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e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL13 N2, TD1
Thematic dossier
Perspectives on China’s international presence
December 2022
38
THE IMPACT OF CHINESE ASSERTIVENESS ON GLOBAL ORDER
BHAWNA POKHARNA
bhawnap@rediffmail.com
Associate Professor of Political Science at Government Meera Girls College Udaipur Rajasthan
(India). She has done her Graduation and Post Graduation from Mohan Lal Sukhadia University
Udaipur. She was awarded Gold Medal in Post Graduation. She was Awarded Ph D on India -
China Relations. She has 25 years of teaching and research experience. She has Published widely
in various journals of repute and has presented papers in seminars and Conferences. Two
scholars have been awarded Ph D under her supervision and five are registered at present.
Abstract
Chinese assertiveness has increased considerably in the international arena, with enhanced
Chinese influence in all spheres. China has become a political, economic, and military power,
flexing its muscles in the international politics. China’s rise has affected the existing liberal
global order and caused the advent of a new cold war. China, being a staunch communist
regime is presenting a challenge to the liberal international order. Thus, the present paper
attempts to explore how Chinese assertiveness has affected the global order.
Keywords
China’s Rise; Liberal International Order; Chinese Assertiveness; New Cold War; Wolf Warrior
Diplomacy
Resumo
A assertividade chinesa aumentou consideravelmente na arena internacional, com uma maior
influência chinesa em todas as esferas. A China tornou-se uma potência política, económica,
e militar, flexionando os seus músculos na política internacional. A ascensão da China afetou
a ordem global liberal existente e provocou o advento de uma nova guerra fria. A China, sendo
um regime comunista convicto, apresenta um desafio à ordem internacional liberal. Assim, o
presente documento tenta explorar como a assertividade chinesa tem afetado a ordem global.
Palavras-chave
Ascensão da China; Ordem Internacional Liberal; Assertividade Chinesa; Nova Guerra Fria;
Diplomacia Wolf Warrior
How to cite this article
Pokharna, Bhawna (2022). The impact of chinese assertiveness on global order. Janus.net, e-
journal of international relations. VOL13 N2, TD1 - Thematic dossier Perspectives on China's
International Presence: Strategies, Processes and Challenges”, December 2022. Consulted
[online] on date of the last view, https://doi.org/10.26619/1647-7251.DT22.3
Article received on June 13, 2022 and accepted on April 7, 2002
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e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL13 N2, TD1
Thematic dossier Perspectives on China’s international presence - December 2022, pp. 38-54
The impact of Chinese assertiveness on global order
Bhawna Pokharna
39
THE IMPACT OF CHINESE ASSERTIVENESS ON GLOBAL ORDER
BHAWNA POKHARNA
Introduction
The paper attempts to shed light on the impact of China’s rise in the international arena.
China has made remarkable progress since the Communist Revolution, which took place
in the year 1949. Internal reform programmes such as the Great Leap Forward, the
Second Revolution, the Four Modernizations, and the China Dream all resulted in China's
development in all spheres of statecraft. Belt and Road Initiative has augmented Chinese
outreach across the globe and transformed it into a global player. China's transition to a
market-oriented economy while remaining an ardent Communist regime politically is a
distinctive feature of blended government. Fruits of economic liberalisation were reaped
in the form of China's moving fast on the path of becoming a superpower of the 21st
century. Simultaneously, China’s military advancement with modernised weapons and a
well-developed military system and progress in other fields has taken it far ahead of
other countries. Chinese confidence is evident in its dealings in the international arena,
where it strives to take things in its stride, thus posing a challenge to the existing
international order. The paper endeavours to apply the analytical approach and the
theory of liberalisation to make the study rigorous.
The rise of China in the 21st century is a great phenomenon which has changed geo-
strategic equations and the course of global order. The increasing power of China has
enhanced its assertiveness in the global arena, which seems to be a threat to the existing
liberal international order. The paper focuses on recent developments that are taking
place, especially during the pandemic era, which pose a challenge to the existing
international order. China boasts of becoming a superpower with substantial economic
growth, military modernization, a strong political system, and farsighted leadership in
the international arena. The irresponsible, impetuous, and rash behaviour of China during
the COVID-19 global pandemic has again raised questions about the future of liberal
world order. A New World Order with China as its major player is definitely not safe and
secure. Since Xi Jinping became President, China has been moving fast to become a
superpower for a host of reasons. Xi’s vision of China Dream, the Belt and Road Initiative,
his tough stance on various international issues, his hegemonic attitude toward
neighbours, and the overall progress of the Chinese nation. The Belt and Road Initiative
has unfolded Chinese global ambitions and pushed its outreach tremendously. Now China
discards the existing Liberal International Order dominated by western powers and ups
the ante to become a major player in the international arena.
