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East Asia

China’s Insecurity



China is one of the major global powers in the world, and its economy is the second largest next to the US. However, its reactions in thrusting the external actors away from the South China and East China Seas exposes the insecure nature of the Chinese.

Starting with the issue of ‘one country two systems’: the main land Chinese eagerly expecting more freedom, the unsettled issue of Tibet as an autonomous region, and the Taiwan issue: these influence the causes of the Chinese unsecured environment. The world has been looking at the Chinese, because of its economic magic, since its liberalisation during the late1970s. However, the present economic downturn in their growth trajectory has caused concern for the Chinese leaders, which has been seen as the instrument of the Chinese power projection in the international system. The recent years’ upspring in West Asia and the democratic transformation in Myanmar has concerned the Chinese ruling elite to be cautious in their approach of containing the freedom of social media in China. The continuous containment of social media and religious freedom are in the direct control of the Chinese high command, which proves and acknowledges their unsecured nature. Hence, the Chinese reactionary approach in the disputed islands articulated their domestic concern which is directly linked to their stability and security.

The late former Singapore Prime Minister Lee said, “China will collapse like the Soviet Union, if it adapts democracy”. While its neighbour India has more to celebrate, its democracy would make for an uncomfortable situation for the Chinese. While in India 1.2 billion people cast their rights to select their representatives, the Chinese 1.4 billion people, voiceless in a suppressive condition,are not able to express their feelings by looking at the ruling elite. This would be a vulnerability for China. Now the recent transformation in their other neighbour, the Myanmar (Burma), into a democratic path will influence the Chinese public mind further.

Since its liberalisation during 1978, in the last three decades China had enjoyed the concept of being outward looking, and this benefited China as it largely modernised the infrastructure and their military. However, the recent continuous down fall in growth confused them and caused concern to the Chinese leadership. Their cheap exports made the Chinese the upper hand in global markets unchallenged by other competitors. Still their products are flooded in all western markets from toys to needles. This also providing mixed signals. The more the western countries import the Chinese goods, the more it would give an opportunity for the Chinese to be a predominant exporter. The west now has a trajectory to contain China by diverting their markets through Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

So the present continuous economic decline makes the Chinese leaders think about course corrections to stabilise its growth rate by at least by 7 percent. Martin Wolf from the Financial Times says, “China will struggle to keep its momentum” (FT, April 2015). The other important dimension would be the more the Chinese liberalise its economy to stabilise its own economic system, they may unknowingly lose control over its people. This would lead to a challenge that a time frame will be waiting that the Chinese system will face, similar to the former Soviet under Mikael Gorbachev. This would not necessarily be an actual future threat for the Chinese, but it cannot be dismissed.

In 1997, the Hong Kong region was handed over to the Chinese by the British with the acceptance of “One country Two systems”. At that time, Hong Kong was welcomed, but not its democratic practice. However, China was forced to accept, without any other choice, the frame-work of “One country Two systems”. Though it was a moment of joy, it can be described also as a starting point for new challenges. The reason would, while the region of Hong Kong practiced democracy, in the same country the mainlanders would be suppressed without freedom of speech. The news about the election to elect the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017 – means the people of Hong Kong region will have the right to select their leader, but the main land of China cannot. It is natural that the mainlanders of China could not control the commotion in their mind supported by the fast communication-transferring world. The Chinese government can increase their iron curtain to control them physically, but they cannot delete the emotional progressive thought towards democracy in the main land people’s minds.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been in anxiety with a strategic trajectory of introducing “the kind of stage-managed democracy” in Hong Kong, says the former governor of Hong Kong under the British rule, Lord Patten. In 1989, the Chinese government supressed the unarmed students’ demonstration for pro-democracy in Tiananmen Square with an iron hand and caused many deaths. The protest was controlled. However, in today’s world with the predominant media presence, the Chinese government are prevented from applying the same procedures on the Hong Kong protesters against the Chinese government to control the democracy process in Hong Kong.

The civil war in China ended by the defeat of Kuomintang (KMT) with the Communist Chinese Party in 1949, but KMT established the government in Taiwan. Taiwan’s transformation as a multi-party democracy in the 1980s caused the Chinese to perceive them as a threat posed to them due to their democratic structure. Since 1949, the KMT and the Chinese leadership first met in 2005. This causes an uncomfortable polarisation for the KMT in Taiwan, since in the recent local body elections largely benefited the Democratic Progressive Pan-Green (DPP). The reason would be the KMT in recent times transformed as pro-Chinese, and the Taiwanese main opposition DPP is more divergent from China.

The presidential election in Taiwan will be held in January 2016. As this article was being written, the KMT candidate Wang Ju-hsuan was more than 25 percentage behind the opposition candidate Chen Chien-jenof DPP. In this context, the recent Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou meeting in Singapore this November raised the eye-brows of strategic thinkers. The outcome of the talks could not be perceived in a clear strategic vision. However, the perception would be while the 2016 election will clearly favour the DPP candidate in Taiwan, this will result in a more hostile relationship with China. Further, the victory of the DPP in Taiwan would also dictate the future US and Chinese relations.

China has been claiming ownership for all the artificial manmade rocks on the South China Sea. The recent fleet of US warships closer to the disputed island sindicates that the US are reassuring support for its allies over their claim on the disputed islands in the region. This exercise has cautiously transferred the fear of communication to the Chinese about the US strategic interest on India-Pacific region – which passes more than 30 per cent of global trade. Those countries also have claim over the disputed islands like Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia’s concerns are not resolved through these demonstrations by the US, but give a comfortable zone. This asserts a strong message to the Chinese that the US Pacific fleet will continue to ensure the freedom of navigation without any aggression from other states around the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Why the Chinese panic more about the disputed area is because of the prevailing nature of the domestic insecurity. This can be easily compared with the Russian reactionary approach while the US backyard NATO reached out to the Ukraine. Kissinger rightly said, “China’s greatest strategic fear is that an outside power or powers will establish military deployments around China’s periphery capable of encroaching on China’s territory or meddling in its domestic institutions”.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Indo-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy, an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He is currently working on two books - “The Best Teacher” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia. His recent book is “Discover your talents.”

East Asia

Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 22, 2023. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria.  Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004.  According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.  This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time.  Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime.  Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.

 Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions.  We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.

  China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”.  In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.

  According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas  Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.

  China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .

   Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.

   We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa. 

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East Asia

China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation

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President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.

This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.

Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.

Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.

Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.

China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.

Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.

Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.

Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.

China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.

Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.

Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.

As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.

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East Asia

China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20



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The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.

The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.

 Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.

The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.

Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.

China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.

To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.

The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.

Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.

All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.

Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.

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