International Situation and China's Foreign Affairs (2017)

| 作者: Su Ge | 时间: 2017-11-06 | 责编:
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  The international situation saw greater uncertainty and instability in 2016. The frequent “Black Swan” events caught everyone by surprise, reflecting the complex and in-depth adjustments and transformations the international architecture is undergoing. Traditional and nontraditional security threats showed a clear tendency of integration, causing growing risks and challenges. The dual effects of globalization became increasingly prominent, as the global economic downturn was aggravated. The developed economies were further differentiated. The emerging economies made progress despite the difficulties. China’s influence in the international community continued to expand, playing a more important role in international governance.
  I. Increasing Turbulence in World Politics
  The US presidential election and its implications became the focus of great global attention. Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States was regarded as the biggest “Black Swan” event of the year and was deemed as a reflection of failing and malfunctioning Western democracy, marking the biggest crisis in capitalist elite politics since World War II. The free flow of capital brought by globalization prompted industrial countries to centralize their capital, resulting in loss of employment opportunities. The polarization between the rich and poor in the United States intensified social conflicts. More and more people turned to populism, isolationism and anarchism. Trump won the election with the slogan “change,” and his strategy of “America First” may lead to some major changes in the international architecture.
  Brexit was another “Black Swan” event in the context of the growing backlash against globalization. On June 23rd, 2016, the UK referendum on EU membership was held and the result, announced the next day, showed a slight majority voting in favor of leaving the European Union. Such a result caught the British political circle by surprise and resulted in the David Cameron resigning as prime minister. Brexit is a hallmark of international political and economic development in the post-Cold War era. It is a serious setback for European integration and has intensified the feeling of anxiety within the European Union and strengthened their sense of urgency to deepen regional integration. And it will have a great impact on the future pattern and order of international relations.
  The Russia-Turkey relations experienced a dramatic turnaround. After the shooting down of a Russian warplane by the Turkey air force on November 24th, 2015, the Russia-Turkey relations plummeted. However, in June 2016, the Turkish government made a dramatic turnaround. Turkish President Recep Erdoğan sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing an apology for what happened. The essential reasons for such a turnaround include the failed coup attempt in Turkey, the strategic adjustment of Turkey and its intensified competition with outside powers such as the United States, Russia and European countries.
  II. New Challenges in Traditional Issues
  The year 2016 was eventful for the Middle East. The “Arab Spring” spread to several Middle Eastern countries, and the situation in the Middle East remained complicated and serious. Syria became a victim of political competition among major world powers. In terms of counter-terrorism, the competition between the United States and Russia remained intense but principled, leaving sufficient room for cooperation and compromise. The feud between Sunni Islam led by Saudi Arabia and Shia Islam represented by Iran continued, and they contended against each other on multiple levels. The Iran Nuclear Deal entered into the stage of implementation, but the Iran-US relations were still beset with many contradictions. And while the Battle for Mosul significantly undermined the strength of the Islamic State group in Iraq, seeking both temporary and permanent solutions to terrorism remains one of focuses for international cooperation. Putin congratulated Trump for his successful election, although it remains uncertain whether Russia and the United States will meet each other half way on the Syrian conflict.
  The security situation in the Asia-Pacific region was volatile. The United States sped up the implementation of its “rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific,” in fear of the emerging regional power challenging its traditional authority or even pushing its influence out of the region. The consolidation of the alliance between the United States and Japan brought more uncertainties to regional stability, instead of reducing them. Rightist politics in Japan was on the rise and the nation’s new security laws that allow Tokyo to engage in collective self-defense officially took effect at the end of March 2016. The DPRK conducted two nuclear tests in 2016, resulting in the United Nations imposing a new round of sanctions against the country. The United States and the Republic of Korea jointly announced the planned deployment of the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in the Republic of Korea, posing serious threats to the strategic interests of China and Russia. At the end of 2016, ROK President Park Geun-hye was impeached and removed from office as a result of the “Choi-Soon-sil Scandal”. Japan and the Republic of Korea reached a consensus on their Military Intelligence Protection Agreement (GSOMIA) to further enhance the United States-Japan-South Korea military alliance.
