Surrounding Environment Changes: Challenges to China’s Rise

China International Studies | 作者: Gao Cheng | 时间: 2013-12-27 | 责编: Li Xiaoyu
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by Gao Cheng[1]



Salient changes have taken place in China’s relations with some of its surrounding countries, especially in East Asia, since 2009. China’s rise has led to the shifting of the world power center as well as principal contradictions among major powers from Europe to East Asia. The outbreak of the Huangyan Island and Diaoyu Islands incidents have gradually turned the traditional security factors in China’s surrounding environment into a focus of world attention. China’s surrounding environment, to be sure, has not entered a full-scale deadlock, with the contradiction mainly concentrating in the East Asian region within the sphere of U.S. influence. This article attempts to explore the underlying causes behind the various signs of difficulties confronted by China in its surrounding areas and further to look for tactics as a way of mitigation.


I. China’s “Predicament in Rising”


Since 2009, China’s surrounding environment became more and more complex and the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands marked that China’s surrounding environment entered a special period of transition. Various forces started to tussle with each other in China’s surrounding areas in response to China’s rise and hence China walked into a period of “predicament in rising”. The major signs are as follows:

First, the United States reinforced its Asia-Pacific military alliance system and some countries in China’s surrounding areas strengthened the tendency of entering into alliance. Constrained by its domestic system, interest groups and financial pressures, the United States experiencing relative decline in its strength attempted to contain and check China’s rise by using its “smart power” and the power of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States not only strengthened relations with those countries through bilateral means but also pushed its allies and quasi-allies in Asia-Pacific to deepen military ties. As a result, China has to confront in a long period of time a U.S.-led military alliance system in its surrounding areas, which is different from the traditional alliance relationship. This is an asymmetric system that subordinates to the United States in security and ideology and its members lack the ability to flexibly adjust the alliance relationship in light of their own interests. Besides, different from the aim of seeking regional balance of power pursued by the traditional alliances, the check and balance against China pursued by the U.S.-led alliance system may lead to further tilting of the balance of regional power toward the United States, causing greater imbalance in the Asia-Pacific regional power structure.

Second, the probability of political confrontation in China’s surrounding environment increases as some surrounding countries seek to alter the status quo with the help of external forces. The dispute over maritime delimitation between China and some of its neighboring countries has become a focus of regional security under the impact of U.S. force’s return to Asia. Some neighboring countries made provocations over islands and related territorial seas where disputes over them have been shelved for many years and attempted to elevate factual control over the disputed islands and sea areas into de jure control. As the matter directly concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial security, China is forced to face a surrounding environment that swings back to the realm of traditional security and becomes a sensitive issue charged with political confrontation. Though China has temporarily won the upper hand to a certain degree over the issues of the Huangyan Island and the Diaoyu Islands thanks to its proper handling of the matters, the situation of “shelving disputes” between China and the claimants has been broken and contradictions between them have escalated, which would result in an inevitable state of long-term confrontation and deadlock. At present, most of China’s neighbors attempting to change the status quo are military allies of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. To keep its credibility and prestige in the alliance system, it is not likely that the United States would stand by with folded arms over the possible conflicts, which means the risk of major powers involving in a confrontational relationship is rising.

Third, the strategic effect of China’s effort to “promote political relations through economic means” in the surrounding areas has been declining. In the past decade, economy has been the main field where China has been extending its influence in the surrounding areas and the principal chip for playing the game. China has made continuous input in the public economic field in East Asia since the Asian financial crisis in 1997. The chief way of executing the strategy of “promoting political relations through economic means” by China is to use its economic strength and ever closer economic ties with the neighboring countries to vigorously promote and construct East Asian regional economic cooperation mechanisms, provide open market for the latter and offset the impact of external exchange rates fluctuation in time of economic crisis or depression, and increase economic assistance to the surrounding countries. Such a strategy achieved good results for a time and obviously improved China’s political relations with its neighboring countries. In 2009, China replaced the United States to become the largest trading partner or export market of the major Asian economies like Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. In recent years, however, contrasting sharply to the ever closer economic ties between China and its surrounding countries, the effect of gaining a good surrounding political environment through economic means is getting less and less desirable with a high imbalance between the economic input and the political returns.

