Thu, Mar 08, 2018 - Page 8 News List

China’s rise gives cause for alarm

By Sushil Seth

China’s rise is upsetting the post-World War II international system, and is seen by some as a serious threat to global and regional stability.

What German Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel had to say at last month’s Munich Security Conference sums up such views and sentiments.

“The initiative for a new Silk Road [China’s Belt and Road Initiative] is not … a sentimental reminder of Marco Polo. Rather, it stands for the attempt to establish a comprehensive system for shaping the world in Chinese interest,” he said. “It is no longer just about the economy: China is developing a comprehensive system alternative to the Western one, which, unlike our model, is not based on freedom, democracy and individual human rights.”

China is “currently the only country in the world with a truly global, geostrategic idea,” he said.

“The liberal order which reformed our world after the devastation of two world wars is certainly not perfect ... but where the architecture of the liberal order crumbles, others will begin to move [Russia included] their pillars into the building. In the long-term, the entire building will change. I’m sure in the end neither Americans nor Europeans will feel comfortable in this building” built to Chinese architecture, he added.

On a regional level, China’s influence and projection of power is even more pronounced.

All this has been helped by a corresponding decline in US power, with Washington engaged in a series of debilitating military conflicts in the Middle East over the past two decades.

Even though former president Barack Obama in 2011 announced a policy to focus US attention on containing China’s power in the Indo-Pacific region, continued military engagement in the Middle East did not allow much time and energy to develop the policy.

During prolonged US engagements in the Middle East, starting with Afghanistan, China was able to expand its regional profile, including its control of South China Sea islands.

The US’ attempts to challenge China’s control in the area by sending naval patrols to exercise the right to freedom of navigation have not dented Beijing’s resolve. It has warned the US against provocative behavior.

Washington’s attempts to rally regional countries to be part of the freedom of navigation patrols has not borne fruit, even with its closest ally, Australia.

Regional countries are increasingly seeking to adjust to, what looks like to them, an evolving China-centered regional order. Beijing’s growing economic and military power, against a backdrop of a perceived US lack of resolve to confront China, is driving them in this direction.

Australia’s case is instructive, as it tries to strike a delicate balance between its largest trading partner, China, and its military ally, the US.

Even though an important factor motivating Australia’s US alliance is its perceived security threat from a powerful China, Canberra continues, in its public utterances, to deny this.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed the idea that China presents a “threat,” even as he started his visit to the US last month. Indeed, he warned against a “Cold War” view of China, while seeking to emphasize its role in preventing a nuclear crisis with North Korea.

He described North Korea as the “first” priority in dealing with strategic threats to Australia.

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