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Assessing China Amidst Global Power Shifts

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Azhar Shaikh

The world is moving towards a global power shift. It is not necessary whether we accept or not. History never ends, nations and civilisations rise and fall, and no era can last forever. We are witnessing a Multipolar world. As Samuel P Huntington pointed out, “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas, values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organised violence; westerners often forget this fact non – westerners never do. “Through their ideals and physical might, Europe and the United States have dominated the world.

From Great Britain to the United States of America, the fact that a world with multipolar, bipolar, and unipolar will not necessarily stay. With China becoming a significant part of this development, will it take a responsible position in this global system? They say that great responsibility comes with great power. Its aggressive actions are a concern for nation-states.

The Economic Rise of China

The USSR’s collapse triggered a transfer of power to the West. Here comes China, which strengthened its domestic economy and capabilities in the shadows of the United States. China became a hub for global manufacturing after getting into the World Trade Organization in 2001, which led the shift of manufacturing from Europe, North America, to Asia. The shift of manufacturing jobs from Europe, North America, and Japan to China prompted China to grow swiftly. The growth rate rose rapidly, and investment flow was never low; huge Special economic zones were established. Since 1970, it has pulled 780 million workers out of extreme poverty, and now China claims it has eliminated the problem of extreme poverty.

China’s concentration of growing economy was never expected; as of now, it is the second-largest economy after the United States, after three decades of double-digit growth. China presently contributes 18 per cent to the world economy. Even the Global recession hit the world with a massive blow in 2008, while China stood like a pillar, now with a GDP of 18 Trillion dollars. It claimed that China would replace the United States as the world’s largest economy in 2028 in nominal terms. China has already surpassed the United States in terms of purchasing power parity.

China is the largest exporter to many countries such as the United States, European Union, Russia, Japan, India etc., accounting for massive 2.641 trillion dollars of exports in 2019. China surged to emerge as the world’s greatest trading country. In 2013, the United States previously held this position. China is the 2nd largest importer around the world. It was also the largest buyer of American bonds. The Chinese also tried to question the U.S. dollar as an international economic currency, promoting its own currency Yuan among different countries as a basis of exchange; it was successful in making Yuan a reserve currency in 2015 by International Monetary Fund (IMF) also added the Yuan to its Special Drawing Right basket on 1 October 2016. This basket currently includes the euro, Japanese yen, British pound, and U.S. dollar.

China and Its Spiraling Issues

Moreover, the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), which is trying to connect different countries in six phases to improve its trade, was seen as an effort to make countries more dependent on Chinese goods and flourish Chinese exports. China which rarely has a deficit with other countries wants to improve its trade with BRI-connecting countries so that it can easily make its presence in their economy. Already they are portraying themselves as a brand of quality rather than a cheap goods-producing country, but rather as a policy, China gives loans and uses the same money to accomplish its interest by showing marginal gains and will make them abide by their rules, making countries dependent on Chinese loans, it has been successful in countries like Sri Lanka where it acquired Hambantota port for 99 years.

Chinese Growing expansionism concerns every neighbour it has; it has territorial issue with every nation with which it shares a border, as China shows claims over territory referring its ancient empire, it has claims over Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh in India, Vladivostok of Russia, claims over South China and East China sea, Sakteng wildlife sanctuary of Bhutan dispute over inner Magnolia, claims over Laos. China’s biggest challenge as a neighbour is India, as a developing nation and the potential to generate quality and quantity, which is also a great military power in Asia, concerns China’s Interests in the Indo-pacific. China claims to have control over the whole sea, violating the norms set by the international community. China has claimed three islands, i.e., Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal; all these are disputed islands also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines. China has built airstrips on Paracel and Spratly islands, causing military havoc among its neighbours.

The United States Factor

Taiwan is another classic case claimed wholly by China. China has targeted several countries that speak about Taiwan through its diplomatic and economic power, but many states have not recognised Taiwan as an independent entity. China has threatened Taiwan on many instances by flying its aircraft and sending its ships near its territory. Also, by practising and making videos of its drills, it tries threatening them openly. Chinese premier Xi Jinping has pronounced that Taiwan would be part of China like Hong Kong. Interestingly, U.S. President Joe Biden’s promise to Defend Taiwan was seen as an alarming issue between the national interests of the US and China.

The United States, having no cultural or economic connection with Taiwan, will it come to the rescue in times of crisis, or will the U.S. do as they did in Afghanistan and Ukraine is a crucial question at this juncture. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Simply providing aircrafts and then affirming they are concerned about the security of Taiwan would not assure anything for Taiwan. The U.S. failed to provide peace in Afghanistan and pulled back its troops when the situation was havoc, and they openly rejected direct military support to Ukraine when Russia has been bombarding them. These examples and situation have perhaps put Taiwan to think twice regarding the United States before completely relying on them.

United states major annual Intelligence report considers China a threat. It is trying to balance China with the regional powers forming groups such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue known as QUAD, comprising of United States, Japan, India, and Australia, raising the issue of Taiwan, and atrocities in Xinjiang province against Muslims.

China has already started questioning the western culture and style of living, the boycott of Christmas, and order not to celebrate Christmas, stating it is a part of western culture. It fears this might inculcate western ideas of democracy and rights among its citizens. It had also curbed the appointment of Bishops in its country and started appointing according to its ideology, as even during prayers, even the speeches of Bishop’s are tuned according to communist ideology. The changes in the structures of churches and mosques according to the Chinese culture simply show how cautious China is. It has done the same with the Muslim population in China. The re-education camps in Xinxiang are the best example. changes are made in the holy Quran, ensuring they are loyal to the communist government rather than their religion. These changes forced upon their population can be seen as an effort of the Chinese government to keep its citizens according to the requirement of the government and the ideology.


The world witnessed the propaganda of the Pax Britain and Pax American periods, and the power shift was never peaceful; it was bloody and chaotic. The same will apply to China. The world doesn’t trust China’s rise as peaceful and responsible. Its aggressive policy and expansionism towards neighbours and weak states only reiterate that China will use greater hard power to expand, significantly to advance its claim over Taiwan, South China and the East China Sea. As China is keen to overtake the USA and replace its hegemony, this power shift might not be peaceful. History will repeat itself, and lust for power and domination will also be a hallmark of Chinese behaviour. With the steady decline of American dominance and the shift of gravity from the West to the East, the question remains as to who else can challenge Chinese dominance. Will it be a collective effort of like-minded nations? Will it be a saturation of the Chinese power leading to a steady decline are some exciting issues for keen readers of geopolitics.