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08/02/2023

Chronicle from Beijing

Chronicle from Beijing

Last Thursday I had to get up very early. I was supposed to be at the Shanghai Hongqiao train station at 6:30 a.m. to travel to Beijing. A light breakfast with wonton soup (Chinese dumplings) in a small restaurant in the station provided the necessary energy to start the transfer. The fast train was waiting to make the trip. Four hours and thirty-five minutes to cover the 1,200 km between the two largest cities in China at a maximum speed of 350 km/hour.

Upon arrival, my ever-smiling friend Wu was waiting to transfer me to the hotel promptly to begin activities. That same afternoon I held an interesting and fruitful dialogue with Chinese colleagues to exchange on international issues. Their eagerness to learn what is happening in Latin America and the Caribbean is evident.

Once again I verified our mutual lack of knowledge and placed it as the reason that influences with greater determination in the generation of difficulties for a better and optimal approach. China is beginning to understand that it is not enough to have excellent relations with businessmen and politicians. It is necessary to build a wider range of links that are oriented to civil society, popular organizations, social movements, political parties, universities, intellectuals and academics, among others.

When asked why there is resistance in Latin America and the Caribbean to the Chinese presence, which according to them generates great benefits for the population, I replied that this was not always the case. Exchanges with businessmen only produce profit and profit for them. People do not observe the direct result of investment and trade, simply because they don’t know and neither are aware of it.

China has begun to understand that its confrontation (not necessarily war) with the United States is inescapable. The naive vision that permeated rhetoric (at least in the academic world that I knew) just a few years ago and that established the security of being able to advance in the development and construction of its political model in “healthy coexistence” with the United States, has given way to the conviction that this is increasingly unlikely, especially after the 2019 events in Hong Kong in which Washington openly financed and promoted the secessionist revolt.

The aggressiveness expressed after Trump’s “trade war”, the blatant Western support for Taiwan, the growing presence of the United States armed forces in the adjacent seas and the important diplomatic effort by Washington aimed at building military alliances in its environment, have led China to understand the inevitability of conflict and the need to prepare for it. It is easily appreciable in the discourse of the academics with whom I have spoken, but also in the information transmitted by the media. From my point of view, all this marks a marked difference with what I observed less than five years ago.

Taking advantage of free time, during the weekend I visited Zhengding, a “small town” according to the Chinese, actually an ancient city of 550 thousand inhabitants located 275 km. southwest of Beijing in Hebei province. The city has gained notoriety because in 1982, a 29-year-old Xi Jinnping began as a political leader by assuming the position of general secretary of the district committee of the Communist Party of China for three years.

The inhabitants of the city remember the imprint of today’s top leader of the country. A colleague consulted in this regard points out as relevant some actions undertaken by the young communist leader: The reduction of taxes for peasant farmers who produce cereals, the repair and restoration of more than a thousand primary and secondary schools, the creation of a sports school specializing in in ping-pong that to this day is a national benchmark for this sport, obtaining resources for the repair and maintenance of religious temples that are cultural heritage of the city, the region and the country and the management so that in this city, the film “Dream of the Red Chamber” was filmed, which became an icon of national cinematography. The filming scene has been preserved and is the main center of interest for national tourists who come to the city.

However, the visit had to be suspended due to the colossal rains brought by the transit of typhoon Doksuri through the vicinity of the territory. At the time of writing these lines, the meteorological phenomenon had produced serious floods that forced the authorities to declare a red alert and evacuate 31,000 people. The rains have been considered the worst that have affected the capital in the last 20 years.

The consequences of Doksuri and the governmental responses at all levels have been the center of the informative activity of the media in recent days, since rainfall has had an average of 320.8 mm and a maximum of 580.9 mm in a sector of Beijing.

Despite this, the information spectrum and especially social networks have not skimped on commenting on the dismissal of Chancellor Qin Gang. With a profusion of comments of all kinds on social networks, although it is not characterized as a national scandal, the Chinese echo all kinds of comments, especially the one that exposes a love soap opera as an explanation of the fact.

The appointment of Wang Yi, who had already held such responsibility in the past and who had handed over the position to Qin only seven months ago, shows that it was a decision that was not thought out or planned and that the high Chinese authorities had to make a quick decision before the forthcoming BRICS Summits, in South Africa in August, G-20 in India in September and APEC in November in the United States, in which President Xi Jinping should participate. Likewise, at the time the Foreign Ministry had to attend six heads of state and other high authorities who have been in China during these days to participate in the inauguration ceremonies of the 31st. edition of the World University Olympics.

In a more intimate sphere, on Monday the 31st in the afternoon, the presentation of the Chinese edition of my book “China in the 21st century: The Awakening of a Giant” was carried out with great informative display. The event was held at the headquarters of China International Communication Group (CICG), the Chinese media giant. When speaking, Du Zhanyuan, President of CICG said that “the Chinese model is not exempt from errors, but the country will not accept that it is the Western media that criticizes the country with ill-intentioned prejudices that falsify reality”.

Sergio Rodriguez’ book “China in the 21st Century: The Awakening of Giant”

Du announced the celebration in Argentina during the next month of September of a great event that he called “Forum of the civilization of Latin America and China” as a point of meetings and debates between the Asian giant and our region in order to exchange ideas and opinions for a shared future.

At 347 km/hour on the train back to Shanghai, I take the opportunity to write these notes, after a very fruitful and intense visit to Beijing – albeit short due to the waters.

Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
A Venezuelan international relations expert, Gelfenstein was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. He has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant”, published in several Latin American countries. You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701

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