China Goes Global Development: The Partial Power

David Shambough, China Goes Global Development: The Partial Power (London: Oxford University Press 2013), pp. 409.

The rise of China matters. China has been aspiring to become a true global power in every field. A global power’s external behavior is very important to assess its strengths and weaknesses. The same is true for its internal dynamics such as society, politics, and its culture. Therefore, internal as well as external behavior of a nation is an essentiality in assessing the true image of a global power.

Nowadays, there have been more discussions about China’s role in global politics, economy, and culture. There is a doubt that whether China will rule the world? Many studies have been unveiling to answer this question. Some studies depict Occidental perspective. Oriental perspectives are more inclusive, and there are narrow Chinese perspectives too.

David Shambough in China Goes Global Development: The Partial Power assess from an American viewpoint that whether China has global impact to understand it as a true global power. He argues that China is a partial power in terms of diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military dimensions (p. 10). Shambough is an expert on China-related studies and teaches Politics and International Affairs at the China Policy Program at George Washington University, USA. The work is a fascinating discussion about China’s role in world politics and domestic affairs. It is a well-written and thought-provoking account and critique. A large number of sources have been utilized to accomplish the work.

It is anticipated that Chinese economy might surpass the US economy by 2025. The core argument of the author is that China is involved in global network but it has not been well integrated into the system. The author convincingly argues that China has to go a long way before it could become a global power (p. 9). The book is divided into eight chapters and well-knitted into 409 pages. China has been on the path of rise in the international economic system since the past two decades. It has become a wealthiest nation.

He looks at different identities of China such as its governance, its presence in economic, diplomatic, and culture spheres. At the moment, China is the second largest global economy and military power. Shambough says that mere global presence does not attribute to become a real global power. He argues that ‘China lacks the real global power’ (8) status to influence the global events. He further points out that Beijing does not proactively try to resolve any global problems. He continuously goes on to state that China’s culture does not influence the outer world. He mentions that Chinese overseas investment is far below the United States. He states that in the freedom of press and human rights China’s image is quite low and poor.

Apart from Shambough’s analysis, China should be seen in different perspectives. China has been moving cautiously in many of these dimensions. It does not contribute in solving many of global disputes but this does not mean that China is unconscious of such affairs. China does not prefer to follow a policy of domination but believes in the creation of a harmonious global society by avoiding conflicts. China’s disputes with Japan, India, and several of South East Asian nations are well known but China has been addressing them through economic diplomacy, cooperation, and mutual dialogue. If China follows a policy of domination, such disputes would become much more complicated. To question China’s ability to help resolve these matters is not fair. China has played a fairly good role in the Six Party Talks to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue along with other powers. In this case, China also did not dominate the issue.

Moreover, in spite of many drawbacks, Chinese economy is now well integrated and has become more interdependent with the global economy. Since 1978 China has been transforming itself from an insignificant economy to become the global economy in terms of its impact on world trade and output, international capital flows, financial markets, investments, and its impact on the global commons, environment and climate. These are significant factors bringing China to the center stage of world economic leader. Yet China has not been dictating its terms and conditions as were done by the United States and Western powers after 1945 in the international economic system. This means that China is a cooperative economic power. This also should be translated that Chinese domestic economic forces, institutions, and values are fairly competitive to work and cope with global economic institutions, values, and changes.

US economy heavily depends on China as it owns US$ 1.3 trillion in US treasury and raked top investor in the United States. That situation could largely impact upon US Government decisions. Similarly, China has huge involvement in Japanese Government treasury bonds. China could influence or change the course of events in the United States, Japan, or elsewhere when it feels to do so. Therefore, calling China mere a ‘partial power’ could be misleading. Shambough should look at these points too.

The Western powers have been judging China’s political system from the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989 and ideals of Socialism. In the long run, increasing economic prosperity would impact upon China’s Socialist political system but it would remain its entirely own democratic in traditions. China, however, should be seen in its own perspective.

While review China’s relations with its allies and friends, the author finds complexities in China’s relations with Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea (p. 7). This assessment is not true as for China’s relations with Pakistan are concerned. Their relationship has been developed in all odds and difficulties and both are regarded each other’s time-tested friends. Pakistan would a direct beneficiary of Chinese rise to development. Both countries would construct new inroads of economic development through economic corridor linking Gwader Deep Sea Port in Balochistan’s province of Pakistan to Kashgar in western Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. Talks are already underway between them.

The work under review is an essential study for anyone interested in modern China. Discourses and discussions on modern China must study this volume. The work primarily depicts a Western perspective on China’s global leadership role.

Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.