AnzhiJiangComparativeForeign PolicyJan16, 2018A Comparative Study: Chinese ForeignPolicies under Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping IntroductionThe 20th century has witnessed China’srise from a weak, economically less-developed country to an important actor onthe international stage.

In 1949, Mao Zedong attempted to break the bipolarsystem and make China an independent and important strategic power. The reformand opening to the world policy program, also known as Chinese economic reformrevolution, initiated by Deng Xiaoping in late 1978, create the foundation forChina’s astonishing economic growth afterwards, as a result, China was enabled tobecome an effective actor in the international system. In view of the collapse of the SovietUnion and the Eastern European bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a risingChina has become more significant yet more vulnerable, as the US emerged as thesole superpower in the post-Cold War era. Talks about the so-called ChinaThreat in fact reflect a recognition of China as an emerging great power.While Xi Jinping has been considered asChina’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after a new body of politicalthought carrying his name was added to the Communist party’s constitution.

XiJinping was the son of Xi Zhongxun, a veteran revolutionary of the CCP and formervice premier of the State Council. 1This paper will introduce and compareforeign policies of China under Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping from twoperspectives: difference in international systems and policy orientations. ForeignPolicies during Mao eraIn the era of Mao Zedong, the focous ofChinese foreign relations strategy shifted between the Soviet Union and theUnited States.  The???yibiandao (leaning to one side) strategy From the founding of the PRC in 1949 tothe end of the 1950s, the basic characteristics of Chinese foreign policy wasthat China struggled against a US-led imperialist camp through the Sino-Sovietalliance established in the 1950s. China signed the Sino-Soviet Treaty ofFriendship in February 1950. The leaning to one side strategy laid out thebasic structure of Chinese foreign relations strategy in the 1950s: cooperatingwith the Soviet Union to struggle against the US, thus positioning China as akey member of the socialist bloc against the imperialist camp in the bipolarCold War era. The leaning to one side strategy did not mean that China would loseits independence and become a satellite state of the Soviet Union. As a matterof fact, the leaning to one side was just a strategy for survival, which was toguarantee China?s security, sovereignty and independence as it was in noposition to deter the US alone.

  In manyways, the leaning to one side strategy was a security-oriented strategy with afixed enemy.  The??????liangge quantou daren (fighting with twofists) strategyIn the 1960s, China adopted ananti-imperialist (US) and antirevisionist (Soviet Union) international unitedfront strategy which was known domestically as the liangge daren strategy, orthe liangtiao xian (two united fronts) strategy, or the shijie geming (worldrevolution) strategy. The Sino-Soviet split, as well as the Sino-Americanconfrontation, led to the adoption of this strategy by the Chinese leadership.By the end of the 1950s, Nikita Krushchev, the Soviet leader, was perceived tobe ready to cooperate with the US to control the world and impose manyunreasonable demands on China?s sovereignty. When Mao Zedong and other Chineseleaders opposed the Soviet stand, Moscow then took a number of steps tothreaten China politically, economically and militarily. As a result, therelationship between China and the Soviet Union sharply deteriorated.

On theother hand, the Sino-American confrontation had not shown any signs ofrelaxation. Under such circumstances, the fightingwith two fists strategy pushed China to confront the two superpowers at thesame time. The???yitiaoxian (one united front) strategy In view of the deterioration ofSino-Soviet relations, especially the armed conflicts along the Sino-Sovietborder in 1969, the Chinese leadership realized that China’s biggest threat camefrom the north.

China’s very survival was at stake, and China had to change itsfighting with the two fists strategy to escape from this strategicallydisadvantageous position. In preparation for the increasing military threatsfrom the Soviet Union, Mao Zedong called for preparation for war, for famineand for the people,” while looking for allies to deter the Soviet Union.The best choice obviously was the US, the only country that could stand up tothe Soviet militarily. Hence China had to improve its relations with the US. Asa result, Mao declared that: “We must win over one of the two superpowers,never fight with two fists, we can take advantage of the contradiction betweenthe two superpowers, and that is our policy.”2Based on the common interest of deterringthe Soviet Union, China and US normalized their relations in February 1972.

