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China and the future of security cooperation and conflict in Asia.


There is considerable uncertainty, indeed serious controversy, over the future role of China in the emerging structure of world politics. All agree that China's role will be increasingly important, but there is considerable variation in assessments on the size and nature of the impact. Some analysts (Lees, 1997), and studies by the World Bank and the CIA, emphasize the future impact of Chinese economic power and argue that China will have at least the world's second largest economy early in the 21st Century. Others suggest that China will become the hegemon of Asia before long, challenging and dominating other powers in the region including Japan, Russia, India, Korea, and posing a severe challenge to the U.S. (Bernstein, 1997; Bernstein and Munro, 1997; see also Krisof, 1993; and Homer, 1997). Still others emphasize the "conservative" nature of China's actual record as a power and see little reason to expect dramatic change from what one would expect as the normal posture of a major power (Ross, 1997 and Lampton, 1995). Indeed, David Lampton argues that China has become a status quo power in the Post-Cold War international system, intent on preserving state sovereignty and the Westphalian state system, precisely at the time that the U.S. seems to be attempting to change it (Lampton, 1995: 101). Finally, Samuel P. Huntington takes the "China challenge" substantially further, seeing it as one from the "Confucian civilization" for which the West must prepare, along with its defense against the challenge posed by the "Islamic civilization."

This article evaluates these alternative positions in light of the larger debate between the proponents of the neo-realist and neo-liberal institutionalist schools of international relations theory and offers an assessment that suggests the need for a cautious strategy - one that might include preliminary efforts to institutionalize collective defense in Asia, at the same time it recommends a general strategy of "engagement." My position is that some moderation of the more alarmist views about the China threat seems reasonable, owing to the probable impact of modernization and globalization and quite simply the challenges of economic development which have been understated in most recent analyses of China. Nonetheless, any objective look at the long standing territorial disputes that influence much of China's long term foreign policy agenda and its encirclement by countries with which relations have been hot at times, coupled with the substantial Chinese commitment to military spending and modernization, must give one pause. Let us begin with a look at these "objective" factors in China's power and geopolitical situation.

The Potential for Economic Power

Francis Lees states quite boldly that China is an emerging (economic) superpower. He bases this view on a detailed economic analysis of China's remarkable economic growth record since the reforms of the late 1970s. In his words,

China has awakened, and the shape of the world in the 21st century will be determined by how the leading industrial countries respond. In the past, the industrial countries have dominated the world economy. Japan joined the industrial country club when it achieved sustained high economic growth and rose to the rank of a leading producer and exporter. Perhaps the most important change in relative economic position witnessed this century has been Japan's becoming the world's second largest economy. The most important change in the 21st century will be China attaining superpower status and displacing Japan as the second largest economy (Lees, 1997: 2).

One typically measures the size of an economy by its annual gross domestic product (GDP). By this approach, it is clear from Table 1 that China does indeed have a large and dramatically growing economy. The GDP in 1995 was well above half a trillion dollars; and China has enjoyed an amazing annual growth rate in excess of 10% in recent years. Measurement of economic power and prosperity is problematic for various masons, however, and those who forecast the emergence of China as a true economic giant tend to cite purchasing power parity (PPP) adjusted GDP measures as the more meaningful cross-national indicator. The PPP measure of GDP clearly presents a rather different ranking of a country's position in the [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] world economy. This is clearly demonstrated by a comparison of the relative size of China's economy measured both in GDP and PPP in relation to the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Russia (see Table 1).

China compares much more favorably with Japan, in particular, using the PPP measure. Measures of average annual growth in PPP terms for the period 1983-1993 also suggest a more modest economic growth rate for China.(1)

Lees' effort to compare the economic prospects of China with the record of Japan is suggestive but perhaps overly optimistic. Japan's success can be attributed to a variety of international and socio-cultural factors that are neither available or relevant nor are likely to be replicated in the case of China. Indeed, these factors contributed to the unique (and perhaps transitory) advantageous situation Japan found itself in, as government and corporate planners framed effective industrial development strategies. Let us review some of these briefly.

