Yu Tiejun is vice president of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies , and an associate professor of international studies at Peking University.
UPDATED AUGUST 23, 2016, 3:20 AM
In recent years, China has stressed the importance of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness in its regional relations. But China’s security relations in East Asia have been deteriorating.
Even though China has continually demanded a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, North Korea has continued to develop nuclear weapons, conducting its fourth nuclear test and a series of missile tests. As a result, the top leaders of China and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic have not met since President Xi Jinping and Kim Jung Un took power, which is unprecedented for the two countries.
China’s overriding goal of peaceful development and national rejuvenation cannot be fulfilled without a stable and prosperous East Asia.
China’s relationship with South Korea under Xi and President Park Geun Hye of the Republic of Korea, which had been regarded as the best example of China’s “neighborhood diplomacy,” began to stumble when South Korea agreed to have the United States deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery recently.
Sino-Japanese relations hit bottom in 2012 over the resurging territorial dispute surrounding the Diaoyu Islands and remained chilly until now.
The relatively stable relations with Taiwan seem to be sailing into troubled water since Tsai Ing-wen took power in Teipei and declined to openly accept the 1992 consensus that Teipei and Beijing are part of one China, with each side interpretating what that means.
And 10 years after China began its “charm offensive” with ASEAN nations, an international tribunal’s ruling against Chinese claims in the South China Sea has hurt China’s reputation and relations with ASEAN countries.
How did the supposed purpose and the outcome of China’s East Asian policy become so disparate? Beijing blames the United States strategy of rebalancing to focus on East Asia, claiming that encouraged its allies in this region to confront China, to keep China from challenging U.S. hegemony in this region. The United States and its allies said China’s increasing assertiveness destabilized East Asia.
Against this strategic background, conspiracy theories tend to thrive on both sides. This perception gap can be narrowed though, if both sides choose not to see only the worst from the other side and pay more attention to crisis management.
No country would like to be only feared by its neighbors. Americans may like to be called a benevolent hegemon, while China also wants to be a “big and amicable” country, as the late Zhou Enlai said. But China’s overriding goal of peaceful development and national rejuvenation could not be fulfilled without a stable and prosperous East Asia.