Wednesday, January 10, 2018

China 2017: Year in Review

Tuan N. Pham,

Image from article, with caption: Official White House photo

How might events during the past year foretell Beijing’s actions for 2018?

Beijing seems determined to move forward from Mao Zedong’s revolutionary legacy and Deng Xiaoping’s iconic dictum (“observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership”). Xi’s China is poised to expand its global power and influence through the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), expansive military build-up and modernization, assertive foreign policy, and forceful public diplomacy. As a universally acknowledged economic juggernaut and global force that can now manifest its own national destiny across the interlinked and contested global commons, China wants to be treated accordingly. In terms of great power relations, Beijing views itself as a rising power and Washington as a declining power – with both seen as being interlocked in a strategic competition for regional and global preeminence. ...
China curiously sent a relatively low-ranking official to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore from June 2 to 4. Beijing may have miscalculated in terms of public diplomacy. By downgrading its presence at the dialogue, China ceded the strategic narrative and initiative to the United States. Beijing yielded to Washington and its regional allies a public platform to stake out their strategic positions, counter Chinese strategic messaging, and call out China to become a more responsible global stakeholder that contributes positively to the international system. Beijing also canceled the Xiangshan Forum – an annual regional security conference organized and hosted by China and widely seen as a rival (counter) to the Shangri-La Dialogue – citing major leadership reshuffles ahead of the Party Congress, clashes with other events, and a desire to allay fears of Asian neighbors. ...

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