The past few decades has seen the prominent rise of China as an emerging power in the global arena. This increase of power has made China a clear contender in surpassing the USA to become the most powerful and influential state in the world. Many suspect that this will occur in the next 20 years as China’s economic growth, military strength and overall impact in not only the Asia Pacific but all other regions continues to surge rapidly.
However Chinas use of foreign policy instruments has lead the state to be ineffective in achieving all its national interests. Though its economic growth and territorial integrity is persistent, its aim for peaceful rise and a harmonious society hasn’t been as successful as they’d hope. As a result of many internal issues, Chinas continuous growth of strength is not assured, which leaves the Chinese leaders with a troubling paradox.
The more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insure and threatened they feel as the Communist political system will be more difficult to maintain. In 2005 Chinese President Hu Jintao stated “We must focus on economic development as our central task”. The state has been very successful in achieving it and has been the main factor to Chinas increase of power. It has maintained a growth rate of 9.3% in the past 20 years and has the second largest economy in the world that well over $12 Trillion. This growth was a result of China opening its economy to market forces and adapting a more capitalist structure to become ‘the world’s largest factory’.
It has allowed for more trade links, permitted private home ownership (2004) and increased its Foreign Direct Investment to become number 1 importer to many states. China’s developed relationships with fellow Asia Pacific states such as the US and Japan have allowed for these massive growth in its economy. China in 2011 contributed to 17.1% of USA’s imports and 7.8% to Japan, making it both their largest export market. 11.2% of Chinas imports came from Japan who with South Korea has recently begun trilateral talks with China to form a major free trade agreement.
The three states combined contributed in 2010 19.7% of the worlds GDP, which included FDI from Japan and South Korea of about $80 b and $50 b respectively. This has allowed the state to heavily invest in developing infrastructure. However, China’s economic development is slowly declining to a predicted 7-8% this year. The success of its economy has also called for large disparity of wealth between the people and leaves leaders with a worrying paradox.
That being said, this slowdown ultimately doesn’t mean China has failed to achieve economic development as its growth rate is still tremendously high. The success of their development has allowed for the state to maintain its territorial integrity and help generate better relationships with other states thereby helping it achieve Peaceful Rise. China effective use of power has been a large contributor to its success of territorial integrity. With the largest population in the world of over 1.3 billion people and an area which is the 4th largest among all lands, China has had many issues with ethnic communities’ claims for independence who are ethnically different to the Han Chinese (major group- 91.5%). This has occurred in the regions of Inner Mongolia, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang who make up 100 million of the Chinese population.
Secession which is one of the ‘forbidden forces’ to the Chinese has affected its success of achieving a harmonious society as it is feared that if one region succeeds in breaking away then so would others therefore undermining the government’s power. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is the region closest to ever obtaining independence from China. Despite originally being recognised by the world as a sovereign state and supported by the USA, Chinas threatening hard military strength (largest army in the world) as well as their effective use of soft economic and diplomatic power has allowed for this issue to be controlled.
China’s soft power was exercised in 2008 when it used its high status within the UN to ensure Taiwan was unable to join. Its “One China” policy is still intact, much to do with “Cheque book Diplomacy” in the Asia Pacific region. This has allowed for States to not recognise Taiwan as a sovereign state. This was seen in Papua New Guinea when China bought the island a Sports Stadium. Recent use of Diplomatic power by the Chinese was seen this month when the Uighur people (Xinjiang region) who are ethnically Turkic held meetings in Japan.
This led to the Chinese president discreetly refusing to talk to the Japanese leader as they felt it encouraged separatism. However, despite many challenges, China has achieved its goal of Territorial integrity. Its effective use of Soft power has been key factor to its success. China has declared that it seeks to build a ‘harmonious society’ by 2020; however its rapid economic development has brought with it a ‘million mutinies’ that has damaged its autonomy and the success of a peaceful rise. Head of Government Mr Wen diplomatically stated that China must ‘create conditions that allow citizens to criticise the government, and enable government to resolve the problems and difficulties of the masses’.
China’s internal issues of pollution, secession and health services have led to mass criticism by the world. The environmental problems faced by the people of China are so appalling that they are categorised by all as serious health violations. China is known horrific pollution that was evidently seen by the world when the country hosted the 2008 Olympic Games. Recently Greenpeace conducted research on Chinese waters and found that 500 areas known as ‘cancer villages’ had water 200 times higher then the national average and that Chinese farmers are 4 times more likely to die of liver cancer than the world average.
Although Chinas economic power has allowed for improvements to its society, it is still will below the means of other states in aspects such as Health expenditure and Wealth distribution. China is ranked 148th in the world in terms of health expenditure (4.6%) of GDP and 48th in its hospital bed density which is around 4 per 1000 people. Government corruption and nepotism suggests that the Chinese political power within its state is declining.
A rare online opinion poll in 2010 by the People’s Daily found that 91% of respondents believe all rich families in China have political backgrounds. The secessionist claims, environmental pollution and health issues are deterring China from achieving a ‘Harmonious Society’ by 2020. The one-party structure is also affecting the country as it has failed to achieve general communist attributes. These internal issues must be resolved in order to achieve its interest by 2020 which is only 8 short years away. Chinas ‘peaceful rise’ hasn’t been demonstrated or assured despite many changes to its international image.
China has already achieved several prerequisites of a “superpower-dom”, in that it has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and is acknowledged as a nuclear power. However it has failed to ensure the global arena that it is not a threatening power. In order to expand even more China has contributed to international institutions such as the UN, WTO (2002) and APEC (hosted in 2001) and used summit diplomacy to move towards becoming a ‘good neighbour’. However Chinas recent use of diplomatic power has left many puzzled as to its seriousness about achieving this interest. It hindered intervention in Sudan, protecting the government which was accused of committing genocide.
Coincidently 10% of China’s imported oil comes from the Darfur. China went on to use its veto vote again on resolutions for interference in Syria. Furthermore China has been heavily demonised for its horrendous human rights record. In 2011 following Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East, pro democratic protests were held which lead the government to imprison political campaigner Ai Wei Wei for “tax evasion”. It also guided them to disallow shops to sell jasmine flowers or search the word Egypt on the internet. The government owns all media in the country and has imposed strict regulations on press freedom, which has been ranked 171 from 178 states.
Concerns over the South China Sea and Taiwan have damaged Chinas achievement of peaceful rise as many see China using their military strength in the incorrect manner. Ultimately the misused power overpowers the changes made to its image which has created fear as their overall intentions are still unknown.
China’s exceptional growth over the last 20 years has made it a true competitor to become a Megapower. Its effective use of trade and soft diplomatic power has allowed for China to achieve its interests of economic development and territorial integrity. However Chinas specific misuse of political and military power has affected its ability in achieving a Harmonious Society and Peaceful Rise. Chinas internal problems have undermined its rise of power and resulted in a worrying contradiction. The more developed China becomes, the more threatened the political system will be.