(MENAFN- Asia Times)
China is the center of the global production network. It is the largest trading partner for all its neighbors and has fueled economic growth in and out of the Indo-Pacific region for decades. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, trade deepened between China and the United States, Canada, Japan, Southeast Asia, and the European Union.
Clearly, our economies and societies benefit from our trade relationship with China when we enjoy stable relations.
Chambers of Commerce in various countries still want to be part of the China story. The American Chamber of Commerce in China, for instance, writes in its“2022 white paper“:
Similarly, the European Parliament's report “EU-China 2030: European expert consultation on future relations with China,” released in December 2022, states that in 2020 China became the European Union's largest trading partner for goods for the first time, surpassing the United States.
This positive trade relationship, according to the“European Business in China Position Paper 2022-2023,” could be a platform for strengthening bilateral relations. Nonetheless, like their US counterparts, European trading partners have a lopsided trading relationship, as well as concerns about a lack of reciprocation in market access, supply-chain resilience and what kevin rudd describes as a strong tilt toward Marxist-Leninist market intervention and social organization based on a platform of nationalism.
States around the world aspire to have cooperative and mutually beneficial economic, social, cultural and security relationships with Beijing. The“canadian indo-pacific strategy” highlights this, stressing that Ottawa will“cooperate with China to find solutions to global issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation.”
The“eu indo-pacific strategy” similarly states:“The EU will also pursue its multifaceted engagement with China, engaging bilaterally to promote solutions to common challenges, cooperating on issues of common interest and encouraging China to play its part in a peaceful and thriving Indo-Pacific region.”
Even Japan's new“national security strategy ,” which includes provisions for counterstrike capabilities, articulates the view that on“global issues such as climate change, infectious diseases, energy, food problems and the environment, which have a direct or indirect impact on Japan's national security, Japan will expand the circle of cooperation not only to include its ally and like-minded countries [read China], but also many other countries and organizations, and then enhance international efforts.”
Japan, Canada and the European Union are not alone in their aspirations for cooperation with China. A speech by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Joe Biden administration's approach to the People's Republic of China says that“investing, aligning, and competing” remain the core principles of a constructive relationship with China.
Blinken stressed, as with other states, cooperating to deal with issues of climate change, non-proliferation and transnational diseases.“Global macroeconomic coordination between the United States and China is key – through the G20, the IMF, other venues,” in order to overcome the severe social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
Despite these aspirations for at least an awkward co-existence with China, there are many inconvenient truths in the way of transforming aspiration into reality.
A track record of political interference in elections in the democratic process in canada , australia , and other countries suggests that China wants to continue to weaken democratic institutions and countries aligned with the US.
In the report“the communist party's coercive diplomacy” by the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, the authors outlined at least 152 cases of Beijing using coercion against Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and others between 2010 and 2020. Coercion examples included arbitrary detention, state-issued threats, trade restrictions and restrictions on investment, official travel, tourism and popular boycotts.
If such actions clearly violate China's long-standing five principles of peaceful coexistence , so does Beijing's refusal to condemn vladimir putin's ukraine war .
We also continue to see China stress through prominent Chinese academics such as yan xuetong that, in Yan's words:
In short, according to the Asia-Pacific Initiative's Naoko Eto, China sees that the current“rules-based order” is not aligned with its domestic political system or with its new interpretations of norms – such as human rights, transparency, democracy and rule of law – that have been the foundation for the post-World War II period of peace, stability, and development.
Seeking selectively to weaken international institutions, norms and practices, China's objectives conflict directly not only with the so-called West but also with many countries in the Global South, including those in Southeast and South Asia. By way of example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' way of consensus-based decision-making has been hijacked by beijing in an effort to develop a new Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
We have also seen Beijing coordinate with other authoritarian states and Belt and Road Initiative partners in their decision-making in international institutions that affect the Global South, including religious and ethnic minorities.
Recent examples include Beijing's efforts to lobby for the creation of a coalition of developing states to vote down a motion to discuss a UN report into China's alleged human-rights violations in Xinjiang. We also saw that Beijing brought together belt and road members to abstain from a resolution on Russia's“aggression against Ukraine.”
Domestically in China, on April 22, 2013,“A Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere” was approved and released by the central leadership under President Xi Jinping.
Known as document 9 , the communiqué stresses guarding against seven political“perils,” namely constitutionalism, civil society,“nihilistic” views of history,“universal values,”“promoting neoliberalism – attempting to change China's basic economic system,”“questioning reform and opening and the socialist nature of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and promotion of“the West's view of media.”
In the Marxist-Leninist system that the Communist Party of China (CPC) wishes to imprint in Chinese society, the non-Chinese world is a crack. As a result, the party works through united-front activities to delegitimize, stigmatize and weaken the norms outlined in Document 9 abroad.
An inconvenient truth is that Xi Jinping's community of common destiny for mankind is an uncomfortable fit at best, or incompatible at worst, with the post-WW2 rules-based order that has been based on US leadership but is supported by developed and developing nations alike.
Establishing an awkward co-existence between China and like-minded countries will require transforming aspirations into pragmatic, realistic initiatives. Lyle J Goldstein advocates for“cooperation spirals” in which confidence is developed through tit-for-tat compromises that spiral up toward more significant cooperation.
His focus includes Taiwan, economic relations, environmental issues (most critically climate change), the developing world (Africa in particular), the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Southeast Asia, and India.
Japan's late Shinzo Abe took a different approach prior to the pandemic through engagement in third-country infrastructure cooperation and trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to reform the Belt and Road and Chinese trade practices from within.
Abe's and Goldstein's approaches to China are based on realistic assessments of the parallel paths on which China and“the West” are traveling and realism about the prospects of convergence and changing China.
Calling upon the principles of engagement, resilience and deterrence, each of the two men conceptualized a non-zero-sum approach to engaging with China, firmly wedded to working with like-minded countries.
Stephen Nagy (n ) is a senior associate professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo, a Senior Fellow with the MacDonald Laurier Institute, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a visiting fellow with the Japan Institute for International Affairs.
This article was originally published by pacific forum and is republished with permission.