Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 8 News List

US-China strategic rivalry sharpens

By Sushil Seth

China is very uncomfortable that the US is seeking to dominate the world. It is therefore scouring the globe to create a united front of sorts against the US -- an old ploy the Chinese Communist Party used at home to win the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

Russia seems an obvious ally, with President Vladimir Putin increasingly unhappy with the US. Among other things, he fears that Washington might try to destabilize his regime on the lines of democratic change in Ukraine. As it is, the US is seen to be encroaching into Russia's security zone.

China has similar fears and more. During President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) recent visit to Russia, the two presidents jointly denounced "the aspiration for monopoly and domination in international affairs," and called for an end to "attempts to divide nations into leaders and those being led." Although the US was not specifically named as imposing world domination, the "Declaration on World Order in the 21st Century" was unmistakably directed at Washington.

Amplifying on their summit, Hu said that the two sides had discussed cooperation on Taiwan and Chechnya, promotion of stability in Central Asia, UN reform and "the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula." Russia supports China on Taiwan, and Beijing is behind Moscow in its war against separatism in Chechnya.

"Any actions aimed at splitting sovereign states and kindling ethnic discord are inadmissible," according to the two leaders.

Putin has described the new relationship between Russia and China as a "partnership" designed for the good of "our own peoples and for the entire world." In other words, China and Russia are striving to create a new global power center to counter the US.

Russian partnership is important to China because of its nuclear arsenal, which gives it a global status. It is also important because of its energy and other natural resources which China will increasingly need for its development. And it is a source of sophisticated military weapons and technology for China.

Fearful of US designs on the former Soviet Central Asian republics, China and Russia are also building up an alternative political and security structure in this region. Since 1996, at China's initiative, they have created the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It is designed to create multiple linkages of these Central Asian countries with China and Russia, to ward off or counter US incursions on China's periphery.

These countries are also seen as rich in energy resources, potentially rivalling the Middle East oil fields. In today's world of high oil prices and looming energy shortages, China is very much part of the scramble for these resources anywhere and everywhere in the world.

China is also busy creating its own political and economic zone in the Asia-Pacific region -- ? something like the wartime Japanese version of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," but without Japan's overkill. It is doing this through a series of bilateral and multilateral political and economic initiatives. The idea is to create a benign image of China.

It is worth recalling that only a few years ago China was having problems with its neighbors over the ownership of islands in the South China Sea. It had a serious image problem, and was seen as a threat to regional security and stability. But, in the last few years, it has managed to soften, if not reverse, this image.

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