What is the difference between “peaceful rise” and “peaceful development”? Some officials in China shared that they don’t like the term “peaceful rise” as it connotes an expectation on China to play a larger role in international business. US has, in its dealings and diplomatic language, already acknowledged China as a future co-equal player in the international arena, as seen by the “rebalancing to the East” However, China sees itself as naturally fulfilling its potential and guarding its national interest. While it is strengthening itself to be a major power, is it ready to handle the international responsibility that the world expects of them?
In this crowded region, China’s neighbours will inevitably feel the squeeze. Japan, India and SEA countries undoubtedly feels the pressure as China grows in influence and flexs its muscles economically and militarily. China continues to maintain that these are merely to further their own national interests and safeguarding its sovereignty. However, opaqueness in its political decisionmaking process makes China’s intent suspicious. When you are in a room with a growing gorilla, you make plans for the worst scenarios.
As it grows internationally, China is also plagued with multiple internal changes and challenges. Calls for transparency and political freedom within China continue to come from external and internal parties. The income divide between the urban and the rural and systemic corruption makes the system inefficient. While the country seeks to shift from labour intensive to knowledge based industry, it has to move up the education chain with its 1.3 billion population.
China will continue to proclaim its non-hegemonic raise. It’s military will continue to develop as a natural need to safeguard its territories. However, it will need to effectively shift from hard power to soft power. Development rather than rise, not just in words but seen in action too.