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科学研究

邹晓龙:China's Pathway Towards Maritime Civilization (SSCI)

发布时间:2019-10-28  点击:


公共外交教研室邹晓龙老师近期在著名国际区域问题研究类期刊Journal of Contemporary Asia (SSCI一区,IF:2.03)发表题为“China’s Pathway towards Maritime Civilisation”的评论文章。该文对新加坡国立大学东亚研究所所长郑永年教授提出的,在国际地缘战略大棋局下,中国应如何崛起成为海洋大国的战略选择,进行了深刻的分析和探讨。该文章的核心内容摘选如下:


As the Sino-USA trade friction intensifies, China finds itself at a pivotal moment in global geo-politics. Thus, Zheng Yongnian’s China’s Pathway towards Maritime Civilisation is published at an opportune moment, provides enlightening insights, enticing thoughts and policy recommendations for the relevant stakeholders.


His work consists of six sections, covering topics from China’s marine geo-politics, China’s rise, South China Sea issues, China’s diplomacy towards neighbouring countries, Sino-USA relations, the “Indo-Pacific” concept and the rise of the Belt and Road Initiative. All these topics are interwoven and inter-connected with the author’s analysis drawing from history, geo-politics, international relations and diplomacy.


In analysing China’s geo-political situation, Zheng stresses the importance of Asia for China's strategic development and its future as a great power. To achieve this goal, he argues, China as a continental state, must transform into a maritime power, just as the United Kingdom did in the 19th century and the USA did in the 20th century. But before that, China must first be accepted as a major Asian power and have the strength to handle regional issues, especially those involving Southeast Asian countries. China has some achievements in regional affairs, such as its free trade agreement with the ASEAN states, its establishment of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization and the so-called Six-Party talks on North Korea, although the latter still faces tough challenges. Other unresolved challenges include sovereignty disputes with East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Although China has invested heavily in infrastructure constructions under the Belt and Road Initiative in several of these countries, it did not often serve the purposes as projected nor delivered the intended results of enhancing China’s oversea image or reputation. As a result, Zheng argues that “many countries feel that China's money is not easy to use, and they turn to Japan and South Korea for help whenever they have the opportunity” (36).


With the implementation of the USA’s “Pivot to Asia,” China is also facing mounting pressure and challenges from the US and its allies. Zheng summarises three patterns of interaction between China and the USA in Southeast Asia: first, both countries emphasise military strategic competitions, which is the last thing that Southeast Asian countries want; second China focuses on bilateral economic relationships while the USA emphasises institution-level reciprocal partnership, which is acceptable to both countries in the short term but not sustainable in the long run since China has unwavering institutional confidence and persistence; and third, both China and the USA focus on economic co-operation, which would benefit all the regional countries involved.


Discussing “soft power”, Zheng asserts that it must be coupled “hard power,” for soft power alone cannot promote significant change in the international community, and more often, soft power is just the “soft” use of hard power (64). Zheng further argues that it is hard power that is the necessary condition to ensure the rise of the nation. One reason the USA can become the world’s “policeman” and establish and maintain the international order and provide public goods for international communities, is its military might. If China wants to equal that, it must be able to fulfil its international responsibilities and provide global public services, all of which needs the backing of a strong military. However, China's naval power is still unable to match the that of the USA, so China is making great efforts to modernise its military forces, particularly the navy. But Zheng also warns that China's military rise could be regarded as a threat by other countries, especially if it leads to military competition. Citing the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the merits of American model of military rise, he suggests that China should avoid the Soviet approach and modernise its military according to its own needs.


Identified by China as a “core national interest,” the South China Sea is considered the country’s “lifeline” to its southward national security. It is also the most complex and challenging issue China faces in its geo-politics. China asserts resolving disputes bilaterally and considers that the USA has allied with several Southeast Asian countries with the aim of getting China to make concessions. IN addressing the issue, Zheng analyses these regional issues in terms of China-US relations, China-ASEAN relations and China-other complainant countries relations. His conclusions for China can be summarised in four points: (i) rational treatment of Southeast Asian countries; (ii) accept the internationalisation of the South China Sea issue; (iii) avoid Japan's use of the South China Sea issue to expand its international influence; and (iv) avoid military adventurism. If China mishandles the South China Sea issue, it will not only affect international geo-political stability but also affect China's domestic development. Indeed, if the Chinese leadership can properly handle the South China Sea issue, then China’s “peaceful rise” will allow it to play an exemplary role in the international community.


China's rise means its relations with neighbouring countries will inevitably lead to geo-political changes and challenges. How China manages its relationships with its neighbours, especially major powers such as the USA, Japan, Russia and India is central. China's proposal to build a “New Model of Major-Country Relationship” is a strategic initiative constructed in this context and a rising power China should avoid falling into the “Thucydides Trap” of creating fear that escalates toward war. While this is an era of great geo-political change, with countries like India, Brazil and Indonesia also rising, China must acknowledge that it is still the USA, China, Japan and Russia that will dominate regional and global geo-political affairs for some time to come.


In this geo-political situation, it is Northeast Asia that is a focus for the geo-political interests of these major powers. To the east of China, there are already two alliances: the USA and Japan and the USA and South Korea. The bad blood between China and Japan in recent years has increased the pressure on China's security establishment to focus attention on the so-called first island chain and the second island chain. Although the Korean nuclear issue will have an important impact on Northeast Asia stability, with the gradual easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula and with the two sides of North Korea and South Korea moving towards each other, the denuclearisation of the peninsula may be realised. Therefore, Zheng proclaims, it will be Sino-Japan relations and security that will dominate Northeast Asia. China must be fully prepared for this development.


Zheng is very concerned about China-India relations and especially the ongoing border dispute and India role on the Tibet issue. Although India's economy lags behind China, it will soon become a force to be reckoned with. But China fails to acknowledge India as a real strategic counterpart and is unprepared for dealing with India and the many tactical and technical issues that mark the relationship. Therefore, Zheng calls on China to strengthen its understanding of India and to promote China-India relations in a way that acknowledges India’s strategic development (164).


Zheng also examines increasing Sino-USA trade frictions that cause many to worry about war. As major pillars of modern international relations, trajectory of China-U.S. relations could lead to the collapse of the post-war global orders if handled badly. Zheng believes that the trade war cannot be resolved as the American hard-line strategy is designed to contain China's rise.


In his final chapter, Zheng examines an emerging concept that China concerns, namely, its “Indo-Pacific” strategy. He articulates that China’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy should be distinguished from its “Asia” strategy and “Asia-Pacific” strategy due to the complex geo-political relations of the countries within. Countries like India, Indonesia, ASEAN, Australia all belong to these their geographical coverage, so which one should be China’s strategic priority, the Asia-Pacific, Indo-Pacific or Asia itself? No matter which, it requires the Chinese leadership to have a clear understanding of the involved countries’ condition and their international environment, and then formulate tailored strategies and foreign policies (226).


In geo-politics, Zheng’s work is one of just a few works in Chinese that offer insightful and objective analysis of China's geo-political situation, especially as he moves beyond the “political correctness” upheld by most Chinese scholarship. When reading his book, it is easily reminding the readers of Brzezinski's The Grand Chessboard and Kissinger's America's Global Strategy. This is a though-provoking book offering insight and suggestions for China’s foreign policy makers and other stakeholders. It deserves to be widely read, considered and critiqued.