Uncertain and demanding challenges on the figurative geopolitical chessboard: China’s present orientation and aspirational inclinations to emerge as a significant and influential player in the convoluted realm of International Relations

Introduction

The world around us precedes an unpredictable period affected by diverse global phenomena. The reverberating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s heinous warfare attacks against Ukraine, dehumanizing and cruel conflict between Israel and Hamas, unprecedented climate calamities, the inevitable expansion in threats of the technology set by the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, cyber and hybrid wars, societal polarisation, rising inequalities, migration crises, democratic backlash and the ideological tensions are only a few examples.

All these negative and indisputable situations have myriad consequences for the resilience of the international relations (IR) area. Nevertheless, even in this complex mosaic of current world dynamics, we cannot neglect the rivalry for supervision among the contemporary great powers concerning the contest between the dichotomies of realism and liberalism and the sparkling tendencies toward authoritarian and power inclinations and deviations from the principles of liberal democracy and fundamental democratic values.

In assessing recent global movements and order, the portrayal of China’s tendencies sparked considerable scholarly, international community and public awareness, raising crucial questions about its geopolitical intentions. As a result, this brief paper will address views about what China’s expansion means for the dynamics of IR and the potential difficulties China confronts in achieving this prominent and desired status.

The question of setting out the rising challenges confronting China’s status quo

As mentioned hitherto the social and political world surrounding us is experiencing volatility and uncertainty resulting from several phenomena. All have implications for the resilience of IR, geopolitics, and the battle for dominance. In assessing recent global directions and International Relations order, the portrayal of China’s geopolitical tendencies sparked considerable attention.

China is one of the world’s oldest societies, having an affluent history and culture. China has played a significant role in influencing the geopolitics of Asia and the world over the millennia. China remains currently the world’s largest populated nation and second most powerful economy, with prevalent tendencies at regional, continental, and even global levels, mainly in structures of nuclear, computer space, energy, military, automotive, medical, and biological technologies, and most currently in chips and Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations.[1] Furthermore, China is a permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and a donor of economic aid and support to developing countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Simultaneously, China remains a robust power defined by the interaction of dictatorship inclinations, capitalism, and global aspirations.[2]

In recent decades, China’s rise as a worldwide economic and military force has had a profound impact on the global geopolitical environment. This expansion may have unpredictable and enormous consequences as the balance of power shifts, and anxiety and uncertainty about their pathways contribute to damaging overreactions, provocations, and miscalculations.[3] In addition, from our perspective, it is legitimate to argue that we cannot overlook China’s expanding actions and geopolitical influence on the dynamics of international affairs. We may see China emerging as a worldwide leader not only in economic terms but also in terms of political influence and security risks. Consequently, it is legitimate to say that China’s global impact is already affecting the dynamics of IR in multiple ways.

Those elements point to China as a superpower with a favourable power capital on a global scale. These influential assumptions arise from multidimensional sources, and the purpose of this article is to provide insights into some of them, as well as a possible perspective and suggest possible clarifications to their impact on today’s exacerbated global environment.

Nevertheless, what is more concerning from this viewpoint is that the emergence of China and its ideological narratives and nationalism may challenge the ideals of liberal international order. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that China falls short of fundamental democratic principles and experiences internal upheaval in its structures, which limits its vision of enormous power and raises scepticism about them. Among these are threats to human rights, restricting freedom through surveillance and prosecutions, increasing socioeconomic inequities, and violating liberal values among the restrictive policies and a crippled economy during the coronavirus outbreak, military manoeuvres against Taiwan, inhumane crimes against Uighurs, and an uncertain position regarding Russia’s war against Ukraine.[4] All these jeopardise  liberal and democratic values, which are fighting for surveillance in today’s complex and uncertain world.

Nevertheless, what is more concerning from this viewpoint is that the emergence of China and its ideological narratives and nationalism may challenge the ideals of liberal international order. In this context, we must frame the issues that may challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping’s perspective and intent to „make China great again,“ as well as his vision to reclaim what he believes is China’s rightful place as a world leader and economic, agricultural, and technological superpower.[5] Throughout the article, we will discuss three crucial areas where the repercussions of China’s ambitions are most visible: the purchase of vital land and infrastructure, environmental challenges, and human rights concerns.

Acquisition of benefits from critical regions and infrastructure beyond China’s  boundaries using enticing project methodologies of soft power inclinations and influential measures

Within the examination of the first pathway from our initial assumptions regarding the role of China towards its vision as a world leader and economic, agricultural, and technological superpower in global politics. Precisely, it is appropriate to illustrate China’s efforts within developing countries and the Middle East or African countries, which we consider a significant factor in assessing China’s status quo of ambitiousness.

