Chinese are convinced that China’s power will be used for noble purposes

But there is a very large gap between China’s self-perception and the perception of China by peoples that live around it.

Questions:

1. Generally. A Threat, challenge or ally. What is China for the West (perhaps it is better here to make some difference between the US and Europe)? What is the West for China? And by the way who are the main allies China has in the foreign policy?

2. How would you describe the relationship between China and Russia?

3. Do you think China has the ambition to become superpower? Or China is superpower already?

4. China has tradition of a isolationist foreign policy. Could we expect China will play more active role in the international community? And if yes how would you characterize this role?

Answers:

John Garver, Professor, Program Director for Study Abroad, East Asia, The Georgia Institute of Technology

1. No simple answer here. It’s both — for both U.S. and Europe. China’s rapid economic rise poses strong competitive challenges to US and EU economies — in manufacturing, technology, financial, etc. Globalization poses strong competitive challenges from across borders, and China’s post-1978 success via globalization means that many of these challenges today and for the foreseeable future will come from China. China’s technology drive also very impressive. U.S emphasis on science and engineering in education declining, while China rising. All this = “challenge”. Yet this outcome (China becoming wealthy and modern via participation in the global market system) was also the objective of U.S. policy. This very important point. U.S. hope/ bet = China will become a moderate, responsible state, perhaps even a partner, as it develops. Ultimate result of U.S. “bet” still unclear, but what other choice offered possible good outcome? Also rich Chinese are better customers/ economic partners than poor Chinese.

Re Europe: some there argue that China is America’s problem, due largely to US arrogance, ignorance, etc. I personally don’t agree with this. Will European interests be served if the dominant power in Asia is an authoritarian, one-party dictatorship with still-strong merchantilist inclinations? I think Europeans should talk more to Asian democracies: Japan, India, Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia.

2. Very good. Russian military technology and hardware traded for Chinese consumer goods. Great swap for both. Both powers resentful of post-cold war preeminence of USA. Below this, however, is Russia’s severe demographic decline (steady decline of population) and the long term fate of the Russian Far East. China’s government does not aspire to “recover” this lost territory, but memory of “loss” to Czarist Russia is still very much alive in China’s memory of its ” century of national humiliation.”

Imagine: if China actually succeeded in defeating the U.S. in a war over Taiwan, it would perforce be the dominant power in Asia. Other Asian countries would realign to account for that reality. What then would be China’s policy toward the Ussuri River basin? People in Russian Far East still ask these questions.

3. No. To Chinese “superpower” is a perjorative term: a power that uses that power to dominate, control, bully, and suppress others. China intends to use its power in accord with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, to help and benefit other countries, and never to bully, dominate, or supports them — unlike the evil United States. What do you think is the most effective philosophy for a rising power? To dominate others? Or to benefit others? Remember that the philosophy of the US during its “rise” was anti-colonialism. Embrace of such altruistic philosophies is NOT instrumental. If it is only instrumental, it is not effective. It must be believed. Most Chinese are firmly convinced that China’s growing power will be used for noble, just, pure purposes — not evil purposes like the United States. This makes China’s rise more powerful and certain.

4. Re the “tradition of isolationist foreign policy”: Ask the Burmese, Vietnamese, Mongolians, Indians, Tibetans about this. They will offer a different view that the Chinese self-perception. There is a very large gap between China’s self-perception and the perception of China by peoples that live around it.


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