Make Way for 'Peaceful Rise'
Bates Gill, an American expert on East Asian security issues, argues for welcoming China into a global fold. Not only is there little choice, he says, but the country's policies have taken an encouraging turn over the last decade and more.
This has juice, this organization, and I think a lot of people in Washington dismissed it just five or six years ago as another Asian talking shop.
Bates Gill calls 2005 "the year of China." What he means is the year that China got too much of the wrong kind of attention in U.S. foreign-policy circles, following its passage of a law mandating the use of force in the event of secession by Taiwan and several other developments. But analysts who seized and keep seizing on headlines often miss trends, including moves by China since the early 1990s towards a more cooperative, multilateral attitude about security issues. Gill fleshes out that shift in his new book, Rising Star: China's New Security Diplomacy.
"I don't think enough thought has been given to the kinds of opportunities that may be there," in the pursuit of common security interests between China and the United States, Gill said to a UCLA audience on Feb. 26, 2007. The lecture was co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies and the Burkle Center for International Relations. Gill holds the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Fifteen years ago, China joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and, more broadly, set into motion "a spectacular increase in the level, scope, and intensity of [its] diplomatic engagement" in Europe and the Global South, Gill said. It stopped trying to undermine the NPT and some other security arrangements.
For the last ten years or so, he said, the country has modified its insistence on being a non-allied power and has especially supported regional security mechanisms. For example, the Shanghai Five, a Central Asian security cooperation organization led by China and Russia, has succeeded in demarcating the borders it controls in the region—an old source of conflict between the two powers and of anxiety for member states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Since 1996, the group has expanded its mission to combating terrorism and, further, to building regional ties in trade, education, culture, and tourism.
"This has juice, this organization, and I think a lot of people in Washington dismissed it just five or six years ago as another Asian talking shop," Gill said.
Six or seven years ago, he said, China was "extremely reluctant" to assume a leading role in reining in North Korea's nuclear program. Recent progress in the Six-Party Talks on that issue has depended on China, according to Gill.
And for about four years China has participated in joint naval exercises with Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and "even the United States. It was impossible that that would have been the case just ten years ago" Gill remarked.
The overall Chinese strategy is older than its actual implementation, said Gill, and is summed up in well-known official phrases such as "peaceful rise." Chinese planners have taken the view that the country's growing wealth and influence should be used in ways that reassure Japan and other neighbors that it will be a "responsible" player on the global stage. Meanwhile, China advances a vision of a "multi-polar" world while avoiding a confrontation with the United States. In this wider context, policy on Taiwan might be viewed as the area where the Chinese security approaches that developed out of the Cold War on the one hand and its aftermath on the other come most sharply into conflict and contradiction. Gill said that a focus of U.S. efforts should be to get China to drop its insistence that the dispute over possible Taiwanese independence could be resolved by force.
In the meantime, he said, "we have very little choice but to recognize the importance of China in the international system."
Published: Wednesday, March 07, 2007