China's aversion to power projection

China's aversion to power projection

The world has perhaps forgotten that China was once one of the greatest naval powers that rose to the high water mark during the time of the Ming Dynasty under its famous admiral, Zhang He.

What would have happened if the Emperor had not ordered the destruction of the entire fleet after the seventh voyage of the eunuch admiral is a matter of speculation.

The admiral, who hailed from the province of Yunan and who was of Arab descent, is, however, still revered as a god by many in that country.

Many ascribe economic reasons for the decision of the emperor. It was considered wasteful to spend money from the royal coffer on an exercise that had not added anything proportionately substantial to the empire.

But another reason that many cite was that the Ming emperor, engaged in the consolidation of power within the country, did not want to become an extra territorial aspirant. China then was quite content with an isolationist policy.

It seems that the psyche of the Ming rulers has rubbed off on the modern day Chinese leaders in the way they see their role in the current world order. There is a palpable lack of China's will to wield power.

It seems, they are quite content to play within the framework that is being determined by other big powers. And the motivation of the government of President Xu Jin Ping remains quite like the Ming Emperors', which was to become economically strong and address the matter of famine, flood and other internal issues as priority.

The domestic problems compelled the rulers to be inward looking wanting to have to do very little with the neighbours or the region, just as the problems the present leadership is seized with, particularly of equitable development of all the regions of the country.

My view stems from our discussions with various Chinese officials during the recent visit of a Bangladesh media delegation to China, on the invitation of the Chinese government.

However, the significant difference between now and then is that the current Chinese leadership, in its attempt to reconcile between a command economy that China was, and a market economy that it has become, which has resulted in the sharp rise in inequality between people, and unequal development between its different regions, is involving its neighbours and the region to achieve the goal of a truly egalitarian society.

That is why the many regional and sub-regional groups that China has initiated

That China doesn't pursue the path of superpower was what was articulated very clearly by Mr. Guo Yezhou, Vice Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, while talking to our team.

He further said that China was adverse to power projection. It was in response to a question as to when China would be playing its role as a world power.

Understandably, China's unipolar role is compelled by the need to climb higher than the current 18th position in the per capita income matrix. While Chinese scholars and academics do not hesitate to assert that China is indeed a big power, I am sure it was not merely modesty that prompted the response that it is averse to wielding power.

It was a frank expression of China's international policy which is focused entirely on 'peaceful development role' of China.

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