Fourth, the East Asian regional cooperation that China initiates and vigorously promotes is facing challenge. In spite of the fact that sub-regional and lower-level cooperation has made some progress in recent years, the process of East Asian regional cooperation that China has been pushing has met with obstacles, the East Asian economic cooperation mechanisms that China constructed with many years’ hard efforts have gradually become a mere formality, and it is more difficult for China to dissolve the hostilities or suspicions of the surrounding countries toward China through mutually beneficial win-win cooperation. Scholars, whether in the field of economy or security, began to hold pessimistic views toward the prospect of East Asian cooperation initiated by China. The situation of the “troika” existing side by side in Asian economic cooperation has emerged: the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which constitutes an organic part of its “return to Asia” strategy is advancing irresistibly; given the long-term dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, China-Japan-ROK cooperation could hardly achieve the expected results; and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) launched by ASEAN would only grow in difficulty amid competition between major powers. The dilemma of co-habitation of the TPP without China and RECP without the United States makes the prospect of Asian economic cooperation highly uncertain.

Fifth, major power relations in the Asia-Pacific region have entered a state of instability and need repositioning. Both China and Japan lack much room for compromise in the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands as it involves dual contention of sovereignty and regional dominance and hence it is inevitable that the dispute will last for a long time. Before the settlement of the dispute and mutual acceptance of each other’s position in the region, China-Japan relations shall enter the state of rivaling instability, difficult to reproduce the situation of being “cold politically but warm economically” that existed ten years ago. The focal contradiction in repositioning of the relations between the United States as the hegemonic power and China as a newly rising state in the East Asian region as well as on the global level also finds its manifestation in China’s surrounding areas. Before the United States gives up the thinking habit of old-style major-power competition and accepts China as a rising force outside the system and cooperates with it, China-U.S. relations will always be in the shadow of the traditional framework of “power shift” between the rising and hegemonic powers, constituting an instable factor to Asia-Pacific regional security.


II. Causes for the Predicament


Both Chinese and American scholars have analyzed and interpreted the changes in the relations between China, the United States and China’s surrounding countries from the perspective of “mutual strategic suspicion”, but the inevitability of the changes and their structural causes should not be ignored. The changes in the overall environment in China’s surrounding areas originate from the structural contradictions in the region, the chief one being the fast change in the balance of power between China, the United States and China’s surrounding countries, but not lack of mutual trust and misjudgment of the other’s strategic intention. The challenges China meets with in its surrounding environment, especially the provocations it encounters on the maritime issue, are not an array of accidental matters but the inevitable result of the narrowing of the gap of relative strength between China and the United States, the reversion of strength between China and Japan, and the widening of the gap of relative strength between China and its lesser neighbors. The passive situation China faces now in regional contention is the logical product of interactions between China, the United States and China’s neighboring countries.


1. The United States and some of its allies choose preventive strategy to respond to China’s rise.

The model of preventive strategy is often applied to analyze the motive and action logic of the declining side for its strategic choice at the time of change in the balance of strength of the parties concerned. Positive study shows that a state in the period of recognizing the relative decline of its strength has a stronger preference of resolving issues of territorial disputes. The reason is that the state concerned is pessimistic and worrisome about whether it can formulate a plan of solution favorable to itself and hence it is eager to use preventive strategy before the opposite side gains overwhelming superiority so as to avoid to the greatest possible extent possible losses in the future. Reversely, a state with fast economic growth and increasing relative strength obtains higher “bargaining ability” at the negotiation table and hence it is less anxious to settle territorial disputes through military means. Analysis on the reasons for a hegemonic state to adopt preventive strategy against its rival shows that when a dominant power thinks its economic strength and potential power is on irreversible decline, it is more likely that preventive strategy will be adopted against the rising power.

It is unlikely that severe conflict would break out between China and the United States under the present circumstances, yet the model of preventive strategy could still be applied to explain to some extent the United States’ conduct of shifting its strategic focus eastward in recent years and its “soft containment” against China in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s swift rise and the United States’ relative decline are regarded as irreversible trends in the post-financial crisis era. Shifting its strategic focus eastward by the United States and its actions of check-and-balance against China testify to the preventive strategy adopted by the declining hegemonic power against the rising power.

