[Overseas view]China, the good neighborAs part of China’s peripheral foreign policy, Beijing has carried out a policy of befriending regional powers over the past two decades. That policy has emphasized cooperation with other major regional players in seeking common prosperity and regional stability.
In the post-Cold War era, the United States is currently the only global power.
Russia, the legitimate successor state to the former Soviet Union, no longer reaches out globally, either militarily or economically. Moscow has largely been restrained to the Eurasian continent and it is still being pressed by today’s sole superpower.
India views itself as deserving a righteous position under the sun, along with China, Russia and the United States. However, 60 years after achieving independence, its ambitions have yet to be realized. India’s vast population has not brought about a proportional significance in the world today. Its government has a lot more to do just to bring public goods to its people.
Japan is certainly a global economic giant, thanks to the industrial work and technical ability of its people, among the many strengths of this island country.
However, both its population and economic output are about one-third of the world’s superpower, and its global political impact is even farther behind.
Therefore, Japan is a one-third superpower at most ― or a regional power, at least.
While China is also a regional power with global influence, Beijing attaches importance to where it is situated.
Even in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia is a regional power that no one can neglect. Canberra has vast territory and rich resources, but has a limited population and military resources. Therefore, it can hardly play the role of a global political and economic power, but it is important in the Asia-Pacific area ― especially in the South Pacific.
Russia, India, Japan and Australia all directly impact China. China needs to settle its border issue with New Delhi for good and get access to Canberra’s energy resources. China also needs continuous support for Beijing’s sovereignty over the island of Taiwan.
Currently, China’s ties with Japan are rich, but complex. The two countries need to revamp their relations with a forward-looking stance. After all, they need to be courageous in dealing with the past and most importantly, the future.
Clearly it is of the utmost importance for China to develop a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with all of these powers.
China has been working to forge coalitions with some of those states recently.
Japan was, under the tenure of Shinzo Abe, an enthusiastic champion of alliances involving democratic values.
With this notion in mind, Tokyo has set up a quasi-military alliance with Canberra in the name of safeguarding the regional peace.
Washington has started to woo New Delhi by relaxing its nuclear discrimination against it.
Most recently, the three of them, plus the United States, even staged a joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean, promoting international observers to question if the actions had something to do with the emergence of China.
China, per se, might not feel very comfortable, but as long as it truly aspires to rise peacefully, there is no reason to be scared.
Beijing has good reason to defend its sovereignty and integrity, and there is a sound explanation for its defense build-up.
But short of defending its own territory, China remains ambition-free on the outside. Its next primary objective will be to develop its economy in a sustainable way. Both to safeguard Asia-Pacific stability and to expand common economic prosperity, all of the aforementioned major regional powers must work together.
In fact, the gloomy picture is improving. With Yasuo Fukuda assuming power in Tokyo, Japan will probably implement a more respectful foreign policy that will help improve relations with its East Asian neighbors. At least one can expect Tokyo to employ a more stable and constructive external policy, focusing on cooperating with China and the others.
And for a while, we can be free of concerns about visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.
Under John Winston Howard’s tenure of over 11 years, Beijing and Canberra have established robust economic and trade bonds. Beijing appreciates Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s view that in a Taiwan contingency, the United States should not assume Canberra will side with Washington.
Currently, the polls have indicated that Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party might have a better chance to win the election in two months.
If this turns out to be true, one can expect the continuing expansion of the bilateral relationship, given Rudd’s good command and sense of Chinese affairs.
We can also see a steady improvement in the Sino-Indian relationship, which is moving toward achieving a comprehensive package. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is going to visit China in the fall. He has promised that “India-U.S. ties will not affect India-China relations.”
Certainly he is right ― improved India-U.S. relations will benefit India-China relations and stimulate even better India-China relations. New Delhi knows that it will get more attention partly due to the rise of China.
But to Beijing, no matter what happens, its policy to befriend major regional powers will remain unchanged.
The ongoing change of regional political dynamism simply offers China improved opportunities.
*The writer is an international relations professor and deputy director of Fudan University’s Center for American Studies.
by Shen Dingli