Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Unlocking strategic competition

By Shi Yinhong (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-18 09:04

China should persist in cultivating a favorable neighboring environment and concentrate resources on core interests

China faces uncertainties in its diplomacy. Its relations with the United States and some neighboring states are "locked" in strategic competition, territorial and other maritime disputes. And some say China faces the so-called Thucydides trap, or the inevitable clash between a rising power and an existing one, which applies first on the ocean, where the majority of the structural competition and potential confrontations are.

Concerning China's relationship with the US, one basic fact is that the two countries are neither pure adversaries nor companions. Competition, confrontation, coordination and cooperation are all elements that define how the biggest, fast-growing developing country and the most powerful developed country interact with each other. Both countries need to know that any misunderstanding or misjudgment about each other's intentions and interests would result in heavy common losses, so they must give up any strategic flippancy or a radical reaction that makes the other feel it is being compelled.

As China rises, the reasonable path for it to express its demands for more strategic rights is casting firm but also restrained pressure so that the US can accept it step by step, thus creating a period for the two to peacefully solve their problems. That requires China's leadership master an artful diplomacy which combines firmness and restraint on the basis of correctly judging the US' strategic intentions.

Also a better relationship with the US will only be possible when relations with its neighbors improve. The majority of Sino-US frictions have been caused by China's troubles with some of its neighbors. Sometimes these troubles have led to tensions, while other times the US has used, even prompted these troubles. It is urgent for China to turn more neighbors into friends, partners, even allies.

China has made efforts to improve its relations with its neighbors since a priority was set at the Peripheral Diplomacy Work Conference in October. However, the decades-long problems are so complicated that tensions with Japan and the Philippines have intensified. At the same time, maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea have become fiercer with the US' moves, while relations with Vietnam and even India have also experienced a turndown; even China's old ally the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shows hints of drifting apart.

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