This is the tale of two pilgrims following the road that really matters in the young 21st century.
This is the tale of two pilgrims following the road that really matters in the young 21st century; one coming from NATOstan and another one from BRICS.
Let’s start with Le Petit Roi, Emmanuel Macron. Picture him with a plastic grin in his face strolling alongside Xi Jinping in Guangzhou. Following the – long and gentle – sound of classic “High Mountain and Flowing Water”, they enter the Baiyun Hall to listen to it played by the 1000-year-old Guqin (a beautiful instrument). They taste the fragrance of 1000-year-old tea – and muse on the rise and fall of great powers in the new millennium.
And what does Xi tell Le Petit Roi? He explains that when you hear this eternal music played by this eternal instrument, you expect to be in the company of a bosom friend; you are in synch as much as the high mountain and the flowing water. That’s the deeper meaning of the ancient tale of musicians Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi, 25 centuries ago in the Kingdom of Chu: bosom friendship. Only bosom friends can understand the music.
And with that, as Chinese scholars explained, Xi brought up the concept of Zhiyin. After Zhong Ziqi died, Yu Boya broke his Guqin: he thought that no one else could understand his music. Their story imprinted the term “Zhiyin”: someone who understands music, with the added meaning of close friends that can completely understand each other.
All bets are off on whether a narcissist puppet like Macron would ever be cultured enough to understand Xi’s subtle, sophisticated message: those that get it are true soul mates. Moreover, Macron was not dispatched to Beijing and Guangzhou by his masters to do soul mating, but to try to bend Xi towards NATO on Russia/Ukraine.
His body language is a dead giveaway – complete with crossing his arms demonstrating boredom. He may at first have been impervious to the notion that true friendship requires mutual understanding and appreciation.
But then something extraordinary happened. Xi’s message may have touched a key spot in the tortured inner depths of the narcissist Petit Roi. What if, in international relations, mutual understanding and appreciation is the key for nations to find common ground and work together towards common goals?
What a revolutionary notion; not exactly the Hegemon-imposed “rules-based international order”.
Are you a true Sovereign?
By inviting Le Petit Roi to China, and personally spending no less than 6 hours with his guest, Xi enacted millenniums-old diplomacy at its best. He reminded his guest of the turbulent history between France and the Anglo-Saxon powers; and he talked about sovereignty.
The key subtle sub-plot: “Europe” better think hard about being subservient to the Hegemon and minimize as best as possible the massive economic turbulence when Confrontation Day with the U.S. arrives. Implied is Beijing’s priority of breaking up growing U.S. attempts to encircle China.
So Xi treated France as a potential true Sovereign even under the EU; or somewhat splitting from EU dogma.
Of course another key message was implied under this Confucian invitation to epistemological growth. For those not willing to be friendly to China because of complex geopolitical layers, it will never be too late for Beijing to show the less “friendly” side of the Chinese state – if the situation arises.
Translation: if the West goes for Total Machiavelli, China will apply Total Sun Tzu. Even if Beijing would rather go for international relations under the aegis of Beauty, Goodness and Truth rather than “you’re with us or against us”, war of terror and sanctions dementia.
So did Petit Roi have a “road to Damascus” moment? The verdict is open. He literally freaked the Hegemon out with his outburst that Europe must resist pressure to become “America’s followers”. That’s pretty much in synch with the 51 points agreed upon by Beijing and Paris, with emphasis on “legitimate security concerns of all parties”.
The Americans got even more spooked when Macron asserted that Europe should become an independent “third superpower”. Le Petit Roi even advanced some baby steps in favor of de-dollarization (certainly under supervision of his financial masters) and not in favor of Forever Wars.
So the Americans, in panic, had to send German 5th column Annalena “360 Degrees” Bearbock in a hurry to Beijing to try to undo Le Petit Roi’s outbursts – and reaffirm the Washington Dictates Brussels official script. No one, anywhere, paid the slightest attention.
That came on top of the most glaring subplot of the whole tale: how European Commission dominatrix Ursula von der Leyen was treated by Beijing as worse than irrelevant. A Chinese scholar scathingly described her as “just the mouthpiece of a canine organization with no teeth. Even her bark sounds like whimpering from a terminally ill dog that is about to be euthanized.”
The “terminally ill dog” had to go through passport control and customs (“Anything to declare”?) No diplomatic status. No official invitation. No sovereignty. And no, you cannot take the special high-speed train alongside Macron to go to Guangzhou. So here’s another message – this one quite graphic: Don’t mess with the 3,000-old Middle Kingdom ethos.
Lula and “Zhiyin”
Top Chinese scholars were absolutely riveted by Xi applying diplomatic stratagems that had been so useful 25 centuries ago, now re-enacted on the road-to-multipolarity global stage.
Some are calling for a new “Strategies for the Warring States” rewritten for the 21st century. The massive round table set up by Chinese protocol with the “jungle” in the middle and Macron and von der Leyen positioned as if for a job interview was a monster hit on Weibo and We Chat. That led to endless discussions on how China is now finally able to “drive a wedge among the barbarians”.
Compared to all this hoopla, the tale of Brazilian President Lula coming to Shanghai and Beijing reads like a graphic illustration of Zhiyin.
Lula went for the jugular right from the start, during the inauguration of former President Dilma Rousseff as the new president of the NDB, the BRICS bank.
In simple, direct language that anyone from Sahara to Siberia can understand, Lula said, “Every night I ask myself why should every country need to be tied to the dollar for trade? Why can’t we trade in our own currencies? And why don’t we have the commitment to innovate?”
Directly implied is the fact that the expanding BRICS+ should design and promote its own currency (the long, complex process has already started), on top of allowing trade in national currencies.
Lula’s powerful message was addressed to the whole Global South. A Brazilian example is China’s ICBC setting up a clearing house in Brazil allowing direct yuan-real exchange.
It’s no wonder that the CIA official rag, the Washington Post, foaming at the mouth, immediately issued the Deep State verdict: Lula is not obeying the “rules-based international order” diktat.
That means the Deep State will come after Lula and his government – all over again, and will go no holds barred to destabilize it. Because what Lula said is exactly what Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gadaffi said – and tried to implement – in the past.
So Lula will need all the help he can get. Enter, once again, “Zhiyin”.
This is how Xi officially welcomed Lula in Beijing. Very few people around the world, non-Chinese, understand that when someone of Xi’s stature tells you, right in front of you, that you are “an old friend of China”, this is it.
All doors are open. They trust you, embrace you, protect you, listen to you, help you in times of need and will always do their best to keep the friendship close to their hearts.
And that ends, for now, our tale of “bosom friends” taking the road to Beijing. The BRICS friend certainly understood all there is to know. As for the NATOstan Little King dreaming of becoming a true sovereign leader, the moment of truth is knocking at his door.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.