In the three decades since 1978, China’s international role has become more important. As an importer, exporter, investor and geopolitical player, the PRC now ranks as one of the world’s key countries. It has emerged from the era of Maoist isolation to become a potential superpower. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, as its economy has grown, more and more pressure has been put on the country’s leaders to speak out on the PRC’s main international objectives. A number of government statements have attempted to define these, talking reassuringly of a country that is rising peacefully and seeking win-win outcomes, avoiding the kind of hegemony that the world experienced under European and, latterly, American, dominance. Xi Jinping in particular talks of the ‘China Dream’, something that should be positive and benign for everyone and which the world can share in. And yet the PRC has also been accused of having covert aims to exploit more of the world’s international space for its own ends, seeking to assert itself in the Asia-Pacific region, and nursing historical grievances, in particular against Japan, but more widely against the old colonizing powers from Europe which, it feels, visited humiliation on it in the past. The vastness of China’s economic impact means that its international role is no longer so easy to ignore.
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