Under the leadership of Chairman Xi Jinping, People’s Republic of China enjoy prosperous era domestically. During his speech on 5th Plenary Session of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, he promised to eradicate poverty by 2030, eliminating corruption and established “China’s Dream” as their domestic public diplomacy. Last year on May, Chairman Xi announced “Belt and Road Initiative” or BRI in Beijing. It is believed as a set of tremendous infrastructure upgrade in over 30 countries as well as boosting economic cooperation regionally or globally.
Naturally, this economic initiative is to establish a community where member states involved may enjoy mutual benefits and coexist peacefully along the trade route. Albeit the good vision and idealistic plan proposed, some countries are rising their eyebrows therefore considering whether OBOR is an unveiled strategy aimed at expanding China domination or it is for true purpose of economic and peace benefits.
Moreover, Chairman Xi was appointed as eternal President of China last March 2018 and it is more likely he will push this plan into realization, but still the question lies whether his goal is Chinese interest or it is for the better Asia. The writer hope through this paper, it is to realize and acknowledge the effect of political theories and how the actions of superpower can be seen as a recognition of realism or liberalism in international relations world.
China, a hero or aggressor?
China has negative influence in South East Asia due to its aggressive move in claiming their territory in South China Sea, which unfortunately happen to clash with surrounding countries inter alia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. In lieu of addressing and solving the issue through diplomacy, China chose to silent away from the issue thus continue to show its domination in the area. Although war is not always in the Chinese agenda, but in past decades, China has challenged the world to be the champion in economic sector, imposing threat to the world economic superpower such as USA, Japan, or any countries that views this initiative as an economic deterrence imposed by China.
Indonesia has always try to be the intermediary in everything thanks to our country foreign policy. Albeit its stance to always stay neutral, the president of Republic Indonesia, Joko Widodo, could not hide his interest to participate and contribute in the program proposed by China. On May 2017, he visited Chairman Xi in Beijing along with other countries leader in OBOR Initiative Forum. The $113 billion investment call and significant infrastructure upgrade is too hard to resist for half of the world countries in ASEAN, South Asia and Africa. It is a mouth-watering reward for Indonesia and our country should not turn a blind eye on the geopolitical awakening of China.
Joko Widodo presence in Beijing was crucial and Indonesia will benefit the most from this plan as it is already within the agenda of Jokowi to build major infrastructure projects and improving transport within the country by land and water as Indonesia is world largest archipelago country and it is imperative for us to utilize maritime to our own advantage. The plan is already intact with Chinese OBOR proposals. China offer is for Indonesia to be able to access global market and strong supply chain and Indonesia needs financing support for national infrastructure upgrade.
The good purpose of OBOR by the Chinese should be taken into deep consideration as it can be seen as China hegemony in the region. Although Chinese offer is far more advantageous, Indonesia also need to consider their tradition partner like USA, as they will not be happy to see this because they have their interest in the region as well. It is true that Indonesia is geopolitically strategic for economic, military and ideological advancement.
OBOR from a Realist and Liberal lens
Simply said, Chinese aim is to promote a harmonious relationship with its neighbor in South East Asia and showing china challenge and new player as economic investor as well. Nevertheless, the hidden motive of China can be seen vis-à-vis Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative itself is predicted to have a significant impact, politically and economically, in the region and to understand the true motives, the writer will present through the realist and liberal views.
Realist theorists see the world as an anarchical state of affairs in which states vie for power under the assumption that all international relations are a great zero-sum game.As Stephen M. Walt summarizes, “[Realism] depicts international affairs as astruggle for power among self-interested states and is generally pessimistic about the prospects for eliminating conflict and war.” Instead of viewing something good, the realist view everything from the perspective of dominance over something or struggle over power. Beijing proposal of OBOR is a proposal of uniting countries joining the initiative to be under China sphere of domination. In recent years, China has never directly engaged in solving issue directly because they do not want to be seen as aggressor but instead, Beijing aggressively use the mask of “economy” to usurp their national interest to other nation by using the weapon called “investment”.
East Asia and Africa still contains a lot of natural resources thus OBOR will drastically strengthen China dominance in the region intended and slowly taking away whatever they desire. China also to seek in creating strong regional based to serve military purposes in accordance with their economic development mission thus challenging international order as it is already more than enough to challenge hegemony power dominance from West. Unlike liberal theorists, realists argue that China’s actions are only the beginning
of greater aspirations. Where liberals believe that Beijing’s turn toward multilateralism are indicative of its foreign policy, realists argue that these developments are simply precursors that lead to regional hegemony as power and influence increase. The development of infrastructure and trade agreements with weaker and less influential states places China in a position to dictate economic and political policy within South
Asia. “[China’s] ultimate aim is to be the hegemon—the only great power in the system…China is likely to try to dominate Asia the way the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere.
Additionally, China recognizes that India, the world’s largest democracy, is the only nation capable of threatening its hegemonic aspirations in South Asia. Realists, along with Indian leaders, argue that Chinese-built infrastructure is strategically placed to flank India’s borders.Should Beijing choose, all previously designated commercial ports would have the capacity to act as naval bases in key strategic locations.
Where realism defines the world as an anarchical power grab, liberalism offers theories that promotes the interdependence of states through economic exchange, global institutions, and societal norms. A key distinction between realism and liberalism is the realist view that global interactions are zero-sum and the liberal belief that global interdependence encourages positive-sum interactions between states.
Additional literature that analyzes different aspects of China’s behavior, but under a strictly liberal lens, points to Beijing’s incorporation into established global institutions as proof of the state’s desire to accept international norms.John Ikenberry concludes that China is utilizing the current global institutions to advance its interest. He argues that Beijing’s recent success demonstrates both to itself and to the rest of the world that there is not a need to deviate from “the rules and institutions of international order. A discussion on China’s ability to operate within global institutions and norms is necessary to conclude liberal motivations behind the OBOR strategy. A failure by China to remain with these norms could indicate a desire to turn OBOR growth into a tool for regional dominance.
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The Jakarta Post. (2017, May 17). Indonesian team to go to China to follow up Jokowi’s visit. Retrieved from The Jakarta Post: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/17/indonesian-team-to-go-to-china-to-follow-up-jokowis-visit.html
Xinhua. (2017, 10 18). Xi Jinping said that the realization of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the historical mission of the Communist Party of China in the new era. Retrieved from Xinhua : http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2017-10/18/c_1121820111.htm