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China's Foreign Policy


Submitted By Noro69
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The essay is intended to deliver an analysis about Chinese foreign policy in the upcoming years, its development and clarification of the position of the People’s Republic of China in the international relations with a focus on China’s peaceful rise. The essay covers China’s relations to the selected countries, for example the most important neighbouring countries, but nevertheless the U.S., European Union and Middle East also. It focuses also on environmental sustainability, possible economic influence in the foreign countries, controversial issues over disputed areas and possible democratization of the political system. Analytically it discusses the factors involved in shaping as the China’s foreign policy, as well as domestic policy. It deals with human rights violation and discrimination. In focus to the security issues it gives an overview of China’s military capacities and abilities, which may be considered as a threat to its peaceful rise. As a conclusion it gives an analysis of factors that contribute in China’s effort to become a regional power, in means of emerging power that is able to compete with the traditional western type powers.

Theoretical basis

The impressive economic growth of People’s Republic of China over the past few decades raises a profound question about China’s peaceful rise in the international relations. It is a beautiful example of a country which is to become a regional and eventually global power in our lifetime. China is predicted to become a player with global influence, just as United States of America had become in the beginning of 20th century. After many history lessons we have learned about or witnessed in the recent years about the emerging powers and eventually superpowers, the question of China’s peaceful development and expansion is inevitable and in-place, especially in a world and society where the war and the other aggressive and military solutions are not acceptable.
According to the renowned American analyst in political sciences John Mearsheimer, it is inevitable that emerging power will meet its adversaries sooner or later. The meeting according to him will not be peaceful just because of what the mankind has witnessed during the history, in accordance to the likelihood of war affair each time there is a rising great power. In another words, Mearsheimer’s theory of international politics says that the mightiest states attempt to establish hegemony in their region of the world, while making sure that no rival great power dominates another region (Mearsheimer, 2001).
This theory based on a very realistic view of international relations presumes that international relations and its system has three defining characteristics. The whole system is anarchy, states are independent and sovereign and there is no other higher authority above them. The states have military capabilities and no state knows the intentions of the other one (Mearsheimer, 2001). Under these conditions with malign intentions of states, it is a no surprise that China’s development is questionable and therefore all of the doubts of the actors are valid and legitimate.
The criticism of this theory lies in a rather pragmatic view. According to many experts in the field of international studies, China’s rise will be peaceful just because of a simple reason, which would be the economic and social reasons.
Even the Chinese government very vehemently claims that China’s intentions are purely peaceful and non-proliferation-oriented and based on good practice of economic and trade relations. As it was submitted in the China's new 12th five-year plan in April 2011 to the National People's Congress, the government’s agenda embodies reasonable development of the country; it deals with problems of fast progress, demographic challenges as an aging society and rapid urbanization, education and human resources, science, technology and innovation and nevertheless development of win-win foreign relations with either neighbouring countries or the major powers in the world. The economic goals are to fight against protectionism under a catchy slogan: “go global” and “bring in” The government is also very concerned about the climate changes and sustainable growth of China as we know it nowadays (Key targets of China's..., 2011). These ambitious plans and development goals are very often considered only as an agenda and rhetoric against the reality which is more realistic in way of China’s opportunities.
Chinese analysts say that China has only possibility how to become a regional and eventually a global power. The aim is to challenge the other powers by soft power and economic supremacy, with sustainable technological research and development. One of the great events of the past three decades has been the rapid rise of China. China’s quick ascent into the ranks of great powers not only outstripped the expectations of the international community but has also far surpassed the Chinese government’s own expectations (Angang, 2011). China will be until the year 2020 still a high-speed growing economy, which also brings lots of potential problems. Surpassing the economic growth of developed countries in terms of GDP might not be the aim for the upcoming years, mainly because since the beginning of 21st century, China is a world leader in this field, even if not in the percentage of per capita or PPP charts. The other GDP factors will be according to the estimates easily surpassed around year 2050 China should definitely not be a superpower that seeks hegemony and world domination in terms of military power. With its attributes and perspective to the future, it has a chance to become a new type of superpower (Angang, 2011).
On the other hand the opposite opinion of military hegemony has its point as well. In order to maintain its power, China is likely to try to dominate Asian continent, just as USA dominates the American continent. This scenario could constitute huge amount of tension especially in a area as the Asian continent is. In that case the main rivals to China would be Russia and Japan. Other Asian and East Asian nations could rally around USA, which is still somehow considered as a flagpole of security in the world, because of a simple reason, which would be an emerging power in their fields of interest (Mearsheimer, 2001). China would never accept American or other military power at their backyard. Just as the USA is comfortable with military weak neighbours as Canada or Mexico, China would aim for the same in Asia. With its increasing power it will seek to dominate the South China Sea and might take over Taiwan once again. The policy of the USA is therefore very likely to be just as the same as it was towards Soviet Union during the Cold War era, containing China in its very own sphere and supporting China’s neighbours to be able to resist against its expansion (Mearsheimer, 2001).
The reality of the Chinese foreign policy might be elsewhere as it is indicated in the official agenda proposed and proliferated by the Chinese government. There are visible aggressive attitudes especially towards the main competitors as Japan and other economically strong South and East China Sea countries as Singapore or South Korea. The intensive acquisition of foreign companies, mainly in Europe and USA combined with the financial expansion gives the Chinese people more self-confidence and nation-pride, which brings less admiration and more hostility towards the Western nations. The eye of the rest of the world lies greatly in China’s military expenditures which are increasing each and every year.

