Xi Jinping’s recent visit to the Czech Republic attracted large numbers of demonstrators carrying Tibetan and other provocative banners. (Hongkongers pining for street action could follow it all here.) The night before, cheeky Czechs chucked ink-filled eggs at the Chinese flags hanging from Prague’s lamp posts.
At least they noticed he was in town. Not all foreign leaders attract attention, let alone protest. It could be seen as a sort of tribute. When Venezuelans spat on Richard Nixon in 1958, the US was the top manufacturer, global cop and envy of the world. Maybe some of the bussed-in Chinese cheerleaders in Prague saw the anti-Xi demo as a form of flattery – like one who told a Czech protester he should be grateful for all the consumer goods the PRC graciously supplies.
The Chinese leadership sees their nation as an emerging replacement-US. Their way of thinking appears to be zero-sum – a setback for one power is a gain for the other (hence the sourness over Obama’s Cuba trip). And they seem to view history as a simple repetitive cycle that requires them to replicate or parallel the past, at least with ‘Chinese characteristics’. So the 21st will be their century (after the UK’s 19th and the US’s 20th). They must have aircraft carriers and distant bases, like their predecessors. China must have big companies owning overseas assets, it must have an international financial institution to play with, it must have a moonshot, it must have contrived (and laughable) soft power. Foreign students defacing your flag are a sign that the country has arrived. The kowtowing of Czech President Zeman is further confirmation, as was the groveling of the UK’s Conservative government a while back.
Meanwhile… The New York Times digs up some more details about China’s crony-elite corporatist structure – this time Anbang’s tale of murk and princelings – and the letter that ‘sounds like coup plotters’. China’s banks try to learn how to ‘follow local regulations’ abroad, while the domestic/Hong Kong side of things emerges as the world’s money laundering hub. Etc. Curious fact of the day: China has a copper glut after the metal was used as collateral by speculators in other bubbled-up assets. Foreign Policy sees Beijing’s (and Russia’s) overseas aggression as a sign of weakness and impending internal turmoil. Otherwise, it’s all going to plan.