Chinagreatly benefited from the yitiaoxian strategy. Not only had China realized itssecurity benefits, but the Sino-US rapprochement also promoted China”srelations with many other countries, especially Western countries.  As a result, China emerged from its isolationto the world community and laid a solid foundation for the next phase ofeconomic reform. In summary, the goals of Chinese foreignrelations strategies under Mao may be listed as follows: 1) to safeguardnational security; 2) to guarantee China’s hard-won state sovereignty andterritorial integrity; and 3) to enhance China’s international status.

In thissense, the foreign relations strategies under Mao displayed caution andpragmatism, for they were basically for survival and were security orientedstrategies. DengXiaoping’s reform and foreign policies under Xi Jinping admininstrationChinese foreign relations strategiesunder Deng covered both the Cold War and the post-Cold War era, during whichChina had a broad agenda including economic construction and opening to theoutside world, national reunification, securing global and regional security,and the establishment of a new political and economic order. After Deng Xiaoping’s economic reformstarting from the 1980s, for nearly three decades, China’s annual GDP rose bymore than 10 percent, while now, according to some conservative estimates, ithas dropped to just 5 percent.

Given the lack of the former economic successthat somehow substantiated the legitimacy of the Party’s staying in power, XiJinping will have to place a stake on new mechanisms to ensure the loyalty ofthe population. Beijing has made a choice in favor of nationalism and evenbuilding Xi’s cult of personality. Chinese leaders have long bemoaned theircountry’s “Century of Humiliation,” which spans from China’s 1839 defeat in theOpium Wars to the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Xi promisedto achieve the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and restore China toits rightful great power status by 2049 — the centennial of the PRC’s founding.Xi’sspeech on the 19th Party Congress announced China’s renewed focus on “globalcombat capabilities” and declared a new “era that will see China move closer tothe center of the world” stage.Launched in 2013, the One Belt One RoadInitiative (OBOR or BRI) is a Chinese foreign policy of a transnationaleconomic belt.

The scale of the initiative is astonishing for it is so far thelargest of its kind launched by one single country. The OBOR is consisted of twoparts: The Silk Road Economic Belt, historically it was a route for ancientChina to communicate and trade with Central Asia and the Middle East over 2000years ago, with the first record of the Silk Road can be dated from Handynasty, when emperor Wudi send Zhang Qian from west China to the Middle East.Another segment is the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which is a maritimeroute that goes around Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn ofAfrica. In summary, more than two thirds of world population and more than onethird of global economic output will be involved in the initiative, and couldinvolve Chinese investments that total up to $4 trillion.But despite the huge economic influenceof the BRI, the initiative was described as a “response” to the newgeopolitical situation marked by the U.S.

“rebalance to Asia,” Japan’saccelerated “steps toward normalization,” India’s rapid economic growth, andincreasing worries toward a stronger China among China’s “neighboring Asiancountries.”  From this geopoliticalperspective, the One Belt, One Road initiative can be seen as a new kind of”strategy” designed to support the larger effort announced by Xi Jinping, tostrengthen Beijing’s periphery diplomacy and create a “new type of majorcountry relations”. From a foreign relations perspective,Under Xi China has taken a more critical stance on North Korea, while improvingrelationships with South Korea. China-Japan relations became worse under Xi’sadministration and there’s still a territeorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyuislands.

Xi Jinping called the China–US relations in the contemporary world a”new type of great-power relations”, and he said, “If China and theUnited States are in confrontation, it would surely spell disaster for bothcountries”. Xi has cultivated stronger relations with Russia, particularly inthe wake of the Ukraine crisis of 2014, and Xi seems to have developed a strongpersonal relationship with Putin, given the fact that they are both viewed asstrong leaders with a nationalist orientation. In conclusion, goals of Chinese foreignrelations strategies under Xi Jinping are mostly economic-oriented, and couldrepresent a bold attempt to be actively engaged in the construction of newglobal economic and financial institutions, which can promote the establishmentof the new international political and economic order.

