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The "Good Neighbour Policy" in the context of China's foreign relations.

No major foreign policy initiatives or changes were carried out at the Chinese Communist Party's 17th National Congress in October 2007 or the first session of the 11th National People's Congress in March 2008. This was unsurprising, since they occurred around the mid-term of the tenure of China's current Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao leadership. Yet, China's rising diplomatic, economic and strategic profile in the world means that closer attention should be paid to the continuities and adjustments in the formulation and conduct of its foreign policy, since it will have a definite effect on the international community, and particularly states in China's neighbourhood of Southeast Asia, Russia-Central Asia, Northeast Asia and South Asia.

The Evolution of China's "Good Neighbour Policy"

The Origin and Development of China's "Good Neighbour Policy" (1949-89)

A comprehensive approach to pursuing better relations with neighbouring states in the Asian and the Pacific regions, before it was labelled as the "Good Neighbour Policy" ("Mulin youhao zhengce "), has always been considered by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) as a major part of its foreign policy interests.

In 1949, as a result of the CPC's ideological inclinations and the United States' support for the defeated Chiang Kai-shek regime, Chairman Mao Zedong adopted a foreign policy of "leaning to one side", namely towards the socialist camp under the former Soviet Union. (1) Even so, to promote friendly relations with its neighbours, China proposed the "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence" enunciated by Premier Zhou Enlai at the Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference at Bandung in 1955 as: (a) respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, (b) mutual non-interference in domestic governance, (c) mutual nonaggression, (d) equal benefits, and (e) peaceful co-existence. (2)

With the collapse of Sino-Soviet friendship by the early 1960s, Mao stated in 1964 that Asia, Europe and Africa, together with oppressed nationalities everywhere, constituted a "Middle Belt" ("zhongjian didai ") between the socialist and capitalist blocs, which would include China, South Asia and Southeast Asia. (3) Hence, as true Marxists, the Chinese believed they should help the developing world, particularly China's neighbours, break free from American imperialists and Soviet revisionists. This hurt China's relations with non-communist Asian countries. With the death of Mao and end of the "Cultural Revolution" in late 1976, the Chinese authorities soon ceased providing moral support and material assistance to communist revolutionary movements in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma and India, and clearly expressed their desire not to interfere with the domestic governance of other states.

Since the policy of reform and opening carried out under Deng Xiaoping in late 1978, pursuing stable relationships with the surrounding neighbours has become a necessary strategy for China's economic development and attraction of foreign trade and investment. This has been all the more so in the last twenty years with the rapid erosion of any form of ideological moorings for the Chinese party-state, such that economic growth to increase the material welfare of the people has become the main legitimising basis for the popular acceptance of, or at least acquiescence in, CPC rule. Since China's economic, diplomatic, cultural and even military influence will be felt first and foremost in the surrounding Asian and Pacific countries, it is important to China that they do not become its enemies.

China's Early Post-Cold War Foreign Policy Strategy (1990-96)

According to Deng Xiaoping's analysis in May 1984:
 The two major questions in the contemporary world are that of peace
 and development.... To obtain peace one must oppose hegemonism....
 While developed countries are getting wealthier, developing
 countries are getting poorer. If this North-South problem is not
 addressed, world economic development will face many obstacles. (4)

China, in the aftermath of the June 1989 Tiananmen incident, was enduring diplomatic isolation and an economic embargo from major Western countries and Japan. With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, it was apparent that the United States, Japan and western European countries desired to create a "New World Order", in the words of then US President George Bush, to be based on Western capitalist and democratic values and applied to countries in the rest of the world, including China, if possible. In response, Deng laid down two main post-Cold War foreign policy paths for China in March 1990, namely, pursuing anti-hegemonism, and establishing a new multi-polar international order of politics and economics. (5) Deng encapsulated these two policy prescriptions into the foreign policy principle of "Tao guang yang hui, you suo zuo wei ", meaning that China should "keep a low profile and bide its time, while getting something accomplished". (6) "Tao guang yang hui" may be understood as a strategy of active defence of China's interests, in that it should first and foremost mind its own business and not try to be either a hegemon or challenger to one. "You suo zuo wei " could be taken to mean that China should contribute to the construction of a "New International Order" as a participant or co-builder. This approach to inter-state political and economic relations remains the lodestar of Chinese foreign policy today.

