Friday, 4 July 2008

China and its foreign policy


Last week, I have had a privelege to attend the interesting training course on "Chinese Foreign Policy". Number of thoughts that came out of these facinating three days.
China in many ways is not a country that can be covered by conventional wisdom or usual definitions. This is due to its size, history, culture and regime. This is not an excuse for making an effort in this direction, it is just a warning in order to avoid making generalisation, since for a country that is a home for 1,3 billion people, making generalisations is rather tricky.

Peoples Republic of China (PRC) since its establishment in 1949 has had different periods in its approaches to foreign relations or external influences for that matter. From outright rejection of any interference to the full embrace to the so called first stage of socialism, which is market capitalism.

PRC foreign policy doctrine seems to be build on the acknowledgment that XIX - begging of XX century was a century of humiliation, that has reduced, undermined and weakened the country. This is put in contrast to the prospect of creating a functioning socialist state. Chairman Mao has offered to the PRC the 5 principle of peaceful coexistence that are still at the heart of Chinese Foreign policy doctrine:

- mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty

- non aggression

- non interference in internal affairs

- equality and mutual benefit

- peaceful coexistence

These principles were framed in the concept of anti-hegemonism, not following the US way, which often is described as interference into internal affairs of others, coercive action, double standards. As well as the notion that PRC should act in order to represent its credo as a "Responsible major power".

As a matter of fact in various political and not so much discourses China is seen as a rising power, sometimes a threat, sometimes a global player. This is true due to inevitable global economic influence that comes with the opening of the market. China is currently is the 4th largest economy in dollar terms and has surpassed the US as the world's biggest carbon emitter. China is not a democracy, and its Communists party wants it to stay that way, well at least not the democracy that "hegemonic" powers propheting. Chinese foreign policy think tanks have suggested that maintaining a somehow positive image in international affairs is a strategic necessiry for China and therefore within the country, the recent economic developments are referred to as a "Peaceful rise/development".

PRC is indeed going global in comparison to 1970 Chinese index of globalisation has rocketed from 18 to 63 points (100 being most globalised economy). This inspired a lot of talk about Chinese interventionism and almost like an occupation of African continent. During the training we were presented with a few statisitcal evidences that prooves these prejudices not entirely correct.

China - Africa trade and investment

  • China is Africa's 3rd largest trading partner after US and France

  • arms market, Chinese arms comprised - 14% of African arms imports, beind major Western European countries - 21% and Russia 18%.

  • Africa is about 3% of Chins's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

  • China comprised only 1.3% of total FDI flows to Africa in 2006, behind India, Singapore, Malaysia, but Chinese FDI flows to 40+ countries, India only to 7

It must be mentioned that China has no principal problems to cooperate with any government in Africa as long as it is good for business and profitable venture in the long run. This is not exactly the approach Western world would like China to take, but is it working for the Western companies anyway? If you compare thousands of barrels per day are being produced in Africa, by which companies, you could find Exxon, Total, Shell followed by Chevron in the lead. 3 Chinese companies together produce as much output as Shell alone. Is this another example of duality of truth or hipocricy?

Finally, a little thought about the role of China in major international institutions. One fact is clear that since Chairman Mao China involvement within international community has grown exponentially. This growth represents the interest and committment to maintain a postive image of the country and to be part of the process that involves or influences China in one way or antoher. Choosing to be part of the process does not mean being active in every part of it. For the analysis that exists, China was rathre passive and observant member in the institutions, willing to stay at the sidelines and not to contradict too much on variety of approaches other players might take. With the possibility to use veto in UNSC, China has exercised it very rarely and only in the cases were the question of Taiwan was involved in one way or another. The strategy behind that is that alleged Chinese dragon wants to present itself rather like panda, as this is clearly necessary to lure the interenational community from all of the deficiencies this regime in China represents.

G8 is meeting this week and today in major newspapers there is a talk that Great8 is not so Great without China, India and Brasil. Soon the world will put its eyes on China and Beijing Olympics, I will follow with particular interest the openning ceremony and the seating arrangements for the heads of states, after all this is one of the few occassions where leaders of DPRK and France might sit not too far from each other. Should be a lovely picture. China is everywhere on our lips, in our pockets in the maps and strategies.

Lets make it clear Peoples Republic of China is not a democracy, it violates human rights on a daily basis and sometimies with ruthlesness of an unimaginable scale, it is plagued with corruption and its stance on relations with Taiwas or Tibet is to say the least is worrying. But if one wishes to engage with PRC, this is the country that understands the rule of the game and is willing to play it by its own rules. After all with such a size and growing economic importance, China may soon dictate rules rather than consider abiding them set by the others. It is a facinating country which, I recommend anyone to discover and more people to understand. I am still extremely puzzled by what I have learned and I think its still far far away from understanding it.

This article is based on the extencive lectures given by the professor Iain Johnston

1 comment:

Vytautas said...

Rundi, su gimtadieniu tave. Viskas tau ir taip puikiai sekas, tad palinkėsiu tik daugiau sveikatos pačiam.

Bandžiau paskambint, bet lietuviškas tel išjungtas, kito nežinau.

Linkėjimai !

V.