China’s tryst with the New World Order

Tenzing Dhamdul ‘Research Associate, FNVA’

by Team FNVA


It was on that fateful day, 1st of October 1949 when Chairman Mao ushered these words ‘The Chinese People have stood up’ unbeknown to all, a sleeping dragon had been awakened. Like its immediate neighbor India who had recently gained independence in the modern-nation construct, though lacking and floundering in several departments compared to the western nation who had a head start in their own created system, they shared the unique characteristics of having a large population and a very mosaic demography. Giving them an essential element if they were to assume leadership in their region and eventually the world at large.

Since then, more than 7 decades have passed and currently we are the witnesses of China’s unprecedented rise to global power in the World order – A world order is generally defined as a set of system controlling the events, established internationally for preserving global stability. This set of system till now had the western nations as stewards of the automation but many view a change to be imminent here with China being deemed as a viable alternative. And when such a change occurs, where the captain of the World order is changed, a new World order breaks dawn and comes to the stage.

The rise of China though forecasted by many experts, were simply taken aback by the sheer pace in which it was achieved and continues to do so to this day. Simultaneously this rise has coincidentally been met with the gradual decline in US hegemony and its influence in global politics. The recent withdrawal from Afghanistan, not putting troops on the ground in the current Ukraine crisis signifies this shift to an extent. And in light of the recent Ukraine war where China and the USA have taken opted to take and support opposing fronts here, it illustrates to us the dynamism between the two modern super powers. With a vacancy in the pre-eminent world power for the taking in light of the gradual US decline, the constant tug-of-war between China and the US is to be more stringent than ever, with both players placing their chips all in, so that they can be the ones dictating the terms in a new world order.


Precedent and coming of China to the fore:

Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Great financial crisis of that same year which did not impact China as it did the western nation, experts and scholars began to view China not only a potential competitor to the US but a viable one as well, that would challenge the US-hegemony and the US-led Unipolar global world order.

China has been moving with relative assurance since then, while the US and its alliances have faltered and trudged till now. Domestic politics have taken much space and significance for the latter but China with its Communist party remains firm and with President Xi Jinping at helm for more than 10 years now, it has a sense of stability in terms of leadership. One that is clearly lacking in many western nations including the US, where last year’s insurrection at the Capitol building illustrated us the level of instability and turmoil within USA own borders.

To further accelerate this decline of the US-led global order we had the unexpected Corona Virus Pandemic that lasted for more than a year worldwide, bringing drastic global changes in the way people function and heavily impacted the global economy. Millions of people perished away due to this virus and there were clashes in the international institutes of providing and allocating health care services and vaccinations to the developing and under-developed nations, whose health system were overwhelmed by the pandemic. Ironically, it was China (where the virus originated) who took the mantle of leadership here and assisted these very nations who sought help. In South America, where in 2021 their prestigious continental football tournament was held (known as Copa America) it was China and their state developed vaccine ‘Sinovac’ that was a sponsor of the event, which is watched throughout the world and has football stars like Messi and Neymar competing in it.

This modus-operandi was not only restricted in the health sector but China who had already had large sums of investment and businesses in South America, Africa and the Middle East now started investing and purchasing European enterprises who were forced to sell their assets due to the pandemic.

The Ukraine war where once again these two powers were pitted against each other and were seen as the big brother to the participants of the war (Ukraine and Russia), showcased to the world how not only do the US and China battle it out on the world stage but they are now seen on equal footing.

China who till then was pushing the door of global supremacy guarded closely by the US is now able to enter it with relative ease after the door was left ajar by the very nation who had stood guard over it for more than a century.


China and the new world order:

China is an economic powerhouse and it not only matches the US in various criteria but has also overtaken them on many other fronts. Its economy impacts the whole world for that matter nowadays and for the 1st time in more than a century a nation has been able to secure more than 60% of US GDP – a feat not achieved by either the Nazi Germany and Japan combined or even the Soviet Union during the heigh of its economic prowess. 

But of recent times, especially with the onset of US shying away from global leadership, a vacuum has been formed and it is China under the current leader Xi Jinping who wants to take this opportunity and fill this vacuum. The question now hovers around us as to what sort of new world order China seeks? And how will this new world order come of age? 

China’s vision of a new world order is multipolarity to the public for now (though it would gladly accept the mantle of leadership once USA happens to succumb and form its own unipolar world if it could), a world where nations come together as blocs of power and make meaningful and sustainable decisions. This was pushed since they entered the World Trade Organization in 2001. The formation of BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation, where China brought together nations who also saw light in its vision of a multipolarity highlights the direction that China wants the world to move ahead in. This narrative which is against US-hegemony and its western allies has even gained recognition in the recent United Nations General Assembly, when during the motion of vote to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine 40% of the members, 77 Countries decided to either abstain or vote against the motion. Clearly indicating how China and its narration of a world order where there will not a singular power is and has gained recognition.

