The fact that China is Japan’s neighbour is a key factor behind Japan’s diplomacy. In recent years, Japan has become increasingly aware of the grave significance of understanding the principles underlying the foreign affairs of the Chinese state.
On 1 October, 2019, China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. A highlight of the celebrations was the largest military parade ever in history. The parade impressed upon the Japanese society that China still believes in a display of military power as it did 35 years ago, even after it became a superpower and began demonstrating its willingness to contribute to the development and enhancement of global governance.
A key concept in the politics and diplomacy of China today is the idea of a “great nation”. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been working to develop China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful. Here, the great nation means a state that is not undervalued by the international community. In other words, China is taking a path towards recovering the state’s dignity.
China used to be despised as the “sick man of Asia.” The CPC led a revolution and founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It is said that the country has become rich and is treading a path towards becoming stronger in an effort to regain its dignity. The local media describe Xi Jinping as a leader of the initiative towards being a great nation.
A state is defined by its military power, economic interests, and cultural characteristics and values. International relations or international politics is ruled by the intricate entanglement of these three elements.The road to great nation status currently followed by China is a process of increasing its presence in these three areas.
With respect to its military power, China is increasing its military presence in the nearby seas. Deployments have not been limited to the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, or the South China Sea but have been conducted broadly in the West Pacific and the Indian Ocean as well. Today, China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities or abilities to prevent an enemy from entering or having freedom of movement in a battle area extend beyond the first and second island chains to the South Pacific.
Here, the great nation means a state that is not undervalued by the international community. In other words, China is taking a path towards recovering the state’s dignity.
Regarding its economic interests, China now has a significant international presence as the second largest economy in the world. One example of this shift is that financial institutions affiliated with the Chinese government have greater outstanding investments than the World Bank Group. While it used to be referred to as the world’s factory, it has now solidified its position as the world’s investor.
China has growing confidence in its value system as well. It appears to believe that developing countries are focusing their attention on China’s governance model, single-party rule by the CPC, as a model that they should emulate. It is seen as an effective value system that China can offer the world, after witnessing its rising presence in military and economic arenas. This belief is reflected in China’s propositions. It is needless to say that the Japanese society does not share this model of governance or its underlying values at all.
China is currently striving to restore its great nation status through these three elements. It can be said that the large-scale military parade during the 70th anniversary celebration was an embodiment of its aspirations to restore the country to great nation status by displaying its power system.
The military parade was reviewed by Xi Jinping. That was one of the most significant parts of the extravaganza. In a Mao suit, Xi delivered an address to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the country’s establishment from a tower in Tiananmen Square and then rode an open-top black limousine to review the troops. As both the chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CCP and the chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping said, “Hello, comrades,” to soldiers in alignment. In response, they shouted, “Hello, leader!” and “Serve the people!”
This display approach followed the pattern of past annual military parades, held since the 35th anniversary in 1984, after China had commenced its reform and opening up policy which includes the creation of special economic zones such as Shenzhen, Xiamen, Shantou and Zhuhai. Another 35 years have elapsed, and China has become a strong power, declaring its commitment to the improvement and development of global governance. However, it employs the same means as 35 years ago, the power system, to demonstrate its position as a great nation.
The CPC forged its government through the use of arms. Everyone is aware that the substance of Chinese domestic politics remains under heavy control of the power system. Meanwhile, hard power is not the only factor that supports the dignity of a state among the rest of the world.
The international community, including the Japanese society, casts its eyes on this issue, that a state openly vowing to develop and improve global governance still relies heavily on the power system and attempts to regain dignity by showing its hard power. Learning from this the nature of the Chinese state, there are concerns about the future landscape of East Asia.