  Europe was confronted with long drawn-out issues. The United States and European countries were strengthening their ties and the presence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe, in order to strategically contain Russia. In 2016, tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine were to a certain degree mitigated. The European Union was beset with many challenges from both the inside and outside. It clearly stated that Ukraine’s entry into the European Union and NATO would not be considered in the immediate future. In October, the leaders of the “Normandy Four” countries—France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine—met in Berlin and reached a preliminary consensus on the implementation of the new Minsk Agreement and a road map to solve the armed conflicts in Ukraine. After the election of Donald Trump, European countries were concerned about the impact of the anti-trade and counter-globalization tendencies in the United States on Europe’s security and economic interests.
   III. Long-Term and Arduous Task to Shape Global
  Governance System
  Economic growth in the world remained anemic. In 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimate for the global economic growth rate was 3.1 percent, and its predicted growth rate for global trade was merely 1.7 percent, hitting a new low since 2009. Developed economies remained stagnant and their average growth rate dropped from 2.1 percent in 2015 to 1.6 percent in 2016. Market demand, the prices of bulk commodities and crude oil remained low, and the economic recovery lacked sufficient impetus. The Chinese and Indian economies maintained their momentum for sound development. The Russian economy suffered from its reliance on energy exports. Meanwhile, Brazil suffered from economic recession resulting in more intense political turbulence. As Trump vowed to withdraw from the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) thus became a focus of international attention.
  The global governance system continued to lag behind. Global issues were increasing rapidly, but the corresponding mechanisms to tackle these issues have proved largely insufficient. Western countries’ capability to innovate and provide public goods continued to decline. Traditional security challenges and threats continued and non-traditional security issues became even more prominent. Global development remained unbalanced, and African economies in particular varied significantly and largely lagged behind other continents.
  International cooperation made new progress. International cooperation on managing climate change was a bright spot in 2016. On November 4th, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force. China and the United States, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters (accounting for about 39 percent together), took a leading role in gaining support for the agreement. However, uncertainty grew with no clear signal from the new US administration of President Donald Trump whether he would indeed abandon the Paris Agreement as he said he would. The international cooperation on nuclear security, public health, and refugee and migrant crisis has made some strides.
  IV. Noticeable Improvements in China’s International
  The G20 Hangzhou Summit strengthened China’s influence in international affairs. In September, the G20 Hangzhou Summit, themed “Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”, the summit has promoted world economic innovation, structural reform, global development and governance in an all-round manner, and propelled the transformation of the G20 from crisis response into a long-effect mechanism. Bringing its role as host country into full play, China has now moved closer to the center of global economic governance. Effective on October 1st, the IMF added the Chinese renminbi to the basket of currencies that make up its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket of currencies, signaling major progress in the internationalization of the renminbi.
  The situation in South China Sea had an unexpected turnaround. In 2016, the United States frequently sent naval vessels and warplanes to carry out the so called “freedom of navigation operations” near the Nansha Islands of China, disturbing regional peace. The award of the tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration brought by the Philippines under the leadership of Benigno Aquino III sought to use it to meddle in the South China Sea, escalating tensions in the region. After Rodrigo Duterte’s election as president of the Philippines, China seized the opportunity to improve relations with the Philippines, and a major turnaround appeared in South China Sea. The turnaround in relations between China and the Philippines was a strike at the root of certain international powers’ attempts to profit from the troubled situation in the South China Sea.
  The Belt and Road Initiative made steady progress. President Xi’s five visits to related countries directly guided and effectively promoted the development of the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2016, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launched operations and first batch of loans were made for infrastructure projects in countries along the Belt and Road. The Silk Road Fund also worked smoothly. A good number of key projects were implemented; China-Europe rail transport was normalized; the construction of several economic corridors made significant progress. The Belt and Road Initiative obtained early harvests.
  V. Looking Ahead to the Future with Hope and
  In 2017, the world’s multi-polarization is expected to continue. Globalization has suffered from setbacks, but it will remain the general trend of the times. China will continue to function as a positive factor for maintaining world peace and stability. Two major diplomatic events will be hosted by China: the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the ninth BRICS Summit. Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, bearing in mind China’s domestic and international interests, focusing on development and security and upholding the banner of peace, development, cooperation and common interest, China will take the initiative to plan and break a new path for development, promote its international influence and create a favorable international environment for the success of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
  Su Ge
  President of China Institute of International Studies
  Beijing, China
  March 2017
  Source:International Situation and China's Foreign Affairs (2017).

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