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If China ruled the world

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China is, of course, fiercely protective of its own territorial integrity. If Taiwan declared itself independent, no one can doubt that China would invade its “renegade province”. Some fear that it could invade even if Taiwan does not declare its independence. (https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/…)

(Although it is wrong to speak of a cold war between the United States and China – the two countries trade and invest in each other and compete with each other (https: // www .dtnpf.com / …) – this does not prevent hot war on Taiwan. The United States may find itself forced to defend Taiwan if China invades. (https://www.dtnpf.com/…)

China, however, does not seem to have territorial ambitions beyond its historic borders. Nor is it like the post-WWII Soviet Union, which was both ideologically committed to spreading communism to other countries and fearing it would have hostile neighbors on its western border.

If China has an ideological commitment, it is as much to spread autocracy as a form of government as it is to communism. China readily works with autocratic governments, even particularly wicked ones like Myanmar’s after the country’s recent military coup. However, China does not seem interested in installing such governments.

None of this means that the Chinese superpower is without ambitions. He tries, for example, to use the United Nations to reshape cyberspace. It has partnered with Russia in several efforts to impose new rules on cyberspace. “It’s really breathtaking,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “The nations that have most aggressively subverted the Internet now want to control it, setting their own standards.”

(https: //www.washingtonpost.com / …)

In a world with a dominant China, then, information and ideas would not flow as freely.

The world will certainly have to get used to a great power with thin skin. When the Chinese rulers have influence, they punish the critics. When the Australian Prime Minister called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus last year, China responded by putting up barriers to Australian exports. (https: //www.abc.net.au / …)

And China is trying to increase its influence over other countries. If its 2025 industrial strategy is successful, it will increase the world’s dependence on China for key high-tech products and materials. If its digital yuan takes hold, more of the world’s trade will be done in a currency that China controls. Its Belt and Road initiative also tends to increase leverage.

It is too early to predict that China will intervene militarily abroad when it sees its interests threatened. History suggests that this is what the great powers do. The United States has done it, in Iraq and Afghanistan among others. Will China’s concern over Uyghur terrorists in Xinjiang province stop at the border, for example? Or if Uyghur terrorists started causing real problems in China, could we see the Chinese military chasing them into Central Asia?

In a recent speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented a vision of a China interested only in peace and international cooperation. He promised that China would never seek hegemony. He pledged not to interfere in the affairs of other countries. He criticized unnamed countries for “leading others”. (https: //news.cgtn.com / …)

He was talking about the United States, of course. China complains that the United States is trying to impose its values ​​- human rights, for example – on the world.

No matter what Xi says, it’s hard to believe that if China were the most powerful country in the world, it wouldn’t try to export its values. The great powers are known to do this. It’s fine to preach peace and non-interference, but the world will judge China by what it does, not what Xi says.

As an American, I naturally prefer the values ​​of my country. I am not anti-Chinese. I have immense respect for what China has accomplished. Having lived in Hong Kong for nine years and traveled the mainland frequently, I know and love Chinese people a lot. Still, I think the world would be a less happy place if the values ​​of the current Chinese regime were to prevail.

Blocking China’s rise to power is unrealistic; too many countries have deep economic ties with him to recruit a containment brigade. The war would be disastrous – for China, the United States and the world.

But while China’s rise to power seems inevitable, America’s decline is not. One of the keys to maintaining peace in the future will be to heal the Chinese leadership from the dangerous misunderstanding that it is.

The world has two great powers, China and the United States, and will likely have two for a while. What China would do if it were the world’s dominant power is still a theoretical question.

Urban Lehner can be reached at [email protected]

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