China as the New World Hegemon?

Written by: Gabrielle Toonen

As China strives to reach the goal of expanding its empire and power, Americans ask themselves if they should worry. The answer: Yes. In the last two decades, China’s rise to power, starting with their entrance into the World Trade Organization in 2001, began slowly but has escalated into a severe threat for the United States. 

China’s belt and road initiative, also known as BRI, established by President Xi Jinping, demonstrates China’s vision to establish world domination. The initiatives are to “promote the economic prosperity of the countries along the Belt and Road, promote regional economic cooperation, strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations, and promote world peace and development.” Yet, China’s real intentions defy these ideals. First, the BRI is concerning since China’s involvement within these states will further their agenda of global superiority. Access to these states through top tier infrastructure could increase China’s economic prosperity, furthering its integration with the West. Although building infrastructure in developing countries and economic cooperation is applaudable, if China desires to instill prosperity within the states along the BRI, then why is the Chinese Communist Party, also known as the CCP,  placing these states in debt distress? Additionally, why are military ports being developed when these states cannot pay China back? 

This has been the case with several counties around the globe. For example, Djibouti’s debt to China is worth 88% of its GDP. Venezuela has $20 billion in debt to China and Sri Lanka with its debt resulting in its 99 year lease of its marine port to China. The port leased for almost 100 years is worrisome, as China could utilize this base for more military control. The Kyrgyzstan government, also in serious debt to China, reached an agreement to extend deadlines of payments due. Yet, the terms were never disclosed and since China has shown unwillingness for debt forgiveness, other nations are concerned that something else could have been seized as collateral. Ethiopia, Pakistan, Ghana, and other states have requested negotiations due to their unprecedented amount of debt to China, which is especially important to these countries today given COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. 

In effect, the “BRI represents “debt trap diplomacy,” lending more money than poor countries can tolerate to repay, so strategic assets can be seized  and to expand its military and economic footprint.” The BRI has been nothing but a strategic maneuver to establish world superiority and expand economically and militarily further into the West; “It appears that China is extending its influence economically and even militarily far beyond its national borders and beyond its traditional peripheral tributary states.” Based on the barely concealed true goals of the BRI however, this makes complete sense. 

Similar to the BRI, the 9-dash line, a name used to describe China’s claim over the South China Sea.displays the CCP’s unwillingness to follow international law, a norm that should never be broken for the sake of world peace. China’s outreach for the 9-dash line has been a geopolitical crisis in the last few years. The South China Sea is a busy maritime route for global trade, as it accounts for one third of all global shipping and generates high amounts of revenue. All of the littoral countries claim parts of the sea to be their own. China has disregarded the claims of these other countries, however, and has instead asserted its own. Similar to the BRI, China states that their goals in the South China Sea are cooperation, freedom, and equality. In reality however, China’s claims to sovereignty amount to little more than self-promotion and an advancement of their own self interests. The Philippines even brought China to international court under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, Annex VII, and the court concluded that there is no legal basis to China’s sovereignty claim. Yet, China continues to fortify islands and build military bases on them to the detriment of the marine animals and plants which live around the islands. According to Defense News, China “has runways and dozens of hangars for fighter aircraft on a handful of islands, as well as anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-aircraft batteries and missile defenses.” This conveys China’s intent to expand their military reach, which can be interpreted as extremely concerning. 

President Xi has stated that his military intentions are to become more powerful and more modern as China becomes a larger player in “reforming and developing the global governance system, and keep contributing Chinese wisdom and strength to global governance.” The country’s actions, however, speak louder than words. In particular, China’s decision to continue to press its sovereignty claims to the South China Sea despite international condemnation reflects China’s true attitude towards the solemn task of global governance. According to Foreign Affairs, China has “combined international ambitions with economic, military, and technological power to achieve a genuinely global reach, from port facilities in Athens to a naval base in Djibouti to the rollout of 5G technology across the world. Xi declared in a 2017 speech to the 19th Party Congress that China would move unerringly closer to the “center stage” of world affairs.” 

Although President Xi claims China is not maneuvering to become hegemon, all signs point to China’s true intentions of world domination, and replacing the United States as the world hegemon. So, yes, Americans should be concerned about China’s dramatic rise to power.