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Stockholm China Forum

July 2011

Paper Series
The Roles China Ought to Play in the World
by Shi Yinhong
What roles should a rising China play in the world? They should include being, at the very least: 1) a provider of transnational values concerning economic growth, liberty, social justice, and environmental protection; 2) a strategic great power with the capacity to redefine the China-U.S. relationship; 3) a bearer of international responsibility in various functional areas, requiring a substantial contribution to the global political economy, security, and the environment; and 4) a courageous but prudent restrainer of the preponderant power, for the sake of world liberty and justice. As a Provider of Transnational Values Modern transnational values can be reduced into four broad categories: economic growth, liberty, social justice, and, now, environmental protection. Chinas greatest achievement since the start of its reform and opening period has been economic growth. However, although obtaining the economic liberty of 1.3 billion people is a great contribution to global progress, this value in itself is not a Chinese innovation, and the pursuit of economic liberty in China is now, in too many cases, laissez-faire. Both the government and the public increasingly believe that this achievement has been at the expense of social justice and environmental protection. There is still a very long way to go before China fully realizes some other basic liberties for its people. In the context of Chinas development and its impact on the world, we Chinese have an increasingly firm confidence in the growth of our national strength. But, despite Chinas economic success, it is difficult to predict what major contributions contemporary China will make to the transnational value complex. However, it should be emphasized that China has already contributed an innovative historic value to the world, created by Mao Zedong in his finest years, from the latter 1920s to early 1950s, and then adapted by Deng Xiaoping for contemporary China. That is, what is most important and decisive is the Chinese own practice and experience in the particular Chinese circumstances and situation; what is best for Washington or Moscow or elsewhere is not necessarily best for China, just as what is best for China is not necessarily best for anywhere else; people are entitled to move on their own roads respectively

Summary: As a rising power, China should take on greater responsibility 1) as a provider of transnational values; 2) in redefining its relationship with the United States; 3) in contributing functionally to the global political economy, security, and the environment; and 4) as a restrainer of the preponderant power.

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according to their own practice, experience, and decisions. This local Chinese experience, vindicated by its successful revolution, reform, and growth, promises to be globally significant. As a Strategic Great Power On the assumption that Chinas peaceful rise continues, the United States will consider Chinas role in the world with increasing seriousness, and may eventually even adopt a peaceful final settlement. This will require an understanding of the different balances of strength and influence in various functional and geographical areas and the adoption of the rationale of selective preponderances (instead of comprehensive superiority) or advantage distribution. This means not only accepting the leading position that China might obtain in terms of GDP, foreign trade volume, and diplomatic/economic influence in Asia, but also accepting the idea of mutual strategic deterrence between China and the United States. This may include Chinas military parity or even a marginal superiority to the United States in the formers offshore area (with Taiwans east coastline as the approximate demarcation line) and a peaceful (or basically so) reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, together with Chinas strategic space in a narrow but substantial span of the western Pacific. Meanwhile, the United States, with Chinas acceptance, would retain overall military superiority more generally, and in the central and western Pacific in particular, as well as predominance of diplomatic influence in other regions. All of this would necessitate power-sharing between China and the United States, and would require the United States to accept a peaceful China as a world power. On the other hand, the great power structural rivalry between China and the United States is becoming more pronounced. Chinas continuing military build-up will increasingly become the prominent concern of American strategists and neo-conservatives. Since the Reagan administration, the United States has been determined to maintain military superiority, perceiving it to be the most significant strategic asset. Meanwhile, China has resolved to modernize its military for the sake of its vital national interests and self-respect. This contradiction is surely not absent of the possibility of paralyzing future Sino-U.S. relations. As a Bearer of International Responsibility There are some emerging problems with long term significance for Chinas grand strategy, especially in its relations with the West, as well as in the increasingly prominent issue of global governance. These largely concern the international responsibilities that should be borne by a rising China and, especially in the eyes of the West, it has not yet borne sufficiently. What is increasingly needed is Chinas assurance, through words as well as through deeds, of a responsible rise, in addition to its long-declared peaceful rise.

Chinas continuing military buildup will increasingly become the prominent concern of American strategists.
There should be no doubt that China should greatly increase the extent to which it bears international responsibility, insofar as this 1) does not violate Chinas vital interests and surpass its fundamental capabilities; 2) results from an equal consultation between China and the rest of the world, rather than from dictation or coercion; and 3) correlates to an increase in international rights and privileges. International responsibility is rapidly becoming a key phrase in the discourse on Chinas grand strategy and foreign policy, and it presents a major challenge that China will need to meet. It should not be forgotten that China is home to about one-fifth of the worlds population, and, as such, the extent to which it bears international responsibility will correspondingly benefit the Chinese people. It is right for China to resist some of what it feels are the more unreasonable demands and pressures from the West. At the same time, it is also right for China to substantially increase its commitment to addressing global challenges in pursuit of the common enterprise. These two assertions are not mutually exclusive. In particular, China should take greater responsibility for reducing its foreign trade surplus, should demonstrate a greater commitment to environmental protection, and should engage further on nonpro-

