Is China really threatening US power abroad?


President Joe Biden yet Maintaining his predecessor’s hard-line policy toward ChinaWhich aims to curb China’s international power economically and politically.

In the United States and Europe, China It is widely known as a rising star threatening Western power.

But my country research indicates that China may no longer see itself this way.

The rise of China

In my three decades He studied and taught China’s foreign policy has seen three separate periods in China’s approach to international relations.

After the death of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1976, Mao’s successors, Ding Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin came forward. Economic reforms That launched China onto the path of explosive economic growth. The country rose from 11th place to second place in Global GDP Rankings Between 1990 and 2020.

Prevailing opinion In Western capitals in the 1990s, economic transformations in China would inevitably culminate in a rich, peaceful and democratic country.

To ensure this outcome, the major economic powers were ready to embrace China as a Full member of the Open Market Associations ClubWith its acceptance in international institutions such as WTO And integrate it into the global markets. The West was keen to include them in this network of international political institutions built after World War II to foster cooperation and resolve conflicts by peaceful means.

China was happy to join the club, at least in terms of trade and investment. The foreign relations strategy of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1990s was “Hide capabilities and time“Adopting a Policy”Tao Guang Yang Hui– Keep a low profile.

In the early 2000s, President Hu Jintao took little of it Modest steps Toward more Chinese emphasis on the world stage, build the Chinese Navy and initiate a series of port projects in Pakistan and abroad. For the most part, however, he still espoused a “peaceful rise”.

China dream

That changed when the current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, took power in 2012.

Xi expected nationalism and strength. The China he heads no longer carries out its time. Announce somethingChina dreamImagine the country As a superpower With increasing influence not only in Asia but around the world.

Xi stands on a balcony in a black suit with a Mao collar, flanked by his ancestors
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a military parade with former presidents Hu Jintao, left, and Jiang Zemin in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 1, 2019.
Greg Baker / AFP via Getty Images

Under Xi, China took on a lot More aggressive stance Towards the world, displaying its military might in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and diplomacy is associated with it Huge investments in infrastructure development across Latin America And Africa.

Over time, many Western foreign policy leaders, including Barack Obama, saw that China was bent on overturning, not preserving, The economic system they created China enthusiastically welcomed you.

In 2015, the United States pledged toStrategic axis“Toward Asia and away from the Middle East, it has been the focus of Washington’s attention since 9/11.

In an effort to contain – or at least restrict – China, the United States strengthened its alliances with Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, and formed an alliance of countries neighboring China, and Increase defense cooperation With India, Australia and Japan.

American concerns

In October 2017, at the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi reiterated Western concerns. in public He announced his goal To move China to ‘Center stageOf world affairs.

Xi said that China does not seek world domination, but warned that no one should “expect China to swallow up anything that undermines its interests.” He also hinted that the rise of China would create a world order.Chinese characteristics. “

In December 2017 it was updated United States National Security Strategy The rise of China was officially declared a threat, it was cited intellectual property The theft and development of advanced weapons capable of nullifying the US military advantage.

Trump and Xi shake hands in front of the Chinese and American flags
Trump, who saw China as a serious threat, forged a combat relationship with Xi.
Brendan Smyalovsky / AFP via Getty Images

China against the world

But the China dream is not guaranteed to come true. As President Xi told Communist Party members at a rally in January 2019, the country faces Serious challenges

Beijing A. The US-led coalition Which is committed to resisting China’s economic, military and diplomatic power in Asia. China has it too Debt highStagnant GDP growth rate And the Lower productivity.

Then there is China Alarming demographicsThe population is shrinking and aging.

China’s population declined in 2018 for the first time since the deadly famines caused by Mao.Great leap forwardIn the 1960s Chinese Academy of Sciences expects That if fertility continues to decline from its current rate of 1.6 children per woman to the projected 1.3, then China’s population will drop by about 50% by the end of this century.

In 2015 China ended its policy of reducing families one child, But its population is still aging, leaving fewer workers to support increasing numbers of elderly people.

Together, these expectations raised fears within the Chinese Communist Party that the nation ”She gets old before she gets rich. ‚ÄúThis impasse can lead to serious social unrest.

Xi and others in the Chinese Communist leadership no longer displayed unbridled confidence. Instead, they are sending their fears that global leadership is slipping out of reach.

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Mixed Opinions

These concerns are already reshaping China’s foreign policy, leading to increasingly direct military action toward neighboring India – where it is engaged in Territorial dispute In the Himalayas – and near them Taiwan. China is also doubling down on its military efforts to assert territorial rights in the disputed islands, the South China Sea, and to suppress democracy in Hong Kong.

Xi has adopted a confrontational new form of global diplomacy that is more actively undermining American interests abroad. Some call itWolf warrior diplomacyAfter two great Chinese movies about Chinese special forces defeating American mercenaries in Africa and Asia.

This is the first time in six decades that China and the West have adopted radically different views of China’s global trajectory.

The results can be destabilizing. If a weak China feels threatened by Western containment, it may multiply its nationalist displays in India and Taiwan, Hong Kong And the South China Sea.

The postwar international system, which was built to enhance economic cooperation and avert war, may not be able to withstand the pressure of mounting Chinese challenges from within. A war between the West and China is still a remote possibility, but perhaps not as far away as it once seemed.

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