China’s Role in the Grand Alliance


Tipton James Whatley

September 2007


          ?The Grand Alliance, written by Carlo Pelanda, is a well thought out book, but doesn’t truly take into account China’s part in the Grand Alliance. The good professor is the first one to admit, “it is difficult to imagine [the world powers] forming cohesive alliances able to govern the planet?(Pelanda 10). However, there would be no book if there were no chance. The main issue is getting a couple of the key nations and regional blocks, such as the US and EU, on board in order to make the alliance more attractive to potential members; not to get everyone together at once. The concept is fantastic and indeed plausible, but how will China act when the idea of the Grand Alliance was conceived mainly to ensure global stability and to contain the growing Chinese threat? In the following pages, China’s ambitions and, more importantly, China’s interests, will be discussed and thought out in order to clearly understand if China will be an obstruction, or possibly a catalyst, to the formation of the Grand Alliance.

          ?First and foremost, the relationship between the two of the largest economies in the world must be reviewed. The US has been the supreme world power since 1945 after the Second World War. However, the Soviets then appeared to be challenging the US model of democratic capitalism with a state-centered economic model run by the communist party. The ensuing Cold War between the two super powers would end in 1991 as the Soviets could not maintain their influence over their territory and the economy crumbled. So the bipolar definition of world order supplied by the Cold War is over and we live in what is referred to as “post Cold War? Now we are seeing a deep fragmentation of the globe into large regional blocks and quasi mega nations, like the European Union. The US economy and military might is still dominant, but the behemoth known as China is growing rapidly (as well as other countries). As of now, the relations between the US and China seem to be declining. This fact is due to both new and old reasons. An ongoing tension exists over the status of Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the ruling party in China, the Communist Party of China (CPC), considers Taiwan a “renegade province?(Dumbaugh 2). Another chronic problem plaguing the two nations?relations is the poor record of human rights violations that China has. One could also correlate that with the absence of democracy in China and the lack of competing political voices in the government. There are also economic issues such as the undervalued currency that gives Chinese exports an unfair advantage. The Chinese government is also a poor enforcer of intellectual property rights, which costs forgeign companies lots of money each year. (Dumbaugh 21). Some of these problems have been going on since the 60’s and 70’s while others are more recent. To understand China today, the current topics must be discussed.

          ?Since North Korea’s (successful) missile tests in 2004, the US government has kept a keen eye on the Asian region. If a nation such as North Korea were to have weapons at its disposal, this could cause regional instability and possibly a conflict. Thus, it is in the best interest of both China and the US to work together in order to contain this threat. This is largely due to the fact that the PRC is North Korea’s only military ally and the South Koreans are US allied. So if events did indeed escalate into war, the national community could see a confrontation between the two superpowers much earlier than expected, although this seems to be a very low probability outcome. Furthermore, any anti-North Korean legislature passed through the UN would require PRC approval (Dumbaugh 6). If the Chinese decide to veto or block the policies, this could further weaken relations. Another key event that actually bolstered the two nations?cooperation was the September 11th, terrorist attacks in 2001. China, and the world at large, was willing to work with the US and help them in their efforts to strike down their enemies. However, the enemy has proven elusive as it isn’t a country, but an ambiguous and intangible force known as “Terrorism? To fight terrorism on a global level in a serious way requires absolutely massive economic, political, and military resources, thus the previously unilateral stance taken by the US has given way to more multilateral rhetoric. Unfortunately, due to the fact that progress has been slow and grueling in Iraq and the Middle East, this issue is losing its power to draw the nations closer. So, as of late, there is a general trend towards weakening Sino-US relations. Nevertheless, to say that China and the US aren’t cooperating is simply a lie since the economies have become so intertwined.

?/span>Like a sore that won’t go away, Taiwan is constantly in danger of being a source of regional and possibly international conflict. As of right now, the Taiwanese government itself is not very stable and the president is not popular since his corruption charges in 2006. As Kerry Dumbaugh reiterates, ?/span>Beijing continues to lay sovereign claim to Taiwan and vows that one day Taiwan will be reunified with China either peacefully or by force?(Dumbaugh 10). This bodes poorly for the two nations as Taiwanese policy right now seems to be slowly but surely pushing for independence from the mainland. Taiwan could indeed be a small, but deadly bomb waiting to explode. Further exacerbating the situation is the military buildup across the coast from Taiwan on China’s part. This is a security dilemma in that no one can be sure whether China wants to be prepared for armed conflict or if there are darker motives at work. However, neither China nor the US want an all out violent confrontation, so for now, people can sleep soundly.

          ?Another startling development in China is its growing influence. This, however, can be expected from any country that is growing as fast as China and with the vast amount of capital it controls. Thus, as we see China slowly asserting itself globally, its interests become very clear. ?/span>This is most obvious in its own regional neighborhood. In December of 2005, China met with 16 neighboring countries in the first East Asian Summit (EAS), which included representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The US was deliberately excluded from this summit. This might be indicative that China is slowly trying to wedge the Asian realm out of the American’s hands. China has also been seeking to construct a relationship with India. Again in 2005, Chinese officials met in India to discuss, “terrorism, resource competition and the US role in Asia?(Dumbaugh 16). However, the US-Indian relationship is also doing quite well and India has shown itself as a relatively neutral emerging power. China also has a vested interest in boosting cooperation with the energy rich countries of central Asia and Russia as well. In fact, China and Russia regularly carry out military exercises together. This can be seen as tool employed by the Russians to keep relations good to keep exporting?armaments to China or it could be a bona fide attempt on both sides to mend relations and form a very real US counter weight. Another obvious implication is that China wants good relations with the Russians to ensure future exportation of energy. As Carlo Pelanda puts it, “it has become an absolute priority [of China] to secure adequate supplies of energy from abroad to meet the exponentially growing internal demand?(85). This will perhaps be the biggest battlefield, or already is, so to speak in the coming decades: competition for geopolitical influence over countries or organizations that control oil and natural gas reserves. China and Japan continue to have poor relations which can mainly be attributed to the brutal occupation of the Chinese nation by the Japanese. So we see a continuing trend of a Japan that leans towards the west. So, what does all of this mean to the world and to a potential Grand Alliance? Many implications may be drawn.

