Changing Global order and rise of China

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 World order

Henry Kissinger in his book, “The world order” describes world order as the arrangement of the global balance of power. He describes four world orders that have existed so far – Westphalian world order, US-led world order (Liberal world order), The Islamic world order, and Chinese world order. World order basically focuses on the geopolitical distribution of power.

The concept of World Order was defined and its implementation determined in Europe. Before that, with no means of interacting with each other on a substantial basis and no framework for measuring the power of one region against another, each order vowed its own as unique and defined others as barbarians.

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The structure established in Westphalia represented the first attempt to institutionalize order on the basis of agreed rules and limits and to base it on a multiplicity of powers rather than the dominance of a single country. The treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648. It provided the foundation of the modern state system.

It also articulated the concept of territorial sovereignty. The norm was set that stopped one from interfering in another’s internal affairs. The Westphalian system spread around the world as the framework for a state-based international order spanning multiple civilizations and regions. Inter-state aggression was to be held in check by a balance of power.

US hegemony

If the last century (20th) was the famously proclaimed, “American Century” – this one is the Asian Century with India and China as its main players. Hegemony in international relations is seen as an “Extraordinary power”. A nation is able to set the rule and can compel others to follow the rules through hegemony.

Achieving hegemony in International politics has been the fundamental objective of US foreign policy. Peace and prosperity in the US are based on its hegemony. It is the ability to control world trade. US foreign policy is based on the fundamentals of geopolitics.

Fundamental of geopolitics can be understood through Seapower and Land power or collectively called it as ‘Rimland power’. Alfred T Mahan in his book “The influence of sea power on history” published in 1890, prescribes that the nation which controls the ocean will control the world.

Mackinder in his Book “Geographical pivot of history” published in 1904, prescribes that land power will trump over sea power. Spykman in his book “American Strategies in world politics” combined Mahan and Mackinder. He gave the concept of rimland powers. It implies the nation will control the world who have land power as well as seapower.

Post-cold war world order has two phases – First, from 1991 to 2001, the phase of US hegemony or unipolar world Long time ambition to the US. The polarity of power thesis given by Kenneth Waltz and Mearsheimer suggests that unipolarity is never stable. It is so because the hegemon tries to overstretch and free-riders take advantage.

Second, from 2001 to till present is marked as the second phase. September 11, the incident has been the strongest frontal attack on US hegemony to date. Realist scholars like Gaddis believed that the USA killed the python (USSR) but have given rise to numerous poisonous snakes (China, Iran, etc.). Thus, the challenge to US hegemony has not ended. It has become defused. Even the US problem multiplied due to the ending USSR.

The decline of US hegemony and the rise of China

There are various threats for the USA which challenge US hegemony in particular. First, the biggest threat is China. North Korea is deemed as a proxy of China in international politics. Second, the rise of other regional powers like Iran, Russia, Turkey, and India is the second biggest threat.

Huntington’s thesis suggests that the Islamic world is NOT as big a challenge as China. However serious threat emerges if China and the Islamic world come together. Third, the rise of rights in the USA in the form of Donald Trump. All these factors, directly and indirectly, contribute to the decline of US hegemony in international politics.

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Napoleon had set to his remark that when China will come out of its slumbers, it will astonish the world. The middle kingdom under Xi Jinping has entered into a new age of Chinese history & ending the age of Deng Xiaoping. Up till now, Chinese leaders follow the principle of Deng Xiaoping, maintaining the low profile. Emphasize peaceful rise.

However, Xi Jinping is highly assertive and made provocative claims. He talks about China’s dream – The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Ending the humiliation of two centuries. XI Jinping’s approach reflects continuity with change with the approach of Deng, Deng Xiaoping held to hide the power and bite the time. Now the time has come & season has changed.

US concern is China’s ambitions are not limited to ending Chinese humiliation. He aims to create the Sino-centric world order and not just Sino-centric Asia. After 100 years of the Chinese revolution (1949), China has developed the capacity to create the foundations of world order in Asia.

Shyam Saran in his book “How India sees the world” has also analyzed the flux in the present world order and believes that the present world order will emerge in Asia. Since the center of gravity of international politics has shifted to Asia. The Asian world order will be the new world order.

China is challenging US hegemony in all four dimensions – Hard Power or Military power, Economic power, Technological power, and Ideological power.

Hard power

Mao held that power comes through the barrel of Gun. Xi Jinping has full faith in the views of Mao. Since he came to power, China’s military might increase phenomenally. At present US and China together constitute more than half of the military spending of the world. In 2018, the USA’s defense budget was $ 619 billion, an increase of 4.6% over the last year.

For the first time, the USA has increased its military spending. Presently, Beijing set its 2019 defense spending is $177.61 billion at 7.5% higher than a year ago. China is spending money on the modernization of armed forces. China is gaining the past edge in defense technologies.

Up till now, China is a continental nation but now China is giving challenges to the US on Seas. China has developed credible second-strike capabilities. China has built the force of the submarine-launched nuclear-armed missiles. The number of ships china has more than the USA. The maritime silk route project is providing port access to China. China is building naval ports.

China has a naval base outside its mainland in the horn of Africa. China is developing the capability of amphibious war with the objective to recover Taiwan. US defense establishment admits that China has developed denial capabilities in the south China Sea, Yellow Sea & East China Sea.

Economic power

China has become the second-largest economy in terms of GDP, the largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. China is the largest exporter country, the largest trading nation in the world. As per Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China’s growth rate in the last four decades has been phenomenal with an average of 10% per annum. It has become a leading destination for inward FDI. It itself has become the leading source of investment in developing countries.