Relations with selected countries


The development of the Sino-American relations after the Cold War regarding to China’s ambitions of rise to the level of a power able competing with the USA, can be divided into four periods: First period was marked with the awareness of the strategic balance and the potential of China in connection with American interests in the wider region and the beginnings of defining the new U.S. strategy towards China. Second, especially during President Clinton was marked by efforts to build a "strategic partnership". Third, during President Bush's administration, China was perceived as a "strategic competitor". The fourth period is very briefly characterized as the current relations during president Obama (Ondrejcsak, 2009).
The emergence of the global crisis and U.S. fiscal and public debt during President Obama‘s administration brought the two countries rivaling on a global level to more closer ties in terms of economic trade, because both countries are crucial trade partners, making them even dependant on each other. Although Chinese economy is not that badly affected by the global economic crisis, keeping its GDP growth still in positive numbers, on the other hand USA is struggling with poor performance of economy and a huge debt.
The political ties and relations between USA and China become therefore tenser in the recent years. USA sees China as a rival against its global hegemony. American administration and politicians constantly criticize China of keeping the values of its currency under the real denomination, aiming mainly at the U.S. dollar to make Chinese exports artificially cheap. At the same time China has huge foreign currency reserves, which are used to promote Chinese economic power by buying up European sovereign debt, making the European Union dependent on China, not to mention that China already owns a large amount of the American dept as well. American doubts are also on growing Chinese military force with constant improving their arsenal and investments in high-tech weapons and devices (China: The New..., 2011).
The future development of U.S. thinking towards China and East Asia in general is to depend on several factors. As seen during the historical events, it generally depends on the approach of the U.S. administration and its adaptability in relation to the growing Chinese influence and strategic approach. The American approach is likely to consider the most efficient and effective options in terms of maintaining American primacy and strategic positions. In case that the prevailing U.S. opinion that the growth of Chinese influence can be effectively controlled through dialogue and the gradual emergence of China into the existing international system, the U.S. policy is probably to promote a building of a strategic partnership. In case that the opposite trend will emerge and the growth of Chinese influence will be perceived as a threat to the United States, there is a high likelihood that the U.S. response will be to increase its capabilities in the South East Asian region. U.S. is then to strengthen its existing alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia and to establish new strategic partnerships that could balance the Chinese influence, for example with India, or Vietnam (Ondrejcsak, 2009).
All of these factors are making USA to feel threatened, which can result in a possible more ostensible sharp rhetorics or relations. At the same time USA is largely dependant on China, which makes it difficult for USA to assume a definite attitude towards China.


India and China are the two most populated countries in the world, making their population together more than 2.5 billion, which stands for more than one third of the whole Earth’s population. A huge economic potential of these two countries is emerging in the recent years very visibly. Both countries are the members of the World Trade Organization and India is an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which propels the economic rise of the both, commonly known as the members of the BRICS, a term for new emerging major power in the world. Although the mutual relations may have been spoiled in the past, mainly by the Sino-Indian war in 1962, or other minor conflicts, the relations are nowadays on good terms, but still not thriving. There are still unresolved borders disputes over the Aksai-Chin territories, Jammu and Kashmir area and South Tibetan borders, which cast shadow on mutual relations.
The two populous countries see each other as rivals; both have aspirations to become a global power. Despite this fact their bilateral trade is on icrease. In year 1990 the mutual trade was only $270 millions of USD, whereas it is expected to exceed $60 billion USD in year 2011. They are also co-operating in other areas, for example co-ordinating their bids for the African oil supplies that both very rely on. There is still much deeper opportunity for their economic cooperation, given their contrasting economic strengths, where China is strong in manufacturing, and industry, India’s in services. On important international issues, climate-change policy and world trade are their cooperation already on a high level (A Himalayan rivalry, 2010). The Sino-Indian relations are surprisingly overshadowed by their past conflicts and quarrels, which makes one or another suspicious towards each other. Otherwise their mutual cooperation would be a great opportunity for a larger collaboration which would create a serious threat to established powers.