China’s geopolitical influence in the Middle East and developing countries such as Africa or Latin America has grown significantly in recent decades, owing to its growing economic and military power, need for energy resources, and strategic interests in the region; it is now these region’s most important trading and commercial partner, and it has heavily invested in infrastructure and energy projects.[6]

According to our assessment, China’s actions might seriously alter the international order and geopolitical dynamics. Furthermore, China has emphasised non-interference in its foreign policy approach, which reinforces its diplomatic arrangement and use of so-called soft power to build and promote its objectives by strengthening its economic and political activities and partnerships and multilateral diplomacy, which is precisely one of the features of soft power,[7] which we consider to be a crucial concept in defining China’s position. Inevitably, China benefits from these approaches by constructing a new adaptable model of foreign politics and attaining its considerable soft power rank.

From this vantage point, we cannot overlook China’s well-known infrastructure scheme, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),[8] which emphasises infrastructure connectivity, policy coordination progress, financial integration, unrestricted commerce, personal relationships, peaceful coexistence, shared development, and cooperation between regions;[9] especially regions in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Moreover, the impact on these countries modifies China’s position in the international system from which it profited through its enterprise strategies. While at the same time integrating itself, thus highlighting its growth and posing new geopolitical challenges. These challenges, the balancing of power and cooperation will be essential points, which we clearly recommend not to overlook from an academic perspective and the post-sojourners of other actors in the mosaic of the international community. 

The unavoidable question of climate change and environmental degradation: a critical hindrance to China’s capacity to influence and dominate the existing geopolitical environment

The purpose of this section is to look at another significant factor attracting excessive attention in today’s world, which is the climate crisis and environmental degradation, which can be a crucial impediment to China’s ability to influence and subjugate the current geopolitical environment.

China is the most prominent producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for the vast global emissions,[10] predominantly due to its reliance on coal for energy and its recent and quick economic growth, which will be discussed more in the report’s second section. In addition, Chinese emissions exceed those of all industrialised nations combined,[11] which is extraordinarily concerning.

At this point, we must acknowledge that these facts have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the Chinese people, and they also contribute to global environmental concerns such as climate change, air pollution, water insecurity, desertification, soil disintegration and nuclear obliteration.[12] The hitherto examined consequences, in turn, have a significant impact on the dynamics of the geopolitical environment and contemporary attitudes towards China.

Criticism and scepticism about stability, adaptation, and further steps of China towards the seriousness of the climate crisis, which risks falling short in handling the menaces posed by climate change, is legitimate to ask at this stage. From this standpoint, it will potentially damage and limit China’s chances of becoming an influential or dominating member of the international system. As an operative step, the international community requires developing an effective dialogue with China to cooperate and build trust to demonstrate that the world is committed to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges and establish straightforward limits on China’s energy, strategic, and economic plans. Nonetheless, as we have seen in China’s recent fast proliferation, this would be the most challenging feature or impediment to China’s ascent, transformation, and impact on the imaginative global geopolitical chessboard.

The complex reality of the human rights issues

Within the last part of our presented mosaic, we must deliberately assume that China’s narrative regarding human rights has hampered its ambitions to become an outstanding global leader on an imaginary geopolitical chessboard. In this sense, the compliance, respect and quality of the human rights situation in China are also perceived by many academics, especially in the context of imprisonment, intimidation, punishment, prosecution and persecution of people for condemning the procedures of government authorities, as well as the restriction of freedom of speech, expression and assembly, restricting and repressing civil society, in particular against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) along with the legalisation of restrictive laws.[13]

All of this, in our opinion, has provoked worldwide controversy and increased concerns about Chinese commitment to fundamental human rights standards. For illustration, China’s oppression of fundamental human freedoms and dignity of Uyghur inhabitants in the independent region of Xinjiang and other minority groups as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and rights of women, suppression of political clashes at home by cultivated means of progressive technological achievements followed by increased efforts of China to enter United Nations (UN) human rights structures to oppose liberal nations and to defend itself against its objection and last area is Chinese unwavering resistance to the premise that liberal democracy is the foundation of the global order with its tendencies of illiberal approach to human rights with hostility to liberal principles.[14] 

In all seriousness, all these acts are dreadful and should not be tolerated by the international, academic, or civil society communities. Furthermore, if required, we must consider suitable measures and repercussions to demonstrate a clear stance of resistance to human rights breaches. These all are the foundation for our suggestions to continue raising human rights problems with China through diplomatic constructive partnership to encourage dialogue and discussion and, as a result, contribute to a more rights-respecting global community.

