What does China want from the world?

Is Slovakia in some way important for Beijing?

Questions:

1. What is China looking for in the world? Markets, energy sources, respect… And how is China trying to achieve its goals?

2. Slovakia is an EU member but the small country with five millions inhabitants. China is the global player. Generally is it possible to say how important are for China relations with relatively small countries without energy sources as for example Slovakia is? Could those relations be in some way important?

Answers:

Christopher Hughes, International Relations Department, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

1.China is looking for all the things you list, ie markets, energy and respect. There is one other important aim, which isolation of Taiwan to national unification at some point in the future.

For the last few years economics has been the fundamental driver. Just before China joined the WTO in 2001 it launched what is called the ‘going out’ strategy, to develop large global firms controlled by the state that would be able to compete with big multinationals. This is to develop expertise, open markets and gain access to energy. To facilitate this an also to mitigate the often negative impact of China’s economic presence in other regions (eg grass roots anger over the treatment of workers in Africa, environmental concerns etc) China also launched an intensive diplomatic campaign based on the promoting the idea of a peacefully rising China in a harmonious world. This has been quite successful, although the more active China becomes around the world the more difficult it becomes to manage the public relations (eg drilling for oil in Darfur). And China is also having to face the fact that it has to shoulder more responsibility for the security of its assets and personnel (eg anti-piracy operations).

2. I think China’s policy towards Slovakia should be understood in the broader context of its concern over how to deal with the EU. China is confused by the EU system (who isn’t?) and spends a lot of resources on lobbying the members states. China-EU relations deteriorated a lot under the French presidency due to Tibet, and there are also strains due to the global economic crisis, with China concerned about EU protectionism, action over intellectual property etc.. So China will take any opportunity to lobby EU states. China is particularly concerned about small states that may have less to lose economically by taking a firm stand on human rights, Tibet etc, like the Czech republic has done. That may explain something about Hu’s agenda this time.

Often it is just as important to see who the Chinese do not visit – eg on his last tour of Europe Wen Jiabao (the premier) went to all the states around France, but not to France itself!

Robert Sutter, Professor of Asian Studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

1. China has a broad approach to foreign policy and it tries to get along well with as many countries as possible. All countries count in China’s calculus whether it’s votes in the UN or opinion in the EU and other regional and global groups, or for other reasons. China needs as many on their side as possible in trying to isolate Taiwan and isolate their recent top target, the Dalai Lama.

2. China also is trying to improve relations with the EU which have been frayed badly over the past year or so. Probably your government can help in that effort. I’m not sure how Hu’s stop in your country is related to the Czech Republic, which has leaders that push human rights and Tibet issues sensitive to China and I am told is now the rotating chair of the EU.

David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science & International Affairs, Director, China Policy Program, The George Washington University

I suspect al that HJT will ask of th Slovak government is to try to line up support for its two key goals with the EU: (1) to list the arms embargo, and (2) to be granted “market Economy Status.” Otherwise, I am afraid that I don’t think Slovakia ranks very high in China’s priorities.

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