Is there a peaceful rise of China or will there be a clash or a Sino-American war ? There are two academic representatives of both schools as Kishore Mahbubani and John Mearsheimer who were discussing this issue. These are the two perspectives on the coming escalation of the Sino-American conflict.
Mahbubani says that a confrontation between the USA and China would be inevitable, but avoidable. In his opinion, the USA has to define who is its competitor and if it wants to contain it, the USA needs a comprehensive long-term strategy that incorporates the difference to its former competitor, the Sovjetunion as China and the USA itself would be different actors on both sides. China is in his opinion is not the new Sovjetunion and if you define China as this you will lose. It is not a struggle between democracy and communism, but between a US plutocracy and a Chinese meritocracy. China would like Sun Tze try to avoid a direct conflict, fight not by military means, but mostly with technology and economy, Made in China 2025 and New Silkroad. While the USA was totally missing a comprehensive longterm strategy, China has it. The USA would make the mistake to invest in expensive military platforms or aircraft carriers which were sitting ducks and could be destroyed by 1 cheap anti-ship missile. However, Mahbubani doesn´t explain why China itself is now investing in those sitting ducks and aircraft carriers. To contain China the USA should reduce its defense budget and military and invest in technology and research and development (R&D). In this point of view, Mahbubani is very similar to the libertarian CATO Institute which just published a similar study “Building Military force meets geopolitical realities”.
The US liberal ideology which claims that China could be democratized fails, as most Chinese see the CPC as guardian of an economic development which lifted the 50% bottom Chinese to a historical height, while the middle class and the working class in the west was facing deindustrialization and a decline in living standards which made a Trump possible. The Chinese experienced a period of 30-year prosperity and stability which has never been before in the 4000 year´s history. Therefore the CPC has all support of its people and as guardian of success. Mahbubani is also stressing that China will expand, that it will challenge the USA in the Pacific, but it wouldn`t copy the US history. There would be maybe a difference about Hongkong and Taiwan, but never be a clash with the USA in the Indo-Pacific. There would be no Chinese Theodore Roosevelt who speaks gently and carries a big stick. China would just grow in small steps, didn´t want to antagonize anybody with military means, use Sun Tze as the fighting without military means. China has already intensive economic relations that nobody wanted to choose one side, be it the USA or China. Mearsheimer just says: Security trumps economy. Till now nobody in Asia wants to make the choice but to coexist. But the question will e how Asians and the world will behave if they meet the choice between the USA or China.
John Mearsheimer has a totally different view. First; There will be no peaceful rise of China, but a clash. China isn`t thinking in esoteric Sun Tze stuff, but as a great power, it wants to transfer economic and technological power to military power. It won´t be saturated with Hongkong and Taiwan, but challenge the USA in the Indopacific. Mearsheimer is a proponent of offensive neorealism. There was realism by Morgenthau: The Hobbesian way of thinking that the world is anarchy and that each state tries to save ist existence by power projection and power alliances, power maximization and power balancing. Then was the school of defensive neorealism by Walt and Kinderman, which said that its mostly not a question of pure power games, but also about the perception what power means. However John Mearsheimer ist the offensive neorealist school.
Offensive realism is a prominent theory of international relations belonging to the realist school of thought, which includes various sub-trends characterised by the different perspectives of representative scholars such as Robert Gilpin, Randall Schweller, Eric J. Labs and Fareed Zakaria. Yet, to date, the most important variant of offensive neorealism is that of John J. Mearsheimer as fully developed in his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. While Mearsheimer’s offensive neorealism theory does reiterate and build on certain assumptions elaborated by classical realists, it departs completely from this branch by using positivism as a philosophy of science and by adding a system-centric approach to the study of state behaviour in international politics based on the structure of the international system. Accordingly, his offensive neorealism pertains to the sub-branch of neorealism alongside other structural theories such as defensive realism.[9
The theory is grounded on five central assumptions similar to the ones that lie at the core of Kenneth Waltz‘s defensive neorealism. These are:
- Great powers are the main actors in world politics and the international system is anarchical
- All states possess some offensive military capability
- States can never be certain of the intentions of other states
- States have survival as their primary goal
- States are rational actors, capable of coming up with sound strategies that maximize their prospects for survival
Like defensive neorealism, offensive realism posits an anrchic international system in which rational great powers uncertain of other states’ intentions and capable of military offensive strive to survive. Although initially developed from similar propositions to those of defensive neorealism, Mearsheimer’s offensive neorealism advances drastically different predictions regarding great power behaviour in international politics. Mainly, it diverges from defensive neorealism in regards to the accumulation of power a state needs to possess to ensure its security and the issuing of strategy states pursue to meet this satisfactory level of security. Ultimately, Mearsheimer’s offensive neorealism draws a much more pessimistic picture of international politics characterised by dangerous inter-state security competition likely leading to conflict and war
What does it mean in reality? The first Gulf war was okay with Mearsheimer, the second Gulf under Bush jr. not and he also criticized the Israel lobby for the US Middle East politics and on the other side he criticized antisemitism. He saw NATO and EU expansion as the cause for legitimate Russian intervention in Ukraine. However, Mearsheimer says that there can´t be a peaceful rise of China, but there will be a clash between these two countries. While Mahbubani is referring to his Chinese and Asian counterparts that they have learned their lesson of history as Pharag Kkann is doing in his Panasian book “The Future is Asian”, John Mearsheimer is talking about that China will maximize ist military power just to get control of its own region-the Indopacific which drives it in a clash with the USA. However, we don´t know if the USA is engaging in a warlike TX Hames Offshore Control or if this will be a long war. However, it will be a long confrontation independent who thinks that he will win. However, there is no strategic longterm perspective for the USA at the moment, but just impulsive, uncoordinated outbreaks of spontaneous actions. And Mearsheimer offensive neorealism could lead to selffulfilling prophecy and an US Crowe memorandum which defensive neorealist Kissinger warned of in his book “On China”.