Described by Forbes as a “rising power” in 2017, China’s role in the world has increased rapidly. Wielding the potential to be a shaping global force, China has influenced cinema, business practices, and global relations. The international community, comprised of journalists, diplomats, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), may be confused about how to properly react to this development.
China’s rise has been noticed by many. Economist Arvind Subramanian has speculated that China will “direct” the world’s economy by 2020, citing the strength of the yuan. Lawrence Saez, a noteworthy voice from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has estimated that in twenty years, China will overtake the USA in terms of military power. This leaves the international community unsure of what to think about China’s rise.
On the one hand, China’s growth is positive because it challenges the superpower The United States of America, and opens the door for numerous business opportunities. China has one of the largest economies in the world. This could potentially be great news for the technology sector, which is crucial to modern day health, education, information systems, and communication. On the other hand, China’s growth is disastrous due to the country’s history of human rights abuses, a lack of democratic freedom, and growing tensions with other countries. Both sides leave the international community uncertain and, in some instances, divided.
It’s important to remember that China has been described by Human Rights Watch as showing utter “contempt” towards human rights. The treatment of eleven million Muslim Uyghurs is disturbing and well documented. What’s also alarming is the treatment of journalists and artists. Liu Feiyue, founder of a civil rights website, was arrested for “subversion of state power” according to Amnesty International. The Tibetan Review reports that over eight hundred Tibetans have been held as political prisoners since the spring of 2008. Some have received the death sentence.
All of these facts – plus distressing stories regarding police brutality and unfair elections – paint an unflattering picture that Xi Jingping doesn’t want others to see. This is a government that uses fear and violence to achieve its ends. With the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 fresh in the minds of many, it’s important to not underestimate the brutality of the Communist Party of China.
Adding to the alarm is the lack of public outcry about these abuses, because politicians are unwilling to confront China. Countries risk losing their trade deals with Chinese businesses if they criticize China’s government. It seems modern day governance is giving into fear, and that does not meet the standard for leadership in today’s world. Governments, particularly those of first world countries, should be calling out China’s practices.
In terms of moving forward, the international community must overcome its fear and doubts. This is crucial to advocacy. Sometimes, the people we call out are the ones who unsettle or even scare us. However, we have to advocate for a non-violent world. That means challenging those responsible for human rights atrocities. While difficult, it is ultimately rewarding to support those who need it.
It’s also crucial to remember that China’s rise does not mean that China’s citizens benefit. Arguably, the people of China are in a vulnerable position. They are in the spotlight, although Xi Jingping is pulling the puppet strings. The image this government spreads is not peaceful, it is hostile and oppressive. We, as the international community, need to do better by holding him and his government accountable.
For now, Xi Jingping’s influence on the world rises.