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Accrual of China is steadfast and cannot be ignored.

Today, Political revamp is only about one country, China. It should come as no stupefaction that  Beijing has increasingly become the omphalos of the Western world’s geopolitical calculus. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made this apparent in 2011. She wrote a good opinion in  Foreign Policy magazine. In this opinion, she said that the Asia-Pacific has become the primal expression of geopolitics. The primal upshot is that only Beijing clearly restates its heightened economic grip on the military and therefore political power in the Asia-Pacific. Now, it is felicitous to hark back that Beijing was the mightiest country until the Middle Ages. Until 1820,  China was truly the supreme economy. But at the time of the Industrial Revolution, the Western sphere’s rapid advancement left Beijing in the dust. But historically, this is a recent upshot. 

So for historical, psychological, and political grounds, the Beijing leadership ruminates China’s accrual as the only revival of a mighty to its condign abode under the sun. In fact, The Chinese word for China, Zhong Guo, exactly translates to middle country, the country at the locus of the globe. Consequently, some indicators like China’s defence white paper and its resource imperialism indicate the rise of China in this multi-polar world.  

China’s White Paper on Defence -Year 2013 

China’s accrual is about retrieving what it sees as its rightful abode in history. This is psychologically and politically very imperious when we try to decipher China. China’s 2013 defence white paper recognized the shifting geopolitical centre of gravity towards the east. Based on the white paper, The Asia-Pacific region has become an important base for world economic development and strategic communication between major powers holders. The U.S. is adjusting its Asia-Pacific security strategy, and the regional landscape is undergoing profound changes, from this defence strategy. Moreover, the white paper, or the defence strategy, identified signs of accumulating hegemonism, power politics, neo-individualism, and the knowledge that this could lead to competition in the International military sphere. 

At the same time, there was also a close affiliation between China and the west. For instance, in  February 2012, European Union officials went to Beijing in search of a Chinese contribution to the euro-zone rescue fund. In addition, China invests strategically in Europe’s infrastructure and high-tech industry. Due to its interventions to save the Euro, growing trade relations, increasing indirect investments, and huge dollar research, China plays an increasingly primal role in the  Western world. 

What then could be the cradle of schism? Well in the first place industrialized and industrializing nations alike need reliable and unrestricted ingress to resources, particularly energy supplies,  clamant materials, and food. This is imperative for continued economic progress and social-political stability. 

Access to Resources 

Between 2000 and 2008, China’s consumption of metals such as aluminium, copper, lead, nickel,  tin, and zinc grew by an average of 16% per year, whereas the demand for these minerals in the rest of the world grew by only 1% per year. Therefore access to resources is a significant driver for China’s foreign policy. This raised greater competition with other states around the world. 

Food security is of particular significance. Very small increases in food prices could have consummate repercussions. For example, it could create social ferment. When food becomes scarcer in countries with a high food dependency rate, shown below in dark blue, the cost of living to people can increase hugely almost overnight. This entails a high risk of popular ferment and civil instability. In recent years climate change and pollution are already affecting food production in China. Consequently, China bought arable land in Africa and other parts of the world. The key upshot is that with China’s accrual, its global concerns grow with it. China needs annual economic growth of over 8% per year to accommodate the domestic growth, to satisfy domestic needs. A downturn in such progress could result in social ferment, which would spark instability and ultimately, political fires. Uprisings or revolutions have been an imperative part and recurring part of China’s history. The Chinese leadership is, of course, sentient of this and therefore takes extreme care to purport its social contract with the people. 

Access to raw materials and resource nationalism are two sides of the same coin. A notable instance is China’s export quota for rare earth minerals. China produces 97% of the world’s rare earth metals, seventy elements clamant to high-tech and green-tech manufacturing. Resource nationalism and high power politics are two sides of the same coin as well. 

Beijing is already pursuing increasingly emphatic policies in an attempt to gain access to raw materials in Africa. Countries could try to acquire bases in resource-rich countries and could transfer arms to resource-rich or transit countries. China is one of the biggest arms suppliers to resource-rich African states such as Sudan and Zimbabwe. This development could turn the  Indian Ocean into the extremity of future geopolitical schism. 

China’s Investment in Defence 

China’s desire for resources demystified numerous incidents with regional powers around the  South China Sea and with Japan. This underscores the significance of the security of strategic routes, as there are numerous potential flashpoints. Some observers argue that war cannot be ruled out. Chinese rhetoric is supported by investments in the build of its armed forces. Chinese defence expenditure grew more than most other countries according to Stockholm International  Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Between 1998 and 2010, the military expenditure on the global level was at an increasing pace. With double-digit growth rates for the last two decades, China has had the fastest-growing defence budget by far. In March 2014, President Xi Jinping of China annunciated China’s biggest accrual in military spending in three years. The official figure would budget at a 12.2% increase. China seeks to hammer out more high-tech weapons and to beef up coastal and air defences. 

In 2010, the faux pas started over extra-regional concerns. This marked a shift from a brown water navy into a blue-water navy to operate in distant places. The deployment of a Chinese warship off the coast of Somalia to join the battle against piracy is an apparent articulation of the new policy. If we have an eye on the Chinese navy, it possesses major combatant vessels.  Moreover, to support its future expeditionary abilities, China is producing force projection capabilities. This hedges the first aircraft carrier the Liaoning. 

In 2019 China and India were, respectively, the second-and third-largest military spenders in the world. China’s military expenditure reached $261 billion in 2019, a 5.1 percent increase compared with 2018, while India’s grew by 6.8 percent to $71.1 billion. ‘India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending,’ says Siemon T. Wezeman, SIPRI Senior Researcher. In addition to China and India,  Japan ($47.6 billion) and South Korea ($43.9 billion) were the largest military spenders in Asia and Oceania. Military expenditure in the region has risen every year since at least 1989. 

China on a Collision Course 

It doesn’t mean that China is aiming at a mod kind of contentious or imperial world prepotency.  China ruminates on itself as a reliable world leader. It prefers soft power and it puts the ameliorating welfare of its own people first before interfering with world affairs. The Chinese leadership stresses peaceful rights. In the early 21st century, President Hu Jintao and Prime  Minister Wen Jiabao acknowledged that the accrual of the mod power often results in challenges to global political order and even war. Yet both leaders accentuated that China’s accrual will not pose a threat to peace and stability and that other nations will benefit from it. 

Finally, the Chinese model of autocracy and state capitalism is extremely ravishing for other governments. In the eyes of some global actors, the financial crisis of 2008 emphasizes that  China’s model is far superior to the western neo-liberal capitalist system. Indeed, this suggests that in China, wealth growth, based on soft power, could eventually come to replace America’s and Europe’s soft power. So, Geo-political change is about one country, China. The key upshot is that China translates its economic power into military and political power. 

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

By Pintu Kumar Mahla

Pintu Kumar Mahla is a Research Scholar at the Department of National Security Studies, Central University of Jammu. He is a post-graduate in Political Science, from the University of Rajasthan, and got graduated in Social Science from Sardar Patel University of Police and Security. His areas of research include International Relations, India’s National Security & Foreign Policy, Hydro-politics in the Trans-Himalayan Region and India’s Maritime Security, Terrorism and Counterterrorism etc.