Saturday, 22 July 2017

Structural Realism: Can China Rise Peacefully?

 The Structural realism also known as Neorealism is a general theory of international relations, with key assumptions about the anarchic international system where states are subject to structural pressures, which makes  them  anxious about their own security and survival. By contrast of Classical realism, Structural realism believes that world politics is governed by the structure of the international system not by the human nature. The theory of structural realism is associated with the American defensive realist, Kenneth Waltz (‘’Theory of International Politics’’,  ‘and ’Man, the State, and War ‘’) and offensive realist, John Mearsheimer (The Tragedy of Great Power Politics , 2001).     
According to Structural realism states perform in a self - help  system, because there is no world government, there is no night - watchman who can save them if they are threatened by another state. All realists believe that states are unitary rational actors that are motivated by the desire for power and security rather than ideals. Central also for structural realism is the distribution of capabilities among states. Str – realism believes that capabilities determine a state’s place within the international system.  The defensive realism believes that states are security maximizers,  while the offensive realism believes that states are power maximizers. For classical realists, power is an end itself while for structural realists power is a means an end and the ultimate end is survival.   However,  ‘’in a  zero - sum game’’  Mearshemier  argues  ''in it is difficult for a country to improve its prospects for survival without threatening the survival of other states.’’ Structural Realism also believes continuity in international politics, not change.  
The Cold War - Propaganda Poster
The concept  ‘’ balance of power’’ also plays a key role in Structural realism. The Waltzian Structural realism supports the balance of power politics and the bipolar world system. According to Waltz great-power wars are much more likely to happen under multipolarity than under bipolarity, this is because bipolarity reduces uncertainties among the enemies, that under the Bipolar system there is less opportunity for miscalculations and therefore less chance of great power wars. For example, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union balanced the power of the United States, whereas the United States balanced the power of the Soviet Union (checks and balances).     

 After, the peaceful end of the Cold War the world suddenly became unipolar. Since the collapse of the bipolar system, the position of a sole superpower is held by the US. However, recently, new actors emerged in the world stage, among them China is considered as the most challenging to the US.  China has a population of 1.3 billion. China's fast economic development  has put the country on the world stage with great powers like the United States,  EU, and Russia. As China continues to develop, the question on political observers' minds is will China rise peacefully?  Structural realism argues that the structured anarchic system of the world creates a security competition which cannot allow a peaceful rise of China.  One of the most well known sceptics of China’s “peaceful rise’’, the offensive realist John Mearsheimer argues  that China has the right to maximize power in order to ensure its own security and survival, because  in the self – help system ''it is better to be Godzilla than Bambi,'' however  Mearsheimer believes that ‘an uncertainty over  China’s intentions will give rise to constant security competition with the potential for war''. 

 By contrast  to Mearsheimer’s pessimistic  assumptions, Liberal Complex Interdependence is optimistic about the possibility of a peaceful rise of China. Robert  Keohane and Joseph Nye in the ‘power and interdependence’ argued that under conditions of Complex interdependence the military force will have less utility.  CI believes that  great power  relations be managed through diplomacy and international organisations.  In 2017, Joseph Nye with the Project Syndicate argued that Structural realism misses the engagement and growth of economic interdependence between the US and China.  Nye  believes that ‘’China can rise peacefully, that there is no need for the US and China to go to war.'’ During Barack Obama's presidency, the U. S has been committed to engaging China, not containing it.  Liberals believe that if China could be made both democratic and prosperous, will not engage in security competition with America. Mearshiemer who advocates tougher scrutiny of Chinese policies pointed out that ‘’the U.S. foreign policy on China to engage or to foster trade are “misguided and doomed to fail, that a rich China and the United States are more likely to participate in  security competition.” However, I believe that an outcome will also depend on American responds to the rise of China and On the Trump Administration’s position towards the South China Sea and Taiwan. For example, China considers Taiwan to be part of China and unification of China is the key priority of the project China Dream of 2012. Therefore, president Trump’s phone call with the leader of Taiwan was a highly provocative act, because since Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972, the US has accepted the so called “One China” principle. If, for example, Trump’s America will support Taiwan’s independence, and Taiwan declares independence, then a war, including a nuclear war between China and the U.S. becomes more likely. Recently we have seen kind of a soft power competition; China’s government has been actively trying to take advantage of The U.S. declining prestige on international stage, and replaces itself as a defender of multilateralism and the Paris Climate Accord, from which President Trump has withdrawn America.   
Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972
This essay shows that, Structural realism believes that international politics is governed by the structure not the human nature.  The rise of China is the key issue of the 21st century. Whether the rise of China will continue peacefully or not, Structural realism and liberal CI provides different perspectives. According to Mearsheimer, China cannot rise peacefully; this is because the anarchic structure of the international system requires states to seek hegemony at the expense of other states. By contrast of Structural realism, Liberal CI believes that under conditions of Complex interdependence the military force will have less utility. Joseph Nye believes that the U. S and China can overcome anarchy based on common interests and engagement.  However, Structural realists strongly believe ‘’an uncertainty over rising China’s intentions will force the US to abandon its policy of engagement, and regardless of their economic interdependence, the US and China will engage in security competition with the potential for war.’’  I, also believe that  because of China's economic liberalization does not led to political liberalization, that China remains a  most repressive authoritarian state, the so called China’s ''peaceful rise'' to great power status already is not peaceful at all.  
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