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China Dream
China Dream is a concept proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping that reflects his vision
for his country and its people, which is to make it enormously strong by regaining the
Chinese nation's lost glory. Xi’s early days of hardship shaped him as a more confident
and powerful leader and helped him to develop his own vision of his country and its
people, which was manifested in his decisions and actions after he became President.
President XI promulgated his vision of the Chinese Dream, which means a "great
rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". He aspires to modernise China with more economic
development, military advancement, and political reforms. The vision seeks a judicious
combination of power and prosperity to enable 1.4 billion Chinese to become rich, to
become powerful and to be respected. (Allison, 2017).
Xi’s war against corruption during the initial years of his presidency consolidated his grip
on power. His massive communist party restructuring programme and attempt to connect
it with the masses won him applause and further consolidated his position. As a mark of
Mr. Xi's influence, the Chinese Communist Party voted in favour of writing his philosophy,
called "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era,"
into its constitution. Prior to Xi, Mao, who led the communist revolution in 1949, and
Deng Xiaoping, who implemented economic reforms in the 1980s, had established it as
a significant fundamental law of the land. (BBC, 2021: May 12th) As Maoism was the
post-revolutionary ideology of communist China, nationalism is now a core ideology in
China. Xi’s consolidation of power and his nationalistic rhetoric established him as a
paramount leader. His crackdown on corruption, suppression of freedom of the press and
dissidents, and his hold on power made him the most authoritarian leader since Chairman
Mao. Xi was also instrumental in amending the Chinese constitution to end the
compulsion of a maximum of two terms for the president, which was supposed to be a
chance for President Xi to remain in power for an indefinite term (Susan Shirk, 2018).
All these developments contributed to securing his position as paramount leader.
Moreover, his hardline attitude towards Taiwan, Hong Kong, in the South China Sea, with
Southeast Asian neighbours, with India, Japan, and the USA, indicates Chinese
assertiveness in the international arena.
The Belt and Road Initiative
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is the signature project of Xi Jinping aimed at
establishing China as a superpower of the 21st century. The project intends to augment
trade and cooperation by connecting different continents of the globe. The project is an
attempt to resuscitate the legacy of the ancient Silk Road stretching from Asia to Europe,
which got its name from the silk that was carried along it. The project is taking shape
with various connectivity and logistic projects being built at various places across the
globe. The BRI has myriad objectives, such as infusing strong impetus to enhance
political mutual trust; deepening economic cooperation; promoting people-to-people
contact; and increasing cultural exchanges among relevant countries. These objectives
are to be achieved through joint cooperation, common development, and regional
integration. All countries along the Maritime Silk Road have appreciated the plan and aim
to develop and benefit together from the project.
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The widespread network of trade routes developed as part of the initiative will link China
to many established and developing markets, creating considerable opportunities for
Chinese industries. The PRC believes that opening up trade to new markets in this way
will sustain the country’s economic growth long into the future while also raising living
standards for a large portion of the Chinese people. The project aims to divert Chinese
manufacturing overcapacity to other markets in the world. The project is also an attempt
to rectify economic inequality among the different regions of China itself.
The 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held in 2017, has
also approved the project (PWC, 2017), which has multiple aims to enhance China’s
international stature and also to boost domestic industries. The project seems important
also in the manner of re-establishing the credibility and legitimacy of the Communist
party by creating a situation of economic affluence in the country. The project involves
the global ambitions of China as it would augment its influence considerably and
contribute to making it a new superpower of the 21st century. The project connects 4.4
billion people, or roughly 66 percent of the global population of more than 65 countries,
with a GDP of $29 trillion. The gargantuan project would significantly enhance Chinese
outreach across the globe while giving it ample opportunities to meddle in global affairs.
