International Relations of China

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For the previous half-century, the US has toyed with the concept of pressuring China to adopt a more liberal stance. Its foreign policy has been primarily motivated by a desire for China to join the free international order (Schweller 296). Perhaps the most significant hindrance to this goal is that China's rapid economic expansion has obscured its dismal human rights record.

The Far Eastern economic behemoth has showed little interest in fostering international patterns that would imply adopting a more progressive global social agenda. Nonetheless, the United States is hopeful that adamant forces within the People’s Republic of China will give into the devices of the new world order. This scenario conceptualizes the prospect of China exhibiting peaceful economic and social growth. It downplays the idea that China would pursue armed initiatives in its bid for more global attention in light of its newfound economic dominance. Scenario #1 is consistent with the readings of Nathan and Scobell. It was widely pursued by the U.S in the previous administrations before the 2016 elections.

The United States appeared to understand the significance of welcoming China onto the superpower high-table. However, this has not been the case since late 2016. With the assumption of office in January 2017, the U.S’s new political dispensation has incessantly reiterated it has no interest in seeking a peaceful rise and engagement with China (Nathan and Scobell 32). Largely propelled by a nationalist agenda, the new administration is likely to maintain this position for the next four years, never mind the complexity of the U.S‘s relationship with China.

China’s recent military aggression has further fuelled the belief that a peaceful rise may not be implemented. Its development of the South China Sea despite opposition by most of its weaker neighbors have served as a stark reminder that China may have no interest in partaking the peaceful and liberal “Western” agenda (Economy 163). Therefore, as much as it would be highly desirable to have China and the U.S engage peacefully, the probability of this occurring is far too minimal.

Scenario #2: Containment, Breakout, Crisis, Confrontation, Cold War (Low Desirability/ High Probability)

The plot explores three key perspectives; what will happen, what should happen, and what is already going on. It is a pessimistic outlook into the ambitions of China and its likelihood to expand its interests in universally different designs. It pits the United States against China if an unfriendly quasi-engagement occurs and the potential alliances the two nations may pursue. Of particular interest is China’s neighbors considered friendly to the U.S.

In a sense, Scenario #2 is based on present signs that the two nations are not far from descending into a more problematic relationship. The important indications include arms race, alliance diplomacy, amphibious confrontation, economic warfare, cyber warfare, and air/naval battle.

A recent event that sparked international attention was the seizing of U.S Navy research vessel by Chinese authorities. The stealth submarine was detected as it cruised past key military installations of the coast of China, prompting the authorities to commandeer it. The incident sparked a fierce and mostly one-sided Twitter war between the U.S president and the Chinese. The Chinese interpreted the situation as a blatant attack on their sovereignty and a provocation they would not take lightly, even threatening to destroy the vessel. Interestingly, despite the bitter response from China, it was reported that just a few weeks earlier, one of its aircraft carriers was reported to have cruised past key NATO installations off the Coast of Turkey, a key U.S ally. On how the U.S should respond to China’s provocation, two main theories have been fronted (Moran, Abramson and Moran 44). Aaron L. Friedberg believed in a more combative approach called “bucking China.” He opined that Chinese aggression would only but increases and that the US must nip its influence in the bud (Friedberg 7). Friedberg firmly maintained that while engagement with the Chinese was critical, an alternative foreign policy arrangement that majorly featured containment should be pursued.

However, U.S statesman, Henry Kissinger was of a contrary opinion. He believed that it would be a grave strategic mistake for the US to engage in a cold war with China. He charged that conflict was a choice and not a necessity and, as such, the U.S will be painfully disadvantaged if it approached China with aggression (Kissinger 45). For now, the status quo is likely to be maintained. Any conflict between the two nuclear superpowers would not only be catastrophic for them but the entire world as well.

Scenario #3: Spheres of Influence (Low Probability/Low Desirability)

This scenario explores the idea of the United States allowing an incursion into its area of influence by the Chinese. It entails the conscious retreat by America from friendly national entities to enable growth of China’s interests. Pundits describe a sphere of influence as a cultural or geographical region within which a sovereign entity exerts nearly exclusive influence to which it lays no legal claim.

History commentators, Lyle Goldstein, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan have continually voiced their support for this scenario. They believe that in the interest of peaceful international cooperation, the United States should exercise nonintervention in the South China Sea and other controversial interest involving the Chinese that does not directly affect it.

According to Huntington (336), the U.S should withdraw from Asia altogether and retreat to its traditional sphere of influence, the western hemisphere. The three experts propose that the traditional lines of power should be removed. The new sectors should factor in the newfound Chinese military and economic enthusiasm. Since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, America has moved to establish a defense perimeter or cordon in the East that can assist it to counter any potential large scale hostility. Alongside a series of allied regional powers, the United States created a series of belts referred to as Island chains.

