China's Economic Diplomacy and the One Belt One Road Initiatives vs. South Korea-China Economic Cooperation

By HAN, Woo Duck
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 9, 2015
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The Belt and Road Initiative embodies China’s economic diplomacy under the Xi Jinping administration, especially the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, which manifests China’s recent economic diplomacy policies such as neighboring diplomacy, multilateral cooperation, and energy diplomacy.

China has become increasingly active in economic diplomacy since its entry into the WTO in 2001. The Belt and Road Initiative that started this year is one of China’s initiatives in the area. The entry into the WTO represented China’s integration with the international economic regime led by the West, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is the hallmark of Present Xi Jinping’s economic diplomacy. Economic diplomacy contains two opposite aspects: one is to promote economic growth through diplomatic measures, and the other is to achieve a certain diplomatic goal by using economic means. The Belt and Road Initiative displays both features, but the latter is more prominent.

Such a diplomatic strategy is based on China’s knowledge of and attitude towards neighboring countries. The US’s balance and containment policy and the fact that a growing number of neighboring countries are becoming unfriendly or pro-American are both concerns for China. Some neighboring countries believe that the Belt and Road Initiative is an attempt to redress this situation. If China hopes to realize the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road strategy as it proposed, it has to dispel their misgivings.

To reach the goal, China should first formulate policies that conform to the internationally recognized rules rather than those established by China itself. Second, China needs an open policy that does not exclude any individual country or groups of countries. Third, an institutionalized decision-making system in which all member states can participate should be set up. And most importantly, the primary condition is that all neighboring countries believe that their security is safeguarded. All of China’s neighboring countries are observing China, counting on China to fulfill commitments to equality, mutual benefit and safeguarding security as it presses forward with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

Among China’s neighbors, the Republic of Korea is a typical pro-American country. Its attitude to the Belt and Road Initiative is one of caution, as it has to give consideration to the US position in East Asia. Therefore it hesitates to enter an AIIB that is dominated by China and maintains a position of reserve towards the the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). But the author believes that the ROK will have no reason to reject joining the AIIB or becoming active toward CICA when the conditions are ripe, as both mechanisms will promote economic growth and security in the region.

The Belt and Road Initiative is actually China’s “Go West” strategy. As a country to its east, the ROK is not involved in this strategy. But the ROK attaches great importance to the plan as the New Silk Road is in line with the Eurasia initiative proposed by the Park Geun-hye administration, and will help the peaceful development of the Korean Peninsula. Just as we observed in the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit held at Busan last December, the ROK takes cooperation with the ASEAN countries seriously, and actively promotes cooperation projects in energy, infrastructure and national security, which dovetail with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road plan. So China’s Belt and Road Initiative fits and is mutually complementary with the ROK’s economic diplomacy. When visiting the ROK, President Xi Jinping and President Park Geun-hye both agreed to build a Belt and Road industrial negotiation mechanism. We expect the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road to extend to Busan and Inchon, contributing to the common development of Northeast Asia.

Woo Duck Han, director of the JoongAng Daily and Institute of Chinese Studies, was born in 1963. Committed to journalism for 25 years, Han has specialized in analyzing China’s economics, industrial development, Sino-South Korean relationship, and economic cooperation in East Asia. He won Journalist Award in South Korea with his Report on Shanghai in 2003.

Han graduated from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, majoring Chinese language and received a Ph.D. of economics from East China Normal University in Shanghai. Over the last few years, he has served as a journalist for Korea Economic Daily and Central Daily, as well as a resident correspondent in Beijing and Shanghai.

His major publications include China’s 1.3 Billion Economics and The New Model of China’s Economy in the Era of Xi Jinping.

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