By Irfan Mahar*
According to the realist school of thought, no country easily gives up its dominant status and offers it to another rising power; rather, it strives hard to contain, compete, as well as it requires, fight with the opponent states for supremacy in the global international order. The same is the case with the United States of America which has remained the most influential and dominant state in world affairs for a long time. In this regard, it has been trying to keep the predominant status with it through containing the rising powers throughout history. In the 20th century, it contained the emerging power of Germany during the first and second world wars, and after that, it fought proxy wars with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) during the complete period of the Cold War from 1945 to 1990/91 till the disintegration of the USSR. Resultantly, America became successful in containing both rising powers which further strengthened the might and influence of Washington. As for the 21st century is concerned, Washington regards the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the biggest competitor and threat to the dominant status of the US.
Therefore, every government in the US, particularly governments of the 21st century, have used multiple ways of containing China through their policies and actions such as from the former President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy to the present President Biden’s policy of dubbing China as the strategic competitor. Likewise, former American president Donald Trump’s administration’s conviction that the world’s two biggest powers are veering dangerously toward confrontation. In this regard, Wilson Centre Washington, DC organized a talk on November 21, 2019, entitled “A Conversation with Ambassador Alice Wells on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia at the Department of State, Alice Wells, was aggressive and prudently during the talks on China and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) strategy. Furthermore, she was also reminding the community of the world that America had the biggest stake in global affairs because it was the US that was actively involved in the uplift of poor and war-driven societies in the world, particularly after the Second World War.
Similarly, she explained that China was trying to influence the world via its own led model of running regional as well as global affairs. Moreover, Wells explained that America would not allow any nation to spoil the structure of the world through its malicious policies which also affect the nations in the long term. She further described that Beijing was expanding its investment and influence in Islamabad through the CPEC. The project of the CPEC is high stakes risk for China and Pakistan when it comes to its financing and transparency, she added. Likewise, Wells kept the point of view that the CPEC is a debt trap for Pakistan, resulting in a heavy burden because of the corruption in the projects. While Beijing and Islamabad disagree with the subjectivity and point of view of Wells. They keep the view that China is investing in Pakistan through the BRI and its flagship project the CPEC. It is believed by both the countries that a well-crafted and well-thought-out project of the CPC will provide them with a win-win situation. The situation where Beijing and Islamabad will get benefits according to their shares, commitments, responsibilities and cooperation. Moreover, through the CPEC the massive amount of money will be spent in different stages, which will also become helpful in the up-gradation of the underdeveloped regions of the country if the corruption and interest groups are countered effectively. Therefore, both the nations outrightly rejected the point of view of the former American government’s diplomat, Alice Wells.
It is also mostly labelled by the US that US-China rivalry is a battle over values and according to Washington, it is the biggest supporter as well as a promoter of democratic values and peace throughout the world. But in reality, the US is considered the biggest violator of democratic values and responsible for deteriorating the peace and prosperity within the various parts of the world such as the Middle East and South Asian region. As for the European and American continents are concerned, to some extent, it can be said that America has been successful in uplifting and helping those countries by getting them out of poverty as well as promoting development, democracy, peace and progress. Unlike these regions, when it comes to the African and Asian continents, America has proved a big failure in promoting democratic values, peace, prosperity, development and mutual understanding within the countries of these continents. It is clear from the American behaviour, policies and actions that it does not want China to increase its influence through its projects such as the BRI particularly, in those regions of the world that are ignored by the US as well as its policies and actions have created turmoil, deterioration, destruction and instability.
The rivalry of two big powers could generate the disorder in global affairs as well as international structure. In this regard, there are multiple theories through which one can understand the emerging rivalry between the US and China including the result of rivalry amid two powerful nations of the world. Such as, power transition theory which was first explained by A.F.K. Organski in his book entitled “World Politics” in 1958. He describes that the time will come when the dominant power and the rising power come to a point where war between them will become inevitable for the transition of power from the dominant state to a rising state. While the Liberal school of thought keeps the view that war could be avoided through the promotion of democracy, collective security, self-determination, negotiations, mutual understanding and free trade. Therefore, it is the responsibility of both the nations particularly the US, to behave like a responsible, mature and rational actor to avoid any misadventure between both the nations which result in not only the destruction of Beijing and Washington but also the whole world.
*The writer teaches at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan.