Country Report: China (April 2015)

In Waijiao pinglun, no. 2, Xiong Lili and Pan Yu analyze Russia’s predicament in Europe, discerning elements of both continuity and discontinuity in the Ukrainian situation. In order to contain Ukraine after its decision in February 2014 to sign the agreement with the European Union to “leave Russia, enter Europe,” Russia with military force annexed Crimea and became involved in the clashes that still rile eastern Ukraine. The authors note that there have been many Chinese writings on the US-EU-Russian context and on internal Ukrainian conditions (some noting that Russia and Ukraine are hard to split, that the US and EU will and capacity to resist Russia is limited, and that Ukraine’s effort to join in the West will not be easy), but few examine the special features of Russian foreign relations and how they mesh with the real conditions in Ukraine. Over centuries, Russia has found it difficult to resolve its geopolitical role in Eastern Europe, and now it lacks the tools that Tsarist and Soviet Russia had used. It can only resort to military force and take a self-interested, hardline approach. Over more than a year, this has proven not to resolve the geopolitical predicament of Russia in Eastern Europe, but instead it is likely to lead to greater harm to Russia’s interests in many fields, Xiong and Pan conclude.


With flat terrain across the Eurasian plateau, Russia developed a sense of insecurity and a habit of expanding its borders to prevent enemies from drawing close. As the Western industrial civilization moved east, Russia turned to Asia and constantly saw Western military threats in Eastern Europe. Given this geopolitical situation, Russia was relieved after 1945 to have like-minded states to its west, but with NATO strengthening and the European Union taking shape in stages, Russia’s concerns were not eliminated, and its efforts to achieve detente with the West failed. After the end of the Cold War, its borders retreated to about what they were in 1600, while it now faced an advancing European Union and NATO. Without drawing comparisons, the authors must be aware that such arguments resonate in China, where much is written on loss of territory, Western encroachment or even encirclement, and the failure to reach an agreement on a regional sphere of influence that gives China a sense of protection.


Describing Eastern Orthodoxy as a civilization (not Russia as part of the West) and communism as a form of consciousness to save Russia, the authors treat the post-Cold War era as a spiritual vacuum. This proved to be a far bigger blow than in the countries the Soviet Union controlled, which had not shared its messianic mission and, thus, were limited in their receptivity to communism and failed to harness nationalism. Even pan-Slavism did not work due to Russia’s demands to be on top. Ukrainians had similar views, seeing in Russia a highly centralized state unable to satisfy their interest in development. If in the 1930s Soviet economic success was possible, such conditions no longer exist. Even in the CIS, Russia’s economic appeal is limited; indeed, some states see it as a competitor. Today Ukraine foresees rapid increase in its exports to the European Union, which is much better able than Russia to meet its interests. That leaves Russia only military means to pursue its aims, based to a great degree on geopolitical thinking that perceives Ukraine’s “entry into Europe” as a severe loss and also the loss of a state not seen as foreign since it was the birthplace of Russia and so long inseparable from Russia. The loss is nothing less than the failure of Eastern Orthodox civilization and Slavic identity, as well as proof of very limited prospects for the Eurasian Economic Union. Russia’s coercive approach only drives Ukraine faster into the European Union and makes it more eager to join NATO, which alienates Russia even more from Eastern Europe. The effects of its policies, readers are told, likely include: loss of regional leadership, loss of international influence (including exclusion from the G8—now the G7 again—and a cold shoulder by many at the G20 to the point that Putin departed early), and great economic losses. The sharp drop in energy prices is not independent of the efforts to punish Russia, and Russia needs global integration more than ever. The article concludes that Russia must reconsider its foreign policy no matter how the Ukrainian situation plays out.


