The Grand Alliance and the Push to Democratize China

?/span>Stephanie J Vickers

September 2007


In recent years, many observers of international relations have come to realize that the world order is in a state of transition.?The United States is no longer the solitary superpower; its presence is being eclipsed by that of the rapidly expanding China.?This situation is not only a threat to the United States, but to the entire western world.?The Grand Alliance introduces methods of containment and management of this eminent condition by means of treaties and cooperation among democracies.?China clearly exhibits structural economic and political vulnerabilities, and an alliance among democracies has much more leverage than a single nation to create pressure and take advantage of weaknesses.?It would be in the west’s interest to form a more powerful alliance than China in order to force the Asian power to conform to international standards and democratize.

In order to fully understand the complexity of the situation, it is important to consider China’s historical and cultural traditions in relation to the current societal framework.?China has a long, rich history progressing from a feudal society to the nation state it is today.?The empire enjoyed dominance of the geographical landscape for centuries, governing with a “mandate of heaven,?and scarcely acknowledging the existence of outside peoples.?Henry Kissinger commented:?“The notion of sovereignty or equality among states did not exist in China; outsiders were considered barbarians and were relegated to tributary relations.?span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>?In relation to the idea of a “mandate of heaven,?there is a residual sentiment of superiority that is characteristic in the nation.?Due to the fact that China was slow to enter the realm of international politics, the nation suffered significant losses through the signings of unequal treaties such as the Treaty of Xinchou which compromised national sovereignty.?After a series of the aforementioned treaties, autonomy and independence became the primary government goals in foreign relations.?The underlying notions of Confucianism are also useful in understanding the dynamics of the country.?The principals of the philosophy promote the importance of the group over the individual; this serves as a unifying factor on many levels.? It is also to be noted that the culture places much emphasis on recognition and ceremony; the culture is concerned with the image portrayed.?By calculating movements based on a solid foundation of familiarity with China’s history, the west will better be able to manipulate and influence China successfully (Qi).

The current economic and political conditions are products of the gradual evolution of policies and reforms brought about over time.? From an early imperialist system, the government came into the hands of warlords, nationalists, revolutionary leaders, communists and technocrats.?The economic and political policies have varied, but China is known to have strong ties with socialism and communism through the leadership of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.? For many years the republic existed as a closed society, and the primary actors involved were the Communist Party, the elites, the military, and the provincial leaders.?Some programs and reforms have been more successful than others.? Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, China came closest to pure communism, implementing socialist policies such as collectivization and the program of the Great Leap Forward.?These policies and programs were widely considered to be failures, and often considered to be at fault for the economic depression that followed.?The governance of Deng Xiaoping was in some respects a departure from the repression and socialist goals of Mao’s regime.?Perhaps influenced by the images of the Soviet empire’s decline, state ownership was greatly reduced while private ownership and investment were encouraged.?The economy began to grow at an astounding rate, however; corresponding calls for democracy were smothered by the continual repression of the Communist Party (Breslin).?

Furthermore, the People’s Republic of China is currently considered to be a Communist Party-State with a hybrid economy.?There are certainly remnants of a stronger socialist state still lingering within the mixed model.?Many of the present structures within the society, whether previously operated by the government or are currently operated by the government are easily determined to be inefficient in multiple ways.?The reforms called for as of late have not all been implemented in their entirety.?This, in combination with the uneven distribution of wealth, restrictions on technology, and lack of free press are all causes for concern.?

In terms of development, there is some debate about what type of model is more successful.?From the ideas of export led growth, import substitution, and the neoliberal model, there are many competing agendas.?There is also a significant amount of discussion centered around whether democratic or authoritarian regimes fare better at promoting development.?Though authoritarian regimes may perform well on a short-term basis, there are more evenly distributed advantages for a democratic society.?A democratic government is held accountable by the public, and the majority of decision-making is reached through consensus ?this process creates a certain degree of stability. Authoritarian governments do not have to make their actions transparent, and may make policy decisions based on their own interests rather than the interests of the state or the population.?A large authoritarian presence in the international economy could potentially have a destabilizing effect on the world system and contribute to a crisis of confidence which is discussed in The Grand Alliance.?Azar Gat and Pelanda agree that the position of the United States as a pillar of democracy is crucial to at least sustain the current world system.?A further step, the democratization of China, would create improved cooperation and greater stability overall.?Two of three preconditions for democracy are already in place in the PRC; economic development and the presence of a growing middle class.?The third, belief in the legitimacy of democracy, is one that can be provided by the formation of the Grand Alliance (Lewellen).