By championing multi-polarity as the future development of world politics and economics, particularly on important occasions such as the 14th CPC Congress in October 1992 and the "Sino-Russian Joint Communique" in April 1996, China hoped to unite major forces in thwarting what it saw as US "hegemonic" attempts to constrain China diplomatically and strategically, with support from Japan. When China joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1991 and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994, it did so defensively, to make sure that important issues pertaining to economic and security matters in the Asia-Pacific region could not be decided without its participation. In time, however, China discovered that multilateral arrangements such as these constitute useful platforms to make its presence felt.

A major consideration of China's early post-Cold War foreign policy was also to counter the "China Threat Theory" in general, and perceived Chinese bullying of Southeast Asian claimants to the disputed South China Sea/Spratly Islands in particular. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei contest the ownership of these islands in whole or in part with one another and with China and Taiwan.

As a first step to having good relations with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region, China re-established diplomatic ties with Indonesia and Vietnam in 1990 and 1991, respectively, and established official relations with Singapore, Brunei and South Korea between 1990 and 1992. China received Japan's Prime Minister in 1991, signifying the end of the Japanese boycott, and hosted its Emperor the following year. However, following an encounter between Chinese and Filipino warships off the disputed Mischief Reef in February 1995, China's action was unanimously condemned by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in an ARF meeting in Brunei later that year. As early as 1993, then Chinese Premier Li Peng noted in his government's annual work report that "active development of beneficial and friendly relations with neighbouring states, in striving for a peaceful and tranquil surrounding environment, is an important aspect of our country's foreign affairs work". (7) This statement might have established the foundation of China's current "Good Neighbour Policy" but it took unfavourable Southeast Asian reactions to the Mischief Reef incident to spur its leaders into action.

China's Proposal on Establishing a New International Order (1997-2002)

Deng's three tenets for Chinese foreign policy, as enunciated in May 1984 and March 1990, were confirmed by the Jiang Zemin leadership at the 15th CPC Congress in October 1997, which still saw peace and development as the major problems of the day, multi-polarity as an emerging world phenomenon, and a warming trend in international relations. (8) These points were reiterated in the report of the most recent 17th CPC Congress, thus confirming their current relevance. Further directions for the conduct of foreign policy under Jiang were provided for under the rubric of a "New International Order".

New International Order = Democratisation of International Relations

As enunciated by Jiang, the basic tenets of this New International Order are (a) Respect for state sovereignty and different political, economic and cultural orientation of nations, meaning non-interference in the domestic politics of states; (b) Shelving differences and finding common grounds for cooperation; (c) Resolving disagreements through peaceful means; and (d) Promoting multipolarity in the international system.

Acting on such a conception, Jiang called for the democratisation of international relations, meaning that international affairs should be decided by all countries peacefully through dialogue and negotiations. Democratisation of international relations to Jiang also means relying on the legitimacy and authority of both the United Nations Charter and international law for the conduct of inter-state relations, such that different cultures, socio-political systems and development paths can co-exist in a peaceful and organised manner, and China can play open, legitimate, authoritative and extensive roles in world affairs. (9)

Unlike the calls for multi-polarity by the Chinese leadership in the early post-Cold War years, urging democratisation of international relations for the Jiang leadership no longer implied an anti-American impulse, although such a situation, if realised, would weaken America's supposed hegemonic position in the international system hierarchy and the Asia-Pacific region. The Chinese leadership also recognises that its desired multi-polar state of affairs would materialise only in the long-term, but believes that good relations with neighbouring states will draw them away from the unquestioning acceptance of US leadership and forestall any joint attempt at constraining China.

New International Order + New Security Concept = "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence"

China's leaders have come to realise that since its economy has become increasingly tied to the world economy, national, regional and international security are also becoming increasingly interrelated, and so are military, economic and human aspects of security within the state. As such, aside from defending China's national boundaries, Beijing will have to work with other governments to combat cross-border "non-traditional security threats" such as terrorism, trans-national crime, environmental degradation and infectious diseases. This is the basis of China's "New Security Concept" which made its first appearance in the Chinese Defence White Paper of 1998.

Notably, while the reports of the 14th and 15th CPC Congresses mentioned that China would not form alliances with states or join in any military collective, this statement was dropped from the reports of the 16th and 17th CPC Congresses. This means that the "New Security Concept" might be interpreted broadly in future by China's leadership, allowing for deployment of its troops in neighbouring and foreign countries not as part of a United Nations peacekeeping contingent, subject of course to the invitation of the host governments.

