China is rising as a military power, but it still has a good deal to learn about great power diplomacy. Over the past two years, China has managed to blunder its way into bad relations with nearly all of its neighbors, driving them into the arms of the United States (and each other) through a series of useless provocations. We’ve written about this frequently at Via Meadia, and the Financial Times agrees:
“Chinese assertion has backfired,” says Andrew Carr, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at the Australian National University in Canberra.
“They don’t see the connection between upping the tempo on the maritime operations and the fact that so many countries in the region are moving towards the very counter-containment strategies Beijing doesn’t want,” says Michael Green, former Asia director at the National Security Council during the administration of George W. Bush.
Like many countries adjusting to a larger role on the world stage, China is eager to earn the respect of other nations, particularly its neighbors. But Beijing will need to learn that the harder it pushes its neighbors, the more it drives them into the arms of America and each other. Already a fairly robust alliance system is building up along China’s borders, and Beijing’s recent moves have only encouraged its neighbors to press even further.
China needs good relations with the world. It’s heavily dependent on exports and would suffer a great deal from being left out of the ambitious trade deals currently being negotiated by its neighbors. China’s assertive posturing may help with outspoken nationalists at home, but it has done little to win it friends beyond its shores.