China’s President Xi Jinping last week unveiled a 24-character slogan which could become the new guiding principle for Chinese foreign policy. The slogan marks a significant shift from the 24-character strategy espoused by Deng Xiaoping, which for years had steered China.
Xi’s slogan is more assertive, suggesting that China considers some of its goals as achieved and is preparing for a larger role on the geopolitical stage.
What is the Xi slogan, and how is it different from Deng’s?
Dr Hemant Adlakha, who teaches Chinese at JNU and is Vice-Chairperson and Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi, told The Indian Express, “Xi’s 24-character slogan promises to become China’s new foreign policy mantra in the ‘New Era’, better known as Xi-style Diplomacy in the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. The new mantra is the ideological guide map for China to attain “national rejuvenation” in the year 1949.”
Adlakha added, “In Chinese, it is 沉着冷静 Chenzhuo Lengjing；保持定力 Baochi Dingli；稳中求进 Wenzhong Qiujin；积极作为 Jiji Zuowei；团结一致 Tuanjie Yizhi；敢于斗争 Ganyu Douzheng. In English, the 24-characters mean “Be calm; Keep determined; Seek progress and stability; Be proactive and go for achievements; Unite under the Communist Party; Dare to fight”. These 24 characters are a very clever rephrasing of the similar 24-character mantra advocated by China’s paramount leader and the architect of reforms, Deng Xiaoping. Deng’s slogan was to “Observe calm; Secure China’s position; Handle affairs (with the US) calmly; Hide our capacity and bide our time; Maintain a low profile; and Never claim leadership (on the world stage)”.
What does the change indicate?
“It is possible that by introducing a slightly different version of Deng’s 24 characters, Xi is emphasising the need for a new resolve to fight the challenges the Communist Party of China (CPC) is facing vis-à-vis a hostile West led by the United States. Deng’s formula had come in the 1980s, when China needed the West for technology and markets,” Adlakha said.
China and the West
Coming a long way from Deng’s time, China has emerged as an economic superpower now, holding an upper hand on most bargaining tables. Its relationship with the US, meanwhile, has fractured, with flashpoints increasing over the past few years. In Europe, China has a strong inter-dependence with the bigger economies, but the Russia-Ukraine war is widening the chism between them.
At the National People’s Congress that concluded on Monday (March 13), Xi used strong language against the US. As reported by Reuters, Xi “vowed to modernise China’s military to make it a Great Wall of Steel, calling on the country to step up efforts to defend national security amid mounting tensions with the United States”.
Xi also said that China must achieve greater self-reliance in science and technology, at a time when the US has blocked its access to chip-making equipment and other cutting-edge technologies, reported Reuters.
“Led by the United States, the West has implemented all-round containment to suppress China, bringing unprecedented challenges to China’s development,” state radio quoted Xi as saying, according to Reuters.
In this backdrop, Xi’s mantra of “be proactive and go for achievements” and “dare to fight”, from Deng’s “keep a low profile” and “ never claim leadership on the world stage”, assume significance.
An indication of China claiming a bigger role on the world stage came recently, when long-time adversaries Saudi Arabia and Iran announced the restoration of diplomatic ties last week, with Beijing brokering the peace deal.
China has also offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, and Xi is set to meet Vladimir Putin soon.