Intro to Modern China

In a relatively short amount of time, China has emerged onto the global stage as one of the world’s great new powers. Since China’s transition to a market-based economy beginning in 1978, the country has seen its GDP ranking increase from ninth in the world to second to only the United States in 2016. Such extreme economic growth coupled with a population of over 1.3 billion has empowered China to begin to assert itself as a major player in world affairs. During the past 15 years, China has begun to modernize and expand its navy, with the ultimate goal of becoming a blue water navy capable of challenging the United States in the Pacific. In 2015 the Chinese began acting on their longstanding claims of ownership of most of the South China Sea by expanding upon and militarizing the Spratly Islands, and the Chinese have also built their first overseas naval base in Djibouti.

Beijing has also become an important lending partner around the world. In late 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative, the biggest infrastructure project in history, which aims to create a “modern Silk Road” that runs through land and sea, connecting 59 countries and encompassing 60% of the world’s population. This project includes billions of dollars in loans to many of countries that are to be included in the BRI trade route. These loans have been met with condemnation by many observers who have accused China of adopting a policy of “debt-trap diplomacy.”

China has also been accused of stealing American intellectual property as well as military technology. According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Trade Representative, Chinese theft of American intellectual property currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion a year; and in most cases, the offenders continue to operate with impunity.

China’s increasing ability to influence world affairs through its growing economy and expanding military, coupled with its willingness to engage in actions that defy the international order, are matters that threaten U.S national security and stability around the globe.