China….the worlds next dominant power?
Reading through the news of David Cameron’s trade dealings with the Chinese Prime Minister, it struck me just how important China is becoming. It has long been my belief that US power and indeed, Western power in general is on the wane and I stick firmly to that belief. China could well become the worlds next dominant power, alongside Russia in some kind of Sino-Russian pact. China is not immune from the currently tepid economic waves lashing the global economy and indeed if it falls hard this year it could spread further misery but nonetheless it may well emerge from the doldrums long before Western economies.
It is also striking its own chord on foreign policy and increasingly being robustly independent of organisations such as NATO. Of course, there is a dark side to this – the Chinese record on human rights is frankly appalling – however, the international community is effectively restricted to making offended noises of this due to China’s centrality in both the global economic system and more generally in the international community. Internally, China seems to have managed the transition from Stalinism to capitalism with less dislocation than afflicted Russia and this has undoubtedly been a factor that has put it in its current dominant position. In fact, it seems to a casual, outside observer, the Party bureaucracy has effectively co-opted the consequent burgeoning middle classes into seeing their interests as being in preserving its rule. Whether that would last a severe economic collapse or not is, of course, another question.
All this begs the question what an era of Chinese hegemony would look like. In the Middle East, it would be a dangerous wild card because it would make Israel feel more immediately isolated by the decline of its main sponsors. Worse still – China is close to Iran, and the antagonism between Iran and Israel is potentially a very dangerous flashpoint in world politics. An intimate relationship with China will probably embolden Russia too in the Caucuses – a process which ironically may well forge stronger bonds between the rest of Europe. Culturally, its hard to see imagine Chinese influence permeating the main citadels of Western capitalism but that will probably change as trade with China becomes more and more important.
It’s hard to see beyond China as the next dominant, hegemonic power as American influence steadily crumbles. Given it’s human rights record however its hard to see that as a good thing – another good reason why the creation of a strong, democratically united European Union as a counterweight would be a good thing and another reason why Britian’s self-imposed isolation from the European project is a blinkered and short-sighted decision.