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China's Rise
China’s Aggressive Beginning to 2016

President Xi Jinping clearly plans to steam ahead with an aggressive foreign policy in 2016. After Vietnam protested China’s plane landings on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea over the weekend, Beijing did it again this morning with two more planes. Reuters:

“The successful test flights proved that the airport has the capacity to ensure the safe operation of large civilian aircraft,” Xinhua said, adding that the airport would facilitate the transport of supplies, personnel and medical aid […]

The runway at the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China has been building for more than a year by dredging sand up onto reefs and atolls in the Spratly archipelago.

Moreover, last week, several news outlets reported on the heavy involvement of President Xi in reorganizing the military, which includes the formation of three new units. Then there was the announcement that China is building a second aircraft carrier—this time from scratch.

Xi may be a nationalist himself, but he’s also taking a hawkish approach because it appeals to the populace’s patriotism. That makes it a convenient distraction from slowing economic growth, and other domestic disruptions. And while it’s of course possible that Xi would have pursued this strategy regardless, his recent moves also testify to evaporating concerns about the U.S. pivot—he doesn’t appear to think the current White House will challenge him. (And, as Eliot Cohen recalls in his latest column, presidents don’t have much leverage in their final years anyway).

If China’s 2016 foreign policy moves continue to be this aggressive, expect regional tensions to rise.

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  • Anthony

    Inferred in post is question what is to be China’s relationship with twenty-first century world order. The post brings to mind a consideration offered by Henry Kissinger: “When urged to adhere to the international systems rules of the game and responsibilities, the visceral reaction of many Chinese – including senior leaders – has been profoundly affected by the awareness that China has not participated in making the rules of the system. They are asked – and, as a matter of prudence, have agreed – to adhere to rules they had had no part in making. But they expect – and sooner or later will act on this expectation – the international order to evolve in a way that enables China to become centrally involved in further international rule making, even to the point of revising some of the rules that prevail.”

    • Dhako

      Here is the short answer:

      1- China will never, ever, imposed her politics, or desires on any one, like the manner the European colonials have done in their heydays.

      2-Nor is China ever going to go down that US’s road of “regime change” on anyone, regardless of how seductive talks is made for the prospect of the regime change outcome.

      3- China, will always seek a win-win (especially economical terms) with anyone who wants to trade with her, regardless of what particular internal politics they indulge in, in their own country.

      4- China will respect the UN charter in so far as others are not in the habit of wishing to game the UN charter, so that their peculiar interest could be made at the expense of China’s core national interest. And this means, China will not allow the likes of Philippines egged on by Uncle Sam, to use the UN’s tribunal forums in-order to internationalize a local bilateral dispute concerning the South China Sea (SCS) between China and Philippines.

      5- China will at all cost seek and boaster the multilateral forums and multilateral solution in each problematic areas or regions. And, she would do that, without having the self-delusion of thinking that she should pick off where the knackered proverbial White’s man had left the load he was foolish, or narcissistic, enough to think he could carry on his shoulders as a “alleged burden”.

      This is, in short, the sort of China’s version of what the world order should look like it, if there would be some sort of modern-day congress of Vienna to take account of how the world should be order now that we know that Pax-America (without the consent of rising power) is dead in the water.

      Hence, such a platform will have to be formulated in-order to established a 21 century version of “World Restored” (to quote Dr Henry Kissinger’s famous book about what came after the end of Napoleonic ravages in the Vienna Congresses of 1812 – 1822).

      But since US is not the defeated Napoleonic Era’s France sort of power, and some may even say rather delusion-ally, that the US is just getting around to starting her “pre-eminence role” in the world for decades to come, then some may quibble with my suggestion for the need for new version of Congress of Vienna for World Order.

      However, the point I am belaboring in here is that the US may not wish to consider her “Pax-Americana’s Era” to be over. But to many others around the world, particularly the rising powers like China, its a fact of reality.

      And, of course, correspondingly, they are busy in creating their own version of multi-polar global order (which intend to bypass the US as best as possible). And this Sino-friendly multi-polar world orders has the characteristics of what I have just describe above, in my points. This is the reality in which its strategical assumption China is proceeding under it. I hope that clarifies a thing or two for you.

      • Anthony

        Thanks for your contribution (though it was noways a short answer). Asia and China proper will impact (exercise perhaps) world leadership as 21st century moves on. Again, your response is appreciated.

      • Tom

        The Vietnamese would disagree with every single one of your points.

  • Andrew Allison

    Here’s a thought: follow the Saudi example vis a vis Iran and drop something noisy close to (or even on) the runway. China will keep pushing until there’s a meaningful response, which should come sooner rather than later.

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