More markets for Made-in-China?
The world is experiencing a fundamental power shift from Euro-Atlantic to the east, and in this shift, the role of China is of paramount importance. Xi Jinping, the president of China, proved himself to be a leader comparable to Den Xiaping, who took the important policy decision of reorienting the Chinese economy from communist-based to market-based. Now, Xi has taken some important initiatives with regard to Chinese domestic and foreign policy. In the foreign policy sphere, the academicians and intelligentsia have been combing through the details of the new initiatives such as “One Belt, One Road” (1B1R) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. What does China want to achieve with such initiatives, or a “Grand Strategy”?
“One belt, one road”, China’s Asian pivot, is aimed at countering the US pivot in Asia. On the surface, the plan is simply economic in nature, focusing on improving trade, infrastructure and connectivity in the region. The initiatives such as the new Silk Road Economic Belt and the New Maritime Silk Road aim at connecting China with Southeast Asia and Central Asia, and finally to Europe and Africa. By this connectivity approach, China can not only have greater access to the resources such as oil and gas but can also overcome its separatist problem in Xinjiang province and the terrorism by ETIM. In fact, 1B1R can be seen as a first formal response to the US pivot strategy, which aims at aligning countries such as Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Australia to encircle China. Therefore, China is only responsive and counter-balancing US rising influence in the region. Also, the benefit of the strategy would be in terms of having new and bigger markets for “Made in China”. By connecting the region through the ‘connectivity’ plans, China hopes to encourage its neighbours to increase their reliance on Chinese markets and capital. This regional integration led by China would allow it to take the leadership role in the region, thereby balancing the US pivot to Asia. In this respect, it is not surprising that Obama visited India last week to attend its Republic Day. And the ‘South Asian Vision’ proposed by Obama and Modi can be seen as a counter-plan to China’s vision.
China is no doubt giving a new meaning to the concept of diplomacy. Instead of directly challenging existing International institutions structured by the west to ensure its influence in the current world order, China is trying to create new institutions which would be an alternative to existing ones
China is no doubt giving a new meaning to the concept of diplomacy. Instead of directly challenging existing International institutions structured by the west to ensure its influence in the current world order, China is trying to create new institutions which would be an alternative to existing ones. The new institutions and mechanisms would naturally be under the influence (and control) of China. But it bears noting that China is conscious of not taking any step which might be provocative for the United States, and instead is focusing on creating an independent International environment favouring China. Such initiatives are ostensibly to promote International economy and development as interpreted by China, but going deeper into the initiatives would unveil the Chinese long-term objectives.
In the last year, China gave proposals for regional integration which included the formation of AIIB and the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). These proposals can be seen as an alternative to World Bank and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) respectively. Since China is frustrated over the structures of post-world war institutions that revolve around the US, ignoring the new realities of multi-polar world, it wants to see the proposed institutions as a multilateral regimes open to all but centred within China. Being an architecture of the new organisations (AIIB, for example), China would maintain its influence and control over them, thereby challenging the existing institutions and systems in an indirect manner. This is the reason that it is not leaving the existing organisations but creating its own alternatives.
In the last year, China gave proposals for regional integration which included the formation of AIIB and the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). These proposals can be seen as an alternative to World Bank and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) respectively
There has been debate among scholars whether China would ensure status quo or is rising enough to challenge the world order. Looking from the Chinese perspective, it wants the restructuring of the existing global institutions and systems. Although it is the second largest economy in the world, it does not have an adequate say in the IMF and World Bank, which are the products of the post-war order. Even in Asia, where it is the largest economy, China’s voting share is limited. Also, its presidents have always been chosen from Japan, not China.
The situation seems quite against legitimate Chinese interests. It has long been the demand of China to reform the existing institutions so as to make them representative of changing international dynamics. In the IMF, there have been demands for reforms by China to give it a greater voice on the basis of changing realities, but to no use. In this respect, China is pursuing the policy of establishing new institutions and providing them an alternative to IMF, ADB, World Bank.
The new strategy is not limited to the economic world. In the realms of security and politics, China is pursuing a similar strategy with caution. It is focusing on strengthening and revitalising the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). And the recent formation of Eurasia platform, led by Russia, has given a great boost to China’s desire for being the counter-balancer for Asia. It bears noting that the Europe calls SCO as ‘Eastern-NATO’ capable of counter-balancing it and the US military alliances in Asia. Now, it needs to be seen how successful the Chinese Asian Pivot would be to counter the US Pivot to Asia.