The rise of China has generated much debate in both the policy and theoretical worlds. Beijing has adopted two of the three components of liberal peace — economic interdependence and international institutions — while abandoning the democratic component. It is pursuing power transition and military buildup, although asymmetrically for now, but eventually with the intention of replacing the U.S. as the dominant power of the Indo-Pacific region. It is using economic strategy of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and massive FDI in different regions to develop commercial and trading networks, which it hopes will become so formidable that other states will simply accept Chinese hegemony, somewhat akin to the tributary system of yester years. None of these Chinese efforts will succeed fully in replacing the U.S. or creating a hegemonic order in the Indo-Pacific region by mid-21st century, even when China emerges as the dominant economic power. Hegemony requires extra-ordinary asymmetry in power capabilities and a willingness on the part of secondary states to accept the hegemon’s leadership role, even if it is coercively imposed. The countervailing forces today and the future are too many to overcome for any would-be-hegemon to accomplish its goals unilaterally. China is surrounded by several pivotal states that have ambitions and capabilities of their own and are not pushovers. The individual and combined economic strengths of the U.S., Japan and India will be formidable, so will be their military power. China also lacks an ideology similar to Western liberalism or Soviet Communism to pull together different states into its orbit. Money can buy some loyalty, but these need not last too long, especially if China demands too much allegiance and dependency in return. Hegemony requires more than a patron-client relationship revolving around economic power. Although China may develop such a patron-client relationship with vulnerable small states, crucial domestic actors in those countries will resent any efforts at making them fully dependent states or China excessively in their domestic affairs. Order in the 21st century Indo-Pacific will remain a mixed system, i.e. a diffused one and multiple actors with sufficient material and normative power compete and cooperate and it is unlikely any single state will obtain hegemony.
About the Speaker
T.V. Paul is James McGill Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was President of International Studies Association (ISA) during 2016-17. Paul is the author or editor of 18 books and over 70 scholarly articles/book chapters in the fields of International Relations, International Security, and South Asia. He is the author of the books: The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World (Oxford, 2013); Globalization and the National Security State (with N. Ripsman, Oxford, 2010); The Tradition of Non-use of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford, 2009); India in the World Order: Searching for Major Power Status (with B.R. Nayar Cambridge, 2002); Power versus Prudence: Why Nations Forgo Nuclear Weapons (McGill-Queen’s, 2000); and Asymmetric Conflicts: War Initiation by Weaker Powers (Cambridge, 1994). Paul currently serves as the editor of the Georgetown University Press book series: South Asia in World Affairs. For more, see: www.tvpaul.com