‘On Protracted War’ teaches China to be persistent with reform
Published: Dec 24, 2018 07:28 PM
The popularity of Re-reading On Protracted War, a collection of speeches given by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1938, has garnered the attention of Western media in the context of a China-US trade war. The book was published in October to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Mao's work On Protracted War which provided theoretical guidance on how final victory could be won over Japanese invaders by fighting a protracted battle by means of guerrilla warfare. A recent Washington Post article dug into the "political significance" behind the reprint of the book, as if China is mobilizing public support for a long-term all-out confrontation with the US. Is that the case?

Mao's On Protracted War is a product of specific historical conditions. Facing Japanese aggression, a poor and weak China had no other choice but to encourage and unify its people for a protracted struggle. Since the US launched a trade war against China, quite a few Chinese economists and international relations scholars have projected a long-term competition between China and the US. But their prediction is based on structural contradictions in bilateral relations and the fact that the US has defined China as a strategic rival that must be contained. Does China want a protracted confrontation with the US, closing itself to the outside world and biding time to win over the US? Of course not. But there are always people in the US who view China as a foe. 

There is no winner in a trade war. This is why China doesn't want to fight a trade war at all. The US and Chinese economies have become heavily interdependent on each other over the past 40 years. Trade friction and conflict do exist and cannot be solved in a short time. Even if an agreement could be reached by March 1, trade friction is likely to still be there in coming decades. China has to prepare for this, while at the same time preventing trade friction from disturbing China's reform and opening-up.

The country's development hinges on further opening-up. Addressing a grand gathering celebrating the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up on December 18, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to expand opening-up. "The practice of reform and opening-up over the past 40 years has shown that openness brings progress, while seclusion leads to backwardness," Xi said. China has made unremitting efforts to advance reform and opening-up in the past 40 years. The coming years will see more interactions between China and the outside world. 

It's true that amid the trade war and facing US attempts to decouple economic and technological links from China, some in China are calling for a boycott of American companies and goods. But actions like this may distract China from the path of reform and opening-up, trapping the country into an overall confrontation with the US. We must be vigilant. China's success of the past decades is precisely because of reform and opening-up and will also be where China's future success lies.

China is integrating with the world. We hope to get involved deeper with the international system and build a community of a shared future for mankind. In spite of external pressure from the US, we will promote reform and opening-up in accordance with our designed pace and timetable. In this sense, the significance and application of On Protracted War nowadays lie in that it has taught us to be persistent - in meeting our targets through continuous reform and opening-up.

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