Stanley's blog

A stimulating debate on “Is Chinese foreign policy changing?” at the 5th Informal European Parliament Dialogue on China on 18 February (organized by the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies) prompted me to write this post.

The opening of China after Deng Xiaoping represented a pivotal change. Under Mao, the greatest threat was seen as external but under Deng the danger was seen as coming from inside through a failure to develop. The principles set by Deng are still the basis for China’s foreign policy.

Foreign policy always has to be seen as an extension of China’s domestic policy, central to which is the maintenance of fast economic development and social stability, and now coping with the economic crisis

The objectives would appear to be: to enhance China’s domestic development, to gain access to natural resources, to increase its international status, and to gain support for its policy toward Taiwan. In order to achieve this. History is an important aspect in foreign policy formulation and thus non-interference is a central pillar of China’s. Its policy is neither doctrinal nor colonial.

Policy formulation is complicated by there being several Chinas: as the Chinese writer and politician Liang Qichao put it a century ago, there is China’s China, Asia’s China, the world’s China, and now there is also a developing countries’ China.

Central to Beijing’s thinking are its relationships with the US on the one hand and the EU on the other. The former is more important to China, given its economic and military power and the fact that it is a huge debtor. China has more in common with the latter in many respects and willingly learns from European experience. Both do not want a unipolar world. China would no doubt like to see the EU as a counterbalance to the US, but that requires it to speak with a single voice. In the meantime Beijing is content to ‘divide and rule’.

China is growing is a growing economy which is leading to more political and economic power. It is essential that the EU, the US and China work together as well as compete.

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