April 22, 2015 |
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21st Century China Opinion
Playground Rules in U.S.-China Relations  
From the source

"The history of the early 21st century in Asia, of course, has yet to be written. But here's a possibility: the era of hegemonic politics is over. East Asia has become an arena in which several major powers are jockeying for influence. It's not a question of who wins and who loses.


The Australian scholar Hugh White writes that it may be as misguided for America to think that it can hold on to its position of unchallenged supremacy in the region as it is to fear that China can replace it."

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Our take

As China's economic and military power has grown, its relations with the U.S., not surprisingly, have turned more competitive. Media in both countries frame almost every interaction or comparison as a contest between two different systems in Cold War fashion. Domestic politicians and commentators exploit this contest mentality to sell their policy proposals to the public. 

China's leaders are well aware that as its capabilities grow, its neighbors and the Americans will view it as more of a threat and inevitably join together to balance against regional aspirations, an outcome antithetical to China's interests. Beijing's policies, with a few conspicuous exceptions (i.e. its policies toward Japan and Taiwan and recent actions toward maritime sovereignty disputes) have been designed to signal reassurance that its intentions are benign and that it is not a threat. At the same time, Chinese leaders have to satisfy the nationalist ambition for great accomplishments on the world stage. 

Xi Jinping's recent initiatives in regional economic diplomacy -- the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road -- are designed to thread this needle between international benevolence and domestic nationalism. As the hub of the Asian regional economy, China understandably seeks to translate its pivotal economic position into regional influence. Yet the Obama administration and many commentators overreacted to these economic initiatives as if China had declared war on the West. As a result, when European and Asian countries joined the AIIB, it looked like a humiliating loss of American prestige. 

Meanwhile President Obama is trying to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a matter of national security instead of just a trade agreement. In his State of the Union address, he used China as a foil to rally Congressional support for trade promotion authority. He warned that if the U.S. didn't write the trade rules for Asia, China would be writing them. (In this instance, the Chinese official media tried to avoid inciting anti-U.S. feelings by playing down the President's taunts.) 

Competition on the field of economic diplomacy is relatively harmless compared to military muscle-flexing. It might also help satisfy Chinese nationalism and take some of the domestic pressure off the maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea. America hasn't learned the basic rule of popularity on the playground: if you act confident, other kids will want to be your friend.

Field Notes from China:
Selections from
Chinese-language Media

China's Road to Power 


A new book by five young Chinese scholars titled "The Road to Power: The Chinese Communist Party and Chinese Socialism" is causing a stir in intellectual circles. It is a full-throated defense of the ruling status of the CCP, but also a warning to China's leaders that they must ward off the internal and external threats that now endanger its legitimacy. A pair of positive reviews by Pan Wei and Wang Shaoguang, two of China's most influential intellectuals, have helped boost sales of the book. In the excerpt below, Pan who is a professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, extols the book for its critical look at corruption in the Party.   


Excerpt from the story: "What is the difference between today's CCP and yesterday's KMT? Their goals were essentially the same -- they both wanted to crush the warlords, equally divide the land among the people, and liberate the nation. Sun Yatsen repeatedly said that his 'Three Principles of the People' was socialism. However, the parties did have two fundamental differences. The first was that the KMT had no roots with the people, while the CCP's ties to the common people was strong. Second, wanted to play the role of emperor and bring the people 'benevolence.' The CCP wanted to make the people the masters of their own affairs (当家作主), and organize the people so that they could free themselves. A KMT with no roots quickly morphed into a warlord itself and was unable to complete any of its basic goals.  

The CCP has now held power for more than 60 years, and we must do our utmost to warn it away from turning into the KMT by allowing its roots to rot."


Source: 国际在线

China Must Be On Guard Against Threats to the AIIB
亚投行存四大风险隐患 中国必须严格防范


SummaryThe best translation for the word "Schadenfreude" into Chinese is 幸灾乐祸. There was no doubt a great deal of 幸灾乐祸 in China over the past few weeks as the ham-fisted U.S. response to the AIIB finally came crashing to the ground. As of this writing, 57 countries have so far signed up to join the bank, and for China, this is a clear-cut PR victory. But now the hard part comes: how to make the AIIB actually do what it is intended to do? Last week a smart take on the bank written by Niu Baiyu made the rounds on Weixin. In it, he warns of several potential dangers to the bank's ultimate success, including loosing sight of its original intent.


Excerpt from the story: "Most people see the creation of the bank as serving two roles: the first is to help finance infrastructure projects in Asia as well as to help Chinese firms to 'go out' as part of the overall national strategy. The second is to weaken the influence of the Japanese-controlled Asian Development Bank and to strengthen China's leadership position in Asia. However, as the U.S. and China wrestle for global power, the media and participant nations have bestowed upon the bank an unwarranted significance. If sometime in the future the AIIB deviates from its original intention of infrastructure finance and investment and instead is hyped as a tool for altering regional politics and/or as a means of challenging the U.S., then the legitimacy of the bank will have taken a large setback. China must do its utmost to make sure this doesn't happen."


Source: 墙外楼

China Talk: Interviews, Lectures and Events
What Does the Asian Development Bank think of the AIIB?
Last week IR/PS had the pleasure of hosting Wei Shang-Jin, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank. In the Q&A portion of the event, Wei was asked about his view on the AIIB, as well as the news that China's quarterly growth rate had slowed to 7%. Click on the image to launch the audio.