From a securityperspective, Xi Jinping’s policies project a more nationalistic and assertiveChina on the world stage. Comparisonof International Orders            During Mao era, China was among oneof the less developed countries in the world, especially economically. Beginningin the early 1950s economic planning was introduced in China that was modeledafter the planning system of the Soviet Union. It was in 1978 that Chinastarted to abandon the planning system gradually and return to a more market-orientedeconomy and now it has become the second largest economy in the world.According to prediction, it will become the world’s largest economy succeeding theU.

S. in the 2030s.Source:Based on data from China Data Online (All China Data Center, 2011).

China’s nineteenth and early twentieth centurywas a long and humiliating history for the Chinese people. There were a wholeseries of internal rebellions which were difficult and costly to suppress andthere were domestic and invading wars into China launched by the Japanese. Chinahad been the world’s biggest economy for nearly two millennia, but in the 1890sthis position was taken by the United States.

The record under the variousRepublican regimes (1912–49) was also dismal. Chinese GDP per capita was lowerin 1952 than in 1820, in stark contrast with experience elsewhere in the worldeconomy. China’s share of world GDP fell from a third to one twentieth. Itsreal per capita income fell from parity to a quarter of the world average.3             The establishment of the People’sRepublic marked a sharp change in China’s political elite and mode ofgovernance. The degree of central control was much greater than under the Qingdynasty or the KMT. During the Cold War, the world was under a bipolarinternational system, with two superpowers, which were the United States andthe Soviet Union. Therefore, China during the Maoist era had to stand with theSoviet Union in order to defend itself.

            In contrast, China under Xi Jinping’srule is now the second largest economy in the world, though the GDP growthslowed down after Xi’s coming to power in 2013, it still remains over 6%annually, which is still relatively high compared to developed economies suchas the US and Japan. Nowadays, China is playing the role of a “superpower” onthe international stage, which is completely different from the Maoist era.            From a perspective of policyorientation, it is obvious that Mao’s foreign policies were mainlysecurity-oriented due to the bipolar international system, with a great emphasizeof communist ideology. Mao was a revolutionary figure, which means thatideology was one of the significant factors for the legitimacy of him and theCommunist Party.

From 1949 to the early 1970s, his policies were basically strategyand ideology oriented, but from 1972, since the normalization of the US-Chinarelations, there was some subtle transformation within his policy. One examplewas the yitiaoxian strategy, which was strategy-oriented, but notideology-oriented.On the other hand, after Deng Xiaoping’sreform in China starting from 1978, ideology was no longer a barrier for Chinato develop its economy. For Xi Jinping, though some strategic reasons stillinfluence his policy-making process, such as the Sino-Russian ally against theUS, but his foreign policy priorities such as FTAs, the One Belt One RoadInitiative, and the Asian Development Bank, even focus on economic developmentmore than ever.

In conclusion, although similarities canbe found in both Mao and Xi’s personalities, for they were both leaders whobelieve they could control China through power, and thus increase the domesticpressure, it is obvious that their foreign policy priorities differ on theissue of economic development, due to different international systems andpolicy orientations. Reference:1.     Zhiyue BO (2012) China’ Fifth GenerationLeadership: Characteristics and Policies. China: pp. 7-13.2.

    Zhang,Wankun Franklin. 1998. China’s foreign relations strategies under Mao and Deng:a systematic comparative analysis. Hong Kong: Dept. of Public and SocialAdministration, City University of Hong Kong.

3.     Maddison, Angus. Chinese economicperformance in the long run. Paris: OECD, 2007.   1 Zhiyue BO (2012) China’ Fifth GenerationLeadership: Characteristics and Policies. China: pp. 7-13.

2 Zhang, Wankun Franklin. 1998. China’sforeign relations strategies under Mao and Deng: a systematic comparativeanalysis. Hong Kong: Dept. of Public and Social Administration, City Universityof Hong Kong.

3 Maddison, Angus. Chinese economicperformance in the long run. Paris: OECD, 2007.


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