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"The Chinese side stated: Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance. Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution -- this has become the irresistible trend of history. All nations, big or small, should be equal: big nations should not bully the small and strong nations should not bully the weak. China will never be a superpower and it opposes hegemony and power politics of any kind."

Joint Communique of the United States of America and
the People's Republic of China
(Shanghai Communique)
February 28, 1972

Foreign Relations

  • Tributary States
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    China's FuturesChinas overriding foreign policy objective is to secure energy to fuel domestic growth. Technical shortcomings restrict China from building an ocean-going navy to defend its sea lanes all the way to the Middle East. China remains uncomfortably dependent on US naval power to ensure the safety of its tankers to and from the Middle East.

    China seeks to overturn the existing rules-based structure, which has benefitted many nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and its allies seek to continue the free and open environment in the region. China makes comprehensive use of all elements of national power to bend other nations to its will.

    Chinese leaders have increasingly sought to assert China's model of authoritarian capitalism as an alternative (and implicitly superior) development path abroad, exacerbating great-power competition that could threaten international support for democracy, humanrights, and the rule of law. The actions of Xi and his advisers (doubling down on authoritarianism at home and showing they are comfortable with authoritarian regimes abroad) along with China's opaque commercial and development practices, reward compliant foreign leaders and can be corrosive to civil society and the rule of law.

    Xi called for "justice" in what analysts said was the harbinger of a new era in foreign policy more closely akin to the Cold War than recent approaches. "The world wants justice, not hegemony," Xi said in remarks broadcast to the Bo'ao Forum on 20 April 2021. "A big country should look like a big country by showing that it is shouldering more responsibility," he said. While Xi did not identify any country in his remarks, Chinese officials have in recent times referred to U.S. "hegemony" in public criticisms of Washington's geopolitical stance.

    At the 2018 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, Xi stated his desire to lead the reform of the global governance system, driving a period of increased Chinese foreign policy activism and a Chinese worldview that links China's domestic vision to its international vision. Beijing stepped up efforts to reshape the international discourse around human rights, especially within the UN system. Beijing sought not only to block criticism of its own system but also to erode norms, such as the notion that the international community has a legitimate role in scrutinizing other countries' behavior on humanrights (e.g., initiatives to proscribe country-specific resolutions), and to advance narrow definitions of human rights based on economic standards.

    The People's Republic wanted to cut down discussion, making the price of diplomatic and trading relations with China the acceptance of Chinese definitions of its nationak territory. Companies are penalized if they mention Taiwan as a separate place on their websites. Universities get into trouble if they allow the Dalai Lama to come and speak on their campus. China uses its economic leverage to stifle legitimate discussions or statements about reality, such as fact that Taiwan has been governed as a separate state for many decades.

    Beijing was trying to halt discussion of alternatives not just within their own country, but also in other countries. As in Australia, where in 2020 the Chinese embassy released a list of 14 grievences, such as the fact that media and think tanks had been expressing views that the Chinese government didn't like.

    By 2020 Chinas assertiveness had resulted in the collapse in Chinas soft power. China's policy of coercive diplomacy is spearheaded by so-called Wolf Warrior diplomats. They derive their name from the Wolf Warrior action blockbuster that highlights agents of Chinese special operation forces. "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy describes offensives by Chinese diplomats to defend their country's national interests, often in confrontational ways. Countries are increasingly standing up to the "wolf warrior" diplomats and registering their opposition to the reeducation camps for the Muslim minority in Xinjiang province and the crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong. There are even growing calls to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

    These developments can be seen to follow from Chinas use of three kinds of powers: hard, soft and sharp. Chinas use of hard power refers to the adoption of either military or economic strategies to increase the countrys influence. Soft power builds on the attractiveness of a states culture and ideals; it seeks to attract other states to voluntarily follow its policies.

    While hard power is based, more or less, on direct coercion, sharp power is based on distraction and manipulation. According to C. Walker and J. Ludwig of the National Endowment for Democracy, who coined the term in 2017, sharp power is used by authoritarian states to shape public opinion and perceptions around the globe. The line between soft power and sharp power can also be very thin while both seek to improve a states international image, they utilise divergent tools to reach their goals.

