China's move towards global engagement


At a time when China is celebrating its 60th anniversary of founding of the Republic, it is important to bear in mind that the idea of China like the idea of India is a continuum. If there cannot be Republic of India without the great Harappan civilisation or the Indus Valley civilisation or the Vedic civilisation, similarly there cannot be Republican China without great Chinese civilisation of thousand years of history and philosophy of Confucius. The rising China which we witness today is a continuum of a timeless civilisation and of a great culture.

Ever since the Communist China assumed power on Oct 1 1949, defeating its rival KMT — whose leader Sun Yat Sen fled to Taiwan — there had been momentous events in China both domestically as well as externally. While much is talked about China’s economic rise, its military might, very little is mentioned about its world diplomacy.

Over the years, the way it has morphed and arrived on world stage with consummate diplomatic skill is remarkable by any reckoning. The acquiring membership of the UN in place of Taiwan in 1971 and subsequently membership of the Security Council was perhaps the first major diplomatic victory of China after its political consolidation.

Ties with USA

The US derecognition of Taiwan and acquiring the membership of UN with the help of the USA facilitated establishment of diplomatic relationship between China and the USA in 1972. The US, however, formally recognized People’s Republic of China in January 1979 when Deng visited USA. Its courage and fortitude to deal with a super power in its own terms at a time when its economy had not developed to the extent as it is today, was awesome to say the least.

China not only mended fence with the USA, it also started a rapprochement with Moscow with whom the relationship had soured during 1969-1979. History was rewritten on May 15, 1989, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorvachev and Chinese President Deng Xiaoping met in Beijing.

After striking a fine balance between the two super powers, Beijing tuned attention to restore sovereignty over Hong Kong, then a capitalist enclave under British rule.

After protracted negotiations and diplomatic parleys which begun in 1984, Hong Kong reverted back the Beijing after long spell of tutelage under British rule on July 1, 1997, through the novelty of ‘one country, two systems’ where China retained sovereignty over Hong Kong while allowing its economic and political system to continue for 50 years from July 1, 1997.

A year later China also regained sovereignty over the Portuguese enclave Macao, adjacent to Hong Kong through the modicum of ‘one country, two systems’.

While China has been successful in regaining sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao, the on going thaw between China and Taiwan holds much promise of a comprehensive engagement between China and its estranged sibling. A landmark event in the relationship between China and Taiwan was the historic meeting between the General-Secretary of Chinese Communist Party (CPC), Hu Jintao and the Chairman of KMT Wu Poh-hsiung at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 28, 2008. To what extent the ‘one country, two systems’ can be replicated in case of Taiwan is a hazardous guess.

Exploring Africa

Its diplomatic foray into Africa with which China has historical and traditional friendship is very pronounced. Beijing launched a $1 billion fund in June 2007 to finance trade and investment by Chinese companies in Africa as part of efforts to nurture commercial ties with resource rich continent.

In the ASEAN forum, China is already ahead of India in forging a free trade regime with the countries of the region. In the Gulf region also, Beijing had made a dent, thanks to Pakistan, China’s all-weather friend.  There has been steady interaction between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council for quite some time.

Crossing the Asia and the frontiers of the West, Chinese diplomacy has made its presence felt in the far off Latin America as well. In fact in November, 2008, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid visits to Costa Rica, Cuba and Peru. China has increased its diplomatic engagement and investment in the region in recent years with eye on natural resources and developing markets for manufactured goods and even arms.

China’s growing stature on the global stage can also be gagged from the fact that it stole the lime light at the G-20 Summit held in Pittsburgh and earlier at London.  Besides, China has been playing a very prominent role in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Brazil-Russia-Africa-India-China (BRIC) forum. On issue relating to climate change both China and are also poised to play a defining role.

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