Overcoming external challenges for Chinese modernization
Published: Dec 26, 2023 09:48 PM
The 2024 Global Times Annual Conference is held in Beijing on Saturday. Photo: GT

The 2024 Global Times Annual Conference is held in Beijing on Saturday. Photo: GT

Editor's Note:

The 2024 Global Times Annual Conference, themed "Following the Path of Chinese Modernization, Coping with Changes Unseen in a Century" was held in Beijing on Saturday. To understand the implications of Chinese modernization in this turbulent world and analyze what China can do to stay on this path and overcome various challenges in 2024, the Conference invited over 100 representatives from all walks of life as well as experts and scholars to share their views on four major themes. The following contains excerpts from the third theme - "Conflict, competition and cooperation: the external environment of Chinese modernization"

Enhancing China's ability to shape the peripheral environment

Liu Jiangyong, professor at the Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University:

The year of 2023 marks the 51st anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, as well as the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between China and Japan. When leaders of the two sides met in San Francisco in November, the two sides reaffirmed the positioning of comprehensively advancing the strategic and mutually beneficial relations between China and Japan. In fact, the continuous progress of China's economy and technology has benefited the people of Northeast Asian countries, including Japan.

Yet in general, China-Japan ties are still relatively fragile. The Chinese and US leaders met in San Francisco in November, pointing out the direction for China-US relations to return to the right track. This has objectively forced Japan to make certain adjustments, but instead of making strategic adjustments, Japan only made tactical tunings. 

In the end of 2022, Japan described China as an "unprecedented strategic challenge" in the country's three key security documents. This strategic positioning even exceeds the severity of US and NATO's strategic positioning toward China. 

Some worrying situations are emerging in the South China Sea recently. After Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr visited China in January this year, he visited Japan in February. It is worth noting that his attitude changed after this visit. In addition, the Philippines is using a recently installed Japanese-made air-surveillance radar system to monitor activity off its coast. These are all worrisome.

Wu Shicun, director of the academic committee of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies:

In the next few years, the US-led militarization of the South China Sea may intensify. Look at the construction and usage of US military bases around the South China Sea. This year, the Philippines identified four more of its military bases that the US will gain access to, in addition to the initial five sites. 

We have been working hard to enhance our ability to shape the surrounding environment in the South China Sea. The South China Sea issue should be the affairs of the countries surrounding the South China Sea and has nothing to do with the US. But the US cannot be driven away at this stage, because disrupting the South China Sea situation would simultaneously serve the two objectives of the US: to prevent China from developing maritime power, and undermine China's relations with ASEAN and neighboring countries. As long as the US continues to intervene, some problems will become much more complicated to solve. Therefore, in the future, the situation in the South China Sea will continue to be affected by US factors.

Against this backdrop, China needs to take a multi-pronged approach. It should strengthen capacity building in the South China Sea and enhance deterrence, while at the same time actively promoting consultations on the South China Sea Code of Conduct and striving to finalize the Code of Conduct as soon as possible. In addition, mutual trust should be gradually enhanced and accumulated through strengthening cooperation. 

China's place irreplaceable for Global South countries

Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute for South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

One of the external challenges Chinese modernization faces is likely to come from the rise of India. Some Indians believe that the rise of China and India cannot accommodate each other, but rather one will likely replace the other. The US and the West have been promoting "de-Sinicization" in the context of the China-US competition, and India is considered to be the country which will replace China. 

Since the beginning of this year, India has significantly increased its efforts to woo the Global South. At several summits related to the Global South, New Delhi has made great efforts to promote Indian-style development model and concepts. In this context, China should think about how to make India accept the idea that the development of China and India can benefit both.

Zhang Jiadong, director of the Center for South Asian Studies at Fudan University: 

In the past few years, there have been two major trends in the world: One is the rebalancing of power between the East and the West. Although the gap between the two is narrowing, it is still present. The second one is the rebalancing of power within the Eastern countries, which is easy to be overlooked. Overall, China has risen to prominence, while India has been slowly catching up over the past few years.

The concept of the "Global South" has received significant attention this year. Some argue that India wants to garner more attention from Global South countries and marginalize China. In my view, we can't rule out the possibility that it is attempting to seize this opportunity and establish itself as a "leader of the Global South." However, China's identity and status are irreplaceable for Global South countries. China's attributes as a developing nation and its decades-long solidarity with the Global South are unquestionable. Thus, the cooperation between China and Global South countries is unlikely to be easily affected.

Wu Dahui, deputy dean of the Russian Institute of Tsinghua University: 

With regard to China-Russia relations, this year's China-Russia trade volume has achieved the goal of $200 billion. China has been Russia's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, with China-Russia trade accounting for over 20 percent of Russia's total external trade. In view of the West's sanctions against Russia, the more the West pressures Russia, the more China-Russia economic and trade cooperation moves forward. 

A dead end for pursuit of 'Taiwan independence'

Wang Zaixi, former deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council:

Over the years, in order to maintain stability in the Taiwan Straits, we have always exercised the utmost patience and adhered to the policy of peaceful reunification, with the aim of achieving a peaceful and stable cross-Straits relationship. 

Unfortunately, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities have actively colluded with the US in playing the "Taiwan card" and attempted to seek independence with the support of the US.

Next year, a new round of Taiwan regional leadership election will be held on the island. This election is a choice concerning the future development direction of cross-Straits relations, and it is also a choice between war and peace.

We have noticed that since the local elections in the Taiwan region at the end of last year, nearly 60 percent of voters on the island have consistently disagreed with the DPP's cross-Straits policy and hope to remove the DPP from power. Recently, some American scholars and experts have also suggested through published articles that Lai Ching-te freeze the DPP's "Taiwan independence party platform."

It is well known that DPP candidate Lai Ching-te is a stubborn "Taiwan independence" advocate, and there is reason to believe that once he comes to power, cross-Straits relations will inevitably become tenser, and the possibility of military confrontation between the two sides cannot be ruled out. 

From the standpoint of the Chinese mainland, our position is very clear. We will not waver in adhering to the one-China principle, we will not give up our efforts for peaceful reunification, and we will never change our determination to oppose "Taiwan independence" secessionist activities.

Chang Ya-chung, president of the Sun Yat-sen School in Taiwan:

In the development process of the Chinese nation, the biggest challenge comes from the US. The US will try various methods against China, but its actions will harm itself more than the "enemy." 

In order to uphold its own hegemony, the US may consider letting Taiwan island strike the mainland, with the condition that the US has control over accidental fires and the regional leaders in Taiwan do not possess this power. In recent years, the US has adjusted its strategy toward the Taiwan region. I believe that the US will definitely not intervene in a future war in the Taiwan Straits.