The November 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs is a theme issue speculating on the issues at stake in the next 20 years of geopolitical developments. Most articles are grouped by theme; several characterize the foreign policy interests of emerging powers–namely China, Russia, Turkey and Brazil. The article on China sustains the emerging foreign policy discussion portending the Chinese Communist Party’s transition to an revisionist foreign policy. The Liberal Ironist has already made 2 posts on Russia’s apparent (though still in the speculative stage) expression of comity towards NATO; this seems like an opportune time to start a series addressing academic expectations about the underlying motives and capabilities, as well as the opportunities and threats, confronting the great powers.
First of all, there is reason to expect relations among several of these states to become more-difficult than they have been in recent years. The Neoliberal proposition of stable, non-compulsive common political interests established and mediated through free trade was always an oversimplified narrative marked by a minority but residual elemtn of protectionism by individual states; for the time being the trend towards trade integration even seems to have plateaued. China’s foreign policy strategy, always more-Mercantilist than Neoliberal, provides a possible source for profound disruption of this system–artificially pegging its currency, the Renminbi, at a low exchange rate relative to the dollar, enabling our own government’s deficit-spending for years (while calling for the replacement of the US Dollar as the international reserve currency by a complex mix of major currencies, as discussed in the Foreign Affairs article), and engaging in a massive and rapid grab for the natural resources of many East African countries on very-unequal terms as discussed in the May issue of The Atlantic.
This is definitely not a prediction of world war, or even the unraveling of these trade institutions marked by both pragmatic exceptions and defections. But the interesting Foreign Affairs article on China, “The Game Changer,” makes a strong case that we are witnessing a profound shift in China’s diplomatic expression. The CCCP–or some enabled faction within it–apparently thinks China has arrived. The Liberal Ironist will have more on this shortly.