The 1991 breakdown of the Soviet Union denoted the end of a bipolar political order that characterized the world from 1945. This political order was replaced by a global framework, majorly characterized by the hegemonic ascendance of the United States of America. In other terms, the U.S dominated the world in general and imposed its ideologies either socially, politically, or economically on the rest of the world. According to renowned political theorist Waltz, the United States is the only country in known political history, since the Romans, to have had such kind of dominance on the world (Renic). The recent rise of China has, however, become a matter of concern and discussion amongst political scholars, especially from the West. China is rapidly becoming a second force after the United States both politically and economically. However, this rapid transformation from an average country to now a major world power is viewed as a threat to the existing world order, maintained by the U.S., a narrative that is not substantive.
Not long ago China was just another country in the world characterized by instability and backward political ideologies that alienated it from the rest of the world. Despite having great potential the country remained in a state of stagnation both politically and economically. The county was even branded a “sleeping giant” that if by chance was woken, would make the world tremble (Confronting the Rise of China 1). Since the Napoleon era, the country was far away from being awakened. The country underwent a long period of imperialism, a defining revolution that saw an end to the traditional monarch rule, an invasion by the Japanese, and eventually a civil war of its kind. The journey to the rise of China was set after Mao’s death that occurred in 1976 by the new leadership that put in place policies that led to the country’s economic revolution. The new administration formulated sounder economic strategies, helped improve people’s living standards, and most importantly, showed the willingness to tolerate and strategically direct the country into a trail of global prominence.
The rise of China and its potential dominance in the world is inevitable if recent developments and activities within and outside its borders are put into consideration. According to recent economic projections, the country could surpass the U.S in terms of economic prowess in the next two decades, a situation that could undermine the status of the United States ( Heng 2). The economic rivalry between the two countries is therefore thought to be one of the potential causes of war between the two countries and their counterparts. Apart from that, the county has increased its military expenditure in a move to modernize and bolster its military capabilities. This aspect particularly has been cited as a clear indication of the increasing capability to threaten international security (Renic). The 2006 Quadrennial Review posits all key and emerging powers as having the ability to engage with the United States militarily with special mentions of China. China is mentioned as having advanced military technology that in the future will overturn the conventional military advantages of the U.S army (Sisk). In addition to that, the country’s growing interest in nuclear technology and a lack of transparency are one of the causes of the increasing regional and international anxiety.
It is, however, important to critically analyze China regarding its potential to threaten international security. There exist two schools of thought on this subject that explains the direction and the future impact of China on the world order; the realist and the liberal. The realists view China’s rise as a threat to international security. They argue that as a county grows more powerful it’s more likely to extend its dominance over other countries, and pursue self-interests among other benefits that come along with power. In so doing, conflicts could arise especially from the United States which could spark a war. The liberals interpret China’s rise as just economic development that could even enhance international cooperation based on a free-market model, respect civil rights, and encourage a democratic society (Heng 2). This can be interpreted as China having embraced the West’s Liberal approach to fostering engagement and interdependence (Yan 3). In this case, one can deduce that assertions by the realist are informed by fear of the unknown and not factual assessment.
A critical evaluation of China’s foreign policy and comparison of key indicative aspects with the United States suggest that the country poses negligible threats to international security. Drawing from the main recipes of the cold war between the U.S.S.R and the United States, incompatible ideologies played a key role in it. In this case, however, China and the United States seem to be pursuing the same economic agendas in achieving economic stability through different means. A majority of countries are accommodating and welcoming China as they view this as an opportunity for economic development rather than a threat. The country, however, still has issues of economic inequality amongst its populace an indication of inferiority compared to the United States. In regards to military spending, in 2009, the United States’ expenditure towards the military amounted to over $ 738 billion compared to $69.5 billion to $ 150 spent by China (Renic 7). This shows that the two countries are asymmetrical both military-wise and economically hence China poses a minimal threat to international security as opposed to the popular view.
Confronting the rise of China: An analysis of the Realist and Liberal approaches. Web.
Renic,Neil. Rising China: A threat to international security.2012. Web.
Heng, Kimkong. “The rise of China: Global threat or international peace.” UC Occasional Paper Series,Vol.1, no.1,2017,pp. 1-18.
Sisk,,Neil. China’s Military has surpassed US in ships, missiles and Air Defense, dod report finds.2020. Web.
Yan, Xuetong. “Chinese values vs. liberalism: What ideology will shape the international normative order?.” The Chinese Journal of International Politics, vol. 11, no.1, 2018,pp. 1-22.