François Godement, Senior Advisor for Asia
Any state has a declarative foreign policy which may differ from its acts in some aspects. "Organized hypocrisy" is a permanent feature of international relations. Norms are recognized but are also violated to varying degrees. Yet hypocrisy can also be a peacekeeper, preventing full-blown conflict and escalation, and providing negotiated ways out of conflict.
Since Xi Jinping’s predecessor Hu Jintao in 2007, "soft power" has become a key concern of China’s CCP. In international relations, it is frequently expressed as "discourse power" (话语权). Zheng Bijian, Deng Xiaoping’s key international adviser and the promoter of China’s "peaceful rise", appears to be the first who used the term in a 2004 Shanghai Oriental Television interview. Although Xi Jinping frequently refers to discursive power, and emphasizes the need to "tell China’s story well" since 2013, his own expressions about China’s international stance are frequently laced with exhortations towards "struggle", a notion directly connected to his vision of the CCP’s role at home. On the eve of the CCP’s 20th Congress opening on October 16, 2022, "struggle" is still his key message, in a context of "great changes unseen in a century" in the world where the CCP must stay ahead. At other times, he has celebrated a "once in a hundred year strategic opportunity for China".
That is not the core of the elements of Chinese foreign policy that our sources find in this issue of China Trends. Instead, several trends stand out. One is the presentation of China as non-hegemonic, constructive, rational - in almost constant opposition to the behavior attributed to America or sometimes Western powers. The international order is outdated, but the reason cited is not a hypothetical power shift from America and its allies to emerging and developing countries (Chinese sources do not use the term of "Global South", just as they never used the term of "Third World" until Deng Xiaoping gave it a new meaning after 1978). Indeed, the use of force, coercion, manipulation remain Western attributes.