The relations between China and Taiwan are amongst the international relationists often referred as cross-Strait relations, based on the Taiwan Strait in the Pacific Ocean, which divides the two countries. The development of the mutual non-friendly relations was lied down in the year 1949 when the communist revolution after the civil war prevailed in the mainland China, also known as People’s Republic of China (PRC), forced the representatives of the government of the Republic of China, the Kuomintang party led by Chiang Kai-Shek to flee the country to Taiwan island. Although the two countries are still in mutual denial, there were several attempts to improve the relations between each other, however not on a governmental level. The outcome of the improving USA – China relations in the 1970’s resulted in the acceptance of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations in 1971, which meant immediate withdrawal of the Taiwan’s membership with the UN. The conditions of living were not optimal for the Taiwanese people, the Kuomintang party governed the country from 1949 to 2000 often with aggressive ways under marshal law. The martial law was lifted in 1987, which was managed together with the democratization of the country and emergence of a new political power, the Democratic Progressive Party which was founded in 1986 to counter the KMT, and only became legal in 1989 after a longtime ban on opposition parties was dropped. The DPP envisions Taiwan as an independent nation, separate from China. Taiwanese sovereignty is the first and most prominent issue on the party's platform (Roberge, Lee, 2009). Nevertheless, Taiwan is seen as a renegade part of the Mainland China, often described under the „One-China“ principle, which insists that both Taiwan and mainland China are integral parts of only a one Chinese state. The implications resulting from the „One-China“ principle mean in reality that every actor in the system of the International Relations must develop official diplomatic relations with only of the countries, either ROC or PRC. Therefore arouse the implication for the Taiwanese state, which are mainly negative in terms of the number of official diplomatic relations and mean difficulties for Taiwan, that is recognized as a country by only a small number of souvereign states, such as Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama. The other means of relations with states are through unofficial, mainly cultural, economic and trade consulates and offices, which function as a de facto representatives to Taiwan (Vang, 2008). The ties between People’s Republic of China and Taiwan are mainly based on economic relation which have been continuously rising since the diplomatic problems between the two countries. People’s Republic of China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2001, Taiwan has followed her the same year under the name “ Chinese Taipei “. Ever since the bilateral trade has been blossoming, reaching more than 100 billion USD in 2007, up from 8 billion USD in 1991. China is Taiwan’s largest trading business partner, with 30% of Taiwan’s exports sold to China. Taiwanese businesses have invested an estimated $150 billion in the mainland since 1988. In 2009, Taiwan opened up one hundred of its industries to mainland investments. China and Taiwan have also agreed to allow banks, insurers, and other financial service providers to invest and work in both markets. Negotiations between the two for an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement that will ease trade restrictions even further are scheduled for late 2009. In year 2009 was also increased the number of direct flights between China and Taiwan to 270 per week from previous 108. Daily quotas of visitors China was increased to three thousand, which is ten-times higher than before (Roberge, Lee, 2009). The further success of failure of the Taiwanese regime depends on the good relations with China, that are tied mainly in economic and trade areas, vital both to China and Taiwan.


