China is at a crucial moment in its political and economic evolution. The political growl that is trying to become a dominant roar is being met with unexpected economic obstacles. As China aspires to become a global superpower, it's fascinating that it is facing the very test it presumed the Western world would fail: money or principles.
Deng Xiaoping, China's leader from 1978 to 1989, recognized as the "Architect of Modern China," once told his nation to "hide your capabilities, and bide your time." Current Chinese President Xi Jinping is boldly declaring, through policy and rhetoric, the time for hiding and biding is over.
Under Xi, China's Machiavellian approach to international relations is now fully transparent. The chimera of diplomacy and overtures to do business fail to disguise raw ambition and a brash grasp for power and influence.
China cannot continue to tout our economic ties when technology is shamelessly stolen, copyrights are ignored, Hong Kong is subdued, Uyghurs are persecuted, and Taiwan is threatened. Nor can we ignore the way that Xi seeks to reshape China itself, as entrepreneurs are silenced, companies come under greater government control, and technology and big data are unleashed for Orwellian social control.
"The Art of War" by Sun Tzu posits that understanding one's adversary is fundamental to a victorious strategy. China's understanding of the West in general, and the United States specifically, is arrogant, hedonistic and money loving. It presumes that Western countries will sacrifice principles in pursuit of profits. The paradigm of the greedy Westerner has served China well since Tiananmen Square, but recent experience with Australia suggests that China may have misjudged.