China's National interests

Evaluate the relative importance of the factors that shape the national interest in one Asia-Pacific state you have studied this year. National interest outlines the goals or objectives of foreign policy and is used as an all-embracing concept to justify policy preferences and actions. These commonly guide the interactions that occur in the global political arena. China’s key national interests consist of economic development, secession and territorial integrity, creating a harmonious society and a peaceful rise within the international community.

The People’s Republic of China is widely believed to be the world’s next superpower by 2030 so the pursuit of these national interests is important in maintaining their strong economy to help prevent secession and create harmony amongst its citizen thus creating a positive image in the global community.

China’s economic growth has been a remarkable development in post-Cold War Asia-Pacific. China’s average economic growth rate of 10% in 2008 is better than any other economy in the Asia Pacific region and has become the 2nd largest global tender.

This shows the economic power China has in the international community and the importance of maintaining this in order to preserve China’s national interest and guide their interactions with other states in the world. President Hu was quoted saying that China “must focus on economic development as our central task…. in the building of a harmonious society". Beijing has pursued the achievement of this interest through joining the World Trade Organisation in 2002, passing legislation to facilitate foreign direct investment into China and dropping their average tariffs to 11% in 2003.

China’s reliance on FDI makes its economic development reliant on favourable relations with other states. Not only has China maintained its national interest economically, but Beijing’s economic power has also promoted investment in secessionist regions. The ‘Three Direct Links’ policy caused trade to increase one thousand fold by 2002 between China and Taiwan. By forging these links, China hopes to open up new opportunities for cross-Strait economic cooperation which will benefit China's economic development bringing the two sides closer and creating an economic dependency on China, making secession less viable.

Central to China’s national interest is the determination that regions such as Tibet and Taiwan which have historically challenged the autonomy of Beijing will not seek, declare, or attempt to attain independence. If one of these regions were to successfully break away from Beijing, it is feared that others would be encouraged to do the same. China’s territory must remain intact and Beijing refers to these pressures as “one of the three forbidden forces of terrorism, extremism and separatism”.

In order to prevent the Uighurs from seceding in China, Beijing implemented the 'heal Xinjiang' plan 2010 to achieve long-term social stability through "leap-frog economic growth". This aims to raise the GDP of the Xinjiang region, raise annual income of both urban and rural residents and increase local access to public services to national levels by 2015. China has also used its military power as an instrument to deter regions from challenging China’s sovereignty. It is estimated that in 2012, China has strategically placed 1,800 missiles on its coast facing Taiwan as a reminder to the island of the dangers of formally declaring independence.

Increasing social tensions within China have led the Communist Party, at the 17th annual Chinese Party Congress, to declare that it seeks to build a “harmonious society” by 2020. China’s rapid economic development has brought with it inadequate public services, inflation, land seizures, environmental pollution and corruption, that if not managed, threaten to derail the government and its autonomy through increasing separatist change. These have led Prime Minister Wen in 2011 to commit his government to “create conditions…to resolve the problems and difficulties of the masses” and build a “harmonious society” by 2020.

A powerful state cannot afford to be divided hence a harmonious society. China’s national interest of creating a harmonious society has also been greatly facilitated by its economic rise. China has used its economic power in the hopes of creating employment, improving services and in turn improving “harmony” amongst its citizens. Throughout 2006-2010, Beijing invested in 180 infrastructure projects in Tibet helping the economy of the Tibetan Autonomous Region grow by 12% on average.

To secure economic development China must be seen to be peaceful and stable… a friendly or 'good neighbour.' Beijing has tried to change its image of a threatening outsider by strengthening their leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region, becoming involved in international institutions and practices and actively trying to cultivate friendly relations with its neighbours and other powers. However, a peaceful rise as a national interest has been questionable. There have been actions carried out by Beijing that call into question just how important the achievement of this aim is relative to the achievement of its other national interests.

In 2008 China and Russia, in the face of global opposition vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, following internationally condemned events leading to the June ‘re-election’ of President Mugabe. Despite this, a peaceful rise is also considered to be an important factor in maintaining China’s strong economy. China’s ambassador to the UN was quoted saying that “whenever there is peace, I think there will be opportunities for investment".

A state's primary national interest is national security and its survival because without this a state is obsolete. However, beyond territorial security, the core objectives of states are to ensure their economic strength and political independence. China’s four key national interests complement each other and act as a combination giving China the ability to achieve these interests and aid the state’s pursuit to becoming the next global superpower.