You are here

China’s Changing Worldview

Dr. Arvind Gupta was Director General at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • August 04, 2009

    Recent Chinese writings indicate that the Chinese see themselves as a major player in international affairs. They see the global economic crisis as an historic opportunity to redefine the Chinese role. The following is a summary of broad points made in recent Chinese writings on a variety of international issues.

    Global issues

    • Since 9-11, the international system is in the process of fundamental transformation. The global economic crisis has catalysed this change. China now has an historic opportunity to position itself for a major role in global affairs. China can help the US and world economic recovery.
    • G-8’s monopoly on running the world is ending and its influence is declining. G8 is looking towards emerging economies for help. China welcomes G8+G5 dialogue process. It wants better representation of developing countries in global economic institutions. G-20, which includes emerging countries, can play the role of G-8 although considerable more work is required. One could also think of a new grouping, the G-10 consisting of P-5 plus India, Brazil, Japan, Germany and South Africa. Some Chinese scholars have floated the idea of an Economic Security Council at the UN, much like the UN Security Council.
    • Global economic crisis: China has handled the economic crisis well and emerged a winner. It lowered the interest rates, announced a stimulus package of $586 billion, and coordinated its moves with those of the US. As a result, its economic growth is picking up once again. China’s responsible behaviour during the economic crisis has earned it the invitation to participate in top global decision making institutions. China is indispensable to the international economy. China is now playing a role in shaping the global economic agenda. This is a big achievement.

    U.S. China relations:

    • US hegemony is ending and several major powers are challenging the US. The US will need China’s help to resolve regional and global issues. Relations between China and the US have moved from the two countries being “competitors” to “stakeholders” to becoming “constructive collaborators”. China is aware that the decline of the US economy is not in China’s interest. Therefore, it would like to invest more in US-China relations. Chinese commentators are, however, aware that Sino-US relationship at heart remains competitive. The competition is now spreading to the soft-power arena as well.
    • Barack Obama and Hu Jintao have set up a new dialogue mechanism, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which merges the economic and strategic tracks set up earlier by Bush. The first meeting of SED was held in July 2009. The two countries have also added the military component to the dialogue. The SED will be the most authoritative dialogue mechanism in bilateral relations. The two sides discussed global and regional issues in the first round. At the first Strategic and Economic Dialogue China urged the US to cut its budget deficit to prevent inflation and devaluation of dollar. China holds US treasury bonds worth $800 billion which are at a risk of losing their value if the dollar falls.
    • Central Asia: The Shanghai Cooperation Organistion (SCO), established to promote confidence building measures, is becoming an anchor of peace and stability in Central Asian region. It is becoming a security organisation. It fights terrorism, extremism and separatism in the region. China and Russia have routinely held joint exercises focused on anti-terrorism. Peace Mission 2009 was held in July 2009 after the Xinjiang ethnic riots.
    • Russia: Russia and China are both strengthening. They both support multipolarism in the world. Their cooperation in defence sphere is growing. Russia is transferring major defence technologies to China.
    • Afghanistan: China says NATO alone cannot resolve the issue of terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Chinese formulations now mention Pakistan together with Afghanistan. The US discusses the Afghanistan & Pakistan situation with China.
    • Japan: China has taken strong exception to Tokyo allowing Rebiya Kadeer to visit Japan after the Xinjiang riots. It formally asked Japan not to give her a visa. An article in People’s Daily warned Japan of the displeasure of the “Chinese people” over Japanese actions and how this will have an adverse impact of Sino-Japan relations. Rebiya Kadeer is being described in the Chinese media as a new Dalai Lama.
    • Climate Change: China is in favour of a major initiative by the developed countries on emission reduction. But it is willing to reduce its emissions voluntarily. It is giving huge subsidies for the development of clean energy including solar and wind energy. It is planning big investments in nuclear energy as well.


    • PLA is modernising itself rapidly to meet the new threats in the changed security environment. The focus is on the modernisation of the Air Force and the Navy, drafting college graduates into the PLA, informationalisation of the PLA, including the force commanders into the CMC while maintaining absolute control of the party over the PLA, equipping the PLA for counter- insurgency and counter-terrorism tasks. The deployment of the navy in the Gulf of Aden to meet the challenge of piracy in the Somalian waters is seen as a new task. The protection of Chinese maritime assets and securing its supply lanes are also tasks that the refurbished navy will perform.
    • China is projecting modernisation of PLA in a positive light. It is releasing more information about PLA probably to show that China’s economic rise is matched by its military rise too. “Peace and development remain themes of the times, yet the world is not peaceful," said Defence Minister Liang at the PLA’s 82nd anniversary celebrations. China's military would enhance exchanges and deepen cooperation with foreign armed forces to fulfil its international obligations and responsibilities.


    China’s rise is projected as peaceful and beneficial for the world. China’s economic growth and its accumulation of wealth, it is said, will help the world. China is not defensive about its military modernisation. PLA modernisation is projected as a positive development for global peace and stability.

    In the US decline, China sees an historic opportunity for itself. China sees itself as a pole for stability in a world suffering from a number of ills and afflictions.

    China is aware that while its economy has grown, its military strength and its per capita income still lag behind those of developed countries. China will continue with its catch-up-efforts. This implies China’s continuing quest for energy, mineral and strategic resources around the world.

    The riots in Xianjiang and Tibet have only strengthened China’s resolve to deal with the problem of “splittism, terrorism and separatism” firmly. Thus, China could be expected to follow hard line policies to quell internal dissent.

    China takes a condescending view of South Asia. The Chinese writing on South Asia depict the region as mired in terrorism, low economic growth and poverty. The future outlook is considered to be bleak.

    China is concerned about developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan but would resist getting directly involved in the messy situation there. Pakistan would remain an all-weather friend although the growing radicalisation of Pakistani society worries China. It would like to see the US weaken itself further in Afghanistan while awaiting the right moment to step in when the US eventually leaves Afghanistan. China’s purchase of Ainaq Copper mines in Afghanistan, the second largest in the world, for about $ 5 billion gives a hint of China’s strategy. China’s increasing presence and involvement in Gilgit-Baltistan, the massive investment in military and civilian infrastructure in Tibet, are other indications of China’s long term strategy of increasing pressure on India’s northern periphery.

    Fundamentally, China regards India as a rival and competitor. It recognises India’s economic rise but would like to keep India confined to the South Asia box. It would resist India’s growing influence in South East Asia or elsewhere. China has followed a calculated policy of increasing pressure on India by taking a hard line on the border issue. There have been critical commentaries (Ma Jiali, June 2009) on the issue of ADB funding for projects in Arunachal Pradesh. China is also increasing its influence in India’s neighbourhood, including in the Indian Ocean.

    China is shedding its coyness about its rise. It asserts boldly that it has a role in shaping the global order and that its views cannot be ignored. It is likely to follow assertive security and foreign policies in the future. It will challenge the US while also maintaining cooperative relations. PLA’s modernisation and its new military doctrine are designed to enhance China’s power.