The Chinese presence in every nook and corner is a giant step for China, which is very
much in consonance with its grand strategy to become a superpower.
Wolf Warrior Diplomacy
China has always been an aggressive country, but its "wolf warrior" diplomacy became
prominent during the pandemic period. It denotes the aggressive posture and non-
leaning down attitude of Chinese diplomats. Chinese envoys are getting loudmouthed in
their speeches and tweets, and adopting an aggressive posture by which Chinese
authorities have to protect their national interests. It also suggests the chauvinistic
attitude of China and a sense of contentment where there is no need to maintain friendly
ties with other countries. The nomenclature has been taken from the Chinese movie Wolf
Warrior II, released in 2017, having the patriotic slogan "Whoever offends the Chinese
will be wiped out, no matter how far away". The term has been described by different
scholars characterising Chinese foreign policy, such as “the new mixture of confidence
and increasing insecurity combined (Peter Martin, 2020), “assertive, proactive, and
high-profile” (Zhiqun, 2021), "confrontational and combative" (Jiang and Westcott,
2021), “Major Country Diplomacy” (Smith, 2021), “Cyber-Nationalism” (Sullivan and
Weixiang,2022) etc.
Chinese leaders and officials staunchly believe that their belligerent attitude and
aggressive posture are necessary to defend China’s national pride and self-respect, and
it is also supposed to be a response to baseless targeting by the western powers. China’s
former envoy to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, proclaimed this changed Chinese attitude as a
need of the hour and said, "Where there is a ‘wolf’, there is a warrior." (Kewalramani,
2020). Chinese national interest diplomats seek to defend Chinese national interests in
a confrontational way. It is a sort of justified defence against the west, which is
determined to contain it. Wolf warrior diplomacy is manifested in Chinese actions while
dealing with its neighbours and other countries. Hua Chunying and Zhao Lijian, the
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons, took to Twitter to defend Chinese policies during
the COVID-19 outbreak. Zhao replied in a tweet in March 2020 that "if someone claims
that China’s exports are toxic, then stop wearing China-made masks and protective
gowns." He said in another tweet that "It might be (the) US army who brought the
epidemic to Wuhan." (Zhiqun Zhu, 2021).
In the early 2020s, at the time of the massive outbreak of the covid pandemic from
Wuhan, the world condemned China for playing a dubious role, which resulted in
spreading the crisis. The Chinese behaviour reflected a rash and berserk attitude which
culminated in the severance of ties with many countries. For instance, in April 2020, a
Chinese coastguard ship sank a Vietnamese fishing trawler near the Paracel Islands, and
when Vietnam objected, the Chinese foreign ministry responded by saying Vietnam’s
claims to the area are "illegal." (Zhiqun Zhu, 2021) China has shown acute fierceness in
its relations with Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea, USA, Australia, India, USA, Japan,
Russia, etc.
Hong Kong
China’s violation of the "one country and two systems" principle and human rights abuses
are doing much harm to the people and their freedom in Hong Kong. China introduced a
new security law in the year 2020 to curb the freedom of the press in Hong Kong. The
National Security Law, which identifies four types of activities such as terrorism,
secession, subversion, and collusion with "foreign forces" as punishable, carries a
maximum sentence of life in prison. Article 35 of this law says that anybody convicted of
crimes under the law will be deprived of the right to run for public office for life. (Human
Rights Watch, 2021). The law discards Hong Kong’s Basic Law and also disregards the
International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. The authorities’ crackdown on Apple
Daily, which resulted in its closure, suggests the brutality of the law. (HRW, 2021). At
the G-7 Summit in 2021, the leaders called for the restoration of political institutions in
Hong Kong and to end the unwarranted suppression of those who promote democratic
values, rights, and freedoms in Hong Kong. (The Guardian, 2021: March 13th).
China has introduced myriad laws to curb freedom of speech and democracy in Hong
Kong since taking over the island territory in the year 1997. In the year 2003, the Hong
Kong government introduced national security legislation to prevent treason, sedition,
subversion, and secession against the Chinese government. In 2012, it amended Hong
Kong school curricula to promote Chinese identity. In 2014, Beijing proposed universal
suffrage to vote for the chief executive of the city, but the candidate should be from the
short list of China. In 2019, China proposed an Extradition Law which could have allowed
extradition to the Chinese mainland for prosecution. This saw a massive protest for
months by the people of Hong Kong and caught international attention as well. Finally,
the Chinese government caved in to enormous pressure and withdrew this legislation.
