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'Peaceful Rise' overcoming 'China Threat'

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China's regional and global diplomatic initiative, "peaceful rise" or heping jueqi, literally "emerging precipitously in a peaceful way," is a masterful endeavor to extricate itself from the collar of "China threat" imposed by the US. Heping jueqi shows a level of nuance, patience, and simultaneous flooding of regional and global diplomatic channels with a level of personal diplomacy at which the US can only marvel, if indeed, it has recognized.

Heping jueqi is marked by:

  • Diplomatic drive for regional acceptance of PRC's expanding sphere of influence
  • Enshrining China as Asia's predominant economic force
  • Leveraging economic cooperation into political influence over Southeast Asia
  • Offsetting and eventually diminishing US influence
  • Regional and international acceptance of China as the Asian superpower with hegemony over the region

Ruan Zongzee, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Institute for International Studies, defined China's key foreign-policy question as "whether she can make the world accept her, but before this is whether she can make the regional nations accept her". Assuring Asian nations of China's peaceful intentions represents the key goal of the peaceful-rising policy. The policy advocates "rising" as the goal, "peace" as the condition, and it emphasizes the importance of "being on friendly terms with your neighbor":

The heping jueqi policy is also intended to rebut the China-threat theory, which seeks to "vilify China's image and stop her rise". Beijing strives to gain additional support by contrasting its intentions with those of the United States. Ruan comments that the Iraq war "demonstrates the US will rely on its economic and military might, pursue unilateralism, realize the 'seek to gain the initiative' military strategy, strive its hardest to achieve hegemony". The contradiction between the US "unipolar" policy and China's "multipolar" policy will reinforce Asian nations' perceptions of the benefits of allying themselves with Beijing over Washington.

Yoichi Funabashi, foreign-affairs columnist for the Asahi Shimbun, encapsulated the situation that Beijing faces: "In international politics, how a country rises often has more drastic consequences for the world than the rise itself." He highlighted that the "speed, velocity, ideology and, most significantly, the impact it has on the international balance of power" can result in neighboring countries reacting with suspicion, caution, or even fear.

Funabashi reported that a researcher from a Chinese government-affiliated think-tank explained heping jueqi by commenting, "China aims to grow and advance without upsetting existing orders. We are trying to rise in a way that benefits our neighbors." In this manner, the academic continued, China is continuing to follow the late leader Deng Xiaoping's advice to successor Jiang Zemin to "never act haughtily".

An example of this approach that echoes the Chinese proverb, Stones from other hills may serve to polish the jade of this one, dates from the 60s:

"During the 1960s, China made much effort to solicit African support for its quest to become a member of the United Nations (UN) (African countries formed a large voting block at the UN General Assembly). One of the Chinese efforts was to build sports stadiums in many African countries. This seemingly unconnected act went a long way to help China get the African votes at the UN (China won the fight and became a UN member in 1971)."

I very much doubt that the US could muster such a protracted, low key, low intrusion diplomacy to accomplish its ends and will be ill disposed to respond as China expands this form of diplomacy.

I struggle with a means to explain this approach to Western readers who expect a much more closely linked 'force and response,' to explain the goals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) formed in 2001, and to put into context China's broad diplomatic initiatives in the Stans, Asia, Africa, and South America, but I feel that I am getting closer. It involves a look at the game of go.

Part two

'Peaceful rising' seeks to allay 'China threat'
By Bruce Klingner
Asia Times
March 12, 2004

"Learning From the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China's Strategic Concept, Shi"
David Lai
U.S. Army War College, May 2004

Gordon Housworth



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