First, Japan enjoyed a "free ride" on security functions and expenditures. This view argues that Japan was the beneficiary of its postwar alliance with the U.S. This "special relationship," it is argued, accounts for a part, if not all, of Japan's rapid economic growth. Japan has only devoted about 1% of its GNP to defense expenditure. This contrasts to defense expenditures which range from 2.4% to 5.8% in China since 1984; from 4% to 6% in the United States; from 3% to 5% in Europe; and over 12% in Russia. Moreover, 1% of GNP translates into about 4.2% of central government expenditure on defense for the Japanese, in contrast to the 18.8% for the United States in 1994 (well down from the 25-27% range of the mid to late 1980s); to 18% for China; and perhaps 39% for Russia (see Table 2).
Table 2
China's Military Expenditures 1984-1994

Year       Military expenditures,      ME/GNP    ME/CGE    ME/Capita

         Current      Constant 1994$
               (million $)

1994     $52,840 m       $52,840 m      2.4%      18.0%      $44
1993      51,620          52,680        2.5       16.3        45
1992      49,100          51,210        2.8       16.9        44
1991      46,150          49,470        3.0       17.3        43
1990      47,270          52,610        3.5       18.8        46
1989      45,100          52,370        3.6       19.1        47
1988      43,760          53,110        3.8       20.0        48
1987      41,620          52,460        4.2       19.5        48
1986      40,000          52,010        4.6       19.3        49
1985      39,860          53,230        5.1       23.8        50
1984      38,450          53,220        5.8       26.1        51
1994       8,233                        2.9       14.5         9
1994      45,820                        1.0        4.2       366

                         N. Korea
1994       5,500                       25.5        n.a.      238
                         S. Korea
1994      13,030                        3.7       17.4       289

1994      96,800                       12.4       39.6       647
1994      11,540                        4.8        n.a.      542
1994         435                        2.2        9.7         6

Source: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military
Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 1995.

This relates directly to the argument made by Paul Kennedy (1987) about the connection between military expenditure/imperial overextension and economic growth and productive power. Kennedy argued (before the end of the Cold War) that the U.S. ran the risk of "imperial overstretch," suggesting that its military interests and obligations were exceeding the technological and economic bases of its power. This pattern mirrored imperial Spain in 1600, the British Empire around 1900 and a wide range of other great powers. Kennedy may have timed his analysis of the U.S. "relative decline" unfortunately, but his basic argument may well fit the USSR and now China quite aptly.

Second, relatively cheap access to foreign, especially U.S. technology, has no doubt been crucial to Japanese economic growth. Japan imported virtually all of the technology for its basic and high-growth industries, and it imported the greater proportion of this technology from the U.S. through movement of patent rights, production licenses, and joint ventures. This was a central element of Japanese government and corporate industrial development policy, and it worked due to the generosity of the U.S. government and the greed, arrogance and shortsightedness of U.S. corporate executives who were ready and willing to supply what may have been the crucial element of their comparative advantage at times. Easy access to U.S. (and other foreign) technology is a clear priority for Chinese industrial development; and the rush of foreign direct investment and joint venture activity suggests some potential for Chinese success, but it is unlikely that China will enjoy anything like the same level of access that Japan did during its crucial development phases. Moreover, there is real question as to whether China will be able to develop the scientific and technological infrastructure necessary to support advanced indigenous product development. The genius of Japan's experience with technology transfer was the ability to innovate well beyond the initial technology with effective corporate research and development commitment, supported from time to time by university and government laboratory programs. At present there is little evidence that the beginnings of this kind of infrastructure have been established in China. Indeed, the "political control culture" still seems to inhibit technological innovation.

The third advantage available to the Japanese was remarkable ease of product access, especially to the U.S. Market. Japan profited enormously from the open trading system that developed after World War II, particularly its own import policy combined with the U.S. substantial commitment to free trade through GATT. This is most clear in the relative ease that the Japanese enjoyed in penetrating the U.S. market, particularly in comparison to the difficulties encountered by others in penetrating the Japan market, and most importantly in the difficulty the Japanese have had in other industrial markets such as those of EC member countries like France, where protectionism was much more evident than in the U.S. China's favorable trade balance with the U.S. suggests an ability to take due advantage as well, particularly for labor intensive products, but the spectre of protectionism looms large for key sectors in most industrial markets these days. U.S. policy is decidedly less favorable to Chinese penetration now than it was, for political and strategic reasons, with respect to Japanese market access in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, the U.S. Government's general posture toward trade negotiations is much more nationalistic, and China may not be admitted as a full member of the World Trade Organization for some time yet. Indeed, the periodic debate in the U.S. over extending the minimal MFN status, given concerns over China's human rights record, suggests that trade friction will remain an important part of the Sino-American relationship.

