I- Introduction: thinking strategically about China
Gerald Segal and David Goodman
2- How much has China learned about interdependence?
3- How open is Chinese society?
David S. G. Goodman
4- How much does the PLA make foreign policy?
5- A blue water navy: does it matter?
6- Does China have an arms control policy?
7- Economic growth and trade dependency in China
Christopher Findlay and Andrew Watson
8- China's role in the WTO and APEC
9- China in Southeast Asia: interdependence and
10- 'Enlitening' China?
For those with an interest in thinking strategically about modern international affairs, there is no more important challenge than to understand the nature and implications of a rising China. As this reality dawns on the public policy community, the debate has often been simplistic. The exchange seems to be between those who assert that China will soon rise to be the world's largest economy and those who argue that it cannot sustain current levels of growth. Some suggest that China will 'muddle through' difficulties, while others suggest it faces a major crisis of governance. It is argued by some that China can only be wrapped in the warm embrace of 'engagement', whereas others stress the need to 'contain' Chinese power. While the issues raised by these clusters of questions are undoubtedly important, the debates about their accuracy have rarely been sufficiently sophisticated.
As a result of our concern about the importance, and yet the relative poverty, of the debate about China, the International institute for Strategic Studies convened a series of workshops in 1996 to assess these arguments in greater detail. In keeping with the IISS' global membership, these meetings were held in Europe, Eastern Asia and the United States. A final meeting, at the Hotel Del Cornado in San Diego, brought together a team of European and Australian authors to be subject to the expert scrutiny of the fine American China-watching community. The team was chosen in order to cover a range of domestic and foreign policy questions, as well as economic, social and security issues. We were motivated by the belief that there was a special virtue in bringing together the perspectives of Americans and non-Americans in order to draw out the best of the diverse specialist communities.
The editors asked the authors essentially only one, deceptively simple, question: how much was China's rise shaped by its own agenda and how much was it constrained by interdependence with the outside world? Embedded in this central question was an interest in understanding the extent to which China was being changed by contact with the world outside. Another embedded concern was the extent to which the world outside could help shape the rise of China in a way that suited non-Chinese interests.
It is a convention of introductions to edited books to encapsulate the arguments of the individual chapters and to engage in some 'spin control' so that reviewers and readers see more coherence and agreement in the text than might actually exist. While we will outline the central arguments in the text, it would be both unfair and incorrect to suggest that there is coherence in argument. We do hope there is coherence in the type of arguments, but we take some pride in having brought together differing views. We see these chapters as contributing to a more sophisticated debate about China - there is no point in pretending that there has emerged any clear consensus on an issue as important as the implications of the rise of China. What follows is an outline of the main shape of the arguments and some outline of the main features of what will have to be included in something worthy of the term 'a China policy'.
The first discussion centres on the issue of how much is there a single Chinese actor in foreign relations. Of course, no sensible author would argue that modem China is a single, simple actor. Certainly the editors of this book have already written and edited at length about the extent to which China is being 'deconstructed'.1 The extent of the differences among authors has something to do with the specific topics of analysis. Not surprisingly, Ellis Joffe and You Ji, who deal with security policy, find less major disagreement among the leadership. The editors who focus on a wider range of topics see much more diversity in Chinese policy.
A second discussion focuses on the degree to which it is useful for the outside world to ensure Chinese compliance with international rules and norms. All the authors understand the need not only to make space for China in the international system, but also to engage with it on a broad range of social, economic, political and security issues. The debates become more heated when the question is whether and how to constrain Chinese behaviour. Michael Yahuda and Gerald Segal make more of the need for a rules-based approach to international affairs, Francois Godement puts the accent on the vagaries of these rules, and Stuart Harris, Christopher Findlay and Andrew Watson see much of the discussion of rules as often self-serving by the West and unconvincing to China. Michael Leifer notes the extent to which Southeast Asians tend to be closer to Chinese views about many of these 'rules' of behaviour, especially when it comes to political issues.
A related discussion, and one that was especially heated following the Taiwan Strait crisis of March 1996, was the extent to which China's undesired activity should be constrained. Although most of the chapters take a relatively firm line on this issue, it is fair to note that there was deep division during the discussions in the workshops about the extent to which force should be used to constrain Chinese actions. Interestingly, the disputes did not always pit East Asians versus 'Euamericans', for some of the toughest talk sometimes came from Asians and some of the most conciliatory argument often came from Americans and Australians.
One question that was never explicitly discussed, but which figured implicitly in many discussions, was the extent to which China was bound to continue rising in strength. Various participants made reference to a range of deep uncertainties about the basics of continued growth and stability. It is fair to say that no one had any great confidence in the reliability of their judgements about this very fluid society. The China specialists tended to believe that somehow China would muddle through, but there were some notable exceptions. The more sceptical argument, based on worries about social, political and economic fragmentation, is evident in David Goodman's chapter. The more sanguine judgement about the robustness of the system and the Party is evident in the chapter by Ellis Joffe,
Those with a more comparative or international relations perspective were also divided about the extent to which China could muddle through. Stuart Harris, as well as Christopher Findlay and Andrew Watson, were more optimistic about the ability of China and the international system to adjust to the rise of China. Michael Yahuda, Francois Godement, Michael Leifer and Gerald Segal were among those who argued that the challenge posed to, and by, China was huge and difficult to manage.
These, and the more numerous smaller debates embedded in this book, will not be resolved in the near future. It is clear that the debates are maturing and that they will take place in a number of different counts. The evidence needed to make progress in these debates will come from both Chinese internal affairs, and the way in which it behaves and is treated in the international system. Clearly it is necessary to think strategically about China, and there appear to be four clusters of policies that, taken together, can form the basis of a coherent strategy. None of the four, in and of themselves, is sufficient to constitute an effective policy The key is to co-ordinate among the four clusters.
The first of the four policy clusters is the evident need to make space for China in the international system. China's rise, while perhaps not likely to continue at its recent pace, and perhaps at risk of halting because of major domestic crises, will require adjustments by the outside world. China craves respect and status. The outside world seems uncertain about how much space it should make and under what conditions. There will be more confidence about grunting such space if China is seen to play by the rules. The analogy might be to Japan, which has recently risen to be a major power while accepting the constraints of the international system. In an earlier century, the rise of the United States was largely according to the existing rules and was accompanied by a willingness to work within those constraints with the objective of changing the international order from the inside.
A second cluster of policies concerns the extent of engagement with China. It is hard to find anyone who suggests that there should not be a political and economic dialogue and interaction with China. Engagement is a vital, but far from sufficient, element of policy. For some people, including many Chinese who see engagement as little more than 'contact', there is a deep suspicion that talk of engagement is merely a disguised way to build a coalition to contain China. It is also worth noting that the uncertainties about the extent and nature of engagement are often most acute among China's conservative forces. They are most concerned that engagement is really a form of 'peaceful evolution' intended to transform Chinese society and politics.
Engagement also means a number of different things to non-Chinese. For some, it is indeed a way to entice China into evolving, peacefully, into a more amenable partner. For others, engagement is a synonym for 'appeasement', for there is no way in which a country as large and as powerful as China can be constrained. But no matter what form engagement may take, it is important to remember that it takes place with many actors inside and outside China, and is played out on many issues. True engagement with China is a complex process that often undermines central authority. Engagement requires multiple strategies by China and towards parts of China.
A third cluster of policies concerns the extent to which China is kept to international rules. This is, for example, evident in the vital debate about Chinese entry into the World Trade Organisation. Should China be made to agree to strict terms before it joins, or should it be allowed in with the hope that rules can be agreed after the fact? Should China be kept to agreements already reached, for example on intellectual property rights, or should great tolerance be granted because of the decentralisation of the Chinese economy and political system? Because these issues often concern the intensifying economic relationship with China, they are likely to become the most vexed in the coming years. The outside world is growing ever more concerned that engagement with China must take place with clear rules and far more transparency. While there is clear evidence that China does adapt its policies and where possible does accept externally designed rules, the process is protracted and difficult.
The fourth cluster of policies concerns the degree to which China's unwanted actions should be constrained. If China threatens to use force against Taiwan, or in the South China Sea, should it be deterred or even compelled to undo what it might have done? The very mention of this issue was, until recently, seen to be evidence of a mindset for 'containing China'. Yet there is an increasing propensity, especially after the Taiwan Strait crises in March 1996, to see a role for the constraint of unwanted Chinese behaviour. The difficulties in agreeing and implementing such a policy are legion. But there is a growing recognition of the need to tend the balance of power as well as to pursue engagement and other less antagonistic strategies.
Taken together, these four elements of making
space, engagement, keeping to rules, and constraint, might constitute
a policy framework for managing a rising China. While there are
important policy choices to be made between these clusters - for
example, must trade be based on observance of rules? - the key
is that any sensible policy needs to consider all four clusters
of issues. This policy of 'Conditional Engagement', or 'constrainment'
or even 'enlitenment' is every bit as open to interpretation as
was the strategy of 'containment' of the Soviet Union. We tend
to forget just how contentious policy towards the Soviet Union
was for the forty-five years of the Cold War. No one should expect
policy towards China to even be as coherent as that. But the parameters
of debate about, and strategy towards, China have begun to take
greater shape in recent times. Given the fact that the world has
never seen a power rising as fast, or on such a scale, as China
is doing in the late twentieth century, there can be no more important
issue for the international system. The best that we can expect
from this collection of chapters and arguments is that
it helps us to understand how to think about handling a rising
China. But there is no point in pretending that the challenge
is anything but daunting.
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