          ?First of all, it is now obvious that China is seeking to establish itself as a world power. However, from China’s past and current behavior, is it certain that China wishes to, “achieve world leadership?(Pelanda 31)? One could view the rise of China as a malign world presence and a security threat that must be contained. Others would argue that China’s rise is inevitable and that the current structure must accept it and find a way to deal with it. Carlo Pelanda has offered the global community a synthesis of these two views in that he sees China as a threat and desires to contain it, but offers a solution in which China can be dealt with and managed. This requires the formation of a Grand Alliance, consisting of the democracies of the globe. This is where China comes in. What will the Chinese do if they perceive a global alliance forming around them? Let us first examine the EU and the United States, which is Carlo’s suggested starting point. China and the US are heavily economically integrated to an extent that if either market were to collapse, the economies of either country would undoubtedly recess and possibly enter into a 1930’s type depression. So, it would not be prudent of China or the US to take serious measures against one another. So the possibility of China threatening the US with sanctions and economic withdrawal ultimately hurts both countries. However, the EU is more ambivalent about its world stance. China is seriously courting the European nations and, “Sino-EU relations have broadened significantly as a result?(Dumbaugh 18). In fact, the EU was close to releasing the arms embargo imposed on China, but decided not to due to China’s aggressive anti-secession law (a piece of legislature clearly aimed at Taiwan). Nevertheless, European companies are investing in China consistently and they continue to hold summits between the EU and the PRC. So if China strengthens its ties with the EU, it could be problematic for the first step of the Grand Alliance as Sino leverage grows. At the same time, the true liberal social attitude of the governments within the EU becomes obvious at their skeptical reception of the anti-secession law passed in China. So if we see an increasingly aggressive China, perhaps China will push the EU to a closer convergence with the US.

          ?One of the proposed eagle heads of the Grand Alliance is the Russian power. If the Russians could be persuaded or drawn into the alliance, this would give its legitimacy a massive boost. Not only due to the geographic positioning of the country, but also the symbolism of the Russians joining the Americans and the EU. In fact, if these three were in a cohesive, matrix type alliance, the globe would be a much safer place. However, one must not forget the Chinese dragon that sits below the Russians. Some scholars maintain that Russia and China are converging in order to counter US global dominance. This could be the case, but it is not cut in stone. As stated previously, China will eventually want to have a serious foothold in central Asia and many of the former Soviet colonies. This will not bode well for relations between the two powers. At the same time, China might seek a softer route to the lush resources in the region by going through Russia. This would undoubtedly please the Russians and sate the Chinese appetite for energy for a time. So once again, if China’s policies become increasingly unilateral and self-interested, it could quickly find itself unwelcome and outnumbered. One might even argue that the Grand Alliance will be built or destroyed depending upon Chinese foreign policy.

          ?China is reaching out to other nations as well. It has been discussing a free trade agreement with Australia. The Chileans in South America are already under a free trade agreement with the Chinese. The Brazilians have also worked out an agreement involving improvement of coastal infrastructure, funded by China, in order to tap into its resources. Africa has also seen a major increase in Chinese activity in countries such as Gabon, Algeria, Angola, and others (Dumbaugh). While most of the activity is of an economic nature, most people would agree that where economic influence goes, politics is only a step behind. While these countries are not nearly as important as say, Russia or Europe, every one counts.

So it is clear as day that China’s influence is growing and their interests are beginning to affect the globe on a day to day basis (much like the US), but what sort of China does the future hold? Will China claim a serious stake in the global community and attenuate its rhetoric concerning Taiwan or will it continue to grow uncontrolled and slowly penetrate each region? The course that China sets will have a great impact not only on the US, but also on the makeup of the international scene. The Grand Alliance could form very quickly if China ups the ante and decides to start hard lining countries in order to gain assets and influence. This conjecture runs counter to the very calm, but steady nature that China has displayed in the past three decades. China could become more and more pressured by the international community to democratize and clean up its human rights record as both the US and Europe are socially liberal and economically powerful. If the pressure finally became strong enough, perhaps China could make a transition to democracy and then the Grand Alliance would not be needed or a different sort of alliance might be called for. Considering the current elite in China and the power the central state wields, this seems unlikely. So, as stated above, China has a major part in the formation or obstruction of the Grand Alliance, whether it knows it or not.




Pelanda, Carlo. The Grand Alliance The global integration of democracies.

          ?Gorgonzola, MI: Global Print, 2007.


Dumbaugh, Kerry. China –U.S. Relations: Current Issues and Implications for U.S

Policy. Washington: Library of Congress, 2006.