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Can India and the world trust China anymore? Italian scholar Xi Shi said

The honor guard of the Chinese People's Liberation Army held a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square on National Day. (1 October 2022)
The honor guard of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army held a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square on National Day. (1 October 2022)

Among the many sinologists (Chinese researchers) in the world today, the Italian scholar Francesco Sisci is special. He was the first foreign graduate student of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Since 2004, he has been the coordinator of the exchange program between the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China and Italy. In Dr. Xi’s view, a serious problem facing China today is the lack of trust in China in the United States and Western countries.

In many senses, as a person who has studied China as a professional, Francesco Chen’s educational background and resume are unusual. He has long-term experience in dealing with Chinese officials and the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He has also worked as a journalist, interviewing Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and, in 2016, Pope Francis, a Roman Catholic church. That was Pope Francis’ first media interview in China. In the interview, Pope Francis urged the world not to fear the rise of China.

After studying in China, he completed his doctoral thesis entitled    “Rationalization of Thought and Political Discourse in Early Mohis,” for which he received a Ph.D. in Chinese Classical Philology and  Philosophy from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the   University of       London.

Due to his special experience background, Xi Shi can be described as a  foreign friendly friend of the CCP. However, Xi Shi recently published  an article with the headline, “Can the world trust China again?” ”

Why did Xi Shi ask such a sensitive and pointed question? What is the history of the loss of trust in China by Western countries and the United States? Without the trust of the United States and Western countries, and without the trust of the world, what will be wrong with China? Were the United States and Western countries deceived when they trusted China? When the United States trusted China, what benefits did China gain?

Xi Shi recently gave an interview with Voice of America and stated his frank views on these issues. Xi Shi expressed his personal views and did not represent the Voice of America.

Why ask such risky questions

Jin Zhe asked: The English title of your article is: Can the world (the world) still trust China? Can the world trust China again? Perhaps many people in the world today are thinking about this question, but those who think this way, especially scholars who study China, are generally reluctant to ask such questions so bluntly because it is easy to be regarded as “anti-China” by the Chinese Communist Party authorities. Why would you take the risk of asking such a question?

Xi Shi: Because I think first, I have no hostility or hatred towards the Communist Party of China. In fact, I think my personal perspective is to help the Communist Party think about problems, and I think I think my perspective should be more loyal, that is, what should be said, so, there is such a problem. Of course, this issue is very sensitive. I myself know that this issue is very sensitive. But it is also a very central and very critical issue.

Now the United States and the West, by extension, the world do not trust China. The reasons are quite complex, and there are various reasons. But objectively speaking, this is the core problem, that is, the West and the United States do not have a sense of trust in China. In fact, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States had a great sense of trust in China and great hopes for China. But for various reasons, this sense of trust is now gone.

Let’s not talk about the United States now. Some people in China may say, “Hey, Americans don’t trust us, and we don’t trust America.” But I personally don’t think this question is a problem for the United States, for the Americans, because whether we like it or not, the world is actually the (dominant) world of the United States. So, the United States does not trust China, so what should China do?

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In addition to the United States, there are many rich and influential countries in the world that will also distrust China. Therefore, China’s work, including economic development, trade, diplomacy, and politics, will encounter many difficulties, and there are more and more difficulties. So I think this is an issue that China should and should consider very, very seriously, including the Chinese Communist Party, because this issue cannot and should not be ignored. As soon as it is ignored, there is a problem, and the problem is very big.

Trust now distrust doesn’t stem from fraud or deception

Q: Can the world still trust China? The obvious implication or presupposition of this question is that for the first time, the world should not trust the Chinese Communist Party’s controlled China. Do you think that the world or Western countries, especially the United States, trusted China under the rule of the CCP for the first time and were deceived because they were naïve at the beginning? Too rich to be obsessed with? Or is it that China could have been trusted, but has changed dramatically in the past few decades and become untrustworthy?

It is not my personal opinion that Western countries should not trust China in the first place. Now there are a lot of people in the United States saying this. For example, Pelosi, former speaker of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, said that more than 20 years ago, when we discussed granting China the most-favored-nation treatment for permanent trade, we opposed it, and now 20 years later, we know that our original opposition was right. What do you think about the trust of Western countries and the United States in China in the first place?

A: That’s how I understand it. I think the United States is right to let China participate in the World Trade Organization. That is to say, it should give China a chance, and it must also prove that the United States and the West have no hostility to China, not to contain China, or to do anything about China. In fact, the United States and the West have great hopes for China and hope to let China develop. Therefore, more than 20 years ago, China was right to participate in the World Trade Organization, and the United States was right to let China participate. This is number one.

Second, it makes sense for the West to have hope that China should be given a chance to slowly develop its economy. Then, the economy is getting bigger and bigger, developing better and better, and there are more and more market economies, and capitalist rules, which may bring some political changes because market freedom also brings some political freedom.

But unfortunately, I don’t think China has become what the West wants it to be, a country with political freedom. Why? I personally feel that this is not simply a question of Westerners, and Americans being fooled and deceived, but that there is a more complex reason.

I think the Chinese Communist Party is actually a very practical party, not so much ideology. The logic is that I have to preserve and protect my power. If there is any way to protect my power, I will use whatever method. So, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was as if capitalist America was a model country with an imitable economic and political system.

So at that time Chinese I thought, the Chinese Communist Party, well, maybe we have to think about a political change. For example, democratic change. The idea of democratic change has certainly been present in the Communist Party. We all know, for example, in the 1940s, that the Communist Party also talked about democracy. At the time of the Cultural Revolution, there was also some talk of democracy. Of course, 8964 also talked about democracy that year. I think in the late 1990s there were also people in the Chinese Communist Party who started talking about democracy.

