July 1 marks the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It also marks the timeline of the first agenda on Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream—building a well-off and prosperous society by 2021. While the CCP-led China has transformed from Mao to Xi in the last 100 years, China still battles to have a favorable global image.
Domestically, the Party has expanded in strength since 1949, but its revolutionary spirit pivoted on “proletariat image” has increasingly taken a “bourgeoise form” in the 100 years—taking a departure from Mao’s agrarian-based outlook. This transition runs contrary to China’s foundational spirit—the communist or rather socialist ideology. However, China justifies the transition by calling it “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Owing to this ambiguity over the ideological image of China, one needs to ask: Is “communist” only in its name and not in spirit? As Richard McGregor posits that “The Party is no longer a workers’ and peasants Party.” This highlights the shifts in China’s ideological image–both domestically and internationally. Besides, not to dismiss the Party has a tainted history—such as the Great Leap Forward, the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen massacre—its policies and actions went against the Chinese people.
The bottom line being the CCP at its centennial fights a bigger battle of having a favorable image. This is evident from Xi’s call toward creating a more “trustworthy, respectable, and lovable” image of China by making efforts that present a “true, multidimensional and panoramic view of the country.” Xi’s speech comes in the backdrop of Beijing’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy to fight the China story against the criticism over Beijing’s lack of transparency in dealing with the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as reluctance in raising early alarms over the Wuhan epidemic. The negative impression of China is further bolstered by Beijing’s actions—primarily the persecution of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang in the name of “re-education campaigns”; the new national security law in Hong Kong; the diplomatic spat with United States and Australia; the border stand-off with India; and the unilateral activities in the South China Sea, among other things. The truth is the CCP’s global profile has hit the lowest at its centennial–and China’s defensive wolf warrior diplomacy has only caused greater damage. A Pew Research Center Survey of 2020 suggests that the “unfavorable” views of China has reached a historic high. This further proves that the growing anti-China sentiment is far more than just being a rhetoric.
While China puts forward an indomitable image during the CCP’s centenary, it fails to take into account “what the world thinks of China” at this historic moment. The plight of the pandemic exhibits a departure from the conventional liberal wisdom which suggests that economic interdependence between states can mitigate grievances and enhance peaceful relations. In this case, Beijing’s checkbook diplomacy has failed to cast a shadow on the growing resentment against China. Wherein, it is not just an overwhelming negative public opinion but also a consistent monolithic negative attitude toward China. Hence, on the centenary of the CCP, Beijing needs to realize that the aspirations to become a global power can only be fulfilled only when the world perceives it to be one. That is, a responsible great power.
Dr. Amrita Jash is research fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi. She has been a Pavate Fellow at the Department of POLIS, University of Cambridge. She holds a Ph.D. in Chinese studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University and authored the book “The Concept of Active Defence in China’s Military Strategy” (Pentagon Press, 2021). She can be reached on Twitter @amritajash.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.