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Intro –

There is a major debate within political-academic circles that China could dominate the 21st Centaury. My position, based on civilizational analysis will argue that this is a very likely possibility, just as the 19th Century is said to be ruled by the British, the 21st Century could very possibly be dominated by China. Ironically to be able to achieve this feat, Communist China will have to behave like the Capitalistic United States. By reviewing and comparing their philosophy, history, economics and foreign policy, we can perhaps attain an educated predication of what the future of China and US roles will be within the near future.

To understand future trends is to be well-versed with history. The so-called ‘rise of China’ is a misunderstanding, as China is an ancient civilization which historically peaked and declined, meaning the current build-up should not be considered a ‘rise’ but yet another periodical reassertion of their status and influence. Because there has been so many different ‘personas’, for this particular writing, I will be concentrating my efforts on Communist China.

The Hegemonic Stability Theory, as historical economist Charles P. Kindleberger proposes, is that the world will become stable only when a single nation-state becomes a Hegemon. The Superpower will show their ‘preponderance of power’ through the use of diplomacy, coercion, persuasion or even by military force in order to rule political and/or economic relations on an international level.[1] What this indicates is the realist ‘Long-Cycle Theory’ as stated by Professor George Modelski, which has the perspective that the international system comes in waves which power is transferred from one Nation to another. This is usually caused by highly destabilizing events such as national economic hardship and/or world war[2]. According to Prosser Modelski there has been five cycles which have taken place – 16th Century Portugal, the Netherlands dominating the 17th century, followed by Great Britain which managed to have a particular strong showing which lasted from the 18th century to the latter part of the 19th century. From this point onwards the United States claimed dominance until today.[3] By this trend, when analyzing America within the last decade, the ‘War on Terror’ combining the 2008 Financial Crisis, it’s my realist opinion is that America is due to fall soon. With the rise of other nations, such as India and Brazil, it seems that it is China that will attain the status to fill the vacuum of power within the International System.

 Overall Assessment of IR

Although assessing the relationship between the two modern Superpowers has been complex, I believe that historical hermeneutics has been extremely benefitual in helping me understand the multiplicity. This form of investigation helped form my realization that I am an advocate of the English School of International Relations Theory, specially the Pluralists wing of the philosophy.

The espoused convictions of this particular school of thought are that ideas, instead of material capabilities, mold international relations. In regards to the global system, the English School agrees with Realists that it recognizes that there is a ‘system’ in existence, only when two or more states begin significant interactions with one another. Power politics known ‘Machtpolitik’ is always in some way at play due to international anarchy. However, what separates the English School from other schools of thought, as explained by Hedley Bull, is that all states share the fear of war or ‘unrestricted violence’, therefore an understanding has come about in the form of an unofficial ruleset[4].The ruleset is conserved by institutions which include diplomacy, war, international law, great powers and the balance of power, while upholding the individual sovereignty by each state. In other words, states can champion their interests but not at all costs. I find myself in agreement with Hedley Bull interpretation of English School IR theory, in that a sovereign state must promote and protect their basic way of life and hence survival. but not trample the rights and the integrity of others[5]. Basically, the English School seeks to find an alternative to power politics of realism and the revolutionist utopianism.

In regards to the Pluralists, as explained by academic Robert Jackson, the diversity of the many factors which make up humanity such as ethnic, cultural, political, religious and, so on, has the greatest chance at any semblance of what can be considered ‘peace’, is to allow states the independence to express the principals and values in the form of a popular elected form of government by its residents. This will achieve the greatest chance to the relative interpretation of what would be considered the ‘Good Life’[6].

How this all applies to China and America is that the concepts which the United States of the early twentieth century and modern China is that, I believe that the English School is the form of IR thought which both Superpowers promoted.

Philosophy –

To understand the mentality of the Chinese people is to understand their philosophic world outlook. The core ideology is Confucianism, which is seen as a secular-Humanist belief that the individual, through virtue and improvement, can achieve his/her true potential. It could be argued that the Communist-Chinese being aware of the similarities of Confucianism and Communism, in an effort to attain creditability and legitimacy in the eyes of the population, tied to two together. I can think of the example of the Italian Fascists tying their philosophy to the legacy of Giuseppe Mazzini, even though they previously denounced him[7]. The fact that Communism has embedded within itself the notion of the ideal archetype which people must work towards irrespective of their cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, creating a single people, was child’s play to merge the two rationales together. This distortion of Confucianism was firmly established with the minds of the common people under the program known as the ‘Mao Zedong Thought Reform’[8].

