Driven by a feeling of historic entitlement, China is today's ultimate expansionist power, sometimes quietly nibbling away at others' land and, at other times, shamelessly parading its military strength both on land and at sea to scare its competitors. The country's history is full of examples of this phenomenon: from establishing trade routes and claiming territory that belongs to it under the theory of "first in time is first in right" to outright invasion and occupation.
But China has never been a monolithic power. It has always been composed of several distinct regions with different cultures who have often been at odds with each other. Territorially, China is divided into seven provinces, five autonomous regions, and one special administrative region. Ethnicity also plays a role: there are over 50 minorities in China whose rights are protected by law but not always respected by the majority.
The central government in Beijing tries to unify policy across the country by forcing local authorities to follow strict guidelines on resource management, environmental protection, and economic development. However many areas remain stubbornly independent because they see no benefit in joining the national economy.
China has already occupied part of India's Arunachal Pradesh province since 1962 and claims most of the area as its own despite strong objections from New Delhi.
According to a security magazine research, China is becoming an Atlantic naval power, expanding into the ocean's southern seas as it increases investment in the area and challenges perceived US threats. According to the report, China's naval presence has gotten more sophisticated, with longer deployments. Its aircraft have become better trained and equipped.
China's first aircraft carrier was launched in 1998 and has been actively participating in military exercises ever since. The country also has several other carriers under construction or renovation. This means that China will be able to build at least two aircraft carriers per year from now on.
Not only that, but China is also building its own stealth fighter jet that will replace the Soviet-era Sukhoi Su-27. It plans to export these jets worldwide. Last but not least, China is also working on its own nuclear submarines. In conclusion, China is currently investing heavily in maritime affairs and is becoming one of the world's biggest players in this field.
Since reorienting production inside global capitalism in the 1980s, China's ascent has been the outcome of a confluence of causes. In contrast to the Soviet Union, China discovered a means to profit from its colonial heritage in a historical irony. By using Western technology and trying to copy or emulate the West's economy, China has become technologically advanced while remaining economically isolated from it.
Its location at the center of Asia allows China to benefit from regional trade without being constrained by long distance shipping costs or geopolitics. Indeed, China's economic growth has been robust for many years now, although not all regions have felt this development equally. In particular, China's manufacturing sector has seen an explosion in recent years, which has helped drive economic growth.
The Chinese government has tried to promote development in under-performing areas by offering subsidies for business activity. For example, Beijing has created special economic zones where foreign investors can establish businesses without having to comply with local laws. These programs have had some success and have helped China develop its east coast instead of its west coast. However, due to protectionist policies adopted by Beijing, these zones have limited access to international markets which prevents them from importing technology that could help boost productivity.
China's rise as a world power can be divided into three stages. In the first stage (from 1955 to 1982), China relied on military might to assert itself on the world stage.
As the largest and most powerful country in East Asia, China wields tremendous and expanding power. This has heightened tensions with several of its neighbors, including fresh territorial conflicts in the South China Sea with Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. China's ability to influence events throughout Asia will only increase as its economy grows more sophisticated and its military budget expands.
China is no longer just another Asian nation state. It is instead an international player that can affect events across the globe, particularly in Asia where it aims to build itself into a major world power.
China's global ambitions do not sit well with its neighbors, who see them as a threat to their security. The conflict between China's growth rate and that of its environment has led to criticism that Beijing cannot afford such programs. Its reliance on exports also puts it at risk of economic slowdown or even recession which would have serious geopolitical consequences for China and other countries that depend on Chinese trade.
In addition, China's government has been accused of using its power to suppress minority groups within its own borders, including Tibetans and Uighurs. It also engages in alleged human rights violations at home and abroad, particularly when it comes to the use of force.
China's military budget is now larger than those of its rivals combined. It spends more on defense than Russia, India, North Korea, and America combined.
Desperate to demonstrate its continued strength, Beijing "sometimes generates political-military crises with weak neighbors to divert internal discontent—the leadership purposefully picks a conflict with an opponent it knows it can beat or easily cow." But the reality cannot be denied. China has reached a standstill. Its economy is in recession and protests are spreading across the country.
The story of China's modern military history is one of failure followed by desperate attempts at recovery. The National Defense Budget was reduced for the first time in 20 years in 2015. And yet, China's military power continues to grow.
The Chinese government has been taking measures to improve the country's ailing economy since late 2010 when they began to release restrictions on retail sales and manufacturing. This has given rise to more stable economic conditions which have helped China to make significant progress in improving its armed forces.
In addition to reducing its budget, China has also limited some high-profile military exercises that had been scheduled for this year. However, there will still be several important events held throughout 2016. One of them is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in June where leaders from member states will meet to discuss security issues in the region. China as well as other SCO members Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan will be participating in this event for the first time.