The Meaning of China’s Rise to Great Power Status

China Symbolbild 1  ISPK-Logo

China’s rise changes the international order. This transition has political, economic, and military aspects, and its consequences are evident on every continent.

From a European perspective, China’s rise offers new opportunities for a trans-Eurasian cooperation, but also poses some fundamental challenges. Areas of concern include the need to safeguard economic and technological interests, but also the problem of vastly different value systems between Western liberal democracies and the Chinese Leninist one-party state. In the field of security policy, strategic rivalry between China and the US is steadily on the rise, while Russia and China seem to edge towards closer cooperation. Both developments have indirect ramifications for Germany and Europe. But above all, China’s military modernisation affects threat perceptions across the entire Asia-Pacific region.

The objective of our research is to examine the multifaceted changes, challenges and chances arising in the Asia-Pacific region, and to assess their strategic implications for Germany and Europe. Several subprojects of the Center for Asia-Pacific Strategy and Security with different research objectives and methods are devoted to this task.



Ongoing subprojects within the overall research framework

Project 1
China’s naval build-up in international comparison


Water 1

The People‘s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) rapidly modernized during the past few years and became one of the largest and most technologically advanced naval forces. Notwithstanding these achievements, the Chinese leadership aims at even further military capacity building.

How can these developments be evaluated in international comparison?
What threat perceptions constitute the basis of this development?
Which economic and technological factors will influence China’s global sea power ambitions?



Project 2
China’s space programme and its implications for China’s future maritime and global presence


Water 02

China’s ambitious space programme fulfils several purposes. It allows the political leadership to generate domestic support for its modernisation course and helps to establish China internationally as a leading technological power. These domestic and civilian functions notwithstanding, it is important not to underestimate the military and strategic aspects of the space program, especially when it comes to China’s envisaged global maritime presence. This project therefore concentrates on new developments within the Chinese space program, studies their effect on China’s overall military-strategic situation, and analyses the connections between China’s space ambitions and its efforts to increase its sea power.

This project therefore concentrates on new developments within the Chinese space program, studies their effect on China’s overall military-strategic situation, and analyses the connections between China’s space ambitions and its efforts to increase its sea power.


Kirchberger, Sarah & O'Keeffe, Patrick (2017): „Military-Strategic Aspects of the South China Sea Issue", in: Seemann, Benedikt & Bersick, Sebastian (eds.), Traversing the Challenges: Political, Economic, and Environmental Dimensions of Maritime and Regional Security, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Philippines, Manila 2017, pp. 27-40.

A monograph by S. Kirchberger & P. O’Keeffe (Berlin: Springer, 2018) is forthcoming.


Project 3
Military-technological cooperation patterns within the Asia-Pacific region


Water 3

Cooperative arms production and defence technology export relations are overlooked aspects within the fields of international relations and security policy, even though access to strategic technologies can have a very decisive impact on the foreign and security policies of nation states. Such relationships moreover generate transnational patterns of dependency that can be quite durable.
Currently there are growing indications of an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region, largely driven by concerns over China’s military rise. European tech companies are deeply involved in this dynamics as exporters and strategic partners of various Asia-Pacific countries. China on the other hand has had to contend with a Western arms embargo since 1989, and has recently strengthened its own arms export relations with friendly states in Asia and Africa.

The aim of this project is to study the industrial and other sub-state processes that affect transnational arms production within the Asia-Pacific region.



Project 4
The strategic relevance of Chinese investment in Europe


City 01

What are the consequences of Chinese investments in European companies that are active in sensitive or strategically relevant industry fields?

Although this question has been asked ever more frequently, so far only very few academic studies address this issue and offer clear-cut conclusions. The goal of this project is to identify the conditions that justify the classification of a planned Chinese investment as having a strategic relevance for EU member states.

To achieve this, it is necessary to work out criteria that can help distinguish between strategically relevant and non-relevant investments, and to more clearly define fuzzy concepts such as “key industry”, “economic security” etc. This is to be supplemented by an analysis of the Chinese government’s official policy objectives, such as the development plan that aims to put Chinese companies in a leading position within the global economy. Furthermore, the institutional and personnel linkages between state, economy, and military actors, as well as the PRC’s economic infrastructure will be taken into account in order to decide when legitimate caution towards an investment project is justified and when it is not.


Documenting Chinese investment projects in Europe

The Center for Asia-Pacific Strategy and Security keeps a record of Chinese investment projects in Europe.

Information on Chinese investments is collected from media reports and other public sources. This documentation project differs from other “investment trackers” insofar that it provides more detailed information and comments on the individual investments, which helps to gain a better picture of the current development.

The data collection initially starts with a documentation of investment projects in Germany only. Later versions will include information on Chinese investments in other European states as well.



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