Odd Arne Westad argues that China’s foreign policy has become counterproductively aggressive in its narrow pursuit of immediate national interests, and that a more persuasive approach would serve the country and region better in the long run.
China’s more assertive foreign policy over the last two years has played a key role in getting two arch-conservatives — Japan’s Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye — elected to lead their respective countries. Some Chinese observers believe that Abe and Park will be forced by China’s inexorable rise to come to terms with their giant neighbor. Don’t count on it. To much of its region, China’s behavior as it is coming of age as a modern superpower is eerily reminiscent of its past policy as a regional hegemon.
For a very long time, imperial China dominated its wider region. The Chinese imperial court considered itself the indispensable center of a regional order in which China had the right and the duty to set international norms and standards, and to intervene if these were broken. It was an ideological system in which Chinese principles had to be the starting point for all things.
[…] China needs to learn from its past that a good foreign policy must be more than only seeking what is best for one’s country to the detriment of others. It is rather to seek to create a region, and eventually a world, where as many as possible believe that China’s rise can also be to their own advantage.
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Scott A. Snyder, on the other hand, suggests that Park’s election might actually offer an opportunity for a fresh start in Sino-South Korean relations. At Bloomberg last October, Pankaj Mishra examined the argument that neighboring countries’ historical experience has left them well equipped to deal...
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