Beijing and its hunger for a new world order is not new and has been echoed since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. The leaders then (Mao Zeadong and Zhou Enlai) called for the complete eradication of western and imperialist ideals – eventually lead to the prominence of the United Front which has now networks all over the world with the sole aim of expanding China’s interest while simultaneously eroding other powers influence, most notably the USA. Their ideas have stood the test of time till now and with a more dominant economy and experienced hand at global politics, they have pursued a string of policies that which each day pushes forth Beijing’s contention for World hegemony since the prior goal of regional hegemony is more of less seen as accomplished. Their approach towards tackling US hegemony and pegging their dominance has been 3-pronged, which are economically, militarily and culturally. 

Economically, The Belt and Road initiatives by China has seen them invest in more than 70 countries. Thus, creating a global network of economic activity tied to one single country of such magnitude not seen till now and leading to the genesis of coercive capability. This initiative was the core reason through which China could secure regional supremacy as through their thick purses they have more or less been able to buy the silence and obedience of many Asian nations.

Military wise China has been tactically developing counter measures against the US and western forces rather than catching up to western military technology. Hence, as Rush Doshi mentions it was ‘catch up in some areas and not others but also vowing to build what the enemy fears’. They have been successful here in building asymmetric denial weapons like the world’s largest sea mine arsenal, the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile and the world’s largest submarine fleet, all to undermine US military power.

Culturally, they have not only been able to sustain and to an extent rewrite their own rich history but have been able to push forth these narratives through the various Confucius institution present throughout the world, even in USA for that matter (in large numbers). They have also controlled the narrative of films and celebrities including those in Hollywood who play pivotal role in pop-culture and are influential in changing the mindset of people.

With this broad 3-pronged approach and other tools, will China be able to bring forth a new world order though gradually? (many experts view the 2049 to be the deadline of this goal for China as they will be celebrating their centenary year then) And will the US-hegemony and its western allies simply let it pass or offer a stiff resistance against it? Till now World Orders have come and gone, with it usually forming after catastrophic wars. The league of nations after the 1st world war, the United Nations and the establishments of Western Institutions (IMF, World Bank, EU) after the 2nd world war and US unipolarity after the disintegration of Soviet Union (ending the cold war) shows us clearly how only after major and significant events can a new world order come to the fore. The current Ukraine war thus becomes a litmus test whereby the two entities (US and China) each backs an opposing nation here.  Such proxy wars would most likely set the platform for change and shift in the world order, because an all-out war between China and the US, both nuclear powers are totally out of the question and unfavorable to both. (Though one cannot say what might really happen).

A Chinese world order be it multipolar or whatever they would like to call it, will likely have one aspect that will be different from the current world order, which is the blatant ignorance of a rule-based order. That would most likely eventually lead to the dead of humanity on many grounds, the current Ukraine war whereby China has sided with Russia whose military under Putin has been killing even unarmed civilians would be a normal thing occurring elsewhere in a China ruled world order. As one thing that is always been clear since the People’s republic of China (PRC) was formed is that “China always get, what it wants” (the beguiled entry to the United Nations, the World Trade Organization even after strong opposition to it, shows us this).


Obstacles and crosswinds:

Amidst the inflection of power here and fingers pointing towards China being the eventual victor, thus ushering in their new world order. There however, lies here several true obstacles and crosswinds that stand in the way of Chinese glory, with the role of US being prominent here.

Firstly, before heading to measures implemented by the US there is the situation of domestic politics in China. Till now under the aegis of the Communist party, president Xi Jinping has been untouched. However, when the Chinese communist party central committee brought out the historical resolution with President Xi at the center last year, there has been reports and murmurings of how a power struggle has become evident within the ranks of the Chinese communist party. Because the central committee did not discuss about the new leadership of the communist party that would be selected in 2022 but also chose to remain silent on it. Internal factional power tussle within the party and the current zero covid policy in China, where people have started to question the government makes the perfect ingredient for turmoil, unrest and instability. Thereby, hampering China/Beijing’s ambition of captaining the new world order.

Secondly, China’s economic downfall since the pandemic has hurt them bad and it continues to do so with the recent omicron variant sweeping China. The impact of the zero-covid lockdown in China has seen their economy tumble and led to the recent cancellation of the Asian Games that was to be held in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. Furthermore, China’s largest property company, Evergrande defaulting last year had enormous repercussions within the country as thousands of Chinese were forcefully evicted from their homes, creating further unrest among the people in China.

