I have recently visited my brother abroad, in a beautiful country renowned for its strong flavorsome beers, cozy pubs and vivid nightlife. During my week or so of my stay we travelled around the countryside and had a great time together, however, we did not go out a single night. What other, pray tell, did we do instead in this beer-blessed land? Well, we stayed at home and watched anime in front of the fireplace, each with a wine glass in hand. We both work full-time and tired after our long work-hours this was the perfect holiday relaxation. Geeks, I hear? Now, now, let’s think about that.
‘China’s road of peaceful development is a brand-new one for mankind in pursuit of civilization and progress, the inevitable way for China to achieve modernization, and a serious choice and solemn promise made by the Chinese government and the Chinese people.’
Peaceful development is the inevitable way for China’s modernization. With these incisive and forceful words, China’s State Council Information Office opened China’s Peaceful Development Road (the white paper has been published on December 2005) and Beijing government inaugurated the new foreign policy strategy.
With Chinese economic miracle, quick and fast-paced industrial development and high annual growth rates of above 9%, Beijing has not only consolidated the strategic cooperation with its Asian neighbors, but also has increased its economic influence on the regional geopolitical chessboard.
The string of Chinese investments and trade agreements with its neighbors have fostered a relationship of economic interdependence with Beijing, which increases in the international community, especially for competitors like U.S. and Russia, suspicions and fear of an imminent ‘Chinese threat’ to dominate and control Asian region and its resources.
First, the Bush administration and now the Obama administration informally adopted a policy of containment of Beijing economic and political influence in Asia to counterbalance this “Chinese threat” and to regain the most important role in Far East. The official statements of U.S. State Secretary, Hillary Clinton, at the 17th ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010, (‘the United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea‘) and Obama’s recent announcement of the achievement of the broad outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with eight Asian Countries are strong signals of this containment policy.
Beijing’s response to ‘Chinese threat’ perception
In response to ‘Chinese threat’ external ‘misperception’, Beijing government and a Chinese scholar devised a new perspective of thinking, which aims to build a new image of a reliable and credible China, as a responsible stakeholder in the international system.
The cornerstone of this new China’s foreign policy strategy is the adoption of the ‘peaceful development’ ideological doctrine, heping fazhan, for a ‘peaceful rise’, heping jueqi, in a harmonious and multipolar world governed by order and prosperity, where there is no room for a single hegemony. The rhetoric of government seeks to subvert the external perception, maybe a misperception, of the country as a ‘threat’ to the interests of major global powers. This concept, core of China’s new strategic doctrine, has been proposed first by the scholar Yan Xuetong in 1998 and used officially re-introduced by the Chairman of China Reform Forum, Zheng Bijian, during the Bo’ao Forum in 2003.
Since 2003, Beijing began on one side to concentrate the efforts on the dimension of public diplomacy, bound by the multilateral coordination, and also to pursue a peaceful rise, without seeking hegemony. Wen Jiabao stressed once again that China’s goal is not to obtain absolute control nor create a deadlock conflict with the United States or Russia, but rather to build good neighborly relations and strengthen the partnership with neighboring countries.
In fact, Beijing needs to strengthen collaborative and non-confrontational relationships, to neutralize the risk of an unexpected growth-braking. In the speeches of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao the ‘heping jueqi’ is described as the focal point for the development of the Country:
Peace, opening-up, cooperation, harmony and win-win are our policy, our idea, our principle and our pursuit. To take the road of peaceful development is to unify domestic development with opening to the outside world, linking the development of China with that of the rest of the world, and combining the fundamental interests of the Chinese people with the common interests of all peoples throughout the world. China persists in its pursuit of harmony and development internally while pursuing peace and development externally; the two aspects, closely linked and organically united, are an integrated whole, and will help to build a harmonious world of sustained peace and common prosperity.
China’s new diplomatic approach: periphery policy and good neighbor policy
With the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of China to international markets, a new type of political culture is born in Beijing. In the wake of Deng Xiaoping’s mission of modernization, China inaugurates its pragmatic strategic behavior: tao guang yang hui, you suo zuo wei, ‘keep a low profile and never take the lead’.
For its own interests, Beijing works to promote a multipolar community, duojihua, where both cooperative and friendly relations with neighbors and principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in internal state affairs, can preserve regional stability. The “good-neighbor” integrated regional policy is the China’s new diplomatic approach. Before the 1980s China was not able to create a good network of relations with its neighbor countries nor to make an integrated regional policy or to promote economic cooperation.
But with the open door policy and the end of international isolation, Chinese leaders offer a new perspective of development related to a new ideology: zhoubian zhengce, an integrated ‘periphery-policy’, known as the ‘good neighbor policy’, mulin zhengce. Establishing good relations with neighbors, China can convert its image as a responsible power willing to promote stability, security and regional cooperation, increasing its influence in world affairs, soft power and moral authority.
The key-points of this strategy seem to be: the multilateral diplomacy with the normalization of the relations with several Southeast and Pacific-Asian countries; the emphasis on the emergence of a ‘new Asianism’; the participation in Asian regional organizations (first of all the ASEAN + 3 and the SCO) and the activism within the most important international institutions.
During last ASEAN Summit, held recently in Indonesia, Premier Wen Jiabao has highlighted how China intends to strengthen good-neighbor policy in maintaining the status quo equilibrium in the region:
We are committed to a policy of building good-neighborly relations and partnership with our neighboring countries, and we abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The disputes over the South China Sea between the relevant countries in the region have existed for many years. They should be settled through friendly consultation and negotiation between the sovereign states directly concerned.
The desire to consolidate the diplomatic and economic relations with Old Europe and U.S. reflects Beijing’s goal to put itself forward as the great debt crisis solver and as guardian of equilibrium in a new peaceful international order. In the words of the ideologist Zheng Bijian:
China’s cultural tradition, featuring ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘priority to peace,’ also goes a long way toward facilitating China’s harmonious coexistence and sharing of prosperity with the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.
China chooses the road to peaceful development to strengthen its soft power and its international influence, but this strategy serves not only to Beijing for its economic development or for its regional affairs, but also to increase its political and diplomatic weight.
Indeed, the construction of a peaceful world, orientated to maintaining the status quo relationship with Taiwan, the economic interdependence and the participation in Asian Regional Fora keep off the risks of possible military confrontations in the South China Sea and neutralize U.S. influence in the area.
Few days ago, President Hu Jintao alerted military personnel to ‘make extended preparations for warfare‘ in South China Sea. Hu Jintao’s statement has provoked strong reactions and more than one question: is China’s rise really peaceful? How can China’s rearmament and the increasing in military spending be consistent with Beijing’s good neighborly strategy? A war in South China Sea would be a war for the assertion of hegemony, but it is improbable that China intends to address a military dispute in this time of global crisis. Hu Jintao’s call seems only a demonstrative test of the military strength of an ambitious rising power.
We can thus say that if China’s rise was first a big problem for the interests of the West, now the real “China’s threat” is its peaceful rise, that allows Beijing to build new relations of good neighborliness, to exercise more political influence and to regain international credibility.
Suisheng Zhao, China-U.S. relations transformed: perspectives and strategic interactions, Routledge 2008.
C. Fred Bergsten,Charles Freeman,Nicholas R. Lardy,Derek J. Mitchell, China’s Rise: Challenges and Opportunities, Center for strategic and international studies 2008.
Sujian Guo, Challenges and Opportunities for China’s “Peaceful Rise”, in: http://bss.sfsu.edu/sguo/My%20articles/006%20Introduction.pdf.
Zheng Bijian, China’s Peaceful Rise: Speeches of Zheng Bijian 1997-2004, in: http://www.brookings.edu/fp/events/20050616bijianlunch.pdf.
