President Xi Jinping’s latest trip to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt point to the broader Chinese ambitions in the Middle East, a region where political turmoil and Russia’s military intervention in Syria are already altering the delicate balance of power. Only sustained pressure can persuade Beijing that its future lies in cooperation and not confrontation.
The China Dream and the China Model are complementary in Xi’s strategic vision, of which relations with the developing world are a central part. Developments in the Middle East and Africa show how large a factor China now is in economic globalization, but while the China Model is based on noninterference in politics, Mel Gurtov argues that separating economics from politics is a challenge.
“China is trying to be force for good in the world, not take sides, but just usher people together.” Tung Chee Hwa, Chairman of the China-United State Exchange Foundation, speaks with Charlie Rose on China’s economy, the country’s leadership and its foreign policy objectives.
China “should not be absent”, the president said on his recent three-nation visit to the region. China sees development as a means for maintaining stability, and cooperation as a guarantee for security. The Belt and Road initiative is a vital tool for progress on all of these fronts.
Since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, China has been pursuing its own version of strategic rebalancing in foreign policy. China aims to re-position itself as “a state in the middle”, acting as a bridge among the developed and developing countries and maximizing the strategic space. If Chinese diplomacy and Beijing’s “connectivity” can ease the crisis in the Middle East, the achievement would affirm the nation’s rise to great-power status.
There are voices inside China as well as the US that urge Beijing to punish North Korea’s “bad behavior” more harshly. But China and the US interpret the very end and means of the situation differently, In China’s mind, the situation is more a US responsibility rather than China’s, and use of coercion as the dominant tool has been proved ineffective.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-nation tour in the Middle East heralds a shift from U.S. regime change to economic development, codifying China’s presence in the Middle East as a major energy buyer, major importer, infrastructure builder, and peace broker.
With no real threat to America’s position in the world, Beijing and Washington need to intensify their efforts to build trust and promote understanding. The best way to achieve that is to expand exchanges at all levels of society, a process that has been a triumph of diplomacy ever since a famous ping-pong game made headlines in 1970.
President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union speech sought to cement his personal achievements by stressing his contribution to the recovery of the United States post-2008, and the U.S. position of excellence compared to China.
Despite a history of China-bashing during US presidential elections, other concerns are capturing the attention of candidates and voters this year. That could make preserving the equilibrium between China and the US easier this time around, if the will is there in both capitals.
As the two countries pursue a new major-power relationship, and China focuses on eliminating poverty for its citizens, there is more reason than ever for cooperation and easing mistrust. President Xi’s visit to the US was a herald for an expanding partnership, and issues like the South China Sea and third-party naysaying should not be allowed to disrupt relations.
Global developments have led China to take a more proactive approach in dealing with international issues in 2015 that saw China transition to practicing “major-country” diplomacy. As U.S.-China relations are turning more contentious and competitive, the two countries must seek convergence of common interests and avoid conflict and confrontation.
As the new year dawns, the U.S. still struggles with the effort to shape the world with itself as the center. Resisting the opportunity to build a more positive relationship with China, underpinned by stronger and closer cooperation, keeps Washington trapped in the past, while many of its allies, including Britain, Europe, Canada and Australia, have embraced a multipolar world that is no threat to the U.S., except to its national ego.
With Japan’s pride and nationalist impulse to play a bigger international role now rising, its domestic debate on national-security and constitutional reform is set to intensify. Although rising powers tend to be revisionist powers, a politically resurgent Japan, strikingly, is seeking to uphold the present Asian political and maritime order.
In a time of troubles, the re-shaping of the world order and global governance will require a meeting of minds and concerted actions from world powers.