THE great power competition between the US and China is in full swing. Both parties are embroiled in major issues of international affairs, and none of the international issues remains immune to their influence. Trade war, ideational war and forging alliances remain to be seen as new forms of strategies crafted by Washington and Beijing. Arguably, the world no longer solely is dominated by the West materially and ideationally. The material and ideational decline, by and large, is contributing to enfeebling the western hegemony. The democratic crises in the West and the rise of China in terms of economy, becoming the world’s largest export market, and rapid rise in technology caused a great deal of consternation for the West. The deeply embedded crisis in the western-led liberal order, ostensibly, leaves a vacuum for China. John Ikenberry laments “The old Western-led liberal order looks more troubled today than at any time since the 1930s”.
The liberal order from within has been witnessing sustained assault. Over a decade, free societies of the West endured polarization, corruption, populism, inequality and illiberal threats to the rule of law. The former US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric of “America First” was not only symptomatic of attacks on liberal internationalism but also challenged US exceptionalism. An exclusionary approach of Trump created a deep rift in international politics. The US exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and threat of World Health Organization WHO astonished many experts.
Joseph Nye accurately assessed Trump’s self-destructive approach and argues “I am not worried by the rise of China, I am more worried by the rise of Trump” His populism, reactionary nationalism, an assault on the rule of law and openness of US society badly tarnished the American image. Anne-Marie Slaughter states ‘Four years of erratic, personality-driven leadership in the United States under President Donald Trump have left the liberal order in tatters’. To improve the tarnished image of the US, the incumbent US President Joe Biden promised to ‘rebuild the nation, revitalize democracy and win the future for America’. In competition with China, the US must rebuild the social purpose of liberal democracy at home and improve the damaged image of liberal democracy abroad. The work appears to be a daunting task for the Biden Administration to improve its triple crises, crisis of democracy, crisis of leadership and crisis of multilateralism.
The US is extremely likely to weaponize ideology in its strategic rivalry vis-à-vis China. The battle of democracy vs. autocracy will gain further momentum. Biden advises his countrymen “I predict to you; your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake”.
The relative rise of China in terms of economy and changing distribution of global wealth in parity between the West and East would go in favour of the East in the coming decades. The diffusion of power and transfer of global wealth will make the hegemonic decline of the West irreversible. The Chinese vision, a community of shared future for mankind first emerged in 2011 as a rhetorical slogan in Chinese diplomacy gained content and substance. The phrase in October 2017 after the 19th National Congress was incorporated into the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and subsequently into the Chinese Constitution in March 2018. A community of shared future for mankind is aimed at building an inclusive, open, clean and beautiful world contributing to lasting peace, common prosperity and universal security, providing instructive answers to addressing the fragmentation and turbulence in international politics. China has actively advocated the phrase in public diplomacy. The Chinese vision was accepted in different UN resolutions as far as the peace and security of the world are concerned.
To be fair, the Chinese vision would confront innumerable challenges in a politically divided world community. Nadège Rolland terms the Chinese vision “looks more like a list of what Beijing advocates for its own needs, security and position than an innovative contribution for the future of the world”
Meanwhile, China initiated the Global Civilizational Initiative GCI. The initiative is believed to have been promoting diversity, plurality and dignity among nations challenging the idea’s imposition and discouraging the exploitation of communities and resources that will prove instrumental for diversity, mutual understanding, and the world’s economic growth. China under GCI is trying to undermine Western democracy which is coupled with populism, polarization, racism and xenophobia. The contemporary world is going through tremendous changes, power is shifting from West to East. The western dominance in terms of material and ideational seems to be declining. The Saudi-Iran détente brokered by China was a momentous occasion in Middle Eastern politics that caused a huge setback to the US interest. The inclusion of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina in BRICS would cement China’s ideational and material strength vis-à-vis the US.
The prevailing battle of democracy vs. autocracy will further accelerate. The US promotes Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) comprising democratic countries like the US, India, Japan and Australia in a bid to contain authoritarian China. The Ukraine crisis has brought authoritarian regimes – China and Russia – closer together. The US domestically and internationally faces double challenges in the projection of democracy. Domestic crises such as populism, racism and xenophobia pose severe threats to democracy. In the international arena, China and Russia are causing significant obstacles in the advancement of the US democracy.
—The lecturer teaches IR at University of Balochistan UOB Quetta.
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