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Domestic Risks in China’s Foreign Affairs

Xue Li, IWEP/CASS XuYanzhuo,Dr. IWEP/CASS
 
China’s international influence is expanding together with the increase of comprehensive national strength, meanwhile China also faces domestic risks in its foreign affairs. 
 
Political Risk
 
The establishment of a political framework with internal self-stability and external attraction is undoubtedly a major challenge to China's peaceful rise, and its significance may be even greater than China’s economy overtaking that of the US. It is known US political system was mainly attributed to the elaborate design by a group of elite who founded the state. With 200 years of practice, it shows strong vitality and power, which serves as a political foundation for US to be world's superpower. However, it also should be admitted that most of other countries failed to choose or adopt US political system, with very few successful cases worldwide. Therefore, as an emerging power, China has no replicable model. The only way for Beijing is to learn the wisdom of political systems worldwide and combine them with its own history and culture. 
Chinese history and culture is transforming and recovering in modern society, which has yet to be completed. At present, deliberate democracy(协商民主) is appropriate for China. The key is to ensure “effective effective public opinion ex-”and to avoid “big mistakes”. 
 
Military and Security Risks
 
It is necessary for big powers to maintain military strength. As for China, its military power is to defend its sovereignty and territory integrity, and to achieve national unity. rather than overwhelming presence as thatof US or replacing US role in the world. A proper agenda for China is to deploy sufficient defensive deterrent force in local and peripheral area, rather than to establish a global offensive deterrent power. This strategic ambition is reflected by China’s long-standing of “minimum nuclear deterrence” policy. In terms of conventional armed force (including aircraft carriers and sophisticated weapons and equipment), China has yet to develop a clear strategy. Showing great power image and strength is essential, but it needs a dedicated research into what is substantial to China.
 
In this case, it should beware of overestimating national security threat and the associated military pressures. China’s military expense is ranking the second and its growth rate is higher than some other major countries. Chinese troops ranks top in mumberand the military technology is rapidly developing. Considering China’s situation (large population; political system; large number of neighboring countries; non-unified; domestic separatists; no allies, etc.), further strengthening military power is unavoidable. However, China is on the way of peaceful rise with a defensive strategy and avoiding military conflicts with other countries. In the case of protecting its overseas interests in a peaceful environment, China actually does not need continuously increase its navies and warheads to compete with the most powerful navy in the world. Therefore, it is important to figure out what is China’s aim of military development, where is the critical point of a regional defensive force and a global offensive force,how to reduce the security concerns byneighboring countries, and how to avoid an arm race with US?
 
Economic Risks
 
Itused to be common for a big power to expand overseas, not onlyin trade and investment, but even their borders, and to grab wealth through wars before WWII. After WWII, trade and investment become main approach for external expansions through which countries like Japan and Germany have successfully recovered their economy and gained more profits. In the near future, trade and investment will continuously be the major way for overseas expansion, and China is a new comer inthis trend. 
 
Currently, China has initiated One Belt and One Road(OBOR) strategy. Yet the top-down economic policy has too much non-economic consideration.For example, some countries along OBOR are the oneswho have friendly relationship with Beijing and enthusiasm towards OBOR,but lack an in-depth look to their investment feasibility. As a matter of fact, the success of these projects rely on efforts of both or all cooperative sides.It is more realistic for China to select some feasible projects which both China and host countries are willing and capable to cooperate on. Generally, China is expected to gain low-profit in most of the projects; provide concessional loans in some cases and even free assistance if necessary under the OBOR. It is very risky to conduct the projects without an accurate feasibility study, to fund the projects with foreign exchange reserves in policy banks and to carry out by SOEs. To this end, it is necessary to set up the following indicators, the proportion of OBOR funds in GDP and foreign exchanges reserves; annual credit and an amount to each classified project. Taking into account of the long-term and complicated nature of OBOR, the legislative agencies are supposed to involve into this strategy. Because the supervision by legislative agencies would increase the legitimacy of these projects while reducing the legal risks.
 
Culture Risks
 
It can be said that China’s national rejuvination and Chinese dream’s realization is not possible without cultural revival. 30 years ago, Ms. Thatcher warned that China’s weakness liedin its value output. Internally, values are national identity and ethnic cohesion, andexternally, they are cultural radiation and national attractiveness. 
 
Globally there is not a universal culture or civilization. in religions,Christian civilization and Islamic civilization are more widespread in the world., while Chinese civilization is more a regional one, whose historical influence is mainly limited to China and several neighboring countries. However, in history, someneighboring countries chose to segregate fromChinese culture during their state building process.Over the past 20 to 30 years, the economic ties between China and neighboring countries have significantly increased, butthey lack cultural exchanges and fail to embrace the Chinese civilization. On the contrary, with China’s rising, their security concerns have even been enhanced. Thus, it is a challenge for China to increaseboth economy cooperationand political trust and culturalrecognition with these countries. 
 
Traditionally, the core of the Chinese civilization is Confucianism and Taoism, with their main elements asorder, rituals, family-country social structure, the integration of man and nature, etc. In the twentieth century, someexternal elementswere imported into China's political concept and practice, such as the wisdom of individual equality, fraternity, citizenship, voting rights, Marxist class consciousness and public ownership, etc. Duringthe second half of the lastcentury, some traditional cultural values were suppressed and excluded. The consciousness of traditional culture as the main body for Chinese society had not been emphasized until reform and opening-up policy. And it isstill being explored, screened and selected. In this case, it requires a value system that combines the traditional culture and modern values, which is shared by both officials and citizens. This aim needs at least one generation to accomplish with no shortcut and there is no alternative. During this period, the key to ensure a good result is an open cultural atmosphere, which allows the peopleto think, research and debate for a more attractive system suitable to China. 
 
For China, its domestic risk is greater than the external risks. Preventing the hazards and avoidingrisksat home is crucial for China’s OBOR as well as itspeaceful rise.
 
This piece was published on CHINA-US FOCUS on March 2,2017.  (to visit it)
 
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