Will the Chinese Century End Quicker Than It Began?
Richard Javad Heydarian
China’s new paramount leader, Xi Jinping, has completely discarded the low-key diplomacy of his predecessors in favor of an all-out bid for global primacy.
Reflecting on the future of the global order, the late Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew warned that the rise of China is so consequential that it won’t only require tactical adjustment by its neighbors, but instead an overhaul in the global security architecture. As the former Asian leader bluntly put it, though “[t]he Chinese will [initially] want to share this century as co-equals with the U.S.” they ultimately have the “intention to be the greatest power in the world” eventually.
Not long after the demise of the Singaporean leader, his prophetic insights are congealing into an indubitable geopolitical reality. Today, China is the world’s largest exporting nation, the largest consumer of basic goods, and increasingly also the leading source of investments, particularly in strategic infrastructure, especially in Asia and across the developing world. Meanwhile, economic vigor has translated into strategic assertiveness and military muscle, as China opens up overseas bases, beginning in Djibouti but more stealthily across the Indian Ocean, expands its blue water navy, and coercively transforms adjacent waters into its “blue national soil.”
Above all, China’s new paramount leader, Xi Jinping, has completely discarded the low-key diplomacy of his predecessors in favor of an all-out bid for global primacy, going so far as promoting a “uniquely Chinese model” of development overseas and gradually establishing an ‘Asia for Asians’ order across the Eurasian landmass to the exclusion of Western powers and Japan. Though packaged as ostensibly a trillion-dollar connectivity initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is, above all, about laying the foundation of a ‘Chinese world order.’
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