EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Xi Jinping and China’s Foreign Policy Priorities in 2021
DATE: 19 October 2020, 1:30pm – 2:30pm
SPEAKERS: Prof Arthur Shuhfan Ding; Atmaja Gohain Baruah; Dr Jagannath P. Panda
EVENT MODERATOR: Gray Sergeant
Gray Sergeant 00:00
Now, well welcome everybody. We’re just going to give everyone two minutes to get together any late comers. log in and then we’ll start the event, if you just bear with us. Good afternoon, everybody. And Good evening for those of you that are joining us from other parts of the world. Welcome to the Henry Jackson society, Asia studies centre event on Xi Jinping and China’s foreign policy priorities going forward into 2021. I’m delighted to be joined by an amazing group of panellists here today from New Delhi, Singapore, and Taipei. You will see in their biographies on the website, but for those of you that haven’t, we have Dr Jagannath P. Panda from the Manohar Parrikar Institute in New Delhi, we have Atmaja Gohain Baruah from the National University in Singapore, and Professor Arthur Dean from national venture University in Taipei. What these three panellists have in common is that they are all either co-editors or contributions to a new book out on Xi Jinping’s, China, its politics, domestically, and its foreign policy agenda published by Routledge, and I thought it’d be a great opportunity to get them together, not only to reflect on their chapters, but also to talk about the broader future of Chinese foreign policy as we go forward into next year. So, without further ado, I would like to kick off the event and ask Professor Ding to open with his speech.
Professor Ding 04:03
Okay. Thanks for the invitation, and it’s my great honour. Maybe just I want to do two things. The first one is to make a very quick review of [inaudible]. Briefly speaking, the 2020 is featured by [strained] with strained relationship between China and many neighbouring countries and major powers, including from Taiwan to the United States and to India, no doubt about. So, the relationship has been strained for different reasons. Look, look to the future next year. Probably. Let me say, the focus priorities on the economic, again, because in the past One or two weeks, she may chair or moderate, a couple of important meetings like Central Party Central economic meetings was held last weekend. And also, the so called the 1990s Central Committee to spend their meetings, and also so called the14 study economic plans. So, if you read those documents, you can get a sense that from Beijing’s perspective, the next year, 2021, although next year will be better than 2020. But you see a lot some kind of uncertainty, for instance, COVID-19 and economic recovery. And for China, the so called [inaudible] launched by the United States in technological and social economic aspects. So, those are the major issue, because China need to so called transforming so called economic sideshow. So, on the one hand, from Xi Jinping still somewhat uncertain year in 2021, but on the other hand, Xi Jinping, feel somewhat confident for the 2020, because look at the European countries, in the so called very serious COVID-19, and the United States also quite a serious COVID-19 and the United States was a political transition from President Trump to President Biden and the fourth grade. And by the way, you can see the priority in the first two-year IDs will be domestic [inaudible] COVID-19 economic recoveries, so this create a good opportunity for China to exert its so called evil mega influence. So, for instance, and so we can see, in the powerful mass forum when he visited Japan and South Korea, and China speak out to sign RCP and very likely China will sign social investment treaty or investment agreement with European Union. So, those are the [inaudible] from Xi Jinping’s perspective now. It’s a good opportunity for China to express and consolidate his so-called diplomatic relation in the wake of the COVID-19 impact suffered by European Union and the United States. And also, China also want to take advantage with regard to the China Taiwan relations. [Inaudible] Xi Jinping, he thinks he made a mistake in in last year 2019, because he deliberately tried to track and rephrase the 92 consensus, and so create a perception that Xi Jinping, Trump, the so called 92 consensus and this seeking for the so-called unification and try to find the path steps. So actually, Xi Jinping knows he made a serious mistake, because his policy [inaudible] help president [inaudible] to win the elections. So, if we look at the several official statement made in the past couple of months, the so-called vindication has been somewhat shipped to the so-called a peaceful development, then there is almost a so called the unification source. And also, if we read the so-called the party’s central economic meetings statement. Again, the focus is on so called economic development and trying to expand the economic relations with Taiwan so Taiwan can be absorbed into China’s economic market. And so, Taiwan future can be shared. So, it’s only one sentence talking about the so called the deterred [inaudible]. So, those documents can be a kind of reference point that in the next several years in the next five years. Probably for Xi Jinping, the priority is put on the further integration of Taiwan into China’s economic market, and at the same time to launch military action with a call to deter Taiwan [inaudible] the pursuing so-called independent, and also deterred US to get involved in the so-called the [inaudible]. So, those are the direction that I can see. Yeah, no doubt the relationship with several major power like including India and including United States they probably continue to be strong, but as they work, on the one hand, tried to stabilize the relationship, on the other hand, certainly so-called core interests, so-called the no loss at any sort of territory. So, emphasize so-called territory integrity in the context of the so-called stabilisation of the relationship with major powers including India and the United States. So, those are the general direction from what I can see after reading those official documents released in the past two months. So those are my general observations. Let me stop here.
