China’s crisis as an opportunity
The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
On the first day of the enforcement of the Hong Kong security act on July 1, a Chinese article caught my eye. The Chinese foreign ministry announced that 53 countries around the world support the law. At the UN Human Rights Council, Cuba read a joint statement on behalf of other countries.
In Korea, it was reported that 27 countries issued a statement opposing the law. I wondered which countries were involved. They are friendly nations to China, so I looked up the UN website.
Many of them, or 47 percent, are African countries, including Gabon, Sudan and Somalia. Another 21 percent, or 11 countries, are Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran and Iraq, that are in the midst of conflicts with the United States.
In Asia, 7 countries, or 13 percent, joined the supporters, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They are mostly partners of China’s global expansion policy One Belt One Road. Others are Cuba and Pacific islands. Russia is not included, and one of the 53 is China.
In contrast, 20 of the 27 countries that opposed the security act are European countries. Other included Britain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Palau, Marshal Islands and Belize also joined the opposition. The security act was a litmus test for China’s foreign policy.
China is involved in various international conflicts. The United States is pressuring China over trade tariffs, Xinjiang Uyghur human rights violations and the Hong Kong security act. Japan upset China by specifying a Japanese claim to the disputed Senkaku–Diaoyu islands. The border dispute with India recently resulted in casualties.
The South China Sea issue that the United States reignited has spread to include demands of territorial rights by Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia. Britain and Canada are in confrontation with China over Huawei, and Australia and New Zealand over Covid-19.
The Chinese foreign ministry does not feel so comfortable. Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a meeting with the Philippines foreign minister over the South China Sea issue immediately after talks with the Indian foreign minister. Chinese diplomats are responding on social media or through the mainstream media.
Recently, the Chinese government allowed a charter flight operation between Korea and China first. Korea was the second country to which China increased its international flights after the United States. The pilot Korea-China cooperation district has taken the first step in Changchun, Jilin Province.
While the timing is uncertain due to Covid-19 pandemic, there are predictions that Xi Jinping’s visit to Korea will open a new chapter for mutual cooperation. China’s crisis can translate into an opportunity for Korea.