.
“Additionally, it acknowledges the expanded opportunities and latitude that our major power diplomacy now enjoys. As a result, we can take more initiative, expand its influence, and establish horizontal and vertical alliances 合纵连横.
“We must remain vigilant to the possibility of external escalation of suppression and containment efforts, while also taking steps to interact positively with the US. As we continue to defend the international system and contribute to global security, we need to prepare to redefine our bilateral relationship.” (CSSN)
“America's diminishing status and general decline are a result of the times, if not more so of its own doing. It is not, however, the result of its rejection by Middle Eastern countries, let alone China's rising status and role”
Professor Liu Zhongmin, director of the Middle East Studies Institute at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), believes that Washington's newly proposed rail network for the Middle East is motivated primarily by concerns about China.
Excerpts from Liu’s op-ed in the Chinese version of the Global Times, published May 10, 2023:
“According to media reports, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will visit Saudi Arabia on May 13th and will meet with his counterparts of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and India to discuss a major strategic infrastructure project.
“The project is expected to link the Gulf and Arab countries by rail, as well as India by shipping lanes and ports. Based on the reports, their primary goal is to benchmark 对标 against China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“Such mega-infrastructure plans have clearly come as a surprise to the outside world. The reason is that the US is undergoing a strategic withdrawal from the Middle East, as it shifts its focus to great power competition.
“It is unlikely that the I2U2 Group [India, Israel, the US, and the UAE], which has been lacking vitality since its inception in 2021, will be able to carry it out. Sullivan's eagerness to visit the Middle East and peddle 兜售 the idea is likely a pretext for discussing other regional issues with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other countries.
“The primary reason for Sullivan’t visit is the Middle East's ‘de-Americanization’ in light of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and particularly given the region's profound restructuring as of late.
“Furthermore, since the end of 2022, the US has been watching China, Iran, and Arab nations collaborate strategically more closely, making it increasingly anxious about its long-standing dominance over regional affairs.
“[US House Speaker] Kevin McCarthy gave a speech in the Israeli Knesset [parliament] a few days ago, in which he explicitly warned against Chinese investments in Israel. Yet, Middle Eastern countries, particularly Arab countries, have been unperturbed by US pressure. Not only do they firmly support China in safeguarding its sovereignty, security, and development interests, but they also continue to strengthen their all-around pragmatic cooperation with it.
“Clearly, Sullivan's hurried trip to the Middle East will not be able to stop the ongoing wave of reconciliation. And while we certainly hope that the US-led ‘Middle East Rail Network,’ a so-called strategic infrastructure project, will bolster local economies, if its goal is to undermine China's cooperation with Middle Eastern countries, it is bound to fail.
"The underlying cause of that is a result of several contradictions 困境 [lit. predicament] in US Middle East policy right now:
“Selfishness 自私性 - At the heart of Washington’s Middle East strategy is a desire to build and maintain its hegemony.
“Exclusivity 排他性 - The US is unable to adapt to the trend of multipolarity and sees any country other than itself gaining global and regional influence as a threat.
“Fragmentation 破碎性 and unsustainability 不可持续性 - The core dilemma of the US Middle East strategy is the need to maintain US dominance while reducing strategic investment and excluding the rising role of other forces such as China.
“America's diminishing status and general decline 落衰 are a result of the times, if not more so of its own doing. It is not, however, the result of its rejection by Middle Eastern countries, let alone China's rising status and role. The rest of the world and the Middle East are acutely aware of this, but the US is the only one that has yet to wake up 清醒.” (Global Times)
Playing in the Background
For the record, I was *this* close to adding here Chop Suey!, but since this is a family-friendly newsletter, I'll stick with Keb' Mo':
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah Fund’s Krauthammer Fellow. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia