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Lecture 24

AS.190.209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 24: Sam Huntington, Cyberwarfare, Unbridled

AS Political Science
Course Code
David, Steven R

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Rise of China
Case for war (realists) – clash of civilizations
Case for peace (liberals) – end of history
Future issues that will likely confront the U.S and the world
David’s view
China is a rising power, exploding economically with dramatic increases in military
strength and much more influence in international politics. The key question that
emerges is will it clash with the US? (Theoretical approaches assessing China-
America relations to answer this question come from Friedberg article). First, for
the realists, most predict conflict between the US and China. Conflicts are especially
likely when a rising power such as China seeks to confront and replace an existing
status quo power, in this case the US. In terms of economic growth, China may
become the largest economy in the world in just a few years. Its currency has been
recognized by the IMF as one of the elite currencies in the world. Typically,
countries whose economies expand and become wealthier seek to expand their
influence and increase their aims. Moreover, its military is also growing; its defense
budget is second only to that of the US. As China expands its interests and power, it’s
likely to conflict with those of the US in Asia. Offensive realists especially see
unbridled Chinese expansion in Asia leading to conflict with the US. They argue that
a country’s security is best assured by being the dominant power in any given
region. Just as the US dominated the Western hemisphere, China will seek to
dominate its sphere of influence – that of Asia. If China wants to dominate Asia, that
means pushing out the US, the one country that stands in the way. There are many
specific points of contention between the US and China that realists point to. China
sees Taiwan as a wayward province that naturally belongs to it and should be
reintegrated into China. The US sees Taiwan as a friendly country deserving of
protection. If China asserts its claims forcefully over Taiwan, war could result. In the
South China Sea, China claims much of it as its own and is building islands to assert
its sovereignty. China has resented American efforts to counter its claims in the
South China Sea. It also has ongoing disputes with many American allies in Asia,
including Japan and the Philippines, over the South China Sea, natural resources,
and freedom of navigation. If America is called upon to defend the interests of its
allies, and we have treaties asking precisely that, conflict could emerge. The US is
also very concerned with China’s efforts in cyber warfare. The Chinese have
penetrated American computer networks and have stolen information from the
government. This is the kind of warfare that could lead to a militarized response.
Moreover, the Chinese see Obama’s pivot to Asia, where he’s going to focus more
attention to Asia not as a benign economic effort, but as a hostile way of containing
China and pushing it back. Given China’s rise and America’s efforts to resist Chinese
influence, war between China and the US is all but inevitable. Some realists do not
see the inevitability of conflict, and many of these fall into the school of defensive
realism. Defensive realists argue that China recognizes that unbridled expansion in
Asia will not be good for it since it will provoke countervailing coalitions against it –
balances of power will resist Chinese influence, resulting in less security for China.
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They also argue that China is a conservative power, not a revolutionary state; it’s not
trying to remake Asia in its image, but trying to ensure prosperity and stability for
its own people. And it knows the limits beyond which that stability would be
threatened. Defensive realists also point to the possession of nuclear weapons by
both China and the US. If war happens, it’s going to be nuclear war, which is suicidal
to both countries. They also say that China is not growing so fast in terms of foreign
policy – its economy is already slowing down and its military capabilities
(technology and skill) are far below that of the US.
Some liberals like realists see a likelihood of conflict. They argue that if Chinese
economic growth falters, you can see rising nationalism in China. China is scarred by
the sense that it has been exploited and oppressed by other great powers, especially
in the West and by Japan, whereby Chinese territories and sovereignty have been
infringed upon. If people aren’t given prosperity, Chinese leaders may seek to divert
their people from their poor economic prospects into conflicts, engendering hyper-
nationalism in China. Liberals who also worry about war talk about the lack of
international institutions in Asia – they see institutions as a way of dampening the
move towards conflict. Insofar as institutions help bring about peace, there are not
many of note in Asia. Liberals also point to problems with democratization in China
– it seems to be stuck in this democratizing zone. Democratizing states are those
countries that are most war-prone. Moreover, China remains a dictatorship, and the
US tends to be especially hostile towards regimes that abuse human rights of their
own people. Most liberals, however, see no armed conflict between America and
China; rather, they see increasing cooperation. First of all, there is economic
interdependence – China and the US are the principal trading partners of each other;
there’s huge amounts of investment. The prosperity of the US and of China is totally
intertwined and interdependent. If they go to war, it would be economically
catastrophic. Furthermore, Chinese leaders know that they need some measure of
prosperity to rule; to upset this economic relationship with the US means
endangering their rule. Institutions may be weak, but they exist in Asia, and liberals
point to the fact that China is active in the UN and WTO. This involvement has a
moderating and civilizing effect on China. In terms of democratization, liberals still
insist that as China grows economically, it will one day become democratic, meaning
that it will not go to war with other democracies.
Case for war in the post-Cold War era – the notion that we are likely to see major
wars especially between great powers in the 21st century  This is a case that is
most strongly made by the realists. They argue that war will resume now that the
Cold War is over. Each of Waltz’ 3 images inclines us towards war. In terms of the
third image, there will be war because we still have international anarchy – there is
no government beyond the state to impose peace; force is still used to resolve
disputes. Changes in the international structure from the time of the Cold War make
conflict even more likely today. The big change was the collapse of the Soviet Union
and the end of bipolarity. Some realists like Waltz and Mearsheimer argue that
bipolarity tends to produce peace (each side simply focuses on the other and thus
creates a balance). The bipolar system kept the natural competition among states in
check. Each state actor was focused on the big conflict between the two sides led by
the Soviet Union and the US, not on the regional conflicts. In some views, we have a
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