We have already noted what may be some corporate incompetence in the premature and over-generous transfer of technology. In The Reckoning, David Halberstam (1986) describes a different form and degree of incompetence in the U.S. auto industry that permitted Japanese firms to gain a strong foothold in the U.S. market by failing to heed warnings of the coming energy crisis in the early 1970s. Later, they belittled the emerging threat of Japanese industrial competitiveness. U.S. auto executives were so overconfident and arrogant in their hold on the U.S. consumer despite obvious and perhaps growing problems in their quality control, "planned obsolescence," and lack of engineering innovation. Similar mistakes were evident in the behavior of corporate leadership in the U.S. information and communication sectors, most notably in semiconductor firms (see Prestowitz, 1989 and Lardner, 1987).

These problems are complemented by a more general defect in the apparent inability to engage in long range planning, strategy or market development because of an excessive focus on short term profit maximization. This of course is due in part to the hold that U.S. stock holders have over corporate executives - stock holders who demand annual profitability and dividends and who thus have little patience for long term market penetration and development strategies.

Indeed, it has been argued that the rise of Japanese industrial exports is due in large part to the failures of American managers and business executives, trapped in many cases in an incentive structure and corporate-stockholder relationship that prevents the adoption of a long- or even medium-term view and makes adequate expenditure on corporate research and development, new product development, and quality control difficult if not almost impossible.

Chinese exporters may well be able to take clear advantage of these U.S. corporate inadequacies as well, but it is also apparent that many U.S. corporations have "gotten their act together" through reorganization, renewed focus, and streamlining in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Moreover, China does not yet enjoy the large and efficient corporate structures that Japan developed so effectively in its post-World War II industrial build-up. Indeed, Francis Fukuyama makes an interesting argument to suggest that China's socio-cultural environment, which promotes family control of firms, together with the legacy of large scale public enterprises, will keep it from implementing a similar build-up anytime soon (Fukuyama, 1995). On the other hand, key elements of the effectiveness of Japanese corporations and the government-industry support relationship are so closely tied to the distinctive history, culture and social structure of Japan, that they remain quite difficult to replicate. Japanese development specialists would argue that a key element was a strong, competent central bureaucracy. A recent World Bank study concedes this in part, at least on the ability to enforce basic decisions and requirements (much like the arguments made by Migdal, 1988), but it goes on to question the utility of substantial government input to the private sector in most developing world settings (World Bank, 1993: 23 and 181). China's bureaucracy is generally not regarded as a major asset in its economic development progress. Indeed, much of the excitement in China's remarkable growth seems to lie in sectors and regions where the bureaucracy has studiously avoided or has been excluded from involvement (see Hornik, 1994). Indeed, there is evidence of an emerging crisis of legitimacy well beyond the legacy of Tiananmen square, as the Communist Party leadership must find answers to the uneven pace of economic reform, demands for greater regional autonomy, and growing corruption (see Segal, 1994). The question then becomes quite simply is there prospect for the development of a viable long term strategy for the emergence of an economic superpower? Much of the answer to this question will depend on the success of the consolidation of the new leadership with the passing of Deng Xiaoping.

Now we must ask: are these advantages stable? Do they ensure continued Japanese economic rise? Can China be expected to mimic the Japanese success, indeed overtake Japan as the 2nd largest economy as some would have it? I think not; but even if the sheer size of the economic activity of 1.2 billion Chinese, fully engaged, does amount to a substantially higher ranking of the economy on the list of economic powers, the prospect for a technologically robust and diversified modern Chinese economy still seems far in the future.

The transformation underway in the world economy is also relevant to an assessment of China as a major economic actor. The end of the Cold War has eliminated much of the political motive for restraint on pressing for economic liberalization. It also reinforced the growth of globalization. Transnational corporations enjoy new freedom to market globally, cross borders with capital and production, and form marketing, production and R&D alliances with other corporations (including foreign based ones formerly viewed as competitors) without restraint from governments. These governments in turn seem increasingly ineffectual in managing their own domestic economies and unable to afford the costs of their social welfare programs. The prevalence of conservative (fiscally responsible, private enterprise-oriented) administrations during the 1980s and early 1990s coincided with a tendency toward corporate monopoly in several major counties.(2)