Eventually, we should highlight, as seen by crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, when Xi Jinping’s narrative of a „zero-tolerance“ stance towards COVID-19 strengthened the government prominence by instituting coercive mechanisms such as individual prosecution in the masked motivation of public health.[15] Undoubtedly, this pervasive phenomenon persists and is neither justified nor remedied by the mentioned fact of rapid economic growth and expanding global influence, which we see as an unprecedented factor undermining the worldwide prominence of China.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the People’s Republic of China’s expansion into the geopolitical theatre presents a complex and multifaceted challenge to the dynamics of the IR environment. While its economic progress and growing influence have undoubtedly reshaped the global landscape, China’s ambitions are not without their potential pitfalls and concerns.

Soft power strategies and other practical and sophisticated projects, such as infrastructure investments and diplomatic acquaintances, have enabled China to acquire substantial geopolitical advantages in various regions, notably in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. However, these improvements have generated worries about hegemonic practices, which bring the possibility of worsening and deepening existing power disparities in the intricacies of IR.

Environmental concerns pose another significant limitation for China’s global expansion. Its rapid industrialization and insatiable energy demands have contributed to severe environmental degradation, both domestically and internationally. Addressing these concerns will require a concerted effort from China to adopt sustainable practices and harmonize its economic growth with environmental protection.

Human rights issues also remain a contentious aspect of China’s global engagement. Its authoritarian political system pathways and disregard for fundamental human rights values and freedoms have seduced widespread criticism and concerns. Discoursing these considerations will necessitate a paradigmatic transformation within China’s deeply rooted attitudes, embracing fundamental democratic principles, and values and supporting human rights as universal values essential for the prosperity of society.

At the conclusion of this brief article, we may presume that China’s route to global power and influence will be contingent on its capability to handle and confront these issues effectively and without selfishness or pride. Transparency, accountability, and commitment to international norms will be critical in obtaining the international community’s trust and cooperation. To guarantee that its global expansion benefits all stakeholders, China should exhibit a sincere commitment towards human rights issues and sustainable development. Only after eliminating, and with a humble and respectful awareness of, these multifaceted impediments can China reveal its real potential and intentions to become an influential international force in the IR arena.


Zdroje:

[1] LARSEN, C, B.: The geopolitics of AI and the rise of digital sovereignty. [online], [cit. 6/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete: <https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-geopolitics-of-ai-and-the-rise-of-digital-sovereignty/>

[2] MITTER, R.: The World China Wants. [online], [cit. 6/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2020-12-08/world-china-wants>

[3] NYE, J, J, S.: The Rise of China. In Foreword by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. and Condoleezza Rice Preface by Nicholas Burns Edited by Leah Bitounis and Jonathon Price, The Struggle for Power: US-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century, 2020, s.132- 138.

[4] RUDD, K.: The World According to Xi Jinping What China’s Ideologue in Chief Really Believes. [online], [cit. 6/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete: <https://www.foreignaffairs.com/china/world-according-xi-jinping-china-ideologue-kevin-rudd>

[5] PBS.: China Power and Prosperity. [online], [cit. 6/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/china-power-and prosperity-full-documentary>

[6] LONS, C.; FULTON, J.; SUN, D.; AL-TAMIMI, N.; China’s great game in the middle east. [online], [cit. 27/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://ecfr.eu/wp-content/uploads/china_great_game_middle_east.pdf>

[7] DVORSKÝ, T.; Čínska mäkká moc a slovenská skúsenosť. Košice : Katedra politológie FF UPJŠ v Košiciach, 2022. 

[8] RAHMAN, U, Z.; A comprehensive overview of China’s belt and road initiative and its implication for the region and beyond. [online], [cit. 27/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete :<https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/pa.2298>

[9] SCHULHOF, V.; VUUREN, V, D.; KIRCHHERR, J.; The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): What Will it Look Like in the Future? [online], [cit. 27/10/2023]. Dostupné na internete :<https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004016252100740X>

[10] PRYTHERCH, M., KENNETH G, L., HASS,R . : Unpacking China’s climate priorities. [online], [cit. 8/11/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://www.brookings.edu/articles/unpacking-chinas-climate-priorities/>

[11] BBC. : Report: China emissions exceed all developed nations combined. [online], [cit. 8/11/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-57018837>

[12] MAIZLAND, L. : China’s Fight Against Climate Change and Environmental Degradation . [online], [cit. 8/11/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-climate-change-policies-environmental-degradation>

[13] DVORSKÝ, T.; Čínska mäkká moc a slovenská skúsenosť. Košice : Katedra politológie FF UPJŠ v Košiciach, 2022. 

[14] JONES,B.: YEO, A. : China the challenge to global order . [online], [cit. 24/11/2023]. Dostupné na internete : <https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/FP_20230214_china_global_order_jones_yeo.pdf>

[15] HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH .: World Report 2022 : China. Human Rights Watch. [online], [cit. 24/11/2023]. Dostupné na internete :<https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/china-and-tibet#981f12>

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