In the last two months, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) School mouthpiece “Study Times”(in Chinese language) has been commenting on two important aspects of the country’s foreign policy- the present situation in US relations with India and China; considering the fact that the Party’s views are always supreme in China, the journal’s analysis and future projections appear as firm signals towards the basic premise on which the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) may henceforth conduct its relations with the US and India.
A signed article in the “Study Times” (March 11, 2007) found that the US-India relation of strategic cooperation, though continuously developing on the basis of their mutual interests, is not ‘without its limitations’. It remarked that there are conflict potentials in their ties, as the US remains a world hegemonic power and India, a regional big power. The US policy is to use India in resisting China, while India’s motivation in promoting ties with the US, arises from its goal of becoming a world power. It added that the US wants to seriously prevent emergence of any challenge to its world hegemonic status. At present its Asia strategy seeks to maintain the ‘forward deployment’ course, but it is more and more assuming the features of “ using Asia to restrict Asia” and “dividing Asia to restrict Asia”. The article then assessed that in this way, the US, as a ‘balancer’, seeks to maintain balance of power between Asian nations like China, Japan and India, prevent any Asian country from becoming great and protect its control over Asia. On the other hand, India is an independent cultural entity with individuality in its foreign policy sphere. New Delhi will find difficulty in following the US, as it has great ambitions to become the master of the South Asia and Indian Ocean regions. Moreover, India’s pace of development is fast. The write-up concluded by saying that under such circumstances, the US-India ties will continue to suffer from contradictions, with ‘control’ pitted against ‘counter-control’ and ‘caution against counter-caution.
Evaluating the current phase in Sino-US relations, a second article in the “Study Times” (March 11,2007) pointed out that the future prospects of bilateral ties look bright with positive factors becoming prominent and negative ones getting weakened. On positive factors, it cited China’s US strategy which will not change for a long time, as the country is engaged in modernisation and reforms and opening up, for which a sound bilateral relationship is essential. Beijing will not challenge the status of the US nor threaten the US security. Admitting that under the Bush-1 regime, the US emphasised more on protection of traditional security and described China as strategic competitor, it remarked that in the post- September 11 period, the US realised the necessity to take note of China’s increasing role internationally and establish bilateral cooperation. The influence of the conservative elements in the US also got weakened. The result was the US elevation of ties to that of ‘constructive cooperative relations’.
The article then assessed that the US global strategy will not undergo any basic change in next 10-20 years, as the threat from terrorism is yet to diminish and complications continue in fields like prevention of proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, including the Iran nuclear issue and North Korean tangle. It added that China expects the US to display an objective approach towards the PRC, in spite of some opinions in the US considering China’s development as a threat. The article was optimistic about a solution to Taiwan issue through US-China bilateral cooperation and hoped that before long, the US and China, as big powers, would be able to set up a framework for bilateral relation, though competition and cooperation might exist side by side. The article asserted in conclusion that at a time when the present era is faced with non traditional security threats, WMD proliferation, energy and fiscal security problems, and the challenges in respect of disease control, economic globalisation and environment, the US and China must utilise the space available to them to work in common interests and expand cooperation.
Another comment in the same journal (May 13,2007) identified the factors contributing to the current US strategic constraints abroad – Washington’s wrong approach in Iraq and Middle East, double standards on proliferation, misuse of global anti-terrorism strategy to fight per se rather than to fight terrorism, imposition of Western ideas on freedom and democracy on other countries, adoption of a high tide of ideology while struggling against Islamic extremism and making of unilateral efforts to attain hegemony in the world.
The CCP’s perceptions on the US-India relations that Washington is using New Delhi to restrict China and that India, with its independent foreign policy, will not allow the US to dictate terms in this regard, have marked a continuity of the PRC’s positions in the past (for e.g Beijing Review, August 4,2005). What is however new is that the ‘limitations’ to the US-India ties as being seen by China have been explained in clear terms. Also not seen before is the optimism on the part of the CCP expressed through its journal, about the future growth of China’s relations with the US in a bilateral sense. China does not seem to expect any threat from the US in the next 10-20 years. The most striking has been the Party’s soft pedalling on issue of US role concerning the crucial Taiwan issue.
In contrast, the same Party organ was firm in describing (November 2005) that the US role in Asia-Pacific is a potential threat to China. Also, the findings now that the positive factors dominate in Sino-US relations appear to reflect the Chinese assessment of the new situation that has emerged. Absence in the latest assessment of past Chinese references to the ‘ likely US efforts to contain China through secondary measures’ (Professor Yuan Peng, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, China Daily, November 2005) is especially noteworthy. In a nutshell, the views of the CCP journal especially on the US role seem to conform to the declared Chinese foreign policy goal of establishing a ‘harmonious world’.
(The writer, Mr.D.S.Rajan, is Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies. He was formerly Director, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India. Email: email@example.com)