China's Foreign Policy in Transition by cxb17175


									China’s Foreign Policy in Transition

China plays an increasingly important role in the     of thinking is most clearly seen in the organiza-
international community, one that holds grow-         tion of Chinese foreign policy around the con-
ing responsibility. President Hu Jintao and Prime     cept of the so-called multi-polarized world. B   e-
Minister Wen Jiabao have initiated change in          cause of the uneasiness with the supremacy of
their country’s foreign- and security policy in       the last remaining superpower, especially after
order to aid China’s development into an active       the American-lead war in Iraq, many Chinese
and confident actor in the international arena.       foreign policy thinkers hope that other poles like
                                                      Europe or China itself will counterbalance the
Security Perceptions                                  hegemon. But this concept is not put into politi-
                                                      cal action. In fact, China does accept the s     u-
China’s foreign policy is driven by a domestic
                                                      premacy of the U.S., because good relations
agenda. The Chinese leadership continues to
focus on the economic and political transforma-       with Washington have strategic value for the
                                                      general transformation process. The deadlocked
tion of the country. All Chinese foreign policy
                                                      conflict across the Taiwan Strait is all about sov-
aims in securing the country’s economic devel-
opment and territorial integrity. In addition, the    ereignty and legitimacy. Because of the increas-
                                                      ing militarization of cross-strait relations and
Chinese Communist Party hopes to strengthen
                                                      mutual exclusive claims by both sides the conflict
its legitimacy through a sophisticated foreign
policy, putting on the world stage China as an        poses a dangerous threat to peace and stability
                                                      in Asia. However, this conflict could be defused
influential player and creating stability for the
                                                      with patience and good statesmanship because
nation. Political developments contradicting or
hampering these goals are perceived as threats.       of the cultural nexus and the strong economic
                                                      integration of both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
In this sense, North Korean nuclear brinkman-
ship is a headache to China’s foreign policy. Tra-    The spread of infectious diseases such as SARS
ditional balance of power politics continue to        and AIDS highlights the fact that China is e    x-
influence foreign- and security policy thought of     posed to transnational risks. The drug trade from
many decision-makers, because sovereignty and         Central Asia and from across the Burmese bor-
territorial integrity have to be guarded. This line   der is another example. Due to these develop-
China’s Foreign Policy                                 FES Briefing Paper May 2004                   Page 2

ments, Chinese experts from various foreign pol-       conflict management in mind. At the same time,
icy advisory institutes have started to utilize com-   ties with the EU are being fortified. In this spirit,
prehensive security concepts. Securing energy          Beijing published a policy paper on the EU for
and water resources is of geostrategic impor-          the first time in October 2003. During his visit to
tance because China’s economic growth de-              Europe in May 2004 the Prime Minister worked
pends on rising energy imports. The degradation        hard to further develop this relationship. Talk
of the environment could lead to scarcity of           about a strategic partnership has entered the
clean water for parts of the population. Chinese       political jargon of Beijing and some European
policy makers hope to develop proactive and            capitals. But the concept still needs to be crafted
preventive strate gies against such security risks.    in greater detail.

September 11 has highlighted globalized terror-        In the future China could act as an intermediary
ism as threat in China as well. China joined the       in diminishing the widening gulf between indus-
global fight against terrorism and utilized the        trial and developing countries. In 2003 China
opportunity to crack down on local separatists in      has already took part in the G-8 Summit, though
the Autonomous R      egion of Xinjiang. Generally     consciously as a developing country. During the
speaking, China stresses the importance of ad-         world trade round in Cancún in the same year
dressing the root causes of terrorism rather than      the G-20 presented themselves as an articulate
fighting it solely via military means.                 group with the potential to block multilateral
                                                       trade negotiations if it is decided that the indus-
Lately China has become sensitive to the prolif-
                                                       trialized countries neglect the interests of the
eration of nuclear weapons as threat to its own
                                                       developing world. The further development of
security and would possibly support a more ef-
                                                       the cooperation between India, China and Brazil,
fective global regime of arms control in the field
                                                       the defining countries of the G    -20, is not only
of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. As
                                                       going to shape the multilateral trading system
China has more nuclear-armed neighbors (Russia,
                                                       but also the future of global governance in gen-
India, Pakistan and North Korea) than any other
country, this is an important topic.
                                                       Regional Arrangements
Multilateral Answers?
                                                       The main themes of Chinese foreign policy are
China supports the multilateral approach which
                                                       peace and development, which also secure
has become part of Chinese foreign policy, al-
                                                       China’s own development. A peaceful and sta-
though there are many reservations regarding
                                                       ble environment is necessary for China in order
questions on topics that could have an effect on
                                                       to reach its goal as a “modestly well-off society”;
Chinese sovereignty.
                                                       the Chinese foreign ministry therefore strives to
China backs both the strengthening of interna-         build up productive multi- or bilateral relations
tional organizations and adherence to interna-         with countries in the region. Reform-oriented
tional law, taking on increasing responsibility in     Chinese politicians and their advisors support
regional crisis management and the avoidance           advanced economic integration and the devel-
of violent conflict. The preventive Shuttle-           opment of new forms of cooperative security.
Diplomacy and the multilateral arbitration efforts
                                                       China presents its economic and political rise as
on China’s part in the rising nuclear crisis in
                                                       advantageous for all of Asia and hopes to dispel
North Korea, as well as the country’s deploy -
                                                       the current fears of its neighbors. The Chinese
ment of troops for technical and medical sup-
                                                       government is successfully working towards ac-
port in UN peace-securing missions are both
                                                       quiring the reputation as a responsible regional
examples of this policy. Though in the past Chi-
                                                       power as well as a motor for growth, supporting
na concentrated on the development of bilateral
                                                       among other things stronger economic integra-
relations, the country’s leaders now focus on a
                                                       tion. In October 2003 China and ASEAN signed
multilateral approach. Even the fixation on the
                                                       a contract on friendship and cooperation, bring-
last remaining superpower is decreasing. Chi-
                                                       ing them one big step closer together – the
nese foreign policy no longer focuses solely on
                                                       prospect of a free trade zone by 2010 is in sight.
the USA, a practice formerly worked to the bone,
                                                       Involvement is growing stronger in Central Asia
but rather takes a pragmatic approach towards
                                                       as well, mainly through further d evelopment of
Chinese-American relations with the goal of
China’s Foreign Policy                                FES Briefing Paper May 2004                 Page 3

