Is China Assertive or Aggressive?

At the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China, President Jinping presented a roadmap to realise the Chinese dream of becoming an advanced socialist nation by 2050. Unlike the Western style of ‘opening up’, China is striving to convince the world that ‘Beijing Consensus’ could be a better choice than ‘Washington Consensus’ which was advocated by the US Treasury and the two Bretton Woods institutions, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The term ‘Washington Consensus’ was coined by John Williamson in 1989 which prescribes ten tenets of economic development relating to macroeconomic stability, opening up of economies for trade and investment and expansion of market forces. It promotes the idea of neoliberalism. On the other hand, Joshua Cooper Ramo of the UK’s Foreign Policy Centre coined the term ‘Beijing Consensus’ in 2004 comprising three policy prescriptions for economic development and is now gaining popularity as the Chinese model of development. The policy prescriptions are:

  • Commitment to innovation and constant experimentation.
  • Per Capita Income should not be the only measure of progress rather sustainability of the economic system and distribution of resources are also important indicators.
  • A Policy of self-determination including financial and strategic autonomy.

The Chinese President claims that this model of development is perhaps the best option for developing nations to achieve the goal of modernisation. To cite Xi Jinping, “China will keep developing as a moderately prosperous society between 2020 and 2035, but in the second phase between 2035 and 2050, it will evolve into an advanced nation and will be a global leader in all categories of human importance- economics, governance, Science and Technology and culture.”

In this backdrop, Jinping’s “Four Comprehensives” assumes greater significance which comprises:

  • Comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society
  • Comprehensively deepen reform
  • Comprehensively govern the nation according to law
  • Comprehensively strictly govern the Party

Jinping’s address was commensurate with China’s rise, though not peacefully, as a global leader. China is the second largest economy in the world only after the US, the largest manufacturing hub, a growing aid giver, possesses the world’s largest standing army and the world’s most happening technology hub (at Shenzhen). Its growing influence by way of its recently implemented Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has placed it probably at the top of the world in the context of geopolitics and geostrategy. Further, its Active Defence Strategy (also called Asymmetric Defence Capability) proposed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is again a major challenge for the US especially in the Pacific. Under this strategy, China has developed anti-aircraft carrier destroyer missiles pushing US beyond the Yellow Sea. Its dominating role in the South and East China Seas its well before the world. However, it claims that it will maintain a defensive policy for national security and refrain from interfering in the domestic affair of other countries. Certainly, China has emerged as the most influential global player effecting a major shift in the balance of power. It may be considered that the balance of power has shown two shifts, firstly, from America and the West to East and secondly, in Asia from Japan to China.

The Chinese President has clearly stated that though it will further open up for its neighbours and also for the world, it will not give up its legitimate rights or let anyone undermine its interests. Further, it will never seek hegemony or engage in any expansion. China’s ‘so-called’ assertiveness appears to be contradictory to its expansionist policies/strategies naming a few, BRI, String of Pearls, Cabbage Strategy (in the East China Sea), Dream China and Active Defence etc. This has been the reason India and other nations, developing and developed have been keeping an eye on Chinese endeavours.

One thought on “Is China Assertive or Aggressive?

  1. Upendra nath chaubey says:

    It’s a beautiful article. I watch live his speech on china Tv. Since he was speaking in Chinese with english translation on screen,I could not receive it well.Your article has further helped me in understanding china. Just one day before I had watched Prime Minister of Singapore on the same channel and the gentleman was very particular regarding Siyno India relation.In his opinion both wil have to take more sincier steps for better relation

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