As we continue to watch the developments in China—both the fortuitous and the unfortunate in the country’s astounding rise from backward nation to a global power—one question that remains unanswered actually has little to do with China.
Will the world let China’s rise continue?
The world is a big place, and there’s no question that China wields enormous influence over much of it. But the question regarding the world letting China’s rise continue is too broad. China’s influence in the world is too broad. Many nations depend on Chinese economic interaction, foreign aid, and infrastructure for development.
The question needs to be pared down to, “Can or will the free nations of the world stand up to China’s ongoing efforts to dominate them?”
The answer to that question may just be, “It depends.” That’s not a punt on the question, but rather the acknowledgment that the answer lies more with democratic nations than it does with China. Put another way, the response among democratic nations threatened by the Chinese regime’s growing power is at least as important as the challenge itself.
China’s Challenges and Advantages
Current conditions in China are very much a mixed bag. Beijing has both enormous advantages to leverage and some formidable disadvantages to overcome if it were to continue to expand its power and influence in the world. In other words, China’s rise to global dominance at the expense of the United States and the European Union, not to mention India, Japan, and South Korea, is certainly not a fait accompli. It can be prevented.
For instance, the leadership in Beijing faces several internal challenges that could be exploited. One of these is the deep division within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Powerful Party factions deeply resent Xi Jinping’s ascent to the dictatorship over China, as well as the bad decisions he’s made over the past several years.
No mystery there. Some of Xi’s policies have cost Party members wealth, power, and influence, and, therefore, have led to deep divisions within the CCP. Party disunity is forcing Xi to conduct more political purges, which, in turn, lead to less cautionary input on policy and fewer checks on his power. This process alone leads to more cycles of instability and further policy mistakes.
Other major policy failures from Xi include the continuing assault on business and technology leaders, as well as the unraveling of China’s real estate sector in the form of the Evergrande disaster. The former threatens the nation’s ability to continue to maintain and develop technological leadership in key industrial areas. The latter portends the potential collapse of the world’s largest financial sector, significant additional collateral economic damage, and social instability.
The effects of these and other mistakes are made worse by the food, water, and power shortages that also are occurring. These are just a few of the internal challenges among many others that China faces.
China Well-Positioned for Influence
But it’s not all bad news for the Middle Kingdom. In fact, in many respects, China is well-positioned to increase its dominance in international affairs. As discussed in my prior article, China’s growing control of strategic ports and waterways poses a serious and, perhaps, even imminent challenge to the U.S.-run global order. At the very least, China has gained tremendous influence in key nations and waterways around the world.
Furthermore, China’s shrewd use of foreign aid, industrial espionage, and soft power over the past couple of decades have been instrumental in its success. Sure, their soft power is certainly waning these days, but intellectual property theft from technology partners and foreign aid are still potent levers of power for Beijing.
Western Democracies Decide to Act?
That brings us to the world’s democracies and their actions going forward. As they come to realize the scope of the threat that China presents to the international order, some nations in the West have initiated an attempt to coordinate their policies. Fortunately, there is a general template to follow, and it’s borne of a recent success.
Under the “America First” policy of the Trump administration, the global pushback led by the United States against Huawei is worth reviewing. The fact that the Chinese network giant is but a shadow of its former self proves that cooperation—and a bit of pressure—among the democracies, with broadly similar interests, can work.
D-10: A New Democratic Alliance?
Now, fast forward to last June, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Global Challenges Foundation floated the idea of a D-10 (the 10 major democracies of the world, which includes the G-7, plus Australia, India, and South Korea), just before the G-7 meeting on June 11 in Carbis Bay in the United Kingdom. The initial purpose of the D-10, according to Johnson, is for “like-minded democracies to advance shared interests and tackle common challenges.”
The assumption is that limiting or even rolling back Chinese global hegemony is one of those “common challenges” to which Johnson referred. Furthermore, there is a real possibility that the D-10 will, at some point, become the D-10+, to include other democracies such as Poland and Spain.
And why wouldn’t it?
Democracies to Challenge Authoritarian Alliance?
China is working closely with other dictatorial regimes such as Russia, Turkey, Iran, Taliban-led Afghanistan, Pakistan, and others. Curiously, none of these dictatorships that China is coordinating with have economies that compare to those nations in the D-10. What’s more, together, China and its anti-West, anti-democratic partners, comprise an anti-West alliance.
No big surprise there. But what is surprising is the potential D-10 or D-10+ Western democracy alliance that seems to be emerging.
Have the world’s leading democracies decided to work together to counteract the anti-humanitarian forces that seek to remake the world in their own, authoritarian image?
If so, under whose leadership will the D-10 operate? Britain’s? The United States’?
What form could cooperation take?
The answers to these questions are, as of yet, unclear. It’s also unclear whether Washington will be able–or willing–to unequivocally stand up to Beijing and the CCP.
Let us hope that we can and do so.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.