Which direction will the Superpower that is China take in 2011?
An answer to this question, lies in the Chinese press, in particular in the analyses/comments published in China during the last few weeks.
The past year has been marked by a hardening of China’s foreign policy in several sectors and by a deterioration in Beijing’s relations with its proximate neighbours, whether it is Japan, Korea, India, the Mekong countries or closer allies like Kazakhstan (The Hindu reported that China’s dams in Xinjiang region have triggered great concern in Kazakhstan).
“¦in 2011, Beijings foreign policy should reflect Chinas status as the “˜number two power in the world.
In this context, The International Herald Leader, a Xinhua newspaper focused on international relations, published an interview with Yan Xuetong, a well-known scholar specialized in international relations. Yan is the Dean of the Institute of Contemporary International Relations of Tsinghua University.
The scholar believes that in 2011, Beijing’s foreign policy should reflect China’s status as the ‘number two power in the world’. Early in 2010, he had predicted that the Sino-US relationship would be ‘more one of enemies than friends’. He affirms now that the events of the year have corroborated his observation.
Yan contends that in economics and culture, China and the US have many common or complementary interests, but in politics and security, the two superpowers are bound to have several open conflicts of interest: “Because of opposing interests in these areas, it is hard for them to develop cooperative strategies. Competition will be the main theme [of their future relations]”.
Deng Xiaopings theory was that until China becomes a major power, it should keep a low profile in foreign policy. The time has come for China to be more proactive on the world scene and fully participate as “˜world power no 2″™
He explained that the two powers are bound to have confrontational relations: “This [type of] relationship started at the end of the Cold War and will continue indefinitely. The G2 competition between the USSR and the US during the Cold War was about military struggle. [Now], the G2 competition between China and the US is economic”. Tomorrow, it will remain competitive in nature.
His main argument is that China’s Foreign Policy does not reflect its present international status. The events of 2010 have shown that “China’s neighbors have asked the US to intervene in Asia and have wanted the US to lead Asia to counter China’s rise.”
Yan continues, explaining that though “China’s foreign policy with regard to these countries didn’t change, their ‘feelings’ toward China changed… In the past, China’s neighbors felt comfortable with China’s ‘smiling’ foreign policy, because China was not that strong. But now China is strong. Continuing the same ‘smiling’ policies will make them question China’s intention. Before China became the leader in East Asia, its neighbors felt it was natural to compete with China, but now they view competition from China as a threat.”
That is why China needs to change its foreign policy.
In line with this new development, he suggests three adjustments in foreign policy: “First, China’s foreign diplomacy should shift its focus from economic development to achieving national rejuvenation. National rejuvenation is our government’s long-term political goal”. What exactly is this ‘rejuvenation’ is not explicit.
While the army is on the decline, the navy, air force, and second artillery corps represent a large and growing percentage of the Chinese defence forces. Will India take note of this and adapt accordingly its doctrine?
Yan second point is: “China should take charge as a great, responsible power instead of maintaining a low profile. …Being a responsible great power does not mean just increasing its responsibilities, but also its power. …Continuing low profile-type policies will bring more harm than benefit to China.”
Deng Xiaoping’s theory was that until China becomes a major power, it should keep a low profile in foreign policy. The time has come for China to be more proactive on the world scene and fully participate as ‘world power no 2’, states Yan.
Though the Tsinghua University Professor does not give concrete examples, Beijing has been doing just that; one can cite the recent increase of its holdings in some European Union countries’ debt. Spain, Greece and other European countries in the midst of the euro-zone crisis, increasingly see China as a source of capital (Beijing’s foreign-exchange reserves are estimated at $2.7 trillion).