China this week celebrated 70 years of Chinese Communist Party rule with a show of its military might at a time when its relationship with the United States is fraught with uncertainty. Underscoring his country's new strength and power, President Xi Jinping said in his speech at the military parade that no force can ever stop the Chinese people from moving forward, even as he also maintained that his country would stay on the path of peaceful development. What appears to spook the US and the West is not just China's growing military and economic strength, but that this rising power's value systems are also so different from theirs. As a Chinese expert in Sino-US ties noted last year, the two countries risk drifting towards partial confrontation because of their competing ideologies and value systems. Part of this anxiety stems from what the US sees as the failure of its policy of engagement with China from the 1990s to change the country to be more like the West in terms of greater political and civil rights.
Mr Xi's rollback of some political reforms such as term limits on the presidency and tightening of party control over society have not helped matters. An undemocratic China propagating its values abroad is seen as presenting a threat to US interests abroad. Indeed, former US defence secretary James Mattis once called China a revisionist power which seeks to create a world consistent with its authoritarian model. He declared that great power competition is the primary focus of US national security. Matching words with action, Washington launched a trade and tech war against China and sought to decouple the US economy from it, as well as initiated the Indo-Pacific Strategy, which China sees as a bid to constrain its rise and to protect US primacy in the region.