The economic world in which China must now compete is vastly different from the one in which Japan, Korea, and Taiwan prospered at crucial points in their development efforts. Can China adapt to globalization effectively, particularly given the regime's adamancy to remain untouched politically? Can it manage all of the challenges that a developing country faces to reach "economic takeoff?"(3) The progress to date has been promising, but many questions remain. Principal among these is the challenge of moving beyond the present status as a successful exporter of low-end products like simple consumer electronics and textiles (which are largely not produced in the U.S. or other advanced industrial counties but for which there are numerous alternative suppliers potentially among the developing countries). Beijing announced a new strategy for foreign trade in December of 1996, stressing efforts to enhance the strength and diversity of its exporting firms. This policy, coupled with a new apparent focus on sustainable development and the adoption of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), which calls for efforts to improve the "quality of economic growth" with high value-added products and high technologies, suggests some reason for cautious optimism. Li Peng's announcement in January 1997 that China must lift the remaining 6.5 million poor people in China out of their poverty suggests a renewed commitment to reduce the growth in income inequality that has been evident for some time.

An Emerging Superpower?

It is commonly argued that China will focus on these domestic economic challenges for the forseeable future. Some see this as a normal preoccupation with domestic priorities; others see it as a period of gaining strength for the struggles that lie ahead and of redressing past humiliations. Most analysts argue that a departure from this domestic preoccupation would occur only if central regime goals are challenged, such as if Taiwan were to declare independence formally or a serious threat to internal stability emerged. Nonetheless, it is clear that China has focused considerable attention and resources on military preparedness. Table 2 above offers a comparative summary of China's commitment to military preparedness. Total military expenditures have risen steadily in nominal terms for the period 1984 to 1994. In constant 1994 dollars, however, the expenditures are quite stable. Moreover, given the dramatic economic growth the country has achieved, the percentage of GNP devoted to military expenditures has declined steadily, from 5.8% in 1984 to 2.4% in 1994. Similarly, while still quite substantial, particularly in relation to other powers in the region (except Russia and probably North Korea), military expenditures as a percentage of central government expenditures have declined steadily from 36.1% in 1984 to 18% in 1994. One must also consider the impact of China's population on any assessment of military capability. As Table 2 shows, only India and Vietnam spend less per capita on the military than China among the powers in the region. It should be noted, however, that estimates of Chinese military spending are variable and uncertain. A common view is that the recent military modernization campaign involves expenditures several times the reported figures (Bernstein and Munro, 1997: 24).

Table 3 provides a summary of the military equipment and personnel maintained by China and its neighbors. China clearly outdistances all countries globally in the massive size of its active armed forces at nearly 3,000,000. Similarly, it maintains numbers of tanks, submarines, destroyers, frigates, ICBMs and IRBMs at a level equal to or well above all other countries save for the U.S. and Russia. [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 3 OMITTED] China's forces are not without weaknesses, however. The army, while quite large, is generally regarded as ill-equipped and not well-integrated with the other armed forces. The navy has only limited power-projection capability, given the absence of aircraft carriers, and it lacks any real ability to deal with power projection by the carrier-centered battle groups maintained by the U.S. The weakness of China's airlift capability also remains a hindrance to mobility and power projection. Moreover, the sheer size of China and its encirclement by multiple countries with which there are outstanding border disputes or serious political tensions would obviously pose a substantial challenge to force deployment and planning.

Table 4 depicts China's recent arms trade record, Clearly a net exporter, China ranked fourth in 1994 among the world's leading arms merchants, behind the U.S., the U.K. and Russia and slightly ahead of France (ACDA, 1996: 17). Arms exports account for a declining percentage of China's total exports, ranging from as high as 8% in 1984 to less than 1% in 1994. This decline reflects the dramatic growth in China's total exports, since arms exports have not declined so precipitously.

The real concern for most outside analysts, however, is not the size of China's arms trade but rather the nature of the equipment shipped and the recipients (see Kristof, 1993: 71). Reported transfers of key missile technology to countries that Huntington would regard as part of the Islamic civilization are used by him as evidence of collusion between the Confucian and Islamic civilizations against the West. Others see this as part of the expected goals of a major power that simply does not want to live in a world of "unipolar dominance" by the U.S. (Hoffman, in this volume; and Kristof, 1993: 72-73).
Table 4
China and the Arms Trade

           Arms imports           Arms exports         Arms exports/
          (million US$)           (million US$)        total exports

Year     Current    Constant    Current     Constant
                     (1994$)                 (1994$)

1994      $130 m      $130 m     $800 m       $800 m         .7%
1993       500         510       1100         1123          1.2
1992      1200        1251        925          965          1.1
1991       200         214       1400         1501          2.0
1990       200         223       1500         1669          2.4
1989       390         453       2400         2787          4.6
1988       340         413       3000         3641          6.3
1987       650         819       2100         2647          5.3
1986       575         748       1300         1690          4.2
1985       675         901        725          968          2.7
1984       490         678       2100         2906          8.0

Source: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military
Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 1995.

