China Plans Next Steps
Mar. 7, 2017
Delegates are attending the annual National People's Congress in Beijing. For Day 2 of our special coverage from the Chinese capital, we'll share with you an expert view and analyze the country's diplomatic direction.
China's leaders are presenting key policies for the year at the annual political event. They are particularly keen to stress the importance of stability in the country's policies as the ruling Communist Party prepares a major reshuffle of its leadership later this year.
But the situation in and outside of China may not be as stable as the leaders wish it to be. Among the many challenges they face, one big challenge is how to deal with the new US administration of Donald Trump.
What kind of diplomacy will Beijing carry on? What would be the challenges for the country's leaders if the new US president steps up his critical tone against China's defense and economic policies?
Professor Shi Yinhong, a leading expert on international relations from Renmin University of China, joins anchor Sho Beppu in Beijing.
Beppu: We do know that every recent US administration had issues with China, sometimes it was big, sometimes it was small. But seeing from Beijing's viewpoint, how different do you think this new administration of President Trump is compared to other US administrations?
Yinhong: Of course, we shall not go rush to conclusions, because President Trump only up to now has been in the White House one month. But considering all his deeds and words, I suppose the Chinese government is very much worried about possible so-called America Fist economic trade and financial policy.
So China is prepared. But of course China's government sometimes does their best to try to influence President Trump not to take such ugly economic and financial policy against China.
Beppu: How do you think Beijing will deal with President Trump's criticism about China's trade policy?
Yinhong: Beijing already declared once or twice that we have not paid so much attention on what Trump has said, we will deal very serious and firmly to what President Trump will do. So Beijing takes wait-and-see policy. If Trump launch something, just like unequal measure against China, China will make concrete and accurate and quick response.
Beppu: Do you think that Chinese leaders think that on the side of president Trump, there are some misunderstandings. For example when president Trump says that China manipulates its currency, in fact what is happening is the opposite, isn't it? Because the Chinese government is trying to support the value of the Yuan, rather than lowering it.
Yinhong: I think of course anyone and everyone can have these misunderstandings. But on part of President Trump, and his prime associates, I don't think that misunderstanding is number one problem.
They have their problem, they have the determination to do something for the economy.
Beppu: Let's move on to the security issues, the US president Trump is repeatedly criticizing China's activities in the South China Sea. How will Beijing try to find a solution that will not lead to tensions in that part of the world.
Yinhong: I think that there have been already tensions in South China Sea, and between China and the United States, and a lot of things had been done by the former president, and now began some indications that Trump will take a hardline policy in the South China Sea.
For example, he already sent ... to the South China sea. But still his policy about the South China Sea, about the Western Pacific is not so clear, far from clear. So China also takes wait-and-see approach.
Beppu: The South China Sea issues often said it's the key interest of China and that it's an issue the Chinese leaders take very seriously. Seeing it from outside, with the frictions that the issue is causing with neighboring countries, with China's South East Asia neighbors for example, does it really serve China's interest? It might be a very basic question, but seeing it from outside, it is rather damaging China's image.
Yinhong: I have to recognize that your question is a very sharp question. Of course, the South China Sea is declared by China's government as untouchable. But other governments, including United States government and South East Asian governments and even the government of Tokyo, also see this or that respect. So this situation is very serious, but up to now the Chinese government still takes China's perceived best interests in the first place. So other things are separate. And so of course this will boost China's hard power but maybe damaging China's soft power and diplomatic influence in the region.
Beppu: Another issue we see is China's activities in the East China Sea, which is also causing some problems with Japan. What would be a good solution for Chinese leaders to find a solution that would not cause any tensions further?
Yinhong: On one hand it is very difficult to change. Both China and Japan have for years been in a severe confrontation, and sometimes by arms for sovereignty and other strategic space over this maritime area. But on the other hand, they reached a consensus in November 2014, both Beijing and Tokyo try to take steps to prevent the confrontation escalating to a conflict.
So this is a so called 2-track approach, conducted by both Tokyo and Beijing. Maybe this is pay more attention to mutual respect is the only realistic strategy to deal with the problems. Problems cannot be solved in the near future, but we should prevent it from escalating to a worse situation.
Beppu: Finally, talking about North Korea, yesterday they did another provocative act. Some might say it is more serious than previous acts. The world will be watching what will Beijing do. What influence Beijing will exercise over its ally in Pyongyang. What do you think the Chinese can do in terms of influence over Pyongyang.
Yinhong: I think especially since last year the Chinese government has already done a lot to the best to prevent north Koreas nuclear program, and launching missiles and weapons. With sanctions in the UN Security Council. And again in last November, and now China announce that it will boycott the coal and export from North Korea from this year.
One problem is that although China's relations with Pyongyang, they don't have that much influence. And the US has missile defense in South Korea, and do massive joint exercise, which increase tensions. So China now really is in a difficult diplomatic situation.
Beppu: Five of the 7 top leaders are likely to change at the Communist Party convention scheduled at the end of the year. China is entering the season of domestic politics. Observers point out that leaders will avoid being seen as weak on key matters at this sensitive period. This is a period that's important for outsiders to carefully read for how the dynamics of China's domestic politics impact its foreign behavior.
With that, we wrap up our 2-day special from Beijing.