In continuation, the possibilities for China’s future are diverse; a developing nation has many challenges in its path.?Some notable recent changes, which may be indicators toward the future, are: the more complete engagement with the global economy, more interaction with the regional economic blocks, and a degree of increased freedom for academics.??/span>Some observers of the international community expect labor costs in China to rise due to inefficient systems and wage increases.?A few of the economic difficulties the Republic faces are fiscal deficits and the large amounts of foreign reserves it has.?The nation has been asked repeatedly to revalue its currency, which it has so far failed to do.?The Chinese economy is widely believed to be over-heating, and its implosion will result in extensive damage to the international market. ?/span>Moreover, China also faces the threat of a revolution; it is not entirely realistic to maintain the current level of repression of the growing, educated middle class which is increasingly technologically savvy.?The government may feel the need to be more accommodating of its populace rather than face the threat of a revolution (Breslin).

There is a specific need for the economic and political presence of the Grand Alliance where China is concerned.?It is only an alliance of this sheer size and magnitude that is capable of balancing the power of the People’s Republic of China.?The union of the monetary unit would stabilize the dollar as well as counter some of the vulnerabilities in the market regarding China.?In the event of a crisis, the Alliance could act swiftly and decisively.?The Alliance can also serve to improve the reputation of democracies around the world.?The idea would be appealing, and in the case of revolution or crises in China, the belief in the foundation of democracy has been restored.?The presence of the Alliance has many functions in relation to the People’s Republic of China.

The Grand Alliance will be a formidable force in its interactions and the amount of influence it has on China.?Pressure can be applied to the nonconforming nation in various manners.?Through the trade benefits of the Alliance, the markets of the participating nations will open, there will be growth, and a further distribution of wealth among them.? The United States in particular will benefit from the new opportunities for exports, and the dependence on China will be decreased.?Threats of protectionism, sanctions, both direct and indirect will follow further failures to adhere to the WTO standards.?The amount of scrutiny brought on by the international community will increase along with the dissemination of information at the local level within the People’s Republic of China.?The pressure from outside and inside will expectedly produce some degree of results.? The “spiral model?of the socialization of norms contends that a nonconforming state begins with repressive actions, progresses to the level of denial, then begins to make tactical concessions, moves to prescriptive status, and then to rule consistent behavior.?At the level of denial, the nation is at least paying lip service to the norm and acknowledging it exists.?This is also an indicator that it is reacting to the pressures of the international community, or in this case the Alliance.?In the case of tactical concessions, there is progress being made even if it is done for instrumental purposes.?These concessions, once in effect, often take on a life of their own.?At the stage of prescriptive status, the state is fully accepting the international norm though its actions may not always be acceptable.? This model, along with the aforementioned tactics, can be used by the Grand Alliance and the international community to push for democracy in China (Risse).

China is a rapidly developing nation with an uncertain future.?This uncertainty has the potential to wreak havoc on the international market.?The Grand Alliance provides confidence in the current system and the international order.?In the event of a crisis, the Grand Alliance will be able to absorb some of the impact, and assist China in restructuring.?Assuming China’s leaders are rational actors, they will seek to avert complete economic collapse or any extreme failures in the economy.?The Grand Alliance can appeal to the Chinese identity to persuade, influence, and manipulate popular sentiment toward democracy.? Economically aggressive action may also be necessary, though the incentive of open trade relations with the Alliance and dissipation of the threat of a revolution could well prove to be sufficient means to democratize China.



Works Cited


Breslin, Shaun. China and the Global Political Economy.? New York:?Palgrave        

Macmillan, 2007.


Lewellen, Ted.?Dependency & Development:?An Introduction to the Third World.       Westport:?Bergin & Garvey, 1995.


Qi, Zhou.?“Conflicts Over Human Rights Between China and the US.?span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>?Human Rights Quarterly?Vol. 27.1:?105-124.


Risse, Thomas, Ropp, Stephen C., and Sikkink, Kathryn.?The Power of Human Right:?International Norms and Domestic Change.?Cambridge:?Cambridge UP, 1999.