At the same time, China, as a result of fast economic development, has superseded Japan as the largest economy in East Asia and a core state in the region, with ever widening gap in strength between itself and its surrounding countries. Enjoying greater “bargaining power” in the future in negotiations on territorial disputes, China tends more and more to settle such disputes through negotiations. In the meanwhile, however, China’s surrounding countries, all expecting continued increase of China’s power, fear China would possess stronger negotiating and bargaining power in future regional affairs. Countries having territorial disputes with China are especially anxious about China’s rise. They believe that as China enjoys both time and advantage, the longer the time of “shelving” the disputes or maintaining the status quo, the more beneficial to China. To avoid the formulation of settlement methods and rules favorable to China in the future, they prefer the tactic of turning their actual control of the disputed territorial seas and islands into legal control. Moreover, the return to Asia strategy of the United States and its actions of balancing China further encouraged these countries especially U.S. allies to boldly implement preventive strategy aimed at changing the status quo in maritime disputes.


2. Surrounding countries mistakenly understand China’s strategic bottom line.

In addition to U.S. involvement, the misperception of China’s strategic bottom line by some of China’s surrounding countries reinforced their resolve to risk taking the preventive strategy against China. Review of the cases of tactical interaction between China and its neighbors shows when China persists in long-term moderate and restraint external policies toward its neighbors which enabled the latter to form a firm expectation that China would not resort to force for the sake of maintaining stability, these countries would harbor the opportunistic motive of obtaining super benefits through nibbling upon China’s territory. In the course of the formation of such motives, China would encounter more and more harassments in its surrounding areas, resulting eventually in the abandonment of its policy of mollification and tough retaliation against constant provocations launched by the relevant surrounding countries.

This review on tactical interactions could explain to certain extent the reason of some of China’s neighboring countries seeking to change the status quo. The provocations, whether in the Huangyan Island incident or the Diaoyu Islands dispute, are all made on the basis of misjudgment of China’s possible reaction. And such misjudgment derives from China’s highly mild and restraint diplomatic practices in the past decade and more. The mollifying diplomatic practices once created a sound international environment for China’s development but at the same time made some countries believe that China would tolerate and compromise again and again in exchange for stability and a harmonious external environment needed for its development and gave them the impression that China would not take effective actions to safeguard its rights and interests when they are undermined.

Failure by China to give substantial counter-blows to some of China’s neighbors making constant petty acts in South China Sea to test China’s bottom line strengthened these countries’ misjudgment that China was reluctant to resort to military forces to resolve the disputes. Such subjective impressions and misjudgments led to the opportunistic actions of these neighbors of China. In particular, during the special period of leadership transition in China, both the Philippines and Japan came to the judgment that the decision-makers of China would be more cautious and conservative and focus on seeking stability, which led them to exploit the opportunity and seek to change the status quo.

 In the meantime, the factor of political elections in these countries and their judgment of the United States intending to foster its military allies in Asia-Pacific in view of the U.S.’ high-profile return to Asia further incited countries concerned to take opportunistic actions on the Haungyan Island and Diaoyu Islands issues.


3. Interactions between China, the United States and China’s neighbors reduced the effect of China’s strategy of “promoting political relations through economic means”.

Not only the Asia-Pacific region has become America’s main strategic thrust for the first time but also the eastward shifting of U.S. strategic focus has been unprecedentedly comprehensive and continuous, unfolding in an all-round way in the political, diplomatic, security and economic fields. The United States’ Asia-Pacific strategy has in certain degree altered the relations of tactical interaction between China, the United States and China’s surrounding countries. Its influence on China’s strategy of “promoting political relations through economic means” is executed through the following ways:

First, the United States, which pursues the engagement and containment policy toward China in the Asia-Pacific region, tries to check and balance China with the help of its allies. In the meanwhile, China’s neighboring countries do not collaborate with America’s Asia-Pacific strategy in a passive way; some of them, taking advantage of the mutually constraining relationship between China and the United States, adopted the “hedging” tactic to gain both ways from the security protection provided by the United States and the dividends created by China’s economic growth.

Second, along with the series of strategic deployment for “return to Asia” by the United States, the international community and East Asian countries predict more possibility of contention for regional dominance between China and the United States and harbor rising worries over conflicts between them in the course of power transition. The change in the balance of power between China and the United States and the gradual shift of America’s China strategy from engagement to containment increased security risks in East Asia. Under the influence of U.S. power, the Korean Peninsula issue and territorial disputes between China and its neighboring countries in East China Sea and South China Sea are also regarded as hidden security troubles in the region. These factors lead to constantly increasing demand by East Asian nations for public security goods. As the reliance relationship in the security field is much stronger and closer in nature and degree than interdependence in the economic field, the deepening of security reliance of China’s neighboring countries on the United States would inevitably reduce the effect of China’s strategy of “promoting political relations through economic means”.

