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The China Challenge in the Twenty-First Century: Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy

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Despite Asia's current financial crisis, China's rapid economic growth raises the question of whether or not it will emerge as a dominant regional power, or even a hegemonic world power, in the twenty-first century. For many in the West and in China's neighboring countries, this prospect is very troublesome.

Despite Asia's current financial crisis, China's rapid economic growth raises the question of whether or not it will emerge as a dominant regional power, or even a hegemonic world power, in the twenty-first century. For many in the West and in China's neighboring countries, this prospect is very troublesome. Their worries are based on a variety of observations and deliberations, three of which are the most consistently and frequently cited:
  • the continuing reign of the Chinese Communist Party and its questionable human-rights record;
  • China's military build-up over the past decade, suggesting an offensive capacity that can be used far beyond the country's shores; and
  • the country's existence as an "outsider" in the international community, continuing to rely on the possible use of force to settle the Taiwan issue, and reportedly exporting arms to other "outsider" states such as Iran, Syria, and Pakistan.
The "China threat" scenario leads to all kinds of policy prescriptions, emphasizing the need either to "constrain" or to "contain" China. These prescriptions, though varying from case to case, typically argue for the strengthening of U.S. military capabilities in general and its military presence in Asia in particular.
A closer analysis, however, reveals that the problems generated by China's emergence as a prominent world power should be defined as a "China challenge," with which both the Chinese people and the rest of the world must cope through mutual understanding and cooperation, rather than a China threat, against which the rest of the world must form a strategy in a well-planned collective effort.
Chen Jian is an associate professor of history at Southern Illinois University, focusing on Chinese and East Asian history and Chinese-American relations. He was the editor of the journal Chinese Historians and associate editor of the Journal of American–East Asian Relations. The recipient of several major academic awards in China, Chen has also received two grants from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and was awarded a fellowship at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in 1993. Chen's extensive publications in English and Chinese include articles in China Quarterly and Diplomatic History. He is the author of China's Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation (1994) and co-editor of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy and the Cold War in Asia (1996).
By: Chen Jian: http://www.usip.org/publications/the-china-challenge-in-the-twenty-first-century-implications-us-foreign-policy


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