|- International Relations -|
Position In International Community
With China's growing influence around the world, Beijing has now set its efforts on Africa. China's focus in Africa is not a recent occurrence. In the 1960s and 1970s, Beijing's interest centered on building ideological solidarity with other underdeveloped nations to advance Chinese-style communism and on repelling Western "colonialism/imperialism". Following the Cold War, Chinese interests evolved into more pragmatic pursuits such as trade, investment, and energy. Sino-African trade quadrupled between 2000 and 2006. China is Africa's third largest commercial partner after the US and France, and second largest exporter to Africa after France. It is notably ahead of former colonial power Britain in both categories. Some western nations' hesitance to become closely involved with countries they believe to be poor in the human rights field, such as Sudan, have allowed China an opportunity for economic cooperation.
As the Chinese economy booms, a major priority is securing natural resources to keep pace with demand. China and Kazakhstan have agreed to construct a regional pipeline, and in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, China has invested in hydroelectric projects. In addition to bolstering trade ties, Beijing has contributed aid and funding to the region's countries. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which China is a founding member, is also becoming increasingly important in Central Asian security and politics. Many observers believe that beyond fostering good-neighborly relations, China is also concerned with securing its borders as it emerges as a world power.
China's fast economic growth also means that China is consuming ever more energy. China is now the second largest consumer of petroleum products in the world after the United States. China has recently been carrying out an aggressive foreign policy in trying to secure and diversify sources of its energy (oil and gas) supplies from around the world. The Middle Eastern region, which contains the world's largest proven oil reserve, has been the focus of that policy. Roughly half of China's imported oil comes from the Middle East. At the same time, these energy-producing Middle Eastern nations are keen to diversify their customer base away from overdependence on the Western market (Europe and North America) as a demand source and so they have begun to look at other rapidly growing markets such as China. In addition to the deepening bilateral relationship in the trade and energy sectors, China has an expanding body of other strategic interests in the greater Middle East region. This is manifested in its security relationships with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran, which entail WMD and ballistic missile cooperation. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan are pivotal states in the region. They are increasingly likely to view China in coming years as an alternate source of security and as a counterbalance to American power.
China is steadily extending its reach into South Asia with its growing economic and strategic influence in the region. China's current trade volume with all South Asian nations reaches close to US$20 billion a year. Its bilateral trade with India alone accounts for US$13.6 billion a year, a number set to grow to US$25 billion in 2010. Except for New Delhi, Beijing runs trade surpluses with all other partners, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. But China makes up for these trade deficits with massive investment in the infrastructural development, socio-economic needs, and above all energy production of its trade partners. Fast on the heels of the U.S. offer of nuclear power plants to India, China has offered Pakistan and Bangladesh nuclear power plants of its own to meet their energy needs. Beijing also showers these nations with low-cost financial capital to help their struggling development sector. The largest beneficiaries of this economic aid are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal - in that order.
China's geopolitical ambitions focus on Southeast Asia, where Beijing is intent upon establishing a preeminent sphere of influence. China has pursued this ambition with a very skilled diplomatic campaign designed to ultimately bind the region to China- politically, economically, and militarily.
Recent years have seen Beijing's growing economic and political influence in South America and the Caribbean. During a visit to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Cuba in November 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced US$100 billion worth of investment over the next decade. For instance, Cuba is turning to Chinese companies rather than Western ones to modernize its crippled transportation system at a cost of more than US$1 billion, continuing a trend of favoring the fellow communist country that has made Beijing Cuba's second-largest trading partner after Venezuela in 2005. In addition, China is expanding its military-to-military contacts in the region. China is training increasing numbers of Latin American military personnel, mainly due to a three-year old U.S. law that has led to a sharp decline in U.S.-run training programs for the region.
Chinese relations with Japan in recent years have been generally close and cordial. Tension erupted periodically, however, over trade and technology issues, Chinese concern over potential Japanese military resurgence, and controversy regarding Japan's relations with Taiwan. In early 2005, Japan and the United States had issued a joint declaration calling for a "peaceful solution" to the Taiwan issue, a declaration which angered the PRC, which protested the interference in its internal affairs.
China joined other Asian nations (mainly, South Korea and North Korea) in criticizing Japanese history textbooks that de-emphasized past Japanese aggression, claiming that the distortion was evidence of the rise of militarism in Japan. There remains much anti-Japanese sentiment in China. This has been exacerbated by burgeoning feelings of Chinese nationalism and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine that honors 14 Class A war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, along with around two and a half million war dead. (It is, however, worth noting that Koizumi is only keeping his promise to the families of Japan's war dead, which he made during his election campaign in 2001 in order to win their votes, by visiting the shrine. The purpose of his visit is not to inspire animosity in Japan's former colonies.) There also remains the three-sided dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which has resulted in clashes between Chinese protestors and the Japanese government. The latest disputes, in April 2005, have erupted to anti-Japanese protests and sporadic violence across China, from Beijing to Shanghai, later Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shenyang.
Although Koizumi openly declared- in a statement made on April 22, 2005 in Jakarta- "deep remorse" over Japan's wartime aggression (the latest in a series of apologies spanning several decades), many Chinese observers regard the apology as insufficient and not backed up by sincere action, with more than 80 Parliament members and a Cabinet minister making a pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine just hours earlier.