A new ‘Great Game’ in Asia-Pacific arena arouses the antagonism and the rivalries between old and new world powers. The future of the United States is closely connected to and dependent on the Asian geopolitical chessboard. Therefore, last week, President Obama said in his speech to the Australian Parliament that:
Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in. With most of the world’s nuclear powers and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.
‘We are here to stay’ is a strong message directed to the great rising power, China, the most ambitious player in the competition to gain the regional hegemony in Asia-Pacific. The Sino-US relations, oscillating between competition and cooperation, seem to have inaugurated a new course. Officially, Barack Obama emphasizes the importance of the US-China cooperation and recognizes Beijing’s balancing role in the region:
We’ve seen that China can be a partner, from reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula to preventing proliferation. We’ll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing, including greater communication between our militaries to promote understanding and avoid miscalculation.
On the unofficial side, Obama’s strategic goals are glaring and China knows them: Washington aims to regain the leadership in the Far East, implicitly carrying out a policy of containment of Beijing’s political and economic influence. The United States define their role in Asia just when in the West people live out through the peak of global crisis,with Euroland looking to China, already the largest single holder of U.S. government debt, and to its 3200 billion USD foreign exchange reserves as the only resource for the rehabilitation of the public debt.
The first significant sign of U.S. interests in Asian geopolitical space is the announcement of the imminent dispatch of a military aircraft and up to 2.500 marines to Darwin in northern Australia, only 500 miles from Indonesia. The U.S. goal is to strengthen alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines and protect core U.S. interests across Asia. By 2016, the number of American troops stationed in Asia will be staggering: 2500 marines stationed in Australia, 50000 already stationed in Japan and 28000 stationed in South Korea.
New Asia-Pacific order
The new chapter of the Washington’s Asian policy started at the last Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu. During the APEC Forum, which brought together 21 Pacific Rim Countries, the ‘member economies’ that seek to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region, President Obama has defined new conditions to Beijing government. Obama insisted that China should appreciate its official currency, the renminbi. A faster rise of its value would balance global trade and make American goods more competitive, but also it would discourage the inflow of foreign capital to China. ‘We’re going to continue to be firm that China operate by the same rules as everyone else. We don’t want them taking advantage of the United States‘, stated President Obama.
While the United States are not afraid of China’s rise, China begins to worry about Obama’s recent announcement of the achievement of the broad outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement negotiated among the United States and 8 other partners (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam). The TPP will exclude China and Russia from this free trade regional area in Asia-Pacific, with a related market of 500 million consumers.
China’s response: ASEAN + 3 is the keystone of Asian development
Beijing’s swift response arrived at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, held recently in Bali, Indonesia. Premier Wen Jiabao has summarized in four key-points his proposal for South-East Asia’s development, highlighting how China intends to strengthen multilateral relations and participation in regional organizations in maintaining equilibrium and balance in the region.
First, we should enhance strategic consultation and mutual trust. We are committed to a policy of building good-neighborly relations and partnership with our neighboring countries, and we abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The disputes over the South China Sea between the relevant countries in the region have existed for many years. They should be settled through friendly consultation and negotiation between the sovereign states directly concerned.
The second China’s priority is the regional economic development and a common coordination of strategies:
Second, we should pursue economic development and social progress as a top priority. Both China and ASEAN Countries are in a crucial stage of development. We should better coordinate development strategies, draw on mutual strengths and promote cooperation in more fields and at a higher level.
The third key-proposal of Wen’s speech at the Bali Summit points out that the development of cooperation in Asia should be addressed through the mechanism of ASEAN 10 +3 (China, Japan and South Korea). This is a way to strengthen the partnership with Japan and South Korea, historical allies of the United States. On the other hand, in these days the United States and Russia for the first time take part at the East Asia Summit and aim to strengthen the mechanism of ASEAN +8, to counterbalance China and ASEAN +3.
