[This is a translation courtesy of Charles Liu of a recent Op-Ed by LI Daguang]
李大光：中国 “不结盟” 并不意味着不结交朋友
LI Daguang: China’s “Non-aligned” Policy Does Not Mean She Cannot Make Friends
Abstract: Making friends, especially dependable international relations, have the benefit of breaking down certain containment against China by larger countries. Otherwise as China becomes stronger, friends become fewer, and as she becomes wealthier, influence declines. This is a true reflection of weak soft power.
Author: LI Daguang, China National Defense University Professor
Although China is the world’s second largest economy, China’s influence cannot even compete with USA and Japan in East Asia. China’s sustained rapid development also increased suspicion by neighboring countries and deepened external “interference”. What brought about this? One reason is China’s lack of specific foreign policy and implement, specifically in neglecting strategic alliances, lack of distinction and selectively building strong alliances.
China adheres to non-aligned policy, where it does not align with any large nation or large international group. This is based on the lessons learned from the Soviet alliance of 50’s and 60’s, and the belief in peaceful development as a world theme, that 1) non-alliance can reduce friction between nations, while a positive global environment is beneficial to China’s domestic economic social development; 2) maintain world peace, lessen threat of war; 3) protect China’s sovereign independence, free from constraints imposed by others, and able to exchange friendship world-wide. It can be said the independence of China’s foreign policy since 1970’s has been instrumental in opening up China diplomatically, however the rejection of diplomatic alliances and not adapting to global trends are obvious over-correction.
The author believes, China’s non-aligned policy came out of alliance and relationship during cold war era east-west antagonism, which does not mean non-participation in establishing friendship and joining regional security organization. Making friends, especially solid relatioships between nations, will be beneficial in break down containment established against China by some large nations. Otherwise it would appear that friends are fewer while China becomes stronger, her influence dwindle while the country becomes richer. This is a reflection of weak soft power.
Establishing solid international relations is a reflection of a country’s soft power. For example America has many allies globally, from financial partners to reliable political, military alliances, providing information, resources, and support. The US allies sometimes speak on its behalf, even act on its behalf. The ebb and flow of these alliances is very meaningful in analyzing America’s projection of power and strategic intent.
Also, survival by institutionalizing is a global reality. Various international organization, especially regional security infrastructure, is irreplaceable in safeguarding security and stability in peripheral regions. Therefore, survival by instutionalizing is a natural choice for China’s peaceful development, an important path for China’s creation of a safe periphery thru active participation in regional security infrastructure. China’s participation in international organizations not only means we have an accurate grasp of external relations and developing international trends, revolutionary changes in foreign policy is also an effort for domestic economic development. Although some current international institutions and their core value, behavior, are negative towards China’s international perogrative, passive avoidance, seeing them as inviolable obstical, is not an effective way to neuturalize their negaive effects. Only thru engagement, developing consistent and reliable partnerships in regional stability, will we effectively safeguard national security especially in the periphery.
In light of this, rather than over-correcting past diplomatic lessons, China should steadily advance its strategic diplomatic alliances, actively participate in international organizations particullarily in establishing regional security infrastructure, under the guidance of prudent foreign policy direction.