By ERIC LEWANDOWSKI
Is an increasing Chinese presence on the world stage a good thing? Let me emphatically state yes as an increasingly economically strong China can both strengthen the American economy and existing international system.
From an international trade perspective, the burgeoning Chinese middle class has led to trade skyrocketing in many sectors. Since President Barack Obama took office, 48 of the 50 American states have increased exports to China. An increasingly worldly middle class is consuming goods and services from far beyond Chinese borders. From luxury goods in Paris to medical tourism in Thailand to the 287,000 Chinese students holding student visas in the United States, an intensified appetite for consumption has been fueling the global economic recovery.
Beyond individual consumers, China’s presence is particularly strong with regards to direct foreign investment. From developed world mega-cities to mines, oil fields and infrastructure projects in war-torn countries, Chinese foreign investment is both ubiquitous and growing year after year. In 2013 alone, China doubled investment in the United States. Just last week, China’s Anbang Insurance Group purchased the iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for $1.95 billion. As Elizabeth Economy reports in Nina Hachigian’s Debating China, “Leaders from Venezuela, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have welcomed Chinese investment and infrastructure as the type of practical assistance they need most.” From various grants and interest-free loans to new hospitals and airports, the Chinese government is providing assistance that can lift third-world countries out of poverty and into positive contributors in the global system.
While China’s military buildup may cause unease in both seasoned China watchers and the general American populace, it does present a unique opportunity to share some of the burden of keeping global peace. This October, China participated in joint military drills with the United States and Australia in Darwin, Australia. If tensions in the South China Seas and elsewhere can subside, the United States and an increasingly powerful Chinese military can find enough common ground to fight towards many mutually beneficial security arrangements.
The direction of China’s development remains to be seen, and many China watchers have cause to be apprehensive. Yet if China, its neighbors, and world powers like the United States and European Union can see eye to eye on various economic and military issues, the rise of China should be cause for optimism as its global role expands.