Third, we should adhere to ASEAN centrality in promoting East Asian cooperation. China supports ASEAN integration and community building and welcomes a stronger and more influential ASEAN. We are confident that ASEAN is fully capable of leading East Asian cooperation. China will open a permanent mission to ASEAN next year. We will continue to support ASEAN and work with it, and we will continue to take 10+1 as the foundation, 10+3 as the main vehicle and the East Asia Summit as an important supplement in pursuing East Asian cooperation.
In the last fourth point of his speech, Wen Jiabao said that China will seek to strengthen cooperation through multilateral approach.
Fourth, we should uphold our common Interests in the multilateral field.
Undoubtedly, the main passage of Wen’s stronger new Asian policy is summarized in this sentence: ‘China will never seek hegemony and is opposed to all hegemonic acts.‘ The reference is to the strategic and geopolitical ambitions of the United States in Asia, especially compared to the frequent interference in inter-regional disputes between China, Vietnam, the Philippines over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea between China and Japan in Diaoyu-Senkaku in East China Sea.
South China Sea: core interests and sovereignty
The South China Sea is Beijing’s core interest, with China claiming its ‘indisputable sovereignty’ on the myriad of islands, rocks and vast natural resources, especially hydrocarbures, sited in the subsurface sea. With the Dong Feng-21 D, also called the ‘aircraft carrier killer’, a ballistic missile with range of 3000 km, and the increasing military spending, Beijing government could shift Pacific power balance. China has turned its ‘Continental Policy’ into a new “Oceans Policy”, oriented to shake the balance of powers in the maritime space through a strengthening of military outposts in the South China Sea.
This refinement of Chinese military technology has increased the concern of Japanese and Philippines, who have called upon a U.S. intervention. At the 17th ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010 U.S. State Secretary, Hillary Clinton stated:
The United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea. We share these interests with not only ASEAN members and ASEAN Regional Forum participants but with other maritime nations and the broader international community.
It is difficult to make predictions on the future development of Sino-U.S. relations with regard to the effort to achieve strategic supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region. One thing is certain: participation in regional organizations seems to have become the keystone in establishing a new balance of power in Asia.
The results of the Tenth ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
The relationship between Europe and Asia – although more and more common interests and challenges connect them – for a long time has consisted of bilateral relations without a formal supporting structure or framework such as for transatlantic relations in the case of Europe and North America, or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in the case of North and South American states and Asia. In 1996, recognizing the need for strengthening this relationship, France and Singapore initiated regular meetings between Asia and Europe. In this way, thus the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was born.
ASEM is an open forum for dialogue and discussion consisting of 46 countries – the twenty-seven members of the European Union (EU), the thirteen members of the ASEAN, the Plus Three regional grouping with India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Australia, Russia and New Zealand – and two international organizations, the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat. Since it is a consultative forum, specific decisions are not taken during the meetings. But a so-called “presidential statement”, a final communication, is adopted detailing the results of the dialogue. In the ASEM framework, members engage in discussions as equal partners ignoring differences in economic development, country size and population. Dialogue is based on mutual benefits and mutual respect. The ASEM process is loosely organized. There are three dimensions or pillars of the cooperation, including dialogues on politics, economics, and also other areas such as social politics, education and culture. Heads of governments meet every two years (alternately in Europe and Asia) to set the ASEM agenda, while ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meetings are organised in the interim between Summits. The Foreign Ministers Meeting is responsible for pursuing the ASEM dialogue under the first and third pillars (political dialogue and co-operation in other areas). Apart from the Summit meetings, the ASEM process is carried forward through a series of ministerial and working-level meetings.
The 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Gödöllő, Hungary had an over-arching theme: “Working Together on Non-Traditional Security Challenges”. This title – due to the Chairs’ Statement – provided an opportunity to address relevant issues of common interest having substantial implications for the prosperity, security and stability of both Europe and Asia. Non-traditional or new types of security challenges include almost every security problem that is not a traditional military conflict. These challenges can be natural disasters, terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, illegal arms trafficking, organised crime, and also migration or food shortages. János Martonyi, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, highlighted that several of these challenges are present in Asia simultaneously. Indeed, Japan has recently been hit by both a nuclear and a natural disaster at the same time, which made the meeting and its theme more topical than ever.