It would be hard to describe a major power that has as full a list of potential antagonists and flashpoints as China's. Such a list is headed by the need to "recover" Taiwan, but would also include China's territorial claims in the Spratly Islands (in conflict with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam), its efforts to reduce U.S. influence in the Korean peninsula, the need to pacify and integrate Hong Kong, dampen the autonomy sentiments of Tibet, and consolidate border control in areas historically under dispute with India, Japan, Russia and Vietnam. Looming beyond all of these is the often tense relationship with the U.S. From the Chinese perception it appears that the U.S. is pursuing an effort to interfere with domestic matters and hold China back rather than to "engage" or integrate it into the international community. From the U.S. point of view, China is a repressive violator of human rights and revisionist power foiling U.S. designs for world order.

Theoretical Issues and the Prospects for Security Cooperation

On the theoretical plane, the end of the Cold War has provided new energy to the long debate between the neo-realists and the neo-liberal institutionalists, as each school seeks to chart a course for the future of the international system from its own perspective(4) and seeks to answer a number of questions: Are there institutional solutions to the challenge of promoting order in Asia? Or should one focus more securely on fostering a classical balance of power system in an anarchical international system? Is there prospect for fundamental change in the international system and the pursuit of order in the post-Cold War world? - a system that is post-hegemonic, post-Westphalian and post-globalization, as Robert Cox suggests (Cox, 1993: 286). Asia is facing an international environment that may well be more challenging and less stable than the one from which it has recently emerged; consequently, it is prudent to strengthen or develop, if possible, some "supporting" institutions that have served well since World War II, perhaps borrowing from the Euro-Atlantic experience, but there is clearly a need to consider imaginative new adaptations and security structures. Unfortunately, the existing Asian institutions are quite limited, the global ones are likely to remain ineffective, and China is likely to resist overt attempts to strengthen either unless it can be cleverly engaged.

It appears that the threat of a thermonuclear exchange between two superpowers has receded into the background of our principal concerns these days. However, defense planners in the capitals of major powers have much more variety in the challenges ranged before them, together with less plentiful and effective resources to draw upon for meeting those that emerge into real threats, particularly given the domestic economic and social pressures that stem from stagnant economies struggling to compete in a globalized economy.(5) All the "major" powers except China appear to have cashed in the "peace dividend" due with the end of the Cold War.

If the Cold War is officially over, are we in for a period of peace and order? Or, are we now experiencing a transitional period in the movement to an entirely new and perhaps even more challenging international system?

In the early Cold War years, the U.S. was one of what the late William T.R. Fox, first termed three "superpowers" emerging from World War II: the U.S., the U.S.S.R., and the U.K. Soon after the end of the War, however, it could be argued that the U.S. dominance in nuclear weaponry and economic power qualified it as the only real superpower until perhaps 1957, with the launching of Sputnik. The U.S. probably could have destroyed the Soviet Union, its only real competitor then, at any time, despite the Soviet preponderance of conventional force strength. Similarly, the U.S. could afford to push for free trade and provide a central support role for the international monetary system because it produced the best products in the world by far - products in demand all over the world - and had by far the strongest currency.

By the mid-1970s, analysts were describing the international system as a loose or muted bipolar system, as Western Europe, Japan and China seemed to be emerging as significant and increasingly independent powers. Indeed, the more imaginative conceptions of the time suggested the emergence of multipolarity. For example, Henry Kissinger depicted the international system as a pentapolar world including the U.S., U.S.S.R., China, Western Europe and Japan. Zbigniew Brzezinski responded by depicting the same 5 major powers, but described intersecting double triangles representing military power (the U.S., the U.S.S.R., and China in one triangle) and economic power (again the U.S., but with Western Europe and Japan as the other two powers). These two triangles met to form a "bow tie" like structure, with the U.S. the only power in both dimensions.

What about now? How should we characterize the present international system? How many major powers are there? Which are superpowers (if any)?