(Maizland, 2022).
Thereafter, China put forward Security Law 2020, which also had repercussions in the
form of massive protests by the people of Hong Kong. It also evoked international
reactions wherein the USA, Canada, Britain, and the EU have imposed numerous
sanctions against China. But China, unmoved by all these developments, created the
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Greater Bay Area Project, which is again an ambitious project to connect Hong Kong with
the cities of Guangdong province in China. (Dezen Shira, 2019) It is going to enhance
the economic viability of Hong Kong, but at the same time it jeopardises hope for
democracy. After evaluating developments of the last few years, it can be concluded that
the future does not augur well for Hong Kong and the democratic aspirations of the people
are heading towards unnatural death.
Taiwan
For China, Taiwan is a separate province, while Taiwan claims to be an independent state,
and this is the reason behind the long-pending animosity between China and Taiwan.
China evolved the "One China Policy" and compelled the international community to stick
to this. In fact, China has established this principle to be an important part of its bilateral
relations with other countries. During the reign of the Trump administration, the USA has
supported Taiwan, and present President Biden has assured Taiwan that its commitment
to Taiwan’s security is rock solid. For a long time, the USA has adopted a strategically
ambiguous policy of supporting Taiwan and preventing a war with China. But with recent
Chinese intrusions into Taiwanese territory and in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war,
the US has maintained a proactive approach towards safeguarding Taiwan’s security
against any possible Chinese aggression.
After the communist revolution in China in 1949, KMT leaders took control of Formosa
(present Taiwan, Republic of China) and ran the government from there. When PRC got
recognition from the world community, ROC’s place was taken over by PRC in various
international organisations like UNO and others. Their bilateral relations were marked by
tension and instability during those days, coupled with minor conflicts between the two
countries. Taiwan too remained under marshal rule from 1949-87, and after that,
democracy returned to the island. China and Taiwan have reached an understanding
known as the 1992 consensus regarding the conduction of bilateral relations. Both
countries agreed to the principle of "One China", although both have different
interpretations of that. Thus, they failed to stick to the content of this consensus, which
also lacked clarity on the legal status of Taiwan. As the DPP came into power in Taiwan
in 2016, it did not endorse the 1992 consensus reached between China and Taiwan.
(Maizland, 2022) Tsai, the President of Taiwan, during her opening presidential address
in 2016 stated that she was an elected President as per the provisions of the ROC’s
constitution and that would be the only source of conducting bilateral relations with
China. The statement was blatantly rejected by Beijing, and it severed the official ties
with Taiwan. (Maizland,2022) In the year 2019, President Xi reiterated Chinese policy for
Taiwan to be incorporated into mainland China under the system of "one country, two
systems", the same formula adopted for Hong Kong. Both the major parties in Taiwan,
the DPP and the KMT, rejected the proposal in the wake of the crackdown on Hong Kong‘s
freedom. (Maizland,2022)
In recent times, China has held naval exercises involving an aircraft carrier group near
Taiwan. Beijing has also sent aircraft into Taiwan's air defence identification zone on
numerous occasions. Taiwan spotted 38 Chinese aircraft entering its Air Defence Zone
on November 28th, 2021, creating tensions in the region. (Blanchard, 2021). Taiwan has
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accused China of militarily harassing it and warned of countermeasures to be taken if
Chinese aircraft move close to Taiwanese territories. This type of incidences is taking
place on the regular basis keeping the security of the region under much pressure.