Gray Sergeant 11:33
Thank you, Professor Ding, that was pretty broad, covering everything from major powers and the situation in Taiwan, as well as the effect that COVID potentially can have and how Beijing could use that as an opportunity. And we here in London know all too well about the effect of COVID and how that is redirecting the priorities of different governments here in the West. If you do have any questions based on that or any other broader questions on the subject, please feel free to comment in the chat below. And our comms team here at the Henry Jackson society. We’ll select a few of you to read out your questions. Once we’ve finished with all the panelists will now pass over to Atmaja who I believe gives a talk on ASEAN and other aspects of health diplomacy amongst much more. Atmaja.
Atmaja Gohain Baruah 12:30
So, the topic of today is obviously very topical. And we are all intrigued by the spectre of the post COVID-19 future and what it will be like, so related to this is a question of China’s global influence, and the extent to which the pandemic has amplified or diminished Beijing’s international standing. Now, as I’m based in Singapore, following the current developments, I would like to make some observations about China’s growing relationship with ASEAN and where it could be heading in 2021. I will be mainly focusing on foreign policy priorities which we’ll be witnessing. First is Xi Jinping’s focus on public health cooperation, economic and trade cooperation, an exploration of the Belt and Road initiative and digital innovation and e commerce. So, obviously the first the first and the main part in 2021 will be still jointly overcoming the pandemic. So, as crisis creates opportunities, COVID has helped China remain an important stakeholder in public health cooperation, especially in this part of the region. So, for example, China has ramped up its COVID related assistance to ASEAN in various ways. Two notable categories in this sense would be its material aid, in terms of the test kits, or face masks. And in terms of sharing information, and expertise. There were several virtual special meetings have been held on to discuss these issues. And when you do anyone will obviously see more of these virtual special meetings. And what we can tell is that China’s COVID related assistance falls under China’s vision of a community with a shared future. So, despite countries here, procuring Western vaccines as well, like Singapore did, it just received this first Pfizer procurement today and the first ASEAN country to do so Chinese vaccines are also doing well in securing markets here, which adds to President Xi’s China centric security order in Asia, and in 2021, we can expect these partnerships to be more institutionalized in terms of their research, production and distribution. And in terms of collaboration, and it actually has very deep-seated ramifications in ASEAN, because this will filter down to everyday manufacturing and product distribution networks, which will again which takes me to the second point, which is the promotion of regional economic recovery, and it’s expected that the cumulative economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN will actually reach new heights in the post pandemic era. This is because of their close geographical proximity and highly complementary economies, but besides that, and also the existing China [inaudible]. But besides that the signing of the RCEP also opens up new opportunities for both regions. And so, ASEAN and China actually already established fast channels and green channels for good circulation during pandemic. So, while during this and in the first half of 2020, while trade for most countries have gone down, but for China has actually rose and ASEAN for the first time overtook European Union to become the largest, its largest trading partner. And despite this pandemic, we can see trade between China and ASEAN has actually remained rather stable and prosperous. Besides that, we are also likely to see an acceleration of [inaudible] projects. And rather than one connecting infrastructure plan, there will undoubtedly be many individual projects under this broad umbrella. And for China, its immediate periphery is obviously very important, and Southeast Asia automatically becomes an integral part of this. So, we can see greater synergy is happening between the PRI and the master plan on ASEAN connectivity 2025. Steady progress has been seen in various flagship projects like the China Laos Railway, the Jakarta Bandung High Speed Railway, etc. The Chinese side, Xi Jinping has also said that we’ll be giving priority to expanding domestic currency swaps to ASEAN countries, again broadening the scope of application of their bilateral fast lanes. Fourthly, we shall see a renewed commitment to digital innovation and e commerce, because what the pandemic showed is how China’s cooperation in the digital economy can unleash great potential, because digital finance service in this part of the region is actually showing signs of growth, where a large number of the new digital consumers are from not just metropolitan cities, but non-metropolitan cities as well, in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines. So, institution building is improving communication mechanisms are expanding, experience sharing is growing in areas of pandemic control, infrastructure control, 5g networks. So, these forms of new developments are actually encouraging interaction significantly, energizing the shaping of China ASEAN digital partnership. And besides that, even like the local domestic producers here in Singapore are very much integrally connected to their Chinese suppliers. And this is very evident in everyday life. So while these economies, the Southeast Asian economies, may different population size, culture, governance and openness to foreign investments, China has always had a deep seated presence here, and it will continue to do so. And it will continue to be an economic powerhouse here, resuming cross border travel and keeping supply chains open and transparent. So, while there are debates circling around China’s diplomacy, deployment of vaccine diplomacy and mass diplomacy, only time can actually tell the long-term burden of relying on China. And there are also reports suggesting that vaccines do not guarantee lifelong immunity. So, which will obviously again create longer term dependence on the major vaccine producing countries, which in the case of China, ASEAN relations could mean a big victory for Chinese biopharmaceutical industries. And countries that are already relying heavily on China for infrastructure and other developments also likely to depend even more on Beijing, as economic impact of the virus weighs on the region. So, this pandemic in a way, has captured China’s pattern of foreign policy conduct, by applying a rhetoric of reciprocation goodwill, yet intimidation. And action for several smaller countries, the relationship is just based on pragmatism and the sheer necessity of survival. d the geographical proximity dominates [inaudible] domination. And even when it comes to the South China Sea, the pandemic has actually stalled negotiations on the code of conduct. And while China is pushing hard to resume the talks, the truth is that there is no substantial discussion to claim progress. For [inaudible] Beijing the process is not to avoid or manage, instead, this is basically to create and amplify the positive narrative, that regional countries can manage their own problems and do not require any external intervention. And which is, actually, this understanding of rulemaking is diametrically opposed to ASEAN’s outward looking approach. So, while much is often made of Southeast Asia’s pushing back against China for its actions in the South China Sea, such challenges are taking place within the bounds of maintaining good relations with a vastly more militarily and economically powerful neighbour, and the Coronavirus will only accelerate rather than derail the prevailing trends in the region. And regional geopolitics will continue to drive Xi Jinping’s foreign policy and ASEAN’s. So, thank you.
Gray Sergeant 20:05
Thank you for that really interesting discussion and quite interesting to see how we can trust that with Europe where we’ve, after the COVID crisis, there’s been more of a distinct shift in sort of anti-China feeling in amongst the public, at least in terms of policymakers you’ve seen, a sort of desire to become less dependent on China for goods, but obviously, ASEAN perhaps I think in pragmatically that is in their interest to keep the status quo. And as I say, any questions, please feel free to comment in the chat below, and we’ll ask them to our panellists after our last speaker has spoken. So, Jagannath, would you like to close off the speeches today?