Belt Road Initiative is the signature project of Xi Jinping, first announced in 2013 during his visit to Kazakhstan. It aims is to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe.  According to Chinese official statements, it is based on the “Silk Road spirit” i.e. ancient Trading route across Eurasia. It can be seen as the Chinese model of globalization. Presently it includes 17 countries, representing 70% of the world population, 55% of GDP, and 75% of global energy resources.

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Unlike WTO, a sign of liberal world order, BRI addressed the concerns of developed (Clean & green projects) as well as developing countries (development and poverty reduction). China has formed the 3rd party cooperation framework to include developed countries. Italy has become the first G7 country to join the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative of China.

China has formed a 16+1 group with central and east European countries. China has promised additional funds for the project. The most strategic project in CPEC will give access to China at the Junction of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Recently Malaysia which has canceled the east coast rail link has agreed to re-start.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has come into existence in 2016 with $ 100 bn with stated objectives are financing infrastructure projects, promoting sustainable development. Presently it has 67 countries. US is more concerned with AIIB due to – First, A paradigm shift in global economic governance. It doesn’t put conditionality like Human rights and Democracy.

Second, the Chinese Renminbi can replace Dollar as a global currency. Third, the Chinese ability to draw so much support and so swiftly even from US allies. Like Australia, UK, South Korea, Canada is a significant concern. Thus, AIIB is a signpost of the broader shift in the world order, the easternization of global finance.

Technological Power

Made in china 2025 was first announced in 2015 by the state council. This program had an objective to produce cheap products. It aims to make China from a world factory to a country with high technology, manufacturing superpower in advanced industries like robotics, AI, Aviation, New energy vehicles. China believes that only through high-value technology, it can avoid the middle-income trap.

A huge concern for the USA as the USA has already lost to Chinese cheaper good, at present US advantage is in “cutting edge technologies” where China is going to challenge. Hence USA emphasizes Chinese practices of transfer of technologies through coercive means, the cyber-attacks, IPR Threat.

Ideological power

American experts like Huntington have given the concept of “Clash of civilization“, emphasized the superiority of western civilization, and predicted that ultimately the west will be the winner. Xi Jinping in his speech at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in 2014 says “All civilizations are equal, and such equality has made exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations possible.” In another speech at ‘Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations,’ he says that Asia is a continental “cradle of civilizations” that “covers a third of the earth’s landmass and has two ­thirds of the world’s population”.

He emphasized on values of Asian civilization, which has been sensitive to ecology. He acknowledged India’s contribution to the richness of Asian civilizations by mentioning the Rigveda, Ganga, and Indus rivers, and, above all, the priceless gift of Buddhism. According to him, only through civilizational exchanges, we can build much needed global community. He held that all civilizations are equally respectable and civilization need not to clash. They should understand the beauty of each other.

The new cold war between the US and China

Earlier cold was based on ideology i.e. Communism Vs Liberalism. The new cold war between China and the USA is coming in the shape of the trade war. At the present USA has increased tariffs and has threatened that in the coming time it will be covering almost entire Chinese exports to the USA.

According to the USA, China is not following a fair game. China has been protectionist in trade. It was expected once China will join WTO, Chinese trade practices will be in accordance with the norms.  However, China took the advantage of WTO and avoided trade liberalization.

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Hence USA feels even WTO as an institution is NOT working to its advantage. Trump has increased tariffs by 25% on Chinese goods worth $34 billion covering steel, Aluminum, Solar panels,s and Washing machines. China’s Responded through retaliated by imposing a 25% tariff on Agricultural goods and Automobiles.

In September 2018, the USA escalated the trade war by imposing a 10% tariff on Chinese goods worth $200 bn. China again retaliated by imposing a tariff on USA goods worth $60 bn. Since then there have been many rounds of talks among the officials without progress.

Where is India?

Although democratic India embraced economic liberalization in the post-Cold War era and improved relations with Western countries, particularly the US, it never fully aligned itself with the neo-liberal globalized order. India has pursued a policy of building multiple alignments – the G20, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). India has been working in Afghanistan and African nations for capacity building.

While India has called for reforms of global institutions such as the UN, World Bank, and IMF in order to make them more relevant and reflective of the 21st century political and economic realities. It has also played a key role in raising non-Western institutional alternatives, such as the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). India has been constitutionally committed to world peace.

Thus, India seeks partnerships with all the relevant actors in the world, while avoiding overly close ties with big powers or blocs. I can say that irrespective of the world order, India would not be the victim of any changes because India believes in maintaining relations with all.

Thus, Xi Jinping in his speech on 31st Dec 2018 to Chinese media says “Time stops for no one and the season changes”. Xi Jinping’s speech at the 19th party congress of the communist party of china is a very audacious claim to end US hegemony by 2050 on the completion of 100 years of victory of the Communist Party of China. He also gave the timeline for it.

According to him, By 2020, China will be a moderately prosperous society. By 2035, China would be the Global Leader in innovation. By 2050, China would be a Global Leader representing the Chinese model of socialism. Thus China will be providing a new option of development for the developing countries. In fact, China is following the same means which the USA has followed in the past i.e. Giving loans followed by the military establishment.


  1. Decoding Dream India | COVID-19: A geopolitical virus as well
  2. Amazon | World Order by Henry Kissinger
  3. Amazon | The Geographical pivot of history by Mackinder 
  4. Amazon | How India Sees the World by Shyam Saran
  5. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) | The phenomenal growth of China and India
  6. The Diplomat | How Old Is China’s Belt and Road Initiative Exactly?
  7. Forbes | China’s Bid To Buy Eastern Europe On The Cheap: The ’16+1′ Group
  8. Livemint | Why India is staring at a middle-income trap
  9. Amazon | The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P Huntington
  10. America | 2019 New Year Speech by President Xi Jinping 
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    Many people observe what is happening in the world and understand that these are cardinal changes that will lead to a complete change in the world order.

    April 23, 2020
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