The Rise of China and the Possibility of Interstate War
Thursday November 15th, 2012
The rise of China as a power player in the international sphere has led many to speculate that China will not only serve as a great challenge for the United States but also the world. The proclamation has been made by many scholars, that the greatest threat to international security lies not in terrorism or even in regional conflict but instead in the longer-term collision of interests between the US and an emerging powerful China (Swaine et. al. 2000. p. 2). “There is a significant difference between a country that takes 30 years to rise and one that takes 300 years. The former requires strategy while the latter depends on mere luck (Xuetong, 2006. p. 5).” Given China’s large territory, vast resources and enormous population this swift growth is not likely to dwindle. The purpose of this essay is to address the following question: will the rise of China as a global power increase the probability of interstate war? In the 21st century, managing the rise of China could possibly be one of the most challenging problems for the US. It would be equally, if not more, challenging for states in Asia that are closer and weaker. China’s relations with many of the countries in the region as well as global powers have historically been plagued with tensions and suspicions. Some of this uneasiness continues today. Concerned states can only speculate as to what China would do with its enhanced power as China’s actions have in the past contradicted their publicly stated positions. Therefore, the argument will be made that given China’s economic rise thus far, its predicted continual rise towards hegemonic status and its historical practice of employing a realist approach to international relations, makes the more widely held view that it is more inclined to engage in aggressive behaviors that could yield an interstate war a valid assumption.
We will begin by looking at the various literatures compelled on the topic. The first part will explore the conceptual frameworks employed in international security and their various theories and explanations of the causes of war between great powers. The second part will examine China’s likelihood of reaching hegemonic status and the last part will explore how China has historical used international relations political paradigms and what that means in terms of the political ideologies they ascribe to today. PART I: CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
In attempting to provide an assessment of China’s hegemonic intentions, one needs to understand what is meant by hegemony and the type of behavior that is typically associated with rising powers aspiring to be hegemonies. We will also explore the various theories of scholars of international politics that lay out the possible causes of interstate war. John J. Mearsheimer The Tradegy of Great Power Politics defines a hegemon as “a state that is so powerful that it dominates all the other states in the system. No other state has the military wherewithal to put up a serious fight against it (Danilovic, 2002. p. 75).” Thus, if a hegemon exists, it is the only status quo power; in all other situations, all great powers are revisionist. Mearsheimer theory of offensive realism posits that in the international system great powers live in a perpetual security dilemma; “apprehensive about the ultimate intentions of other states, and aware that they operate in a self-help system, states quickly understand that the best way to ensure their survival is to be the most powerful state in the system.” Mearsheimer believes that bipolarity is the most stable distribution of power, followed by multipolarity, followed by multipolarity with a potential hegemon.
Kenneth Waltz Theory of International Politics bring forth the concept of defensive neo-realism and the balance of power in the international system (Danilovic, 2002. p. 75). Waltz theory of defensive neo-realism states that the...
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Danilovic, Vesna. 2002.When Stakes are High: Deterrence and Conflict Among Major Powers. The University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor
Grieco, Joseph. China and America in the New World Polity. In The Rise of China in Asia: Security Implications, ed. Carolyn W. Humprey, p.21-48. Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute.
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Xuetong, Yan. 2006. The Rise of China and its Power Status. Chines Journal of International Politics, vol. 1. p. 5-33.
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