China - International Relations
How to gauge China´s power?
Salvador Raza explains that analytical competencies are required to measure the power of China by capturing and integrating complex variables. He argues that at least three analysis dimensions must be considered together. From Washington, DC.
How to measure the power of China? This is no trivial question. An analysis realized by the CIA showed that Asia is the place in the globe with most probability of medium and high intensity conflicts, with China making up six of the eight premises of bilateral conflicts of countries in the region.
The understanding of the nature and sources of power of a country always was a central question in International Relations. When this understanding involves modern China, it gains more importance in function of the amount without precedent of economic, military and technological resources that it has been accumulating.
Once China has reached a power differential in relation to the other countries in its strategic area, its allies and friends will tend to align with their interests – willy-nilly –, while their potential adversaries will be inhibited from showing positions against those interests, dissuaded by the capacities that are the base of Chinese power.
This condition generates cumulative positive results for China, simplifying the equation of foreign policy, while it obliges medium sized countries like Brazil, to make their internationalization strategies more robust and more aggressive. While the reduction of threats increases the power of China, this increase stops the access of other countries to the region, which increases the power of China, creating a mechanism of positive retro-alimentation. The countries will have to compete for markets within a technological complex of virtual security and defense (not formally declared or assumed) created on the structure of relations that the Chinese power circumscribes and protects against external access.
While the reduction of threats increases the power of China, this increase stops the access of other countries to the region.
In this sense policies aiming at strengthening our national defense industry, an explicit of the National Defense Plan to be soon divulged, may generate insignificant results in the face of a market potential of US$ 2,3 billion for Brazilian products.
If we assume that the conditions designed for the Chinese strategic form are valid for other regional powers, a more critical vision would say that the National Defense Plan is just for appearances; unless we gain analytical competency for analyzing and recognizing and interpreting the sources of power of regional powers, getting maturity in modeling internationalization strategies that permit exploration of their characteristics in aligning our own interests.
Measuring the relative power of a regional power should consider together, three analysis dimensions: (1) what access to resources it may have; (2) what are the structures and competencies it uses for the conversion of these resources into capacities; and (3) how these capacities may be used in tangible situations.
However it may be noted that variables like population, energy, number of military ships and planes are alone not capable of taking on the measuring of relative power of a power. Not China, nor Brazil. The modeling of relative power of regional powers demand analytical competencies, which explain the conversion of resources into combat efficacy in “levers” of foreign policy, showing in this conversion the factor of power of the social structure and national political cohesion.
This modeling must capture and integrate complex variables like innovation capacity in confrontation with transnational forces of non-state actors. These forces include for example, lobbies which give access to defense technologies, since for the most part the possibilities of political action of regional powers site in the structure of relationships that they have with the holders of these sources of power, bringing enormous demand for competence in offset (technology transfer contracts) in the preparation of contracts lodged in technological-industrial complexes.
China, by the very logic of its economic development, has great experience in offset contracts.
China, by the very logic of its economic development, strongly based on the construction of national competencies by the incorporation of foreign technology in its productive system, has great experience in offset contracts. Other regional powers use analysis centers to generate knowledge on defense economics, where the objects of offset lie. The English for example have one of these centers at the University of York, generating fundamental knowledge for perfecting English defense contracts. Every time we negotiate with them, despite our rapid learning curve, we start at a disadvantage.
In this sense, if the National Defense Plan does not include clear and formal mechanisms for the acquisition and integration of competencies in force projects in the technological-industrial complex of national defense, centered on capacity to convert resources into “levers” of political action, we run the risk of one more frustrated initiative for lack of analytical competence. If our power is less than that assumed or less “usable” than expected, then our allies will become competitors while our adversaries will find an easy path to conquer and maintain access to our sources of power. Or worse, without our even noticing it!
FIESP (The State of São Paulo Industry Federation) has been strongly considering the incorporation of this competency by way of the creation of a Work Group in Force Project. The achievement of these efforts will put companies from São Paulo, from the technological-business complex in a position of leadership by examining the attributes, adjust processes, and define alternatives and metrics to assure business competitively in articulation with national policies from the security and defense sector. A small step for FIESP, a big step for Brazil to get projection as a regional power.
The USA has much to teach us in this regard. The Americans have long been developing measures and appraisals on the relative power of China in the formulation of its trade policies and security. A quick search on the internet can corroborate this affirmation. Organizations like RAND in cooperation with Barry Hughes, for example, develop models that we can adapt to our needs – with regional application to know to what point would our own power gain the capacity to grant us the conditions of regional power in front of others in Latin America, in isolation or together with other regional European powers, for example.
The world of defense decisions always was, and is today, ostensively the world of analytical and complex and sophisticated exploratively modeling, leaving behind in defense planning the heroic battles of naval cannons. China and India already understand this from sometime ago, aligning via force projects, their resources with security and defense policies. Maybe it is time to stop exercising Chinese patience in the art of justifying continuism in ways of thinking with the demands and capacity of our technological complexes of security and defense. India, in particular, has much to teach us. The first step is wanting to do it!