The Rise of China – a special issue of the Revista Brasileira de Politíca Internacional

By Antônio Carlos Lessa and Henrique Altemani de Oliveira
RBPI

The year 2014 saw the completion of40 years of diplomatic relations between Brazil and the People’s Republic of China. Under a dictatorial regime, and with the opposition of the most radical sectors of the Armed Forces, the decision of the Brazilian government came about as a result of an appreciation that rapprochement with China was essential for the role that Brazil was playing, along with Third World countries, in the negotiating processes which were taking place for the definition of a New International Economic Order. With an emphasis which was far more political than economic-commercial, no one at that time imagined that China would develop into the economic power it is today.

It is in this context that the editorial team of the Revista Brasileira de Politíca Internacional considered this an opportune moment to release a special issue on China, not only to celebrate the dual recognition established in 1974 which subsequently developed into the first strategic partnership proposed by China in 1993, but primarily to seek a greater understanding of the strategies and tactics used by China to ensure its growing international presence.

Taking into account an already existing extensive and high-quality body of literature concerning the economic and commercial integration of China into the International System, this special issue seeks first and foremost to evaluate the current status of the presence of this country in the International System and in its institutions, and China’s relationships with the major powers and with regions and regional powers, with a particular emphasis on political and diplomatic aspects.

Nowadays it is generally accepted that China acquired its unimaginable importance some forty years ago. We are now in a new phase which matches the perception that there is a broad-based international recognition that China has already reached a level of power which enables it to take on a far more assertive role than it has so far carried out. And, even more so, China is showing not just empowerment, as in the present decade, but is demonstrating that it is acting in a more assertive way.

Starting from the principle that the United States still represents the final word of the International System with its leadership being essential for any form of collective action by this system, various analysts are making the point that American interests are based on the promotion of democracy and market freedom, thereby mistaking its own interests with those of the world at large.

As a result of the constraints on resources, and particularly due to the opposition of American public opinion to interventions in which their interests may not be directly involved, the United States is looking to push through a greater participation from the different players, by means of burden sharing, by strengtheningthe prospects for the extension of engagement and expansion practices, instead of the policy of containment used during the Cold War.

This policy of engagement and expansion used to present two viewpoints. The first was the participation of the United States in any matter that may have an effect on its own security or on the political balance in regions which were considered to be strategically important, as well as on trade flows. The second was the necessity for greater participation of the different players who would benefit as much from the climate of security as they would from economic globalization. However, in the case of its relationship with China at the end of the last century and at the start of the current one, the United States was vacillating between the strategies of engagement and containment depending upon the increase or decrease in the perception of China as a threat.

This “Threat Theory” clearly represents two dimensions: one of strategic security and the other of economic security. In terms of security, considerations of an arms strategy stands out, the irresponsible sale or transference of arms or military technology and the presence of historical conflicts and territorial claims in their immediate surroundings. From another perspective, it can also be considered that this thesis of “threat” stems from a widespread perception that China is already in a condition to assume a more active role in regional and international affairs.

In this sense, there is the perception that China, in extending its presenceis, as a consequence, shifting or reducing the capacities of other countries. As for China, the American factor is still important but much less significant than it was in the 1990’s. Firstly, because of the fact that the balance of power between China and the US has changed. The US remains a power, but China is growing much stronger, with globally diversified interests. Secondly, the international balance of power is in the process of change with the emergence of new players and factors which are eroding American influence. Thirdly, China has developed a new set of interests, especially in commercial terms, and works with multiple partners, including the European Union, Japan and the ASEAN. As the influence of the United States on the diplomatic strategy of China diminishes, the status of other countries and regions tends to become more prominent. Finally, as China and the Unites States have become incredibly interdependent, they have to act more in sync and present a more stable relationship.

The basic message of the Chinese rhetoric on harmonious development is the need for the different international players to recognize not only the Chinese right to develop but the fact that China is growing, and this has to be accepted consensuallyby the International System in order to ensure an environment of peace, development and cooperation. In this context the principle of “non-interference in internal affairs” should be more respected, and international relations should be grounded in mutual interest and “peaceful co-existence”, and internally, the fact that rapid and localized development creates distortions that need to be corrected consensually to encompass the whole of Chinese society.

