In pursuit of President Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese Dream’, China has altered its policies in regard to the successful fulfillment of its national interests. China’s strategic employment of power in achieving its national interest objectives has experienced huge success in regard to asserting the inviolability of its national security through hard power as well as the use of smart power to foster stable economic prosperity. In spite of these positive outcomes, China’s harmful dependence on hard power has led to extremely adverse effects on its perceived international standing and neighbouring regional relationships. As a result of China’s deliberate overlook of certain national interests in favour of the pursuit of others, China has suffered detrimental setbacks in its desire to achieve objectives related to its foreign image and standing.
Paragraph 1: National Security
China’s upholding of national security as its primary national interest has involved the dominant use of hard power through the utilisation of military and political power. China’s prioritisation of national security is closely linked with its pragmatic approach to domestic policies that seek to defend against any possible threat to Chinese sovereignty. The domestic anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by President Xi Jinping was a form of political power: supposedly for the purpose of ridding Chinese politics of corrupt officials, whereas in reality it acted as a tool for Xi Jinping to consolidate his political power within China and raise his power similar to that of Mao Zedong during his era. This has allowed Xi Jinping to purge political dissidence against his rule and govern China from a point of almost absolute power. Chinese military presence in the South China Sea (SCS) is an idealistic use of military power, where China has claimed 3200 acres of land area and built man-made artificial islands inhabited by military personnel and fisheries. The Chinese navy’s patrolling of highly contested areas like the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal has led to frequent hostile confrontations between multiple international navies such as the US, Philippines and Vietnam. It is obvious that in the usage of this power, China has shown its confidence in the unwillingness of neighbouring nations to take similarly decisive military action in the SCS and therefore displaying a show of power towards other nations in the Asia-Pacific such as the US and its allies. On the other hand, China’s use of cultural power in the Uighur-minority Xinjiang province has led to failure. The attempt to encourage Han Chinese to migrate to Xinjiang succeeded however the ethnic intermingling and hoped-for de-escalation of Uighur secessionist sentiments and uprisings has not occurred due to the continued mistreatment of the minority group. China’s relationship with North Korea allows China to keep American influence from South Korea and Japan at arm’s length however it has also cost them economically and diplomatically in the international community, forcing them to constantly provide 90% of North Korea’s trade whilst also being subject to criticism from international watchdogs. Therefore, while China has been able to successfully implement National Security, it also has seen failure in its ability to use soft power in this area which could lead to long-term problems, both domestic and abroad.
Paragraph 2: Economic Prosperity
China is heavily dependent on its economic prosperity and in particular, the continued growth of its economy is needed in order to support the country’s many infrastructure projects and reforms and China has achieved this goal through the use of smart power. Announced in 2014, the ‘One Belt, One Road’ trade-infrastructure project is an implementation of economic power that has the planned potential to link China to 68 other states and promote higher levels of economic trade and cooperation, in essence creating a new ‘Silk Road’ that stabilises and fortifies China’s position as a necessary and permanent hub for international economic affairs. This is especially important in order for China to sustain its high level of economic growth at 6.4% that has shown possible signs of decreasing in coming years. China’s extension of its Exclusive Economic Zone into the East China Sea and South China Sea uses military as a foreign policy to monopolise the important shipping and trade routes which bring 3.37 trillion USD in trade each year to Asia-Pacific states. Thus, further securing China’s economic pathways and giving China a larger control of the market, which so far has worked due to the lack of nations wishing to escalate military conflicts against China. Other economic incentives led by China include the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which is controlled by China and promotes projects such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ which creates mutually-beneficial economic stimulus. China has seen immense growth and exercised effective forms of power to further cement its economic prosperity for the future.
Paragraph 3: International Standing + Regional Relationships
China has decided that National Security and Economic Prosperity takes precedence over its other national interest considerations and this has come at the cost of deleterious ramifications for its relationships with its regional neighbours and overall international perception. China’s refusal to acknowledge a July 2016 ruling by the Hague on the South China Sea affair is evident of its apparent disdain and disregard for international forums and forms of multilateral resolution. China has shown that it is willing to discard preconceived agreements and notions of peaceful diplomacy by circumventing the authority of intergovernmental organisations such as the UN and ASEAN, instead preferring to force bilateral agreements where it is able to use hard power to coerce and threaten nations such as Laos and Cambodia who are dependent on Chinese finance. China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games and plans to host the 2022 Winter Games are telling of China’s superficial approach to international cooperation and diplomacy, due to its reluctance and adamant refusal of international tribunals like the ICC. China has made some attempts to clean up its internationally perceived notions such as the implementation of the 13th 5 Year Plan which promotes pro-climate-change policies such as the eventual abandonment of coal and a move towards renewable energies. Overall, China’s image has seen devastating and severe damage that will require serious efforts in the future to fix.
China has seen substantial success in its efforts to protect and strengthen its National Security and Economic Prosperity, as part of Xi Jinping’s lofty plans for the future, however the approach used by China is arguably unsustainable through its over-reliance on hard power in the form of strong-arm diplomacy and military intervention in multilateral affairs which thus threatens its future plans when addressing the negative sentiments it had accrued through its actions regarding the treatment of its regional neighbours and the lack of importance it attributes to maintaining its international standing.