The South China Sea
China is a major player in the South China Sea and, due to its size and location, it has
natural geostrategic advantages in the region. Powerful and fearless, China has been
actively engaged in consolidating its position in the South China Sea for a long time. The
Chinese display of hegemonic attitude creates uproar and a war-like situation in the
South China Sea, which is problematic for the region's countries. China claims more than
80% of the South China Sea, and this claim is based on a U-shaped nine-dash line etched
on a map. China has disputes with countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia,
Brunei, etc. in the South China Sea. A diplomatic clash between the Philippines and China
continued recently as the Chinese presence near the Manila claimed area in the South
China Sea. Philippine officials demanded the flotilla's withdrawal, although President of
the Philippines Duterte reiterated his desire to resolve the issue peacefully. Apparent by
the ICJ ruling of 2016, wherein China rejected the International Court’s decision, which
had given a verdict in favour of the Philippines in South China in a territorial dispute
between China and Philippines. (Ankit Panda, 2016)
India-China Stand-off
India and China also have a long history of animosity between their bilateral relations. A
recent India-China standoff took place in Ladakh in June 2020 on the Line of Actual
Control (LAC). The violent brawl of June 1st, 2020, killed 20 Indian soldiers and strained
bilateral relations vehemently. Such a violent incident took place after so many years.
The situation is still worrisome in Ladakh where China is repeatedly intruding into Indian
territory and reports of China's moving forward in Arunachal Pradesh, on the eastern
border of India, where new villages have been set up near the border, are affecting
bilateral relations.
Dispute with Japan over Senkaku Islands
China and Japan have a territorial dispute over Senkaku island, and they have had so
many clashes over this. Recently, China intruded into the waters off the Senkaku Islands
for 157 consecutive days (Davidson, 2021). The islands in the East China Sea are
presently controlled by Japan but claimed by China, and Chinese vessels intruded into
Japan’s "contiguous zone" almost daily in April 2021. The contiguous zone is usually used
to be the area beyond the territorial sea and which extends up to 24 nautical miles from
the baseline that a country claims. The presence of the Chinese vessels on the island is
an act of provocation. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi asked for US, European
and world support to stop Chinese expansionism. He warned that "China is strengthening
its military power both in terms of quantity and quality, and rapidly improving its
operational capability." (Davidson, 2021).
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The China-US Rivalry
China-US differences are evident in the last few years, particularly in the aftermath of
China's resurgence in the 21st century as it became a political, economic, and military
power. China is posing a challenge to US supremacy in the international arena. During
the regime of the Trump administration, the trade war between two countries reached
its worst. The US-China trade war has taken the form of a cold war. The current Joe
Biden administration is committed to maintaining and strengthening the rules-based
international order. The US Secretary of State noted that China's actions in Xinjiang,
Hong Kong, and Taiwan have endangered the peace of the region and challenged global
stability. China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, criticised the US stand and reaffirmed Chinese
faith in international order based on UN principles and international law and disregarded
the dominance of the western world’s rules-based international order. (Nikki Asia, 2021).
Chinese Concept of International Order
The present world order was framed in the aftermath of World War II with the
establishment of United Nations embedding the spirit of Atlantic Charter of 1941. It
embraced the values of liberal democracy the rule of law, individual freedom, religious
liberty, free enterprise, free trade, majority rule with minority rules combining the efforts
of Churchill et al. This world order has myriad synonyms such as Rules Based Democratic
Order, Liberal International Order and Free World Order etc. (Dowd, 2021). The system
is still prevailing but facing immense challenge with the rise of China in the 21st century.
With enormous economic power, military modernization, progress made in science and
technology, and subsequent development in all walks of life, China is heading towards
the path of becoming a superpower. The unique combination of communist
authoritarianism and economic liberalisation increased China's global presence
significantly, while making it difficult for international powers to deal with it. Its enormous
power, coupled with the aggressive postures of leaders, led it to follow its own course in
international relations. China is a member of the United Nations and a signatory of all
the important international conventions where it is supposed to obey and respect them.
But Chinese actions reflect its hegemonic attitude, which is guided by its deep-rooted
national interests, entrenched with Chinese nationalist sentiments to act in the global
order on its own terms. China wishes to establish new international relations based on
Chinese characteristics and rejects the western world led Liberal International Order.
China’s rise is the most important political and economic phenomenon of the twenty-first
century. It has consequences for "global security" (Toje 2018), for "global governance"
(Beeson and Li 2016; Economy 2018), for "human rights" (Gamso 2019), for
"international development" (Gallagher and Porzecanski 2010, Lin 2018) etc. While
China’s power in international trade is par excellence, it is also growing by other
measures of international power. (Grosse 2018) China’s growing clout in international
production and financial markets is evident in terms of its global manufacturing
leadership, stewardship in the assembling of electronics and textiles, and in financial
leadership through owning the world’s four largest banks. China is also growing in global
leadership through the development of new institutions such as the recently signed
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Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Asian Infrastructure Investment
Bank (AIIB), and the landmark Belt and Road initiative (Soong 2018).
