Will China be more assertive in foreign relations?
Since 1978 the world has seen the rise and fall of many countries and a change in global power structures. One constant at work meticulously since 1978 is, however, China’s reform agenda. The journey which started 40 years ago now places China firmly as the world’s leading growth engine.
As it enters the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), Chinese’s economy, according to the OECD Economic Survey 2017, continues to grow fast by international standards. While growth is slowing gradually, GDP per capita remains on course to almost double between 2010 and 2020.
These figures show what this growth means in real numbers:
World’s largest foreign reserves $3.12 trillion
Second-largest GDP $11 trillion
Share of the world economy grew from a mere 1.8% in 1978 to a staggering 18.2% in 2017
Based on the country’s social and economic progress in 2018, we can say it now occupies center stage as a major world power. This is a revival of the status it occupied in the 15th and 16th centuries when China accounted for nearly 30% of the world economy.
Continuity of reform has been a hallmark of the previous Chinese command. Now under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the world is seeing a leader who is committed to eradicating poverty and raising living standards across Eurasia. President Xi has started implementing economic programs, including CPEC, which helps create economic progress for its immediate neighbour Pakistan and has built its outreach to 60 other countries as part of the BRI economic development program.
The rise of China and its policies of creating engagement across the globe will mark the next century as an ‘Asian Century’. President Xi’s commitment to economic growth will provide the foundation for the rise of the Asian middle classes. From 2015 to 2030, the Asian middle classes will have a combined spending power of around $30 trillion in comparison to the $1 trillion of disposable income of the middle classes based in western economies. Chinese economic policies are the main impetus for this tremendous growth of Asian economies.
The world has made calls for China to be more assertive on foreign relations. They look to China to make systems governing the world more just and equitable, reduce unilateral military action against smaller countries and provide a leadership based on common good rather than focused on narrow domestic agendas of the US and other western powers.
So, where do we stand in 2018? I can say that China is a now a dominant power. How diligently it uses its powers in geo-economics and geopolitics will eventually shape the world we all live in for the next century.
The writer is a member of All Party Parliamentary Group on CPEC & BRI and is an analyst based in the UK. He can be reached at @SiddiquiAftab