Third, the measures planned by China’s neighboring countries to cope with China’s strategy of “promoting political relations through economic means” inhibit the strategy to play its role. There are usually two ways to exert influence or pressure through traditional economic means: one is offering benefits and the other is exploiting the relations of economic dependence. At the time of disputes in the traditional security field such as territorial ones, offering economic benefits can hardly improve political relations or change the antagonistic situation between China and its neighboring countries. Take the Philippines and Viet Nam for example. Both of them gained a lot of economic dividends from China yet such dividends could in no way mitigate their political and security contradictions with China. In the meantime, some of China’s neighboring countries began to purposely lower the possibility of China exerting pressures on them through asymmetric economic dependence relations. They have been striving to enter into FTAs with other regional economies in an attempt to lower their dependence on the China market through trade transfer and reduce the room for China to gain political benefits through economic pressures. It is with similar motives that some of China’s surrounding countries have been active in joining in negotiations for the U.S.-led TPP.


4. Regional cooperation mechanisms are no longer functional but become instrumental due to muscled competition between major powers in East Asia.

The pattern of regional powers determines that the reality of East Asian cooperation needs the guidance of major powers from behind the scene. To reduce external risks caused by the fragile East Asian economic system, formulate policy coordination between various countries and set up relevant institutions, there must be a country or an institution that is able and willing to provide public goods for the establishment and maintenance of an open regional economic system. Two compatible leading powers existed in East Asia before 2009. The United States, as an outside power, enhanced the capability of public goods provision of the region through ways that are compatible and complementary with intra-regional provision. The United States is both willing and capable of providing lower-level security public goods for East Asia and has an edge in the capacity of provision. China is willing to provide fairly high level public goods in the economic field for East Asia and its capacity to do so is constantly rising. The form is the United States provides regular security protection and crisis management for East Asia through alliance system and relationship coordination while China improves returns from trade and other fields for East Asian economies through promoting multilateral economic cooperation. In the absence of a single core power that is able to provide public goods for the region, China and the United States, with their compatible and complementary ability and willingness, serve to satisfy by and large East Asia’s needs for public goods in the economic and security areas.

Since 2009, there has been a worsening of interactive relations between China and the United States. While demand for public goods is rising, the compatibility and complementariness between the two in regional cooperation have been diminishing. Competition for dominant role gives rise to mutual restriction between various cooperation mechanisms and rules in China’s surrounding areas and the obvious decline in the functionality and efficiency of cooperation. America’s China policy which shifts gradually from engagement to containment and the higher mutual repulsion between China and the United States in handling regional affairs are root causes for the predicament encountered by regional cooperation. As a consequence, the contention relationship in Asia-Pacific presents the following scene: By conniving at and encouraging China’s neighboring countries to deepen contradictions with China, the United States has succeeded in making these countries more demanding for and dependent on the U.S.-led military alliance system and economic cooperation mechanisms in Asia-Pacific; Some East Asian countries, taking advantage of the security protection provided by the United States, seek for higher prices in regional economic cooperation with China; At the same time, these countries attempt to gain more benefits from America’s return to Asia strategy by exerting pressures on the United States through demonstrating the intention for and conducting negotiations with China for economic cooperation.

In the competition between China, the United States and China’s surrounding countries, regional institutional arrangement and co-operation topics have gradually evolved into strategic tools for the major powers to compete for more power and the smaller countries to fish for more benefits, losing the initial intent and efficacy of resolving common issues through cooperation. One of America’s main political aims in vigorously promoting the TPP is to disintegrate the East Asian 10+X cooperation framework established by China and ASEAN with many years of hard work and disrupt the current China-centered mechanisms and rules for cooperation provision in East Asian regional economy by controlling the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation agenda. Whether or not the TPP will be signed in the end, it is clearly corrosive to East Asian cooperation promoted by China. Against the backdrop of power contention and protracted dispute over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan, negotiations for China-Japan-ROK cooperation, which has become an economic means for reducing political confrontation as well as a chip for Japan to bring pressure on the United States in the TPP negotiations, can hardly be expected to make substantial progress. Amid major power contention, ASEAN countries also try to jointly promote RCEP and strive to recover the driver’s seat in East Asian cooperation. When all parties attempt to set up cooperation mechanisms and frameworks under its own dominance, competition between different mechanisms and frameworks would surely occur and various parties would even undercut each other.


