By U.K. Dar
“Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus – never tickle a sleeping dragon,” wrote J.K. Rowling in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. But the sleeping dragon aka China has finally awoken and did not need to be tickled rather it was her time to wake up and take her place amongst the world powers as she was sleeping for a long time.
In little more than three decades, China has transformed itself from a developing nation into an economic superpower that rivals the United States (US). The rise of China has happened with unprecedented scale and speed. The new world order is in the making; not the one envisaged by US ex-president Mr Bush but by Mr Xi Jinping, current Chinese President. With his One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, Chinese tendrils are gradually shooting well beyond Asia. The best part is that world seems to like its new superpower. The US relied more on using coerce power to establish its world dominance indulging in major wars around the world, whereas China promises “common prosperity”, “mutual respect” and “win-win co-operation” to enhance its influence around the world.
The latest opportunity for China’s evolution as a global power comes during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visit to Brussels for the 19th bilateral summit between the European Union (EU) and China. The two-day summit presented an opening to China to demonstrate to the world that she is willing to take the leading role and tackle the daunting challenges facing the world, like that of trade and security and climate change, at a time when the US under President Donald Trump is slowly but surely retreating from the world stage and turning inwards.
President Trump’s first foreign visit to EU raised questions about the future of EU-US relations and that of old world order. He pointed out blatantly about NATO nations not spending enough on their own defence and thus causing huge financial burden on American tax payers’ money whereas Germany is piling up trade surplus and termed it “very bad”. Later on Trump did not ratify the Paris Agreement, the landmark climate-change treaty, stating that it was depriving American many thousands of jobs and making American businesses less cost effective. The moves reaffirmed his commitment to his “America first” policy that he declared in his inauguration address – “from this moment on, it’s going to be “America First”.
America first policy is creating tremors in EU because of the apprehensions that US may withdraw from its commitment under the Marshall Plan and resultantly EU nations must start to think about the alternatives. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response speaks volumes when she said that the EU should “take our fate into our own hands,” and that, “the times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out.”
In the time when EU and US rift seems to be deepening and world facing deep uncertainty, the Chinese premier became the most important statesmen to arrive in EU to soothe the EU apprehensions and to prove to the world that China would step into the US shoes and shoulder the international responsibilities that are necessary for world peace and progress. China’s signalling her intentions for ratifying the Paris Agreement stating it as an “international responsibility” successfully depicted China as a responsible international player. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks that China has become a more important and strategic partner and that in the times of global uncertainty there is a need to push for a world order based on law are testament to the era of new Sinocentric World.
It is a fair expectation that in coming years China will be a greater power than it is today. As China’s economy, military power and international footprint grows, China will use its superpower status to ensure security and safety of its interests and assets. China is also upping its ante in organization like United Nations, where it is now the second largest financial contributor to its peacekeeping budget and contributing more than 2000 soldiers for peacekeeping mission. We also see that China is getting increasingly involved in regional security for example mediating in resolving Rohingya problem between Myanmar and Bangladesh and involving in the multilateral talks on Afghanistan along with Pakistan and Russia. This has great potential for Pakistan as China considers Pakistan a “real friend” in the area and where China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a flagship project of OBOR is under way. It is high time that Pakistani leadership play its card rights and takes advantage of being the neighbour and friend of new superpower and get its unresolved issue with India like that of Kashmir settled. This will ensure stability in the otherwise volatile region and is a necessary ingredient for investment and progress. If we want to get our share out of these seismic changes in the new world order we need to be proactive in grabbing the initiatives as it is an old adage that time and tide waits for none.
U.K. Dar is freelance writer based in Manchester, UK