Will China challenge U.S. global dominance? If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have said “definitely NO.” But now, I am not so sure.
In an article “A Bigger, Bolder China in 2016,” Jeremy Page, Beijing-based Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote:
With Beijing holding the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 nations next year , Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to press ahead with his drive to challenge U.S. dominance of the global financial and security order.
Page listed a number of issues: the South China Sea, cybersecurity attacks, Taiwan, and Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). None are new, but any one of them could potentially spin out of control and result in more tension between the U.S. and China.
In the case of the South China Sea, China hasn’t stopped the constructions on the disputed islands. Just recently, it announced it is building a second aircraft carrier
“as it strengthens its ability to assert its claims in the South China Sea.”
“The islands aren’t growing out any more: They’re now growing up,” Gregory Poling, an expert on Asian maritime security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a recent podcast.
China has claimed sovereignty of those islands and said it has historical and legal backing. What puzzles me is that no one seems interested in investigating the claim and getting to the bottom of the matter. What is the historical and legal backing that China says it has?
A court case was brought by Philippines over the disputed islands. It will be interesting to see the decision by the international tribunal in The Hague in June.
Even more interesting is that the AIIB is expected to issue its first loans in 2016. Washington is concerned that the AIIB will challenge the current international institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. What projects will the AIIB finance?Jin Lijun, the president of the AIIB, said the new bank will be complementary to the existing institutions, and more efficient.
Well, if it turns out to be more efficient, the AIIB will be a much-needed challenge to the existing global financial institutions. How the U.S. responds to the challenge will be a test of the U.S.-China relationship.
In 2016, China will push forward with Xi Jinxing’s signature program: the New Silk Road initiatives:
The Chinese government is also expected to unveil several new infrastructure projects as part of its much-vaunted “One Belt, One Road” program to build new trade and transport links between Asia and Europe. While Washington has welcomed Beijing’s plans to finance infrastructure in the developing world, U.S. officials remain wary of China’s strategic goals and are closely monitoring its efforts to secure staging points for its military overseas.
I believe this will be a significant development in China’s effort to exercise its global influence. Washington has yet to come up with any viable strategy to respond to China’s ambitions.
2016 will be a year to closely watch new developments in these areas. If China ever challenges U.S. global dominance, it will be in a subtle and less confrontational way. And it may not be a bad thing for the U.S.