The Chinese have been conditioned, since the imperial days, to kowtow when in an inferior position and to be arrogant when in a superior one. This collective psyche has been displayed in China’s geopolitics and its leaders’ utterances since it gained economic and military power. Whether it is Xi Jinping’s statement that the heads of China’s enemies shall be smashed on the Great Wall of Steel or their former foreign minister boasting the “fact” that China is a big country and other countries are small, or juxtaposing Chinese rocket take-off against Indian funeral pyres as “Lighting a fire in China vs lighting a fire in India,” arrogance has been visible in every Chinese word and action in recent years. At home, the common Chinese have been seen kneeling and knocking their heads on the ground for a bed in the hospital during the sudden opening up in January this year. They were seen begging the banks to return their money or beseeching the officials for help in finding their children, 70,000 of whom go missing every year to be sold to fill the demand created by years of the one-child policy.
Mao’s thoughts were enshrined in the constitution and a person was likely to be declared a revisionist if he did not have a copy of the Little Red Book of Mao’s thoughts on his person. Xi Jinping too has his thoughts inserted in the constitution and these thoughts are being taught in schools and journalists are asked to take tests comprising these thoughts for renewal of their accreditation. Not satisfied with these measures at home, Xi is now on a mission to “Xivilize” the rest of the world. This is not a meme created by the “decadent” West to mock the Chinese and their leader. The portmanteau word was coined by none other than the Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). On April 17 it carried an article “The Global Civilization Initiative full of Chinese wisdom, injects fresh momentum into (a) bright shared future: the way of civilization.” It said that the newspaper has started a “Xivilization series” to emphasize Xi’s ideas “as seen from the all-important Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) he has presented to the world.
Before delving into the depths of Xi’s GCI, presented to the world’s political parties in March this year, we should talk about the other initiatives Xi has enunciated in the previous years. The world and particularly the poorer countries are by now familiar with the gift to them of the so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since 2013. It is a long litany of projects that did not produce the promised revenue stream, of airports where not a single flight lands, of incomplete high-speed rails to nowhere and of course, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, that is so offensive to the common man in Pakistan that it and the Chinese working on it or guarding it have been repeatedly attacked. The BRI is a tale of enticing local corrupt leaders to sign loan agreements that contain a secrecy clause, binding the borrower not to disclose the contents to third parties. The agreements invariably mention local assets like ports and mines that can be taken over by the Chinese entities in case of default. This was the first step of “Xivilization”.
The second step to “Xivilize” the world was announced in 2021 , a time when the entire world was struggling with the Coronavirus infections and China was “helping” the world, even the US, by selling masks at 20 times the normal price. Xi christened this initiative a Global Development Initiative and launched it during his speech before the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in September, 2021. As to the suitability of Xi Jinping for leading the world by the hand on this Development Initiative, Gxekwa Vuyo, a student at the Durban Institute of Technology, had this to say: “President Xi’s actions reflect the spirit of Confucian values, which include benevolence and humanism, cooperation and oneness, sharing, friendship, filial piety, integrity, justice, self-discipline, self-reliance and perspiration.” It is not surprising that for his essay, “How Useful and Prudent is Xi Jinping’s Global Development Initiative for Advancing the Well-being of Humanity?”, Mr. Vuyo was rewarded with the Chinese ambassador’s award, showing China’s dexterity at winning friends and influencing people.
The world was benefitted by another munificence of Xi Jinping, the Global Security Initiative (GSI) enunciated by him at the annual Boao Forum on April 21, 2022. One component of the GSI is “Stay committed to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.” Translated into any non-Chinese language, it means “keep your nose out of our business of handling our minorities in Tibet, Xinjiang and Outer Mongolia.” It also means that when China drew a dashed line on a map of the South China Sea in 1947, it officially became China’s maritime boundary and any questions raised about it violate China’s sovereignty. Similar sentiments apply to China’s claims on Indian territory and on the territory of every other country that is unlucky enough to share land or sea border with China.
The “Xivilization” initiative is the latest effort of Xi Jinping to proclaim that since he is the permanent leader of China, he has the divine right, like the one claimed by the imperial rulers of China, to lay down the rules for the world. Xi believes that the only reason why China suffered the “Century of Humiliation” was that during that period it had lost its capability to dictate to the world. It is a different matter that China was ruled earlier also for short or long durations by the Tibetans, Turks and Mongols. Its last imperial dynasty, the Qing, that ruled for almost three centuries, were not Han Chinese but Manchu from Manchuria whom the Chinese hate even after obliterating Manchu language and culture. Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said on March 19, 2023 that all these initiatives, including the BRI are public goods and compared the BRI to the ancient Silk Road that “embodied the spirit of cooperation, mutual learning and mutual benefit.”
China is facing calls from around the globe for a decoupling from it. To ward off such threats, Xinhua reminds the world that the “future of all countries is closely and increasingly connected.” It concludes that for lasting peace, the world “should embrace the GCI.” These efforts of China at playing the moral compass of the world remind one of an old tongue-in-cheek saying, “This animal is very wicked; when attacked, it tries to defend itself.” All that China wants is that whether on land border disputes with its 14 neighbours, or on maritime border disputes with its nine neighbours, or on the question of human rights and denial of basic freedoms to its citizens, theft of intellectual property or on becoming the world’s biggest supplier of fentanyl, if every nation adopts Chinese moral norms, the world will be closer to being “xivilized.” If Xinhua could speak the truth, the GCI would be seen leading the world on a path visualised by Spike Milligan, “Pull the blinds on your emotions, switch off your face. Put your love into neutral, this way to human race.”