Yesterday we looked at how China’s growing GDP was putting it a step closer to being a superpower, but also that GDP alone is not enough. Today we will be continuing our look at China’s growing role in the world, and what that means for the rest of us.
China’s political power is growing even faster than it’s GDP. Through generous aid programs to much of the developing world, China has secured itself as the figurehead of this rather large group of nations. As I mentioned yesterday, being able to project these kinds of powers are a crucial part of the definition of a superpower.
It surprised many during the climate change debates that China (and others) had effectively organized themselves to avoid carbon emission limits in their countries. Even though most of these countries will be the first to experience the effects of climate change (I’m looking at you South Pacific island nations), they have elected the world’s biggest polluter as their spokesperson.
So how is it that China has managed to create such a coalition?
For starters, many of the countries that rally behind China are not democracies. China’s version of international affairs holds firmly to the idea of minding one’s own business. China will ignore your genocide, if you are willing to say that Taiwan is a part of China, Tibet should never separate, and stay out of our human rights issues (not that China admits it has any). These policies have helped China to make enough allies to help push their issues through at the UN and in dozens of other forums and meetings.
Unfortunately for the West, democracies and dictatorships count as equals in international summits. In fact being the antagonist of the West seems to be a position that China has grown quite fond of lately. The stances that make China so popular with many dictatorships, are the same stances that many of the people in those countries and others despise.
Other countries have been enticed through generous loans and aid and, perhaps most importantly, access to China’s massive domestic market. The stability offered by China’s gov’t makes it one of the few developing countries safe enough to invest in (that is in comparison to places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cameroon).
Perhaps most importantly, China has taken the role of the opposition party. In most international issues China is simply against what the West wants, but offers no solution of it’s own.
This has been most apparent in the recent Libyan civil war. China allowed the UN to pass the resolution that permitted foreign involvement in the country (China says this was only out of respect for the African Union), but has bashed NATO for it’s actions since the first day. China has only offered the suggestions 1) give peace a chance, and 2) we should stay out of Libya’s internal affairs. Neither of these show any kind of leadership.
China clearly possesses the political power it needs to be consider a superpower, but still lacks the ability/will to use that power to be a global leader.