INTRODUCTION manner. After giving place to the power

INTRODUCTION

Among
scholars, it has been a common belief that China’s rapidly growing power may be
dangerous for international politics and security in the near future. Although,
the estimates overshoot the mark and perceptions are exaggerated sometimes, it
is true that China’s rise will have important repercussions for the
international system. John Ikenberry describes this challenge as “one of the
great dramas of the twenty-first century” and indeed, unusual economic growth
and proactive diplomacy of the country has already started to change the East
Asia, presenting a sneak peak for the actual show. 1 However, how this drama
will unfold is still a contentious debate of today’s political analyses.
Several studies that are adorned with cartoons of wrestling eagle and dragon,
has been made, “American era is coming to an end” kind of interpretations have
became prominent, mainly because it is actually seen as a political process and
the economic growth of China will bring political implications forth,
especially for the current superpower the United States.2 The things that worry the
US are obviously its hegemonic status in the international arena and China’s
growing capacity that could challenge this position. 3

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Here
the main questions that need to be asked are: Will China continue to be part of
the existing order or try to replace it? And what are the best options, if any,
for “the eagle” to protect its position, its hegemony? Different strands of
theories answer these questions, explain the rise of China by their main
rationales: the most dominant ones are the theories of power and
interdependence.4
The former generally argues that “newfound” capabilities of China increase its
desire for revisionism and it will eventually challenge the status quo while
the latter focuses on the country’s deepening economic interdependence and the
existence of common interest.5 And in this study, the
rise of China and its implications for international politics will be assessed
by the different theoretical explanations in a comparative manner. After giving
place to the power theories and their different arguments, I seek to answer the
questions of how future could be and how the US could respond to the rising
China: contain or engage.

THE WORST CASE SCENARIO FROM THE
THEORIES OF POWER

As
Robert Gilpin puts it, “no one loves a political realist” because of the
pessimistic attitude towards international affairs and realists have been under
the constant attacks of political liberals.6 However, in case of China,
being optimistic about future intentions of the country is quite difficult
especially for the US which is on shaky ground and highly concerned with the
stunning growth and assertiveness of China.7 From power perspective,
this changing power balance in the system leads to the worrisome predictions.

Power
transition theory, for instance, focuses on the difficulties related to the
rise and fall of dominant states and it argues that these trends cause
conflicts which are often end up with major wars between a rising power and the
hegemon.8 Because, while an uneven
distribution of capabilities between advantaged and disadvantaged nations
preserves peace, an even distribution between rival parties increases the odds
of war, since now there is dissatisfaction of the newcomer in question, about
its disadvantaged position.9 Although it is early for
this kind of prediction, recent frictions between the US and China are hard to miss,
vindicating the theory’s logic as it holds that an actor’s growing power will
eventually bring about a reaction from those concerned.10 It can be easily seen
from the drives of military modernization, arms buildup and search for alliance
in the region against this common threat. Both China and the US see each other
as threatening competitor, showing the early signs Sino-American conflict.11

Connected
to this, the security dilemma argues that inevitable uncertainty about other’s
capabilities together with the distrust under the anarchic structure, urge countries
to strengthen their positions continually against any possibility of threat
from the other.12
China’s activities, such as huge investments in military capabilities,
sovereignty claims in region (ranging from South and East China Sea to Taiwan)
are aggravating this dilemma further rather than abating it, resonating both in
the region and Washington.13 The dilemma intensifies
basically because China sticks with its activities by claiming that it defends
its own sovereignty against “US sponsored strategy of containment” while the
all others accuse China’s assertiveness as a main source.14 In other words, mutual
antagonistic perceptions lead countries to prepare themselves for the worst
situation that at the end results in a vicious cycle.15 As Glenn H. Snyder puts
it:

“Even
when no state has any desire to attack others, none can be sure that others’
intentions are peaceful, or will remain so; hence each must accumulate power
for defense. Since no state can know that the power accumulation of others is
defensively motivated only, each must assume that it might be intended for
attack. Consequently, each party’s power increments are matched by the others,
and all wind up with no more security than when the vicious cycle began, along
with the costs incurred in having acquired and having to maintain their power.”16

According
to Stephen Walt, states accumulate power simply to defend themselves against
the others under the uncertanities arising from the unpredictable nature of the
anarchical structure. He suggests that security is best obtained by employing
defensive strategies.17 However, offensive
realists, such as John Meirsheimer and Robert Gilpin, approach the issue more
pessimistically, claiming that pressures of anarchy entail aggressive foreign
policy decisions.18 Furthermore, they argues
that any rise in an actor’s power leads an increase in its “geographical appetite”
and results in revisionism.19 This argument translates
into the belief that China would not be a status quo power, rather a
challenger, demanding or aggressive one, aiming to achieve hegemony in the
region.20 But these are the
predictions belong to the future, namely about what China would want.
Currently, China is either “biding” its time patiently until the right time
when it could eventually replace the existing international order, as Deng Xiaoping
recommended, or it is not revisionist right now and peacefully rising until the
more power and capacity seduce it to want more.21 In other words, the
theory holds that steering away from the status quo, whether at present or not,
is inevitable for rising China and any power transition between the US and
China could not be occured without a major war taking place. Besides, the
status quo is likely to be challenged if the challenger country in question
bowed down in past or “gotten the short end of the stick” historically, like
China.22 Indeed, Chinese
policymakers place importance of power and geopolitics by increasing its own capacity,
trying to weaken US power in the region23 and thus ending “the
reign of America as a sole superpower” .24

