China’s enormous size affords it tremendous advantages in its relations with smaller countries, particularly developing states in the global south. Beijing regularly leverages its huge economy, growing military power, and diplomatic muscle in international organizations to both cajole and even coerce other countries in pursuit of its own interests.
China’s behavior towards smaller states is by no means exceptional. In fact, it’s quite standard among the world’s major powers. The more pressing question, though, is how do these smaller countries respond to a more assertive China? In many instances, there is no response. Many developing countries have been slow to shift their focus from traditional power centers in Washington, London and Brussels to Beijing and, as such, have not built up the internal competencies within their governments to effectively negotiate with China.
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