The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

China’s goal of eventually becoming the preeminent superpower is ambitious, but it’s not entirely unrealistic.

In the complex weave of 21st-century geopolitics, China’s trajectory underscores the enduring importance of its historical narrative. With roots tracing back thousands of years, China’s identity is symbolized by the Great Wall—a testament to unity and centralized defense. This monument not only signifies sovereign power but also paints a vivid canvas of the empire’s territorial sanctity. The ancient trade pathways, notably the Silk Road, enhanced economic relations from Xinjiang’s vast expanses and Central Asia to the Mediterranean coasts. This exchange ignited a cultural metamorphosis, exemplified when Buddhism found a home in China during the 1st century AD, ushering in an era of diverse cultural dialogue and enrichment.

Modern Chinese history owes many of its ideological pillars to the May 4th Movement of 1919. Initiated by patriotic students, this movement soon snowballed into a national outcry, drawing participants from every corner of society. This period marked the introduction of new philosophies, with Marxism-Leninism emerging prominently. Today, China’s domestic and international pulse is almost entirely governed by the Communist Party, which has marginalized alternate voices in its democratic process. As a UN member, China’s approach often echoes autocratic tendencies, raising questions about its commitment to individual liberties and rights.

The slogan “Making China Great Again” has been a rallying cry for China’s leaders over the past two centuries. This sentiment’s early expression traces back to the Boxer Rebellion (1889-1901), a movement rejecting foreign and imperialist influences, embodying the collective discontent against colonial dominions that partitioned the nation.

The “China Dream” concept articulates the distinction between the aspirations championed by the political elite and the grassroots hopes of the Chinese populace. This dream initially envisioned as a beacon of national pride, evolved to prioritize the state’s prominence over individual aspirations. The country’s strategy of placing the nation first was further emphasized by President Xi Jinping at the 18th Party Congress in 2012. By 2021, he envisioned achieving the China Dream and setting further milestones for 2035 and 2049.

Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative represents a bold strategy in China’s international diplomacy playbook. Targeting development across 65 countries with an allocation of $8 trillion, this initiative is seen by many as Beijing’s attempt to wield both economic and political influence, reshaping the geopolitical landscape.

China’s maritime ambitions in the Indian Ocean, often termed the “String of Pearls,” have raised eyebrows. This geopolitical strategy hints at China’s intent to establish a robust military and commercial presence, exemplified by ports like Hambantota and Gwadar. Detractors see this as a neocolonial maneuver to encircle India.

John Mearsheimer, a proponent of the Realist school, predicts that China will translate its economic prowess into military might. He argues that as China’s economic footprint expands, the world might see a resurgence of great-power dynamics reminiscent of the Cold War era.

China’s current approach can be termed “incremental realism.” While traditionally, revisionism is seen as a strong discontent with the status quo, China’s rise has positioned it alongside established powers, allowing it to challenge global norms. Incremental revisionists, although ambitious, often find themselves on the periphery of global influence. However, to label China solely as a revisionist power might oversimplify its nuanced stance in global affairs.

Today, in an interconnected world, China is often viewed as a revisionist power, aiming to recalibrate global balances. Many believe that Beijing aspires to eclipse Washington, designing a new global security paradigm. While such ambitions aren’t concealed, they are often shrouded in apprehension and speculation. As Hobbes aptly put it, the future remains uncertain, and only through informed analysis can we anticipate the world’s evolving contours.

Aoishi is a law student at National Law University- Lucknow, India and actively engages in the legal community. With a passion for advocacy and affirmative action and a record in debates, she is poised to make a significant impact in the sphere of law and policy.