Beijing warned over looming challenges

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am


China is expected to face more challenges on its doorstep this year as the US pursues a strategic return to Asia, and neighbours seek to benefit from regional competition between Beijing and Washington, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says in a new report on the Asia-Pacific region.

'Problems between China and neighbouring countries are not new, but the United States' return to Asia means there's now a lumping together of Sino-US problems with regional problems, creating unprecedented complexities,' one of the drafters of the report, Professor Zhou Fangyin, said.

'For example, the South China Sea disputes only really became more serious in the past two years as the US began raising its influence in the region.'

And this challenge will not go away any time soon.

'In the past, when China overtook Germany or Japan, it was only individual countries worrying or complaining; but now as China is No 2, the United States won't give up too easily.'

The annual Blue Book of Asia-Pacific, published by the academy's Asia-Pacific Research Institute yesterday, said the US had implemented its return-to-Asia strategy in an 'all-round way' last year and created permanent mechanisms for doing so. These included promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact and taking part in the East Asia Summit proper for the first time, rather than just attending its defence meetings, as in 2010.

The US was returning to Asia to take a share in the economic growth, as well as to 'counter China's rise', the report said. America's strategy also suited the 'hedging' needs of some Asian countries.

'It's natural for neighbouring small nations to be worried about China's rapid rise, and they needed a big nation from outside the region to balance China so they can hedge between the two and maximise their own interests,' the report said. 'The US exploited this need of the Asian countries to successfully complete its return.'

Meanwhile, the territorial disputes in the South China Sea provided a convenient opportunity for the US to implement this strategy, and to pull China back into an international framework where the rules were set by the US.

But the US was not the only competitor, the report warned. 'The region around China is becoming an arena of competition for major countries in the world,' it said. Japan, India and Russia were all readjusting their Asia strategies, 'with China as the focal point' and Europe would do the same after solving its debt crisis.

The report recommended that China should deepen economic relations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations through free trade and investment, as well as expand the current strategic economic dialogue with India.