WSF2019 | OXFORD DEBATE: Is China a Threat to the Liberal International Order?
The participants of the debate were: Mr. Jacek Bartosiak – Director of the Wargaming and Simulations Programme at the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, CEO and Founder of Strategy&Future; Ms. Theresa Fallon – Director of the Centre for Russia, Europe, Asia Studies; Mr. Olin L. Wethington – Member of the Board of Directors of the International Republican Institute, Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security (Atlantic Council), Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Envoy on China at the US Department of the Treasury (2006); Mr. Hugh White – Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at The Australian National University in Canberra (Australia).
The debate was moderated by Mr. Bobo Lo, Russia Research Fellow at the French Institute for International Affairs. The discussion was aimed at determining whether or not China poses the greatest threat to the liberal international order.
Olin L. Wethington started the debate by declaring China a multidimensional threat to the liberal order due to its military modernization, its technological advantage and the coexistence of economic prosperity with an authoritarian government. Jacek Bartosiak did not agree with that statement. In his opinion, China itself is not a threat, but its rise could be. He pointed out, however, that everyone has benefited from the rise of the Chinese economy, including the United States. Theresa Fallon explained to the audience that the Chinese Communist Party is the real threat, as its ideology is counter to Western values and democracy. Moreover, it has made China technologically and economically aggressive. Finally, Hugh White argued that a liberal international order has never truly existed, thus it could not be challenged by China. He suggested creating a new Machiavellian order, because humanity is now facing “the biggest and fastest and most fundamental change in the distribution of wealth and, therefore, of power in human history.”
Afterwards, the panelists answered questions from the audience. The questions concerned how the United States and its allies can launch a concerted defense of the liberal international order from China, the relevance of international organizations, the preservation of peace at the expense of Asian democracies in the South China Sea, and China’s development model. Olin Wethington concluded that China has been quite isolated diplomatically, which gives him hope of finding a common strategy for dealing with China. Theresa Fallon stated that we must fight against the dominance of the PRC for the sake of human rights. Jacek Bartosiak reminded the audience of the importance of American credibility facing China and Russia. As a final remark, Hugh White argued that the most important question is which country will end up as the dominant military and strategic power. After all, every state should look after its own security first.