The rise of China: Threat or opportunity?
The dawn of the 21st century has marked a key moment in the development of China’s role in global affairs as it begins to increase its global status and power. Outlandish and irrational myths, however, have surfaced about China’s growth due to a largely uniformed constituency. The rise of China is too often viewed as a threat, when in fact it has helped and will continue to help the United States in the foreseeable future.
The first myth, and possibly the most ludicrous, is that China poses a military threat to the American people. If deadly force is ever used against America, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and India would inevitably become involved, ensuring widespread conflict and economic damage across the entire Asia Pacific region. Any military action by China would result in a gargantuan conflict spanning its broad borders and devastation to its economic progress. This is not something that anyone wants.
While it is a fact that the Chinese government has increased its military spending over the past years, it is nowhere close to the amount that the U.S. currently spends on its own military. The United States still has the most technologically advanced military in the world and is poised to remain so with the Department of Defense’s 10-year strategy that aims to ensure that America is “the world’s strongest military power.” U.S. military strength cannot be rivaled and will not be threatened by the growth of China.
In fact, China’s military power, while comparatively small, benefits the United States by discouraging nuclear proliferation. Ex-Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Wen Jiabao proclaimed while still in office that China “stands as a staunch force for international peace and stability on such major international and regional issues bearing on peace such as the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula and Iranian nuclear issue.” Chinese foreign policy appears to be following this beneficial precedent. In September, the Chinese government enacted a set of legislation that prohibits the export of a myriad of chemicals to North Korea that could possibly be used in weapons of mass destruction.
The absurd notion that China has any interest in using force against the U.S. is refuted even further by the fact that approximately 17 percent of all its exports go to the United States alone, not counting NATO countries and other allies of America. Gordon Chang, a specialist writer for Forbes, notes that as China continues to grow economically, it becomes more reliant on trade with the United States. Taken in light of the European Union’s current economic struggles, the Chinese economy needs the U.S. and other nations to buy its goods. Putting aside the debate about the cause of the recent financial crisis, the fact remains that the Chinese government pumped close to $900 billion into Washington, D.C., lobbying firms in an effort to carry out whatever it chose to carry out. Niall Ferguson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and Harvard professor, recognized that the recession would have been worse without China.” So, why did China buy so many U.S. Treasury bonds? When the crisis hit, the Chinese economy suffered relatively little in the short term. However, China’s economic leaders recognized that its export-oriented system relied on the United States’ long-term prosperity. It is irrefutable: China needs the American consumer.
China’s continuing transition from an agricultural society to a manufacturing powerhouse has resulted in an increasing middle class population and a push for political democratization. The Chinese people continue to be exposed to classical liberal ideals through the increasing trade relations with the U.S., according to Aaron Friedberg in the Journal of International Security. As the U.S. and China continue to trade, China will eventually be forced to become a democracy. Workers will become more informed, acquire more wealth and demand more representation in government. To compete economically with the U.S. and deal with social liberalization stemming from the rising standard of living, the current single-party system in China will have to be dissolved.
This highlights a hallmark of American hegemony: to compete with the U.S., China must eventually convert to the same political and economic system. However, once part of this system, established American companies will have free reign to expand their business into China, tapping into more than a billion consumers.