The topic about the rise of China has been heated up recently after China overtakes Japan as the world’s second largest economy in this year. China has opened its market to embrace the era of globalization after Deng Xiaoping’s economics reform in 1978. China has attended multiple important international organizations such as joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 and becoming a core member in the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G20) in 2008. China also has established many organizations and forums such as inviting Russia to establish Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001 which can be considered as the Chinese version of NATO to promote closer cooperation between China, Russia and many former Soviet Union members in Central Asia. In order to maintain the stability of North-East Asia, China also invited North Korea in the Six-Party talks to build a bridge between Pyongyang and Washington to talk about the North Korean nuclear weapons program. It seems that China is becoming more and more influential in the contemporary international politics.
I believe that the Economics development of China should be an important topic in the study of international relations. It is because China is unlike other East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. They have transformed form very poor countries to advance economies because they follow the western experience to improve their economies. However, China ignores the western model of development, and China tries to find its own way of development which is also called as Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. I believe that the most important accomplishment of this system is that China has lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty line. From the past thirty years, the success of China’s Economic reform provides an alternative path for many developing countries in Africa, Latin American and former Soviet Union countries. It is because these countries could not reform their economies as successful as China under the regime of Washington Censuses. I am going to examine theory of neo-realism, neo-liberalism, and constructivism regarding the rise of China.
From neo-realism perspectives, they are pessimistic about the rise of China, and China cannot rise peacefully. Neo-realists also called as structural realists. They believe that there is not overarching authority above the states in the international system. In the meantime, they don’t agree with classical realists’ idea of human nature to describe the international system. Due to anarchy and lack of the relative distribution of power in the international system, other states must balance the rise of China because all states are power-seeking and they have to maximize their relative power in order to expand their militaries so that they will not be defeated after all. They believe that the rise of China can be described as the zero-sum game. It means that most states will become weaker when China becomes stronger. Security dilemma always maintains effective in this system. If China expand its military, other states will be worried their survival so that they have to increase their military strength or make alliances with the US. Then, China will do the same to these states to maintain its status.
Neo-realists also believe that most states are sensitive to the military capacity of other states, and they will do something to ensure their survival in this system. According to John Mearsheimer,
“If China continues its impressive economic growth over the next few decades, the US and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war. Most of China’s neighbors, to include India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam, will join with the US to contain China’s power. China – whether it remains authoritarian or becomes democratic – is likely to try to dominate Asia the way the US dominates the Western hemisphere. Specifically, China will seek to maximize the power gap between itself and its neighbors, especially Japan and Russia. An increasingly powerful China is also likely to try to push the US out of Asia, much the way the US pushed the European great powers out of the Western hemisphere.”(1)
It shows that small states near China have started to feel worried about the rise of China, and they will join together with the US to make a coalition to contain China. It is similar to most states in Western Europe which made an alliance with the US to contain Soviet Union during the Cold War.
From neo-liberalism perspectives, they are optimistic about the rise of China, and China is able to rise peacefully. Neo-liberalist also called as neo-liberal intuitionalists because they focus on building institutions such as IMF and WTO to expand trade and to have closer cooperation. When China became a member of the WTO, China officially turned into a capitalist country. A high population can provide cheap labors for American companies, and there is a huge undiscovered domestic market. It can promote trade and cooperation so that most countries can benefit from the rise of China. They believe that the rise of China can be described as the positive-sum game. It means that trading with China will have a win-win scenario.
Neo-liberalist also believes in democratic peace theory. It means that two democratic states are very unlikely to fight each other because media freedom and transparencies are very high between two democratic states so that they can know other’s behavior and intention thoroughly. From “The end of history and the last man”, Francis Fukuyama argues that liberalism will prevail over all other ideologies, and democratic states will remain the most stable and peaceful in the system. (80, Lamy) After the Cold War, China is not longer a communist state so that there is possibility that capitalism can bring democracy to China if the Chinese societies become mature enough to have a national election in the future.