As suggested above, there is reason to doubt the prospect for easy progress toward former President Bush's call for a "New World Order." Various authors have raised severe doubts on the feasibility of such a concept, simply exercising healthy skepticism from a realist theoretical perspective or pointing to the unusual circumstances surrounding the "success" of the Persian Gulf War - the case that led the President down a path of naive optimism.(6) The end of the Cold War has given new energy to long dormant disputes and tensions, and a series of half measures and instances of wishful thinking have as yet not been up to the corresponding new threats and challenges. What alternatives are available to us at present? Is there need for a new or significantly revitalized security structure, or are such "institutional" efforts doomed to failure?

In any case, a review of the emerging institutions in this respect with reference to Asia may help to shed light on these questions. Let us go from the most universal to the least in terms of membership, and discuss "progress" to date.

The United Nations

The end of the Cold War seemed to bring new promise to the prospect for an effective peace-keeping role by the United Nations. There was new promise, largely due to change in the character and thus posture of the Soviet Union (and to a lesser extent, the People's Republic of China). The lack of agreement between the Superpowers that reflected their perceived and real interests in the years of the Cold War and the Bipolar international system had passed. Obtaining agreement among the permanent members of the Security Council would remain a challenge, but there was some chance finally to fulfill the UN's original planned role for resolving certain types of conflict.

There were preliminary questions to resolve, of course. For example, which types of conflicts are most appropriate or susceptible? The prospects for Security Council support are best undoubtedly when there is clearcut inter-state aggression and where there are no important conflicting interests among any of the 5 permanent Security Council members.

A Security Council resolution as a response to aggression was viewed as important, as in the Persian Gulf War, because it carried with it some degree of global legitimization. This in turn could help with the challenge of building support for military intervention within reluctant democracies like the U.S. Such legitimization helped to cleanse what might otherwise be viewed as the arrogant actions of the rich states of the northern hemisphere versus the Third World.

Unity of purpose and a common perception of what constitutes threats to global security must characterize the five permanent Security Council members. An immediate question raised after the Gulf War was how unusual will this be in the future? Initial judgments suggested that the emerging international system might both permit and necessitate the UN to act. The need for a strong U.S. leadership role was often assumed, if a significant UN-sanctioned military operation was to be mounted. But consistent success in such actions also required movement toward broader, more balanced contributions from participants. This in turn might suggest the need to tackle the difficult political problem of restructuring the permanent membership of the Security Council, incorporating participation by the new Germany and Japan, and perhaps India and or Brazil.

The Post-Gulf War experience of the UN largely has lowered expectations. The cases of Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and especially the former Yugoslavia revealed serious limitations.

Clearly, the present UN "force structure" was never designed to intervene in a civil war; nor could it stand up to determined resistance in an international conflict. UN forces should be kept from such conflicts. The Gulf War model of a mandate from the UN passed on to states or alliances well-placed to deliver appropriate force to ensure compliance is now the UN preference often. A system of decentralized "subcontracting" financed by the subcontractors may be the only way the UN can operate in its present situation of constrained financial resources, too few peacekeeping forces and a cumbersome organizational structure. The alternative may be simply to refuse to intervene more frequently (allowing the stronger side to prevail more efficiently), for example only when both sides are truly prepared to accept a peacekeeping mission by the UN. Unfortunately, this situation may not be common in the anarchy that has emerged from the relative stability of the Cold War. A standing UN army, earmarked national forces on call, a global tax on arms sales, more regular and substantial contributions of forces from major powers are among the solutions proposed by various analysts and UN officials.(7) Thus far, however, these proposals have not been greeted warmly by key governments, some of which clearly have no desire to expand the power or independence of the Secretary General (particularly when it was Boutros Boutros-Ghali).

The key challenge for a vital UN in Asia, however, may well remain the "curse" of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War pattern of deadlock. A Chinese veto obviously would stop any Security Council action involving China as the system is now structured. China is generally suspicious of international intervention in "domestic" matters and will undoubtedly guard this prerogative jealously.

Engagement of China in global institutions should not be limited to security and political issues. The debate over China's membership in the World Trade Organization remains problematic, of course. Robert Zoellick argues that China should be added to the G-7 as part of a generalized engagement strategy (Zoellick, 1997: 19). Russia has become the eighth member in effect. The addition of China would make this forum for the major economic powers more representative and might well assist in efforts to regularize China's trade and economic practices.