In the history of international politics, different scholars have had different opinions
regarding international order. It is construed as "international society", "a group of states
obeying a set of common rules" (Hedley Bull, 1977), "a systematised group of
international institutions" (Mearsheimer, 2019), that all world orders rest on a "set of
generally accepted rules" (Henry Kissinger, 2015: 1), and a U.S.-led "liberal" order with
an emphasis on "rules-based character". (Ikenberry, 2009). Andrew Moravcsik’s liberal
theory of international relations focuses on the social groups that shape government
officials’ orientations and incentives who decide a state’s "fundamental" foreign policy
preferences. (1997) Now the United States and China are competing to shape the
foundation of global systemthe essential ideas, habits, and expectations that govern
international politics. It has given rise to a new competition, which, according to noted
scholar Michael Mazarr, "It is a competition based on narratives, norms, and legitimacy."
(2020).
China believes in the Westphalian conception of order with state sovereignty and non-
interference as the paramount principles, while undermining the liberal notions of
individual rights. This vision cannot be said as less "rules-based" than the United States’,
in so far as it has faith in the United Nations Charter. It also includes many current forms
of international cooperation, including extensive trade, investment, and collaboration on
vital transnational issues such as climate change. China is also a staunch supporter of
multilateralism, although its actual behaviour sometimes violates existing multilateral
norms. Nonetheless, the Chinese world order is significantly different from the order
where US influence prevailed (Walt, 2021). China also sticks to core interests of "national
unity," "reunification’ and "independence" (Swaine 2011).
During the Political Bureau study session of the Communist Party of China on global
governance, which was held on October 12th, 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared
that the fundamental purpose of China’s participation in global governance is to serve
the accomplishment of the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese
nation. Xi said, "The rise of developing countries has brought revolutionary changes to
the world order. For centuries, powerful countries divided the world and competed for
profit and power through war and colonization, but that has been replaced in today's
world by rules and mechanisms to balance different interests," he said. (Xinhua, 2015,
October 14th) He also advocated democratic and law-based rules to guide global
governance so that the global governance system represents the will and interests of a
majority of countries in a more balanced manner. (Xinhua, 2015: October 14th)
The Chinese scholar Zhao Suisheng has argued, China is discontent with the current
international order because it is dominated by western values and norms. (2017) As a
result, China only believes in UN-based international order and advocates that "there is
only one system in the world, and that is the international system with the United Nations
at its center. "There is only one set of rules that are the basic norms of international
relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. There is only one order,
and that is the international order based on international law. " (Minghao, 2020).
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The ambiguity in Chinese words and actions is ostensible in Chinese behavior, which
many observers regard as an increasingly powerful China’s approach to the postWorld
War II international order. What does China require to achieve its announced goal of
revitalization? What does China’s revitalization mean for the international order?
President Xi has initiated a grand vision for the PRCthe "China Dream"which has
"Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese People" at its core and in which China would achieve
the desired goals of a moderately well-off society by 2021 on the occasion of the 100th
anniversary of the formation of the CCP and the status of a fully developed nation by
2049, which is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PRC.
But the Chinese policies highlight the difference in preaching and practice. Major features
of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule include: rule by law rather than rule of law;
prioritisation of the state over the individual; disrespect for people's rights and freedom;
distrust of civil society and NGO’s activities; and unwillingness to tolerate individual
differences and identities. (Weiss and Wallace, 2021). China opposes liberal
internationalism associated with the "freedom agenda," promoting democratisation and
a global standard of human rights. As a result, the CCP's interests clash with the more
demanding principle of Liberal International Order. As regarding liberal institutionalism
and governance via principled multilateralism, China does not have a good record of
working within some institutions to advance its interests, like the IMF, the World Bank,
WTO, and UNSC, while flouting others, such as the rejection of the International Tribunal
for the Law of the Sea ruling on the South China Sea. (Weiss and Wallace, 2021).
