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China & New World Order


China naval ship (Courtesy photo for education only)

China naval ship (Courtesy photo for education only)

WebPublicaPress (New York) – Seen in real time, multinational efforts to curb China’s rise look scattered, writes Tufts University’s Michael Beckley, in the forthcoming March/April issue of Foreign Affairs. “Step back from the day-to-day commotion, however, and a fuller picture emerges: for better or worse, competition with China is forging a new international order.”


“Through a surge of repression and aggression, China has frightened countries near and far. It is acting belligerently in East Asia, trying to carve out exclusive economic zones in the global economy, and exporting digital systems that make authoritarianism more effective than ever,” Beckley warns. “For the first time since the Cold War, a critical mass of countries faces serious threats to their security, welfare, and ways of life—all emanating from a single source.”


As a result, Beckley finds that “China’s neighbors are arming themselves and aligning with outside powers to secure their territory and sea-lanes. Many of the world’s largest economies are collectively developing new trade, investment, and technology standards that implicitly discriminate against China. Democracies are gathering to devise strategies for combating authoritarianism at home and abroad, and new international organizations are popping up to coordinate the battle,” he continues.


“Viewed individually, these efforts look haphazard and reactive,” maintains Beckley.  “Collectively, however, they betray a positive vision for a democratic order.”


Beckley writes that there has never been any doubt about Beijing’s ambitions: “to keep the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in power, reabsorb Taiwan, control the East China and South China Seas, and return China to its rightful place as the dominant power in Asia and the most powerful country in the world.” But now it is sparking an international backlash, as negative views of the country have risen to highs not seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Therefore, “the United States and its allies are trying to build a new order that excludes China by making democracy a requirement for full membership.”


Although the architecture of this new order remains a work in progress, Beckley identifies two key components: a loose economic bloc anchored by the G-7, made up of leading powers that are collaborating to prevent China from monopolizing the global economy, and a double military barrier to contain China, which includes neighboring countries that are loading up on mobile missile launchers and mines to deny China sea and air control near their shores, as well as an outside layer of democratic powers that are providing aid, arms, and intelligence to China’s neighbors.


“To build a better future, the United States and its allies will need to take a more enlightened view of their interests than they did even during the Cold War. Back then, their economic interests dovetailed nicely with their geopolitical interests. Now, however, the choice is not so simple, because standing up to China will entail significant economic costs, especially in the short term.”


“Competing with China will be fraught with risk for the United States and its allies, but it might be the only way to avoid even greater dangers,” Beckley concludes.


This article is part of the forthcoming March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, which will be released in full on Tuesday, February 22.

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