China's Place in Today's World

By Hughes, James H. | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

China's Place in Today's World


Hughes, James H., The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


China's rise as a world power has been much commented upon. It is worthwhile, however, to visit the many specifics of its power, position in the world, and relation with other nations. This article considers many of those specifics, including its position vis a vis North Korea, the U.S., Taiwan, and Australia; its defense budget, intelligence and cyber warfare capabilities, missiles and air force, and naval buildup; and the many facets of its economic position, including its mineral resources, foreign reserves, special drawing rights, and trade policies.

Key Words: Ballistic missiles, Cyber warfare, Exchange Rate, Foreign Exchange Reserves, Global Warming, Military modernization program, People's Liberation Army, Special Drawing Rights, "Rare Earths," Chinese resources, Chinese naval incidents, Chinese relations with other countries.

It may be helpful to think of China as a rather large octopus, which uses its ink to blind and confuse its opponents, and whose diplomacy, relations with Iran and North Korea and other nations, unfair trading practices, foreign investments, industrial and military espionage, cyber warfare, and buildup of modern arms and ballistic missiles present a threatening aspect to the world, including the United States.

In many ways, U.S. policy assisted the emergence of China as a world power and threat. In his Foreign Affairs article "Asia After Vietnam" in 1967, Richard Nixon conceived a strategy to open a door to the People's Republic of China to offset the Soviet Union. After Nixon's election, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, new to Nixon's circle, thought the idea was "crazy," although he followed Nixon's lead.1

Two myths followed Kissinger and Nixon's treatment of China. One was that China is so large and powerful that it must be placated on democracy and human rights. The second was that only a special group of people in the United States can deal with the Chinese elite. This created a "club" of Chinese "pragmatists" who placed a paralyzing grip on U.S. policy with China in government turf wars.2

President Jimmy Carter's role is interesting. By 1979, he had accumulated a string of foreign policy setbacks that included Iran's seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and with hostages.. Going into the 1980 election, he needed a foreign policy success. An "easy" prospect was full diplomatic recognition of China by acceding to its demands to de-recognize Taiwan, cancel the U.S. defense treaty with Taiwan, and remove all U.S. military personnel, conditions which his predecessors, Presidents Nixon and Ford, were unwilling to accept. President Carter's "success" was mitigated by his being forced to deal with strong public and congressional support for Taiwan. When he proposed legislation to address the "Taiwan problem," bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate wrote their own measures to safeguard Taiwan, which became the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 that he was forced to sign over the objections of China.3

Without President Carter's establishment of full diplomatic relations with China, contacts between the two countries would not have moved beyond a small, high level connection with a limited agenda and with limited trade of under a billion dollars. Opening the door to trade with China, which other administrations would open wider, led by 2008 to bilateral trade reaching a staggering $387 billion.4

On the day of President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009, China released a white paper that said its military strategy was "purely defensive" and struck a cooperative tone. It also emphasized China's view that the world is becoming "multipolar" implying a decline in American power, and noted that "a profound readjustment is brewing in the international system."5 This outlook reflected China's growing economic and military strength, which in many ways the preceding administration had accommodated.

Disturbing questions remain about the George W. …

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