China Foreign Policy: Throwing out the rule book

September  2, 2016

China Foreign Policy: Throwing out the rule book

Beijing is breaking old taboos, building a military base and intervening in hotspots overseas

For years, China has walked a fine line on Syria. It supported diplomatic efforts to end the conflict but refused to be drawn into the complex conflagration that threatens to consume the Middle East.

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But on August 14 a visit by a senior official in the People’s Liberation Army appeared to reverse China’s careful attempts to steer clear of entanglements in Syria. It also raised broader questions about Beijing’s longstanding aversion to military intervention in foreign conflicts.

Image result for Rear Admiral Guan Youfei

Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, a senior official in the People’s Liberation Army, met top Syrian officials in Damascus, where he promised increased military aid and training for government forces. Mr Guan also met a senior Russian general, affirming a budding partnership with Moscow in military affairs.

While it was kept low key, the visit was so unusual that it even caught Chinese experts by surprise.“Amid all the chaos, the PLA is somehow venturing into Syria,” says Zha Daojiong, an expert on the Middle East at Peking University, referring to Mr Guan’s Syria trip. “I hope the PLA will go no further than photo-taking or other piecemeal forms of military diplomacy. The US and Russia face huge challenges in Syria. What makes us think we will have any more success?”

The visit — and the controversy it provoked — offers a stark demonstration of how a number of China’s longstanding foreign policy taboos are being rethought under President Xi Jinping.

For decades China has trumpeted its aversion to traditional realpolitik — including foreign military intervention, building foreign bases, developing spheres of influence, creating buffer zones and forging alliances — as outdated relics of colonialism.

“Hegemony or militarism is not in the genes of the Chinese,” said Mr Xi in June 2014 when he, along with officials from Myanmar and India, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the “five principles of peaceful coexistence” signed in 1954. While Beijing’s commitment to these principles has been at best uneven — India and China fought a border war eight years later — they went on to inspire several decades of foreign policy. Deng Xiaoping, the former leader, referred to his foreign policy as “keeping a low profile” in international affairs in order to focus on economic growth.

10 thoughts on “China Foreign Policy: Throwing out the rule book

  1. Good that China starts to help liberating Syrian peoples from the horrors and suffering rooted/created by the Western powers in Northern African and Middle East countries.

    China succeeded helping Sri Lanka’s elimination of Tamil Tigers terrorists before, hope to defeat the ISIS/ISIL too.

  2. Well.., Deng’s reluctance in engaging in international FUBARs have been replaced by Xi’s relish in warmongering. After all, they need the practice after years of inactivity. Mass suicide charges like in the Korean War are no longer acceptable.

    Bashar’s folks are certainly rejoicing with both the Russians and PRC committing their special forces. Only problem is that PLA is sending in the Siberian Tigers and Dark Tiger units. How the Spetsnaz (Russian spec forces) will interact with these garang animals will be left to be seen.

    Some more the only usable Aircraft Carrier group Liaoning (ex Soviet) is also steaming to the location. Practice makes perfect ya?

    Since the US and Nato SF are on the other side, Syria could well become a proxy war zone with utter devastation, not that it already isn’t.

    I predicted that it’ll break apart into lil fiefdoms many moons ago at the start of the Arab Spring – but i guess me wrong.

  3. “China succeeded helping Sri Lanka’s elimination of Tamil Tigers terrorists before, hope to defeat the ISIS/ISIL too.”

    Puhleeze, China was pumping arms , jets and god knows what else for sweet deals with the Sri Lankan Establishment. Both sides of the conflict were committing atrocities that China could not give a damn about except maybe who could give them those sweet deals.

    Take a look at any place where the PRC have got their grubby little paws in together with the grubby little paws of those
    Western powers” and you’ll notice if you were not a China cheerleader the noxious fumes of Imperialistic ambition.

    I get that you’re a China cheerleader….any chance you are a DAP supporter too ?…but spare those of us here who read beyond the echo chambers, the continued cheerleading of your would be saviour.