To increase the positions of force entities and their control in Tibet are one of the most important points of national policy for China. To summarize the most important determinants of the strategic position of the Tibetan region also known as “the Roof of the World”, it is not possible to omit the size of the historical region, which is a considerable part of current Chinese territory and also national pride of the Chinese which leads to tensions and aggressive behaviour towards Tibetan ethnics.
More pragmatic reasons of Chinese behaviours start with the valuable resources. In Tibet there are localized rich mineral resources, especially on the Tibetan plateau there are significant deposits of iron, lithium, chromium, borax, uranium. Also large deposits of oil, natural gas and gold, silver, copper and zinc are also localized in this area. Chinese industry almost on its every level of production heavily depends on the consumption of vast amounts of raw materials and energy. From this perspective to the future of Tibet, it will always have fundamental importance to China's as a source of raw materials. China has also implemented an uncontrolled logging, which is related to the widespread deforestation and soil erosion on the Tibetan plateau. Reckless mining of materials causing environmental degradation and disruption of the delicate ecological balance in the Tibetan region poses a threat to its specific flora and fauna. The hydro-power potential of Tibetan areas is not to be overlooked as well. In the Tibetan plateau rise the ten largest rivers which flow downstream to feed the most populous region on earth: China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand whose population is all-together about 47% of the world's population. Control over the majority of Asian water resources is China's future strategic importance factor. (Executive summary Tibet…, 2000)
Tibet's geopolitical position in Asia and the militarization of the Tibetan plateau is an increasing problem in recent years. Militarization of the area began in 1951, after the arrival of People's Liberation Army into Tibetan territory. In the past Tibet created a natural buffer state between the two Asian powers: China and India. Today its strategic location within China is increasing its importance – in regard to the countries with which are bordering the People’s Republic of China. Since its geopolitical importance Tibet has become a site for the deployment and expansion of military arsenal of China. Every year is the region widely used for the military purposes, at the same time Tibet is used for China’s expanding network of military and air bases. Nowadays is the Tibetan plateau not only a location of the air and missile bases, but there are also research and development workplaces for the Chinese nuclear program (Executive summary Tibet…, 2000).
Speaking in a theoretical level, Tibet's independence would create a dangerous precedent for the other minority ethnic groups, which would seriously threaten the integrity of the Chinese state. Although Tibetans meet the criteria for an independent nation, China ignores this fact and their demands for Tibetan territory. The justification comes from the claim that Tibet has always been considered as an organic part of the Chinese state. Therefore the threat of diminishing of the Tibetan population still remains substantial.

Modernization of the Chinese military forces

The political and economic rise of the People’s Republic of China has a huge impact on the country’s military capacities. In order to become a global power it is necessary to maintain an army with a modern technological background. China can therefore act as an economic leader in Asia, but also as a key player in the Asian region’s security and peace keeping issues. However, the continual expansion and modernization of Chinese military forces brings also lot of uncertainty and doubts about its intensions.
The Chinese military forces - People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the world's largest military. The PLA consists of over two million men and is complemented by the world's third largest air force, consisting of 5,300 aircraft, and the world's largest small ship navy. The major problems of the army are associated with obsolete equipment, poor training and the transition to new doctrine (China's Military Transformation, 2010).
The considerable growth in China’s GDP is allowing China to allocate greater resources on building, equipping, and training the PLA. The PLA's official budget has increased from $27.9 billion USD in 2000, through $78 billion USD in 2010 (China's Military Transformation, 2010), to $91, 5 billion USD, which makes it the second highest in the world. Although according to some experts the real expenditures are far higher, possibly two times higher than the official government’s numbers (Blanchard, 2011).
The range of military modernization is based on acquisition of advanced weapons technology, continued high rates of investment in domestic defense and development of high-technology industries. Apart from improvements in nuclear and far-range missiles industry, China is very active in the space program, with increasing numbers of orbital satellites, electronic intelligence gathering, missile early warning, navigation and weather systems. There are also plans for counter stealth radar, signal intelligence sites and tactical reconnaissance vehicles (Hynes, 1998). It is becoming more and more visible in the recent years that the Chinese armed forces are obviously developing in an offensive way. This evolution is a natural occurrence in terms of a new emerging power, but it also extends lot of possible doubts and tensions between countries, especially during the time of crisis, when the leaders are sensitive towards aggressive behaviour. Chinese intensions therefore still remain as a mystery questioning China’s peaceful and stable rise.

