Geopolitics and the Rise of China

BRICS, 4 Apr 2022

Anna Jaguaribe | OpinionSUR - TRANSCEND Media Service

Let’s start with a reverse order as the rise of China has a direct impact on how we perceive geopolitics today. It is unique by the historical situation in which it is couched.

2 Mar 2022 – Firstly, the preceding rise of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which will be fundamental in creating the context for the industrial expansion of China and the rise of the value chains, concentrated in Asia. Victor Cha in his book Power play makes a point as to why the US helped to forge a multilateral order in Europe but not in Asia where it privileged a bespoken approach with individual military and economic alliances. That notwithstanding, Asia’s integration is evolving through economic tie and a complex network of investments and value chains. The rise of China and how it approached the region has an important role to play.

Secondly, the US anti-Russia pro-China geopolitics was fundamental for the entrance of China into the world’s economic system with consequences for the geopolitics of today in contrast to the Cold War and the absence of Russia from the world trade system. The entrance of China into the WTO facilitated the role of China as a global manufacturing hub, a fact that makes the competition US-China today so different from the Cold War.

Thirdly, China’s politics of privileging the regional context was key to the rise of economic Asia. RCEP is a consequence of this policy. China’s unique combination of policy instruments for reform and opening up created a unique context for engaging with foreign partners. The use of FDI in the opening up distinguished it from other Asian miracles.

The manner in which large sector of private ventures were in part guided by the planning instrument is an-other element. Eisenhower is reputed to have said that plans can be useless but planning is everything. He was reflecting on his military experience whereas in China both the plan and planning are of importance and different uses. The plan, while never completed to the letter, guides the private sector in assuming risks and the planning is a social exercise, which tames the bureaucracy. The development of the investment sector and various policy instruments, the constantly adjustment of industrial policy and primacy of S&T innovation are key particularities which are of special interest to Brazil. In particular, the evolution of the S&T policy is noteworthy with its passage from a development and catching up period to an innovation driven policy, which has direct consequences for US competition. Also relevant is the extensive and the direction of artificial intelligence ventures.

Crisis and geopolitics today

The actual crisis is the height of changes, which begin with the hyper -globalization of the late 1990’s and has countries especially in the West struggling to cope with gains and losses. Dani Rodrik has written extensively on this subject.

The relocation of economic activities from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the weight of the value chains established in Asia have significant political and economic consequences to the West. They give birth to new economic arrangements especially in Asia and bring into the forefront of geopolitics entire regions such as Eurasia.

In this cycle of globalization, those which fare better are regional groupings with self-contained trade dynamics as the EU and the fragmented electronics industry and services. Turning again to the question of hegemony. The effects of hyper globalization combined with the financial crisis of 2008 and the competition between US and China that ensued, place into question the traditional concept of hegemony and its exercise. Do the traditional means of exercising hegemony – money, armies and finance – have the same weight as in the post war? Do they give us solid bases for political alliances? The point in question is what the meaning of hegemony in a multipolar world is and what it means when the opposing forces are an integral part of the global economic system.

Which brings us into the links between hegemony and geopolitics today. Is it the search for primacy and a return to a unipolar world? Perry Anderson in his book The H-Word argues that today in Washington what prevails is the idea of a liberal hegemony, which encompasses both oceans and aims at the alliances of liberal economies with the necessary politics to prevail. I s it a coalition of like-minded democracies? Or is it a new system of balance of power with competition and cooperation imbued in a system as Kissinger suggests? In this bipolar world what is the position of other big players? What is the significance of strategic autonomy? What role does regional consensus play and what is the space for individual allegiances? How can we create a new subsidiarity principle based on diversity to give new life to multilateral institutions? Kissinger argues that politics as negotiation cannot be the search for final solutions. Is it possible to avoid zero sum games?

Our perception

Brazil has to search for a strategic position of independent autonomy, a goal much easier to attain if backed by regional agreement. To this end, Brazil has to restructure its regional institutional basis. The competition in the future will be around technology and the building of carbon-free economies and we have to understand our position in this competition. We have to define how we are going to participate in the new age and directions of globalization. While not being a prime producer of technology, we have fields in which we can be prime players such as carbon-free production. We can as well make large progresses in biotechnology and the use of artificial intelligence. For this we must participate in the multilateral efforts to regulate these fields and define the limit of global public goods.


Reproduced from: Brasil China: Ensaios 2002-2021 /  Anna Jaguaribe; Paula Carvalho (Org.) – Rio de Janeiro : CEBRI; Ideia D, 2021

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