China’s meteoric rise against everyone
Dr Makhan Saïkia
China is on the rise. More than its political art, the economic system encircles the world in an aggressive manner. This year will end China’s two decades in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now, the moot point is whether China’s economic strength and its multinational projects abroad threaten the very existence and dominance of the West.
China enjoyed its dominance for millennia until combinations of Western technological advances resulted in the fall of its last ruling Qing Dynasty. The dynasty that ruled for more than 268 years collapsed in 1911-12. Another important cause of its decline was its crude appreciation of the strength of European and Asian imperialist ambitions. Further, he encountered internal unrest in a series of devastating rebellions in early 1794. Some of these internal disturbances were the White Lotus Rebellion, the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 and finally, the Wuchang Uprising of 1911- 12. Since the 1920s, China has experienced two civil wars and constant clashes with Japan. All of this resulted in decades of violence that resulted in the deaths of millions of people across China.
The Qing dynasty was unable to control a multitude of internal rebellions spreading mainly in regional centers. Then came the Chinese Revolution of 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong which ended all the conflicts that plagued China for decades. The Revolution ultimately led to the consecration and establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949. Its main opponent was the Nationalist Party of China led by Chinag Kai Shek, which then wielded maximum power in the Republic of China (ROC). But then Mao and his revolutionary Communist supporters wrote a new history of China by defeating the ROC forces.
Over the past two decades, Communist bosses in Beijing have articulated a picture of glorious restoration of Chinese civilization in the country. This was done simply in order not to raise undue concerns about the global balance of power. What China wanted in international forums was recognition and it worked well. Such an approach to globalization was largely influenced by the country’s legendary statesman, Deng Xiaoping (December 1978 to November 1989), the man who announced a series of market economy reforms to open up the vast country resources to the world. Precisely, he even dared to abandon many uncompromising Communist doctrines and incorporated a host of principles related to free enterprise. Despite being an outright party man, he implemented reforms in all branches of Chinese society. For him, “Reform is China’s second revolution”. After the infamous excesses of the Cultural Revolution of the Mao era, Deng embarked on a new growth path that ultimately helped lift millions of people out of the poverty for which he has rightly been called “” architect of modern China ”. From Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao then to Xi Jinping, China has undergone massive transformations of leadership, economy and government.
China’s economic performance over the past four decades has been nothing short of a miracle. When Deng Xiaoping was chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1978, China’s GDP was $ 150 billion, according to World Bank estimates.
When you go back in history, what you find is astounding. China was the world’s largest economy in 1820. And today China is again the world’s second-largest economy, but with an entirely different agenda. James Monroe, who succeeded Thomas Jefferson as America’s fifth president on March 4, 1817, saw the Chinese Qing Dynasty approaching the third century of imperial rule, when that country held the largest share of the world’s GDP.
For many in Asia, the examples of China berating its Asian peers such as India and a group of Southeast Asian countries bragging about their rights to the South China Sea (SCS) suggest just how badly Beijing could be violent in the future. Really, they fear that China, propelled by a thriving economy and modern military might backed by 21st century communications technologies, will cross the red line at any time. Following the U-shaped nine-dash line that was adopted from Chinese maps in the 1940s, Beijing claims nearly 90% of the contested SCS. And to keep all other competitors away from the highly contested and sensitive SCS, Xi could drop all the niceties and grab everything abruptly.
Why is Xi in a hurry? China’s global observers sometimes offer diametrically opposed hypotheses. One that has been gaining traction for some time is that the Lifetime President (as Xi is known today) is working hard to maintain a moribund Leninist political system that is quickly fading into oblivion. Another hypothesis argues that Beijing is reshaping the world order in its favor and is in no mood to accept the so-called liberal order that has eclipsed the world since 1945. Others say that Xi is more concerned about a specific timeline (although he removed presidential term limits in 2018) to change the global status quo backed by Chinese economic and technological art.
Currently, Biden’s creation has rightly highlighted authoritarianism as a major threat to democracy around the world. But this is a shared global challenge, not specifically designed for America. What China has become, that is, the manufacturing hub of the world, is only thanks to the leverage offered by Western countries, including the United States. In September 2000, the big American bosses and the main political leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties unanimously declared themselves in favor of the entry of China into the WTO. And all were in favor of granting China “Permanent Normal Trade Relations” (PNTR) status. Simultaneously, the United States Chambers of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the media, intellectuals and almost all foreign policy experts have stressed that now is the right time for American companies to step on the huge Chinese markets to improve their competitiveness. This was an undoubtedly correct outlook then, as many in Washington and especially the country’s corporate media have expressed the opinion that it is good that America has started trading with China. And many of them believe that US trade with China will help expand freedom in that country. Even then, US President Bill Clinton called Beijing’s WTO membership “the most important opportunity we have had to create positive change in China since the 1970s” and argued for that it “urges China to respect the rules of the international trading system”. . At the same time, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji expressed their commitment to abide by international rules.
However, what happened later over the decades was nothing more than a crude model of state capitalism favoring the country’s state-owned enterprises (SOES) and the massive theft of intellectual property rights from people. foreign companies by local business houses. Initially, the reformist lobby in Beijing worked very well, but the Chinese economic model did not welcome market liberalism and the much-anticipated political reforms in the country. The momentum for reform faltered especially under the Xi regime. WTO membership ultimately helped China gain access to US and global conglomerates without changing its market structure and party-run political system. Ultimately, this led to a catastrophe in the global labor and wage market.
Viewing the US-China relationship as a zero-sum military and economic struggle by many experts will simply leave room for the cooperation the world is desperate for at this time. China’s rise from extreme poverty to a middle-income country is welcome, but the country refuses to initiate reforms to adapt to global standards. In addition, its leadership and the CCP have played a masterful game to reap all the benefits of international institutions. China’s rise to power is not permanent. In its progression, it will soon cross the red line of rapprochement with the economic giant. Therefore, it is also in the interest of the United States to engage China and enforce the rules. And this is where America and the whole world can hope for shared peace and prosperity.
(Dr Makhan Saikia has taught political science and international relations for more than a decade at nationally and internationally renowned institutions after specializing in globalization and governance from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Global Studies, an international research journal)