In mid October 2004, Jiang Zemin’s trusted advisor Liu Ji published an article—”United States is Facing Historic Dilemma”—in a Hong Kong newspaper Observer Star. About the same time on October 18, 2004, Qiang Qichen, the former Chinese vice Premier and Foreign Minister, published a commentary— “U.S. Strategy Seriously Flawed”—on Study Times, a magazine that belongs to The School of the Communist Party Central Committee. Qian’s article was later translated into English and published by the state newspaper China Daily one day before the U.S. presidential election.
Qian’s stinging criticism of U.S. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy surprised Americans. His call on Washington to discard the “Bush Doctrine” of military-backed diplomacy, combined with the timing of the China Daily publication, was seen as a blunt interference with the American election. The Chinese government, upon U.S. inquiry, soon downplayed the significance of Qian’s article; and the U.S. State Department spokesman in a press briefing also noted that “former Vice Premier Qian is no longer an official of the Chinese Government.”
The significance of Qian’s commentary, from a foreign policy guru in the Chinese Communist Party, however, is beyond the U.S. presidential election. Its central message is to forecast the decline of U.S. power, a view recently adopted by the Chinese Communists. At the end of the article Qian concluded,
“But the troubles and disasters the United States has met do not stem from threats by others, but from its cocksureness and arrogance.”
The 21st century is not the “American Century.” That does not mean that the United States does not want the dream. Rather, it is incapable of realizing the goal.
In this century, all the big powers should compete in a peaceful way, instead of by military means.
Liu Ji’s commentary on the same topic at a similar time (no English version was published), further shed light on the Party’s view. Liu was Jiang Zemin’s idea man. He was promoted to be the Deputy Director of the Shanghai Party Committee’s Propaganda Department in 1988, when Jiang Zemin was the Shanghai Party Secretary. In 1993, he was promoted to Deputy Chairman of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Currently he is the Executive President of China Europe International Business School. Liu’s article, addressing Chinese language readers all over the world, also forecast the decline of the United States:
“Strategically, it is not a mistake, in my opinion, to say that the United States has started to decline since the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the super giant is facing a decline in the twenty-first century. The decisive reason is that the United States is facing a historic dilemma in the twenty-first century.”
Even though the Western countries have long wished that China would gradually evolve into a democratic country, the Communist leadership apparently does not see a democratic political system attractive. If the United States, the banner for democracy across the world, is going to decline in the next century, why should a rising power like Red China change to democracy? Recently, some key messages in Hu Jintao’s secret speech (September 2004) at the fourth meeting of the CCP’s 16th Congress were leaked out in Hong Kong media. It showed that the Party was to take a hardliner approach and would further tighten its ideological control. Reports said that Hu Jintao even instructed, “On the respect of ideological control, we should learn from Cuba and (North) Korea; even though the Koreans have encountered some temporary economical difficulties, they have been right on politics.” The writing and publication of the two articles mentioned above, from two senior and influential figures of the Party, seem to reflect the Chinese Communist Party’s vision: it will not be democracy that triumphs in the 21st century.
Leon Chao is a commentator on Sino-U.S relations.