Although, this idea of Secular-Humanism is nothing new within China, it has seen an upswing within the Western world with the increased acceptance of Atheism and the deification of science. This can be traced back to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, which pushed the concepts of European Intellectualism which completely embraced the secular belief of scientific rationality. It seems that the West has adopted a form of Liberal-Democratic-Humanism, where the individual is predominately the most important ideal to uphold. The ‘Lib-Dem’ component indicates a bottom-up egalitarian approach of how this should be enacted, such as the mindset of John Locke[9]. Most notably, Julian Huxley was a strong of supporter of Humanism, which advocated the idea that secularism is a natural evolutionary step for mankind to take to create harmony, just as Man had developed speech, to improve society’s relationship for one another[10]. I believe as idealistic as this notion may be, it must be remembered if taken to the extreme, this form of individualism can transform into Social-Darwinism.

In contrast to the West, the Chinese has the idea of Secular-Confucian-Authoritarian-Humanism, where the group is predominately the most important ideal to uphold. Although it can be seen as egalitarian also, the approach that is taken is a top-down as the group of who is deemed to be creditable will take the decisions as founder of Socialism Karl Marx had demanded. Just as individualism is a highly desirable ideal, but when taken to extreme can cause harm, the Chinese Confucian-Authoritarianism has taken the idea of civic-duty to the extreme to the point of destroying the concept of individualism and submit to the hive-mind of Communism.

I do think that both, Asian Confucianism and Western Secular-Humanism, does have global ambitions as the Government to use in order to justify its decisions without having to give importance to such virtues as human rights and morality and therefore inhuman atrocities could be allowed to transpire as it will be ‘the end justify the means’. The Soviet Union is the best example I can show of this concept coming to pass, as its Scientific Socialism attempted to produce their self-improved ‘Soviet-Man’ and later territorial growth[11]. It seems that the West has created their equivalent with the idea of the ‘Global Citizen’ along with the combination of ‘Spreading Democracy’ across the world.

When the case of Human Rights is analyzed in all three above examples, there is a trend to see them dwindled away and hypothetically has to deal with the potential of Democide (death by own government). If that transpires, the idea of global domination is possible, as the Hegemon would think itself unbeatable, but that does not mean militarily but politically and/or economically. If a Government willing to do that to its own people, than it would have no qualms of expanding outside its boarders if it deems it successful to do so, simply because the establishment thinks it can.

Foreign Policy –

The Secular-Confucian- Humanism can be found within the British, American, and Chinese as well, philosophies of world order or at least regional dominance. This can blatantly be seen in the shift of Foreign Policy in both Superpowers.

The Anglo-American ideology is now more of an imperialist mindset, the United States until the end of the Second World War maintained the foreign policy of non-interventionism. They were content in improving their own civilization without concern for events around them. The era of US isolationism saw the policy of neutrality which saw the creation of the Jay Treaty, which set the precedent for the standard diplomatic policy of America staying out of the affairs of others.

This system basically remained until the 19th Century, until the Woodrow Administration joined the First World War. I would submit that this was the very beginnings of the turn which America had shifted from a Republic to and Imperial Power. The American public however still had a strong sense of National Sonverity and wished to return back to their non-interventionist roots. This was reflected during the interwar years which saw Congress pass the ‘Neutrality Acts’ which prohibited the trade with a Nation at war to avoid being dragged into its conflict[12]. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized the entire people and they joined the World War. After this event dawned the Cold War, which out of fear of the ‘Domino Theory’, had the US take a more of an imperialist turn. From this point the United States consistently participated in very single conflict around the world. When the Soviet Union fell, it was declared ‘the end of history’ with the United States as champion in a now unipolar world. It was at this opportunity that the US could have reverted back to their isolationist roots, but it appears that the aspect of world domination proved to be too tempting and now under the disguise of ‘keep the world safe’ they have now spread across the global virtually unchallenged.