Thanks largely to the efforts of the Republic of Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong all were accepted into membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1991. As such, APEC offers the most inclusive forum for regional discussions. However, the organization has minimal institutionalization and largely serves as a forum for diffuse discussions on trade and economic cooperation. Proponents see it as the first step of an economic community, indeed perhaps as an Asian response to the European Union. Political and security concerns are not generally a significant focus of the consultations.


The other existing alternative to serve as the core of enhanced security cooperation in Asia is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As the name suggests, this organization is limited to Southeast Asian countries. It therefore lacks the essential ingredients of full and direct involvement by China, Japan or the U.S. The Association has nonetheless established a "Regional Forum" which has already proved useful for discussions on subjects and participants that extend beyond Southeast Asia. ASEAN historically has sought to balance the strong Japanese economic involvement in the region with efforts to keep the U.S. attentive and committed. One could easily envision ways in which this could be extended to efforts to engage China, Japan, the U.S. and ASEAN in open security and political consultations. If China exhibits little interest in this, the discussions could well proceed with more of a collective defense orientation. It is unlikely that one could envision the commitments and collaboration once promoted under the rubric of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), but an aggressive China might well add stimulus to such an approach.


Is it possible to visualize a new activist role for NATO, responding concretely to threats on the European periphery, and perhaps even beyond? Post-Cold War discussions between NATO and Japan suggest this is not entirely fanciful, but the prospects seem limited.

NATO adopted a new strategic concept at the Rome meeting of the North Atlantic Council in November of 1991, ". . . to transform the Atlantic Alliance to reflect the new, more promising, era in Europe."(8) The concept spelled out the new risks to the Alliance. It reaffirmed the Alliance's defensive character, but it called for new dialogue, cooperation, crisis management, conflict management, as well as renewed commitment to collective defense under the changed circumstances. The Alliance's new force posture would place less reliance on nuclear weapons and move away (where appropriate) from the forward presence and pre-positioned equipment previously believed to be necessary for the concept of forward defense.

The Alliance also established the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) at the 1991 Rome meeting. Thirty-eight members subsequently participated in cooperation and consultation on a wide range of political, economic, military and technical/scientific issues. The military cooperation program of the NACC was then subsumed under the Partnership for Peace program established in January of 1994 to engage non-NATO members in the region constructively in the development of transparency in national defense planning and budgeting, in efforts to ensure democratic control of defense forces, and in more concrete exercises to enable future joint operations.

Finally, the Alliance has adapted its conception of involvement "Out of Area" and struggled to find a workable formula for participation in peace-keeping operations. These changes reflect a widespread recognition that new thinking and perhaps new structures were required in the new environment.

Disagreement among NATO members over the appropriate posture toward Iraq in late 1996 reaffirmed the limits on an activist role on the periphery of Europe. Is it possible in this context for an imaginative extension of NATO to Eurasia? Is it ridiculous to consider a parallel NATO-like structure for East and Southeast Asia? With the recent agreements between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, and the Paris NATO meetings of May 1997, it now appears that Russia is "engaged" in a new security architecture for Europe. Is it possible to engage China in a new security architecture for Asia? If not, it appears there is little recourse but to fall back on bilateral containment strategies.

Bilateralism in a Multipolar World or a Clash of Civilizations?

Assuming, as Mearsheimer and other neo-realists would clearly conclude, that the above organizations are not likely to be up to the challenges of an aggressive China, the principal remedy must be reliance on bilateral ties, with emphasis on developing a stronger role by Japan in the context of the bilateral alliance between Japan and the U.S. China's biggest payoff would then come from encouraging independence and multipolarity among the potential partners for the U.S. Japan would be the primary target in Asia, in an effort to forestall a joint U.S.-Japan dominance in the region, but improved relations with South Korea, Russia and the major European powers, perhaps holding the twin carrots of the China market and limitation of unipolar excess as incentives, might well make U.S. security cooperation efforts less effective. Stirring things up with arms transfers and strengthened ties in the Middle East and South Asia might bear fruit as well, at least as a distractive ploy.

There is considerable speculation about the emerging structure of world politics. Kenneth Waltz speaks of the prospect of bipolarity enduring for some time, given Russia's military strength, albeit declining, but also discusses the emergence of Japan, and to a lesser extent Germany and China as new great powers. He also stresses the continued importance of military power and posits a balancing strategy that "reflects international-political reality through all of the centuries we can contemplate" (Waltz, 1993: 77). Indeed, he stresses the need for Japan to play a key role in balancing the emergence of China. In his view, "America, with the reduction of its forces, a Cold War-weary people, and numerous neglected problems at home, cannot hope to balance the growing economic and military might of a country of some 1.2 billion people while attending to other security interests" (Waltz, 1993: 68).

