Sun, Mar 30, 2008 - Page 19 News List

[BOOK REVIEW] The twin rises of the Chinese superpower

Bates Gill argues that China's meteoric rise could be managed peacefully by the US and Beijing leadership, which would avoid conflict and contribute to prosperity

By J. Michael Cole  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rising Star: China's new security diplomacy

By Bates Gill
267 pages

Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Bates Gill offers in Rising Star a refreshing and certainly less alarming assessment of the spectacular "rise" of China than the one painted by the security intelligentsia in recent years. In other words, his position on the "rise" of China is that it is, or can be, more peaceful.

Gill's principal argument, that a clash at some point in future involving the US and China is not inevitable, rests on three pillars that he argues are guiding Beijing as it expands its power: alleviating external tensions so that it can focus on domestic problems; reassuring neighbors about its peaceful intentions; and finding ways to quietly balance the US. Gill contends that the key to a successful rise - one that avoids war - lies in the US and its allies understanding and judiciously responding to China's new security diplomacy.

While China's "rise" has been long in the making, Gill argues that the strategic reorientation of the US following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has created an opportunity for China to flex its muscles diplomatically. On issues that are linked to the "war" on terror, the US has been receptive to - and has in fact encouraged - a bigger role for China. Nonproliferation is one area where Gill sees China as having made progress, mostly through its participation in or dialogue with nonproliferation regimes such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. He points out, however, that at present the Chinese government is unable to adequately deal with proliferation in the private sector, an onerous task under normal circumstances and a gargantuan one given China's incomplete laws, the size of its territory, rampant corruption and longstanding trade and military alliances with states like Pakistan and Iran.

Another dynamic that is shaping China's security diplomacy is its opposition to US hegemony, which has compelled Beijing to shed its historical aversion to alliances and treaties. In its immediate area, China has spearheaded the creation of a number of regional organizations, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Shanghai Five and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It was no coincidence that the latter was launched to coincide with NATO expansion in the mid-1990s.

Beyond regional trade agreements, conflict resolution mechanisms, counterterrorism and joint military exercises, the Shanghai Five, ARF and SCO have provided China with a greater say in Central and Southeast Asia and the acknowledgement by participants that "every state has the right to choose its own political system, economic model and path of social development," with special focus on territorial integrity. What these security arrangements have in common, furthermore, is the tendency to exclude or counterbalance the US, and the premise that other states or alliances should not meddle in the international affairs of another state. Gill observes that China's provision of military equipment to those allies, which has often resulted in criticism by the West, has a precedent in how the US conducts diplomacy and should therefore be recognized as such.

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