America and China are the two most powerful countries capable of influence over world affairs, especially politics. However, the 21st century is seeing a growing contest between the two states which will be shaping the future of the world. America is the super power and China is quickly progressing and enhancing its role in the international political scene, which makes America concerned about its role as a superpower.
Chinese goals can simply be stated as two-pronged. The first goal is “a moderately prosperous society by 2020” and the second major aim is to “achieve status of strong socialist state by 2049”. It can be deduced that till 2020, China is aiming to provide its people a lifestyle equal to those of developed western nations. Secondly, the aim is to restore and preserve the sovereignty. In order to meet the first goal, in the recent past, China has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. This historical achievement has no mention in the West.
What if China achieves both goals? The consequences of this for the USA are worth considering. Chinese population is 1.37 billion and USA has only 320 million. If China achieves GDP per capita equal to that of the USA, its total GDP will be four times the total size of the USA’s economy.
Thucydides had mentioned that a strong economic power would lead towards a strong military might. This also stands true for “soft” power and technological developments. High growth in technology and scientific patents has made Pentagon worried. American economists are concerned about the fact that Chinese economic growth will outcast American global hegemony. America has only one way left to save its current status in the future. For this America needs to convince China to adopt and accept lesser life standards. However, the possibility of this happening is rare as China will never adhere to such second class status voluntarily.
Hence, for USA, who wants to stay a military power that cannot be challenged by any other state of the world, there is no other option except to keep China down in the economic field. Chinese economic power is a hurdle for American hegemony. If America uses sanctions or embargoes against any state and China keeps on trading with the state under sanctions, then this Chinese trade will render the American tactics useless.
It is also important to note that there is no serious conflict between the two states, nations or their people. China is of the view that its economic development will lead to a win-win situation for the world. For example, in the latest economic recession that crippled the economy of whole West and America, Chinese economy proved to be the motor of the global economic system. Chinese economic power prevented the change of global recession into a global depression. This model applies to other states as well, for example India and Japan.
Anti-China strategies are part of American policy, and in the near future, these policies will be intensified. One major example is the “New Silk Road” plan by Hillary Clinton to contain Chinese influence and trade with Central Asia. In South Asian region, George W. Bush’s government supported India to “counterbalance” China. USA supported and aided India in this regard, but it proved to be a limited success only. USA also backed and supported the countries having territorial and other issues with China. These countries include Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia, Philippines and Taiwan.
John Mearsheimer, the famous international relations expert, in his book “The Tragedy of Great Power politics”, is of the view that the job of one regional hegemon is to stop and hinder the rise of the other regional hegemon. Mearsheimer is of the view that at this point of time, America is the only regional hegemon in the world. Hence, it is USA’s obvious duty to prevent the Chinese rise. For this, first tactic is called as “buck passing” which means that the hegemon achieves goals by using other states to do the dirty work. Here in the Chinese case, on American backing, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has deleted the notion of not going to war against any country in the world. This has caused a lot of consternation in China and other regional states as well.
Militarily, China is not a source of fear for America as the distance between the two states makes any attack by China on America suicidal; keeping in view that China has no naval bases outside her territory. Secondly, America is having plenty of resources to be self-sufficient. More than this, Henry Kissinger in his book “On China” hints that historically China was never an expansionist country, even when in the 15th century, it was the biggest naval power of the world long before Columbus’s discovery of America.
Definitely, America wants to protect its stature of the sole pole in a unipolar world. For this it wants to contain Chinese rise and this seems that in the next century, America and China will be playing a cold war in which China will fight to expand and protect its trade and living standards, while the USA will push China downwards to maintain status quo in the international order.
By Azeem Khalid, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, May 26, 2014