the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This           steps to push this process forward. The planned
regional organization, which aside from China         economic integration of a large part of East Asia
and Russia also handles four Central Asian r -  e     is considered an important prerequisite for closer
publics, has a secretary’s office in Beijing with     political cooperation. But there are further con-
the former Chinese ambassador in Moscow as            ditions for an effective cooperative security a r-
General Secretary. The development of a politi-       rangement:
cal infrastructure is financed by Chinese and
                                                      •    Regional norms and rules based on interna-
Russian funds. Tapping into Central Asia’s e    n-
                                                           tionally recognized principles must be cre-
ergy resources is part of this strategy. More in-
                                                           ated and implemented. This is a very difficult
tensive economic and political c  ooperation has
                                                           step for Asian countries. Lack of trust and
also been arranged with former fiend and rival
                                                           large cultural differences are significant
India, and remaining border conflicts are settled
                                                           causes of this problem. The complex and
via negotiation. Relations with Pakistan remain
                                                           conflict-filled relationship between China
                                                           and Japan is a further hurdle in the path to
Despite many obstacles, regional economic c      o-        a cooperative security architecture in Asia.
operation also pushed forward the development
                                                      •    Initiatives and structures that promote ad-
of regional security architecture. Regional coop-
                                                           herence to laws should be implemented.
eration is necessary in confronting security policy
challenges; this applies to the struggle against      •    Participating nations that have difficulty ad-
causes of security risks as well as to warding off         hering to or implementing the necessary
serious threats. Regional security architecture in         measures should receive support.
Asia should be understood not as a fixed institu-
                                                      •    Tension and problems between countries
tion but rather as a security policy process or the        should be approached in a problem-oriented
coexistence of several processes. Institutionaliza-
                                                           and pragmatic manner. Additionally, the se-
tion can slowly be implemented starting with
                                                           curity needs of all participating nations
security policy dialogue and through confidence-           should be taken into serious consideration.
building measures. The outcome of the process
leads to a transformation in the relations be-        Common Perspectives?
tween countries and simultaneously changes the
conditions within countries themselves, as            From China’s point of view, an extension of se-
shown in the OSCE and also in the European            curity policy dialogues between Asia and Europe
integration process. Regional security architec-      is necessary for tackling certain problems to-
ture in Asia could also develop in this way. But      gether in the future. A call for action is seen
unlike Europe where the North Atlantic Treaty         right in Central Asia. Drug trafficking, organized
Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU)          crime, oppression and exclusion of most of the
and the Organization for Security and Coopera-        population’s participation in economy and poli-
tion in Europe (OSCE) remain the backbone of          tics makes the area explosive. In addition, rich
the security system, Asia does not yet have its       energy sources evoke the desire of many. Cent-
own region-wide organization. There is a nota-        ral Asia presents a security policy risk for both
ble amount of interest in China vis-à-vis Europe’s    Europe and China. Here lies the possibility for
regional security system as well as its corre-        concrete cooperation, perhaps with Russia, to
sponding process. China has already taken up          stabilize the region and especially to ward off
cautious contact with NATO, whose planes              the danger of possible failed states.
bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in             About the author:
1999, and wishes to initiate dialogue.
                                                      Knut Dethlefsen is resident representative of the
Even if a functioning cooperative or fully collec-    Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Shanghai
tive security system is still lacking, ASEAN, the
ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shanghai Coop-
eration Organization have at least taken the first
China’s Foreign Policy                                                FES Briefing Paper May 2004                           Page 4

                                  More information is available on

The focus of the program „Security in a Globalized World” lies on the specific perceptions and processes of security and security
policies in the regions of the South. The program is part of the international work of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and contributes
through conferences, workshops and publications to the debates on cooperative security structures.

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