    In contrast, sharp power spreads deceptive information, bribes politicians and civil servants, increases and widens socio-political cleavages, weakens the coherence of the targeted society, restricts liberty of speech, and interferes with elections, etc., in order to shape national politics and to silence displeasing views in other states, as they could prevent an authoritarian state from increasing its global outreach. In its most extreme form, the use of sharp power may even reduce the targeted states sovereignty. Although these methods have always been used in politics, digitalisation and globalisation have increased their efficiency.

    Chen Yi was commissioned by Mao Zedong to chair the "Four-Marshal1 Symposium" in 1969 together with Marshal Ye Jianying, Xu Xiangqian, and Nie Yunzhen on international situation. The four marshals brought forward some reports, such as the preliminary evaluation on the war situation, the views on the current international situation. In the reports, they held that within the foreseeable future, there was no much possibility for the United States or the Soviet Union to launch a large-scale war against China alone or with alliance. In the then world's Big Triangular ties, namely, China-US-Soviet Union conflicts, they held that China-Soviet Union conflict was bigger than the one between China and the United States, and the US-Soviet Union conflict was bigger than the one between China and the Soviet Union. Based upon the incisive judgment, the four marshals put forward concrete concepts for China's foreign work by taking advantage of favorable international situation, These valuable analyses also become the preclude to Mao Zedong's strategic decision to open Sino-US icy relations.

    After the end of the Cold War, China practiced a foreign policy within which it had neither friends nor enemies. Discussions about whether China should focus primarily on its immediate neighborhood or on building interactions with major world powers, as noted by Da Wei and Song Chenghao, have been conducted over the two decades after the end or the Cold War. Any ambiguity was finally eliminated by Xi Jinping, in his speech in November 2014, stressing that now China's main focus is its neighborhood and the integration of the region led by China, based on the historical and cultural community of the latter. Important milestones in this direction was the Work Forum on Chinese Diplomacy Towards the Periphery (2013) and the Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference (CCP) of 2014, which many - inside and outside the country - viewed as a turning point in China's regional policy.

    Ian Xue-tung is convinced, "the periphery of China" should be limited to China's direct neighbors in Asia. It should not include a "big periphery" that encompasses South America or the Middle East. The latter, he believes, creates for China a real threat of "excessive expansion". In this narrower interpretation, China's "traditional" neighborhood includes 20 countries, of which 14 directly border it on land (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan) and 6 countries with which it has a maritime boundary (South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia).

    With the Green Camp in power in Taiwan, Trump ["Chuan Pu"] in the US presidency, Abe's control in Japan still solid, it can be expected in the next four years, China's peripheral situation will not improve, and may significantly deteriorate. This probability will not be small. In response to changes in the international situation, the demands for high-level military personnel in the previous two years had been further refined and subdivided from the general "preparations for strengthening military struggle", with the emphasis on "preparing for military struggle at sea".

    Beijing is engaged in building a new, multipolar world order. Beijing simply wont accept anymore a geopolitical order that it did not create. The Beijing leadership under Xi Jinping clearly sees the so-called international order as a rigged system set up at the end of World War II. A resurgent China will not indefinitely comply with extraneous rules. Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, to cut to the chase, at the June 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). "We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble."

    Since no other country claims a more powerful link to its ancient past and classical principles, any attempt to understand China's future world role must begin with an appreciation of its long history. For centuries, China rarely encountered other societies of comparable size and sophistication; it was the "Middle Kingdom," treating the peoples on its periphery as vassal states. At the same time, Chinese statesmen - facing threats of invasion from without, and the contests of competing factions within - developed a canon of strategic thought that prized the virtues of subtlety, patience, and indirection over feats of martial prowess.