In Guoji guancha, no. 1, Men Honghua traces how China’s view of the East Asian regional order has evolved. Men asserts that in the mid-90s, China began to have ideas about the region, turning its international strategic focus toward the process of East Asian integration and positively participating in constructing a new order as a means to induce transformation in the world order. A standard narrative appears, i.e., equal and mutually beneficial relations in what is called China’s own framework for the regional order. This followed a long period when China’s diplomacy was necessarily focused on Western states and it could not develop stable cooperative relations with its neighbors amid continuous conflicts. Only from the mid-90s did China prioritize the integration of East Asia. It was, after all, the longstanding political, cultural, economic, and security leader until it was forcefully included by the Western order and free trade system before Japan’s aggression dealt the final blow to the traditional Eastern order. While in the Cold War many factors prevented a revival of the order, the formation of ASEAN in 1967 was a positive, if very limited, step, due to external constraints and lack of internal cohesion in order to achieve the goal of an exclusive, comprehensive regional economic framework. China was negative about regionalism until the late 1990s because this was Asia-Pacific and not East Asian cooperation. The Asian financial crisis changed attitudes in the region. China rapidly emerged as the main driving force of East Asian cooperation, and from 2001 economic integration was joined by political, security, social, and cultural integration in stages. Integration is the foundation of stability and prosperity as states work together to forge a shared community, Men explains. The strategy of the “Maritime Silk Road” systematizes today’s advance to regionalism.


Men proceeds to set forth China’s core strategic objectives in the East Asian order, concentrating on Southeast Asia as a whole without differentiating the states with Southeast Asia. He lists “open regionalism” that accepts other states within the EAS as positive, albeit they are not part of the East Asian region. He adds “mutual interests,” citing the tribute system as an example of China being big and strong but not acting as a hegemon. Men includes “great power responsibility,” supplying public goods, and deepening security cooperation. Next, he mentions the goal of “constructing a regional system” with ASEAN + 1 and ASEAN + 3 as well as RCEP and the CJK FTA as examples. Fifth, Men calls for expanding from one to another aspect of integration as economics leads to politics and then to culture and regional identity. Finally, he asks for maintaining strategic patience, as some states are still looking for pretexts to try to strengthen ties with the United States. Insisting that the US goal is still unilateral hegemony, while there is great diversity in what other states are seeking, with China and even Japan, openly or secretly, seeking multilateralism, Men argues that the region is passing from a US alliance system paradigm to an East Asian cooperative security concept paradigm, and China should not rush it. Meanwhile, it can pursue an open approach to non-East Asian states’ involvement in regional associations, as it works to show the superiority of the East Asian community. Emphasizing China’s struggle against strategic encirclement, Men advocates a transition to regionalism. He portrays China as championing free trade, liberalized investment, and energy cooperation; as focusing on bilateralism, building on improved transportation links; as using traditional relations to integrate areas within China to surrounding areas; and especially as focusing on free trade areas with South Korea, Australia, Russia, and India. Above all, he stresses struggling against strategic encirclement as China advances its own strategy of regionalism.


An article in no. 1 Guoji guancha blamed the state of Japan-North Korea relations on Japan’s lingering Cold War mentality and argued that talks from 2014 between them have little prospect. Japan takes a hardline position centered on boosting alliance relations and, in dealing with the North, faces US and South Korean suspicions. The Korean Peninsula is a stage for great powers, and Japan is seeking to establish itself as a political and military great power and uses a “security threat” from North Korea as a pretest for the latter. With his popularity falling and Abenomics ineffective, Abe found the abductions issue his best hope for emerging as a political great power in the aftermath of using the Six-Party Talks to that end. The article adds that Japan does not want to resolve the nuclear or missile issues since they serve Abe’s goals, along with warnings against China’s rise, as the foremost pretext. In short, Japan’s realist concerns are imaginary and no more than pretexts for its revisionist ones and its drive to become a political and military great power. The talks with North Korea will fail not because of the North’s attitude, but due to Japan’s real aims. The article by Jiang Longfan and Wang Haifan provides details on the talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang in 2014, but it centers not on faulting the latter for failing to deliver on its promises but on faulting the former for its impure motives in the talks.


