The Post Cold-War world witnessed certain changes in the international system. A major shift could be seen in the state policy objectives and the way they pursue them. This, consequently, has given rise to a new international order, characterized by states policy shift from geo-politics to geo-economics, and convergence of security and economic realms. The underlying material transformation and economic restructuring is constantly threatening the status quo, and potentially creating the precondition for Asian countries, particularly China, to strongly assert themselves in the new world order.
World War II has proved to be disastrous for European and demolish the Britain long established Hegemony. So, America with its overwhelming economic muscles imposed herself in the international system, and established a highly institutionalized system that reflects its own normative preferences. But, the current trends; domestic and international, manifest that American ascendency has stretched to its breaking point. The Miracle of East Asian states and the rise of India, Malaysia and Indonesia as emerging market strengthened the global shift from West to East. Moreover the Rise of China as the fastest growing economy shows that Asia is on irreversible path of prosperity, and rising as the hub of the global economy.
The shift is primarily driven by the policy orientation of the two leading world powers. China’s military advancement in the South China sea and the Belt and Road Initiative manifest that it, simultaneously, uses two categories of policy instrument; the strategic military and strategic economics. On the other hand, US’ unnecessary interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its meddling in Middle East to seek regime changes of its choice shows that it still remains intact with the security paradigm to advance its geo-strategic goals. Such policy practices on the part of US and China’s emphasize on geo-economics element of its foreign policy provides the letter with an opportunity to reassure those neighbors who are alarmed by its more assertive strategic polices. It also offers China to create an alternative institutional forum for those Chinese policy makers who have long chafed at the American dominance in IMF and the World Bank.
Unlike the Washington, Beijing associate potentially less stringent demands of economic reforms with its new economic model. These make the Chinese Institutions, like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), much attractive to Asian and African leaders desperate for infrastructure and investment. Though AIIB reflects China’s norms, preferences and interests, but these leaders are no more enamoured of the liberal political and economic reforms.
The centre of geo-economic rivalry between the two giant powers seems to be Asia and Africa, which also defines the future of these continents. In parts of Asia, the United States military capabilities still dominate; promising security of the region. But, China’s growing military power and economic leverage are displacing the decade-old American preeminence. The regional countries are caught to choose between Chinese wealth and American Security. Apparently, the transition of Asia is in China’s favor as the Asian economies and therefore, its domestic politics relies more on Beijing than Washington. Meanwhile, the America’s longtime allies like the Philippines and Indonesia are also moving closer to China.
America and China involvement in Africa, a hub of natural resources, define their course of competition in the region. The geo-political codes of the African countries reflect the challenges of economic transformation for China and Global hegemony maintenance for US. Beijing looks at Africa as a geo-economic space: to find a market for its manufactured goods and recycling its massive foreign exchange reserve into profitable investment in the region. America largely views the region as a site of humanitarian intervention, resource extraction and security. This manifest that America exploits the regional vulnerabilities for its personal gains while China is more intended to pursue “win-win” diplomacy. This forces the African leaders to rethink of their strategic orientation.
China’s sheer material importance in the global economy has already given it the potential to play a central role in international system. But, many scholars are of the view that China’s ascendency to the global hegemony is still in formative stages. The American initiatives like Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) provide a template for counteracting China specifically in Indo-pacific and South China Sea. Also, many developing countries look at China’s economic design as more ambitious than Chinese assertion of mutual benefits. The development of infrastructure project across Asia, particularly in strategically vital ports and transit corridors, initially seems as joint developments but eventually ended up in Chinese hands. Sri Lanka, in December 2017, was unable to pay debt on the port construction so it granted “Hambantota port” to China on 99-years lease. However, along with all the challenges to China Ascendency, America can do much less to stop a fundamental restructuring of global economic activity and its concomitant consequences, because Washington itself is a beneficiary of, and highly dependent on China economic development.