China’s diplomatic blitzkrieg against the US at APEC summit may not be as successful as China believes


US Secretary of States John Kerry meets Xi Jinping

US Secretary of States John Kerry meets Xi Jinping

The following is a translation from Chinese media with commentary:

The website of the US National Interest magazine published on November 30 the article “America’s Next Big Challenge: Countering China’s Diplomatic Blitzkrieg” by Richard Javad Heydarian, an Assistant Professor in international affairs and political science at De La Salle University, Manila, the Philippines and a policy advisor at the Philippine House of Representatives.

Though the article is published by US media, it was written by a Filipino academic and does not reflect the US government’s position. China’s mil.huanqiu.com, an affiliate media of government mouthpiece People’s Daily, takes the article quite seriously, and gives a summary translation of it. The summary mainly selects the passages on China’s diplomatic success at the APEC summit in easing tensions in disputed waters and strengthening friendly relations with China’s neighbours.

Obviously, the Chinese media is delighted at Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s diplomatic success, but it gives me the impression that the media is carried away by the success. True, Xi is a talented leader who has so far achieved tremendous successes both at home and abroad, but he still has lots of tricky issues to deal with at home.

The following is the translation of mil.huanqiu.com’s summary translation of the article:

The United States’ National Interest magazine published an article on November 30 titled “America’s Next Big Challenge: Countering China’s Diplomatic Blitzkrieg”: Much to the delight of China, recent weeks have witnessed a dramatic reorientation in the Asian strategic landscape.

Demonstrating sophisticated statecraft, Chinese president Xi Jinping astutely utilised the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to emphasise Beijing’s centrality to regional prosperity and stability. Xi rekindled communication channels with estranged neighbours such as Japan and Vietnam, exploring various mechanisms to de-escalate territorial tensions in the Western Pacific.

China has reverted to its tried-and-tested economic statecraft, leveraging large-scale trade and investment schemes to divide and dominate its neighbours. China’s recent diplomatic offensive seems to have blunted any efforts by rival claimant states to develop a unified position. It is no wonder that there was hardly any serious effort by the ASEAN and rival claimant states to push for a binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea.

Just a few months ago, China seemed isolated. Earlier this year, China risked a major regional backlash when it dispatched an oil rig into disputed waters, sparking panic among rival claimants and encouraging Pacific powers such as Japan, India and Australia to step up their strategic cooperation.

Even ASEAN, notorious for its internal divisions and often-subservient stance, was forced to express its displeasure. More worryingly, China’s historical rival, Japan, was capitalising on growing territorial tensions to carve out a new security role in the region and pursuing closer defence ties with Vietnam, the Philippines, India and Australia.

To head off a full-scale “soft-power crisis,” China tried to reach out to its key neighbours. Clearly, Beijing aimed to defuse regional tensions, present China as a peace-seeking power and undermine efforts by Washington and its regional allies to constrain China. Aside from avoiding regional isolation, China is also intent on chipping away at American leadership in the region.

China has already begun to flex its military muscle, but China’s most potent challenge to American primacy in Asia lies in the economic realm. Beijing has proactively pushed for a whole host of alternative financial arrangements and institutions. The TPP has been hobbled by deadlocks in negotiations. Meanwhile, China has been pushing for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the United States. Last month, China took the lead in inaugurating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The AIIB is widely seen as a potential rival to the U.S.- and Japanese-led Asian Development Bank.

China is offering up to $40 billion of infrastructure funds to a whole host of countries spread across the Eurasian landmass. Meanwhile, China is also developing a Maritime Silk Road, which will integrate neighbouring Southeast Asian countries into a transcontinental, Sinocentric New Silk Road.

Beijing has been combining proactive diplomacy with large-scale economic incentives to quell any regional backlash against its assertiveness. There are various signs that the Obama administration is worried by China’s economic offensive. It remains to be seen how Washington aims to counter China’s latest diplomatic blitzkrieg.

Author’s note: The article expresses Philippine politician’s and academic’s lament on the Philippines being isolated by Xi Jinping’s diplomatic achievements in easing tension and strengthening friendly relations with China’s neighbours. That certainly contributes to regional peace and prosperity. The Philippines has lost almost all its potential allies in countering China.

However, that is not important as long as it can pit the US against China. What is the saddest for the Philippines is that the US also has much economic interest in China and does not want to help the Philippines in confronting China.

The Chinese official media mil.huanqiu.com, however, focuses on the US response and fails to point out that the article mainly reflects the Philippine views. It makes readers of its summary translation of the article mistake the Philippine writer’s views as the US government’s. It does so perhaps to please its Chinese, readers most of whom hold a negative view on the US.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “China launched diplomatic blitzkrieg to no longer be isolated: US will counterattack” (translated from Chinese by Chan Kai Yee)


Categories: Politics & Law

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