It must be noted that it was never a typical Chinese trait to be expansionist. Although they were not isolated to the point never attempting discovery, it was not to the point as the West which is now expansionist to the point of obsession. There is some school of thought that they even discovered America in 1421, but never colonized the territory as it was against their natural concept of the priority of nation-building their homeland[13].  It can be said that the Chinese Foreign Policy is very similar to the US pre-WWI where the newly form establishment decided to focus on unifying the Nation just after a bloody civil war, into a cohesive unit and therefore mimicked the US Founding Fathers isolationist mindset. It strove to make inroads within the international community by signing ‘Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance’and later championed the Non-Aligned Movement. When Richard Nixon along with Henry Kissinger, China saw the beginnings of the shift of isolationism transforming into non-interventionism. Ironically due to the Cold War, America shifted from non-interventionist into imperialist foreign policy. In more modern times, as recent as the 2005 UN 60th Anniversary, President Hu Jintao made clear the China’s foreign policy being Multilateralism, Mutually beneficial cooperation, Inclusiveness and an overall diplomatic-style of ‘harmonious world-oriented’[14]. Once again this echoes Jeffersonian ideals to avoid entangling alliances and ‘peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.’[15] This completely flies in the face of current US diplomacy of pre-emptive strikes and as pointed out by Jennifer Folker, the overall mindset of the Bush Administration of ‘you’re with us or against us’.[16] An example of Chinas policy at work can be seen during the time when Bush pushed for attacks on North Korea, China smoothed tensions between North and South Korea with the 6-Pack Talks.

Economics –

As strange as it may seem, America after the 2008-Financial Crisis has seen that China is decentralizing while America is centralizing their economies. There is no other document which symbolizes this differentiation in mindset between the United States and Communist China more than the Washington/Beijing Consensus.

The Washington Consensus is a set of economic reforms which can be said to be along the lines of neoliberalism and which the US Treasurery Department and International Bodies such as the IMF and World Bank, work together in imposing their will, onto other nations who was experiencing financial crises. According to Dr. Webster Tarpley, what the Washington Consensus advocates is race-to-the-bottom of Shock-Doctrine Economics – deregulation, privatization, abolishment of safety nets, union busting and destroying the state-sector. By implementing the Washington Consensus, America has slowly turned towards Corporatism by adopting Corny-Capitalism which has been the merger of State and Corporate Powers which advocated the Banker Bailouts. True to form, what we are witnessing is an increase of economic backwardness, poverty, unemployment and de-industrialization[17]. They seem to have abandoned of their belief in the true capitalist free-market system which served them for most of their existence.

Arguably what saw Communist China turn itself into a modern Superpower would be the radical economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Under the motto of ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’[18], he essentially turn turned the national economy capitalist. As he had now-famously stated ‘It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.’[19] They were willing to concede, that pure socialism does not work. This should be of no surprise as Historian Anthony Sutton, in his major work ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ had pointed out, the early days of the Bolshevik takeover showed Lenin nearly being defeat just as soon as he began, if not for an unofficial Bailout from the Western Powers, which in turn prompted his New Economic Policy (NEP)[20]. By rejecting both socialism and the capitalist economic systems, the Beijing Consensus has ironically reflected the system similar to the American School of Economics.

The three essential pillars being protectionism, investment in infrastructure and investment in internal banking systems[21]. We can see the parallels between the American School and the Beijing Consensus, as according to economist John Williamson, the Consensus main points are incremental reform, innovation and experimentation, export led growth, state capitalism and authoritarianism[22]. The Consensus essentially advocates promoting self-determination of other states and avoiding interference of sovereign states[23], as Professor Yan Xuetong has stated ‘China traditionally regards it as a shame to grab economic interests by force’.

In my observation, when we view the rise of China and the fall of the United States, it is almost like we are seeing the Hegelian Dialectic at work – Capitalist America, Socialist Russia and now the eventual synthesis of the two in the form of Capitalist- Socialist China. A capitalist economy for the unofficial class of the rich and socialism to keep the masses enjoying any of their rights and freedoms. It seems that the merging unbridled capitalism and oppressive communism within both Nations has taken place.

It is disturbing, but not surprising that America is now viewing China as a nation to worth emulating. It is of no real surprise that the term to describe this trend has been called by historian Neil Ferguson -‘Chi-merica’[24]. In reality the West should not be looking to emulate anyone, but rediscover the six principals that made them successful to begin with; work ethic, competition, science, medicine, consumerism and democracy[25]. It is my belief that the reason that China is succeeding, is because they have adopted most of these principals, and if they adopt the others then there would be no stopping them. This is a possibility was the Beijing Consensus is described as equitable development, independence from outside powers and innovation.