Due to Economic interdependence, neo-liberalists believe that China is very unlikely to have a war with the United States. The relationship between China and the United States are intertwined in the era of globalization. Many American entrepreneurs employ many Chinese labors making all kinds of products. In the meantime, many Chinese people invest in the United States. There is a high cost to start a war, and both states will suffer during the war.
Collective security is the second reason that China will not start a war with the United States. According to Robert and Kingsbury, “Collective Security refers to an arrangement where each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all, and agrees to join in a collective response to aggression.”(82, Lamy) China is one of five permanent members of the Security Council in UN so that China understands the rules and norms inside the system. Other states will support the United States if China decided to start a war with the US.
Constructivists are neither positive nor negative about the rise of China. They are interested in why rise of China could be a threat to the United States. Also, they are interest in how interaction between China and the United States can change or transform the structure inside the system. Constructivists believe that the idea of rising China is socially constructed by people. In order to understand this idea, we must concentrate on the meanings and the identities of rising China, and the Chinese history.
The idea of sovereignty was constructed by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 after the Thirty Years’ War. China and most East Asia states were forced to accept and practice this idea because China was weak, and China failed to protect its Chinese tribute system at that time. The Chinese tribute system is that most East Asian countries would pay the tribute prize to China so that China would not attack them and accept them as subject countries under the heavenly King. Most East Asia states did not want to be colonized by those European states so that they had to give up the Chinese tribute system and to accept the western model of sovereignty.
From a social constructivist perspective, the rising China may not be a destabilizing force in East Asia. It is because constructivists believe that this argument is based on the Western experience, and the history of East Asia is totally different form the Western experience so that it may not be suitable to describe the politics of East Asia. Constructivists would like to review the East Asian history before 1642 and they will not apply the western experience directly into Asia-Pacific. According to David Kang, a strong China had historically been a driving force for stability in East Asia. (15, Kang) It shows that the East Asian countries generally are not worried about the rise of China and thus choose to accommodate rather than balance a rising China. It is because China, unlike Japan, has never sought to utilize its dominant position to colonize its neighbors.
I believe that constructivism or neo-liberalism seems a better paradigm to describe the rise of China. Because the neo-realist’s Euro-centrism and the balance-of-power model cannot describe China’s foreign policy toward its neighbors. Most East Asia states see China as an opportunity than a threat, and they are rapidly strengthening economic tie with China to take full advantage of trading with China. Most Asian states believe that their economic inter-dependence with China will ensure that they can be mutually beneficial. I also believe the high population of China has created a new market for those states, simulating their economic growth. In response to this growth, their foreign policies are more aligned with China than the United States. The U.S. economic influence in East Asia has significantly diminished with the regional rise of China. Therefore, those states believe that a strong China tends to stabilize East Asia, and the situation of East Asia tends to be chaotic with a weak China.
Some people argue that the rise of China will make international system return to bipolar system like the United States and the Soviet Union during Cold war from 1945 to 1989. However, I don’t believe that China is able to challenge the USA because there are many domestic problems inside China. Firstly, one third of the population in China will be over 65 years old ten years later. It means that Chinese population will not be so productive. Chinese growth begins to slow after 2020 because of its aging population and one-child policy. In the meantime, the United States can take immigrants to solve the problems of the aging population but China is not able to do so. Secondly, the American government could be the nation’s largest long-term advantage over China. The United States still has a fundamentally democratic and pluralistic government. On the other hand, China’s authoritarian government may ultimately make it less stable and prosperous than the American government. Frequent violations of civil liberties such as a Tiananmen-like event could slow down China’s economic growth rate. If the Chinese government still ignores intellectual property rights, it also threatens long-term investments from foreign investors. In China, information is restricted, and environmental and political problems largely hidden from foreign media. On the other hand, American problems are openly displayed to forging media. The American government cannot easily control the media to devise or fabricate a consistent message about American success to foreign audiences. Therefore, these internal advantages of the United Sates will let the US continue to be the leader of the world.