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Sino-American War in Realism and Peace in Liberalism

Realism: How could a war break out between the US and China?

Realism is the most used theory in explaining international relations. It is believed that it provides the most influential insight into the state of war between countries worldwide (Zhang 5). Proponents of realism are cynical of the notion that common moral philosophies exist. Napoleon once regarded China as a “sleeping giant” that would overwhelm the world if awaken (Baylis, Smith, and Owens 112). However, the country seems to have risen from slumber since Napoleon’s era. China’s unparalleled development following Deng Xiaoping’s reform strategies in the late 1970s paved the way for incontestable economic growth (Goldstein 49; Zhang 5).

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The country has made the most outstanding economic revolution in human history, which has greatly influenced the ever-evolving global geopolitics. However, despite its significant rise to the international arena in the last 10 years, there is still a dilemma whether or not it will sustain its exponential economic growth in the next two or three decades. Realists postulate that it is difficult to forecast the state of China’s economic growth in the next twenty years (Friedberg 7; Goldstein 50). According to Zhang, the soaring economic progress has lately led to increased security contention with the United States (6).

At the outset, a system-level war between the US and China is imminent. Currently, the interplay between bilateral and multilateral aspects of power relations between the two nations has become pervasive (Broder par. 2). The relationship between the US and China is continuously deteriorating. The US economy, which is the largest in the world, is not doing so well. On the other hand, the China economy (second largest) is becoming more powerful. The political and economic systems of the two countries are completely different. This situation caused the association between the US and China to become more challenging (Friedberg 8; Zhang 5).

Realists postulate that international politics involve the struggle for power in a state of anarchy. In this kind of politics, individual states exercise sovereign power without recognizing the existence of other powers that outweigh theirs. With the continued economic development in China, the country is foreseen to beat the United States by 2020 (Goldstein 54; Zhang 5). However, realists envisage that American values regarding individual rights and responsibilities will be intimidated (Friedberg 15). This state of affairs will compel the West to champion its traditional values to survive in the international politics of the twenty-first century.

Unit-level differences between the US and China are evident in the nature of their international institutions. Since the end of the Cold War, Western policymakers have made attempts to establish security measures in European and Asian countries. This situation is gradually developing into a cold war between the US and China. New sanctions and changing tariff trends between the two nations are predictable (Friedberg 15). It means that America will challenge its allies to conform to their investment policies in an attempt to prevent China from conducting business with the West. This situation will further increase the likelihood of war between the two nations.

Lastly, a war could break between the United States and China based on individual-level reasons. For instance, it indisputable that China is fast becoming a powerful nation. According to realists, its economic position makes it dominant in Asia. However, how would the United States react to this situation if China makes an attempt to control the whole of Asia? According to Goldstein, the reaction of the United States towards such a decision is predictable (67). If China dominates Asia, then it becomes a peer competitor of the United States, which has for long been the hegemon in America. In such a case, realists believe that the United States will go to a great extent to prevent China from becoming a superpower nation among the Asian countries (Goldstein 56).

America will try to contain China with a view of suppressing its business affairs across various international boundaries. During World War I, the United States became intolerant to “peer competition” from Imperial Germany, cutting it off at its knees (Zhang 10; Friedberg 15). In similar cases, the US prevented Japan from becoming the superpower in World War II, the same way it did to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In realism, these series of events show that the United States does not tolerate Asian and European countries that strive to become hegemonies in their continents (Goldstein 56). This situation is evident where the US is preventing China from becoming hegemony in Asia. It is true that the US will go to a great extend to slow down the economic growth in China if it learns that the country wants to assume the Hong Kong model. However, it might be too late or almost impossible for the US to slow down Chinese economic growth (Friedberg 17). Nevertheless, the US threatens to use a containment policy to inhibit China from becoming the hegemony in Asia. This situation will eventually result in an inevitable state of war between the two nations.

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Despite being a superior America’s banker, China’s holding of the United States government debt is reducing considerably with Japan quickly becoming the largest holder. As a result, China has resolved to decouple from the US dollar (Friedberg 33). Recent studies have shown that the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated immensely, forcing China to invest heavily in domestic building projects besides the expansion of the South-South trade (Friedberg 33). This situation has resulted in amplified tensions between China and Japan. Indeed, there were demonstrations against Japanese products in approximately a hundred Chinese cities. This situation led to plummeting car sales by about fifty percent. Japan and the US have a strategic alliance that will eventually increase the gap between the West and China (Friedberg 34).

