“Being honest with you, it’s not the ‘Great Wall of China’. It’s an all right wall. It’s the ‘All Right Wall of China’.” Karl Pilkington
China in recent time has been on zenith in every field, challenging the hegemony of USA and moving the world towards a bipolar world. In this context the ‘Great Wall of China’ has been rechristened by Karl Pilkington, an English television presenter, author and former radio producer, as the ‘All Right Wall’ signifying whatever China does cannot be questioned by the world community. China has been under constant scrutiny since its independence in mid twentieth century. China in its short lifespan as an independent nation has witnessed the highest flow and lowest ebb in lots of fields. The story of China has remained checkered for the outside world, but for the political dispensation it has more or less been on their blueprint provided by successive leaders, except for some hiccups here and there. For a holistic understanding of the true picture, the Chinese story can be analysed from various perspectives such as economic, international relations, soft power diplomacy, sociological angle, science and technology.
With a population of 1.3 billion, China recently became the world’s second largest economy. It contributed 39% to world growth in 2016, according to the IMF and its influence on the global economy is growing. China keeps its economy on the track of high-speed growth by building through its own efforts, a unique economic system, namely the Socialist market economy. China has also recognised the current world trends, namely peace and development, and it sticks to the path of peaceful development. China had become a main engine of the world economy and many developed countries has also established close economic ties with China, which meant that China’s development was a boon to developing and developed countries alike. The growth of China coincided with the process of globalization and gave China an edge over other countries with vast population. China also poses a huge market for MNCs. China has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). As a permanent member China has used the veto power eight times in critical decision makings. Most of which are not guided by canons of ethical and moral propriety but by their own national interests, In the context of India’s bid for membership of UNSC, China has always supported it on bilateral level. But when it comes to real floor test in UN, it has always dragged its feet. In 2015, a text for change in the membership of UNSC met through these impediments and China was on the wrong side of keeping its promise towards India.
Various international organisations under the leadership of China, BRICS Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), East Asia Summit has wide ramifications about the world. BRICS was created to fulfil the gaps of World Bank and IMF. APEC was created to provide free trade area in the region comprising the Pacific Rim countries. China being a highly industrialised country has been the main anchor of trade in the area. To check the rise of China, USA has proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with very wide membership that may change the pattern of world trade. China has had in the recent past many border and territorial disputes. Notable among them are, South China Sea dispute, Sino-India border dispute on the Eastern and Western front, dispute with Japan on Senkaku or Diaou islands. These overtures made by China are based on its historical claims and also shows the aggressive cartographic tendencies showed by Chinese military. Occupation of Aksai Chin in India; establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Senkaku or Diaou island; establishing a nine dash line in South China Sea are case in point. These aggressive steps by Chinese military have irked its neighbours and have soured the relationship between the two.
In the India-China relationship, the major irritants other than border disputes have been its constant support to Pakistan and supply of arms and nuclear technology; the recent bonhomie with Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli; its aggressive posturing in the Indian Ocean and the theory of String of Pearls. These have been the major areas of discontent which have hindered in the actualisation of twenty first century as the ‘Asian Century’. The policy of Pivot to Asia’ by the US has irked the Chinese and the paranoia showed by the US has added fuel to the fire. The support of North Korea in its military and nuclear pursuits has irked South Korea, USA and Japan as a nuclear flare up in the region may destabilise the entire region. In the recently concluded Paris Climate Talks CoP21, 2015, China was labelled as Developing Country’ despite it being as the largest emitter of the greenhouse gases. It has shrugged away from its responsibilities for making the world a better place to live. China however has played a constructive role in the lifting of sanctions on Iran in the recently concluded talks.
In WTO talks also, China has played a pivotal role in providing a better deal for the developing countries. The proposal of One Belt One Road Corridor, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been both, a cause of concern and brought a glimmer of hope in the participating countries. Through these initiatives China seeks to integrate Asia and neighbouring countries economically and thereby asserting its economic influence on its benefactors. In the area of soft power defined by Joseph Nye as, asserting of power by its culture, China has started to put itself on the world fore. In the field of science and technology, China has been able to provide the world with the latest and the cheapest articles. Chinese electronics hardware has captured a lot of market in the developing countries due to its affordable good quality products. In space exploration, China has made great strides through Beidou (Navigation system); Tiangong (Space Station) etc. China has been under fire for reverse engineering by Western nations for stealing their intellectual property. Inventions in defense hardware are a major case in point. Its project of fifth generation fighter aircraft with advanced stealth technology has been under scrutiny by the West. Other advancements include: Tianhe-1 the fastest supercomputer in 2011; Rare earth minerals deposits and the electronics hardware reliance on it etc. have allowed China to take a quantum leap.
At the recently held World Economic Forum Summit at Davos, business magnate Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba Express), pointed out that China’s rise should be seen as a potential benefit to both sides of the Atlantic, offering the US an opportunity to export goods to the increasingly stable economy. Not only China’s political and economic sphere is rising but its clean energy sector is also growing. In his Davos address, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the countries to stick to their emission targets and honour international contracts such as the Paris Climate deal.
China has come a long way since its inception. Its transition towards a democratic nation state can go a long way in reposing the faith of its citizens and the world community. The aggressive instances and overtures made by China has been a major bone of contention for other countries. However, its contribution to world economy can never be ignored. It is therefore, imperative that world keeps the pressure for changing the stance of China not conforming to international standards and at the same instance not take every policy of China with a pinch of salt. It can be concluded that in the present times, “China: We can’t live with it, nor live without it”.