China looks at the West and the United States’ changing concepts

But after so much talk about democracy, why hasn’t there been a political change? I think there were two factors that made the leaders of the Communist Party change their minds. First, they were disappointed with America’s performance in the Iraq war. They feel that the United States quickly conquered Iraq, but democracy cannot take root in Iraq and cannot be used; Democracy just doesn’t work, and American democracy doesn’t work in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Middle East. So the Chinese Communist Party is somewhat disappointed with America’s political model.

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The second reason is that during the financial crisis in ’08 and ’09, China felt that maybe the U.S. financial system was not working, and its financial system was so weak. How else could there be such a crisis? How could you ask for China’s help? At that time, the United States demanded that China buy its Treasury bonds. At that time, chatting with friends, my feeling was that the Chinese leaders felt that in fact, our system, our model is better than the United States, stronger than the United States, and more reliable. Their democracy, and their financial system do not.

But now there’s another problem. China encountered two things, neither of which it expected. One is our novel coronavirus outbreak Covid. It (the Chinese Communist Party authorities) think its approach to managing the epidemic is good and right. That zero-epidemic policy is now seeing that it really doesn’t work. Also, the Chinese think that we can do science, all good. As a result, China has not developed a really effective vaccine for 3 years, but the United States and Britain have developed several more effective vaccines, so it proves that American science is still much better than China.

The second piece is the war in Ukraine. China believes that Russia will soon win and Ukraine will be immediately controlled by Russia. Then, the EU will split. Then the influence of the United States in Europe will be much weaker. The result is the opposite. Ukraine defeated Russia, the EU united, and the influence of the United States in Europe is now growing. NATO turned out to be gone, gone, dead, and now restored.

China is now in a state of reassessing the United States

So, suddenly a new situation has emerged. China is now thinking: Oh my God, we tend to underestimate the United States. Of course, my feeling is by feeling, and now my feeling is that there are people in the Chinese Communist Party who are starting to reconsider. So, in the past, they could ignore this trust issue, they thought that China is still the center of the world, so believe me or not, I don’t care; I believe you are the key. Now, on the contrary, China has found that many countries around the world are still following the United States.

The United States is not as declining as some think. Even whether the United States is in decline or not is a question. So now this is also a very core issue for the Chinese Communist Party.

Therefore, it was also right for the United States to integrate China into the World Trade Organization, because China has developed, China has also seen the benefits and benefits of the market economy, and the people are living very well, not as poor as they were 20 years ago and 30 years ago. Many people have houses and cars. Of course, there are people who are rich and poor.

But now China is also a fairly good society. I don’t think it’s easy for these people and China’s leaders to throw away these benefits, to discard these good lives. Of course, anything can happen. But let them discard these benefits of the World Trade Organization, and many will be upset.

When and why China gained the trust of the United States and the West

Q: In your opinion, in what period or period of time has China under the CCP been trustworthy or more trustworthy in the past 74 years (counting from 1949 onwards)?

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A: The first was that this trust was built in the early ’80s and late ’70s. Why? Because at that time, China helped the United States with two relatively large. The first is to attack Vietnam. In the 79-80 attack on Vietnam, we also knew that Vietnam would invade Cambodia, and Vietnam was an ally of the Soviet Union. China was supported by the United States, which also helped the United States against the Soviet Union, and also hit Vietnam. The attack on Vietnam also played a big role, because at that time Vietnam and the Soviet Union wanted to expand their influence in Southeast Asia. Perhaps Vietnam is preparing to invade Thailand or expand into other countries besides Cambodia because it has already invaded Laos. So this is to stop the expansion of the USSR in Southeast Asia. So China has done a big favor.

The second priority was to send some American weapons to Muslim jihadists in Afghanistan. At that time, the Mujahideen fought the Soviet Union, and the main supply route was through Pakistan. Because Pakistan is the only supply route, Pakistan is asking for higher and higher prices. By providing a second supply corridor from China, the Americans could better negotiate Pakistan’s claims and get the weapons more efficiently for the Mujahideen.

So at that time, China helped the United States a lot against the Soviet Union. At that time, the United States offered several benefits to China. The first is to make China the only Asian country that allows a technology transfer. This technology transfer is of course very critical, because the United States is not so open to Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, and there is no technology transfer. The second benefit that the United States offers to China is that some products made in China have only a 3 percent tariff once exported to the United States, which is much cheaper than exports from Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Therefore, the United States immediately created some conditions for China to develop. Because of the technology transfer, and the low tariffs, a lot of U.S. companies see very specific benefits and put their production lines in China. This is crucial to China’s future development.

China has greatly benefited from the trust of the United States

Of course Chinese very hard, very hardworking, and very well done, including the Communist Party provided many, many benefits, did a lot, provided a lot of conveniences, including tax benefits, and so on. But the U.S. offers some very core conveniences. So at that time, I felt that there was a dream of China becoming an ally of the United States, a very good ally. Of course, after 64, the United States began to hesitate about this dream, and some Americans began to hesitate. Then, history became more and more complicated, but the late 70s and early 80s were also a very good opportunity. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this sense of trust is less. Then, in the 1990s, after 64, trust slowly regained a little.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, China and the United States cooperated very openly, and on the Afghan side, on the exchange of intelligence very well. In 2002 and ’03, there were also proposals in the United States that China should be a responsible stakeholder. At that time, many Americans believed that China could have good long-term cooperation with the United States.

I think this trust is getting worse and worse after ’05. But this time from China’s point of view, starting from China’s position, the sense of trust has slowly faded. China feels, the Chinese Communist Party feels that we do not need the United States, and the United States is not as good as China; We rise, America falls. If we rise, anything can be solved.

I think at that time the Chinese Communist Party began to think of world history a little too simplistic, the United States and the Western world a little too simple, and now you can see these effects.

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