Dr Jagannath Panda 20:58
Great, wonderful to have you as the moderator of this session. I’m also fortunate to have Professor Ding [inaudible] the forthcoming book on Xi Jinping, Chinese politics and foreign policy. Also great to have my friend Atmaja here, in this discussion now. I’ll take it from where actually Professor Ding ended, and that is the domestic scenario of China, how the domestic politics in China is evolving, as we know that the domestic roots of Chinese politics actually give us a clear picture about in what direction the Chinese foreign policy will move in. So, therefore, if we take into account what has happened over the last three to four months, it clearly gives us a clear picture that the Chinese foreign policy is definitely being saved by the domestic developments, particularly if we take into account the fifth plenum, that happened in October, and now the 14th, five year plus, in the 14th five year plan, there has been specific discussion about, or aspects, one about, you know, to build stronger domestic market in China to go for technological innovation, then they are talking about, you know, the China’s market to the interests of stakeholders. And fourth, they are talking about the green development and the environmental, you know, upgradation. Now, each one of these actually very closely linked to the Chinese economy. That means the whole attempt currently is to consolidate the Chinese economy, and to empower Xi Jinping’s and the party’s hand for the future, if not, for the long term, at least in the immediate future. And I think that is the immediate target of the Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping’s leadership currently focusing. Now, if we take into account these three, four issues into account, there is clearly a kind of hint that Xi Jinping is going to be at the helm of affairs in the near future. And therefore, we could certainly expect that the centralization of power, which has been taking up for the last six to seven years in the Chinese politics under Xi Jinping is likely to continue. And this centralization of power, which is going to continue under certain things, leadership will actually in a great deal save China’s foreign policy in times to come. Now, there are two critical issues, we need to really discuss it before we actually talk about the Chinese foreign policy. One is that whether there is a successor to Xi Jinping’s leadership is in waiting or not, and who is that successor. And we know for a fact if we take into account the five to six, six years development, I don’t think the Chinese leadership has very clearly discussed about the successor to Xi Jinping. And that is for a very precise reason, because one aspect is that Xi Jinping is unable to gain confidence on the new leadership. Second, he also wants to keep a gap between his leadership, his authoritarian personality with the future leaders. But while saying that, I think in 2021, we might likely see a new trend emerging that probably there will be a kind of a consensus among the new leadership who is going to take over even though Xi Jinping is going to be at the helm of puppets and president of China for a few years to come. That means he might continue for another term as the president, but gradually we might see new leaders probably coming into out, coming in public and therefore to name names which is coming very prominently in public domain: [inaudible] I think these are the two leaders who are very becoming very close to certain people. Of course, the rates, there could be, you know, one of those surprising name who’s who could come to power to take over from Xi Jinping at least not before 2027 or 2028, but definitely becoming close to Xi Jinping and trying to learn how to guide the Chinese foreign policy and trying to gather the power in the Chinese president’s hand. The second one is that whether Xi Jinping while the party will be celebrating the 100 years celebration next year, whether Xi Jinping’s model of governance will likely to see any revision or a kind of a new modification. I think what we are going to likely to see is that I think there will be a little bit of a modification in XI Jinping’s model of governance, not to suggest that the Xi Jinping’s model of governance, which is very much based on China dream community of said future of mankind is going to fade away completely. No, I think these concepts are very much going to be there. But I think the Chinese politics will try to imbibe a more accommodative approach, and that we might see in the Chinese foreign policy, no matter how much aggressiveness China has shown in 2020, towards countries like India as Professor Ding was mentioning, including in Taiwan. I think in 2021, they might play a mild role in terms of showing their aggressiveness. So therefore, my take would be that there might not necessarily be a change in sitting ping strategy. But I think if there is going to be any change, it is simply going to be a change in tactic. There might be moderate aggression, even though it is most unlikely that that the Chinese leadership will saw any kind of flexibility when it comes to national security and sovereignty issues. Now, what all of this then leads to the foreign policy domain, how the foreign policy suits are going to, you know, unfold as far as China is concerned. And I think therefore, I think there are three or four issues with [inaudible] very clearly at the beginning of the year. One is that, we might say, we might see that the China’s aggressive revisionist approach to the territorial issues to the sovereignty issues might continue. But again, China might not really be exhibiting