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Will Democracy Survive China’s Rise?

These days, China is trying to play the role of global peacemaker. Yet China’s dire record on human rights and democracy since the communist revolution of 1949 bodes well for the emergence of this behemoth on the world stage.

As Beijing becomes more assertive as an international player challenging the U.S.-centric world order, questions are raised about what would happen if China became a global hegemon, and whether democracy would survive globally when that happened.

Some experts have dubbed the 21st century the “Chinese century,” as Beijing has shown material potential, strategic patience and determination to dominate. China has a subtlety that its closest allies, Iran and Russia, lack. So far, instead of shooting or starting wars, China has projected its power on the world stage through diplomacy, economics and technology, although behind the traditional veneer there is a lot of political pressure, military force, infiltration and espionage Activity.

More recently, China has boosted its image by grafting itself into mediation efforts in several long-running conflicts around the world. Beijing supports Saudi-Iran rapprochement and is doing a lot to resolve the conflict between Riyadh and Tehran over Yemen’s civil war. China’s success in brokering peace has dealt a blow to the prestige of the United States and the United Nations (UN), whose joint efforts to end a decade-long bloody conflict have so far proven fruitless.

If the U.S. does not have a strong presence in the region, more neutral or Western-friendly countries may lean toward China for security. Since stability in the Middle East is in Beijing’s new interest, we can expect an emerging China-centric order to temporarily calm unrest in the Azerbaijani conflict zone, to the obvious exclusion of Israel.

China’s Role in the Russo-Ukraine War

After World War II, the Middle East was mainly the sphere of influence of the United States. However, since the end of the Cold War, the United States has gradually withdrawn from the region. For many in Washington, the Middle East simply does not have the strategic value it had during the Cold War. This is why the US has been trying to counter China’s rise in the Far East by shifting its focus to Asia. Ironically, Beijing appears eager to fill the “superpower vacuum” in the Middle East.

China has also been trying to broker a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia. So far, Beijing has only paid lip service to peace. For example, while claiming to be mediating between Kiev and Moscow, China has reportedly been supplying Moscow with weapons, drones, and economic aid. However, if it believes that taking on the role of peacemaker in the European theater will further enhance its global image, China may act accordingly. Especially if the West backs down from the Russo-Ukrainian war, as the evidence suggests, China’s role as a global peacemaker may be further enhanced.

The peace that Beijing forges between Russia and Ukraine is naturally beneficial to Moscow, but it may not be so unfair as to kill any momentum in Kiev to return to the negotiating table. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now very dependent on Chinese President Xi Jinping. Thus, Beijing can demand concessions from Ukraine that the Kremlin cannot ignore. It should be noted that China’s intentions go far beyond appeasing its longtime ally Russia. Beijing is keen to present itself as a fair and reasonable superpower, and the West and the rest of the world can see itself as the new sheriff in town.

As for a direct confrontation with the United States, China is currently trying to avoid it, because the United States is the world’s largest military and economic power and still has a clear advantage over China. Currently, the United States and China are in a state of new cold war, and the discussions between the two global superpowers on the Taiwan issue are intensifying. However, this does not necessarily lead to military conflict. However, things may look different in the future as U.S. global engagement continues to decline.

erosion of democracy

From what we see today, democracies around the world are at risk of deteriorating. In today’s world, authoritarian regimes are willing to spend vast sums on ideological and material warfare against democracy. On the other hand, democracies generally do not stand up for their own values, but instead resort to short-sighted and short-term “cost-benefit” logic to avoid imminent conflict. As a result, democracies leave far less assertive imprints on global events. If this continues, democracy is bound to decline.

So far, China has refrained from explicitly interfering in the internal affairs of countries under its influence. However, there is no guarantee that China will stick to this policy after it achieves global hegemony. In fact, it will likely try to cast its satellite states in the same way. This can already be seen in Iran, which is already allied with China. But Beijing may also try to do the same in many South Asian, Middle Eastern, African and South American countries.

The rise of China and its allies on the world stage also depends in part on some inner workings of the West. Far-right populist politics have contributed to the erosion of Western democracy. Increased right-wing isolationist tendencies in the US and EU could lead to a global power vacuum that China will race to fill.

Right-wing politicians in the West tend to take a conciliatory approach to dictators around the world. This is because of their strong preference for local and national concerns over global affairs. As a result, they tend to deprioritize human rights and democracy elsewhere. Thus, the West has become increasingly hands-off and isolationist with each passing day, whether in its conservative or progressive manifestations.

The prospect of a relentless authoritarian assault on an entrenched and chaotic West does not bode well for the future of democracy around the world. However, the West cannot continue on this regressive trajectory forever. When the existential threat of authoritarianism becomes inevitable, a paradigm shift may occur. This will lead to a realignment of power and an all-out confrontation with China and its allies.

Oppressed people living under the yoke of authoritarian regimes are also increasingly demanding democracy. Many people in China, Russia and Iran are now seeking freedom and democracy. The same goes for people living under Chinese and Russian influence in places like Hong Kong, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. The West must go all out against tyranny. When these efforts are combined with the resistance and inevitable revolt of the oppressed against their oppressors, the worldwide triumph of liberalism and democracy is possible.

[Hannah Gage edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

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