The objective of this work is to outline how the political dimension of globalization has impacted on one of the globe’s emerging political powers, the People’s Republic of China. Initially, this essay sets out to consider the conflicting views behind the term “globalization” and then to distinguish the characteristics of the political dimension of globalization. The following section then uses these characteristics to critically examine political globalization in the People’s Republic of China. Finally, a conclusion is reached as to why the People’s Republic of China has accepted or rejected the various characteristics of political globalization.
“Globalization is not yet a fully formed concept. It is at best a convenient point of reference for airing out a range of ideas about the emerging state of the world.” (Saha, 2004: 1). Jan Aart Scholte sees this range of ideas behind the perception of the global interconnectedness of information, trade, people, culture and ideas as falling into three categories: conservative, liberal and critical. Conservatives view globalization as a process which “is not thought to involve any noteworthy transformation of the world system.” (Scholte, 1996: 49-50). At the heart of globalization in a conservative analysis is the traditional competition between nation states whereas a liberal critique of globalization “regards the process uncritically as progressive and benign.” (Scholte, 1996: 50). Therefore liberals view globalization as having the potential to enhance human development and increase global opportunity and equity. Lastly, critical perspectives assert that “the rise of supraterritoriality could well involve an extension or reinvigoration…of imperialism, xenophobia, patriarchy, racism, militarism, authoritarianism, fundamentalism, nihilism and other recurrent predicaments of modernity.” (Scholte, 1996: 52). Scholte concludes that a critical view would approach globalization with “vigilance”.
Although globalization is a concept viewed from different perspectives, three dimensions to the process can be identified. These are the cultural, economic and political. These dimensions do not act independently of each other and the influences they exert on each other are expressed in this essay. However, this work focuses on the political dimension.
The political dimension of globalization is outlined by Malcolm Waters as having five characteristics. These are stated as: political culture, sovereignty, international organizations, international relations, and the focus of problem-solving activities. In this outline Waters asserts that there is a difference between the ideals and the present realities in each of these five characteristics in the contemporary global political environment. In analysing the effects of the political dimension of globalization on the People’s Republic of China I intend to use these five characteristics as presented by Waters and critically examine them in two ways. The first of these is to compare the ideals of each characteristic with the present reality in the People’s Republic of China and the second is to assess why the present realities have developed as they have.
In the outline, the ideal pattern of globalization ascribed to the characteristic of political culture is the “common and planetary transcendence of state-centric value-commitments” (Waters, 1995: 123). Interpreted as the development of political systems which emphasise a global ideology over one which is suited to individual states, the People’s Republic of China shows resistance to such a change in its political system. Since 1949 the People’s Republic of China’s political system has followed a socialist path and the maintenance of socialism is of concern to the present leadership. In a speech delivered by the Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Zha Peixin, at the Chinese Economic Association Annual Conference in 2003, he states that in the face of globalization the People’s Republic of China intends to “further improve [its] socialist democracy” (Zha, 2003: para. 7). The leadership’s insistence on preserving the political system is based on not only safeguarding the existing power elites but also on its assertion that politically, only the Chinese Communist Party can manage the benefits from the economic dimension of globalization without ceding control over internal affairs. However, there are tensions in this assertion which are shown in the characteristics of sovereignty and international organizations.
Waters presents the ideal development of sovereignty in his outline as the “absence of sovereign states and [the establishment of] multiple centres of power at global and local and intermediate levels” (Waters, 1995: 123). Traditionally, the government of the Chinese Communist Party has always advocated strong opposition to the weakening of the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China. The indignities suffered during the part-colonisation of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are firmly rooted in the Chinese consciousness. A border conflict with India in 1962 is testament to the seriousness of the People’s Republic of China’s longstanding territorial sensitivity. However, in other spheres the People’s Republic of China has seen an erosion of its sovereignty through the processes of globalization. Since joining the world economy the People’s Republic of China’s control over its economic management, which it used to firmly have in a centralized economy, is subject to external factors. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 showed that “the economic dislocation and political upheaval in developing Thailand and Indonesia, not to mention industrialized South Korea, presented a sobering vision of the challenges to national sovereignty and well-being that can accompany greater integration into world markets.” (Yong and Moore, 2004: 3). This situation arose as the government’s initial perception of globalization was purely economic and the threats to its sovereignty were not anticipated as the state sought to continue its economic growth. (Yong and Moore, 2004: 4-5). The ability of the Chinese Communist Party to maintain the assertion that only they could manage globalization without ceding sovereignty is under pressure from external forces.
