For much of the two decades since the 1990s, when China moved into a high orbit of economic growth, it propounded the theory that its “rise” would be “peaceful” in nature. It was perhaps intended to reassure a wary world, which was watching a notionally Communist country of a billion-plus people move at top speed, that China would not disturb the global order overmuch even if it became the world’s largest economy (which it is on course to be, perhaps as early as the end of this decade).

That reassurance was critical to China’s securing access to international capital,  becoming a magnet for Big Business, and more generally ensuring a benign geopolitical and regional climate  in the early stages of its development. And particularly after the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student protests of June 1989 rattled global faith in China’s motives, “peaceful rise” became something of a mantra.

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