Li Lingqun in Heping yu fazhan, no. 1 analyzes the evolution of Japan’s policy toward the South China Sea, especially since the end of the Cold War. Noting that this sea is witnessing the more active intervention of the United States, Japan, India, Australia, and other external powers, and, thus, drawing attention, Li singles out Japan since its interest is longstanding and of special sensitivity and since Japan’s policies have had a relatively large impact, including on China’s environment there. They largely coincide with US policies in the area, and, since 2010, serve along with the rebalance in strategic opposition to China. Charging that from the start of his presidency Obama went from “benign neglect” of Asia to priority in global strategy to the Asia-Pacific region, Li argues that America’s first “Pacific president” intensified alliances and partnerships, aiming to strengthen the US hegemony. Seeing this, Japan acted accordingly, leading to Abe changing defense policies, deepening the US alliance, and becoming more involved in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. Japan trumpeted a “China threat” and rallied states around a grouping in opposition to China, linking the South China and East China seas.


In 2014, Japan’s position was the same as the US one. It sought political and military alliances through its arms exports. In 2004, Koizumi had joined the United States in missile defense, starting to abandon the “three-no’s principle” for arms exports, and, in 2014, Abe went a great deal further in discarding limits on arms exports. Not only Southeast Asian states, but Australia and India were targeted. In these pursuits, it has sought to draw states into the US-led system. Li concludes that Japan will have a more active and more hardline posture in the South China Sea, while more flexibly using its alliance with the United States to forge a two-sea defense line in China’s vicinity, posing a threat to China’s peaceful rise. Japan’s strategic shift is not just a product of the US pivot; it is also rooted in national interests and domestic political change. Since the end of the Cold War, the popular desire has kept rising for Japan to become a political great power to match its economic power. Nationalism has risen, arousing alarm about the rise of China and reverberating in calls for constitutional revision. China has to consider how to respond to Japan’s support for certain states near the South China Sea and also to prevent the results of its long-term strategic ambition for militarization. It must work to block efforts to link the two seas. In the South China Sea, it must continue to deepen cooperation with neighboring states and ASEAN, while insisting on its sovereignty, becoming even more patient with more flexible policies for stability and development. In this way, China will reduce Japan’s opportunities and pretexts to interfere in the South China Sea disputes.


Gao Lan writes about a “new type of Sino-Japanese relations,” breaking away from the “1972 system” and deepening the “2006 system” as a foundation. The problems in relations are traced to an “incomplete beginning” in the 1970s, as examined on March 8, 2014 by a multi-national cast of specialists at Tokyo University. Gao’s article in Guoji guancha, no. 1 pledges a systemic analysis from a historical starting point to forge a new type of relations. Clearly, the old framework does not satisfy China’s needs now that it has risen so rapidly and surpassed China economically. In the 1972 system, Gao explains, China and Japan managed such issues as Taiwan, history, security, and territory through shared consciousness and overlap on their overall interests. Two points were key: on history, Japan took responsibility for the great losses it had caused China through war; and, on the premise that Japan showed remorse, China abandoned its war reparations claims; and on Taiwan, Japan agreed that the PRC is the only legal government of China, while China affirmed that it is a part of the PRC, to which Japan expressed its understanding and respect for China’s position while breaking relations with Taiwan and also supporting Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration. Thus, the 1972 system recognized that Taiwan is an internal matter for China and historical memory is not an internal matter for Japan. Gao recognizes that Japan’s leaders were split, and policy toward China was in dispute, but the leaders after Sato Eisaku was replaced just before the breakthrough with China all supported the engagement approach. The result was a “golden age” or “honeymoon era” in relations, readers are told, despite occasional frictions over historical issues. Japan provided economic assistance amid economic cooperation. Moreover, Sino-Japan-US relations were based on a common aim in the Cold War.


Sino-Japan relations had an incomplete side, Gao argues, and needed to change with new circumstances after the Cold War. First, there was no apology for the war of aggression, and questions lingered over Japanese historical consciousness, which still need to be resolved. Second, Japan did not directly recognize that Taiwan is part of China, fearing that to do so would legitimize China’s use of force to resolve the issue and would undermine the legal basis for Japan’s assistance to the United States to defend Taiwan, which would cause the regional security system to collapse. Some in Japan criticized the concessions to China as excessive, arousing new disputes.