Possible Outcomes

What this inferres geo-politically, is that there is to be a major transformation, where as Andrew Hurrell has argued, the process goes into four phases, state order, delegitimizing of the current hegemonic power and prestige, arms build-up and formation of alliances, hegemonic war and eventually global system renewal[26]. Hurrell suggests three possible outcomes of China rising, they will become supporters and co-manage the global order, spoilers seeking to destroy the existing order and replace it with their own, shrinkers who want the status and power of a superpower but none of the responsibility for help creating or maintaining global governance[27]. In regards to Chinas response I am hopeful that they become shinkers and concentrate on their internal problems and stay out of the affairs of others. Unfortunately I think as the world becoming standardized, which with the Hegelian Dialectic at work in both superpowers along with globalization.

I see the end result being China dominating the 21st Century in a new multi-polar world where they will be the dominate player, much like the Germany in regards to the European Union. I think it’s extreme naïvability to think that Chinese natural tendency to be non-interventionist will shield us from Chinese-expansionism as we have seen the from the US history, they can turn into something they once thought to be the antitheses of their values and principals[28].

Conclusion – Yes it will look to be the dominate player of the 21st Century because Modern China is better at being the United States than America itself –

In conclusion it would seem that the geo-political climate is that modern America is looking at its past-self, remembering of how good they used to be. China could be seeing its future self when it starts to eventually decline and fall. For instance, the US is akin to the Ancient Rome who achieved its peak as a Republic, but when it grew arrogant, it transformed into an imperial power and eventually imploded. China is akin to the up-and-coming superpower of the United States from the 19-20th Century: It has powerful army, strong manufacturing and is staying out of entangling alliances.


[1] Hayes, Jeffrey (2011) World Politics, Pearson Educated Limited, United Kingdom

[2] Harkavy, Robert (1999) Long Cycle theory and the hegemonic powers basing networks, Elsevier Science Ltd.,

[3] Harkavy, Robert (1999) Long Cycle theory and the hegemonic powers basing networks, Elsevier Science Ltd.,

[4] Bull, Hedley (1977). The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, London

[5] Bull, Hedley (1977). The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, London

[6] Jackson, Robert (2003)The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States, Oxford University Press

[7] Denis Mack Smith (1994) Mazzini, Yale University Press, United Kingdom

[8] Lifton, Robert, (1962) Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing” in China, Victor Gollancz Ltd, United Kingdom

[9] Ascraft, Richard (1996) Religion and Lockean Natural Rights, Columbia University Press, United States

[10] Huxley J.(1953) Evolution in action. Chatto & Windus, London, p132. United Kingdom

[11] Skousen, W (1958) The Naked Communist, Buccaneer Books, United States

[12] Zinn, H (1980) A People’s History of the United States, HarperCollins, United States

[13] Wallace David (2004)1421: The Year China Discovered America, PBS, United States

[14] Dellios Rosita, (2011) International Relations Theory and Chinese Philosophy, EASSC Publications, Bond University

[15] Tucker Robert (1990) Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson

[16] Folker, Jennifer (2008) The Emperor Wore Cowboy Boots, University of Connecticut, United States

[17] Tarpley, W (2011) The Next Decade – Webster Tarpley, YouTube Interview

[18] Ramo, Joshua (2004)The Beijing Consensus, Foreign Policy Centre

[19] Ramo, Joshua (2004)The Beijing Consensus, Foreign Policy Centre

[20] Sutton, A (1974) Wall Street and Bolshevik Revolution, Arlington House, United States

[21] Lind, Michael (1994) Hamilton’s Legacy, The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), Vol. 18, No. 3 pp. 40-52

[22] Williamson, John (2012) Is the “Beijing Consensus” Now Dominant?, Asia Policy

[23] Williamson, John (2012) Is the “Beijing Consensus” Now Dominant?, Asia Policy

[24] Ferguson, N (2011) Civilization: Is the West History, Chimerica Media, United Kingdom

[25] Ferguson, N (2011) Civilization: Is the West History, Chimerica Media, United Kingdom

[26] Schweller, R (2011) After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of U.S. Decline, International Security, volume 36, issue 1, pages 41-72

[27] Schweller, R (2011) After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of U.S. Decline, International Security, volume 36, issue 1, pages 41-72

[28] Mearsheimer, John (2006) China’s Unpeaceful Rise, Research Library