Amollo: China’s potential continues to rival the U.S.

Benson Amollo

The world remains full of stark contrasts, a place where universality of preoccupations may not be in tandem with the near-necessities of what they really portend. Depending on where they live, citizens of this kind Earth, hurt differently.

For instance, whereas the American public is subjected to the thoughts of an aggressively rising China — on the face of unemployment and how to slow down the appetite for what China has to offer, the bread and butter issues of the average Kenyan in Nairobi are nothing but radically removed from Chinophobia!

But then, how should the acutely Chinophobic world leaders threatened by the rise of a once paragon of communism handle the unstoppable rise of the panda nation? But, how come China, less distracted by the global war on terrorism, doesn’t seem scared by the potential blows of a world so insecure?

That’s quite a brimful for the West, whose leaders over the past decade have been aggressively feeding their obsession with war, investing massive resources in a meaningless pursuit while the dragon in the East continues to rise. The nature of the international realm coupled with the size and rapid development of China are the reason its rise is feared and unwelcome, ultimately leading to the high chance of conflict in the future.

China has heavily capitalized on the West’s inattention to poor pockets of the world and is reaping all kinds of benefits in an all-imbalanced engagement. China keeps going, unfortunately. A common historical pattern shows power transitions come with international conflicts, and the rise of a superpower is not going to be welcomed by an existing one.

Theory suggests every nation seeks to dominate its own region. What nation would turn down the opportunity to be the most powerful and thus not fear those it shares its borders with? This is precisely the conditions America enjoys, with its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, much weaker than itself and consequently posing no threat.

On this basis, it is perfectly feasible that China will attempt to replicate America’s feat in the Western hemisphere and try to become the hegemon of Asia. Secondly, superpowers will prevent any other nation replicating its achievement in other regions. This is where China will run into problems as its power grows. Evidence of this can be found by taking a quick look at the last two centuries. The United States has intervened across the world to prevent each nation’s run at hegemony since it became a global power; Imperial Germany (1900-19), Imperial Japan (1931-45), Nazi Germany (1933-45) and the Soviet Union during the Cold War (1945-89). Now that it has achieved primacy, it has no plans to lose it.

At the tail end of the Cold War, leaked documents from Washington in 1992 stated clearly the intention of the United States to prevent the emergence of any future global competitor. This is a policy line which has been reiterated by every American president since. Ultimately, the United States does not accept challengers.

America is aware that China continues to decrease the gap in their power, with Goldman Sachs predicting China’s economy will supersede the America’s by 2027. Militarily, while the U.S. defense budget — in spite of recent cuts — continues to dwarf the rest of the world’s, China is not to be overlooked; it has doubled its spending on defense every six years and announced on the March 4 that the People’s Liberation Army will receive a generous $106 billion this year. This increased power has given Beijing a chance to be more assertive internationally, and old claims such as the one to Taiwan and grievances with Japan are likely to re-emerge in its domestic discourse.

China and the United States are unlikely to go head to head in the traditional sense for a number of reasons. First, they are each other’s second biggest trade partners. Second, the economic gains from peaceful cooperation are massive. And finally each power’s weapons can induce devastating damage. Yet there will one day be conflict, history suggests nothing else, and the American-Sino relationship will be scarred by a number of proxy wars.

America will look to contain China and will continue to exert its influence around the globe, particularly in Asia where it has a large vested interest. All that is left to be decided is whether it will be China who acts first, no longer content to tolerate Uncle Sam in its backyard and dance along to America’s tune. Or will Washington finally lose patience with competition from Beijing? Either way, this column must pessimistically conclude war is on the horizon.