Rising China and the implications of growing and authoritarian power

The United States has had a rocky relationship with the People’s Republic of China ever since the conclusion of its civil war in 1949. At the height of the Cold War, China was the second strongest communist power in the world and a major adversary of America’s on the world stage.
Some things never change. Although relationships warmed under Richard Nixon and diplomatic relations were resumed in 1972, they have remained, through the fall of the Soviet Union, the main opponent of the United States’ interests to the present.
With the burgeoning economy and the growing political ambitions of the Chinese State, the nation’s influence has grown globally as they make investments in developing countries so as to establish friendly ties. Economic projects and statues praising communist leaders can be found across Africa, South Asia, and underdeveloped nations in the Americas, all of which have been built by China.
Politically, China is a one-party state where leaders are chosen by unelected officials and the government holds great control over the day-to day life of its citizens. This authoritarian government was established under the revolutionary leader Mao Zedong and, following his death in 1976, a series of other leaders have led China along the globalist course it pursues today. No single individual, however, has held the same kind of hegemonic power over the government and the nation since Mao, until now.
President Xi Jinping, who assumed office as President in 2013, has been slowly consolidating his grip on the nation since his election. Most recently, he has directed the Party Congress to amend the Constitution to abolish term limits for president, meaning that he can stand in this dominant position indefinitely. Jinping has directed the strengthening of internet censorship in China in order to have stronger authority over what can and can not be seen by the people. Websites such as Google, Facebook, and Youtube have all been blocked, meaning that flow of information is strictly curbed and that often people do not hear anything other than exactly what their government wants them to. People receive their news through Xinhua, China’s state-owned news agency, whose billboard rises high in Times Square today.
Following the announcement of the abolishment of term limits, censors cracked down on any potential criticism by banning the use of certain words in publications online and in social media. These included “tiger,” “yellow duck,” and “today, tomorrow.” All of these are double entendres which have been used to criticize government actions. It went so far that at one point that the letter “N” was banned. This censorship has been somewhat loosened since the initial announcements, but the government is still keeping a watchful eye on the internet.
Additionally, by selectively cracking down on corruption and other governmental abuses by individuals, Xi has carefully removed anyone who might stand in his way. The door is open for him to be what some have called a “New Mao,” in that he may rule indefinitely as the nation’s sole ruler.
These developments come at a time when China has been taking a more and more dominant role in world diplomacy. As the United States has entered a more isolationist, America-centric based foreign policy under Donald Trump, it has pulled away from foreign aid spending and from participation in multilateral organizations. China, on the other hand, has been taking a dominant role in that field, spending hundreds of billions on foreign aid, especially in nations such as Zimbabwe or the Democratic Republic of the Congo which have been spurned by the West for human rights abuses. Yet, as a dictatorship itself, China has had no qualms about subsidizing these authoritarian states.
This kind of global influence and the power to align nations with foreign policy is a powerful tool referred to as “soft power,” which is as important to national security as military might. This gives China the power to have resolutions passed by the United Nations, and to turn nations away from Western ambitions and to strengthen authoritarian and autocratic institutions.
With Xi Jinping apparently here to stay, this kind of influence and global power has the potential to be on the upswing for generations to come. Although they are being challenged on the world stage by the US in terms of the passing of tariffs, the potential power which they wield has not yet been fully tested, and when it is, it may be like nothing ever faced by this nation before.