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China - Sleeping Tiger

China - Sleeping Tiger

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Sleeping Tiger: China as the Next Superpower

Ryan Wulpi Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne

English W233-02 Professor Thomas Kaough

October 18, 2004

Throughout the Cold War, the world viewed the United States as a ‘big brother’, coming to the aid of weaker countries and as a buffer to the aggressive policies of the communist Soviet Union. Now, since the fall of the USSR, China has moved to the forefront of remaining communist countries. Therefore, our focus will lie within this context. The necessity for another superpower in the world becomes more apparent currently, in this election year, than we have seen in the last 15 years. The go-it-alone approach that the current administration utilizes has run its course. Throughout the Cold War, the world viewed the United States as a ‘big brother’, coming to the aid of weaker countries and as a buffer to the aggressive policies of the communist Soviet Union. Now, since the fall of the USSR, and the rise of Russia in its place, comprised with the Bush Administration’s foreign polices, the world now perceives us as a ‘big bully.’ The international community needs an additional superpower to ascend and develop into a buffer against the United States. The United States has gone from promoting democracy to imposing it upon the world.

Wariness of a Sleeping Tiger
The occupation by the Japanese in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party coming to power in 1949 were turbulent times in China’s history. The People’s Republic of China emerged from the civil war between the Nationalists and Mao’s Communists (Hynes). The main

and stated goal of communism is the violent overthrow of the bourgeois or ruling class, by the proletariat, or working class. Inevitably, communists believe, there will be a conflict of these two social classes and from that will emerge a new socialist order. China historically remains behind the other industrialized nations economically. However, there have been changes on the horizon. The economic reforms introduced by Mao Zedong’s successor Deng Xiaoping in the late seventies have transformed the Chinese economy and produced a period of spectacular growth. China’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, has quadrupled in only 15 years (Hynes). To keep up this amazing growth, the Chinese are going to have to give more autonomy to the people to determine the course of private business. Once this happens, as it did in the former Soviet Union, the people will start wanting more autonomy in the political arena. The Chinese have shown that they are unwilling to loosen their grip and allow any questioning of the leadership of the Communist Party. The image that most Americans have of China is the images from June 3 & 4th, 1989, when the Chinese army opened fire on unarmed students inside Tiananmen Square (Koppel). China’s rise as an economic power, combined with its large-scale program to modernize its military, raises the question of how they will use this power. Associated with this newfound power we have seen an increase in China’s territorial claims in the region (Hynes).

The Taiwan Issue
The issue of democratic Taiwan’s independence from communist China remains a contentious topic in the Sino-US relationship. It will ultimately lead to

a collision between the United States and China. The United States utilizes Taiwan to contain communist China, although eventually the Taiwanese are going to demand independence. The Chinese are immensely afraid of the spread of Taiwanese democracy to the mainland. Therefore, they regard any TaiwanChinese disagreement as an internal matter, and have repeatedly warned the United States from pushing its weight around in the Far East. The United States continues to supply arms to Taiwan even in the face of condemnation by mainland China. The Chinese have been playing lip service for quite some time, mainly because of a lack of military strength. However, times are changing; within the last 15 years, China has embarked on an ambitious military modernization program. Due to secrecy surrounding military matters, the actual size of military spending has been hard to determine. Officially, China’s 1996 defense budget was $8.7 billion US dollars. Independent estimates vary from $8 billion to $100 billion US dollars. Regardless of the independent estimates, the official Chinese defense budget reveals a 200 percent increase since 1988 (Hynes).

Burning Question
A large area for concern relates to the resources that will be required to ensure China’s continued existence. China has 22 percent of the world’s population, but only 7 percent of cultivatable land. Just feeding the population will require ninety million more tons of food in the year 2000 than it did in 1995 (Hynes). With this massive buildup of military strength, compounded with the booming economy, the question remains: How will China exert her newfound

power and influence in the Far East? Will she challenge the United States over Taiwan? The sphere of influence of the United States includes South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Those three countries are much too important economic and military partners for the United States to sit idly by and let China exert more and more pressure on these allies. It remains critical that the West not be naïve to the intentions of communist China. With its ambitions concerning territorial claims, the challenges it will face providing for its population and the insecure and suspicious nature of its communist government, the West could face a potentially serious threat from China in the future (Hynes). Any pressure by the West to promote human rights and democracy in China represents a direct threat to the current regime. The viciousness of the Tiananmen Square massacre should serve as a warning of the magnitude the Chinese Communist Party places on maintaining power. In its effort to emerge as a great power, China has changed its security strategy from defensive to offensive. If it chooses to act based on the example set forth by the former Soviet Union, could potentially undermine the current world order (Dellios).

Engagement or Containment?
What’s left after all this, begs the question of whether a policy of engagement or containment will better suit the West in dealing with China. There needs to be a two-pronged approach to these dealings with communist China. One needs to contain the communist aggressiveness, but on the other hand, the West should also attempt to engage China on a wide array of issues. The only

problem with engagement is the line between engaging the Chinese and appeasing them. We as leader of the free world cannot appease an aggressive and oppressive communist regime such as China. We have to stay strong and allow diplomacy to work, but also remind the Chinese, while in one hand we hold an olive branch, we also, as Teddy Roosevelt would say, hold a ‘big stick’ in the other.


Hynes, Major H.A. “China: The Emerging Superpower.” War, Peace and Security WWW Server. Ex. New Horizon 1997-98 www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/doctrine/0046.htm Koppel, Andrea. “The new superpower on the block: Should the U.S. contain or engage China?” CNN Special Report, “The Bigger Picture” 8 Oct. 2000 www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/democracy/bigger.picture/stories/China

Dellios, Rosita. “China-United States Relations: The New Superpower Politics.” The Culture Mandala Vol. 3 no. 2 pp 1-20 Copyright Rosita Dellios August 1999. www.international-relations.com/cm3-2/Sino-USweb.html

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