In the 2006 system—a term introduced by Kokubun Ryosei—, the 1972 system was fundamentally changed, shifting to stress national interests and realist strategy. The change resulted from four factors: leaders, national power, national interests, and international factors. Chinese society became more diverse with more information, while the pattern of “one year, one prime minister” meant that unstable leaders in Japan turned for support to various interest groups. Japan’s China policy grew more unsettled, and the Chinese public started raising the reparations issue, exerting a big influence on policy. As for national power, psychologically, Japan could not accept the rise of China’s power, and the two could not forge a new foundation reflecting the power realities. Third, a stronger China reduced the space for compromising with Japan on its national interests, and, under Koizumi, Japan cast off its postwar pacifism. Gao writes of the 1972 system gradually weakening, but then explains that Japan recognized that China was making decisions to pursue its interests, as on the air defense identification zone, and saw China’s room for compromise with Japan narrowing. An important shift occurred when Koizumi in November 2002 stated that Japan would pursue its national interests, already gradually leaving the postwar order and pacifism. Abe went further in putting national interests first. Fourth, in the aftermath of the Cold War, when the United States and Japan sought China’s entry in international society, and notably after 2001, they took a different attitude toward China. Signs of a new cold war appeared, and Japan sought to use the push in Taiwan for independence to contain the Chinese mainland’s development. In the 2006 system sovereignty, regionalism, geopolitics, and history all lead to deepening clashes. Critical to the response in Japan was unease over China’s rise. This change in attitude in Japan is showcased as the principal problem in bilateral relations.


Reviewing the causes of Sino-Japanese problems, Gao stresses the fragility and lack of public involvement in the 1970s normalization as well as the lack of legal force in the four documents the two signs signed. Indeed, the author adds, it is not only this bilateral relationship that did not hold. The three pillars of the Northeast Asian order—the 1965 Japan-ROK agreement, the 1972 and 1978 Sino-Japan agreements, and the 1972 Sino-US agreement—all proved shaky. The article concludes that China’s historians have insufficiently studied post-1945 Japan and that they should evaluate more positively the peaceful path of development Japan took. This seems to be aimed at showing a contrast with recent Japan and arguing that it is betraying its earlier ways. Japan is making the same argument about China over the past decade.


A second part of Gao’s article offers hope for building on the 2006 system of “win-win interests” in place of “friendship,” proposing to deepen relations after the start achieved in late 2014. Arguing that Japan’s foreign policy is finally becoming more autonomous of the United States, the author insists that Sino-Japanese relations are now improving and can continue to do so, breaking from recent writings, but in line with the new atmosphere after the Xi-Abe summit broke the ice in November 2014.


In Guoji wenti yanjiu, no. 2, Yu Shaohua focused on the path to the autonomy and peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula. To realize these shared goals in the North and South requires three conditions, Yu argues: 1) in security, not to regard each other as an enemy; 2) in the economy, relative equilibrium between the two; and 3) in policy, not to be bound by the will of external actors. In the next two decades until the end of the Cold War, the international environment had changed, Kim Il-sung decided that dialogue could bring about unification in a process involving commerce and exchanges, and Park Chung-hee also proposed peaceful unification. Yu praises the proposals of this period without explanation of why there was no agreement.


The third period from the end of the Cold War until now is explained as a time when the legacy of the Cold War remained strong in Northeast Asia. North Korea faced a hostile environment, actively sought to improve relations with the United States, Japan, and South Korea, and was rebuffed, leaving it in a disadvantageous position in terms of unification. Failure of the United States and Japan to normalize relations with North Korea is equated with continuing the prior situation and causing North Korea to behave as it did. It was still in a Cold War environment. The fault is placed entirely on the US and Japanese side without any hint that North Korea did not make reasonable overtures similar to those made by South Korea, which, apparently succeeded with China and the Soviet Union due to their abandonment of Cold War thinking. Not wanting to be in a disadvantageous situation in normalization, the North turned to nuclear weapons. The impression is that this was a natural, reasonable result, provoked by the other countries. Realizing that it was dealing with a sovereign state, South Korea finally chose a path toward reunification in 2000 that did not follow the will of the great powers. This failed due to both states and the neighborhood environment, readers are told. South Korea insisted on putting security first, raising democracy and human rights in moving toward unification, and, with the South strong and the North weak, still following a policy that can be considered “unification through absorption.” Yu fails to fault what Pyongyang is doing, implying that a solution is in sight if Seoul only chooses to change course.