China's government is careful to rest the arguments supporting both the "New International Order" and "New Security Concept" on the "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence", first propounded by the Chinese leadership in the 1950s and resurrected by Deng in 1988 as a uniquely Asian way of conducting inter-state relations. (10) The key principle is that of non-interference in the domestic politics of other states, supposedly in respecting the choices made by the peoples of those states. A major purpose of underscoring this tenet is to ease lingering fear and suspicion among neighbouring countries of China's rise and development.

Prioritising Regionalism and Internationalism

There has been a subtle re-orientation of Chinese diplomacy from bilateral relations with great powers, particularly the US, as a foreign policy priority, to attaching similar importance to neighbouring states. There is no turning point in this orientation but rather a turning phase, which lasted from the onset of the Asian Financial Crisis in mid-1997, through the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, to the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in mid-2001. By the late 1990s, the Chinese recognised that the intertwining of international trade and financial and investment flows had made the world one of complex inter-dependence. Ensuring stability of the regional and international economic environment and security of global energy supplies have thus meant that China's interests, and consequently its influence, must expand beyond what bilateral relations with powerful states alone can deal with, as much as possible without harming these sets of relationships.

To increase common interests, raise trust and reduce regional threat perceptions of China, Beijing began to publicly advocate a policy of "neighbourliness, trustworthiness and partnership" with neighbouring countries in Asia and the Pacific in the report of the 16th CPC Congress in November 2002. (11) Apart from China's rising power, its expanding diplomatic influence and increasing activism in regional multilateral institutions have been recognised as key developments in Asian affairs. That report not only called for China's active involvement in multilateral foreign affairs activities, particularly in the United Nations and other international and regional organisations, but also collective security arrangements. It noted that "multi-polarity and economic globalisation are inexorable developments...." However, it also recognised that constructing a new international order is a lengthy process, and that anti-terrorism should be conducted by states only within the rubric of the United Nations Charter and international law for such behaviour to be legitimate. In other words, unilateral military "pre-emption" on the part of state governments, of which China may be a future target, should be ruled out.

China's Foreign Policy under the "Peaceful Rise/Peaceful Development" Thesis (since 2003)

Continuity in Chinese foreign policy formulation is the key concept in the report of the 17th CPC Congress. This is almost identical to the report of the previous congress on foreign policy, in encapsulating the basic tenets of the "New International Order", "New Security Concept" and "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence". Yet, notwithstanding this continuity, the sense is now palpable that, coinciding with Chinese perceptions of the "renaissance", "peaceful rise" or "peaceful development" of their country's national strength and culture, an image-consciousness of being, or having to be, a "responsible great power" and full player in the international arena has largely replaced the previous "victim-hood" sentiments.

The current set of Chinese leaders has recognised that, although the world may not yet be considered truly multi-polar in the military or strategic meaning of the word, the Asia-Pacific region has been moving in the direction of multi-polarity, in the sense that it is no longer possible for one or two states or ideological camps to hold sway over the entire region, particularly since the influence of the US seemed to the Chinese to have declined vis-a-vis the other regional powers, especially in terms of economic and financial muscle. For its part, China considers itself a major, if not the main, pillar of stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region, thus its leaders believe that the country is contributing to the peace and prosperity of the region, particularly in pushing for greater involvement in, and integration of, regional governmental arrangements.

Benefits to China and the Region of the "Good Neighbour Policy"

Good Neighbours as a Strategic Opportunity for China to "Lock in" its Interests and Influence in the Asia-Pacific Region

A major endeavour of China's foreign policy is to obtain a peaceful and secure environment for its economic and military modernisation. A domestic "Harmonious Society" as suggested by the current Hu Jintao leadership, obviously requires a "Harmonious World", and vice-versa. The phrase 'Harmonious World' was first pronounced by Hu at the Afro-Asian Summit in Jakarta in April 2005. It means first and foremost that China must maintain good relations with neighbouring states and become actively involved in Asian and Pacific affairs. Pursuing a "Harmonious World" would enable the Chinese leadership to augment its own interests and image by initiating cooperation to reduce tension and misunderstanding, adopting measures to narrow the North-South economic gap, and undertaking environment-friendly policies.