Strategic Perspective and Tactical Response to Surrounding Challenges


On the basis of assessing trends of changes in surrounding envi-ronment and comprehending the underlying causes effecting the changes, China needs to reposition its relations with extra-regional powers and the neighboring countries from a strategic perspective and reduce at the tactical level the resistance to its rise caused by changes in surrounding environment.

First, China should squarely face and deal with differences and contradictions between the United States and China’s neighboring countries and set breaking the predicament in its rise as a major target of its surrounding strategy. Due to the fact that the main cause behind the changes in China’s surrounding environment is structural contradiction instead of mutual strategic mistrust between states, the room of maneuver which China enjoys to evade contradictions is shrinking. Hence, it must see squarely and face up the difficulties and challenges, give up the idea of gaining a harmonious surrounding environment by means of unilaterally making diplomatic restraints and giving out economic benefits, and strive, from tactics within its reach, to reduce the predicament and resistance to its rise to the controllable level.

In view of the fact that the rise of China’s strength has already broken the Asia-Pacific regional pattern, relations between major powers in the region urgently need to be repositioned. China’s direction of endeavor should be the establishment of new-type major-power relations in the region and enhancement of regional common interests. It must be made clear, however, that China-Japan relations must be reconstructed on condition that Japan accepts the reality of China’s rise and the two sides respect and recognize each other’s international position, and that China’s respect and support for the leading role of the current international order must be built on the basis of the United States refraining from excessively squeezing China’s normal development.

Second, on the question of sovereignty, China should draw a more explicit strategic bottom line for the outside world. As things stand now, strong interdependence and high common interests still exist between China and the United States though the latter remains unchanged in its strategic goal of containing China’s rise in Asia-Pacific; and those neighboring countries having territorial disputes with China, though hoping to gain more benefits from China via opportunistic actions, are reluctant to undertake the cost resulting from coming into armed conflict with China. Therefore, what the various parties concerned hope is to play an “edge ball” in the vicinity of China’s bottom line for the purpose of attaining maximum benefits without provoking China’s tough reaction instead of truly breaking China’s strategic bottom line.

Under such circumstances, China needs to proclaim unequivocally to the international community its strategic bottom line on the question of sovereignty and, through diplomatic efforts, rectify the wrong understanding of the international community on the question and nip off the intention of some countries to test China’s bottom line and attempt to break the status quo by exploiting the opportunity of China’s dedication to self-development and creation of a sound international environment. At the same time, it can restrain the United States from overly conniving at its allies to take risky actions when executing its containment policy toward China and avoid the scenario of China being forced to resort to tougher means to settle disputes under rising public opinion at home and worsening security environment in the surrounding areas as a result of excessive pressures on China by the United States and its alliance system due to subjective misjudgment. Under the trend of the Asia-Pacific regional order swinging back to the domain of traditional security, defining strategic bottom line and the resolve to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity will be conducive to avoiding the case of major powers forcedly involving in military conflicts due to runaway situation and the region plunging into the old model of relations between major powers. Moreover, it will be helpful to stabilizing the security environment in China’s surrounding areas to certain extent.

Third, under the circumstance of multilateral cooperation in China’s surrounding areas falling into deadlock, China may put more attention to doing solid work on developing bilateral relations while pushing forward multilateral cooperation. In the past decade and more, China has been active in promoting regional multilateral economic cooperation with its neighboring countries, hoping to improve peripheral relations and foster a sound surrounding environment through establishing core mechanisms and overall cooperation agreements. It is getting more and more difficult for China to implement this idea under the background of returning to Asia by the United States, and hence China needs to adjust its line of thought for handling the peripheral relations. At present, the United States is pushing forward the TPP in a high profile while consolidating and strengthening military relations with its Asia-Pacific allies and its intention to integrate the military alliance system and multilateral economic cooperation mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific region to form its single leadership in the region is quite obvious. Consequently, China will meet with huge resistance in its endeavor to continue to effectively promote and lead regional multilateral cooperation in the East Asian region.