The regions host an assortment of U.S military installations among them being air, army and naval bases, aircraft carrier docking ports, research centers and army listening posts (Talhelm et al. 604). Awarding China a section of the U.S.’s sphere of influence in the East would constitute abandoning these vital interests and the strategic relief that comes with having them (Kaplan and Norton 13). As things stand, it would be highly unlikely despite Kaplan’s belief that America’s paramount presence in the Pacific Ocean remains a painful reminder of its devastation of the region over half a century ago.

Additionally, Huntington believes that culture, and not ideologies with be the new source of conflict in the dispensation of the new world order. He opines that the world has divided itself into several cultural regions and ethnicities with which it chooses. Present-day illustrations of this perspective include the Western-Islam conflict. On the one hand, an entity that identifies itself as following old Islamic credo waging war on an agenda it feels threatens its well-being. Liberalism being a universally adopted plan, extremist Islam has chosen to single out the West as its enemy.

Organized caliphates are increasingly waging war and mounting attacks on non-U.S entities, not because they have any affiliation with the United States, but their subscription to the western agenda. He famously said, “to recognize that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multicivilizational world” (Huntington 311). Another important illustration is the realignment of the Philippines with China. Under the reign of its controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, the country is increasingly looking to China as a potential economic and political replacement of the United States (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel and Roy 99). Huntington concludes by adding that the ceding of America’s Eastern sphere of influence and its eventual exit will not only reduce instability in the region but also force it to face its most mortal fear which is the domination of a critical region by another global power (Huntington 289). Therefore, the possibility of the United States ceding influence to China is exceedingly small and so is the desirability of such an event.

Scenario#4: G-2 (Low Probability/ High Desirability)

Scenario#4 addresses the idea of an exclusive group of states conferring to address issues of global interests. They include the G-7, G-8, and G-20. Precisely, this scenario pictures the economic collaboration or conference between the United States and China as a way of strengthening relations between the nations. A leading expert in international affairs, Fred Bergsten offers a definitive explanation as to why such a union would be immensely favorable. He opens by explaining that before the market crash of ’07-’08, the U.S and China accounted for half of the world’s economic growth.

Presently, they are the two largest national economies with the U.S having the highest deficit and China holding the highest surplus of dollar reserves. They control both the high-income nations bracket as wells as the top tier of developing economies (Lai 17). Shortly, China will surpass Japan as the second highest economic power after the U.S, a fact that Bergsten sensationalizes as the most significant justification for a G-2 arrangement. Among the most vocal proponents of this scenario include Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Kerry, and Henry Kissinger.

Brzezinski believed that the United States and China have many significant common interests some of which included regional conflicts such as India-Pakistan and Israel-Palestine as well as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. He held that most of these concerns had the potential to cause serious long-term effects and multi-dimensional cooperation between the United States and China could potentially de-escalate some of them (Kissinger 47). Kissinger maintained that there was a need for a central role for China in world affairs. He felt the two nations should define their common goals and institute a formula with which they could mutually benefit.

Kerry introduced a concept of a “Special Relationship.” For decades, the term has been used to define the extraordinary relationship between the United States and the U.K. A special relationship encompasses an arrangement where there is no expectation or fear of armed or unarmed conflict, frequent summits, a tendency to war as allies, and the resolution of differences in a peaceful manner (Kerry n.p). However, despite the enormous economic opportunity present in such a partnership, China feels the U.S would stand to benefit more and as such, rejects the idea. It believes that being a developing nation, it is not ready for such an association. Its fourth generation leadership maintains that global issues should be discussed by all countries as opposed to a mandate limited select few, a factor that is likely to collapse any prospects of a G-2 alliance. As such, the probability of a “Group of 2” conferring is minimal despite the reality that both countries would highly benefit from them.

Scenario#5: China Rules the World (High Probability/ Low Desirability)

Scenario#5 explores the very likely possibility of China rising to a level of complete economic dominance. It investigates the world where the traditional prevalent western influence has been curtailed and the possible changes that a Chinese global domination would institute (Onnis 55). China’s sprawling economic growth will continue indefinitely and will most certainly spread to other areas of power. It is projected that the Far East nation is set to surpass the United States regarding global cultural influence, economic power, and military strength, the three most important secrets of America’s global strength (Mingfu 48). So then what happens and how will the global political scene look like once China is at the pinnacle of world power?

Samuel Huntington maintains that no drastic political, economic, and political changes should be expected, more so, by economies beyond the Far East. China’s territorial expansion through direct military action will most likely reduce as it will see no need in exercising further aggression. China will probably demand territorial integrity (Huntington 234). It will seek to reacquire control of over autonomous regions such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet. This move is most likely to create further disturbances in the area going by the disquiet it is currently causing. As a Chinese global domination is imminent, this scenario is not only highly possible but also very undesirable.

