Tue, Jun 25, 2013 - Page 8 News List

No great strategy and few friends

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

As these heated debates were taking place in academia, Xin Lijian (信力建), chairman of the Xinfu Education Group penned an article about China’s lack of a grand diplomatic strategy ahead of the summit between Obama and Xi.

In it he used the traditional Chinese strategic ideas of “alliance” and “counter-alliance” as well as “being friends with a distant state while attacking a neighboring state” to show just how bad a situation China is in when it comes to diplomacy.

In the article, Xin questioned which of these three strategies China has adopted in regards to its current diplomatic policy.

“Alliance” is a traditional diplomatic strategy involving an alliance between several weaker states coming together to overcome one strong power.

However, in his article, Xin says that China is wary of employing this strategy because it is unwilling to follow international democratic trends.

Moreover, the democratic nations surrounding China remain suspicious of it and take every precaution they can against it.

Neighboring countries with which China used to be on good terms have mostly gone through democratic transformations and distanced themselves from Beijing, while pretending to get along with it.

On the other hand, those countries that have remained more traditional in their ideology now view China coldly as being “revisionist” because of its economic reforms.

Beijing has diplomatic relations with many countries, yet it has very few allies, and although it has many vested interests, it has very few sources of protection.

It also has business dealings with many countries, but very few friends and cannot use its friends to tackle the US.

“Counter-alliance” is a strategy that the ancient state of Qin (秦) used as a single strong state attacking weaker states, in line with the idea that the strong eats the weak.

While there is no question that the US is the modern superpower, the unstable nature of Sino-US relations leaves China helpless against other weaker nations.

Qin also adopted the strategy of “being friends with a distant state while attacking a neighboring state” to annex neighboring states. However, China today attacks countries that are distant to it and those close to it, thus remaining in opposition to them all.

In contrast, the US is friends with countries close to China and thus benefits the most from this.

Therefore Xin’s description of China’s current diplomatic relations is one that puts it in the context of popular Chinese history and poignantly shows the truth about Chinese diplomacy.

Perhaps because Taiwan is a weaker nation than China, it was hard for the majority of Taiwanese to see through the seeming casualness of the Obama-Xi summit through to the more pointed truth about Chinese diplomacy.

With that truth about China’s diplomacy now clearer, it does not mean that Taiwan should condemn China.

After all, it is dangerous for a nation without any power to criticize a great power.

Yet, it would also be grave and foolish for a weaker nation to make random policy decisions when they are unclear what a great power is up to.

Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.

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