People’s Republic of Competitive Cooperation
Present China’s Silky Ties
China has a special geometry and geography of time, and whenever you touch its lands and breathe its epochs, you understand that the sizes and units of measure are different. When travelling to China, a foreigner cannot ignore the time-space continuum in which reigns the cosmopolitan-and-comradely cohabitation of apartment skyscrapers, sometime taller than their corporate cousins, pictures of hard-core communist planner Mao featuring on banknotes circulating in a market economy, workers and peasants equipped with much more than blunt sickles and hammers, apparatchiks and free spirits, mundane youngsters and flying shaolin monks. “To understand China’s last hundred years, see Shanghai. To understand China’s last thousand years, see Beijing. And to understand China’s last three thousand years, see Henan Province”, here is a good piece of advice for those who want to take the perfect tour of China.
However, we may outbid. “If you want to understand China’s future, you have to see the map of the world and imagine it as an immense fabric. All made of… silk”. But China’s road was far from smooth. The Chinese Communist Party lived its ultimate internal cultural revolution when it decided to “seek truth from facts” (Deng Xiaoping’s so beloved dictum), not in dystopian manifestos. For otherwise, it would have risked facing more than a cultural counter-revolution: one of profound hunger, the terrible form of rebellion, of those who literally have nothing to lose. The Chinese were too “old” to become “new men”. The Party eventually accepted that it needed to lead the country not only through a stormy present, but to a bright future, also inviting historical wisdom to the table. The balance between the individual, the family, and the city has deep roots, dating back to Kongzi, Laozi and the tough King of Qin.
China is a culture with civilizational propensity, a world within a world, distinctively differenced from both the increasingly familiar West and its akin East, with whom it develops economic, political, social, cultural metabolic exchanges. Billions of pages were written about China, on different tones, capturing essences or dissolved in appearances. Nowadays, the People’s Republic of China is perceived as “the country with two systems”. In its early post-1978 reform period, Chinese communists devised a twisted dialectics trying to accommodate the changes with the canons. It was argued that the country was in its primary stage of socialism, so the Party-State is entitled to take any action to attract foreign capital, required for the country’s mature industrialization, moment in which the Marx-Engels-type of contradictions would be ripe to implode silently (as opposed to the noisily-failed Great Leap).
The Chinese recent experience runs far beyond sophisms. The people who, across ages, seemed to have discovered or invented almost everything, from paper, compass, gunpowder and even football, was unlikely to miss the basic truth that competition and cooperation are the sides of one and only game: the great game of prosperity. Nowadays, they compete with their regional as well as global peers for the graces of potential partners along Eurasian roads and belts, knocking at the gates of Europe, where sixteen of its former socialist stepsisters, now functional capitalist economies, are ready to open them for Chinese capital and goods. Securing wise strategic partnerships, the Chinese can became furthermore competitive. On a first glimpse, the stake of these “silky ties” is the fate of more than 1.2 billion Chinese. On a closer look, the rest of mankind is also at stake, caught between hazards of culture and nature.