It is apparent that the world holds a political and economic chemistry with the Peoples Republic of China due to its foreign policy posture of non-interventionism in the political affairs of sovereign states; due to its inclusivity in global economic agenda and strategic systemic softness in dealing with diplomatic engagements. This is envisaged in China’s pursuit of multilateralism, bilateralism, regionalism and intercontinentalism for world peace and economic prosperity. China has maintained friendly relations with its neighbors and extends such friendship to those far and near. This is manifest in the role China plays in Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Shanghai Cooperation Organization, forum on China-Africa cooperation, China-Africa summit, China-European summit and cooperation, China-Arab States Cooperation, China-Latin America Cooperation and ultimately the United Nations among others.
The evolution of China as a leading economic power in contemporary global order seems to be a miracle or a trend that is rather natural. This has to do with the rapid growth of Chinese economy, its increasing global political influence, educational strength and cultural consolidation. But one major rationale for these successes are traceable and attributable to the root, which is the communist party itself. Political parties represent groups’ interests and if one establishes a government, it becomes a driving force for a national political, economic and cultural development. China accounts its growth and development to its communist party as pivotal, and the subsequent plan to open up the Chinese economy in order to stand the taste of time. This argument was birthed by the father of the Chinese revolution Mao, when he posited that:
Without the effort of the Chinese communist party, without the Chinese communists as the mainstay of the Chinese people China can never achieve independence and liberation, or industrialization and the modernization of her agriculture.
From the historical perspective of global politics, when American liberal democratic values are being amplified, forced on people by the United States and Europe to a certain extent that if you fail to accept democracy as practiced by the west you assume a pariah status in the comity of nations. The above makes us understand that the rising nature of China proves the validity of Marxist analogy of human history and to understand why the western world is fighting communist states in the global system. If the initial revolution made by China and the consolidation of Marxist formula is what produces the China we see today, we can therefore make the inference that the whole world will become communist in order to grow and prosper. This is the argument of Ibn Khaldun who believed that the world copies from a rising leading power, just as copied from Britain, Arabia in the conquered territories, Roman empire, the Greeks in Egypt, Spanish empire, American empire and other European empires. It is also evident in the prevalence of made in China goods, people voluntarily learning Chinese language without being imposed upon them. Chairman Mao also believed that:
The force at the core leading our cause forward is the Chinese communist party. The theoretical basis guiding our thinking is Marxism…the Chinese communist party is the core of leadership of the whole Chinese people, without this core, the cause of socialism cannot be victorious.
With the consolidation of capitalist ideology and building alliances all over the world, capitalist economies are dwindling and crumbling to dust. This is observable from the economic woes of Europe such as Spain, Italy, Greece to mention but few in recent years. This also contradicts Malthusian theory of population which asserts that for Europe to develop after the industrial revolution there was the need to maintain birth control. The issue is that, China being the most populous nation in the world and a surviving communist nation is doing better economically than these nations in Europe. Is this portending that Marxism is still alive despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union? Apart from the issue of population, the west see communism as evil why is the Chinese economy and all systems prosperous and emerged as the second largest economy in the world?
The ontology of a rising China is evident in its rapidity and many reforms are being made to ensure that China becomes a moderately prosperous society. With the nature of the way China is moving, it is the largest economy today based on purchasing power parity even though China’s GDP per capita is approximately one fifth of the united states and if China’s reforms are drastically implemented China will make a “substantial catch up.” It is also pertinent to note that China is the world second largest economy considering the global nominal GDP comparison (IMF, 2014) and China remains the world major fastest growing economy in the world, accounting 10% growth rate for over thirty years (IMF, 2013).The growth of Chinese economy has been justified by various indices and manifestations as China maintains an economic status of the largest manufacturing economy of the world, the largest trading nation of the world, the largest exporter of goods and world second largest importer of goods and services. With the nature of Chinese population similarly, China is said to be the largest consumer market in the world today.
One major feature of the Chinese economy becoming a global leading power is that, history has shown that, in modern economic competitiveness no nation has risen to equal the united states, even the USSR at its zenith was able to produce just third of the goods and services of the United States. Japan for example with its former economic status of the world second largest economy was overtaken by China and was only able to produce less than half of America’s output. With the Chines economy, history is changing the domineering force of the United States as by the year 2016, the IMF predicted that the Chinese economy would outweigh the American economy in the nearest future. The projection made by the IMF is that, “the Chinese economy would grow from $11.2 trillion in 2011 to $19 trillion in 2016” while “over the same period, the U.S. economy would rise from a dominant $15.2 trillion to a trailing $18.8 trillion. It is imperative to note that the economic prosperity of China is not without the effort of the Communist Party of China (CPC) which is the vanguard of Chinese labor force, agriculture, discipline, reforms and the architect of what is seen of China today. The party must be given a credit for opening up and reforming the Chinese nation to what it is.
