• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 10:28am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:25am

China is far from securing its world role

State sovereignty was the great invention of the 17th and 18th centuries; collective security that of the 19th century.

Every top dog - called by the more impressive name of hegemon in the modern world - that has managed to last a while found a way to address these two seemingly conflicting notions. This partly explains why the British empire and Pax Americana lasted in a way that imperial Japan and Nazi Germany did not.

China has felt humiliated for so long as the underdog that it has become fixated on sovereignty. Now that it has a chance to play a preponderant role on the world stage, it needs to think seriously about collective security. President Xi Jinping may think he has the answer to China's sovereign rights and greatness. He has so far provided no solution to collective security in Asia. Throwing money and opening trade may help a bit, but it does not amount to a coherent security framework. Instead, he is being portrayed as a threat to security.

If China wants to be the top dog in Asia, that must mean an erosion of American "hegemony". Even if China is willing to be the "co-top dog" with the US, this must still spell the relative decline of American influence and prestige.

American dominance has lasted in Asia because it has entailed guaranteeing the security of its Asian allies and friendly states and implicitly their economic prosperity. Its potential erosion, welcome by many Chinese nationalists, must mean increasing collective insecurity in Asia. That has meant rearmament among China's neighbours. If this is not bad enough, a worst-case scenario for an isolated China will be a rearmed Asia while the US under a new president will be more committed to staying in the Pacific.

In the past, Chinese dynasties had their borders threatened or undermined, but China could offer itself as what some scholars call "a civilisation state" with the soft power of values, culture and institutions compared to less developed but conquering neighbours and tribes.

Xi has yet to amass the soft or hard power to get China to where he wants it. Short of challenging the region's security order, Xi may have to accept the bitter truth that China's world role may not be commensurate for a long time with its rising economic might.

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This article is now closed to comments

jiawang@adb.org
Very well written, but many will not like it.
kctony
Alex,
China does not need a world role. It's vanity, not priority. Xi fully understands that.
lucifer
China is too big for itself. History doomed it before it ever had a chance. China should have ended up as multiple nations, with some shared values, cultural aspects or linguistic origins like Europe. Instead trying to get such a large, ethnically diverse, undeveloped hulk off the ground without an established, reliable and unifying political system will plague the country until it eventually realizes its true fate - which is most likely similar to that of the Soviet Union.
M Miyagi
Is the US securing its world role? No. After decades of bullying, invading, destroying freedom and murdering millions from the Vietnam Wars, Indonesia coups etc. to Iraq, Afghanistan etc., the US makes itself even more hated by the freedom loving peoples in the world. The US as a hegemon, international outlaw and semi-terrorist state is a very bad example for anybody including China. China will secure her role in the world by being fair, peaceful and responsible. This is exactly what's lacking in the US alliance and with Japan which even today is still a barbaric country.
mymak
A Kuro, Mongkok_Wong, why must you always focus on the West? This article is about China securing its rightful place in Asia and the World. Are you brain-dead automatons that as soon as you recognize the twin words - China-West - you automatically roll out the usual US and West creates all wars drivel. A Kuro why is it so easy for you to be manipulated into believing that Russia is not a Western power? For a relatively short period between 1917 and 1989 Russia was communist but even then the idea of it not being Western was simply an affectation of Churchill's famous 'Iron Curtain' speech and was talking about Eastern Europe. Russia is a beautiful country with warm and intelligent people but, in their thinking and approach to foreign affairs they have long been members of the 'Western Club'. Their literature - Tolstoy, Dostivesky, etc, their culture, their religion, have long been embraced by the 'West' and have helped shape the development of Western thinking and culture. Their actions have a profound impact on Europe and the US but almost none on Asia. What the Russians say the European powers listen to because if will effect them. Russia, whether it likes it or not is a Western power. Certainly they are not the bosom buddies that some Sinophobes would have you believe.
lucifer
The reason the US is there in the first place was because apparently, "Asia for Asians" was also used as a slogan by the Japanese as they conquered one Asian territory after another. China seems to be following the same route for the same reasons, albeit with different tactics.
scmpgt
The only reason why Xi is even stopping corruption is because BRICS got a new name.
Brothers
Really
Into
Corrupting
Safely
Daniel Lee
China should not do the kind of evils things the US does like invading other countries, supporting terrorism, supporting dictators and despots, lying, massive spying, breaking international law, violent society, corrupt society, drug addict society, homeless society, pornography society etc.
mymak
Mongkok_Wong, what's in a name?
Such a fool you are?
So easy to confuse, so easy to manipulate.
Were my name to be Mark or Miroslav or Ming would you make your silly comments
and compound them with nonsense?
Do you know my name?
Is yours Mongkok?
Korea a war started by the North,
Continued to this day
By support from the North.
IndoChina,
Have you heard this name
Born of Korea
With the same fears at stake
Cambodia the killing fields
Do you know your history?
Afghanistan, it all becomes tedious
The Soviets last hurrah
Not forgetting the Ukraine
Yugoslavia, was that Tito?
What's in a name?
Were they part of NATO
or was it the Soviets again?
Budapest and Prague
Berlin and Warsaw
Have your forgotten the name of the game?
Tibet, ah there's a one
A source of great shame
Mongkok_Wong
you are such a powerful slave
You fear Gay men and people waving flags
Of Chinese men with opinions not your own
I am sure now that Mongkok is not your name
For you fear all others as you pursue your prejudice game.
Have fun with your movies and magazines tonight
Mongkok_Wong
Remember if you tire
You can switch to the right.
raymondspchu
There is no need for China to be the top dog in the world. It needs only to be able to defend itself from outside aggression and subversion from inside supported by foreign forces. It is pursuing the right policy just now: building a just legal system, a prosperous economy, and gradually improving the standard of living of its people.

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