[Column] China seems to be sending message to next US president

Posted on : 2020-11-06 17:48 KST Modified on : 2020-11-06 17:48 KST
China now promotes itself as the world’s biggest market, not factory

In China, foreign names are expressed in similar-sounding Chinese characters. For example, Donald Trump’s name in Chinese is pronounced either as “Telangpu” or “Chuanpu.”

Chinese netizens have another nickname for the American president: Chuan Jianguo. “Jianguo” means “national foundation,” implying that Trump’s aggressive China bashing has only served to help China wake up.

The Chinese name for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is Baideng. Once again, netizens have their own nickname for the man: Bai Zhenhua. “Zhenhua” is an abbreviation of the phrase “zhenxing zhonghua,” often translated as “the invigoration of China.” The expression seems to focus on the fact that Biden, even if elected president of the US, is expected to carry on the Trump administration’s China policy.

That can be seen as reflecting the attitude of China’s state-run media prior to the US presidential election: namely, that China doesn’t particularly care whether Trump or Biden wins. That attitude reflects a curious confidence.

Shortly after 8 pm on Nov. 4, when the world was flummoxed to see the uncertain results of the American presidential election, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote address over video at the opening ceremony of the 3rd China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

“COVID-19 has put all countries through a tough test. In the case of China, our people have exerted extraordinary efforts and made major strategic gains in controlling the coronavirus. The Chinese economy is steadily picking up [. . .]. This is a major contribution to economic recovery in the world,” Xi said in his speech.

While Xi briefly criticized unilateralism and protectionism, he made no mention of the US in his speech, which ran for more than 1,800 words. After all, the star of the show was China.

The question of human rights over human lives

The two things that Xi emphasized in his speech are China’s battle against COVID-19 and its economic recovery. On the former topic, he marshalled some concrete figures. “As of 20th October, China had provided assistance to 150 countries and seven international organizations and exported over 179 billion masks, 1.73 billion protective suits, and 543 million testing kits,” he said with evident pride.

Every evening, China Central Television (CCTV) provides detailed coverage of how the coronavirus is rampaging through the US and countries in Europe, citing the latest tallies from Johns Hopkins University. Given all the hand-wringing over human rights during China’s lockdown of Wuhan, China seems to be sarcastically asking whether human rights are more important than human lives.

Another source of pride for China is its economy, which has rebounded after the crisis. “China has a population of 1.4 billion and a middle-income group that exceeds 400 million. The vastly huge China market is the most promising in the world. Total [imports] into China [are] estimated to top 22 trillion US dollars in the coming decade,” Xi stressed in his speech on Wednesday.

The idea of China being the factory of the world is old hat. Today, it’s the world’s biggest and most attractive market. That’s the fact that China sought to advertise both domestically and internationally when it launched the International Import Expo in Shanghai in the fall of 2018.

“Going forward, China will stay committed to openness, cooperation, and unity for win-win results. We will steadfastly expand all-[around] opening up and explore more efficient ways to connect domestic and foreign markets and share factors of production and resources,” Xi said, addressing a world floundering in the swamp of the pandemic-caused recession.

Xi went on: “Our aim is to turn the China market into a market for the world, a market shared by all, and a market accessible to all. This way, we will be able to bring more positive energy to the global community.”

The outcome of the US presidential election is still murky. Even if Biden is declared the victor, which is looking more likely, the chaos is sure to continue for the time being. Even though Xi didn’t bring up the US, I couldn’t help thinking about the chaos in the US while listening to his speech on Wednesday evening. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Xi was reading some sort of declaration aimed at the next American president.

Jung In-hwan
Jung In-hwan

By Jung In-hwan, Beijing correspondent

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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