With regard to China — having spent the past year in Singapore, where people spend a LOT of time thinking about China’s future roles, I think Kal has laid out just a few of the many possible futures. No one, including the Chinese, really has any idea what kind of great power China will be in a decade or two, either internally or externally.
At the moment, it’s more or less playing by existing rules, while amassing the wherewithal to set up new international systems, and it is actively hostile to citizen power in any form we would recognize. But China is changing with unbelievable rapidity, and those changes are likely to alter how China behaves internationally too.
Chinese lawyers are using Chinese courts to successfully sue Chinese government bodies on behalf of citizens whose rights have been violated. China last month promulgated sweeping new “right to know” regulations that give citizens access to an enormous array of formerly secret government information. Implementation isn’t going to be smooth. But China will be building on years of experience with municipal-level open government regulations with some surprisingly successful cases — such as Shanghai. Chinese authorities remain hostile to NGOs — but on some issues, particularly environmental, some high-level authorities are beginning to recognize the utility of channeling public pressures through such mechanisms.
There’s only one area where Chinese foreign policy is likely to come into direct conflict with the interests of the existing great powers: energy. But the U.S. is hardly in a position to berate China on the energy front. If we want to help guarantee a peaceful multi-polar world a decade or two out, we need to get our energy house in order, and fast. And that’s an area where transnational connections between environmental, human rights, and development NGOs could prove useful — with a bit of real leadership from the US.