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Westerners talk about China being "more assertive in challenging western interests" without telling us what these interests are. All important international institutions like the World Bank, IMF and WTO are run by westerners since WW2, eight decades ago. The Asians have risen and they want to claim their rightful place in the sun. Is this also part of challenging western interest?
China is particular has no interest in being the global leader unlike the US. It has no interest in exporting its system of government. It doesn't moralise to the world about the superiority of its social system or ideology. It merely wants to trade.
But look at how the western world is treating Huawei. As to Hong Kong, it is about time the British come off its high horse. Hong Kong was seized from China in 1842 because the Chinese refuse to allow the Brits to import opium to poison the Chinese. And for 155 years, until 1997, the UK never granted the Hong Kong people the right to choose their governor. But after they had left they preach democracy to Hong Kong people.
The US has within its sole discretion the choice to be a well-remunerated leader of prosperous international cooperation or to continue down the path to a Sparta-like militarized state.
The problem is not China but rather a problem of America's own making, the great American Empire Inc of the foreign policy establishment and the Pentagon-led military industrial complex.
The US has in recent decades underwritten huge opportunity losses by spending trillions trying to sustain a completely cash-draining American Empire Inc across the 1.8 billion person Muslim world, the net result of which has been to build up vast reservoirs of enmity against America.
Unfortunately, American foreign policy and military elites, and powerful and wealthy forces behind them, see a militarized rivalry with China as necessary to sustain their power over the vast funds being appropriated in Washington DC or the vast tax breaks that enrich the top 1 percent who support the current power configuration in Washington.
The corrupt islands of power are in Washington DC, not the South China Sea.
It's a very rigged game. One wonders whether the vast democratic power of American voters can overcome it. American political parties as well as their people are so divided that they need a common enemy to unite. And China is their easy target.
The US's self-created its myth of "Exceptionalism" in order to exclude itself from judgment by any international forum, be it the International Criminal Court, the ICJ, or the WTO Appellate Body. Such an order has a built-in instability - one law for me and another for the rest! Never works.
Not to be left out is the giant Ponzi scheme the US set up and continues to indulge by abusing its "exorbitant privilege" of the US dollar, blocking all possibilities of alternatives.
The US lost a priceless opportunity to construct along with others a just and equitable international order when the Berlin Wall fell. Instead, it declared "the end of history" (whatever that nonsense implied) and a "unipolar" world. And then it set its killing machines to work on the poor helpless of the Middle East in an effort to grab resources.
Well the Chinese have learnt their lesson from all this. And Mr Putin has indeed learnt his amply too. The US has sown the wind, and now there is the harvest of the whirlwind that approaches.
For the past 150 years since the Treaty of Nanking, China has been rightly or wrongly at the mercy of the West and later to an industrialised Japan culminating to a century of self-doubt; at one point some intellectuals suggested that the Chinese script be scrapped altogether, culminating in the Cultural Revolution of ultimate self destruction.
Yet, if one would pay a visit to China today, you would still find a nation of mostly optimistic, pragmatic, empathetic and above all, one of the liveliest peoples considering the tectonic societal, economic and cultural changes affecting everyone within a single generation.
Like it or not, many of the best and the brightest and some of the younger generation who are Western-educated passed, filtered and rose to the current government.
It is not really about ideology per se, nor about surpassing the West, least of all about defeating the West, but it is about not repeating another century of turmoil that saw their parents and grandparents’ generations suffer from internal factionalism whilst at the mercy of others.
It's like Allison's thesis on how a status-quo power like the US sees all sorts of ghosts under its own bed when it sees over its own shoulders a fast emerging power like the current China.
And that usually ends in disaster. However, the Chinese are not planning to play the role which the west had allotted for any emerging power throughout history. And for the following reasons:
1- China has no desire to be hegemonic over anyone. In fact, defensive alliance systems of the kind the West has had ever since 1945 such as NATO are not what China has ever minded to build although she could easily afford to do so;
2- China has a historical conception of her place in the world which will be not to be under any "international" state order in which she didn't participate in or didn't co-write.
The US-led post WWII order has thus been viewed as such. But China will trade and deal with the rest of the world on the basis of a "mutual reciprocity" sort of global dealing but not on the basis of what international order others have already designed.
From China's perspective, the current Western-led order that facilitated the current version of globalization is essentially a "contingent of time" or a "confluence of circumstances" which had allowed the West in particular the US to create this current system to suit their inherent interests, norms, and values.
3- Wars and hegemonic acts are for losers since no nation can subdue another nation, least of all the US which had bled for many decades hand-over-fist in its empire business in Afghanistan and much of the Middle East.
This presages that China is not about to unilaterally embark on such futile stuff to try and "replicate" the US' military example yet some of the west's strategy thinkers still think otherwise.
4- What China is building is a world-wide commercial and manufacturing arrangement with the largest foot-print in the world and that will be a resilient system even in the midst of de-coupling by the US.
This means that as the rate of China's export to the West, and the US in particular, decreases because of de-coupling of the supply-chain, what will increase will be the foot-print of China's trades with the Southern Hemisphere and the Developing Countries.
And that will increase (on a year-by-year basis) and will gradually take the place where the developed world globalized trade of goods with China used to be at the present-time. This transition has been happening for some time now. The pandemic and the US withdrawal from its globalized trading arrangement with China will only accelerate it further.
The transactional diktat of the US with others will only hollow out the US influence like a doughnut so that it will become more inward as time progresses. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will move on to a new version of globalization that is more multi-geometric rather than US-centric with regards goods, services, capital flows, currencies, internet, mobility and geospecific issues. The rubric of the planet will then become more diversified, more cooperative, less angst-antsy and freer from the geopolitical machinations of the west's North Atlantic regional block.