Saturday, November 26, 2005

Assessing Chinese Debates

Srikanth Kondapalli is one of India’s leading experts on China. He is a Research Fellow at the Insitute of Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi and the author of China's Military: The PLA in Transition, China's Naval Power, The People's Liberation Army: Evolving Dynamics and A Great Leap Forward Modernisation. Earlier this year he took part in the first biennial conference of the World Forum on Democratization in Taipei. In his presentation “The Rise of China & Implications to Asia” which is available here, he surveyed the Chinese discussion on the prospects for its rise, its democratic prospects and military modernization. In his conclusions he notes that:

China, as stated above, has argued that it is opposed to hegemonism and power politics and also the threat or use of force in international relations and advocates the settlement of international disputes through peaceful means. Laudatory as these statements are and, if implemented sincerely by China or other countries most of the conflicts that afflict the world could be resolved. Nevertheless, the track record of China in this regard is inconsistent and contradictory, if not suspect. Several examples may be cited regarding the threat or use of force by China to solve disputes. While China argues that resolving the Taiwan issue is its internal matter, in the age of globalization, it is difficult to conceive of a subject as purely internal, especially as armed preparations are being made to resolve issues. The 1995-96 events are a pointer that many countries of the region may be affected in terms of trade, shipping, insurance, stock exchange and environmental security.
China’s stance on the South China Sea dispute, likewise, is contradictory and intrusive. While China has stated that it is ready to postpone the settlement of the sovereignty dispute, this, nevertheless, did not prevent it from employing its naval forces in interfering constantly in the region as the Philippine Navy has pointed out. Vietnam is wary of Chinese intentions and capabilities as well in the Paracels, though it has signed an agreement on the Gulf of Tonking issue and is willing to work with China.
China’s threat of use of force during the Indo-Pakistan conflicts of 1965, 1971, 1999 is well recorded. China’s arms sales to several countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, though on a smaller scale as compared to other countries, are detrimental to regional stability. Continuing transfers of weapons of mass destruction or technologies from China to Pakistan or other countries, has not only exposed Chinese claims to be a “responsible” rising power but has also raised concerns among neighboring countries. Its arms sales to both the warring states of Iran and Iraq at the same time during the 1970s are inexplicable and opportunistic. This has been the context for the growing suspicions of its neighboring countries about the nature and dynamics of the Chinese defense sector and also the launch of the “good neighbor” policy, the sincere implementation of which will be watched closely by all concerned neighbours.

I should also note that our colleague Arthur Waldron delivered a keynote address at this important conference.

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