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Geopolitics

Deconstructing Western Fears Of China

How should the West face the rise of China? Culling some insight from a Chinese review of “Angst vor China” (Fear of China), the latest book by Germany’s best-known China expert.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen arrives last year in Beijing.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen arrives last year in Beijing.
Shi Shiwei

BEIJING - The German journalist and best-selling author, Frank Sieren, is one of the West's leading China experts. His latest book Angst vor China (Fear of China) was published last September in Germany.

Much like his earlier works, this book has a striking and provocative title and covers a large range of topics: nuclear development in China, how the Chinese challenge is affecting the American manufacturing industry, global competition for petroleum resources, China's aeronautic projects, Tibet, China's water pollution and the Sino-US economic relations in the broadest sense. The author uses straightforward language, and a writing style that is strong on storytelling.

Sieren's viewpoint is both consistent and surprising to Chinese readers when compared to the common attitudes toward China we hear throughout the mainstream voices in the West. Utterly absent are the usual suspicion, fear, prejudice and preconceptions. The book argues that the West being forced to face an increasingly powerful country so different in its value system, culture and ideology is actually a good thing for the West.

He describes a China already so strong economically that is now also busy trying to establish its corresponding political position of strength. This is bound to create conflict with the West as it seeks to secure strategic resource supplies to assert its economic development.

Overly optimistic

Nevertheless, China is not an enemy. At most, it's a competitor; and as such, the right strategy for the West is not to demonize or isolate China, but to cooperate with it, and recognize the reality of China being part of the multipolar world. Furthermore, the West should regard the competitive pressure from China's rise as a way to reinforce its scientific and technological innovation and its economic edge so as to maintain its leading economic and political status.

Sieren's book winds up actually exaggerating the success China has achieved up to now. He is also overly optimistic about the future prospects of China's economy. However, his purpose is very clear. He is not judging the Chinese economy and politics as a Western expert or giving suggestions in policy-making, but is telling the West, and in particular the Germans, that China's development is both a challenge and opportunity for the West.

Sieren has lived in China for 17 years. He first worked as the correspondent of Germany's business weekly, the Wirtschafts Woche, specializing in economics. He later became a presenter for the talk show, Asiatalk on Deutsche Welle-TV.

But unlike other European experts on China who mostly come from the sinology departments in academia, Sieren graduated from the Department of Politics of the Free University Berlin. This perspective helps forge his strategic thinking, while his precise Western-oriented values enable him to offer a relatively objective and calm analysis of China's complex reality. He isn't just introducing or interpreting China, but rather speaking directly to the West about how it should face China. And Sieren's driving message is clear: approach this major new world power as a challenge, not a threat.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Chairman of Joint Staff

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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