LIMITS OF THE POWER THEORIES

Although
the power perspective explains the rise of China to a large extent and makes
pessimistic predictions regarding the future, it misses out some factors that
could affect the likelihood of any future war arising from power transition.
First of these emphasizes the effect of common interests and deepening economic
interdependence of China. As Robert Gilpin holds, a hegemonic war gives birth
to a new hegemon which will set a new order and norms for the world according
to its own preferences, simply because this new hegemon want to consolidate its
power by a “greater authority” in the international system just like the US did
after the Second World War.25 At this point the
question of whether China is capable to create new order against the established
one or not, comes to the mind. Replacing a deep-seated, Western-centered system
with a new one is a quite challenging job for China while staying in is much
more easy and lucrative.26 Because its ever-growing
economy has been “thrives” within this very same system and strongly connected
since it draws strength from the current institutional system.27 As Marc Lanteigne
suggests, “What separates China from other states, and indeed previous
global powers, is that not only is it ‘growing up’ within a milieu of interna
tional institutions far more developed than ever before, but more importantly,
it is doing so while making active use of these institutions to promote the
country’s development of global power status.”28 Therefore, although the
relative power of the US is in decline and it is highly likely that China will
surpass, it is argued that the system will remain for the foreseeable future. This
approach also suggests that power transitions may not occur in the same manner:
while some leads to the complete collapse of old order (challenge), others may
continue to be in the existing order or make limited adjustments (integration).
This depends on the nature of the rising state, its regime, degree of its
displeasure with the order and order’s own nature.29

Neorealists
see great power emergence is a “structurally driven phenomenon” resulting from
anarchy and differential growth rates. Indeed, structural pressures mobilise
capable states to become a great power, however, going after the great power
status depends on the unit-level decisions as a response to structural
pressures. If it decides to pursue, then there is structural impact and shift
in power.30

Secondly,
although expecting future conflicts (emanating from security dilemma and power
shift) between the US and China is mostly true, nuclear peace theory argues
that it could end up with a cold war at the worst since the nuclear deterrence
would prevent countries from going into an actual war despite how big is strife
between them.31
In other words, theory holds that with the arrival of nuclear weapons, great
power war is no longer a means of historical change.32

US RESPONSE: SOUR OR SYMBIOTIC
RELATIONS

It
is obvious that US will have tough days ahead together with the rise of
rapidly-growing China. But question is, how US can respond it or offset this
challenge? Will US choose to contain or engage?

Randall
Schweller provide a schema that covers different responses for dominant power to
a rising, dissatisfied power. In a nutshell, he argues, if the rising party’s
desire to revise the order through its actions remain limited, then the
dominant one will prefer engagement (by means of institutions and negotiations
mechanisms); but if the rising power’s “revolutionary” intentions are observed
on all occasions and by all means, there is no other way for the dominant power
but balancing the power of its rival-containment. 33 It has to be noted that
both options are defensive measures and the dominant power follows a risk
averse behavior (most of the time), rather than a risk acceptance one, because
another decision like a “preventive war”, is quite difficult to make due to
above-mentioned limitations.34

Currently,
East Asian regional security structure depends on the bilateral “hub-and-spokes”
alliance system that favors the US and in case of power transition, it is quite
difficult to take away this kind of strong alliance network for China.35 All small and
medium-sized countries in the region feels growing pressure from China and it
is highly unlikely that these countries give consent or yield to China’s
influence, voluntarily.36 Because of these reasons,
for US, although it may be seemed as provocative by China, strenthening its
ties with regional partners is best option. And rather than choosing between
containment and engagement, the US should rely on the exceptional capacity of
Western order while working together with regional states that has accepted US
hegemony (not “ideal” but more “preferable” compared to China) to keep China in
check.37

CONCLUSION

 

The
rise of China and its implications for international security have came under
the view of scholars for a while but it is still contentious phenomenon,
continuing to be interpreted differently by different strands of international
relations theories. While some attributes the developments to future tensions,
conflicts that could result from a possible power transition, others see it as
a peaceful rise that can be accomodated by interdependent relations.

