China

Silk Road Part II.

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Photo: Andrej Mrevlje

The granaries in all the towns are brimming with reserves, and the coffers are full with treasures and gold, worth trillions,” wrote Sima Qian, a Chinese historian living in the first century, B.C. “There is so much money that the ropes used to string coins together rot and break, an innumerable amount. The granaries in the capital overflow and the grain goes bad and cannot be eaten.

This is the opening paragraph of the first in a series of articles that the Financial Times (FT) intends to dedicate to China. It is as if this prestigious newspaper – considered a leading business publication – had finally made a decision to put China in the center of the world map. The first article appeared couple of weeks before Xi Jinping’s glamourous visit to London, where everything was prepared to perfection, including the royal reception for the new Chinese emperor in Buckingham Palace.

Some of the photo ops from this visit were bizarre, to say at least. One has to wonder who is better: the president of a country that still declares itself communist sitting in a golden carriage with the old Queen Elizabeth, or the sons of important Chinese political leaders who are speedings their Ferraris around Beijing? As FT mentions in its article, 2,000 years after the great historian Sima Qian wrote his fairytale observations on China from the Han dynasty, China coffers are full of money again. So much – $4 trillion of foreign currency reserve – that China is ready to throw money into this huge new project. “After two decades of rapid growth, Beijing is again looking beyond its borders for investment opportunities and trade, and to do that it is reaching back to its former imperial greatness for the familiar ‘Silk Road’ metaphor. Creating a modern version of the ancient trade route has emerged as China’s signature foreign policy initiative under President Xi Jinping.“

About nine months ago, when Yonder first wrote about this project conceived as a method of support for the Chinese export and investment industry, the Silk Road had not been officially launched yet. Now it has been, and you can read great deal about it in the FT’s long and detailed article.

Actually, after his visit to Great Britain, where several important business deals were signed, Mr. Xi Jinping, who is known in China as an iron-fisted politician, started a campaign of charm politics.

He first met with Ma Ying-jeou, the president of Taiwan – something that would have seemed impossible only five years ago, since Beijing pretended that Taiwan was an integral part of China, and therefore ignored any president of the rebellious island.

The second act of charm politics from the more-feared-than-loved president of China came just a week ago, when Xi took part at the centenary of the birth of Hu Yaobang, the former secretary of the Communist Party of China. Hu was deposed in 1987, as his effort for real political reforms had not achieved the consensus of the old oligarchs of the Party. But Hu eventually had his revenge. When he died  of a heart attack two years later, big crowds came to mourn him at Tiananmen Square. The spontaneous gathering of the young and liberal Chinese, who loved the former leader, ended with an occupation of the square that lasted for weeks, and unfortunately ended with the infamous massacre, during which the Chinese Liberation Army killed hundreds – if not thousands – of the students on the square. So why would the Chinese President Xi, who does not believe in democracy, celebrate someone who, if he was still alive, would have been his opponent?

President Xi attended the commemoration in the Great Hall of the People, on Tiananmen Square. Mr. Xi’s speech extolled Hu as “a time-tested loyal communist fighter and a great proletarian revolutionist”; newspapers were filled with laudatory biographies; a new book of his speeches was published. In his regular column for the Economist, Banyan has a story about this centennial commemoration, which ends today’s homage with good reporting from the British press.

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