China as a “Systemic Competitor”?

The news that Britain regards China as a systemic competitor has been popular recently in China. The declaration of a “systemic competitor” implies that the UK, while maintaining economic ties with China, will increase its influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region and pay more attention to issues such as China’s so-called “cultural exports” and “disinformation”.

 Many people have shown their anger about it, but in fact, since Sino-US relations deteriorated, Britain has become the first choice for many young students to study abroad, and it has always been a popular destination for many Chinese people to travel and do business.

So does the declaration of a “systemic competitor” mean that the Sino-British relations will deteriorate? And what should we do?

Where does the hostility toward China come from?

In recent years, the “golden era” of Sino-British relations seems to have passed (in the words of David Cameron in 2015), with the UK revoking the license of China International Television Station (CGTN), and the BBC exaggerating its coverage of China and accusing a Chinese ethnic minority of being forced into “forced labor”.

On March 13, the BBC accused China of spreading fake news

But it was the “Hong Kong issue” that marked the deterioration of Sino-British relations.

Because of Hong Kong’s colonial history, UK was very concerned about the affairs of Hong Kong and has publicly criticized China many times. Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, announced that Britain had no right to “make irresponsible remarks” on Hong Kong affairs and urged it to “abandon the Cold War mentality and colonial mentality”. Such a “war of words” is the direct cause of the deterioration of Sino-British relations.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey and Labour MP Chris Bryant urge British Olympians to boycott 2022 Beijing Winter Games Source: Guardian

Besides, the COVID-19 has exposed the UK’s dependence on Chinese medical products.  According to a report by the Henry Jackson Society, a British think tank, the outbreak comes when Britain is 50 percent dependent on antibiotics, painkillers, and antivirals made in China. This raised concerns among British conservatives and further strained the country’s volatile relationship with China. In May 2020, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he would take steps to end the situation.

The British government uploaded Global Britain In a Competitive Age on March 16, stating the transformation of the diplomatic line after Brexit. The UK sees China as a “systemic competitor” and Russia as “the most acute threat”. The UK will maintain ties with China at the level of trade and investment, climate change, and biodiversity cooperation.

More worryingly, Britain is not alone in being anti-Chinese. The United States, France, Australia, and many other countries now have a lot of misunderstanding, suspicion, and even hostility towards China. Polls show that after COVID-19, the world’s negative view of China has reached a record high.

A survey of 14 countries shows a significant spike in negative perceptions of China over the past year.
Source: Pew Research Center

On the same day that the UK declared China a “systemic competitor”, the US and Japan issued a joint statement accusing China of acting in a way that is inconsistent with the existing international order and posing challenges to the international community. The statement also expressed concern over Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang issues.

What should we do as Chinese?

The COVID-19 has temporarily hindered the pace of Chinese people going abroad, but many Chinese people will still travel, study and do business abroad after the epidemic.

In the face of such an international situation, a question inevitably looms before us: what should we do as Chinese?

First of all, while developing, many countries have experienced the world’s misunderstanding and hostility. For China, therefore, this is the path as a necessity.

In the 1950s, the national image of the United States deteriorated due to severe racial discrimination, the Cold War, and the arrogance of its personnel abroad. And out of this situation, The Peace Corps was born. It’s a volunteer, independent agency run by the American government that nowadays conducts international social and financial assistance activities in 140 countries. While the problems of the assisted countries were solved, a positive national image of the United States was established. Gradually, the United States found a way to live in harmony with the world.

The world’s hostility and misunderstanding towards China will one day be eliminated if we refer to the experience of other countries with the goal of integrating into the world.


Secondly, it is not difficult to resolve misunderstandings and get along with foreigners in harmony as long as one has the right communication skills.

Good communication must not aim at “propaganda” but an attempt to share a more objective and real picture of things. We are not supposed to do one-sided “do positive propaganda” for China and directly tell foreigners “Chinese is very good”.We should admit that we do have problems and we are trying to solve them– “China is not as great as some people said, but also not as bad as some people think”.

Finally, we need to remember that governments are sometimes at odds with each other, but that as ordinary people, we are all global citizens. Neither the British nor the Americans are our enemies. If we stand on the international stage with our “ego”, what we fear is that “if you take more then I will lose”, which is bound to cause disputes. But when we regard ourselves as global citizens, we all have the same duty and goals, as we face and care about the environment, animal protection, gender equality, children’s rights, and other universal issues. No matter how the international situation may change, we need to solve those challenges together.

If China wants to build the image of great power and live in harmony with the world, every Chinese people need to take action. We also need to view and deal with what is happening globally with a more inclusive and open perspective and mind.

Written by Ola, Jeffrey

Translated by Carol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s