Scenario#6: Peaceful Economic Rise Stops and a Political Crisis Occurs. (High Probability/Low Desirability)

This scenario explores the very frightening reality of the peaceful economic rise suddenly stopping and giving rise to an internal political crisis. Currently, the political situation in China is relatively delicate. After the fall of Mao Zedong regime, the China’s Communist Party assumed it would mark the end of political pluralism and disquiet in the nation. They were wrong.

The Tiananmen Square episode of 1989 proved that there was still need to streamline the nation’s political processes. As such, the party embarked on nationalism education exercise. The younger generation was bombarded by its ideology from the educational system to public programs (Shirk 406). The result of this process was an overly patriotic populace who feel owed by the world for decades of disenfranchisement. Presently, this generation is proving difficult to handle for the party. As an author, Susan Shirk believes, in the event of a full-blown political crisis, the nation will most likely resort to populism, militant nationalism, or militarism. The chilling fact is that as much as such an event is undesirable, it is very likely.

Scenario#7 and 8: Democracy from Below, Democracy from Above (High Desirability/ Low Probability)

Scenarios #7 and #8 imagine a situation where China abandons its monopoly on power and allows democracy to reign. Political Scientist and renowned author, Bruce Gilley forecasts a dispensation where the Chinese autocracy will give way to a democratic process and will vest the power to manage the affairs of the pole to the public. Rather than a complete and colorful transition, Gilley predicts an elite-led, quite process, championed by interests high in China’s leadership. He comments that the Chinese culture is not immune incentives of democracy and will soon choose to pursue it (Gilley 66). Conversely, scenario#8 features a situation where democracy is attained as a result of the public’s devising.

Sophie Richardson, a director at the Human Rights Watch in China, defines Democracy from Below as an event where a grave crisis occurs and upset’s the firm control of China’s Communist Party. Liberal elements within the party do not get the chance to institute a progressive democratic national process (Richardson 13). Instead, the masses step in and demand a more participative leadership process. However, as much as this would be highly desirable, the possibility of it happening is quite remote as the current administration is likely to squash any such dissent lethally.

Scenario#9: State Failure (High Probability/ Low Desirability)

In the face of a radically changing global social, economic, and political framework, it is highly unlikely that the Communist leadership in China will maintain its foothold at the country’s helm. David Shambaugh, political science, and international affairs professor observes that China’s communist rule is unlikely to come to a quiet end. He envisions a protracted, messy, and violent end for the regime. Among the contributing factors to leadership’s potential demise include the rabid corruption within the Party’s leadership and the military industrial complex, and the intensified political repression (Shambaugh 77). However, as much as there is the possibility of the corrupt leadership failing, the result would be highly undesirable in the short and mid-term.

Works Cited

Economy, Elizabeth C. "The great leap backward? The costs of China's environmental crisis." Foreign Affairs (2007): 38-59.Goldstein, Lyle, and William Murray. "Undersea dragons: China's maturing submarine force." International Security 28.4 (2004): 161-196.

Friedberg, Aaron L. "The future of US-China relations: Is conflict inevitable?." International security 30.2 (2005): 7-45.

Gilley, Bruce. China's democratic future: How it will happen and where it will lead. Columbia University Press, 2005.

Huntington, Samuel P. "The clash of civilizations?." Foreign affairs (1993): 220-496.

Kaplan, Robert S., and David P. Norton. The balanced scorecard: translating strategy into action. Harvard Business Press, 1996.

Kerry, John. "Secretary of State." Speech Delivered during the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China (2014).

Kissinger, Henry A. "The future of US-Chinese relations: conflict is a choice, not a necessity." Foreign Affairs (2012): 44-55.

Lai, David. The United States and China in power transition. Army War Coll Strategic Studies Inst Carlisle Barracks Pa, 2011.

Mingfu, Liu. "The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-America Era." New York (2010).

Moran, Robert T., Norman R. Abramson, and Sarah V. Moran. (2014). Managing cultural differences. Routledge.

Nathan, Andrew J., and Andrew Scobell. "How China sees America: The sum of Beijing's fears." Foreign Aff. 91 (2012): 32.

Onnis, Barbara. "Has China Plans for World Domination?" Comparative Civilizations Review 68 (2013): 55-73.

Richardson, Sophie. China, Cambodia, and the five principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Columbia University Press, 2013.

Samovar, Larry, Richard E. Porter, Edwin R. McDaniel, and Carolyn S. Roy. (2015). Communication between cultures. Nelson Education.

Schweller, Randall. "Emerging powers in an age of disorder." Global governance 17.3 (2011): 285-297.

Shambaugh, David. "China engages Asia: reshaping the regional order." (2006).

Shirk, Susan L. China: Fragile superpower: How China's internal politics could derail its peaceful rise. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Talhelm, Thomas, Xiang Zhang, Shigehiro Oish, Cai Shimin, Dongsheng Duan, X Lan, and Shinobu Kitayama. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(6184), 603-608.

May 02, 2023

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