What are the historical and cultural reasons, the internal dynamics and the external influences behind the Chinese model of power, considered by Xi Jinping to be superior to that of liberal democracies? In order to answer this question one needs to link current events to Chinese imperial history. Indeed, Xi plans to restore the central role played by China on the world stage and re-establish the status it enjoyed for millennia before the arrival of Western powers. The ongoing struggle will play out in the economic and political spheres, but also involve culture and values. China’s efforts challenge liberal principles, i.e., the very basis of democracies. By proposing a new international order against the one created by the victors of World War II, Xi’s China offers itself as an alternative to the United States and forces the West to re-assess not only its democratic political systems, but the cultural identities of its civilisations. Will the new, future order survive this clash with history? Or will chaos prevail, plunging the world into a conflict of planetary dimensions?
Maurizio Scarpari formerly taught Classical Chinese at the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.