The semester’s final meeting of the Professors in the Pub was held this past Thursday, April 25th and focused on the rise of China’s growing economic and political influence.

Jan Polisensky, AAU Lecturer of Politics led the discussion and framed the discussion by asking: Should the democratic international community cooperate with China or contain it? With China’s quick ascendence as the leading economic regional power and increasingly powerful military under leader Xi Jinping, China appears set on becoming a power capable of taking on the United States as world hegemon.

Aside from economic and military might, Polisensky also raised China’s rapid pace of technology development, citing its leadership in 5G network technology. Without political opposition from democratic governments, some fear that this new tech could be used by Chinese intelligence to create world-wide spy networks. Polisensky stressed that this already occurs, though, with numerous other states.

Other concerns about the rise of Chinese influence were discussed, such as the human rights violations of over one million members of its ethnic minority – the Uighurs in Xinjiang province – which are held in so-called re-education camps. Many agreed that technology may reach the point where the government has full surveillance capabilities, making the need for camps obsolete. But the Uighurs continue to be persecuted, all while China’s economic clout largely prevents the use of sanctions against the government.

The neo-colonization of Africa by China is also a salient issue. China could be a benevolent colonizer – they provide enormous amounts of structural development aid for developing countries in the global south – but does this come with the cost of political freedom?

Finally, China is positioning itself as a leader of green energy technology during a time when the United States has abandoned the Paris Climate Accord. Polisensky believes cooperation with China will be essential to finding a solution to the dire climate crisis, the greatest existential threat to us all.

Report By: Ben Goings

Publication date: April 29, 2019