Debate: 2010 and beyond

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Wang Yusheng: Differences exist but peace reigns

The overall international situation in 2010 has been complicated. But the main trend is clear: the global balance of power is undergoing profound changes.

G20 has become a platform where emerging economies can have dialogue with the developed world on a relatively equal basis. The reform of the international financial system has seen the voting power of developing countries in the World Bank inch closer to 50 percent, and given BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) a 14.18 percent share of the International Monetary Fund's quota - which is important because major decisions in the monetary body require an 85 percent super majority.

In terms of economic recovery, emerging economies have maintained a strong growth momentum, while developed countries are struggling with the global financial crisis, and though the United States is still the only world superpower, its influence is waning. It seems that the world is evolving just as some politicians and scholars once said: The East is growing and the West is declining.

Faced with the reality of the "changing times" after entering the White House in January last year, US President Barack Obama vowed to renew the US' global leadership through "new diplomacy". The Obama administration now says it is committed to a "multi-partner world" rather than "world multipolarization".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has time and again elaborated Obama's "new diplomacy", calling for the establishment of a "multi-partner world". She has said: "We will lead by inducing greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world."

But in essence there has been no change in US strategy, except for the change in terms. Clinton has been trying to disguise Washington's strategy, which remains the same - to sustain and strengthen the US' "leadership" and maintain "today's world" so that it can continue playing a leading role.

Since the end of the Cold War, especially during the past decade, Asia (except for the Middle East) has enjoyed a relatively peaceful and stable environment compared with some other region, and maintained record economic growth. Asian countries not only weathered the 1997 financial storm and emerged stronger, but they have also overcome the global financial crisis, under which the West is still reeling.

Economic developments in Asia have been promising. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has become an important platform for mutually beneficial cooperation and common development in the region. This year saw the launch of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. Other cooperative mechanisms, such as the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea), have been established, and the gains of China's fast growth are spilling over to wider areas.

However, problems do exist in Asia, especially the ones left over by history and created by differences in culture and national interests. But China has been patiently and peacefully coordinating with other countries to solve some latent problems that could evolve into "confrontations" in the region. China's aim is to solve them through mutual understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation. And though the "US factor" has played a negative role, it has not been able to reverse the general trend of peace, development and cooperation in the region.

Washington, no doubt, needs to seek new partners. Beijing, too, attaches great importance to its ties with Washington. But if the US wants its new partners to behave like subordinates, it can safely count China out. Another disturbing factor is that Obama's "new diplomacy" seems to be aimed at "containing" China's rise.

By using the disputes between China and some Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea and the China-Japan dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, and by playing up the "threat of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea", the US has strengthened its military presence in Asia significantly. Also, the US has deferred the transfer of wartime operational command to the Republic of Korea by three years and seven months, and ensured that groups in Japan that dared to challenge it backed off.

But the US should realize that times have changed. The situation in Asia today and the relationship between China and other Asian countries cannot be compared with those in the past. Vested interests' attempt to "encircle" China to "contain" its rise does not conform to the trend of the changing times. Although countries neighboring China need the cooperation and support of the US, and to some extent even want it to "help maintain the balance of power", none of them would like to side with Washington against Beijing.

We cannot assume that the relationships between China and its neighbors are deteriorating, because that is not the truth. If we tend to just follow the Western media and sensationalize the frictions between China and its neighbors, we will fall in the trap laid by some Western powers to create divisions between China and other Asian countries.

However, we should realize that the Sino-US relation is still most important. If China and the US get along well, China and other Asian countries will also get along relatively smoothly.

We need a stable Sino-US relationship to avoid putting other Asian countries in a dilemma of strategic choices. A stable and healthy bilateral relationship is crucial for China and the US both.

Given its increasing influence on the world stage, China can make a difference in international relations. Indeed, it has been trying to make that difference by acting prudently and without causing any harm to other countries.

And it is important that China exercises restraint against outside provocations and avoids being complacent because of some lavish praise.

The author is executive director of the Strategy Research Center of China International Studies Research Fund.


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