On June 16, the British newspaper the Times published an article by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), in which Li explained the purpose of his upcoming trip to London. The most important point was that he wanted to show the “real China” and change misunderstandings about the country that are prevalent around the world.
Just what does he mean by the real China? Does it refer to the cooperation and peace that Li has been touting? According to the British media, Beijing demanded a meeting between Li and Queen Elizabeth II, otherwise agreements purportedly worth US$30 billion would be canceled. China’s ambassador to Britain has also warned Britain that if it wants to establish strong economic relations with Beijing, it should tone down accusations about China’s human rights record.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Britain comprehensive strategic relationship. It is the first time a Chinese leader has visited Britain since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power.
In a break with diplomatic procedure, China and demanded that Queen Elizabeth receive Li and his wife, which Britain agreed to. As such, the relative power of the two nations is evident. As was the press conference between British Prime Minister David Cameron and Li, the main focus of which was the value of trade represented by Li’s delegation of more than 200 Chinese businesspeople — almost half of the annual trade between Britain and China, which is about US$70 billion.
Whether Cameron obediently keeps his silence about the issue of human rights — after he angered Beijing in 2012 when he met with the Dalai Lama — will influence the message that Britain sends to the rest of the world, as well as its international image.
In reality, the international community does not have many misconceptions about China. Apart from governments in Africa and Latin America that rely on Beijing’s financial assistance, a majority of countries are unimpressed with the way Beijing engages in cash diplomacy and favor-buying with countries.
Xi’s leadership has been characterized by this approach. Xi’s status as a “princeling” means he has a strong reluctance to be anyone’s lackey. This is a common trait of the second generation of China’s political elite and thus Beijing has not been afraid of throwing its weight around when it comes to the East China Sea, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
At a meeting at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi delivered a speech that illustrated a common theme of his governance: He demanded that Chinese scientists guard key technologies to safeguard national competitiveness and development.
He blamed China’s backwardness in modern history, and its lagging behind the West and Japan, on the fact that it was never able to transform technological know-how into useful applications.
Nationalism born of a historical sense of humiliation is at a peak now in China. All Beijing’s major policies are directed toward China making a comeback and taking its rightful place in the world, running counter to the understanding of “peace” that democratic countries have.
Tomorrow, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) is to achieve something unprecedented in that role: He will begin a four-day visit Taiwan. It comes not long after all the fuss caused by TAO spokesperson Fan Liqing’s (范麗青) statement during a Beijing press conference that Taiwan’s future “must be decided by all Chinese people.”