The article argues that unification can be achieved through bilateral talks, gradually, as cooperation and exchanges expand, while rejecting US troops and the US alliance as well as other great power interference as each side focuses on “minzu liyi” or the nationality interest and South Korea stops demanding that its democratic system be the basis of unification. As for security, Yu proposes that ROK-US military exercises be stopped as proof that Seoul does not regard Pyongyang as the enemy. Even if the North’s nuclear weapons are widely seen as a barrier, it will not abandon them until the environment has changed; so that must be done first, making clear that there will be only peaceful unification reassuring to the North after it has gained economic balance. While on the economic dimension, the author expresses concern that South Koreans will not want to bear the burden of an enormous discrepancy in financial conditions. No criticism is offered of North Korea’s economic policies, implying that the South must first strive with others to bring the North close to its level before the conditions will be reasonable for reunification without expecting the North to make reforms. As for foreign interference, the argument is that this ends only with the end of the US alliance. Indeed, the very existence of the alliance system in the region is treated as a sign of the Cold War, making its removal a precondition for unification, with the “rebalance to Asia” lumped with this notion as a cause of confrontation. The fact that South Korea is strengthening its alliance with the United States as well as cooperating with Japan raises the chances of war too. While North Korea briefly is cited as behaving in an extreme manner, the onus is not on it in this line of analysis.


Concluding with a contrast between the positive policies of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun and the policies of Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, the article reviews recent proposals and concludes that Park’s reemphasis on unification is missing the mark. She should discard unrealistic procedures and concentrate on the coexistence of two systems without pressure on North Korea. End its isolation, help it to achieve economic balance with the South, accept it as is—this is the advice being offered. The number one problem, clearly, is the United States, which, in light of China’s rise, sees the Korean Peninsula as having geopolitical significance, pressing for a stronger alliance that damages the chances of unification and North Korean cooperation. The article makes clear that in recent meetings of Chinese and South Korean leaders China has specified what is needed and indicated that it would not accept actions that destabilize the peninsula and are not in accord with China’s plans to establish a community in its neighborhood. Denuclearization seems to be an afterthought in this discussion, which depicts the peninsula as entering a new regional order.


In Guoji guancha, no. 1, Huang Zhengduo and Li Yan warn that India’s multilateral diplomacy could have negative consequences for China unless it makes the right responses. It has shifted from idealism to realism. It is no longer pro-Soviet and anti-West. For China, a negative impact results from India’s strengthened position in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Sea region since India’s distrust of China over the border dispute has been intensified due to China’s rise, and, in various organizations, India’s growing presence is seen as balancing China, as some states view China as a latent threat that requires balancing. Perceiving China’s “string of pearls,” India has drawn closer in maritime cooperation with Japan and Vietnam, while the US concept of “Indo-Pacific” geopolitics is directed against China. India has increased economic competition with China too, expanding ties with states for energy security, e.g., with Central Asian states and Myanmar. The advice is to cooperate more with India to oppose the West and in global challenges, to strive to resolve bilateral tensions, and to not be very concerned about India’s multilateralism since it is of limited impact.

  • Godfree Roberts

    “In order to contain Ukraine after its decision in February 2014 to sign the agreement with the European Union to “leave Russia, enter Europe,” Russia with military force annexed Crimea and became involved in the clashes that still rile eastern Ukraine.”/ What counter-factual drivel. Why publish propaganda like this? How about something factual and useful?