What is China’s goal?

The ongoing strategic competition between China and the West, especially between the United States, European nations, and China, marks a profound shift in the global balance of power. This rivalry, sprawling across economic, technological, military, and ideological domains, reflects China’s rise as a formidable challenge to the longstanding dominance of Western powers in global affairs.

In the economic and trade sphere, Western countries have voiced concerns over significant trade imbalances and limited market access, attributing these issues to what they perceive as China’s unfair practices, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. Moreover, China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to extend its global influence through extensive infrastructure investments across over 60 countries, directly contesting Western supremacy in international trade and investment.

The vulnerabilities of global supply chains came into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic, revealing the risks tied to dependency on Chinese manufacturing. This has led to a push within Western nations for the diversification of supply chains and the repatriation of critical manufacturing sectors to ensure greater resilience.

Additionally, the advent of 5G technology and the involvement of Chinese companies like Huawei has sparked significant security concerns among the US and European countries, leading to restrictions on Huawei’s participation in their 5G infrastructure projects.

Within this complex landscape, the European Union is grappling with difficult strategic choices. It must navigate its relationship with the United States amidst the geopolitical competition with China, weigh the possibility of sanctioning China for its support of Russia, and consider the dynamics of rebuilding relations with Russia after the conflict. These considerations highlight the intricate and interconnected challenges facing global leaders in navigating the shifting tides of international relations and power dynamics.

The strategic competition between China and the West encompasses a broad spectrum of areas, with both sides recognizing the strategic importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and investing heavily in its development. This rivalry extends into cybersecurity, where issues like espionage and cyberattacks have heightened tensions. China’s advancements in space exploration and satellite technology have spurred a renewed competition in space, echoing the Cold War-era space race. China’s military expansion and assertive maneuvers in the South China Sea and towards Taiwan have also led the US and its allies to shift their strategic focus towards the Indo-Pacific region, aiming to counterbalance Chinese influence.

The arms race has evolved, now including not just conventional military capabilities but also nuclear arsenals, hypersonic weapons, and space-based military assets. At the heart of this competition is a fundamental clash of governance models, with the West advocating for liberal democracy and human rights, and China promoting its authoritarian model as a viable alternative, particularly appealing to developing nations. Efforts to shape global narratives and public opinion through media, educational exchanges, and digital platforms have resulted in mutual accusations of interference and propaganda.
In terms of international institutions, China is progressively asserting its influence, challenging the Western-centric international order, and advocating for norms that mirror its own interests and values. Although competition is evident in addressing global challenges like climate change, these issues also offer avenues for cooperation between China and the West.

This complex and dynamic rivalry is characterized by both competition and interdependence. While tensions and competitive dynamics are prominent, the interconnected nature of global challenges necessitates a degree of collaboration between China and Western nations. The evolution of this balance between competition and cooperation will significantly impact global stability, prosperity, and governance in the 21st century. Understanding the intentions behind the actions of a nation as complex as China requires a nuanced appreciation of various factors, including historical context, domestic politics, economic ambitions, and security concerns, avoiding simplistic or monolithic interpretations.

China’s actions on the international scene are often framed within the context of its strategic interests and national security concerns. Like any sovereign nation, China seeks to protect its territorial integrity, enhance its national security, and maintain stability.

China’s economic policies, including its BRI and Made in China 2025 strategy, aim to ensure continued economic growth, reduce dependency on foreign technology and markets, and elevate its standing as a global economic power. While these efforts are seen as natural aspirations for a rising power, they have also raised concerns among some in the international community about unfair trade practices, debt diplomacy, and strategic dominance in critical global supply chains.

China promotes a model of governance that emphasizes stability, economic development, and the central role of the Communist Party. Through initiatives like the Confucius Institutes and media outreach, China seeks to enhance its soft power and present its governance model as a viable alternative to Western liberal democracy. This effort is often perceived by critics as an attempt to undermine democratic values and human rights norms.

From one perspective, many of China’s actions can be seen as defensive or protective in nature, aimed at securing its sovereignty, advancing its economic development, and protecting its interests in a competitive international system.

But certain actions by China, such as assertive military postures, cyber espionage, and the suppression of human rights, are viewed by some as evidence of more malicious intentions toward altering the international order to its advantage, at the expense of other nations’ security and democratic values.
The debate over whether China’s intentions are “malicious” delves into broader discussions about international relations, security, and divergent value systems. Addressing the multifaceted challenges and opportunities presented by China’s ascendancy necessitates a blend of dialogue, diplomacy, and engagement, coupled with vigilance and preparedness.

Both China and the US are investing significantly in a range of technologies, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space exploration, cybersecurity, batteries, clean energy, electric vehicles, robotics, and more. These efforts reflect differing approaches: China’s is more government-directed, while the US’s is more market-driven. The leadership in these technology domains varies, with some areas seeing China ahead and others the US, and future outcomes remain uncertain.

China is currently facing significant domestic financial challenges, including declines in real estate and asset prices, employment, and employee compensation, alongside debt and financial issues within companies and local governments. These challenges have led to a more somber national mood and could have long-term adverse effects if not properly addressed.

The concerns regarding China’s actions, including electric vehicle (EV) dumping, telecommunications threats, academic malfeasance, human rights abuses, and international support activities, underscore broader worries about China’s stance on the global stage and its compatibility with the values of free societies.

Issues such as EV dumping could undermine local industries in the West, leading to economic and strategic dependencies. Telecommunications expansion, notably by Huawei, raises security fears due to potential espionage and sabotage risks. Intellectual property theft and influence in academia could harm innovation and security, while human rights abuses, particularly against Uyghur Muslims, draw international condemnation, reflecting negatively on China’s global image and raising ethical concerns about engagement with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

These multifaceted issues highlight the complexities of navigating the rise of China and the importance of a nuanced, strategic approach to foster cooperation where possible and ensure security and values are upheld.

China’s support for governments and groups like Russia, Iran, and Hamas raises concerns about the CCP’s role in international conflicts and its commitment to international law and norms. Such support can exacerbate conflicts, undermine global security, and challenge the rules-based international order.
The actions and policies of the CCP, as highlighted above, pose significant challenges to free societies, especially concerning human rights, international norms, and global security. The degree to which these issues constitute a direct threat can vary based on geopolitical perspective, strategic positioning, and specific interactions between China and other countries. Western nations are forced to approach these challenges with a balanced strategy that includes diplomatic engagement, economic policies, and security measures to protect their interests and values while navigating the complex international landscape involving China.