The continuing weakness of the western economies, the rise of the Global Southern Belt, and China’s economic ties to many of its emerging economies give increasing weight to China’s future foreign policy and, last but not least to question whether China’ rise will take place peacefully. China has been setting foot into America’s backyard, South America and the Caribbean, while at the same time increasing its effort to get America out of its own backyard, the Asia Pacific. Conflicts with Japan in the East China Sea over Diaoyu Island, confrontations with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, and a unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone are seen by many as provocative.
We quoted Yan Xuetong, the Dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University in Chapter 2, which we want to repeat in this Chapter because of the importance and relevance of the statement:
“For more than twenty years, China has operated under a foreign policy framework within which it has neither friends nor enemies. With a few exceptions, all other countries were essentially treated the same with the maintenance of an external environment most conducive to China’s own development the paramount priority. Under Xi, China will begin to treat friends and enemies differently. For those who are willing to play a constructive role in China’s rise, China will seek ways for them to gain greater actual benefits from China’s development,”
It is not likely that any Chinese officially would confirm such politics. It just does not fit the Chinese communication style. Nevertheless, the classification of people, movements and countries into friends and enemies cannot be disclaimed. Taiwan, Hong Kong, conflicts in Tibet, and Uyghur are on hold to be solved in one way or another. For now, it seems to us they are kind of gray zones in which a messy ending would lead to destabilisation and economic setbacks. Not to mention the loss of any authority in the global community. But the innovative solution is yet to be found.
China and the United States: Getting acquainted in new roles
China’s new role and self-confident presence in the global community raises questions about future relations between the two largest economies, the United States and China. While President Xi Jinping’s official visit to the Latin American countries can be interpreted as a statement for China’s alignments with the Global Southern Belt, his unprecedented informal meeting with the US President took office, allowed at least a hint of interpretation about thoughts China’s new president has about the character and relationship between the two globally most influential nations.
There is no doubt that domestic and global interests can be in contradiction. Rising nationalism domestically and the demand for an adjustment to international conditions have yet to be solved. China’s progress resulted in global recognition of its economic achievements, but certainly not the appreciation it aspires to.
The United States finds itself in a role it had not anticipated only a decade ago: its economic and leadership authority in question. China, even in its most glorious times had very limited global influence, can very well handle a gradual rise of recognition. To step down from the throne of the world’s only superpower, lately nevertheless proven toothless, is much harder. China is the game changer, but despite all hassle we believe it was easier to achieve current status than to maintain economic and political stability in a domestically transforming society.
There is no question that China and the United States will be the most influential nations of the first half of the 21st century. How they will play their roles is yet to be sorted out.