China's National Interests

Evaluate the extent to which a specific Asia-pacific state has been successful in achieving its national interests. China is firmly positioned as a superpower in both the Asia-Pacific region, and the global political arena. Some issues, however, have prevented China from fulfilling its national interests including territorial integrity, economic prosperity, a harmonious society, and a peaceful rise to power. Territorial Integrity:

The PRC’s desire for territorial integrity means that China must remain ‘whole’ at all costs. As a state with a population of over 1.3 billion, China will undoubtedly encounter social problems particularly when 100 million of its population are not ‘ethnic Chinese’. The state’s ‘One China’ policy does not have room for secessionists. This has been demonstrated through the suppression of the continuing protest by the Uighars. The 2009 Riots in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, which contains a majority Uighar population, proved that there will continue to be deep-seeded social issues if the Chinese government wishes to maintain their forceful policy in keeping these people in PRC.

Taiwan continues to be a contentious issue for the Chinese government. Despite Taiwan having recognised sovereignty by 23 states, the PRC refuses to grant such recognition in the interests of the One China policy. The PRC remains vigilant in disallowing Taiwan’s secession from the mainland. The island receives special treatment by US through aid, billions in defence funding, and the promise of military actions as dictated by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The PRC’s response to this has been the tactic of ‘anti-access/area denial’. If Taiwan were to attempt formal secession, it would incur a pre-emptive strike which would slow down US tactical movements.

The PRC enacted the 2005 Anti-secessionist Act which legally requires an invasion of Taiwan if it ever attempted to secede. As well as these tactics, the PRC has used ‘soft power’ in order discourage Taiwanese interdependence. The ‘Three Direct Links’ policy was devised in order to create interconnectedness between the two states with regard to communication, transport, and economic ties. Over $100 Billion is transferred annually across the strait and both China and Taiwan are now members of the WTO. Although Taiwan has US and Japanese backing in the region, the PRC has established a symbiotic relationship so that it would be potentially economically catastrophic for Taiwan if it attempted to secede, making it a less viable option. The PRC’s refusal to negotiate with separatist groups is out fear. If one of these regions were to secede then it might encourage others to do the same. This threatens the power of the government, lessens potential workforce and investment opportunities, and could portray the communist leaders as weak in the eyes of the international community. Economic Prosperity

In 1976, then leader Deng Xiaoping suggested the idea of opening the Chinese economy up to market forces in order to accomplish economic prosperity. Since then the quasi-capitalist economy has had annual growth rate of around 8% in attempt to accomplish Economic Prosperity. Progression towards a form of capitalism has included joining the WTO in 2002, passing legislation to facilitate FDI, and allowing ownership of private property in 2004. However, China cannot escape its communist past, nor quell claims of totalitarian control over the economy.

The Chinese have been accused of artificially affecting the Yuan and refusing to float the currency on the market. This allows China to decrease the price of its exports giving it advantage over other regional exporters like US. The lack of workers’ rights means that China is incredibly lucrative in its manufacturing and construction sectors.

All banks are government owned and are thus some of world’s biggest. There is, however, a rising unemployment problem on the mainland. There is a need for 24 million new jobs to be created in cities by 2015. This is not an impossible feat, but without these improvements in the jobs sector, poverty in China could definitely worsen. Moreover, China’s support of authoritarian regimes around the world in terms of trade and oil exchange may result in the spread of totalitarianism around the world as an ‘effective’ trade. This sets a bad precedent for future international trade.

China is still firmly placed to overtake the world’s largest economy, the US, by the end of decade. This would be a shift in the hegemonic influence over economic affairs not just in the region, but in a global context. When the Chinese economy sneezes, the rest of world’s economies get pneumonia. A loss in the percentage of growth in the Chinese economy reverberates through the rest of the Asia-Pacific region’s economies. Harmonious Society

One of China’s main goals is to achieve and maintain a harmonious socialist society by 2020. This is an ambition not easily obtained. Public outrage and lessening opinions of the government are growing in China reflected by the increasing number of public disturbances and riots. The police and military are quick to respond highlighting China’s poor human rights record. Pollution too is a major problem in China with 16 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities being China. Over 700,000 deaths are attributed annually to pollution.

Although China is moving towards better environmental sustainability, two thirds of its energy comes from coal sources currently and every dollar of GDP uses three times more energy than the global average. Oppression is rampant in China on both a social and political level. Activist and artist Ai Wei Wei was recently imprisoned on tax evasion charges. Only this week has activist Chen Guangcheng escaped persecution by the Chinese government and resettled in the US. Following the Xinjiang riots, residents were limited to sending twenty text messages per day. Google shut down its Chinese subsidiary after it refused to continue censoring as per Chinese law.

There is a massive disparity in terms of personal wealth in China. Ten percent of the population holds forty percent of the total wealth. China’s GDP per capita is $8,400 (2011), far less than that of the US, and150 million Chinese still live on less than $1 per day. Official corruption and lack of governmental transparency are big concerns for many Chinese. In response to such concerns, PM Wen said in January 2011 that to allow the creation of a Harmonious Society, the government must; “create conditions that allow citizens to criticise and supervise the government, and enable government to properly resolve the problems and difficulties of the masses.” 2011 - 2015 – 5 Year plan

* Urbanization to reach 51.5% * Housing for the poor * 13% increase in minimum wages * Reduction in carbon emissions * Better welfare system * Creation of a large number of jobs Peaceful Rise The US is weary of China’s increasingly dominate position in the political arena. The state has already achieved certain ‘superpower prerequisites’, including a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and possessing nuclear arms capacity.

The Peaceful Rise is due to China’s knowing that peace and stability allow it to develop economically. China needs to demonstrate to the world the unthreatening nature of its ascent and strive to allay fears that its rise will damage Western interests. It wishes to attain the perception of a ‘good neighbour’, both in the region and around the world. However, it does not wish to appear soft in the eyes of its neighbours, especially in relation to the problems of secession and maintaining domestic stability. There is a constant tension between these two interests.

China does not let states’ internal affairs effect their trading as seen in the continuation aid packages to Fiji after the 2006 Coup d’état. China’s scrutinized ‘charm offensive’, dealing with socially and economically underdeveloped states with totalitarian repressive regimes. China therefore supports pariah regimes such as in North Korea and Burma, the dogma being: ‘Anywhere there is peace, there is opportunity to trade’, and setting up trade agreements and institutions in Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. The 2004 creation of the ‘Confucius Institute’, which spreads Chinese religion and language around the world, is a Chinese attempt to match American spread of culture.

It is in China’s interests to build confidence with its neighbours, reduce mutual strategic distrust with America and demonstrate its willingness to abide by global norms – East Asia Summit and ASEAN institutions. China is also a key player in the ‘Six Party Talks’ concerning North Korea’s nuclear arms program from 2003-2007 with the possibility of talks resuming in 2012. The state wishes to be perceived in the region as being helpful, nonaggressive, and cooperative.

Despite an attempt to be perceived solely with these characteristics, there are reasons in which to doubt China’s motives. China has been going through a massive military expansion since the 1990s and in the coming decade may intend to increase its military budget from 4.3% of its GDP to closer parity with the US. It has also been made clear that China is prepared to use its military when desired. In the past 18 months there have been clashes between Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and South Korea over territorial disputes and oil-rich waters. China utilizes both hard and soft power to position its role in the region but, ironically, not always a Peaceful Rise.