Drinking the Kool-Aid: Ignoring China’s Rise to Dominance

By Amanda Middleberg

September 2007



          ?After examining great shifts in world power over the past four to five hundred years, history tells us that world dominance does not last forever. Portugal, Spain, France, and England have all been world leaders in the past. These nations have now all been relegated to average powers, and now the United States is in the lead. The question on everyone’s mind now is: Is China next? China has a strong economic connection to the United States and many countries worldwide. America particularly relies on China for imports, exports, and other forms of economic assistance. If China can increase its power over America by gaining its own powerful allies, the U.S. could suffer greatly. The United States must relay this information to its citizens and its allies, or hegemonic power for America could soon be over. China can no longer be ignored and the U.S. must begin its quest for help.

Recently, the Bush administration has decided to take an anti-Chinese sentiment against China. This may be sparked by China’s goal of “creating the world’s largest regional power block on the planet whose sheer size would give them supremacy at any multilateral negotiating table? (Pelanda 2007). Basically, China is not looking to align itself with the United States, and is instead preparing to be the new hegemonic power. In the mean time, China is being careful and cordial with the United States. However, this will change as China gains enough power to override America both politically and economically. China seeks to pull certain areas in the Pacific, Australia, Russia, and India into its regional block. This union of states could significantly limit American power. At its current growth rate, China could hypothetically accomplish its goal, and hurt the United States in terms of important imports, exports, and natural resources, such as oil.

America heavily relies on China for several reasons. China has become the third largest importer of oil, which is one reason why gas prices have become so high (Newsweek). This fact digs in the pockets of every American citizen who complains of rising oil prices. The United States and China are competing heavily for oil in countries such as Canada, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Sudan, and Venezuela. China has recently made deals with all of these countries for oil supplies. This could cause high energy costs and a dwindling economy for the United States.

If there is a large shift in oil flow to China instead of America, it could cause huge security problems. This is of great concern to government officials. This asks the question of whether these new agreements have included Chinese arms and military aid to countries like Nigeria and Sudan. As China becomes closer with so called “problem countries,?like Venezuela, Sudan, and Iran, the United States will begin to see China as more of a security threat (Klare 2005). U.S. military preparation for a possible Chinese conflict will continue to grow as these ties grow stronger. While increasing military strength may make the United States feel better about combating Chinese dominance, it is not the answer. If China’s main goal is to gain regional dominance by forming alliances with bordering countries, the U.S. military, already stretched too thin, will have a difficult time competing with “the largest regional power block on the planet?(Pelanda 2007).

Oil is not the only way China weighs heavily on America’s economic system. David Altman of the New York Times writes that, ?st1:country-region w:st="on">China has an unlimited supply of cheap labor that threatens American workers. China stacks the deck against foreign companies that invest there and China will destroy American manufacturing?(New York Times 2007). While American government officials recognize the threat China poses, it is not working hard enough to form unions to make sure that it stays a dominant power. China could easily use its economic advantage to gain power. The United States does not have the upper hand in this situation anymore.

To further show China’s intention for dominance, the article entitled China’s National Defense in 2004, smirks at the United States. A line from this article states, "The trends toward world multipolarization and economic globalization are deepening amid twists and turns. New changes are occurring in the balance of power among the major international players, with the process of their realignment and the redistribution of their interests accelerated" (Donnelly 2004). As the United States slips and multilateralism overhauls American hegemonism, China has and will take steps to becoming the next world leader. China already sees the United States as an achievable obstacle to overcome to reach hegemonic power. This is primarily because China now has vast economic influence.

          ?China has also become the world's largest producer of coal, steel and cement. The country’s exports to the United States have grown by 1,600 percent over the past 15 years, and U.S. exports to China have grown by 415 percent (Newsweek). It claims the title of second largest holder of foreign-exchange reserves and the world's largest army of 2.5 million men. China also has the fourth largest defense budget. The United States still has a clear military advantage over China due to its funding for military technology. However, China’s defense budget is rising by ten percent yearly, and new technology could be developed sometime in the future. China is less of a threat to the United States militarily as it is economically. It will become what is known as an “asymmetrical superpower.?This means it will use its economic and political influence to gain power around the world. Hypothetically, the country will use its advantages to manipulate countries into making arrangements which are in China’s interests. If China learns to deal appropriately with countries in a friendly manner, it could gain many allies by this process.