Samuel P. Huntington argues that "(w)orld politics is entering a new phase. . . the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural" (Huntington, 1993: 22). His "clash of civilizations" thesis has been criticized vigorously, but it raises important points to contemplate as we think about the future role of China.(9) While the primary apparent concern for Huntington is the challenge to the West from the Islamic Civilization, he sees threatening collaboration from the Confucian Civilization (read China). He advises the West

'to promote greater cooperation and unity within its own civilization, particularly between its European and North American components; . . . to promote and maintain cooperative relations with Russia and Japan; . . . to limit the expansion of the military strength of Confucian and Islamic states; . . . to exploit differences and conflicts among Confucian and Islamic states. . .' (Huntington, 1993: 48-49).

In a subsequent article, Huntington goes on to ridicule the prospect for a dramatic systemic impact on cultures/civilizations from globalization - what he cutely terms the "Coca-colonization thesis." He cleverly notes that "the essence of Western culture is the Magna Carta, not the Magna Mac" (Huntington, 1996: 29). But he fails to do justice to the serious literature and complex arguments that suggest that there may well be an impact on state behavior and interaction from globalization, with its associated economic and technological imperatives (see, Jones, 1995; Kofman and Youngs, 1996; Mittelman, 1996; and Ohmae, 1995). Indeed, I would argue that it is not at all clear that the best way to view the challenge from China is from his civilization perspective, as opposed to the realist balance of power notions of Waltz and Mearsheimer, or indeed the globalist perspectives which describe a decline in the power of the state, the rise of transnational actors and the tendency toward the homogenization of culture, tastes, and habits. Western civilization may well not be universal, but it will take considerable new evidence to convince me that the threat from Asia deserving primary focus is best defined as that of the Confucian Civilization. Such a focus may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, in effect creating or drawing undue attention to cultural conflict, when the best hope for order may lie in efforts to meld or play down the significance of differences between cultures. We should be open to the simple view that cultural separation and defensiveness can lead to heightened conflict through misperception, irrational fear and misunderstanding. Is this not clearly an important part of the tragedy of past interactions between Asia and the West?


1 The PPP measure examines how much of the local currency is required to purchase a common "market basket" of goods and services. This measure offers a more accurate assessment of the standard of living in a given country according to its proponents (who now seem to dominate the data collection efforts of international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank). For a detailed discussion of the merits of PPP measures, see World Resources Institute and World Bank (1996: 159-170); and World Bank (1996).

2 See Korten (1996) for an extended argument along these lines.

3 For an interesting discussion of the imponderables among these challenges, see Kristoff (1973: 59-65).

4 See Waltz (1993). It may also be instructive to review the debate over John Mearsheimer's "Back to the Future" article (Mearsheimer, 1990), together with the commentary by various critics in subsequent issues of International Security. See also his systematic critique of the major alternative theoretical perspectives in "The False Promise of International Institutions" (Mearsheimer, 1995). Asia is not a major focus for Mearsheimer, but one can well see ways in which his arguments have direct relevance.

5 For a discussion of the impact of these changes, see Cox (1993: 259-262 and 265-276). A more recent exploration of globalization and its challenges for democratic regimes is offered in Barber (1995). See also the focus on the impact of transnational corporations in this globalization offered by Barnet and Cavanaugh (1994).

6 See, for example, Ayoob (1994: 16-19).

7 See, for example, the expansive writings of Brian Urquart and former Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. A broad range of additional suggestions from UN officials and national delegates is contained in a collection published by The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume III, No. 1 (Winter/Spring 1996), under the section title: "UN Peacekeeping: Challenging a New Era."

8 NATO, The Alliance's Strategic Concept. Agreed by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Rome, 7-8 November 1991.

9 See, for example, the pointed reviews of the book version of his argument by Pierre Hassner and Wang Gungwu in the Winter 1996/97 issue of The National Interest.


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Title Annotation:Zones of Amity, Zones of Enmity: The Prospects for Economic and Military Security in Asia
Author:Graham, Norman A.
Publication:Journal of Asian and African Studies
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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