Sun, Apr 22, 2012 - Page 3 News List

China to return to peaceful rise: expert

BEING NEIGHBORLY:Chong-Pin Lin said the aggressive stance China adopted beginning in 2009 has backfired, and that it was partly spurred by Bo Xilai’s rise

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

After seeing that its assertive measures have harmed its national interests, China is expected to partially return to its previous policy to improve relations with neighboring countries, cooperate more with the US and be patient on the Taiwan issue, an expert said.

Chong-Pin Lin (林中斌), a professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, presented an analysis of Chinese diplomacy’s shift in 2009 — from its previous pursuits of good relations with neighbors, known as “three neighbor” policy, to “assertiveness” — at a forum held in Taipei earlier this week.

Lin said China had a bountiful year in 2008 as its diplomacy advanced under the principle of a “peaceful rise” proposed by Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) chief adviser, Zheng Bijian (鄭必堅), when “there was no country in the world that was not having good relations with China or was not improving relations with China.”

With the peaceful rise approach and the “three neighbor” policy — make the neighbors feel secure, make them friends of China and make them prosper — China secured an agreement with Japan incorporating 17 items of cooperation, signed agreements with Russia and Vietnam on disputed borders and launched the three direct links with Taiwan in 2008, Lin said.

“Suddenly, everything changed in 2009,” Lin said.

Lin said that three factors were behind Beijing’s rising assertiveness after 2009: the decline of former Chinese vice president Zeng Qinghong’s (曾慶紅) influence, China’s post-financial crisis hubris and its domestic tensions.

China’s assertiveness has clearly backfired, Lin said, saying that India’s stance became tougher, Vietnam welcomed US navy ships, and Malaysia and the Philippines became less receptive to Beijing’s appeals and more ready to adopt a common ASEAN approach intended to counter Beijing’s assertiveness regarding fisheries, resources and sovereignty claims.

Other examples were that Australia agreed to host a US Marine Corps unit, Singapore broadened its cooperation with the US, as did Malaysia, and Burma radically shifted its domestic and foreign policy approach toward closer ties with the West and distancing from Beijing, while only Cambodia and Laos remained aligned with China as de facto satellites, he added.

Despite this fallout, China continued its assertiveness, partly because of the decline of Zeng, “the key figure of pragmatic policymaking” responsible for not only domestic reform, but for improving relations with Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US, Lin said.

The fact that China quickly recovered from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis together with the impression that US officials and academics were despondent about the US economy, which was manipulated by hawkish elements to bolster Chinese national pride, placed pressure on Hu and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), who had been accused of meekness abroad, to take assertive actions, Lin said.

Lin said the challenges posed to Hu and Wen by former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來) since 2009 was also a factor, because China always externalizes its internal conflicts by taking tough action abroad.

Bo challenged Hu and Wen on domestic policy after he began his “Chongqing model” campaign to “strike the black” and “sing the red” in 2009, and his supporters and allies took that to the international sphere because they comprised ultraconservative and nationalist elements, Lin said.

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