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China in Asia: Strategic Goals & Emerging Patterns in its Periphery Policy

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  • December 12, 2008
    Fellows' Seminar
    Only by Invitation
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: V. P. Dutt
    Discussants: Madhu Bhalla and G. V. C. Naidu

    The paper broadly argued that the extraordinary growth of the Chinese economy is generating political and economic waves across Asia. The peaceful rise and integration of China into the international system necessitates that it pursues a long-term peace strategy that does not fundamentally clash with the interests of the major Asian powers. The pursuit of an aggressive nationalist course would not only be highly destabilizing but would also seriously jeopardize the economic and security prospects for Asia. However, China’s pursuit of a peace strategy is domestically challenged – by segments of its military and Party that are steeped in old style nationalism and seek territorial gains against India, Japan and Southeast Asia; unify Taiwan and utilize its growing influence to manage the influence of the major powers – US, India, Japan and Russia. The tensions at the heart of China’s foreign policy and strategic establishment over both national goals and appropriate strategy has nor been resolved. Biding time indicates a tactical adjustment while the statement of harmony and peaceful rise underlines a long term peace strategy. Both domestic and external political realignments are to be expected in such a political context. India’s strategic environment and role in emerging Asia would be significantly shaped by what happens in China and what politics it pursues towards Asia’s regions.

    Major points raised during the discussion were:

    • The things which categorize China’s regional policy are driven by its security concerns.
    • The ideology of nationalism may lead to sub-nationalism and can be problematic.
    • There is a modern dimension to the periphery engagement pursued by China.
    • China is only trying to re-evolve its earlier periphery policy. What one needs to do is look at history if it can tell us where China will go.
    • The current debate within the community of Chinese historians as to what are the real boundaries has relevance to the question of Tibet as well as India.
    • China’s rise came about at a time when the Cold war was declining.
    • There has been a relative decline in the influence of the United States and Japan in South East Asia. Today China is the largest aid provider to Myanmar and Laos and the second largest to Vietnam.
    • In South East Asia no country wants to appear to be antagonistic to China.
    • China has to learn to deal with the emergence of India as an East Asian power.
    • North Korea and Pakistan may appear to be a liability for China in the long run.
    • One cannot draw a pattern in the Chinese regional understanding.
    • There needs to be more focus on issues of military technology and military modernization of China.
    • China’s focus remains hard power.
    • China’s behaviour is guided by its nationalist goals and it makes no compromises.
    • China is gradually moving away form multilateralism to regionalism.
    • China has always projected its economic power and has not been seen to be making any compromises.
    • China’s main strategic rival is the United States even today and its major focus is the quest for resources.
    • There has been an increase in the Chinese presence in South Asia and also an increase in the efforts made by China to exclude India from the East Asian region.
    • China has gained from the decline of the USSR and will definitely take advantage of the decline of the United States.
    • A number of scenarios were proposed that could have been included in the paper as future predictions.
    • China’s thinking on the periphery needs to be looked at in detail.
    • Can the idea of periphery be discussed as an extended neighbourhood?
    • It needs to be highlighted that China has made compromises with Myanmar, Russia and Japan on the territorial issues.
    • China does not have an Asia policy and a loss of territory is considered as a loss of prestige.

    Prepared by Gunjan Singh, Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.