Pax Sinica and Xi Dada

Chinese foreign policy formulations have reflected a return to Great Power rhetoric

Ayushman Kaul
Srinagar, Publish Date: Feb 16 2019 11:31PM | Updated Date: Feb 16 2019 11:31PM
Pax Sinica and Xi DadaFile Photo

Pax Americana and Pax Sinica represent two wholly different conceptions of what the New World Order should look like. If Washington’s unipolar moment was premised on the promotion of a western model of liberal-international capitalism in the economic sphere, and promotion of democracy and individual liberty in the socio-political realm than Pax Sinica stands in stark contrast. Beijing’s economic success has shown its policymakers that capitalism is acceptable, provided the ultimate levers of the economy continue to rest with the state. Moreover, by offering the Chinese population the guarantee of continued material prosperity couched in the official rhetoric of ‘national rejuvenation’, the state hopes to satiate its masses while simultaneously legitimising the centralisation and autocratic nature of Communist Party of China’s exercise of state power.  

By making a clear distinction between capitalism as an economic model and its corresponding socio-political reforms, Chinese policymakers have recognised that improved economic well-being remains the surest platform for the Communist Party to continue consolidating and centralising power in the hands of the state while simultaneously retaining their political legitimacy in the eyes of the general population. In this regard, as the Chinese economy grows in strength and stature, so too does the viability of the Chinese model of Capitalism to small and middling powers with authoritarian leaders. Serving as an alternate to Washington’s model of development, Pax Sinica offers prospective buyers the opportunity to provide their populations with greater material wealth while simultaneously precluding the need for liberalization and democratization in the socio-political sphere.

This so-called system “socialism with embedded Chinese characteristics” in the domestic sphere is wedded with an instrumental approach towards the exercise of multi-lateral diplomacy in the foreign realm. Beijing is largely uninterested in playing Washington’s role of the world’s benevolent arbiter of disputes. Chinese policymakers value state sovereignty above all else. In contrast to the US’s involvement in the world’s many localised and regional battlefields across the globe, Chinese policymakers are happy to turn a blind eye.  Accordingly, Chinese foreign policy engagements favour bi-lateral or tri-lateral diplomatic initiatives driven forward by direct engagement between two states rather than the time consuming process of collective bargaining in US-led multi-lateral institutions such as the UN, as has been the norm under Pax Americana.

Given the nature of these central features of Pax Sinica: Promotion of Capitalism with imbedded Asian (read: Authoritarian) values domestically, and respect for state sovereignty and aversion towards collective bargaining through multi-lateral institutions internationally, it remains inherently incompatible with the economic and socio-political imperatives enshrined in the current American Led-Liberal Internationalist World Order. This ideological dichotomy in the way that Chinese and American policymakers conceive of world politics, coupled with Beijing’s increased external engagement in World Affairs together represent decisive factors that all indicate that we are barrelling blindly into an era that will be defined by bitter Sino-American geopolitical and geo-economic competition.

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