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liferation and regional security cooperation. An increased commitment to the bearing of international responsibility is paramount to Chinas healthy development within, and to its strategic security without. As a Courageous Restrainer on the Excess of Power The role China will play in the world over both the short and long term is closely connected to this fundamental question: what will Chinas foreign policy orientation be? A peaceful rise will, and should, continue to be an indispensable element in Chinas foreign policy orientation, but should be far from its totality. Since Deng Xiaoping launched the period of reform and opening up, China has had the following orientation in its foreign policy: through peaceful rise, including consistent strategic prudence and diplomatic accommodation often characterized by compromise, China shall ultimately become a world power independent both politically and mentally. Deng Xiaoping himself emphasized that China.will be anyway one polar in the overall multi-polar power structure the world will and ought to have in the future. In pursuit of that goal, China should check American power gently and with moderation but consistently. It will be necessary for China to have a comprehensive and balanced diplomacy, paying sufficient attention to its relations with the United States and striving for a better selective partnership, whilst positioning the gravity of its diplomatic attention and strategic operation in Asia. China should therefore deal with its Asian neighbors within a holistic strategic framework. Insofar as it does not severely damage Chinas vital interests and national honor, the Chinese government must do its utmost to keep old friends and win new ones along its geographical periphery, mitigating old resentments, avoiding new antagonism, and, over the longer term, creating strategic partners or even allies. Along a similar vein, China needs to pay sufficient attention to its relations with powers outside of the United States and Asia. This foreign policy orientation implies a set of domestic requirements and conditions. It will require that the Chinese state and society is made healthier through domestic reform and the reduction of excessive interdependence with the United States in terms of the political economy. At the same time, and with similar importance, the Chinese government will need to be both courageous and skillful in the way it handles its public opinion which, in recent years, has become less patient, more easily angered, and has often underestimated Chinas neighbors. Since 2008, some in China have held a contending foreign policy orientation: G2 the Chinese version. This orientation suggests that the United States, as the worlds superpower, must be given an overwhelmingly preponderant position in the Chinese foreign policy agenda. It also implies that Chinas interdependence with the United States in terms of the political economy should increase even further. Those holding this belief seem to be convinced that extra accommodation will reduce troubles from the United States whilst enabling China to treat the numerous other troublemakers more forcefully or less attentively. And, they believe, or hope, that it will also encourage the United States to recognize, and possibly even assist, Chinas rise to No. 2 status. They obviously have more delusions, less strategic sense, and less great power aspiration than others in China.

The Chinese government must do its utmost to keep old friends and win new ones along its geographical periphery.
Libya: a Case Study The recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have affected Chinas position on the principal of nonintervention. It is probable that the Chinese government believed it had no choice than to allow the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 1973, giving the international community the authority to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. It was clear that the United States, France, and the United Kingdom were determined to launch a military strike in support of the armed insurgents in Libya, and that a number of Arab and African countries supported and even intended to join the armed intervention. Had Beijing vetoed the resolution, Chinas relations with both the West and the Arab countries involved would have temporarily become strained. It was also obvious to China that even if

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the resolution were vetoed, the United States and others would still launch an attack despite the absence of a UN Security Council mandate. This was a difficult decision for China. Resolution 1973 and the subsequent Western military action could, in principle, form a dangerous precedent for future military interventions in developing countries struck by civil war or internal upheaval. The situation is reminiscent of NATOs armed intervention in Kosovo in 1999. It may go so far as to effect a revision of previous norms in favor of armed intervention in the cases of civil war or internal upheaval, making it easier for the United States and its associates to infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states in similar future scenarios. Chinas desire for stable Sino-U.S. relations following the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States in January 2011, and its important relationship with Saudi Arabia, induced Beijing to abstain from using its veto in the UN Security Council. Since then, China has regretted its decision deeply because of the intensity of the Western military strikes and because the West has gone far beyond Resolution 1973s declared purpose. When comparing the present situation with the 1999 Kosovo crisis, China and Russias response appears weak. This demonstrates timidity regarding the principal of noninterventionism. There is now a reduced ability to defend the principle and to restore China and Russias initiative. If a similar case occurs in the foreseeable future, it seems unlikely that China and Russia will use their veto power to protect the principle of nonintervention. Should the United States and its associates in the UN Security Council resolve to intervene in countries other than China, Russia, or close allies thereof, then they may well be able to push through the relevant resolution. It has become obvious that a risen China will be more reluctant and find it more difficult to restrain the abuse of power. It is evident that increased strength does not automatically mean the increase, or even maintenance, of will-power.
About the Author
Shi Yinhong is Professor of International Relations and Director for American Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

About the Stockholm China Forum


This is part of a series of papers informing and informed by discussions at the Stockholm China Forum. The Stockholm China Forum is an initiative of the German Marshall Fund, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. It brings together policymakers, intellectuals, journalists, and businesspeople from Europe, the United States, and Asia on a biannual basis for an ongoing and systematic dialogue to assess the impact of Chinas rise and its implications for European and U.S. foreign, economic, and security policy

About GMF
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpartisan American public policy and grantmaking institution dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has seven offices in Europe: Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, and Warsaw. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.