its aggressiveness so abruptly, the way it’s showed towards India in 2020, towards Taiwan to some extent, towards South China Sea, including in the East China Sea front. And I think there might be a little moderation, but we might see a mixture of moderation and aggressiveness Second, I think Chinese nationalists have been so one of the critical issues that we need to talk about, I think, what we will see in 2021, which is a very clear linkage between China’s domestic politics and Chinese foreign policy, is that the party will be celebrating the 100 years of its existence next year, in June and July. So, from January February onwards, I think February is the new year period, February 12, or 18, will be the Chinese New Year. And after that, we’ll gradually see a surge of the rise in Chinese nationality. And that will build up to August, June, July, August, till the party, you know, continue to celebrate its 100 years of centenary of coming to, you know, coming to play in Chinese history. Now, what would all of this nationalism mean for the foreign policy issues? I think the statement about merging Taiwan will only grow in Chinese foreign policy target, the aggressiveness towards India on the boundary issue might also increase even though this aggressiveness might not really lead to a military confrontation like the way it turned out in 2020. Though, there is a always a surprise call from the Chinese side, but I would I would anticipate that the Chinese would, you know, be very mild towards India on the boundary issue in 2021. While at the same time they would like to exhibit a lot of toughness, on issues like Xinjiang, on issues like Tibet. So, the nationalism will really, you know, keep on building. The third thing, I think, which is the most important thing is that we will see a forward deployed military posturing from China, and these forward deployed military posturing will see on the dominance of South China Sea, and on the on the domain of East China Sea. Now what do I mean by forward deployed military posture? This is something what the Chinese have been doing for the last few years: a militarization, and at the same time, using a kind of a much more aggressive posture diplomatically, trying to pressurize the claimant countries in the South China Sea, in the context of India, trying to pass a strong message to India that you know, you try to negotiate with China otherwise, we will go for a war. So, the Chinese will not necessarily go for a war-like situation, but they will keep on threatening through their forward deployed military posturing. And I think these are the broad signals, broad claims we will see from the Chinese side, but three last points on critical relationship, as far as Chinese foreign policy is concerned, one is about China-India relations. And I think, I don’t really see that there is an immediate recovery to India-China relations at this moment, particularly for the fact that India has taken a stern position, strong position not to compromise with China. So therefore, we might not really see a kind of immediate recovery of China-India relation, China-India relation might continue to persist as a tense relationship or for quite some time, in fact, for the greater period of 2021. But I think towards the second phase of 2021, we might see that there is a recovery in China-India relations may happen. And that’s for a number of issues, because there are a lot of multilateral forums will have happened where India and China will talk to each other. On China-US relations, I don’t really see that China-US relations is going to be a deeper crisis, the way it went down during Donald Trump’s tenure and Xi Jinping’s tenure. I think Biden coming to power is a golden opportunity for both sides, and both sides would like to use that opportunity to their advantage, there will be a recover on Sino-US relations. But there is no immediate recovery to China-India relations in the first of first half of 2021. My last point would be, I think, what would be more interesting to see is that how the Chinese are actually going to look at the concept of Asia. And I’m emphasising on Asia because if we see the Chinese foreign policy trajectory, Asia has been the core of their rights, they have always focused over the last two decades, they have always focused on the peripheral aspects on the immediate neighbourhood. And while forums, Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a New Development Bank, their relationship with Russia, their relationship with India’s neighbours, these have been the fulcrum of their Asia policy. So, whether the Chinese foreign policy will really focus on Asia, or Chinese foreign policy will go much wider beyond Asia, that needs to be seen. But I would take a position by saying that probably China would like to focus a lot on Asian regions, because of the Indo-Pacific issues, because the kind of undercurrent that is emerging in the Indo-Pacific regions, China would like to consolidate its position on Asia neighbourhood, particularly on the south South Asia, on the on the Southeast Asia on the Central Asia. So, there will be a greater focus on the Asian regions, particularly for countries like India, Japan, are getting united with, you know, their partners and alliances like US and Australia, that we are seeing in the [inaudible] plus formulation in the Indo-Pacific regions. And therefore, it might encourage the Chinese leader steel leadership to focus on Asia, or on the adjacent regions of Asia in 2021. So, these are my initial remarks about Xi Jinping and the Chinese foreign policy in 2021. I’ll be happy to take some comments and questions. Thank you.