The second ideal pattern of sovereignty in the outline, the establishment of multiple centers of power, I intend to discuss in the later section on international relations.
A second source of internal tension and also an opportunity to alleviate it, for the Chinese Communist Party is found in the People’s Republic of China’s increasing engagement with international organizations. In the outline of the political dimension of globalization, the ideal pattern of globalization for international organizations is that they become “powerful [and] predominant over national organizations” (Waters, 1995: 123). The People’s Republic of China involvement in international organizations has presented it with international commitments and obligations. The internal policy adjustments made by the government of the Chinese Communist Party to allow for the People’s Republic of China’s entry to the World Trade Organization in 2001 illustrates how a degree of policy control has been conceded and how predominance over national organizations is achieved by international ones. Although engagement with international organizations has presented a source of internal political tension, externally “the mutual dependence between the sovereign states [allows] the government…much more right to speak in some international affairs.” (Du : para. 5). In effect powerful international organizations in “the globalized world also offers China opportunities to express its discontent” (Yong and Moore, 2004: 7). The People’s Republic of China as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council has often asserted the strengthening of the United Nations in conflict resolution as shown in its stance on the Iraq crisis in 2003; in effect the People’s Republic of China through international organizations seeks to exert its influence on the course of global events.
The international relations of the People’s Republic of China in the context of political globalization have also presented it with advantages. The ideal pattern of globalization for this characteristic is “fluid and multi-centric” relations between states. (Waters, 1995: 123). The opportunities that international relations present the People’s Republic of China are illustrated by the fact that “mainstream Chinese strategic thinkers now believe that globalization, as manifested in transnational forces, international institutions, and a greater need for multilateralism, can be used to “democratize” the U.S. hegemonic order to minimize unilateralist power politics.” (Yong and Moore, 2004: 3). This has been translated into policy as “Beijing has in the new millennium propounded a new official formulation—‘multi-polarization and economic globalization’…as the strategic context for Chinese foreign relations.” (Yong and Moore, 2004: 6). While the People’s Republic of China has cultivated a move to multi-polar centers of power through its international relations it has also used their global fluidity to focus on internal security issues. The establishment of the Shanghai Security Council in 1996-7, comprising of the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan was an example of how the People’s Republic of China has strengthened its hand against Islamic unrest in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. This policy was widened in scope when the People’s Republic of China linked the activities of armed Uygur separatists to the United States of America’s war on terror.
The final characteristic to be analysed in this essay is the focus of problem solving activities. The ideal pattern for this characteristic is defined as “local issues in the context of the global community” (Waters, 1995: 123). The People’s Republic of China’s stance on this characteristic is summarised by Du Chuangguo, who states that “we should fight against the hegemonies, which invade other country’s sovereignty as an excuse of globalization, even interfering in other country’s internal affairs.” (Du : para. 7). The People’s Republic of China is unequivocal about this issue. An example is to be found with Taiwan and the involvement of the United States of America in its protection of the island considered a rogue province by the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic of China insists that this is an internal matter and it is a condition of all diplomatic relations with the country. The sensitivity of this issue relates back to the discussion of China’s exploitation by European nations but as the People’s Republic of China increases its involvement in the political processes of globalization it will have to use its growing power to protect itself from external “interference” in internal issues such as rural poverty, and Taiwan.
In conclusion, the People’s Republic of China is attempting to maintain a balance between preserving the integrity of the state and the control of the Chinese Communist Party against a background of globalizing its economy. The People’s Republic of China’s growing influence and power on the world stage affords it a luxury which many nations of the developing world do not have-the ability to pick and choose which characteristics of political globalization best suit its own development. This policy of selecting the “best bits” of the political processes of globalization is calculated to not only protect Chinese sovereignty but also to offer its citizens the opportunities contained within economic and cultural globalization and increase the global influence of the People’s Republic of China.
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