I have been meaning to write a blog about a recent one-off lecture, by Ian Holliday, regarding rising China and global justice, for a while now. Essentially, the lecture addressed the development and increasing prominence of China in the global system, and how this affects global justice. Whilst it isn’t the first time China has been viewed as an important power, it has never been as powerful as it is now.
There have been academics analysing China’s rise, with some authors predicting the collapse of China, especially as many view China’s economic liberation to be at odds with their political authority. Bruce Gilley (2006) argued, for instance, that China’s only future is a democracy through modernisation; when pushed, Gilley argues that if this doesn’t change, China will have until 2019 until it collapses! The idea being, therefore, that China will only survive if it becomes ‘like us’… Other authors have focused upon whatever happens in China having a fundamental effect upon the rest of the world. Holliday takes this position. We only have to look at the papers, nearly every day, commenting on the rise of China – Obama is clearly reaching out towards China, as are the UK.
Regarding global justice, Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a framework of norms constructed by various members of the international community to protect against abuses of sovereignty such as mass atrocities like genocide, with the last resort being international military action arguably put in practice recently with the intervention in Libya legitimised by the security council. Most debates, apart from UN discussions, regarding global justice and rights within China often take place without China, with the debate often dominated by Western discourse and terms especially given China was only relatively recently active within the UN. This relates to another paper I read the other week regarding the construction of new imperialism, as state’s justify invasions in ‘less developed’ countries because they are seen to threaten peace and stability, especially through poverty, and are therefore viewed to be a ‘security threat’.
That said, there are serious concerns regarding China and its disregard for rights (China helped water down R2P, for instance). Economic growth and business partnership comes above rights, with China being responsible for 50% of those who have moved from absolute poverty levels in the last 30 years (which arguably assists with right protection). China are sometimes critical of the conception of human rights as a discourse used by the West to intervene and impose Western values upon other countries. For instance, China’s abstention regarding the Libya intervention was largely due to African Union’s support.
When it comes to justice, Holliday argued that China are closer to communitarianism, whereas the West have a much more cosmopolitan view of justice effecting their views of global justice. The latter focuses on the transcendence of justice and how borders can fall away if justice is breached within a certain country (relates to R2P). China’s communitarianism is different to the common Western interpretation, as there is more focus upon the locality of justice and how it is kept within certain boundaries, respecting the variation of different cultures.
Nevertheless, the West and China are connected through their desire for growth and economic production. Holliday argues that we should try to blend the two approaches together, respecting the need to look at abuses of rights in different countries but also respecting the difference in culture and values. Whilst expanding business opportunities with Africa, for instance, Holliday did not believe that China will ever show real intentions of imperialism towards other counties – they place economic issues before political ones, hence their neglect of human rights.
Whilst this has been more of a report of the issues discussed within the lecture, and a brief one at that, I think it highlights some important issues regarding the rise of China and its influence and relation with other countries around the world. The Eurozone cries out for a China to help them, but China are unlikely to want to tie their economy within Westernised projects – but maybe they will if the threat to their economy becomes too great. Whatever happens, China is a rising power worth watching.