Written by Nathan Heinrich and Jon Formella.
The views presented in these essays are those of myself and my colleague when we were studying for a course on China in World Politics in Fall 2015 under Professor Edward Friedman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Some of the issues we address in our essays have already been answered over the last couple of years, while others are nearing fruition. The 2016 election and foreign policy under the Trump administration have transformed some of these foreign policy dilemmas in way that we could have never foreseen at the time.
Many scholars in academia and politicians in government are eager to know China's economic and political future. As a major world power, China's presence in its region is pivotal to international relations; its economy contributes a hefty portion of the world's output. China's future carries enormous consequences for the world in years to come. Our forecast is based on recent literature and publications speaking to China's economic welfare and relations within its region.
With regards to forecasts for the PRC trajectory, China will attempt to languidly muddle through reforms but succumb to the middle income trap amidst debilitating structural issues will prevail; predictions of a Thucydides trap and major conflict are misguided and impractical with regards to PRC policies of win-win generosity, economic coexistence and cooperation as well as the realist tendencies towards self-survival and aversion of a major power war with the U.S.
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There are many underlying domestic and international hurdles to benign and magnanimous PRC hegemony in Asia. This essay sheds some of our own views on China's presence within Asia and in Africa as well.
China and its ruling CCP have grand ambitions for the rejuvenation of China and a return to the tianxia system with China as an envisioned benign leader of Asia. Viewing the stark realities of IR through the lens of realism accurately predicts that these visions of grand rejuvenation found domestically in China will be vigorously opposed by its neighbors and Africans who seek to maintain national independence despite Beijing’s attempted seductions through the charm offensive and win-win diplomacy. Though Beijing seeks to present itself as a benign leader of a “united south” of developing nations, its great power autism and fixture on reenacting a glorious past hinders China’s ability to recognize that these supposedly magnanimous measures are interpreted by many in Asia, Africa, and Xinjiang as hawkishness which further makes construction of an Asia and developing world happily subordinated to PRC hegemony difficult.
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