Thirdly, in the regional tussle of power, India has been gaining ground and though it has much to cover if it were to challenge China on equal grounds, it still continues to be an immediate threat to China’s ambition. The current QUAD grouping further consolidates India’s position in the region and being backed the US led western nations and its allies, it has become China’s Achilles heel in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Furthermore, the continuous border issue, the Tibetan refugees in India and China’s support to Pakistan (hence Kashmir) has become bones of contention between the two powers of Asia.

Finally, China’s human rights issue and its autocratic governance that has been ratcheted to such high levels that it even touches upon sporting celebrities in China shows to the world, the hidden but real face of China. The Peng Shuai (Chinese tennis player) incident whereby the Chinese communist party did all they could in damage limitation was not successful as the story was heard throughout the world of how former vice-president Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted Peng Shuai. This saga very clearly showed to the world how Beijing and those in power neglects victims but also utilize everything mechanism possible in hiding and censoring anti-Chinese elements. These happenings that range from cultural genocide, destruction of free speech and adopting new policies in Tibet, Xinjiang and Honk Kong, regions whose combined territory and economy matches that of a developed nations indicates the level of control, focus and attention needed here. Proving all the more problematic and becoming a nuisance to China and its ambition.

The US, who is currently the steward and captain of the new world order knowing the above issue utilizes it for their own benefit in stalling and preventing the glorified rise of China towards the pinnacle. They take their own initiatives as well and come up various approaches ranging from diplomatic missions, multilateral groupings and even taking their stand when having meetings with the current Chinese government. When president Joe Biden and president Xi Jinping met last year virtually and even this year, the talks steered around major inflection points between both nations, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific and the current Ukraine war. The US have interest on all of these geopolitical strategic points and wants to maintain their asymmetrical hegemony and influence here.

On Taiwan just a few weeks back during the QUAD meeting in Tokyo, president Biden vowed to intervene military to protect Taiwan if it is attacked. Drawing a great uproar from the Chinese communist government, who always view Taiwan to be part of their nation and bringing them back to the motherland (PRC) is a major task that Beijing under president Xi wants to accomplish eventually.

The development on the Indo-Pacific continues to accelerate with many viewing this region being the point on contestation in the coming years. The US with its allies have the QUAD, a grouping between US, India, Japan and Australia. Beijing who initially dismissed QUAD, even stating that ‘Dissipate like Sea Foam’ have changed their polemic on this and continuously call it as the Asian NATO, thereby signaling discomfort of this grouping that is surely pushing China from one of the busiest and most booming economic zones in the world currently. The recent QUAD leader summit at Tokyo on 25th May, 2022 which called continued close coordination and further promotion of practical cooperation brought a Joint Leaders statement on the themes of: 

  1. Peace and Stability 
  2. Covid and Global Health Security 
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Climate 
  5. Cybersecurity 
  6. Critical and emerging technologies 
  7. QUAD fellowship 
  8. Space 
  9. Maritime Domain Awareness and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

Other than the QUAD there is the AUKUS, a grouping between the western powers of the US, the United Kingdom and Australia has also been setting up measures in stalling the all-conquering Chinese juggernaut.

The current Ukraine war, unexpected in the eyes of the many brought several things to light with both the US and China showing their cards to the world. It confirmed the fears of the western world US led by US as to how China regardless of shuttle and other forms diplomacy from the US even at the highest international institutions (United Nations) would remain static in their stand in being against the US even at the cost of human lives (both Ukrainian and Russian, the former being mostly civilians). Though there is no direct confrontation between the two nations here, it makes very clear the characteristics of governance and policies that China would push if it were the leader of a world order for that matter. Thereby diminishing their prestige in the eyes of the western world and even the world at large.

With these and several other obstacles Beijing must try to forge a path that looks ahead – to achieve its goal of making China a super power and captain of the world. That would eventually lead to the forming of a new world order lead by China.



The east is rising and the west is declining is what president Xi Jinping frequently states and China under his leadership wants to seize this moment. China, the leader of a new world order seemingly far-fetched seems more relevant than ever nowadays. The path to it is not easy though and against the US, China has a formidable enemy. The clash between the two transcends cold war as they are deeply tied in trade and would likely morph into a new form of warfare lingering around proxy wars.

China, a nation this has not even celebrated its centennial since its 1949 independence (communist party coming to power) has been band wagoning in the current world order till now. Accumulating and assimilating as much as it can and simultaneously largening its influence beyond Asia, with Africa being a good example here. China’s willingness to provide developmental assistance without conditioning it on domestic reforms has proven to be appealing here even with the debt trap at place. When will this accumulated power be released at full force? Will It lead to war? Who will be the victims? And will this usher in a new world order with China at the helm? We have to wait and see here, with one thing for certain and that is China’s continued rise and influence in the global world.



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