But things are different now, mainly because the nature of China has changed.
Chinese leadership has shifted again – from communist to capitalist and now nationalist. These three traits have been present for a long time, but nationalism has taken the lead under current President Xi Jinping.
The rise of Chinese nationalism has made the country more assertive. For much of its history, China has been content to stand on its own, even with its longstanding goals of reclaiming Taiwan and exerting greater control over the South China Sea.
But under the current regime, China’s military buildup and slashing has made an invasion of Taiwan more likely, and the country has openly built its military infrastructure in the South China Sea, much to the chagrin of neighbors like Vietnam. , Indonesia and the Philippines.
The reach of China’s soft power has also expanded. Economic development loans have given it a greater presence in Africa and other parts of the developing world, and its “Belt and Road” initiative aims to further anchor the global economy in a system in which China – and not the United States or Europe – is central center.
Finally, human rights remain a major issue.
The Chinese government oppression of the Uyghurs has been well documented: prison camps, forced sterilizations and re-education programs designed to eradicate ethnic non-conformity.