In view of the difficulties in pushing forward multilateral cooperation, it might be a feasible idea to pay more attention to improving bilateral relations to defuse resistance from the surrounding areas. Specifically, efforts can be made to facilitate bilateral trade relations and expand the base of mutual benefits with the neighboring countries through such cooperation forms as signing bilateral FTA and currency swap agreements. The advantage of putting more emphasis on bilateral relations strategically is that it will enable China to adopt different tactic or combination of tactics to alleviate the predicament in rising according to different countries and their different political and economic relations with China. At the same time, more attention on the policy level should also be paid to lower-level cooperation such as bilateral economic cooperation, sub-regional cooperation where resistance is less, interconnectivity and the Chiang Mai Initiative as well as cooperation with the Hong Kong and Macau SARs and Taiwan region.

Fourth, when repositioning China’s bilateral relations with its neighboring countries, it is necessary to differentiate and specify the different types and natures of relations with these countries and then deal with them with differentiated policy means. Usually speaking, the surrounding countries have three traditional policy options toward China’s rise: balancing, bandwagoning, or noninvolvement. As individual entities, the surrounding countries have differences between their interest pursuit and interest order in face of China’s rise and their attitude toward America’s return to Asia. Despite constant troubles in China’s surrounding areas, it can be seen that not all countries are hostile to China and they hold different attitude toward China’s rise. Even if most countries have misgivings over China’s rise, the reasons are divergent, the degrees are varying and the actions they take are vastly different. Even America’s military allies should not be regarded as the same. For instance, Thailand holds a quite mild attitude toward China’s rise. If China adopts appropriate policies and tactics, it can make most neighboring countries remain uninvolved and refuse to bandwagon with the United States to balance China.

China’s neighboring countries can be put into different categories according to such variables and yardsticks as their recognition of political threat (e.g., whether there is territorial dispute) caused by China’s rise, closeness of relations with U.S. interests and degree of dependence on the China market. China can deal with them flexibly in light of the different types and interest pursuits using different political and economic strategies or a combination of them. The principle for China to implement differentiated policies in its surrounding areas should be that the degree of friendliness with China must be identical with the benefits gained from China, and that the size of damage done to China’s interests must match with the distance in the bilateral political and economic relations. The aim of setting up this principle is to eradicate the idea harbored by some neighboring countries to gain more economic benefits by putting pressures on China through reinforcing security ties with the United States. In particular, it is imperative to check the attempt of some countries to extort interests from China through provoking incidents by exploiting China’s mentality of “seeking stability”. Under the guidance of the above-mentioned principle, the handling of different-natured political and economic relations with neighboring countries through differentiated diplomatic policies and tactics will help alleviate the multi-level difficult situation facing China.

In addition, the contention in the Asia-Pacific region is not confined between the United States and its alliance system on the one side and China on the other. Along with the concern and involvement of other powers outside the region, rivalries between major forces are unfolding in the region, with the involvement of Russia, which hopes to achieve revival via China’s rise, and India, which has the intention to compete with China in a certain way but remains relevantly independent, among others. Living in a changing and complex surrounding environment, China must win over forces friendly to it from a strategic perspective so as to emerge successful from the period of predicament in rising.

 Finally, against the background of passiveness in its surrounding environment, China may turn its strategic perspectives of rise to other regions to release part of the pressures on its rising. Historical experience shows that it is not the most ideal choice for a rising power to put its strategic focus exclusively on the region it belongs to geographically. For example, the way Britain chose for its rise was to maintain the power balance between all European major powers and keep its isolationist foreign policy toward the European continent, the heart of power contention, while at the same time put its strategic emphasis on areas beyond Europe where it belonged to. Currently, America’s “hedging” strategy toward China is tilting toward containment and that reduces China’s strategic space for positive actions in the East Asian region where it belongs to. The worries of the neighboring countries over China’s rise may easily turn into antagonistic actions due to the existence of the force of the United States. That, objectively, has helped further raise America’s influence in China’s surrounding areas. Such an overall situation determines that China’s peripheral strategy should be positioned more on the side of defense. In the meanwhile, China can gradually extend its strategic perspectives to other regions. For instance, it is likely that China could develop some new strategic cooperation in Africa, a relatively marginal area of America’s strategy.


Source: China International Studies September/October 2013 p133-151

[1]Gao Cheng is Associate Research Fellow at National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.