    Almost from the beginnings of her history, China has been the central figure in a world, largely of her own creation, in which she was the final dominant moral force. She has been the center, the powerful civilized and cultivated empire, surrounded by a circle of admiring satellite kingdoms. They flattered her by that most delicate and subtle form of flattery, imitation. They copied her form of civilization, modeled their governmental systems after hers, borrowed her religions. As one of most prominent Chinese international relations scholars, from Tsinghua University in Beijing, Yan Xuetong seeks to enrich the current study of international relations theory by drawing intellectual resources from the era before China was unified by the Qin state in 221 BC. Yan states, Should China increase its material power without at the same time increasing its political power, China will have difficulty being accepted by the international community as a major power that is more responsible than the United States.

    Maoism no longer justifies the Communist Party's monopoly on power, as few Chinese believe in in Communism. Nationalism is now the dominant ideology, and the rulers have to prove their mettle, especially toward Japan. This need is particularly acute when a new leader takes power. The latest party boss, Xi Jinping, needs to show people, not least the military brass, that he is in adequate to the task at hand.

    Along with rising economic development, nationalism is one of the two pillars of regime legitimacy. The marked increase in China's international prominence and national prestige over the past decade has prompted an upsurge in patriotism and nationalism among coastal urbanites and reinforced longstanding student nationalism. There is a growing sense of national pride at China's emergence as an economic and political power. China's urban population, particularly educated professional and business elites, are increasingly critical and sophisticated, knowledgeable about the outside world, and exposed to multiple sources of information. The Party has been compelled to carefully manage sporadic, emotional urban demonstrations by students over international issues, primarily anger at Japan, even as it sometimes stokes such nationalist sentiment to serve its own ends.

    The Chinese government needs "stand up to" the United States and other countries to keep public constituencies happy. Chinese rulers are technocrats, not ideologues or real opinion leaders. Therefore, when presented with a crisis, they have to follow the wind instead of taking a clear position.

    By 2009 China's diplomacy had taken on a tone of muscle-flexing, triumphalism and assertiveness. Foreign diplomats note that China is making no friends with its newly pugnacious attitude, but the popular assessment of China's stance, personified by the nationalistic, jingoistic and Chinese Communist Party-affiliated newspaper Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao), is "it's about time." More thoughtful observers in China argue that this attitude has more form than substance and is designed to play to Chinese public opinion.

    The Europeans were among the most vocal in their criticism. EU leaders had not been happy that at the November 2009 PRC-EU Summit, Premier Wen Jiabao had stated that China "expected" the EU to lift its arms embargo before the next summit. China's behavior at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December 2009 had been "truly shocking" and that Chinese officials' attitude toward other delegations had been rude and arrogant to the point where both the UK and French Embassies had been instructed to complain formally about the treatment their leaders had received from the Chinese, specifically from Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei. The MFA had not been receptive to these demarches and neither the UK nor France had received a response. Japanese corporations had been experiencing some of the same difficulties doing business in China as other international companies had reported. Japan had noted a degree of "hubris" in China's attitude.

    China's more aggressive defense of its interests abroad is new; this is a change in how China presents itself abroad. This stance was popular with the Chinese public, but some wonder whether the policy had been thought through completely. The Chinese people would be disappointed if China's more aggressive stance backfired and caused China to lose face. If China were to experience diplomatic setbacks, the people would again feel that the government had overstated its strength relative to other states and exposed China to humiliation.

    Some thought China was changing its diplomatic tune and re-focusing on Hu Jintao's "harmonious world" concept. Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who became Premier in 2012-13, gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos 28 January 2010 that stressed the importance of collaborative efforts to solve global problems, emphasized twice that "we are in the same boat" (the same metaphor the Secretary used in her public remarks in Beijing in February 2009), and reiterated that China relied on a stable international situation so that it could concentrate on its own internal development challenges. Though there were a couple of digs at the United States, such as a call for "a suitable degree of responsibility and constraint on global reserve currency issuers," the criticism was subtle compared to Chinese public statements in other international forums, such as the EU Summit.

    China adopted a much more assertive international profile in 2010, to include actions such as harassing US survey vessels operating in international waters off the Chinese coast, aggressively pressing unrecognized territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, and supporting North Korea in the aftermath of unprovoked acts of aggression against South Korea. This behavior has unnerved neighboring countries and undone much of Chinas goodwill diplomacy of the past decade. Alongside these provocative actions, the messages emerging from China about its foreign and national security policy were also in a state of flux over the year, as new policy directions were debated and a more diverse group of PRC foreign policy actors promoted their views.

    • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] free trade area is considered a rival to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP as they both include ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam as well as India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Korea. But, unlike the TPP, the RCEP includes China, the world's second largest economy and biggest trading nation, and not the USA.
    • Chinas 2014 plan to work with 21 countries to create a new $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is seen as a rival to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), hich China views as dominated by the USA and Japan.

    In addition to Taiwan and other sovereignty concerns (e.g., Tibet and the Dalai Lama and Xinjiang and Rebiya Kadeer), China has begun to articulate additional "core interests" in Chinese foreign policy. So far, these core interests center on China's access to energy resources.

    Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and chairman of the China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS), spoke at the second "Security and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region" international academic symposium jointly held by the CIISS and Katie Chan Foundation of Hong Kong which kicked off in Beijing on May 27, 2014. Sun Jianguo delivered a keynote speech titled "Creating Together the Asia-Pacific Community of Solidarity and Common Destiny". He promoted an an Asia-only regional security arrangement, with China at the center, that would replace the 60-year system of American alliances.

    Sun Jianguo wrote in China Daily on 18 June 2014 that "We should adapt to the changing situations and explore a new framework for regional security cooperation. The establishment of a comprehensive, orderly, inclusive and coordinated regional security cooperation mechanism is a firm institutional guarantee for the resolution of regional security issues. An exclusive military alliance that is explicitly targeted against a third party is inconsistent with the regional trend of peace, cooperation, development and win-win arrangement."

    China has used punitive trade policies as instruments of coercion during past tensions, and could do so in future disputes. For example, through trade tariffs, tourism restrictions, and limits on foreign direct investment.

    • In 2012, China restricted Philippine fruit imports during the height of Scarborough Reef tensions, but Chinese leaders avoided taking major economic actions during frictions with Vietnam and the Philippines in 2014.
    • In 2010, China used its market-dominance in the rare earth industry as a political and diplomatic tool, restricting exports of rare earth minerals to Japan following tensions over a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese patrol ship. Chinese officials said the action was intended as a means of environmental protection, but the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2014 ruled Chinas restrictions were discriminatory and violated WTO rules.

    Chinas 16+1 is a cooperation mechanism between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries. The 16+1 framework was designed to boost cooperation between China and the CEE countries, but has faced challenges. The 16+1 is a highly complex grouping and the European members of this group have trouble finding common interests and articulating common policies under the 16+1 framework. This, coupled with the perception that the arrangement is a threat to the EU, led to the perception that the initiative stalling.

    The best reflection of Chinese ambitions in Europe is extending the ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) program across the continent. Foreign investment experts are asking what is motivating China, and if geopolitical ambitions are bigger than its business needs. By 2016 the real impact of the Silk Road program is still very limited. Work on most of the transcontinental railway tracks began long before China articulated the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) program in 2013. OBOR was a political vision that lacked projects. Signed deals so far seemed to be business as usual that can attribute to OBOR.

    Though China had succeeded in building banking infrastructure, which includes the creation of the New Development Bank by BRICS countries in 2015, it had not been able to launch any significant construction projects as part of OBOR over the past couple of years.

    Many people are talking about the China model, arguing that China is rapidly developing into a model that is different from the West. Many developing countries are also studying what they can learn from the China model to spur development. However, from China's perspective what the country should do is to display to the world that the China model is only applicable to China. The reason why China has succeeded in the past decades of development is because of taking the road with Chinese characteristics. It doesn't imitate the model of any other country, but develops based on its own conditions.

    China says it is planning to construct global "support facilities" in more countries, after starting to construct a logistics center in the African country of Djibouti. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the announcement during a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting on Mar 8, 2016. "We are willing to, in accordance with objective needs, respond to the wishes of host nations and in regions where China's interests are concentrated, try out the construction of some infrastructure facilities and support abilities," he said.

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    Page last modified: 01-05-2021 16:45:22 ZULU