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China in the Multipolar World

Paper No. 5654                                        Dated 25-Feb-2014

Guest Column by Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi

China, under the new leadership and also in the prevailing scenario of post-Cold War multi-polar world, has clearly decided to continue its hitherto aggressive and expansionist foreign policy not only all around its territory including maritime claims and air space security but also towards far-flung areas in Far east, Africa besides Southeast and South Asia including Indian Ocean. Obviously, the real aim is not confined to maintaining only its regional predominance in the East but, beyond that, to replace the US as a lone global hegemon.

With the recent change in the erstwhile leadership in China, the new incumbent, President Xi Jinping has elucidated his vision as the “China Dream”, which sets out a new package of reforms on the anvil with a view to ensure economic progress matching with its rising population and their so rising aspirations and expectations, besides enlarging its sphere of influence not only in its vicinity but also in the far flung areas of the world including Far east, Africa, Southeast and South Asia besides Indian Ocean.

The new leader has made it clear in no ambiguous terms that the world is left with no option but to deal with China’s ever escalating imperialistic-militaristic aggressions and assertions in future which it has already shown with respect to its extended claims in South China Sea and also by setting up its Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the recent past, which overlaps the part of the territory claimed by Japan and South Korea. Obviously, all these are the clear manifestation of China’s all-out effort to maintain not only its regional predominance in the Asia-Pacific zone but also to achieve a big leap forward so as to be recognised as a dominant and responsible player in international relations against its long held desire to proceed towards assuming the role of a global hegemon next only to the U.S. though replacing the U.S. must be its ultimate goal, as it has not yet overcome from its  Middle Kingdom complex of the yore.

The new leader has expounded his Dream for the people of China and above all for the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army. As a matter of fact there are no illusions in the immediate neighbourhood of China as to where the Dream is leading to. In the projected model for its growth, it is clear that the one adopted by the People’s Republic of China corresponds to the Aggressive-Dynamic Expansion Model. In fact, China now sees the post-Cold War multi-polarity in the world as given, calling these developments along with on-going process of economic liberalisation & globalisation as ‘irreversible’.

 What is very surprising and also perplexing here is the fact that China has declared itself to be essential to the peace, security, stability, and prosperity of the international system. This promulgation by China, though ostensibly for good, is particularly challenging and also threatening to the sole hyper power in the world as if the future course of the world will be markedly influenced by it, if not to be decided. With the suspicion and counter moves against China increasing, the current security challenges are being realised as worrisome to the entire world, with the major powers increasing their strategic investment and making the realignment of their strategies and also the US reinforcing its military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

This realisation has prompted the Chinese leadership to accelerate its economic, political and security co-operation with the developing countries all over the world. Apart from security threats, surge in sophisticated military technology among major powers are driving China’s own desire to revolutionise its military. The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was explored in 2000 and 2002 white papers, where it showcased it as a security reality. From 2004 onwards, it draws on China’s own foray in to RMA and acquisition of high-tech weaponry and systems. Hence, China regularly highlights the new security concept in managing relations among states.         

Thus, the Chinese Dream as it unfolds in conjunction with the latest White Paper on Defence make China’s neighbours even more wary. Even if the leadership were to change direction and profess peace with neighbours, the latter must not lower their guard. The white paper clearly spells out the missions of the PLA. National resurgence in any country that treads on the aspirations of its neighbours will always remain a matter of concern for the smaller countries of the region and leave them with no choice but to form defensive alliances for their own security. China should take note that besides India, Japan too has made overtures to Russia on realising that the US commitment or even capability might decline in times to come. Tokyo and Moscow are exploring the possibility of settling their territorial dispute. The world is aware of the decline in the American power.

However, one must keep in mind that China’s halcyon days of unprecedented double-digit growth are also over and even and even high single-digit growth might not continue for long. By extension this would have a corresponding effect on the defence budget and it would be difficult to sustain the present rate of military spending. But, despite these shortcomings, the pivot for the collective project of stabilising and strengthening the Asian Century in the present times will be China in every case because of its large and most populous geographical area and also due to its all-round and amazing progress and, consequent, development in all areas of national growth, stability and security.

As a predominant regional super-power and a dominant major power in the world, it can easily shun the stigma of Middle Kingdom complex. Its neighbours and also the whole world, once assured of China’s peaceful rise, would not begrudge its role as an important regional power of the East and also as a dominant and responsible national actor in the world which may be a prelude to its acquiring the global hegemon status, most likely, by the middle of the 21st century.

 (Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi, Associate Professor, Political Science, M. D. P. G. College, Pratapgarh (UP).  The views expressed are his own)