China posed for power and primacy

18 Jun 2014

Whether China is the world's next superpower and if its rise poses a threat to world order is the focus of a new book.

For the world’s superpower in waiting, China, it is not a question of ‘if’ it will surpass the US as the world’s leader, but when.

That’s one of the views of China’s dramatic rise explored in a new book by Australian National University academic Professor Stuart Harris, China’s foreign policy, to be launched by former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke Thursday.

Professor Harris, who is based at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and was the head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1984 to 1988, has spent four decades examining China’s foreign relations.

He says China views the world as going through distinct periods where it is dominated by one power – what in international relations is referred to as hegemony.

“For China, global politics is concerned with the rise and fall of hegemonic powers,” Professor Harris said.

“In this view, great powers rise to where they seek global domination and expansion followed ultimately by overextension and decline into passivity.

“It is why China sees its own broader security in global terms, but also why it expects the US ultimately to decline, although with uncertainty about when.”

Another key consideration, for both the world and Beijing, is how China will act on the global stage as it gains greater influence. In particular, many ask whether it will remake the existing international order in its own image or go forward broadly within with the ‘status quo’, as it has in recent decades.

Harris says regardless of which path Beijing takes, the world is bound to look different.

“Over its 60 year history, the People’s Republic of China has sought different changes to the international order, being variously critical of capitalism, imperialism, and more recently, hegemonism. It now seeks a more ‘harmonious world’,” he said.

“But China is less interested in changing the world order than in establishing a position of moral superiority.

“From discussions with Chinese scholars and officials over the years, it is clear that the Chinese believe in China’s exceptionalism, based on its different history and culture that is perhaps seen as superior to the West.

“So China wants the increased status and respect that acceptance as a great power and recognition of its increased material power will provide, including a bigger role in international institutions.”

China’s foreign policy is available through Wiley.

Emeritus Professor Stuart Harris is a visiting fellow in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.





Updated:  14 December, 2012/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team