Pulling to­gether for pros­per­ity

China-ASEAN com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny is not a re­badged ver­sion of the United States’ Mon­roe Doc­trine

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry re­cently pro­claimed that the era of the Mon­roe Doc­trine is over. But it re­mains to be seen whether this is so. Mean­while, Wash­ing­ton is spar­ing no ef­forts in claim­ing China is pur­su­ing its own ver­sion of the Mon­roe Doc­trine with its vi­sion of a China-ASEAN com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny.

This is to­tally ridicu­lous, as the China-ASEAN com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny and the Mon­roe Doc­trine are dif­fer­ent in na­ture. The pro­posal to es­tab­lish a com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny and shared ben­e­fits with the mem­bers of ASEAN rep­re­sents Bei­jing’s de­sire for greater re­gional co­op­er­a­tion in pur­suit of com­mon de­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity. Of course, there is a long way to go to reach that goal, but this is clearly dif­fer­ent from the Mon­roe Doc­trine, which was a prod­uct of the US’ pur­suit of hege­mony.

This year, China’s new lead­ers have cre­atively built on the long-stand­ing foun­da­tions of its for­eign pol­icy, good-neigh­borly re­la­tions and the Five Prin­ci­ples of Peace­ful Co­ex­is­tence, and put for­ward a se­ries of new pol­icy pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of a new type of re­la­tion­ship among ma­jor pow­ers and new in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions. And fur­ther demon­strat­ing China’s affin­ity with other coun­tries, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang have be­tween them vis­ited Rus­sia, Africa, Latin Amer­ica, the United States, Cen­tral Asia, South­east Asia and Europe, where they re­ceived warm wel­comes.

It is par­tic­u­larly worth men­tion­ing that in Oc­to­ber a high-level sem­i­nar was con­vened in Bei­jing to map out the strate­gic goals, ba­sic prin­ci­ples and over­all plan of China’s pe­riph­ery diplo­macy for the next decade. China put for­ward a lot of pro­pos­als and ideas con­ducive to the com­mon de­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity of the whole re­gion. In ad­di­tion to the pro­posal to work with ASEAN coun­tries to build a “mar­itime Silk Road” and es­tab­lish an Asian in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment bank, the most re­mark­able ini­tia­tive was the pro­posal to jointly build a more close-knit China-ASEAN com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny.

Some ob­servers have sug­gested that this is just wish­ful think­ing on China’s part, be­cause al­though ASEAN coun­tries de­pend on China’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for their own, many seek se­cu­rity guar­an­tees from the US. This is sim­ply not true. In spite of some dis­putes with in­di­vid­ual mem­bers, China and ASEAN coun­tries have been en­gag­ing in closer co­op­er­a­tion and friendly ex­changes in the eco­nomic, cul­tural and se­cu­rity fields.

With the ris­ing of its com­pre­hen­sive na­tional strength and cor­re­spond­ing mil­i­tary strength, China is be­com­ing more con­fi­dent and is more will­ing to have its voice heard in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, but China has never taken South­east Asia or any neigh­bor­ing re­gions as its own “back­yard” or “sphere of in­flu­ence”, nor does it op­pose neigh­bors de­vel­op­ing nor­mal re­la­tions with other pow­ers. Pak­istan, for ex­am­ple, has strong re­la­tions with the US.

China hopes that its de­vel­op­ment can ben­e­fit neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and in turn the com­mon de­vel­op­ment of neigh­bor­ing coun­tries will help fa­cil­i­tate the re­al­iza­tion of the Chi­nese Dream.

Some peo­ple say that the pro­posal to build a com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny is an “olive branch” ex­tended by China to ASEAN in re­sponse to Ja­pan’s idea of es­tab­lish­ing an “arc of free­dom and pros­per­ity”. How­ever, the China-ASEAN com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion and de­vel­op­ment of China’s es­tab­lished pe­riph­ery pol­icy of de­vel­op­ing good neigh­borly and friendly re­la­tions, rather than an ex­pe­di­ent knee-jerk ac­tion like Ja­pan’s so-called arc of free­dom and pros­per­ity, which is a prod­uct of its Cold War men­tal­ity and aimed at hook­ing the US into back­ing it in its ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute with China.

It is sim­ply a joke to say that ASEAN will side with Ja­pan to con­tain China. Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has vis­ited all ASEAN na­tions since he took of­fice last De­cem­ber. And re­cently at a spe­cial Ja­pan-ASEAN sum­mit held in Tokyo, Ja­pan pledged $19 bil­lion in aid and loans to ASEAN in a bid to gar­ner the lat­ter’s sup­port for a joint state­ment tar­get­ing China. But ASEAN is an im­por­tant re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tion with its own prin­ci­pled stand. While the bloc is will­ing to ac­cept Ja­pan’s aid and in­vest­ment if it is un­con­di­tional, it will by no means be bought for such ne­far­i­ous pur­poses. The au­thor is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Strat­egy Study Center at the China Foun­da­tion for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

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