China can benefit from new geopolitical pattern

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/7 22:08:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

The world today is somewhat "broken up" in terms of geopolitics. There used to be a clear divide between the East and the West, but that changed after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. And currently, a wave of anti-globalization has arisen. The US under President Donald Trump is retreating from international affairs, and the structural alliance between the EU and the US is less strong, while Brexit has also exacerbated divisions in Europe.

This "fragmentation" of the world has brought a major change in geopolitical patterns and has added more choices and possibilities to China's rise. These international changes are basically favorable for China, allowing it potentially to gain a louder voice in the global economy and more valuable space for development. China should make full use of its economic advantages to expand and alter the geopolitical pattern around it.

Myanmar's changes provide a good example. Myanmar had been getting closer to the West from 2011 to 2015, which shocked the Chinese government. But now, against the background of the US "isolationism" policy of President Trump, China could seize the opportunity to recapture its lost influence on Myanmar. The Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online published an article on May 29 with the title "Getting no love from the West, Myanmar turns to the warm embrace of China," saying that the relationship between the US and Myanmar had been deteriorating for "quite some time." The previously improved relationship between the two countries had been seen as a success for the Obama administration's foreign policy, as well as a sign of the US' greater interest in the Asia Pacific region. But that has all lost its luster now. At the same time, China is very happy to step forward and fill in the gap.

Analysts have said that Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi did not get enough enthusiasm from Western democracies, so she carefully improved relations with China. Amid the challenges of this democratic transition, the influence from the West on Myanmar is weakening, while that of Beijing is becoming greater, an editorial on a Myanmar news website said recently. China has been having more frequent contact with Myanmar. Myanmar's President Htin Kyaw had a six-day state visit to China in April this year and Aung San Suu Kyi met Chinese leaders at a summit in Beijing in mid-May, during which she reached an agreement with China to build an economic cooperation zone, which is a part of China's Belt and Road initiative to connect Asia with the European market.

Derek Mitchell, the former US ambassador who spearheaded Obama's Myanmar rapprochement, was quoted by the Asia Times as saying earlier this year that failing to consolidate Myanmar's transition would tell the region's autocratic governments that "democracy doesn't work in Asia." It is not surprising that American officials are worried about this. Anbound suggested in 2014 that China should adjust Sino-Myanmar relations and take the initiative to welcome a normalized Myanmar. Myanmar, like other open but underdeveloped countries, faces the question of how to develop its economy and raise income levels. In Myanmar's economy, Western countries' influence is still very limited so far.

In the context of the "fragmented" global geopolitical pattern, China has the chance to adjust the current geopolitical landscape. In our view, currently there are two geopolitical issues that will concern China. First, in the Korean Peninsula, the North Korean nuclear issue and the cold relations between China and South Korea make the situation of the Korean peninsula complex. What's more, the THAAD missile system in South Korea has involved China in the strategic interests of the US. Second, as a neighboring country of China, India is rising rapidly and hoping to play a more influential role in the Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific region. India's competitive rise is bound to have an impact on China, and the two countries will face questions over economic, political, military and other issues in the future.

China can build a "common market" with neighboring countries to seek win-win development. This strategy is not only based on the development of Sino-Myanmar relations, but also on the smooth development of ties with Central Asian and Southeast Asian countries. In the current fragmented geopolitical era, China should make more use of its own economic influence to build a common market strategy to create more development space and greater influence.

The article was compiled based on a report by Beijing-based private strategic think tank Anbound.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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