Growth in China has provided large benefits for all countries, but especially for the United States. Over the last decade, inexpensive imports from China have saved American consumers over $600 billion dollars. According to The Economist, it was China that helped save the world from recession after ?st1:country-region w:st="on">America’s stock market bubble burst in 2000-2001.?The country has also allowed Americans to keep borrowing and spending to keep the world economy going by buying U.S. Treasury bills (Newsweek). The United States needs China’s help, and would experience many difficulties if their connection was broken. But how easy and for how long can these countries maintain a cordial relationship when there is so much at stake?

Right now China needs the United States in order to continue its growth. It is not ready to be on its own two feet just yet. However, China is looking for new allies in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the Pacific. Eventually it also wants to draw in India, Russia and Taiwan. While this is not an immediate threat, as China has not done much to show these countries it is a friendly neighbor, it could happen when these countries start realizing the benefit China could provide. It is evident now that America is already losing some of its power and leverage in world affairs. The United States has already deemed China as an international threat, and turbulence could shake ties between alliances who may decide to join China. There is already tension between the two competing powers, which could eventually turn into conflict.

China began its economic reforms in 1979 after Deng Xiaoping pushed for development, modernization, and the use of facts rather than ideology “to guide its path?(Newsweek). Since then, the country has grown about nine percent annually, which is the fastest growing rate in history (Newsweek). It has helped 300 million people get out of poverty and has raised the average income by four times. While the Chinese government is certainly not perfect, it has reached incredible goals in a very short amount of time. We can assume this could only continue.

President Bush and China’s President Hu Jintao traveled through Asia together in November 2004. Interestingly, almost every person who spoke with Newsweek journalist, Fareed Zakaria, after the tour said that President Bush did not impress them the way Presisdent Jintao had. They said President Bush spoke too much about terrorism and did not address issues of the economy, health care, social problems, and environmental concerns. On the other hand, President Hu addressed all of these issues. President Bush cannot be so one dimensional. People of the world are looking for ways to keep their every day lives in order. It is regrettable that Bush placed a bad impression of the United States on the citizens of Asia. This could ultimately affect the efforts by the U.S.

But what should the United States government do about China? The United States has already declared China a threat, but it should retract this statement, at least for the time being. Finding more diplomatic ways to negotiate could quell Chinese dominance. First, the United States must educate its own citizens about possible dangers China may pose to our economy. U.S. operatives and important government officials should know the language and understand the culture as to better deal with Chinese. As this seems very general, accepting another’s culture is one of the key components to diplomacy. Hopefully by understanding the Chinese, the United States and other countries can avoid a conflict. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that this might not work. It is very probably that the Chinese will not be eager to give up its goal of becoming the new world hegemon.

For this reason, America must begin looking for allies. If one day the United States must stand up to China, it must have the support of its own citizens and of strong alliances. Clearly going into conflict without support did not work for the War in Iraq, and should not be tried again. To do this, America must find ways to get countries on its side. Evidently, the tour President Bush took with President Hu through Asia was unsuccessful because he did not appeal to Asian’s every day problems. Investing in infrastructure, health care, environmental protection, and the economy for its allies could prevent a potential financial crisis later. It is obvious that deals will need to be made to get an alliance formed.

While I am usually a person that believes in non-combative ways to solve conflict, this class has taught me that this is not always the answer. I believe the United States should first begin by learning the culture and discussing matters with Chinese government officials. However, the United States must be prepared for what seems like the inevitable. In order to avoid this conflict, I believe a Grand Alliance is a good idea. America needs to begin discussions quickly, because China could influence potential American alliances first. Powerful countries like India, Japan, and those of the European Union will be crucial in making China discontinue its efforts. The United States must be aware of what China can do and realize the urgency of coming up with ideas NOW. It is not something that should be dealt with later, for then it might be too late. I believe this class has made me more of a realist when it comes to forming alliances and the possibility of war. If there is not realism present when making decisions, the United States could take on the same fate as past world powers. It is said that “History teaches everything, including the future,?but not if the U.S. takes the right steps.