President-elect Donald Trump has already caused an international kerfuffle. He’s not yet in office, but has already received a formal diplomatic complaint from China. The object of China’s displeasure was a congratulatory phone call Trump received from the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. China views Taiwan as a secessionist province that will eventually be reincorporated, but many Taiwanese are fiercely proud of their independence.
Was it a carefully calculated move to remind China of American power, or an unthinking faux pas on the part of Trump’s transition team? Either way, Trump followed-up with a characteristic “Twitter outburst”, criticising China for a host of perceived failings. But should he perhaps step away from his Twitter account and take a more considered approach in his dealings with a rising power?
During the 2016 Security Jam (the report of which can be read here), participants were asked the question: What will be the most powerful actor in the world by 2050? Only 3% said “the EU”, whereas 39% said “the USA”… and fully 43% of respondents said “China”.
We had a comment from Luis, who agreed that China was likely to be the most powerful country on Earth by the year 2050. Perhaps the USA (and Europe) should tread lightly around the waking giant? As China’s power grows, should its international partners be more wary of blundering into diplomatic spats?
To get a response, we spoke to Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe. What would she say to Luis and his comment?
We also had a comment from Tris, who thought that China will eventually become an international superpower. Not only that, but Tris believes that China will eventually become a “second USA”, possibly projecting its power globally and taking decisions unilaterally. Is he right? Or will China perhaps be more cooperative and multilateral in its approach?
So, Tris, this is the 64 million dollar question that everyone is asking: ‘What kind of a power will China be?’ Look, we don’t know, but if we are to look at China today, we see a very cooperative, collaberative power. China likes to work together – with the European Union among others – to build a stable and prosperous China, but also a stable and prosperous region in Asia.
Now, there are rivalries with Japan, with Korea, with some of the ASEAN countries, there are some territorial issues that have to be resolved. But, so far, and I think this is going to be the trajectory of China going forward, it bases its foreign policy on partnerships, on working with other global powers. So, I don’t see a unilateral China. I see a China that’s very engaged, very powerful, but working on a multilateral level.
Will China be the most powerful country on Earth by 2050? How will China choose to exercise its power? Will it be a “second USA”, making decisions unilaterally? Or will it be more cooperative and collaberative in its approach? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!