An interesting study was done among the youth of various Asian countries to elicit their
opinion regarding China’s rise in the world. The survey concluded that the youth of Asian
countries believe that China's rise will definitely challenge the global order and that China
will not maintain peaceful relations with other Asian countries. It suggests that China has
not convinced the world about its peaceful rise. (Zhai, 2018).
The recent actions of China in Afghanistan and Iran suggest that it is now ready to accept
the tasks of a superpower. China wishes to challenge the USA in the present global order
on equal footing and behaving like a major player in the global arena.
China-Iran Agreement
China and Iran signed a 25-year deal in March 2021. (Figueroa, 2022) The deal was
proposed to be signed during Xi Jinping’s visit to Tehran in 2016, but the situation
prevailing at that time was not conducive to it. With the signing of the Iran nuclear deal
in 2015, sanctions were lifted against it by the western world, preventing China from
formally signing an agreement with Iran. The United States withdrew from the Iran
Nuclear Deal in the year 2018 on the pretext of Iran not following the nuclear deal
genuinely and imposed sanctions against Iran. That allowed Beijing to accelerate the
process of the China-Iran deal.
Iran has also joined the BRI project and it has myriad objectives for the same, such as
enhancing its development and IT infrastructure plan while becoming part of BRI.
First, it would improve Iran’s economic prospects.
Second, it would help to minimise its isolation in the international arena.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL13 N2, TD1
Thematic dossier Perspectives on China’s international presence - December 2022, pp. 38-54
The impact of Chinese assertiveness on global order
Bhawna Pokharna
48
Third, the project has the potential to give Iran an edge over its rival Saudi Arabia.
Fourthly, the deal also enhances scope for China-Iran military cooperation, and this could
be a potential area for growth.
Iran has welcomed BRI since its launch in 2013; the project was seen as an opportunity
to connect with the world market through an extensive and ambitious set of land and
maritime trade routes. The project gives Iran a prominent place in China's global plan in
the new international order. Central Asia has three access points to global markets: to
the east via China, to the south via Iran, and to the west via Russia. So, China-Iran
cooperation gives an impetus to the project. The first cargo rail from China reached Iran
via the KazakhstanTurkmenistanIran rail link in the year 2016, and that was construed
to be a milestone in the direction of accomplishing the targets of the BRI project (Reuters,
2016: February 16th).
China and Iran signed an agreement on military cooperation in the year 2014 and they
also signed a deal to jointly combat terrorism in 2016. The two countries also signed an
agreement to expand trade to dollar 600 billion over 10 years period which constitutes
an important part of 25 years agreement. Iran’s differences with USA brought it closer
to China and to develop strong ties with Russia and China. Iran and China have similar
views on the international order and US hegemony and both want to end US dominance
in the international arena.
Chinese Overtures in Afghanistan
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent control of power by the Taliban
gave an opportunity to China in a changed geo-strategic scenario. China endeavoured to
fill a void in Afghanistan. It became the first country to give recognition to the Taliban
regime, followed by a visit of Chinese leaders to Afghanistan. The Chinese foreign
ministry spokesman said, "China and the Afghan Taliban have unobstructed and effective
communication and discussion." (Wang Wenbin 2021). During the US presence in
Afghanistan, China was not an active player; rather, it observed qualms in the region.
But with the withdrawal of US forces, China is ready to assert itself in Afghanistan. (Zhou
Bo, 2021) China has also pledged to extend $31 million in aid to Afghanistan for food
and vaccines (BBC, 2021: September 9th).
Chinese Economic Interests in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is also rich in several other resources, such as uranium, coal, gold, oil, zinc,
gemstones, talc, iron ore, lead, sulphur, bauxite, rare earths, chromium, copper, natural
gas, travertine, gypsum, and marble. It also has the largest reserve of lithium, a much-
wanted natural resource by China which is used as the key ingredient of the large-
capacity lithium-ion batteries that are widely used in the renewable energy industry and
electric vehicles. China is also eyeing investing in infrastructure and industry projects in
Afghanistan. Moreover China also wishes to enhance its BRI Project to Afghanistan, from
Peshawar to Kabul, then to middle east would be very convenient for China to make its
reach in West Asian and European markets.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL13 N2, TD1
Thematic dossier Perspectives on China’s international presence - December 2022, pp. 38-54
The impact of Chinese assertiveness on global order
Bhawna Pokharna