Below piece has been tranlated from its Chinese origin by a friend:
About three decades ago, when China barely had something to show for her potential to thrive as a big nation, the world dominating opinion swung round to deplore her achievements, as if they had indicated China’s potential threat to the world. The fact of the matter is, even in the earlier years when China was still weak and poor, Mao Zedong, the first leader of Mainland China had already proclaimed to the world that “China will never be a superpower,” and so did Deng Xiaoping later, and so is Xi Jinping today.
Their proclamations are not of mere political rhetoric, nor of tactic decoy, but of philosophical essence tracing to the Warring States of more than 2000 years ago, when a debate was carrying on as to which way was better to govern the society: the rule of benevolence through righteous proprieties, or the rule through overbearing hegemony? Confucius and his followers promoted the former in the belief that the previous emperors had ruled successfully by holding to the moral virtues and universal love, hence calling it Wangdao —the Earlier Emperors’ Way, which had been the core of the Chinese socio-political thinking ever since. As for the latter, Badao—the Hegemonic Way, it has mostly been resorted to as a conceptual contrast against the former.
In fact, Wangdao was not only embellished in the classics by Confucius and Mencius, it was even drawn on by Sun Zi in his Art of War, which has been influencing the Chinese thinking of how wars should be fought, including how to avoid fighting wars by way of deterrence. Throughout the history, China has never been a war-like nation but mostly stuck to defensive strategies, of which the Great Wall has been one of the major embodiments. Even today, China is not seeking to establish military bases everywhere in the world, because of this traditional thinking.
Furthermore, do not forget what the main theme was of Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. It was not about being competitive or heroic . . . but about the world’s being harmonious. During the Games, the Chinese did by all means to convey to the world that, the highest ideal they would see to was harmony among all the nations. The notion of HARMONY constitutes the very essence of the Confucian Wandao, the rule of benevolence. In his speech of March of 2015 at the Headquarters of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Mr. Xi Jinping expatiated on the pluralist reality of the global society and reiterated China’s ideal that all the nations should enjoy equal rights and coexist in harmony on this planet.
This belief in HARMONY has been fully embodied in the Belt & Road vision China presents to the world as a strategic initiative. During the third session of China’s National People's Congress last March, Mr. Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, spoke at a press conference on the fundamental difference between the Marshall Plan and the Belt & Road initiative: the former was but a brainchild of the cold warriors, whereas the latter indicates a revival of the spirit of the Silk Road which, throughout the recorded history, had been a tie of friendship and trade between the peoples of various regions and, as such, should naturally resume to its fuller potential in the new era. Mr. Wang further emphasized that the Belt & Road initiative has derived from the needs of global collaboration, not geopolitics, and must not be perceived through the cold-war lenses; the Belt & Road initiative aims at promoting joint ventures from which all benefit; in sum, China is not expecting to play solo, but a concerto with as many others to jointly play along.
Last October, the Chinese president Xi Jinping also pointed out during his visit to the United Kingdom that the Belt & Road initiative will not be a drive-way for one household, but a broad express open to as many who are willing to join in the collaborative efforts to win.
Back then while Mao Zedong renounced China’s ambition of becoming a superpower, he also reminded the Chinese people of their commitment to the world society: China is a bigger nation and should contribute a greater share. The Chinese remember his words, but it was not until recent years that they have gained the economic and technical competence to put the words to practice, including their reconstructions on some of the islands within the Nine-Dash Line. In fact, those projects have been designed from very beginning to be part of the Belt & Road economic initiative: to provide services to the local economic activities in particular and those of the world in general.
Moreover, HARMONY, Confucianism also advocates the doctrine of the MEAN, that is, one should avoid going to extremes in acting and thinking; likewise, the Taoism also warns that everything will reverse its course when developing to an extreme point (e.g. the sunset begins at high noon; the moon wanes when it becomes full). When it comes to interpersonal relations, Lao Zi particularly discourages striving to outstand the others.
I think the Chinese leaders have well emulated the teachings by their ancestors in foreign policy making, but I still would like to assert my own opinions:
US has become a superpower because the post war reality rendered it so, and for which it deserves due respect. Likewise, the world order will eventually change, but let the change take its natural course. Therefore, it might not be advisable for China to strive to replace US as the world Number One. My understanding is that, as long as the Chinese people commit to assisting the nations along the road and the belt in peaceful pursuit ofprosperities, they are simultaneously reaching for their dream. After all, the Chinese dream as presented by their leaders is one of seeking to establish harmony in the global society instead of seeking to be a new hegemon.