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Event Summaries
October 20, 2017

Event Summary: What Does China Want?

by
Henry Jackson Society

On the 17th October 2017, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host ‘What Does China Want?’ with both Professor Kerry Brown, author of What Does China Want? and James Miles, China Editor at The Economist. Dr. John Hemmings, our Director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society chaired a wonderful talk providing timely insights into Chinese domestic and foreign policy with the current 19th Communist Party Congress starting tomorrow.

Professor Brown made it clear that this year’s congress in China is different to all those before – it is ‘legitimately the first global congress’. Previously, the issues and topics discussed at the Congress would be deemed 95% domestic and 5% international, however in recent years the domestic policies and issues within China have become ‘intrinsically international’.

The reality is that the world has never dealt with a China that is strong, both militarily and economically. China now has a significant naval fleet and has therefore been able to dictate its capability throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea, home to various geopolitical issues within the region. As China has a ‘unique model in rejecting standard Western values’ it is also ‘extremely good at doing so’ and the current hegemonic power of the US doesn’t know what a region or potentially a world run on Chinese values is. Resultantly, there is no surprise that the Chinese relationship with America is to be top of the agenda at the Congress.

James Miles pointed out how China was trying harder than ever before to depict Xi Jingpin as a world leader. President Xi has made no secret of his change in stature, appearing as a voice of calm in a troubled and turbulent global environment. Furthermore the Chinese President, similar to the traditional role of the ‘First Lady’ in the US, has kept his wife by his side for all of his international trips, portraying an important image to the world media, to say the least.

On the issue of North Korea, Mr Miles pointed out how China’s view of the issue has been largely misinterpreted. With China regularly seen to be rather lax on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, it is important to note that firstly, President Xi has been all over the world meeting foreign leaders – he has visited over 50 different states in total – yet he has not visited North Korea despite the relatively short journey. Secondly, whilst China is fundamentally not a ‘risk taker’, they have begun to side with the US in imposing sanctions on North Korea and limiting the extent of their exports to them – North Korea’s main source of imports are from China.

Ultimately, we can expect President Xi to continue to play an increasingly important role within global politics as China continues to rise out of the shadow of the hegemonic power of the US.