Gray Sergeant 33:39
Thank you. Thank you, fascinating speech there. Thank you very much. The prospect of China hardening on its core areas, but there’s the possibility for a more pragmatic or consensual approach, and definitely the prioritization of Asia with the rise of the Indo-Pacific concept and how Xi Jinping and China will respond to that, but it looks like we have a few questions already. It is not the chat box, it is the Q&A box below, if people would like to click on that, and contribute. But if we can start off, the comms team will unmute your microphone. And if you could just say your name, any affiliation that you might have, and then your question, if you keep it nice and short. And if there’s a specific panellist that you want to direct it to, please let us know. So, can we please start with James Clark, your mic should actually be unmuted already. Sorry, James.
Jim Clark 34:47
Great, thank you. I was just wondering, two questions. Has China’s sort of belligerent approach damaged their international standing? And if so, does China care? And secondly, what are China’s long-term goals? And are they on course for achieving these? That’s to any of the panellists.
Gray Sergeant 35:07
Sorry, what was the second one? I didn’t quite hear.
Jim Clark 35:09
What are China’s long term goals? And are they on course for achieving these?
Gray Sergeant 35:14
Thank you, James. And if we could go to Gillian Dare next. If you could unmute your microphone and ask your question.
Gillian Dare 35:24
Thank you. [inaudible] I’m Gillian Dare, a retired diplomat. But I still sit on the FCO Association Board. One of my questions was, what are China’s long-term goals? What is it they’re trying to achieve? Are they using the various instruments? I’ve listened to all the different ways that they’ve been doing different things–what is it they ultimately want to do and be? It’s been very difficult within the UN and other international bodies to know exactly where they’re aiming to be in the next five to 10 years. Thank you.
Gray Sergeant 36:01
Thank you, Gillian. And we take one more question in this round. Lawrence, Julius, please, if you could unmute your microphone.
Yes. With the change of regime in the US and the likely strong focus on human rights, how do the panellists see human rights issues evolving and their impact on US-China relations?
Gray Sergeant 36:26
Thank you very much, Julius. And if anybody else has any Q&A questions, please put them in the Q&A box. And hopefully we’ll get around to you. In the next round, should we kick off with Professor Ding? If you’d like to start on any of them that take your interest.
Professor Ding 36:43
Okay. What is China’s long-term goal? Yeah, actually, Xi Jinping only say: so, the great rejuvenation of Chinese nationals. What that really means is probably up to different people’s interpretation and the speculation. But I see the China really want to play somewhat dominate and rule, at least in Asia, I would say, because we should remember that in 2013 when President Obama met Xi Jinping in California. Xi Jinping mentioned that Pacific Ocean is wide enough, is spacious enough. And some Chinese have a sense that the [inaudible] has divided the Pacific Ocean, you know, waste of the so called [inaudible] to be run by China and the [inaudible] run by the United States. So, I would say, in their real mindset, they probably want to dominate Asia, because, for a long time, you know, thanks to the central years ago, you know, China has played a dominant role in Asia continents, I would say. What XI Jinping want to achieve? I would say that this question is quite relevant to the previous one. But I will say, depending on the issues [inaudible] depending on issues [inaudible] China want to adopt some kind of a conform comply to the international regime. But for some issues, for instance, nuclear issues happy China want to be Thomas dominated by the so called P5 don’t want to be a real so called [inaudible]. So, depending on the issue, I will say. So human rights, I think human rights will be an issue. But this issue, I don’t think there will be a such a predominant position in impact predict title and mutation. Because President Biden, there is a need for him to restore some of the US economic competitiveness and the strength. So yeah, human rights can be an issue, but I wouldn’t say that it will play such a predominant role in President Biden’s foreign policy. So those are the, yeah, wherever now, I have a separate committee, you know, to discuss about doing the Xinjiang issue, Tibet issue, but I don’t think China will change its basic policy, fundamentally, because it’s completely impossible for the Chinese Communist Party – it’s a totalitarian party – to change policy. So, let me stop here.
Gray Sergeant 40:02
Thank you. Anybody else? Atmaja? Jagannath?