The catchphrase of realising a "Harmonious World" aside, the working basis of China's "Good Neighbour Policy" continues to be point (a) of the "New International Order", and the first and second points of its "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence", as given above. The Chinese government knows that the related doctrines of sovereignty and non-interference are shared by many countries, particularly in Central and Southeast Asia, most of which are post-Soviet or post-colonial creations that jealously guard their sovereignty and are often criticised by Western governments as being less than full representative democracies.

Good Neighbours as Propitious Prospects for Regional Integration

The need to "strengthen regional cooperation and push interaction and cooperation with neighbouring states to a new horizon (italics mine)" was written into the report of the 16th CPC Congress in November 2002 when the Hu leadership first took power. (12) This implies that China was by then already aiming for the realisation of economic and even military integration of China-centred regional groupings. A principal two-prong strategy of China's "Good Neighbour Policy" is to actively push for comprehensive cooperation within the SCO and ASEAN plus China partnership arrangement, as models of Beijing's multilateral foreign relations to realise an interdependent but multi-polar world.

China's involvement in regional arrangements and interest in institutionalising them demonstrate its high comfort level in cementing a web of multilateral relations with like-minded neighbouring countries. (13) The SCO has a Secretariat, Anti-Terrorism Structure, Charter, Council of National Coordinators and annual meetings of councils of Heads of States, Heads of Government and full ministers. The ASEAN plus China mechanism has its annual Heads of State or Government meetings, as well as various committees to coordinate cooperation at the senior official level. The irregular Six-Party Talks hosted by China at the Vice-Ministerial level are not as well institutionalised but there are already several working groups formed to work out issues of common concern. The important working group on nuclear disarmament is chaired by a Chinese official.

Good Neighbours as Partners in "Common Development" Enterprise

China's pursuit of "amicable, peaceful and prosperous neighbours" ("mulin, anlin, fulin") through promoting border stabilisation, closer relationships, confidence-building and mutual trust, as called for by Premier Wen Jiabao in 2003, is a pithy summing-up of its "Good Neighbour Policy." During the Asian Financial Crisis, by announcing that China would not devalue its currency, and providing more than USD4 billion to stabilise the currencies of affected countries, the Chinese leadership won praises from, and greatly boosted its standing among, ASEAN countries. (14) With Japan in a severe recession from 1991 to 2004, the collapse of its "flying geese" model of economic development, and the Asian Financial Crisis that retarded the growth of many Asian economies, China had emerged by 2000 as a major market for the products of countries in Asia and the Pacific and the engine of their economic growth.

To complement the implementation of its "Great Development of the Western Regions" ("Xibu dakaifa") and "Going-Out" ("Zouchuqu ") strategies, the Chinese government has actively encouraged state-owned, collective and private enterprises to open up foreign markets, particularly Central Asian and Asian-Pacific ones, for trade and investment. As such, cultivating ASEAN and SCO countries, and lately India, as economic partners is part of a deliberate strategy for China to open up new markets for itself and reduce its traditional dependence on the US, European Union and Japan. By the end of 2005, 80 per cent of all investments by Chinese enterprises went to Asia. (15) Neighbouring countries constituted more than 60 per cent of China's foreign trade and 70 per cent of its inbound investments. (16)

China's "Good Neighbour Policy" and Southeast Asia

A major purpose of pursuing a "Good Neighbour Policy" with Southeast Asian countries was not only to cultivate them as sources of raw material and investment, but also to thwart attempts by Taiwan's government to buy diplomatic support and visiting rights for its leaders through encouraging Taiwanese firms to invest in Southeast Asia. With rapidly rising trade and investment between China and ASEAN countries, this is now much less of a concern for the PRC leadership.

China's formalised interaction with ASEAN dates from July 1991, when its Foreign Minister was invited by Malaysia to the ASEAN Annual Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Kuala Lumpur. For the 1992 to 1995 AMMs, China was the guest of the ASEAN Chair. In 1996, China became a regular dialogue partner of ASEAN. In 1997, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and ASEAN leaders met to inaugurate the first ASEAN plus Three (ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea) meeting. Within the rubric of this series of meetings, a separate set of ASEAN plus China leaders' meetings would become an annual event.

China began serious discussions on joint development of the "Greater Mekong Sub-region" with the adjacent countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, particularly in the areas of water sharing, development of transportation links and interdiction of cross-border human trafficking. At the 2001 ASEAN plus China meeting, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji proposed the creation of a China-ASEAN Free Trade Area to be realised in ten years. China subsequently undertook to extend preferential tariffs on agricultural imports from the poorer ASEAN states of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar without reciprocity for five years.

