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The rise of China as well as its unprecedented economic success turned to be one of the most
important factors in the world development in the late XX and early XXI centuries and transformed the
country into the second most influential player on the international scene. This change caused a heated
debate within the country about the prospects of Beijing’s foreign policy and economic course, with two
major directions emerging as a result. The first group calls for a more active behaviour of China as a great
power on the international arena, taking the example of the United States. It strives to achieve this goal
through all available means, including military ones, to ensure China’s economic and political interests
abroad, to put forward its own alternative to Western concepts of world development, and to create
alternative trade and economic unions and zones. As a result, supporters of this line seek to move away
from Deng Xiaoping’s foreign policy of modesty and restraint. The second group of realists believes that it
is necessary to follow Deng’s principles, since the country is yet to secure the status of a major world power
and can lose its current advantages, which come with a more modest status. They suggest that following
the first path will provoke an unfavorable reaction of the international community. Chinese leadership
has taken an intermediate position in this debate, holding back the most radical proposals of the activists
and adopting some of the moderate ones. The debate, which has been vigorous since the beginning of the
XXI century became particularly acute after the start of the trade war initiated by U.S. President Donald
Trump. It revealed many of China’s weaknesses as well as its significant dependence on the United States.
During the exacerbation, a number of experts criticised certain aspects of domestic and foreign policy of
China’s current leadership, including the “belt and road initiative” initiative. Some claim that this initiative,
along with a number of other major projects adopted by the Chinese government, for instance, the “Made
in China 2025” plan, could have provoked Trump’s tough response, which may put China’s development
at stake. Some major Beijing’s partners are also criticising certain forms of realisation of this initiative. The
article examines the available sources shedding light on the public and non-public side of the debate, as well
as its possible implications for China’s foreign and domestic policy and Sino-Russian relations.