Ultimately, all of this indicates that the process of redefining the International Order has reached the point of effectively having a strong candidate disputing the international power structure. But the fact that it is a player, despite its greater relevance and capabilities, China still presents profound internal and external weaknesses, which do not permit a more positive outlook even in the short or medium term.

Therefore, much still remains to be analyzed to define what China is, what it wants, and how the different players react and respond to the movement of the pieces in the game of redefining the International System and Order. It is in this context that this special edition of the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional seeks to shed light on the central aspects of the international rise of China, and it can be viewed as an important contribution to the reflections made in the Global South on this topic.

This special issue follows on from a series of special thematic editions dealing with burning issues in the contemporary international agenda, and also in the international insertion of Brazil which RBPI has been publishing on over the past few years, all in English and with the growing participation of highly qualified international scholars. This issue also has a particular significance – it is the fruit of the cooperation between the Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais which publishes this journal, and the Centro de Estudos sobre o Pacífico, a pioneering Brazilian organization in the high-level analysis of this emerging reality in Asia and its consequences for the whole world.

Finally, this issue seeks to shed light on the central aspects of the international rise of China over the past few years and on its consolidation as a truly major global power. The collection of published articles can be read as an important contribution to the examination of the different dimensions of this emerging reality, perceived in all of its complexity.

RBPI is the publishing channel with the longest tradition in Brazil in the area of International Relations and has been published without interruption since 1958. It is edited by the Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais – IBRI, and publishes articles on international politics, the history of international relations, International economics, international law and related issues. It has been available in the SciELO Brazil collection since 2007. It is also available in print.

The articles in this special issue can be found at:

LEON-MANRIQUEZ, J., and ALVAREZ, L.F. Mao’s steps in Monroe’s backyard: towards a United States-China hegemonic struggle in Latin America? Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 9-27. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400202. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300009&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

LIU, T.T., and TSAI, T. Swords into ploughshares? China’s Soft Power strategy in Southeast Asia and its challenges. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 28-48. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400203. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300028&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

CORKIN, L.J. China’s rising Soft Power: the role of rhetoric in constructing China-Africa relations. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 49-72. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400204. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300049&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

AMORIM, W., and SILVA, A.H.L. Japan and India: soft balancing as a reaction to China’s rise? Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 73-90. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400205. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300073&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

VADELL, J., RAMOS, L., and NEVES, P. The international implications of the Chinese model of development in the Global South: Asian Consensus as a network power. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 91-107. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400206. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300091&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

GUILHON-ALBUQUERQUE, J. Brazil, China, US: a triangular relation? Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 108-120. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400207. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300108&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

LIU, H. China’s proposing behavior in Global Governance: the cases of the WTO Doha Round negotiation and G-20 process. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 121-137. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400208. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300121&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

MARQUES, J., SPANAKOS, A. South-South relations and the English School of International Relations: Chinese and Brazilian ideas and involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 138-156. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400209. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300138&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

VU, T. Between system maker and privileges taker: the role of China in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 157-173. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400210. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300157&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

BASSO, L., and VIOLA, E. Chinese energy policy progress and challenges in the transition to low carbon development, 2006-2013. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 174-192. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400211. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300174&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

KERCKHOVEN, S.V., LUYTEN, A. The tale of a Trojan horse or the quest for market access? China and the World Trade Organization. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 193-209. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400212. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300193&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

VAZ-PINTO, R. Peaceful rise and the limits of Chinese exceptionalism. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 210-224. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400213. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300210&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

MENDES, C.A. Macau in China’s relations with the lusophone world. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 225-242. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400214. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300225&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

MAO, W. Muddle or march: China and the 21st century Concert of Powers. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 243-264. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400215. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300243&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

OLIVEIRA, H.A., LEITE, A.C.C. Chinese engagement for Global Governance: aiming for a better room at the table? Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2014, vol. 57, nº spe, pp. 265-285. [viewed November 14th 2014]. ISSN 0034-7329. DOI: 10.1590/0034-7329201400216. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292014000300265&lng=pt&nrm=iso.

Related link:

Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional – RBPI – <http://www.scielo.br/rbpi/>.

 

Translated from the original in Portuguese by Nicholas Cop Consulting.

 

Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

LESSA, A.C. and OLIVEIRA, H.A. The Rise of China – a special issue of the Revista Brasileira de Politíca Internacional [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2014 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2014/11/26/the-rise-of-china-a-special-issue-of-the-revista-brasileira-de-politica-internacional/

 

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