In 2000, China signed its first bilateral maritime boundary agreement with Vietnam, signalling its resolve to do so with other countries with which it has maritime territorial disputes. In 2002, China signed a "Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea" with ASEAN to demonstrate its interest in settling territorial claims through peaceful means and "shelving differences and finding common grounds for cooperation" in line with its "New International Order". Consequently, three state-owned petroleum companies from China, Vietnam and the Philippines, parties to the South China Sea disputes, signed an agreement in 2005 to conduct joint tests for seismic activities in the region. (17) China's trade with the five original ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines) in 1978 amounted to only USD859 million. (18) In 2007, China-ASEAN trade amounted to USD202.6 billion, an increase of 25.9 per cent over the past year. (19) By then, ASEAN constituted the fourth largest export market for China. (20) More than 70 per cent of China's oil supplies come from tankers sailing through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, where 60 per cent of the commercial vessels are daily headed for China. (21) Hence the peace and stability of Southeast Asia to China is obvious to the Chinese leadership.

China's "Good Neighbour Policy" and Central and South Asia

A major purpose for China in becoming involved with Russia and the Central Asian states between 1990 and 1996 was not only to negotiate the settlement of boundary issues with Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but to demonstrate to them and the rest of the world that post-Cold War Chinese foreign policy would be conducted on a non-ideological and pragmatic basis. Thus, on 27 December 1991, two days after the Soviet Union's collapse, China announced its intention to extend diplomatic recognition to Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics. (22)

China, in promoting its "Good Neighbour Policy" towards Russia and Central Asia, broadly repackaged the "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence" as the "Shanghai Spirit" with mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, peaceful bargaining and respect for differences as guiding principles of intercourse among states of the Shanghai Five from 1996 to 2001 and then subsequently of the SCO. (23) China's relations with SCO countries have been considered by Beijing as the model par excellence for economic and security cooperation, particularly in reducing trade barriers, constructing energy pipelines and conducting joint anti-terrorist exercises, without political conditions attached and in upholding the principle of non-interference.

In return for allowing Pakistan and India to join as SCO observer states in 2005, both countries granted China observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in January 2006, hence enlarging China's influence in South Asia.

China's "Good Neighbour Policy" and Northeast Asia

China wishes to demonstrate its "Good Neighbour Policy" in Northeast Asia by using the ASEAN plus Three as the main conduit for closer economic relations with Japan and South Korea. Aside from providing a huge market for the exports of Japan and South Korea, a major purpose for China having good economic relations with these two countries has been its desire to revitalise aging and loss-making state-owned enterprises in its North-eastern region by attracting government funds and private capital investments from Japan and South Korea.

For security concerns in Northeast Asia, particularly involving denuclearisation of North Korea and inter-Korean relations, China will continue to insist on using the ad hoc Six-Party Talks as a forum with Russia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and the US, and participate in the "Track II" Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) involving government officials and academics from the same countries. Uniting the Six-Party Talks and the NEACD into a confidence-and-security-building mechanism, with regular meetings at ministerial level and input from experts to promote greater military transparency, as suggested by some observers, would strengthen China's direct involvement in Northeast Asian affairs.

Future Trends

The rise or development of China is a reality to be faced by surrounding countries and there is no option to dealing with it except through deeper engagement. Even at the rate of seven per cent growth in GDP for the following five years starting in 2008, by any measure, China would be the second largest economy by 2013. This affects how neighbours approach territorial disputes with China. In the communique concluding then Indian Prime Minister Atel Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China in June 2003, India for the first time recognised Tibet as a part of China. All outstanding boundary issues between Russia and China were settled during the visit of then Russian President Vladimir Putin to China in October 2004. Despite a noisy demonstration at its embassy in Hanoi in December 2007, China did not back down from setting up a county-level Sansha administrative unit on Hainan Island which would cover all the isles under dispute in the South China Sea. In future negotiations over the settlement and delineation of the East China Sea boundary, Japan may have to concede more to a more powerful China than it would like to.

Although China's diplomatic shifts reflect new identities and a more confident self-image, they replicate existing interests of consolidating its national wealth, acquiring fuel and other resources, increasing its power and spreading its external influence. As such, China's push for regional integration through confidence-building and institutionalisation is a sustained attempt to increase its influence throughout its neighbourhood and exhort other states to adopt its state-centric "New International Order" model of conducting foreign relations. China's involvement in crafting and institutionalising regional arrangements in Central Asia/Eurasia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific will be of high foreign policy priority.

