“THE DYNAMICS OF CHINA’S RELATIONS
AND SOUTHEAST ASIA”
(JUNE 26-27, 2002)
- The situations in South Asia and Southeast Asia are
very different. Many in South
Asia, particularly India, worry about a potential strategic threat from
China. Southeast Asian concerns
about China, however, focus mainly on possible economic challenges posed
by Chinese development.
- China and India appear very far from reaching a state
of comfort with each other’s goals and aspirations. While there is scope for cooperation
between them, some of their basic objectives are in conflict. Their relationship often fits the
classic model of a security dilemma, in which steps one side takes to make
itself more secure cause the other side to feel less secure.
- Although Chinese support for Pakistan has weakened
over the last decade, the China-Pakistan relationship is a sore point for
China-India relations. China’s
position is that it seeks friendly relations and cooperation with all
states in South Asia, hence its long-standing relationship with Pakistan;
India says China seeks countervailing influence in South Asia to offset
India’s potential power.
- China’s South Asia policy, including support for
Pakistan, is based on Chinese desires to maintain: (1) stability, meaning
no war and a viable Pakistan; and (2) a balance of power in South Asia,
including Pakistani military robustness relative to India and a degree of
Chinese influence in the sub-region.
These two goals, however, are contradictory because Chinese
influence and a strengthened Pakistan that can stand up to India are the
main sources of tension.
- While there are lingering suspicions about China’s
long-term strategic intentions, most of Southeast Asia is more concerned
about the economic aspects of a rising China than about a possible
military threat. Although a
vibrant Chinese economy offers opportunities for ASEAN, the sub-region
worries about losing jobs, foreign investment and market niches to China. Nevertheless, both Chinese and their
southern neighbors welcome deeper economic ties and see these as a means
of helping to forestall conflict.
- Southeast Asians welcome China’s willingness to
participate in multilateral organizations and discussions. Compared to South Asia, multilateralism
in Southeast Asia is well-established and anti-China feelings do not
- There was almost no mention of a Sino-Japan rivalry
in Southeast Asia, beyond the recognition that Japan remains an important
economic player and potential strategic player.
- There is a consensus that China is focused on
economic development through at least the near term and desires to promote
a peaceful environment in Asia.