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ACTIVITY: China as a Superpower


Print and read the article China as a Superpower. Evaluate the authors arguments. Discuss the article critically with your course mates. You may use the questions below as a guide in critically reviewing the article. Review the note on Elements of Thought. Print your evaluation and bring it to the next tutorial.


1. How would you classify the article? Fiction/Sports/Entertainment/Business/Opinion/Commentary/Travel?

2. What is the source of the article?

3. Who is the author? 4. What are the issues (problems/questions) raised in the article? 5. What are the authors conclusions or inferences?

6. What is the information (data, evidences) used to support the claims?

7. Identify the assumptions (beliefs) underlying the authors claims. Is there any basis in the assumptions?

8. What are the ideas (key concepts/theories/hypotheses) in the authors reasoning?

9. What is the authors perspective or point of view? That is, how does he approach the issue/question? Do we need to consider another point of view?

10. What are the implications of the authors claims and reasoning?

11. What do you think is the authors purpose? Is the article fair or one-sided? Does he have any vested interest in this issue? Is he sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?


China as a Superpower
Joschka Fischer

YALTA Given its rapid and successful development, there can be no doubt that the Peoples Republic of China will become one of the dominant global powers of the twenty-first century. Indeed, despite the massive problems that the country is confronting, it could even emerge as the global power. But it would be a mistake to assume that the reemergence of so-called XXL powers like China and India will simply bring a continuation of Western traditions. We will have to deal with a different type of superpower. Ever since the European powers set sail at the end of the fifteenth century to conquer the world, historiography and international politics have become accustomed to a certain pattern: military, economic, and technological power is translated into the exercise of influence over other countries,

conquest, and even global dominance and empire. This was particularly true in the twentieth century, when, in the wake of two world wars, the United States and the Soviet Union replaced the European world powers on the global stage. The Cold War and the period of US global dominance after 1989/1990 followed this pattern as well. But Chinas rise to global power, I believe, will not, owing to its massive population of 1.2 billion people, which threatens to overstretch the structures of any kind of government system and its decision makers. This is all the more true in times of rapid fundamental change, as is occurring in China now. The permanent danger of overstretching the countrys internal political structures is unlikely to permit any imperial foreign-policy role. Insofar as this is true, the United States wont be replaced as the dominant power unless and until it abdicates that role. This may sound simple, but it will have farreaching consequences for the coming centurys international order. The vital interests guiding Chinese policy are internal modernization, the ruling regimes political stability and survival, and the countrys unity (which includes Taiwan). These interests are unlikely to change for a long time. As a result, China will become a largely inward-looking superpower, which precisely for that reason will pursue its foreign-policy interests in a completely unsentimental manner. Militarily, China will focus primarily on its regional supremacy, because the countrys unity depends on it. Otherwise, though, the transformation of Chinas economy and society will be all-important, because the regimes stability depends on it. For the Chinese leadership, this means that a growth rate of about 10% per year will be essential for a long time. Otherwise, the rapid and fundamental transformation of the country from a largely agrarian to an ultra-modern industrialized society could not proceed without destabilizing the system. But this focus on internal growth will have massive political consequences, both domestically and in foreign-policy terms. Domestically, China will be the first country that, due to its sheer size and required GDP growth, is forced to pursue a green economy. Otherwise, China would quickly reach its limits to growth, with disastrous ecological and, as a result, political consequences. Since China will be the most important market of the future, it will be decisive in determining not only what we produce and consume, but how. Consider the transition from the traditional automobile to electric transport. Despite European illusions to the contrary, this will be decided in China, not in the West. All that will be decided by the Wests globally dominant automobile industry is whether it will adapt and have a chance to survive or go the way of other old Western industries: to the developing world. In foreign-policy terms, China will attempt to protect its domestic transformation by securing resources and access to foreign markets. Sooner or later, though, Chinas government will come to realize that Americas role as a global regulator is indispensible for Chinas vital foreign-policy interests, because China is unable to assume that role, other global players arent available, and the only alternative to the US would be a breakdown of order. This US-Chinese tandem will run far from smoothly, and will do little but ameliorate crises and periods of serious economic and political confrontation, like that which is currently looming over the bilateral trade imbalance. Strategically, however, China and the US will have to rely on one another for a long time. This co-dependency will, at some point, also take shape politically, probably to the chagrin of all other international players, particularly the Europeans.

Europe could change the course of this development only if it presented itself as a serious player and stood up for its interests on the global stage. The G-2 of China and the US would probably be happy about that. But Europe is too weak and too divided to be effective globally, with its leaders unwilling to pursue a common policy based on their countries own strategic interests. Joschka Fischer, a leading member of Germanys Green Party for almost 20 years, was Germanys Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998 until 2005.