China’s Move to Moderation

According to RIA Novosti, Russia-China trade rose 44 percent year on year, to $48 billion last year. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of Russian exports to China consisted of energy products and raw materials, while 40 percent of Chinese exports to Russia were engineering or electronic products. Again, in some ways this kind of reinforcement of bilateral ties among strategic rivals represents a threat to America’s interests. But in other, broader ways, it lessens the potential for a conflict between them that could threaten the stability of the global order.

With regard to the more specific question of how China’s growing influence is impacting its foreign policy, the International Crisis Group (via The Switchblog) just released a report on the tension that Chinese energy companies’ investments abroad is causing between China’s energy security policy and its diplomacy:

. . .While China’s energy investments in countries in or at risk of conflict have sometimes contributed to prolonging or making conflicts more difficult to end, their effect is exaggerated. Nor is China alone in these practices.

In some cases, Chinese support to unsavoury regimes indeed makes conflicts more difficult to resolve, as it softens or thwarts international action. At the same time, China is starting to play a less obstructive, and even constructive, role in multilateral processes and supports some forms of international intervention. Chinese officials are finding that their long-cherished concept of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states is not always practical or in line with national interests. . .

. . .While Beijing’s interests also increasingly converge with the West’s on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation and stability in the Middle East, its overseas investments are exposing tensions between its energy concerns and diplomatic aims.

The sweet spot of diplomacy, of course, is where interests overlap with values. A close second is where the two arrive at the same policy through a process of equifinality. That seems to be what’s happening with China.

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