Yin and Yang: China’s Rise and the Future of the Pacific

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Rise of China:
China is a rising revisionist power, seeking to realign the status quo in the Pacific and assure its security via domination of its periphery regions, after a “century of humiliation.” In 1978, its GDP was a mere US$150 billion, while 39 years later, its economy stands at $11.2 trillion, with the country now standing as the world’s second largest economy and the world’s largest active military force. Its burgeoning strength is demonstrated by its provocative and aggressive expansion into the South China Sea and the creation of its first overseas base in Djibouti. How will the Pacific be affected by a resurgent and aggressive China, what is the source of Beijing’s aggression, and does Beijing pose a threat to the global order?
 
China’s burgeoning strength in the Pacific is best evidenced by its recently-launched domestic aircraft carrier, the first of its kind. Beijing allocated over $215 billon to its armed forces in 2016. While this pales in comparison to Washington’s $611 billion commitment, the majority of Beijing’s military budget goes into the Pacific, whereas Washington has military obligations across the globe due to its position as the world’s sole hegemonic power. Washington also suffers from the tyranny of distance, whereby to reach Asia, Washington must cross the vast Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, Beijing lies on its doorstep, allowing Beijing to exert greater influence over the region at less cost.
 
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