A Harmonious Society – China’s National Interest

In the twenty-first century, the Asia-Pacific state of the People’s Republic of China has been successful in pursuing and achieving their national interest goals to a great extent and has done so through the incorporation of all types and forms of power. However, in saying this, China’s predisposition to favour certain elements of the national interest over others, can seriously undermine the extent to which they are able to pursue their national interest as a whole.

A strong China is the national interest element that the Chinese Communist Party tends to have a predisposition towards achieving at the cost of a peaceful rise and the creation of a socialist harmonious society. China’s immense economic power has enabled them to achieve this goal to a great extent. The PRC is able to ‘outbid’ the Republic of China (Taiwan) using chequebook diplomacy when it does business with other states, they must recognise the People’s Republic as the ‘one China’, rather than the island of Taiwan. In this instance, China’s ‘One China’ trade policy means that if a state wants to trade with China, which due to its huge potential trade benefits for other nations, all almost all do, they must first agree to recognise the PRC as the true China, further cementing China’s claim that Taiwan is merely a ‘rogue state’, China also asserts their territorial claims through the use of military power, more specifically their military presence in the South and East China Seas. The building of an airstrip in the Spratly Islands and maritime stand-offs between the PRC and the Philippines in 2012, as well as the building of a drilling rig in the area in 2014, seriously cements this goal of successfully tackling secession and pursuing the preservation of territorial integrity.

The goal of economic development is one all states have, but few achieve. The PRC is an exception – China has experienced exceptional growth in the twenty-first century. Even when currently at an all-time low, China’s GDP growth rate is at 7%, is still the envy of the world. China’s ability to use their military to assert territorial claims in valuable regions such as the Senkaku islands, rich with natural gas reserves and fishing lanes, further achieves China’s already huge economic development. However, the economic development at all costs China has experienced has jeopardized the achievement of a socialist harmonious society, through massive pollution and environmental degradation, with the consequence of 51,000 to 60,000 ‘mass incidents’ from 2005-06. China may be the number one trading partner to six G20 states such as Japan and Australia, but it still has to decide which national interest it will forfeit for the other.

The achievement of a socialist harmonious society depends on how it is interpreted. If it means a truly socialist and egalitarian harmony, then no, China has not achieved this. However, if it means that it is ‘harmonious’ because rebellion is quelled and political freedom is traded for loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party in return for material prosperity, then yes, the PRC has achieved this aim to a high extent. China is able to once again use its immense economic power to trade with secessionist regions to stifle demands for independence, in return for material prosperity. Xi Jinping’s ‘anti-corruption campaign’ has shown the CCP in a positive light among its citizens, with 100,000 officials punished including CCP ‘tigers’, this quells any doubt that Xi is a man of the people in the eyes of China’s citizens. The People’s Liberation Army of China has also proved an important tool in quelling any groups calling into question how ‘harmonious’ China is, the Urumqi riots in 2009 is a prime example of such, where China was able to use the PLA as a ‘harmony-keeping’ force to achieve this aim.

If there is a national interest element the PRC has failed to achieve, it is a peaceful rise. China, with the world’s largest standing army, has experienced an exponential increase in military modernisation and military spending, from US$98.8 billion in 2009 to US$188 billion in 2013. This calls into question why China needs to spend so much on the military if its goal is indeed a ‘peaceful rise’. Due to China’s use of military power in asserting territorial claims in the South and the East China Sea, the US has commenced a ‘pivot to Asia’, with over 60% of its navy expected to be present in the surrounding waters in 2020; with the majority of the west looking to America for security, the US’s concern over the PRC seriously undermines this goal of a peaceful rise. China has also faced the failure of this goal domestically. The Urumqi riots in 2009, the Tiananmen square bombing in 2013, Urumqi car bombing in 2014 and 138 monks self-emulating since 2009-14, has seriously called into question how peaceful the rise, or more rather, the return of this Asian superpower’s rule really is, and whether or not the People’s Republic is a responsible global citizen, when its own domestic citizens, especially the ethnic minorities are rising up against the CCP.

China is able to use a variety of forms of power to achieve their goals in regards to secession and territorial integrity, economic development, and the creation of a socialist harmonious society. However, the tools and instruments used in the achievement of these goals can seriously undermine the fundamental requirements for a peaceful rise, seriously concerning the rest of the global community about how far the CCP will go to ensure their ancient civilization’s rise to power in the twenty-first century.

Ethan James Hunt
VCE Global Politics Unit 3
Nicholas Melaisis
Catherine McAuley College

17/20 marks
Approximately 30 minutes allocated time
A4 summary sheet allowed

To what extent has the People’s Republic of China been successful in achieving its national interests throughout the twenty-first century?

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