China left behind its low profile diplomacy forged over two decades by its leader, Deng Xiaoping, under the current Chinese leadership's growing sentiment that the power of the United States is in a long-term decline.
There have been four major structural changes in the international system since 2008 that will deeply impact the United States' relationship with China and the rest of the world.
First change (and the most significant): By overcoming the two financial crises of 1997/98 and 2008/09, China has emerged a "first class global power."
Second change: Despite its great power, the Unites States is heading for its descent.
Third change: the rise of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.
Fourth change: The "model of Chinese development" (agreed upon in Beijing) emerged as a viable alternative to Western, neoliberal democracies.
The BRIC countries challenged Western dominance by coordinating their economies and diplomacy, which serve as a counterweight to the West, with the G-20 now replacing the G-8 as a more effective international structure.
Emerging economies and other Asian powers were left trapped between the two most probable scenarios to arise from the China-U.S. rivalry, or the competition to influence multilateral, global institutions and the India/Pacific region.
Chinese experts maintain that the United States is finding itself "on the wrong side of history." The United States' military superiority is undeniable, but it's a power that is declining over the long term, due to the country's financial mess, alarming deficit and unemployment levels, as well as a slow economic recovery and a polarization of domestic politics. Their intelligence and espionage services have come to believe that Chinese leadership thinks in terms of a long game with no real end or sum.
Several sources of distrust exist: different political traditions and value systems, an insufficient understanding of political processes and a reduced breach of power. Chinese experts have proposed various ideas to bridge the gap of distrust, avoiding any confrontation by making efforts toward "a closer commercial relationship and actions to deepen communication on military issues.”
An Indian analyst had the idea of establishing two trilateral structures for dialogue: China-Japan-U.S. and China-India-U.S. Note that Russia isn't listed but that Japan and India are. However, Japan has now become irrelevant to the conversation and its place should be occupied by Russia (which has an excellent relationship with India).
China is considered the winner in the long run if the U.S. economy and its domestic politics continue to be imbalanced. Nevertheless, the Chinese are betting that the United States will try a counter-attack to undermine and break up China's economic and military power.
Observe 2003 as a turning point (with the Anglo-Saxon duo's invasion of Iraq), when the GDP of the United States was eight times greater than China's. Without doubt, the beginning of the U.S.'s decline began in 2004, when the Anglo-Saxons met a humiliating defeat in Iraq. Now the question is: How many years will it take for China to replace the U.S. as the world's great economic power?
The IMF maintains that China will overtake the United States in 2016. China's vulnerability and, by extension, that of the BRIC countries, is why it will take the yen at least ten years to compete with the dollar, as the Global Reserve foresees (some suggest that it will happen in the next few years).
The United States spies on China with its planes, drones, ships and submarines, greatly irritating its army, and promotes human rights through a U.S.-sponsored NGO, symbolizing a form of Westernizing China and destabilizing the Communist Party.
There is alarm among the United States about the increase of Chinese counter-espionage and cyber-attacks launched by officials in Beijing aimed at capturing information of national interest. A seminar at Tsinhgua University discussed the progressive belief - on both parts - that "the two countries would be antagonists in 15 years," which would imply major military spending, forcing other countries to choose sides. In the worst case scenario, all of this could turn into an armed conflict, although not necessarily as a consequence of mutual antagonism.
The analyses point to the positioning of Russia as a determining factor in the global tectonic shift that is the new regional bipolarity between the sinking G-7 and the shining BRIC.
It's essential to understand the perception of India, which grows more and more independent of the BRIC countries, of the dynamic of the bilateral relationship between the two powers, given the country's influence in the Indian Ocean. Let's wait and see what the future will bring between the Asian colossus and the declining United States.
Edited by Lydia Dallett