Liberalism: The pacific effects of political and economic liberalism, and international organizations on world politics

Unlike realism, which emphasizes on coercive power resources, the liberal theory focuses on the pacific effect of political and economic liberalism, and international organizations on world politics. International relations (IR) liberals believe that internal relations do not only concern states but also transnational affairs that affect individuals, groups, and/or organizations (Stephen 913). They focus on values, norms, regimes, economic interdependence, and the strengthening of intercontinental organizations. In a liberalist perspective, human rights, drug smuggling, environmental conservation, and technological advancement are equally important as security issues (Stephen 912). Both state and non-state actors play important roles in the social, political, and economic development of a country. According to liberals, the most common aspect of international politics is globalization.

States are inspired by both domestic and intercontinental factors, which pave the way for social, cultural, and economic interactions across global boundaries (Stephen 920; Zhang 17). However, state policies that govern different countries either allow or facilitate such exchanges. The effects of political and economic liberalism are seen where some communities either benefit or are offended by transnational policies (Oneal and Russett 78; Zhang 17). As a result, groups that are not favored pressure the government to invest in policies that are beneficial to them. Social pressures are conveyed through the state’s political institutions. State inclinations give governments an upper hand in dealing with international issues. State preferences depend on the diverse national and intercontinental socio-political contexts in which the states exist. Such persuasive incentives motivate countries to indulge in transnational politics (Oneal and Russett 79). The behavior of a state in world politics is controlled by its inclination to foreign policies.

Unlike realists, IR liberalists do not focus on interstate power discrepancies and failure resulting from indecision or individual inclinations to particular beliefs and values (Oneal and Russett 80). Instead, they emphasize conflicting state preferences that relate to unreceptive nationalist policies, political philosophies, manipulation of overlooked political segments, and disagreements on appropriable economic resources. IR liberals believe that without such social apprehensions transcending interstate borders, countries would lack reasons for indulging in international politics.

Contradictions in Core Liberal Arguments

Various contradictions are evident in core liberal arguments. The first contradiction occurs where states are assumed to represent societal preferences. This liberal philosophy is untrue. Stephen reveals that the state embodies a subclass of the overall domestic society, whose understandings institute formal inclinations (913). Due to political interests, some underprivileged societies are either underrepresented or not represented at the national level (Oneal and Russett 75). Different people and societal groupings have varying influence on state policy. In addition, they are characterized by wide power variations based on the contexts in which they exercise command. Typical institutions and practices describe the nature of people and societal groups that control the state inclinations (Oneal and Russett 75). While some state predilections depict, ideally, the preferences of a single autocratic person, others are characterized by far-reaching autonomous involvement. As a result, the precise inclinations of social groups, measured by their domestic power, are significant determiners of domestic power. In this sense, the liberal view that states represent societal preferences is contradictory.

Liberalists also postulate that interdependence among state inclinations has a great influence on state behavior. This supposition explains the variation of diverse preferences from a political viewpoint rather than taking such inclinations as a fixed constant (Oneal and Russett 750). The state plays a significant role in creating social purpose, which paves the way for participation in international affairs and initiates collaboration among other foreign policy actions. It is such interdependence among objectives that allows a state to participate in international relations (Oneal and Russett 75). However, inconsistent goals among states result in political disputes that hinder peaceful coexistence. This situation is imminent in the current political situation between the US and China. Due to China’s booming economy that is compared to the worsening Western economy, the US is planning various strategies such as the threat to use containment policies to constrain China from dominating Asia (Broder par. 6; Zhang 17). This state of affairs will most likely result in an inevitable state of war between the two nations owing to divergent goals.

Works Cited

Baylis, John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. Oxford University Press, 2013.

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Broder, Jonathan. “The “Inevitable War” between the US and China.” Newsweek International. 2016, Web.

Friedberg, Aaron. “The future of US-China Relations: Is Conflict inevitable?.” International security, vol. 30, no. 2, 2005, pp. 7-45.

Goldstein, Avery. “First Things First: The Pressing Danger of Crisis Instability in US-China Relations.” International Security, vol. 37, no. 4, 2013, pp. 49-89.

Oneal, John and Bruce Russett. “The Kantian Peace: The Pacific Benefits of Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885–1992.” Springer International Publishing, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, pp. 74-108.

Stephen, Matthew. “Rising Powers, Global Capitalism and Liberal Global Governance: A Historical Materialist Account of the BRICs Challenge.” European Journal of International Relations, vol. 20, no. 4, 2014, pp. 912-938.

Zhang, Xiansheng. A Realist Interpretation of U.S. Relations with China. Thesis, University of Central Florida, 2010.

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