Author: Eliana Valdez Vainstein
After almost three decades of the Cold War, an event that resulted in the establishment of a unipolar order with the United States at the top, the world is experiencing a process of reconfiguration. Power has become more diffuse, it has spread and now falls strongly not only on one actor. Whether we speak of a bipolar or multipolar world order - this is a great debate today - one thing is clear and that is that there is no such system in which a single power prevails. A challenging actor of this order in recent years is China, the so-called Asian giant that has been deploying magnanimous strategies of influence around the globe, making people today wonder: Will China be the new and greatest center of world power?
Source: The New Daily
STRENGTHENING CHINA'S GLOBAL PRESENCE
In the last twenty years, two moments have been key to the accelerated and drastic rise of China. The first being, around 2004, when then-President Hu Jintao decided to link his country's foreign policy with a series of soft power strategies. It made China a more attractive state in the international sphere thanks to public diplomacy, the multilateralism, international cooperation, the projection of credibility, responsibility and above all, the diffusion of its millenary and rich culture (Rodríguez & Leiva, 2013). The long-term benefits of this trend are clear. To date, China is the second largest economy in the world and the country with the largest workforce, its official language is the second most in demand worldwide, it fights very evenly with the United States for the position of the first military power, it is a leader in the geopolitical transformations of the world as well as in the scientific and technological development, it has the largest presence in terms of international cooperation, and its investments around the globe are becoming stronger.
The second highlight is the presidency of Xi Jinping, who, since 2013, decided to focus his country's foreign policy on pragmatism and idealism, proposed to transform both political and economic relations, inside and outside China. Since 2013, China has become the guarantor and promoter of a series of investments and development of the most ambitious projects. Xi Jinping was aware that being a participant, builder and contributor to the international system would be vital for the achievement of its national interests (Xinhua, 2015). Thus, this new approach, allowed China to turn its attention to specific regions such as Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Southeast Asia for comprehensive cooperation partnerships based on equality and mutual benefit and development (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, 2008).
INVESTMENTS AND FINANCING
The greatest representation of everything that the Asian giant aims to achieve can be seen in the megaproject of the New Silk Road; an ambitious plan that has cost the Chinese government around 900 billion dollars and which is willing to connect the 68 countries involved through different sea and land routes. Xi Jinping guaranteeing the promotion of economic investments and cooperation, a more dynamic commercial exchange, continuous development, and possibilities for diversifying their economies, the proposal could not have been more attractive for the countries that are already within the initiative. The real benefit for China? Assured access to the raw materials and resources necessary to maintain its gigantic manufacturing industry, greater presence, and influence over the decisions of these States, as well as geopolitical advantages.
Xi Jinping at the 2017 Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Source: Reuters
At the same time, the increase in Chinese power materializes in the series of investments and financing that it has carried out for Latin America and Africa specifically. For Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador or Bolivia, China has already become its first commercial partner. It is not only spoken in terms of exports and imports, but also investments. In recent years, the Asian giant has achieved the acquisition of the main Peruvian energy distribution company Luz del Sur, one of the largest presences in the mining sector in Peru, managing companies such as Chinalco or Shoughang, millionaire financing by Chinese banks such as the EximBank-China in Bolivia, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Colombia, and infrastructure financing in African countries such as Senegal, Rwanda, Angola, Kenya, among others. (Florez & Cruz, 2017) In this sense, it can currently be seen that China's financing to developing countries is already a success in terms of its crucial and strong international positioning (Rincón, 2019).
Xi Jinping during tour around Africa, a strategic continent for China. Source: Reuters & El País
BET ON MULTILATERALISM AND COOPERATION
The commitment to multilateralism and cooperation, especially with developing countries, is the new move for the Asian giant; this despite the fact that multilateralism suffers a generalized crisis and that other powers are choosing protectionism and to cooperate with their own situation rather than international cooperation. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, has served China to put this into practice and position itself as one of the main saviors of the crisis. During the West’s state of emergency in the first months after the pandemic was declared, China donated medical supplies, calling itself the new international humanitarian aid assistant (Rincón, 2019). Likewise, the Chinese multilateralism and cooperation allowed to have an increasing in international organizations and greater submission and dependence from its western developing allies.
There is no doubt that China is today one of the main superpowers, precisely the second largest global power. The world order is different now, considering that power no longer rests entirely within a single actor and that the traditional hegemony is being challenged. However, it is also true that behind all Chinese power is the Communist Party, a totalitarian regime known for repressing a series of individual freedoms and rights, for manipulating information that could have prevented the current international crisis, as well as for trying to undermine some democracies, and going ahead with its dominance aspirations: case of Hong Kong or Taiwan. This has been counterproductive for its power career, considering that these facts go against China´s goal of becoming a more reliable actor in the international arena. Given this, it can be said that, although Chinese growth cannot be denied, it still has many things to do to become the first power in the world. His counterpart, the United States, is still fighting it when it comes to political values and ideals and the reliability of its system.
Rodríguez, I. & Leiva, D. (2013). El Soft Power en la Política Exterior de China: Consecuencias para América Latina. 01/10/20, from Universidad del Desarrollo – Chile. Website: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260770857_El_soft_power_en_la_politica_exterior_de_China_consecuencias_para_America_Latina
Xinhua. (2015). Resumen: Presidentes de China y EEUU conversan durante 3 horas en Blair House. 01/10/20, from Xinhua. Website: http://spanish.xinhuanet.com/2015-09/25/c_134660577.htm
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de la República Popular China. (2008). Texto íntegro del Documento sobre la Política de China hacia América Latina y el Caribe. 02/10/2020. Website: https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/esp/zxxx/t521035.shtml
Florez, M. & Cruz, D. (2017). La Movida Regional de China en América Latina. Bogotá, Colombia: Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad.
Rincón, E. (2019). Coronavirus: La Estrategia de China Para Impulsar un Nuevo Orden Mundial. 02/10/20, from Panam Post. Website: https://es.panampost.com/emmanuel-rincon/2020/04/06/coronavirus-china-orden-mundial/