"Tao guang yang hui, you suo zuo wei " as a foreign policy strategy is likely to be maintained at least until the 18th CPC Congress in late 2012, if not until the 19th CPC Congress in late 2017. If China's national strength continues to rise in comparison to that of the US, Japan and EU, one should by then not expect China to refrain from minding others' business or even deploying military forces abroad. Indeed, one might even wish for the bygone era in which China tried its utmost not to be perceived as interfering in the internal politics of other states. China's non-traditional security cooperation with surrounding countries on combating terrorism, piracy and smugglers of all types could be greatly expanded as both a function and harbinger of its rising influence outside the economic sphere. Were it not for quiet Russian opposition to what it considers to be intrusion into its traditional sphere of influence, China would have stationed troops in Kyrgyzstan in answer to its government's request to help counter terrorist actions there. (24)

China will stand firm on North Korea to dismantle its existing nuclear weapons-making facilities, to remove a pretext by the US and Japan to perfect and deploy a Theatre Missile Defence system in the Western Pacific. China has good relations with South Korea and hence is not likely to oppose a unification of the Korean peninsula on Seoul's terms, given that Koreans are a nationalistic people who could then be expected to ask American troops to leave Korea. Protests against the then "unnecessary" US military presence in Okinawa could also be expected to get more frequent and violent.

The call by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August 2007, to create a "Greater Asia" partnership of democracies by Japan, India, Australia and the US, was widely seen by the Chinese as a sign that Japan is seeking help in adopting a posture of prospective containment of China's rising influence on the Korean peninsula, Central Asia, Mongolia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. (25) The Chinese feel that such a "Four States Alliance" is very unlikely to succeed, particularly since India has always adopted a non-aligned foreign policy posture, and it is not in the interest of either Australia or the US to be seen as ganging up on China with Japan, unless their relations with China were to completely rupture. The only conceivable conflict flashpoint for the foreseeable future between the US and China is over Taiwan, but both these countries have an incentive to maintain peace in the Taiwan Straits. The status quo seems to be assured by the overwhelming victory of the Kuomintang in Taiwan's January 2008 legislative election and presidential polls two months later. Kuomintang leader and Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, has stressed the party's platform of "no unification (with China), no (declaration of) independence, no (cause for) war".

China's preferred vision of the US role in world affairs would be that of primus inter pares, in maintaining the international system with China and other major powers for the maximisation of China's continued benefit, but not forcing America's own ideological or policy preferences on it. Since China is not yet in a position to replace US hegemony, seeking to rewrite the rules by which the present international system operates may well lead to disturbances that would disrupt trade, investment and economic development upon which the popularity and legitimacy of the CPC is based. The Chinese leadership will instead look for opportunities to push for co-management of world economic, financial, security and diplomatic affairs in concert with major powers to preserve the diversity and stability of the international system and augment its own roles and influence in it. Being a co-manager of international and Asia-Pacific affairs resonates with how the Chinese see their country as a "responsible great power".

Nonetheless, the Chinese leadership is concerned that although it might take the incoming Barack Obama administration up to two years to settle the pressing issues of American troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and economic recession in the US, American policy-makers might perceive China as having grown so influential and strong-minded in international affairs that they might want to put together a strategic and economic posture of containment or "constrainment" against China among regional states. Hence Chinese leaders may feel the need, all the more, to engage surrounding countries and regional organisations in the many aspects of its "Good Neighbour Policy".

(1) Mao Zedong wenxuan (Selected Works of Mao Zedong), Renmin chubanshe (People's Publishing House, 1964), p. 1362.

(2) Zhu Tingchang, "Lun Zhongguo mulin zhengce de lilun yu shijian" (On the Theory and Practice of China's Good Neighbour Policy), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 2 (2001): 45.

(3) Mao Zedong wenxuan, p. 1089.

(4) Wang Fuchun, "Shiliuda yu 21 shijichu de Zhongguo waijiao zhanlue" (The Sixteenth Party Congress and China's Foreign Policy Strategy in the Early 21st Century), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 1 (2003): 64.

(5) Pan Guohua and Wang Yongli, "Dui lengzhanhou Zhongguo waijiao xinzhanlue de shikao" (Thoughts on China's Post-cold War New Foreign Policy Strategy), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 1 (2001): 6.

