China’s Motivations: There are a number of reasons for China’s involvement in the developing world. One of the most important of those reasons is China’s access to natural resources, which are plentiful in many of the developing countries China supports. China is anxious to secure alternative energy sources, as well as alternative markets for its products. Additionally, China reaches out to developing nations for security reasons: it both wants to solidify its periphery as well as isolate Taiwan on the international scene. Indeed, many of the countries that China has financially aided have withdrawn their official acknowledgment of Taiwan. Finally, China provides aid to developing countries in order to support a multipolar world and hedge against the United States. On a softer note, China sees itself as the “world’s largest developing country” and feels a kinship with other developing nations, though it is quickly (if it has not already) moving out of this category.
Soft Power: Developed by Joseph Nye, soft power is the concept of expanding one’s influence through non-military means. Scholars and journalists have recently linked China’s involvement in the developing world with the concept of soft power, commenting with some concern that China may be making a conscious effort to supplant U.S. power through its financial support of developing nations. While Chinese influence is certainly increasing in regions such as Latin America and Africa, it is unclear whether China is making a concerted effort to supplant the United States through the use of soft power.
China’s Relationship with Pariah States: Much of the criticism of China’s foreign policy has arisen from its support of pariah states. China supports Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, the military junta in Burma, and has provided the government of Sudan with weapons. As mentioned above, many consider these actions as China’s way of hedging against U.S. power. Though China has remained recalcitrant in its support of some pariah nations, it’s desire to be a respected member of the international system has led China to take a leadership role against other pariah states such as North Korea.