In
this paper, first I give a place to the power theories and present different
arguments within this school towards a rising power and it is found that they
all offers same pessimistic forecasts: an eventual major war a between a rising
and a dominant one arising from power transition. However, while they explain
the states’ behaviors to a large extent, they overlook some other factors that
need to be incorporated into the analysis, such as economic interdependence of
China, nuclear deterrence, and deep-seated Western world order that force
China’s hand. Last but not least, the options for the current hegemon, US are
examined and it is concluded that rather than choosing in between, US should
lean on its institutional advantage to offset China’s ambitions while
solidifying the alliance with its East Asian partners that are still favoring
US hegemony. Because, mismanaging this challenge can cost US a lot although it
is neither easy nor risk free task for sure and guessing what will happen in
the future is actually far beyond our knowledge.38

 

 

1 John Ikenberry, “The Rise Of China And The Future
Of The West: Can The Liberal System Survive?”, Foreign Affairs 87,
no. 1 (2008): 23.

2 Ibid.

3 “”China Threat” Or A “Peaceful
Rise Of China”? – New York Times”, Nytimes.Com, last
modified 2018, accessed January 15, 2018,
http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/coll-china-politics-007.html.

4 “Theoretical Perspectives On The Rise Of China In
International Politics”, Mr Charrington’s Antique Shop, last
modified 2018, accessed January 15, 2018, https://jpewinfield.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/theoretical-perspectives-on-the-rise-of-china-in-international-politics/.

5 Jeffrey
W. Legro, “What China Will Want: The Future Intentions Of A Rising
Power”, Americal Political Science Association 5, no. 3
(2007): 518-520.

6 Robert G. Gilpin, “No One Loves A Political
Realist”, Security Studies 5, no. 3 (1996): 3.

7 “”China Threat” Or A “Peaceful
Rise Of China”? – New York Times”, Nytimes.Com, last
modified 2018, accessed January 15, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/coll-china-politics-007.html.

8 Jeffrey W. Legro, “What China Will Want: The
Future Intentions Of A Rising Power”, Americal Political Science
Association 5, no. 3 (2007): 518.

9 A. F. K Organski and Jacek Kugler, The War
Ledger (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980):19.

10 Avery Goldstein, “Great Expectations:
Interpreting China’s Arrival”, International Security 22,
no. 3 (1997): 30.

11 Ibid.31

12
Waltz, Theory of International Politics, pp. 186–187; Robert Jervis,
“Cooperation under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics, Vol. 30, No. 2
(January 1978); Glenn H. Snyder, “The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics,”
World Politics, Vol. 36, No. 4 (July 1984), pp. 461–495.

13 Avery Goldstein, “Great Expectations:
Interpreting China’s Arrival”, International Security 22,
no. 3 (1997): 30.

14 Ibid.31

15 Ibid.

16 Glenn H. Snyder, “The Security Dilemma In
Alliance Politics”, World Politics 36, no. 4 (1984): 461.

17 Benjamin Frankel, “Reviewed Work: The Perils Of
Anarchy: Contemporary Realism and International Security by Michael E. Brown,
Sean M. Lynn-Jones And Steven E. Miller”, Foreign Affairs 75,
no. 2 (1996): 144.

18 Ibid.

19 Jeffrey W. Legro, “What China Will Want: The
Future Intentions Of A Rising Power”, Americal Political Science
Association 5, no. 3 (2007): 518.

20 Jeffrey W. Legro, “What China Will Want: The
Future Intentions Of A Rising Power”, Americal Political Science
Association 5, no. 3 (2007): 518.

21 Ibid.

22 Arthur
Waldron, “Deterring China”, Commentary 100, no. 4
(1995): 17-21.

23 Jeffrey W. Legro,
“What China Will Want: The Future Intentions Of A Rising
Power”, Americal Political Science Association 5, no. 3
(2007): 518.

24 Steven
W. Mosher, Hegemon: China’s Plan To Dominate Asia And The World (San
Francisco: Encounter Books, 2002).

25 Robert
Gilpin, “The Theory Of Hegemonic War”, Journal of
Interdisciplinary History 18, no. 4 (1988): 591-613.

26 John Ikenberry, “The Rise Of China And The Future
Of The West: Can The Liberal System Survive?”, Foreign Affairs 87,
no. 1 (2008): 23.

27
Ibid.24

28 Ibid.32

29
Ibid.27

30 Christopher Layne, “The Unipolar Illusion: Why
New Great Powers Will Rise”, International Security17, no. 4
(1993): 9.

31 Avery Goldstein, “Great Expectations:
Interpreting China’s Arrival”, International Security 22,
no. 3 (1997): 40.

32 John Ikenberry, “The Rise Of China And The Future
Of The West: Can The Liberal System Survive?”, Foreign Affairs 87,
no. 1 (2008): 31.

33
Randall L. Schweller, “Managing the Rise of Great Powers: History and Theory,”
in Engaging China: The Management of an Emerging Power, ed. Alastair Iain
Johnston and Robert S. Ross (London: Routledge, 1999), 24.

34 Ryo Sahashi, “The Rise Of China And The Changing
Regional Security Architecture”, Japan Center for International
Exchange (2011): 4.

35 Ryo Sahashi, “The Rise Of China And The Changing
Regional Security Architecture”, Japan Center for International
Exchange (2011): 2.

36
Ibid.

37
Ibid.

38 Avery Goldstein,
“Great Expectations: Interpreting China’s Arrival”, International
Security 22, no. 3 (1997): 40.