Atmaja Gohain Baruah 40:09
Would you like to go first? Sorry. Go ahead. Okay. Um, so yeah, when we talk about long term goals, I’m imagining, because China has its goal set until you know, until 2049, when it will be celebrating its centennial. But until then there are like, again, like, Professor Ding said, you know, there it is subject to interpretation. And it has these several strategies it has set out for itself. One is the pursuit of the China dream where, or, you know, where China is sort of trying to become the world’s de facto dominant power, restoring the wealth and power it had, you know, before a century of national humiliation, the Belt and Road initiative that we see which is integrating Asian, European African Australian content continent. And making China the sort of a superstructure is sort of reflective of that the next something, as the China is also trying to do, or trying to achieve his military modernization because, you know, what, ultimately China has envisioned for itself is that it is Chinese military second to none, and it is effectively able to secure China’s overseas interests. So, and which also includes its, you know, increased attention to space, Arctic, oceans, and China is trying to sort of delve into all of these different spheres. And recently, China was also able to acquire some loot, it was able to successfully finish this lunar mission. So, we see how through these different, through these different instances how China is trying to make it smart in different aspects of the source of the world. And for me again, so it is again, subject to interpretation. And for me, China seeking to consolidate its power in these different sectors, is sort of its long-term goal.
Gray Sergeant 42:13
Okay, go ahead. Yes. Yes. Thank you very much.
Dr Jagannath Panda 42:15
In fact, I would like to start with that first question by James Clark: whether the image of China has been tainted? Objectively speaking, yes, the image of China has been tainted. But then I think the Chinese are aware that their image has been dented, their reputation has been affected, and there is a realization within the Chinese strategic circle about that. But those realizations are not necessarily, to me, I think, those realizations are not with a serious thought, and with serious logic. And I think therefore, we need to understand this part of the Chinese politics going by the history. 1962 was a deliberate attack on India, the Chinese activities towards the Tibetans, the Chinese approach towards the Tibetans was very much deliberate. 1989 incident, the Tiananmen incident was very much deliberate. By doing all of these repressive actions, and [inaudible], the Chinese regime has only gathered its own reputation as an authoritarian regime. And this is what Xi Jinping is trying to do. So, all of this image that has been tainted by what we say in the interest of media or speaking from other countries, is that yes, there has been a dent in the Chinese image. But this dent in the Chinese image are also [inaudible] by the Communist Party, because they want to portray themselves as an authoritarian and a strong raging [inaudible] for the Chinese people. So, to some extent, this is also, you know, manufactured deliberately. And I would say that the Xi Jinping administration is deliberately, you know, following a kind of a very repressive and aggressive posturing towards the international community, even though they are aware that their image is getting dented. Their long-term interest, I think there are three or four specific long-term interests that the Chinese are trying to achieve. I mean, whether these are really big, long term or medium to long term that needs to be debated, though, but I think one of the first medium to long term interests that the Chinese are having currently is how to really, you know, establish their supremacy in Asia. The right of the 21st century saw that the Chinese economy was doing exceptionally well. The Chinese military modernization budget also, you know, saw that time it already [inaudible] growth. So, from that time, the Chinese growth has been tremendous. But for the first time, I think last four to five years since 2012-13 onwards when Xi Jinping came to power, the Chinese economy has gone into new normal. It has slowed down. So, their objective the target towards the ASEAN region has not really taken them the way they wanted to go there. So, therefore, what we are seeing currently, a lot of aggressiveness from the Chinese side, and this aggressiveness is partly for deliberate reasons. But this aggressiveness is also well designed, well planned and none of the ASEA economies are also currently in a dominating position to challenge China’s and China’s economy. And they do also partly draw this you know, strength partly because they have huge foreign reserves in their account. And partly they know that it is the Chinese economy, eventually, might come into the scope the regional or global economic, or 2008-2009 global economic recession is an example. So, their medium-term to long-term interest is to dominate Asia somehow. The second is that, I think, there I agree with the other panellists, is that they are going for strong military modernization partly because of their land and the maritime domain targets that the Communist Party has actually put in front of the Chinese people, or beat the Taiwanese issue, the South China Sea issue, or India-China boundary dispute. Of course, I don’t really see that the Chinese are going to gain much as far as the India-China boundary dispute is concerned, because I think the Chinese, they