Interests in foreign countries and monetary policy of China

To achieve the maintenance of dynamic economic growth of China, its leaders know that domestic resources are insufficient in order to succeed and must therefore seek other sources abroad. Their long-term foreign policy is focused on countries rich in mineral resources, as it very visible in the interest in the countries with rich oil resources, recently for example in newly created South Sudan. Chinese companies have obtained access to these markets thanks to the measures of the Chinese government. It is providing soft loans, aid and state-sponsored investment to the countries whose mineral wealth they need. After the outbreak of the crisis even more Chinese companies expanded their interests in different parts of the world (Lum, 2009).
As the Chinese enterprises provide more and more contracts for large projects, especially constructions, transport infrastructure, automotive, industrial equipment, energy and telecommunications, the demand for the raw material is growing too. Chinese increasing demand for raw materials and mineral resources may lead in the future to the lack of precious metals. In connection with obtaining public contracts for the Chinese state-owned enterprises around the world, there are more and more cases when Chinese officials provided dumped tenders and even aggressive methods of funding (Position paper: Chinese…, 2010).
The external pressures from the international community, mainly from the USA, are directed towards the Yuan appreciation. China is an important creditor of the U.S. debt and the accusations of undervalued currency has been long-term problem now, as the main benefitors from this fact are Chinese exporters, making the Chinese goods artificially cheap. A new term related to the undervaluing of the currency has been coined -currency war - due to the efforts of several countries devalue their currencies to achieve advantages in foreign trade. Some experts consider the Chinese currency undervalued at least by 10%, but American politicians and economists say it could be even up to 40% (Lum, 2009).
However the rapid appreciation of the Chinese currency is though not a wanted measure, because it would mean a failure for many export companies, also increase of the unemployment of the Chinese people, which could lead to a slow-down of the global economy with disastrous effects.
Chinese investments in abroad are getting more and more extended in the recent years. Within years 2005 and 2010, China has invested the most in Australia, counting in 34 billion U.S. dollars; the second largest investments went to the USA with more than 28 billion USD. Generally the overseas investments were amongst the highest ones, in the Western hemisphere altogether almost 90 billion USD, then Western Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (China’s Investment Overseas..., 2011). The investments in Europe are not that considerable, but China has increasing its influence in the European Union. During the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, China is buying Eurozone bonds to facilitate the trade between each other, thus helping in Europe's economic recovery (Phillips, 2011). On one hand, further purchase of public debt makes Eurozone countries more dependants on China and it is often described as a buying of political influence in the EU, but on the other hand, troubled countries are eager to attract Chinese investment, in order to increase their employments and economic pace.


China is at its best starting point to become a regional power, due to its strategic location in the East Asian region and especially because its large population. Military and economic advantages are obvious and the trend shows that they are going to be further developed. From a geopolitical point of view China means the greatest threat to the world hegemony of the USA, but with its responsible and soft-power oriented approach it is not likely to engage in a war situation with any of the major powers. Soft power is very likely to grant China the sources and influence in order of its hegemonic aspirations.
To understand the broader context in which it develops its foreign policy it is a key issue to understand the internal political situation of China. In recent years, there is a clear trend of democratization of Chinese socialistic politics, in spite of a great ignorance of human rights of the Chinese citizens, the censure and other measures that keep the public opinion against the regime as low as possible. The militarization of China in recent years, with its increasing expenditures is an issue which makes it impossible to clearly see the intentions of China and grows the international suspense as well.
On the other hand, the leaders of People’s Republic of China clearly see the opportunity, but also growing problems of society, environment and sustainability, which are not easily managed. The increasing ecological problems and the growing population’s social problems are not to be underestimated in order to become a successful in a global world. The possible conflict either military, political or economy-oriented might rise from the unstable market with the crude oil and gas, Chinese expansion to other countries economies and possible fear of excessive militarization of China. The latter is however not likely; the benefits of high-tech weapons are now limited to intimidation, but may serve well-enough for this purpose..
Stronger economic ties with China could, mainly in this increasingly energy-demanding era and a period of economic crisis bring not only more effective diversification of energy sources and financial stability, but such political responsibility of individual actors, which would not allow the emergence of sharper conflicts.
Nevertheless, People’s Republic of China is one of the key players in the international system, not be overlooked and also underestimated at any occasion. China’s growing power and influence as a potential global power in the recent years is demonstrated by a huge economic power, military investments and improvements of everyday lives of the Chinese population. A great success on a cultural and diplomatic level was very well shown on the Summer Olympics in Beijing in year 2008. It was a major opportunity to show-off before the rest of the world, not to mention the long-term economic benefits rising from the tourist influx and government’s effort to make improvements in the quality of air to some extent in Beijing. All of these factors play a serious role in building a nation pride in China that can propel the so called “Chinese dragon” further towards the successful achievements of the Chinese goals in the upcoming years, in order to become a global power.

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Vdid Wolsey and Henry Have an Effective Foreign Policy During the Years 1515 – 1525?

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Do You Agree with the View That Henry Viii Foreign Policy Should Be Seen as a Costly Failure?

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How Far Did Mussolini Achieve His Aims in Foreign Policy?

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