All 48 members of ASEM represented themselves at the meeting. 36 of the 46 countries even had ministers attending the meetings, reflecting very high level participation. The Meeting was opened by Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister emphasized that the effectiveness of cooperation between Asia and the European Union will be crucial in the future. Due to global financial and economic competition a new world has emerged where “lone fighters can no longer be successful”. He added that the years ahead will be characterized by searching for effective forms of cooperation and alliance. Europe should look for the most effective forms of economic and political cooperation with Asia, because that cooperation will certainly form a starting point for renewing the post-economic crisis world.
A wide range of non-traditional security challenges facing Europe and Asia can seriously impact the stability, security and prosperity of both regions, posing challenges at both the regional and global levels. On behalf of the Hungarian Presidency, János Martonyi stressed the importance of establishing nuclear energy safety where the best way to resolve such problems, both in the field of nuclear safety and environmental protection, is to seek common solutions. Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto also emphasized that combating terrorism, disaster management, nuclear safety, climate change and nuclear non-proliferation, are all challenges demanding cooperation. This is in the joint interest of the countries of both Asia and Europe. The Chairs’ Statement highlights that environmental degradation, climate change, the loss of biological diversity, the over-exploitation of natural resources and other human pressures on the natural environment are underlying causes for many emerging security threats. Ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to pursue sustainable development in tandem with economic growth and social progress.
The issue of food shortages was highlighted by several countries during the plenary discussion. According to some countries of Southeast Asia, a holistic approach is needed in this field and the members of ASEM should improve their technological and scientific cooperation. Others emphasised the necessity of promoting cooperation, not only on recovery from natural disasters, but also on their forecasting and early warning.
On the second day of the Meeting, the participants dealt with the recovery from economic crisis and the fight against poverty. The Chairs’ Statement, unanimously adopted at the meeting, points out that the ASEM partners acknowledge that the world is recovering from the economic crisis, but in an uneven and unbalanced way across and within countries. They expressed deep concern that the recovery has not yet translated into sufficient employment and adequate growth rates for all economies. In some advanced economies unemployment is still high, and fiscal and financial vulnerabilities remain such as slow progress in fiscal consolidation, sovereign debt crises and slow progress on financial sector consolidation and reform. Some emerging economies face the risk of overheating and excessive short-term capital flows, and many confront the threat of food and fuel price volatility, with high levels last seen in 2008. ASEM therefore supports the goals set by the G20 to address and provide collective solutions for ongoing global economic challenges taking into account the interest of all nations. The Hungarian Foreign Minister added that the crisis is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity, as the markets expect jointly-developed solutions from the countries of the world. János Martonyi offered the European Union’s growth strategy for Asian countries as an example. This strategy covers several areas ranging from education to employment, as well as boosting innovation. He believes that the Europe 2020 Strategy has formulated objectives that can define an appropriate course of growth for the countries of Asia as well.
Overall, we can be assured that the results of the meeting won’t shake the world because no historic, compromising or tough decisions were made. But the consultations within the framework of ASEM do have a raison d’être in the future. Informal political meetings are becoming increasingly important in the world as both regional and global problems can be discussed more openly. In the future these meetings may become even more important, since Asia is rapidly becoming a dominant region in the world economy, global security and politics and has started to consciously influence the international order. As the Statement points out, Asia and Europe are becoming more and more unified, but there are still plenty of thing to do till then. Deeper and wider inter-regional relations would offer many opportunities for working together. The ASEM initiative involves partners that constitute over half of the global population, comprise more than 60% of world trade and account greater than half of global GDP. These facts alone make ASEM a significant forum that has successfully provided an important opportunity for interregional co-operation on an equal and reciprocal basis for over one and a half decades.