In recent decades, there has been public belief speculating the economic rise of China would compromise the values U.S. foreign policy has promoted ever since the aftermath of World War II. However, the opposite may be occurring.
As China has risen into global prominence, it has gradually evolved toward a modernized society.
Most notable is the recent long-term reforms introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping last November, which ushered in social and economic change.
Markets were moderately deregulated, the one-child policy was relaxed and re-education labor camps were closed. Though China is still controlled by one party, and therefore undemocratic, there should be cautious optimism about its future. Individualism is no longer harshly punished, freeing the market of both unconventional ideas and of entrepreneurial spirit. We’ll likely see technological innovation coming out of China soon, similar to the success of South Korea.
According to a report by Pew Research Center, 23 out of 39 countries surveyed believe China will take over the U.S. as a dominant superpower (although another Pew report said most believe the U.S. will maintain a stronger global influence). American paranoia surrounding the implications of China’s success is not entirely without reason.
The U.S. has enjoyed global primacy for more than a half a century, and China threatens our seat on the throne. The U.S. has imposed, with both stick and carrot, our ideals of democracy and freedom throughout the world. Some fear if China replaces the U.S. in dominant influence, developing democratic countries will lose the U.S. protection and China will look to spread communism.
However, China’s global success depends on adapting social and economic ideas as the country faces developmental obstacles. China cannot sustain future growth without embracing change. Furthermore, China is now too financially invested in globalization for it to turn its back on the world. In fact, it’s thriving because of international interdependence: China has a reason to listen and make sure we’re happy. This is significant diplomatic leverage.
Furthermore, money is not the only thing that controls the world, despite what some believe. In order for China to enjoy the throne, it cannot just be equal or greater than the U.S. economically. It must also have a strong military and friendly public opinion among world leaders.
Increasing trade and diplomatic relations with China will impact the U.S., however whether this change is nefarious depends on point of view. It’s unlikely we’ll pledge allegiance to the Chinese flag. We may see an increase in Mandarin language classes. We may start to publicly recognize Chinese holidays. We may eat more authentic Chinese food. Although the U.S. may adopt some Eastern culture, the Chinese will become far more westernized in comparison.
In reality, China still has a mountain to climb. Their slowing GDP (7.6 percent in 2013 compared to the average 10 percent of the past three decades), increasing fuel consumption (and thus pollution) and deep-rooted nationalism (disputing Japanese airspace) are all issues, among many, that must be corrected. Nonetheless, America and world powers should not shun China. We must supervise China as they confirm their position as a major player in the world stage.
America may no longer be the only big kid on the block, but we’re not going anywhere, and neither is China.