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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchChina Is Done Biding Its Time: The End of Beijing’s Foreign Policy...

China Is Done Biding Its Time: The End of Beijing’s Foreign Policy Restraint?

Authors: Kurt M. Campbell and Mira Rapp-Hooper

Affiliation: The Asian Group and Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) 

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs 

Date/Place: July 15, 2020/ USA

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Word Count: 2350

Link:https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2020-07-15/china-done-biding-its-time

Keywords: China’s Foreign Policy, Restraint Policy, Offensive Policy, COVID-19, and Global Leadership 

 

Brief:

The authors argue here that Chinese foreign policy is currently transforming its nature. After being distinguished for decades by restraint, we see today that it is becoming more offensive and rigid in a way that gives the world an idea of China’s foreign policy in the coming decades. The authors follow this shift on two levels. First, the tone of diplomatic discourse. For example, in 2015 when China was at the height of international confrontation over its construction of islands in the South China Sea, its officials expressed their positions in a soft and non-challenging manner; while in the Peak of the COVID-19 Crisis we note that its officials have used a sharp tone against Western critics. Second, practical behaviors in the regional neighborhood and beyond. This can be seen since the beginning of this year in its escalation on the East China Sea front against Japan around the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands, sending vessels to linger off the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as an expression of its insistence on its claims in the South China Sea, tightening its grip in Hong Kong, its border clash with India where China used its army for the first time in thirty years, in addition to opening a confrontation with Australia and imposing economic sanctions on it after Canberra called to conduct an independent investigation on the causes of COVID-19. Perhaps China hopes—by showing its military and economic muscles—to teach other states in the region to think twice before opposing it, but it will not regain the friendliness of some neighbors soon, and it will lose some of its soft power due to this policy. Building on the above, the article concludes that China is now abandoning its traditional restraint policy, and it is not expected that it will back out soon. As for the reasons for this shift, the authors refer to two main reasons: First, the power vacuum left by the US during the past years by its withdrawal from global leadership, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, allowed Beijing more freedom to move. Second, there have been some internal transformations at the Chinese decision-making level, as they claim that Leader Xi is more individualist in making the important decisions away from advisors, unlike his predecessors who believed in the institutionalized processes of collective leadership. However, the second reason is more likely, as leader Xi believes that China’s geopolitical moment has arrived. In conclusion, the authors provide a set of recommendations for how the next US administration should deal with Chinese offensive diplomacy, most notably: abandon unilateral sanctions on China, revitalize Washington’s relations with European and Asian allies to balance China, invest in international institutions and not leave them in the hands of China, and most importantly is the necessity for the US to restore its health and local prosperity to remain a globally competitive power.

By: Djallel Khechib, CIGA Senior Research Associate

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