The geopolitics of Xi Jinping's Chinese dream (2016)
problems and prospects
in: Trends in Southeast Asia, 2016 no. 15
Viewing China's current relations with neighbours in the East Asian littoral from geopolitical and macrohistorical perspectives enables us to evaluate China's current prospects for advancing its "peaceful rise". Today the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) articulates a Chinese Dream that envisions a new age of Asian predominance to match China's memory of past golden ages. To realize this dream, China seeks geopolitical predominance in the East Asian littoral. Judging from the foreign policy goals and behaviour pursued by Xi Jinping, China appears likely to govern the region according to its core interests even when this may require other states to give up their lawful sovereign rights and prerogatives. Ever since the East Asian core region birthed Chinese civilization, this core has experienced cycles of political consolidation and disintegration. Although large swathes of the continental periphery were incorporated into the core, geopolitical factors that remain relevant today prevented the conquest of the maritime periphery. Peninsular and archipelagic states in East Asia's maritime periphery are again individually hedging or counterbalancing against Chinese efforts. This aids U.S. rebalancing strategy and frustrates China's effort to remove U.S. strategic influence from the region. Faced with mounting resistance, China must attempt to overcome this resistance with stepped up forcefulness or modify its ambitions. Domestic political constraints may make it difficult for Beijing to compromise, even though pushing harder for geopolitical predominance promises only greater costs and risk without improving prospects for ultimate success.