Is China Changing the Postwar Consensus or Enhancing It?

    Lucio Blanco Pitlo III

    Security, Asia

    Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 23, 2018. Naohiko Hatta/Pool via REUTERS

    China’s growing economic power and political influence have tremendous disruptive effect, which can be good or bad depending on where one sits.

    America’s apparent retreat from championing globalization, along with its lesser enthusiasm to sustain the postwar economic and security architectures that it helped establish and lead, has created openings for China, as the world’s number two, to take on greater international responsibilities consequent with its rise. Against this backdrop, leadership transition and political developments in China has become closely watched events by an international community eager to find clues on future policy directions China may take. Will China become bolder in taking greater regional and global commitments as its pronouncements and actions suggest? Or will it be more cautious and circumspect given the risks and uncertainties? Is President Xi Jinping’s third term a move towards stability and continuity, or is it another disruption in a world already fraught with considerable unpredictability?

    Xi’s third term broke the post-Deng tradition of term limits and, as such, is considered a disruptive development in domestic politics. Though there had been different accounts on the motive behind the move, the need for steady hands amidst uncertain times is one potent explanation. The United States is in decline, not so much in terms of capacity but rather largely by choice. In the meantime, China’s economy continues to gather strength, but dangers in the transition to a new normal still cast a long shadow in ongoing reforms. Therefore, the need for stability and continuity to take greater advantage of the period of strategic opportunity is imperative. The disruptive impact of Xi’s third term in China’s leadership succession is thus dampened by the perceived benefits of its intended purpose. Meanwhile, in the international realm, Xi’s third term suggest strong policy continuity.

    Eroding Traditional Norms and Order

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