(6) Bonnie S. Glaser, "Ensuring the 'Go Abroad' Policy Serves China's Domestic Priorities", Association for Asia Research, at <> [16 Jan. 2008].

(7) Xiong Kunxin, "Cong Zhongguo chuantong wenhua de shijue kan Zhongguo yu zhoubian guojia de mulin youhao zhengce" (Looking at China's Neighbourly and Friendly Policy with Surrounding Countries from the Perspective of China's Traditional Culture), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 2 (2004): 18.

(8) Wang, p. 64.

(9) Liang Shoude, "Heping yu fazhan zhuti shidai de xinjieduan yu Zhongguo duiwai gongzuo de xinshilu" (A New Phase for the Period of Peace and Development and New Thoughts for China's External Work), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 1 (2003): 17.

(10) Shen Changyou, "Zhongguo jianli guoji xinzhixu de zhuzhang yu waijiao gongzuo" (China's Proposal on the Construction of a New International Order and Foreign Affairs Work), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 3 (1992): 64.

(11) Xing Yue and Zhan Yijia, "New Identity, New Interests and New Diplomacy", Contemporary International Relations 16, no. 12 (Dec. 2006): 29.

(12) Cao Yunhua and Xu Xibao, "Mulin waijiao zhence yu Zhongguo--Dongmeng guanxi" (Good Neighbourly Foreign Policy and China--ASEAN Relations), Waijiao guanxi (Foreign Relations), no. 6 (2004): 27.

(13) For a detailed analysis of the Chinese government's attempts to institutionalise multilateral arrangements in Asia and the Pacific, see Chung Chien-peng, "China and the Institutionalisation of Regional Multilateralism", Journal of Contemporary China 17, no. 57 (2008): 747-64.

(14) Zhang Xizheng, "Zhongguo tong Dongmeng de mulin huxin huoban guanxi" (The Good Neighbourly, Mutual Trusting and Partnership Relations between China and ASEAN), Dangdai yazhou (Contemporary Asia), no. 2 (1999): 26.

(15) "Rights Reminder as Japan Offers Aid to Mekong Nations", South China Morning Post, 17 Jan. 2008, p. 16.

(16) Wang Yi, "Yulinweishan yilinweiban" (Neighbours as Friends and Partners), Zhongguo waijiao (China's Foreign Affairs), no. 5 (2003): 9.

(17) Guo Jiping, "Haolinju, haopenyou, haohuoban: Zhongguo zhoubian waijiao de shijian yu chengguo" (Good Neighbors, Good Friends, Good Partners: The Realization and Fruits of China's Peripheral Foreign Policy), Zhongguo waijiao (China's Foreign Affairs), no. 2 (2007): 15.

(18) Zhan Shiliang, "Yatai diqu xingshi he Zhongguo mulin youhao zhengce" (Asia-Pacific Regional Circumstances and China's Good and Friendly Neighbours Policy), Guoji zhengzhi yanjiu (Studies of International Politics), no. 4 (1993): 3.

(19) People's Daily Online, "Trade between China, ASEAN hits $202.6 bln, Three Years ahead of Schedule", at <> [18 Jan. 2008].

(20) Cui Haining, "Zhongguo guojia liyi ji qizai Zhongguo-Dongmeng guanxi zhong mianlin de jiyu yu tiaozhan" (Chinese National Interests and Opportunities and Challenges Facing China-ASEAN Relations), Zhongguo waijiao (China's Foreign Affairs), no. 10 (2007): 51.

(21) Ibid.

(22) Chang Qing, "Yulinweishan Yilinweiban pingdenghuli gongtongfazhan" (Neighbours as Friends and Partners in Equal Benefits and Common Development), Zhongguo waijiao (China's Foreign Affairs), no. 5 (2003): 18.

(23) "Declaration on Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization", The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Website, at <> [25 Nov. 2007]. The Shanghai Five became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001 when Uzbekistan joined the grouping formed by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

(24) Interview with a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute of International Affairs who prefers to remain anonymous.

(25) "Confluence of the Two Seas", speech by Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan at the Parliament of the Republic of India, 22 Aug. 2007. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, at <> [16 Jan. 2008].


Dr. Chien-peng Chung ( is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. He obtained his PhD in political science at the University of Southern California. His research interests include the politics and history of China, Chinese and Asian foreign and security relations, the dynamics of political change in Asia and the domestic-international nexus of diplomatic bargaining.
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Author:Chung, Chien-peng
Publication:China: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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