It is inherent that empires rise and decline. One significant factor which we must understand is that, the history of human development has waxed and waned. Many empires have risen, ruled the world but in the long run crumbled to dust. Civilizations, ideologies, systems and economies had risen to their zenith but collapsed as a result of historical forces and development. The peak of development always results in underdevelopment; this is the reason why the present president of China (Xi Jinping) in his new political theory envisaged a moderate prosperity for China.
When a nation, civilization, economy or an empire rose to the highest level, other empires may rise by destroying the existing one. The seven great empires that rose to the highest level in world history, but later collapsed are: The Mandarin China, the Imperial Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Turkey, the Imperial Japan, British Empire and soviet Russia. Signs are never hidden in their entirety. Some of these signs are positive while others are otherwise. But if there is a sign that a nation will rise or fall these can be perceived by other nations. In our understanding, the American empire will not last forever as the great empires of the past have also fallen. Where is the Assyrian empire, the Babylonian empire? The Roman Empire? You can find what is left of them in museums, in ruins and in a few ancient stone buildings frequented only by modern tourists. This is from the historical point of view that American civilization like all other civilizations will not stay forever. Other systems could overshadow it and establish other systems that the world will copy from. This next empire and system is the Chinese new empire that is just unstoppably emerging.
The reforms of China therefore, have shaped the nation to be a communist state with Chinese characteristics. This is not the purely Marxist, communist or socialist state as envisaged by Marx himself or Lenin or Stalinist Russia. It is also notable that China is not a capitalist state, but a mixture of communism and socialist market economy delivered by the opening up policy. This system is healthier for China considering the fact that Xi Jinping has proposed his own reform policies of the “Four Comprehensives” (Si Ge Quanmian) and the “One Belt One Road Economic Initiative (Yi Dai Yi Lu).
The decline of American empire and emergence of China in the limelight has been predicted and discussed by many scholars who have written extensively on the emergence of China and its opportunity to become the world leading power. The second argument on the emergence of China as a super power is that, scholars are optimistic that by the year 2020, China will direct the world economy and the Chinese Renminbi will replace the dollar as the world reserve currency. This is glaring as the global economy is shrinking due to the impact of COVID-19, only China is predicted to stand with 1.0 growth while all other nations will experience negative GDP growth and the Chinese purchasing power parity (PPP) has already surpassed that of the United States. It has been predicted that by the year 2021, China will be at the threshold of emerging and its GDP will be about $24 trillion, which will equal the GDP of the United States. This shows that, the rise of China will cover both economic and political power in its emergence as a leading power.
It is in line with this an enviable position of a rising China that the mantra of “making America Great again” emerged, which paradoxically equals destroying America by the Trump administration. In his attempt to destroy America, Trump requested the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom and electronics company, Huawei by Canadian Authorities on December 1 2018, claiming that Huawei and Meng violated trade sanctions against Iran. President Trump also intensified the trade war against China, by raising tariffs from 10-25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods on 10th May, 2019. On 5th August, 2019, Trump administration labelled China “a currency manipulator” after China’s Central bank weakened the Renminbi. This was also followed by Trump’s signing a bill supporting the Hong Kong protesters on 27 November, 2019. Trump also accused China of not sharing early information and warning against the outbreak of the new coronavirus and provocatively called it “China virus.”
In a research conducted in 2009 by Pew Research Centre, findings show that about 15 out of 22 countries accepted the fact that China will be the next global leading power in the nearest future, due to its rapid economic growth and spreading influence across the globe. One major observation made by the Chinese themselves, especially as made by a Chinese foreign policy adviser Wang Jisi is that, the American super power status is really declining as affected by a series of unfavorable variables such as poor economic recovery, financial disorder, high deficits gaining close to GDP levels and rising level of unemployment (CNN, 18 July, 2014; The Guardian, 1st January, 2014). The above variables and Trump’s agony against China are nothing but a sheer manifestation of a rising China and the aim to deter such progress and development. The former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has once designated that “the rise of China is inevitable.” The campaign strategy of Donald Trump is completely centered on castigations and criticisms against China. This is adding more strength to the Peoples Republic and dwindling Trump’s popularity in the United States. It is also China-phobia and failure to accept realities of time that America is declining in all ramifications especially as conditioned by a president who knows no boundaries between friends and foes.
Ibrahim is from Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja