Understanding the Chinese foreign policy

by Nadeem
, Countercurrents,
18 January 2021. China has been the hot topic of discussion in the foreign
policy corridors of most of the countries. Some have termed its policies as
expansionist some are critical of its trade policies and human rights. At the
same time, to some, it is an all-weather ally. China recently thrashed nearly
all countries that have criticized its handling of Covid19, sending warplanes
in Taiwan strait, clashes with India, problems with Canada regarding Huawei,
and heavy handling of protesters in Hong Kong.

With these
events, China has been a source of anxiety and cause of exhaustive strategic
thinking for the diplomatic community worldwide. It has been an
often-deliberated topic as to what precisely guides the Chinese foreign policy.
It also allows us to examine Chinese foreign policy from a historical as well
as present perspective.


In 1949, the
Chinese communists won a nation-wide civil war, which ultimately changed the
Republic of China (ROC) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The
nationalist government had to find a place in Taiwan. With Mao being in charge
next ten years saw close cooperation, in fact, an alliance with the Soviet
Union in International affairs. Their cooperation was visible in a formidable
way during the Korean war. Beijing’s hostility toward the U.S. and Washington’s
reciprocation intensified the Cold War in the region.

Later Deng
Xiaoping took an unprecedented course where successful reforms were done to
provide openness for a capitalistic international economy along with the
continued one-party rule of the Communist party. The new thought process,
namely “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedongism,” was still the
foundation of new China. Later the relations between China and USSR
deteriorated soon after when Khruschev was in power in USSR, who, according to
Chinese leadership, had adopted a policy of “blow hot blow cold’ towards the
west. Later on, with President Nixon’s visit to Beijing, ties between the U.S.
and China went for betterment.

It is
essential to understand the foreign policy objectives as per the Chinese
communist party (CCP) to accurately gauge China’s relation with the outside
world.CCP foreign policy edifice rest on adhering to ideological principles
while being flexible. After 1980 it drifted in being more ideologically
flexible while opening internationally in a robust manner. As per Evan
Medeiros, China’s foreign policy objectives primarily are economic development,
access to natural resources, and reducing Taiwan’s acceptability.


China has
started to open to the outside world in all directions and at all levels. 
Many new methods were employed to exercise its influence on other nations. The
primary aim being of robust economic development and sustainable growth.
Challenged security would require China to divert resources away from economic
reform, resulting in reduced growth in the long run. Hence, unlike other
nations who got independence around the same time, China has succeeded in
developing its military muscle along with the economy. Foreign policy
initiatives supported by military muscle has stabilized its regional security
to address both old and emerging threats.

An essential
pillar for today’s foreign policy of China is to expand access to trade, aid,
investment, resources, and technology. This may require the creation of blocs,
infrastructure development, and maintenance of bilateral political
relationships. One of the many examples is OBOR (One belt, One Road)
initiative. In 2013, President Xi Jinping introduced the ‘One Belt, One Road’
(OBOR) initiative, which focuses on bringing together China, Asia, Russia, and
Europe. It will also link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea
through Central Asia and West Asia.

important aspect is the “feel-good factor,” incorporated by the Chinese
leadership in the late ’90s. They realized that their Asian neighbors had
become apprehensive of their intention. It started when China expressed
willingness to pursue disputed territorial claims such as those in the South
China Sea and Taiwan. Rising Chinese economic and military power created
anxieties for neighbors and around the world as well. This prompted the Chinese
establishment to portray itself as a responsible regional power that would
contribute to its neighbor’s growth and prosperity. This prompted many
countries to avail Chinese help in terms of finance and expertise. This made
many more countries join OBOR(“One belt and One Road”) initiative.

It was
important for China to maintain easy access to natural resources worldwide to
fuel its continued economic growth. It included not only hydrocarbon but also
copper, wood, and cement. According to projections, China’s demand for most of
these resources is expected to grow significantly in the next 20 years. It has
also prompted new warmth in China’s relationship with the middle east and many
mineral-rich African and Latin American countries. This increased vigor in the
relationship, which ultimately resulted in blocs, is the cause of worry for
other countries with whom China often has trade disputes and competition.

China often puts “dollar diplomacy “ to work to bring about desired foreign
policy results. Many experts have quoted that aid packages have often been used
to deny Taiwan any international space or standing to make it inclined towards
Beijing. It worked well with many African and Latin American countries. The
best examples can be Costa Rica and Paraguay.

As per press
reports, China has built Iran’s port at Chabahar, which is critical for a
pipeline project that can challenge the efforts to ban Iran exports. China has
also made $400 billion in investments to upgrade Iran’s oil sector, which would
significantly boost its economy. As per reports, the Chinese presence also
keeps an eye on strategic movements around the middle east. It now also has
control of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka for the next 99 years, putting it at a
strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean.

As per the New
York Times report, around 35 ports worldwide have been financed by China. They
are in Africa, many in Asia, Europe, and even in Australia. Chinese investments
often come on easier terms compared to western donors.

With so much
influence of China worldwide, it will be worthwhile to deal with China only
after taking allies and creating a united front. U.S. administration had been
trying to do it by taking Japan, Australia, and even India (to some extent)
together. China is expected to be more friendly and reasonable once it has to
deal with a combined front that makes more than half of the world’s economy.

Although it
will be difficult to find allies as there are vested interests involved in
Western countries considering China’s massive role in global manufacturing and
international affairs. Without a coherent approach, western democracies will be
finding it extremely difficult to get the desired results with China.

Nadeem Khan is an Author and speaker from