China rising as a peaceful power?

27 Feb

“China’s development, instead of hurting or threatening anyone, can only serve peace, stability and common prosperity in the world” (President Hu Jintao).

China is one of the oldest civilisations and was once the centre of civilisation within both Asia and the world. Chinese Nationalism is therefore formed from the idea of Tianxia – “all under heaven” – where it is the duty of the Chinese people to spread their culture language and values as they are thought of as superior. Chinese culture under Tianxia promotes peace and prosperity and thus ties in with the government’s ideals of a rising peaceful power, thus building on the five principles of coexistence buried deep in Chinese tradition. China has tried to emphasise its role and rise as a peaceful power on the world stage in every aspect of its power.

Politically – at global meetings such as the G20 where prominent Chinese leaders have been quick to emphasise their ‘peaceful rise’, with President Jin Tao claiming that China is a “great responsible power”. Also through their foreign policy showing their cooperation with the US and with the UN over recent issues such as North Korea and imposing sanctions on its neighbour. 

Culturally – via their use of soft power – the Chinese government are using public diplomacy to demonstrate how they are not a threat to the international system. To demonstrate this, they have emphasised their history and tradition which they now see this as a way to exert their soft power influence. For example they have created exhibitions around Asia documenting Zheng He’s exploration –which was peaceful – in comparison to European Colombus’, which was imperialistic and colonial. They are therefore using this opportunity to highlight the differences between their rise and their role on the global sage in comparison to that of the West’s.

Economically – during the most recent financial crisis, China seemed to cooperate with the other leading powers and implemented a very generous stimulus package to boost not only its domestic economy but also the global economy. Furthermore China was the largest contributor to the IMF in 2010.

China’s peaceful rise is deemed so important to the government that they created a white paper in 2011 laying out the future ‘peaceful’ proposals for China. However there are many discrepancies in the document, which states that China wants a peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, but as we have seen recently over disputes in the South China Sea, this policy did not last long. This has led many to claim that China is now stuck in a rut between peace and development – framing the two goals as a juxtaposition for China’s policies.


China white paper pledges peaceful rise:

China’;s peaceful rise is beyond doubt:

Hu Makes 4-point Proposal for Building Harmonious World: 

Five Principles for Peaceful Coexistence:

Teufel Dreyer, June (2007), Chinese Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy Research Institute Newsletter, Vol. 12, No. 5


5 Responses to “China rising as a peaceful power?”

  1. cw12g11 February 28, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    The notion of China emerging as a global power is an ever prominent feature in global politics and it is certainly an idea that looks like it will be sticking around for a long while. China’s rise is arguably only paralleled with America’s global domination in the 20th century however it is looking like the 21st century will ‘belong to China’. Scholars around the world have been pondering this issue for many years trying to articulate an answer. Whilst reading around this topic I found an interesting article by Ping Fu describing China as a piece of bamboo. ‘Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times.’ So is China’s success due to its resilient, dynamic and flexible culture? Personally, I think that is a key factor. Historically, China has exhibited these characteristics when in the face of the impending Japanese invasion in the 1930’s however China strengthened its forces and was consequently successfully in the Second World War. Furthermore, you can see China’s dynamism with its acceptance of different cultures of the Tibetans, Han, Mongols, Manchu’s etc. China had to allow for these different cultures to all live under the same nation which they successfully did. Looking into the future, if China is going to emerge as the sole global hegemonic power then it’s going to have to overcome several obstacles but with its bamboo like characteristics (flexibility, dynamism, resilience) it has a great chance of overcoming those obstacles.
    Peng Fu, ‘Bend Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds’, (London: Portfolio Hardcover, 2012).

  2. ja11g12 March 6, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    I think China will continue to rise peacefully The leaders of China seem to have looked at what other global powers have done when in terms of peace and conflict and learnt from them. China seems to have looked at mistakes made by former superpowers like the USSR, like their economic transformation, and they seem to have learnt from their mistakes (such as the constant threat of conflict) to become a central part of global politics.

  3. na8g10 March 7, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    I agree, and I believe the best way you can see the change in their behaviour is by looking at their relationship with North Korea, which you’ve pointed out.

    The relationship between these two countries has deteriorated over the years and especially in recent years with North Korea’s continued nuclear tests. China have gone from vetoing UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea to supporting resolutions over the last few years.

    “China is North Korea’s closest ally and has a history of resisting tough sanctions on its neighbour. The Chinese envoy made clear that Beijing was displeased by North Korea’s February 12 nuclear test – its third since 2006 – though he cautioned against responding too harshly.
    “We support action taken by the council…A strong signal must be sent out that a nuclear test is against the will of the international community,” he added.”

    Their change in behaviour towards North Korea supports your point that they are becoming a peaceful power. They’re wary of a war that the North Koreans can start and there is not much they could do to stop them. Economically, they could affect the North Koreans with sanctions but military wise I think the Chinese know they can’t control the North Koreans anymore. Their grip over them has slowly deteriorated over the years which has led to China being more wary about them which has been a major factor in their more hard-line approach against the North Koreans.


  4. Zoe Skousbo March 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Peace and prosperity are two ideals that are embedded in traditional Chinese culture, the roots of which stretch back for over a millennium. As China is an emerging superpower it is fortunate that the Nationalist government is promoting peace through rhetoric as a core ideal upon which China can grow into a fully developed and non-hostile world power. However, recent events have contradicted the governments supposed peaceful intentions and will test how far the government is willing to settle disputes through negotiation. The current spat with Japan over an island in the South China Sea as well as the North Korean nuclear testing are two issues that China will have to address; although by what means has yet to be seen. Certainly China will be wary to avoid any conflict and will hopefully further be dissuaded from direct action by the US interventions in the Middle East, which have bogged down America in a seemingly unwinnable conflict. China’s record for dealing with border conflicts in impressive, with ninety per cent being settled by negotiative means. Furthermore, a peaceful and stable China will have positive ramifications for many, including the US as expanding Chinese consumption leads to increased need for US exports.


  5. samhemming March 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    An effort from the Chinese government to pursue a peaceful path is admirable. However the belief that this is builds on a historical difference between China and the west in which China has avoided violence or aggression, which the Zheng He exhibitions seem to try to promote, is not true. It was conquest that united the area known known as China and China has continued to be engaged in warfare since. An example of historical aggression in China’s foreign policy can be seen in the long-standing tension with Japan that has been manifested in war time and time again, both in the Sino-Japanese Wars and the World Wars. In more recent years China has continued to engage in conflict supporting wars in Vietnam and Korea as well as engaging in naval conflict with Vietnam in the 1980s in the Spratly Islands. This could be seen by some as foreboding foreshadowing of current disputes in the South-China Sea.
    I do not mean to suggest the China will set its mind to growing as a world power with conflict. But it seems unfair to credit its growth without conflict to an exclusively Chinese ideology. Instead it seems to be in step with a general decline in the use of militarily controlled zones, such as the European empires, following the devastation of two World Wars. The UN and the failed League of Nations emerged from the World Wars with the ideal of promoting international negotiation. It seems more believable that China is part of an international move away from war rather than acting as a prototype for such an ideal. A country like Iceland, which maintains no military force, serves as a better example of a country dedicated to peace than one which has the largest number of soldiers in the world and second highest investment in its armed forces.

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