The Broad Mind | The Chinese Warp

– Ipsita Shome

“China and Pakistan are good neighbours, friends, partners and brothers’’ – Jiang Yu, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson.

The outpour of sympathies from the Chinese block for Pakistan’s alleged vulnerability (and of course the benignant outlook) after Osama Bin Laden’s death prominently defines China’s geopolitical interests within and outlining Pakistan’s boundary. Going by history, China is basically a nation governed by manipulative instincts and power tactics. From reforms led by force than social reconstruction to impounding martial laws on the democratic dividends of the country, China has done it all in its quest for puissance.

As we very well know, the media bodies in China are an extension of the CPC wing inside the government – and in spite of the foreign ministry’s official statement claiming Bin Laden’s death as a ‘milestone’ in the history of counter-terrorism – the state-run media has issued a sustained series of reports to downplay the event and focus on Pakistan’s ‘sacrifices’ in the war on terror.

Ishaan Tharoor, in his piece in the TIMEWorld, deduces the China-Pak equation post Washington’s open trust deficit stint with Pakistan.

“China sees in Pakistan a pivotal proxy for its geo-political expansion into South and West Asia — most notably, the Chinese were allowed to build a multibillion dollar sea port at Gwadar in Pakistani Baluchistan. For Pakistan, the Chinese alternative is a useful chip to have in hand when trying to seek leverage with Washington. China has been instrumental over the years in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Gilani’s trip later this week to China will further thrash out the terms of a civilian nuclear energy deal China agreed with the Pakistanis last year. After the U.S. under the Bush administration signed a controversial nuclear energy pact with India, the Pakistanis clamored for their own dispensation from Washington, but that never came — a decision that makes sense given Pakistan’s instability, but which still irks many in the country, including its Prime Minister.”

China’s borders are easier to invade than to defend. The long coastline is open to invasion from the sea. At sea, Chinese claims abut or overlap with some of the land-bordering neighbours, and South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The inland borders are mostly mountainous and cold, difficult to garrison, and populated by minority tribes of doubtful loyalty to the central government. China has more different political units as immediate neighbours than any other country except Russia. On land, China shares borders with fourteen states -Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and four states of Central Asia. Extremely apparent why China is threatened by its immediate neighbours and desires a pawn for its security benefits. Hence, what can be easier than taming a physically susceptible state like that of Pakistan and posing it as a shield to nurture an uninterrupted domestic proliferation.

To quote Ishaan Tharoor again

“It’s hard to deny that an improved Pakistani economy and a stabler political situation would please all the country’s neighbors and the U.S. to boot. But there have been few indications from the Chinese that they’re willing to act in concert with the U.S. to improve rule of law, encourage political reforms and help strengthen civilian institutions in Pakistan.”

While it is a very important pointer noted by Mr. Tharoor, the Chinese foreign policy should be kept handy. Not everything China does is reflective of Mao Zedong’s stairway to power – it knows how to act in accordance with the global temperature and swiftly adjusts itself to political fluctuations.

Chinese foreign policy favours “multi-polarity,” by which China means that other countries should resist efforts by the United States to dominate the international system. Yet in many aspects Chinese foreign policy interests overlap with those of the U.S. as sited in the quote. For example, China has cooperated with the U.S. in seeking peace on the Korean peninsula. Like American foreign policy, Chinese foreign policy seeks to create a favourable environment for economic growth. China favours stable world markets, opposes trading blocs, and works to improve its own access to developed-country markets.

Thus so long as the international system is America-dominated, China takes an ambivalent posture. One of its top foreign policy priorities is to maintain sufficient economic and military strength to deter and if necessary defeat invasion or the threat of invasion. Paradoxically, however, such self-strengthening requires close economic ties with the West. From the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 until his death in 1976, Chinese Communist Party chief Mao Zedong experimented with self-reliant methods for developing China without significant contact with the West, but these failed. Hence the “open-door policy” of the reformer, Deng Xiaoping (in power, 1978-1997). The dilemma for China is that the Western powers are both the main source of its technology and markets and a major source of capital, yet at the same time the potential enemies against whom China is preparing to defend itself should relations turn bad.

Follow the author on Twitter @Ipsita_Shome

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.