  4. Dey, wrongways – the FUBAR in Syria was initialized by a Qatari backed insurgency. Spring that turned into perpetual winter. Go read it up, before spewing rubbish la.. The scenario in Syria is mainly a religio-ethnic one with the Alawite Shia of Asad vs the Sunni Rebels. The opposite of Iraq. But that’s probably too simplistic for your Sinified brain..

    The West is siding with the rebels, including the Kurds – while Iran, Russia and PRC are Asad’s thingamajig. The situation isn’t just about ISIL/Daesh, but a larger conflict between the Shia and Sunni, which has been ongoing since the 9th century CE (yeah, the Tang Dynasty)..

    So what exactly are you yodeling about? The civil war in Sri Lanka was also a genocidal ethnic conflict. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge was supported by PRC too. So you mean PRC ONLY supports genocidal wars? Yup.

    Just recently, 2 PLA soldiers (under UN) were killed in Southern Kardofan – and PRC cried foul, blue murder and high water. After all they supported genocidal al-Bashir of Sudan’s Darfur infamy.

    The only thing PRC liberates is Oil.., just like USofA – before the latter found out that had more than enough themselves, by fracking and tar-sand.

    Idiots all.

  5. I find the above writing lacks depth, given it is a FT piece. It is shallow to paint a picture that there exists one never changing rule book of China, without looking deeper into many aspects which led to current China’s position, and examine the reason for China’s so-called ‘old rule book’. For the sake of rebuttal, one unchanging book in China is called ‘I Ching’ that talks about the order of changes in the observed and unobservable environment.

    To be fair, it should at least mention following quote from an American who lived in China for ages on Belgrade bombing.
    “I don’t think I met a single Chinese person at that time, and have only met a small handful since, who believed that [the bombing] was an accident,” said Kaiser Kuo, an American living in Beijing at the time.

    It should also mention who wildly unpopular Jiang zemin is amongst the more open-minded elites within China, and how difficult it is Xi’s rise which is a compromise.

    Sigh, FT 😦 Probably this FT news reflects the ignorance of general American journalist.

  6. “Hegemony or militarism is not the genes of the Chinese” Xi said.

    That policy or statement still stands today and throughout Chinese history, during time of strength or weakness.

    What we are seeing now in SCS, the East China Sea, ….Syria , previously borders with India and Vietnam, is response or reaction to protecting its interests.

    In the SCS and East China Sea, the persistent provocators are Japan and USA, initiating frequent air and sea maneuvers near China’s borders and over disputed sea borders.-This is the desired intention of provocators to cause chaos from which they can capitalize-their model “engagement”, historically.

    On the contrary, China had shown great restraint to further escalation into arm conflict, It did responded vigorous both verbally and forcefullly

    For the same policy reason the conflicts with India and Vietnam are manageab , brief and restrictive, relatively small in terms of damages and loss of lives. Few countries were being affected. They are talking for peaceful settlements.

    Presently, China is not an occupier or Colonialiser of any country or at arm conflicts with anyone or fighting or proxy war.

  7. Rightways, “Right, PRC should help to get rid of ISIS/ISIL terrors one and for all!,”
    wow sounds like D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, one for all and all for one. PRC should first solve the roblems at home with the Uighurs and Tibetans then can take on ISIS/ISIL.

  8. China going into Syria is only adding fuel to fire with regretful consequences for itself. To expect China to destroy and eliminate ISIS, which the US and the West are unable to do all these decades is wishful thinking. ISIS ideology seems to have a twin-track objective- (i) to destroy on an ongoing basis American interests – assets and its nationals, based on its as well as in foreign soil, by acts of terrorism and (ii) over time create an Islamic Caliphate (one regime) starting some where in the Middle-East and expanding outwards and globally therefrom. The Islamic Caliphate concept may be very attractive to and draw the support of the rank conservative Muslims all over the world. It probably arises from a condescending hubris attached to the primacy of Islam. How does the silent majority of millions of Muslims feel about this is anybody’s guess. My guess is that the upper, middle and professional class would certainly reject the creation or coming about of any Islamic Caliphate to govern the world.

    It is best China avoid fishing in troubled waters and not commit its forces to fight terror wars in the Middle-East along with the Americans. If it could start some peace initiative to solve the long dragging civil wars taking place there, it would be better.

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