know that India would retaliate hard, and India is not in a position to compromise, or, you know, show any kind of flexibility. But the Chinese definitely see that they can gain ground on the South China Sea, which they have successfully gained ground through the maritime militarization. And on the South China, on the Taiwan issue, they are trying to assess the situation whether it is possible, in the next few years, if not, in the longer term, at least in one decade or so, if it is realistically possible to economically pressurize Taiwan and try to go for unification. Well, last point is that I think one of the critical goal of Xi Jinping administration is to build partnerships. And these partnerships, they want to build among the smaller or the middle rank economic countries. Now, here we need to understand that American foreign policy has always based towards India, on China containment strategy, American foreign policy has not really built on, you know, building on the relationship with the smaller countries or the middle middle-ranked economy, the Chinese economy and the Chinese foreign policy has actually filled that gap. The Chinese foreign policy has focused on the smaller, smaller economies and the middle economies of Asia. This is why we are seeing China having a stronger relationship with India’s neighbours be it, you know, Nepal, be it Pakistan, be it Bangladesh, be it Sri Lanka. So, there is a focus on the smaller economies to build partnerships. There is a focus on the Southeast Asian economies, while, you know, trying to enhance the claim on the South China Sea, on one hand, and trying to also economically extend China’s outreach in the South China Sean and in the ASEAN regions. A similar kind of approach we are also seeing in the Central Asian regions, because the American power is not really prevalent there. Russia’s economy is also heavily dependent on the Chinese economy. So, the Chinese economy and the Chinese foreign policy is focusing a lot on the middle rank and the smaller ranked economies. And that is one of the big aspects of Chinese foreign policy: to build partnerships, which will actually be a kind of gateway for the consolidation of power in the ASEAN regions.
Gray Sergeant 49:01
Thank you. Thank you for that. We have a few more questions. So please do keep them rolling in. If you could go first to [inaudible]. If you could unmute your mic, please.
Question 7 49:18
Hi, my question is, what is the current state of the Russia-China relationship and how will that impact on Russia-India ties?
Gray Sergeant 49:27
Thank you. And Howard Jan? Yes.
Howard Jan 49:36
Hi. My question is: the international community, especially the EU and UK so far have refrained from any major sanctions on China or the Chinese leadership, the CCP, after the Hong Kong crackdown. Will you in the UK actually take concrete actions? And if yes, what are the diplomatic repercussions?
Gray Sergeant 49:58
Thank you for that. And a final one from Andrew Long. Andrew, are you on? Andrew is not there, we can just go ahead with these two questions, and perhaps they take his next round. And Professor Ding, if you’d like to start off again?
Professor Ding 50:26
Oh, okay. I think for the Russia, China relation, some kind of a limitation there. Yeah, there’s no doubt in the past two or three decades, the Russia China relation has become closer and closer, you know, each is on [inaudible] now, and the [inaudible] from China says they need to energy and also probably with military technology for Russia. And for Russia, they probably need to have some kind of economic, also from China. And also, both Russia and China need to form kind of a coalition to compete with the United States or to fight with the United States, international communities. But there’s always some kind of a limitation as you can see from Taipei. That is, whoever, in terms of ourselves, Russia always reserved, the [inaudible] for India’s and despite the request from China for the better technology, or we’re consistent, but since that is always sitting there from Russia to China. So, but actually, these kinds of limitations do not preclude the both the relationship between the both side they can continue to move forward in order to compete with [inaudible] the so called the US influence, so. So, the China, actually China, handles limitation quite a while. So, although China did not. Apparently China did not make complaints to Russia public complaint, but and the China thing that is there to show [inaudible] effort to develop their so called American technology or so called weapon systems. So, through these beacons, this kind of a limitation seems to not preclude the Russia and China to move forward their cooperation and the formulation, move forward. With regard to the EU and the UK, I think the EU and the UK are a little bit slower than the United States, because we know, beginning in the second term, the President Obama, there was a growing voice in Washington DC that the too subtle to push back China, from different sectors from the building sector, family sector, from the so called political sectors, so and also from academic sector. But I think the EU, European countries, and European countries and the United Kingdom is really slow in this kind of response to launch the push back against China. So that’s why, in the EU, there’s no so called something very serious sanction like that of the town by the United States. Again, again, China. I don’t see the EU in the future will do that. Because, as I said in my in my opening remarks that the EU try to achieve some kind of investment agreement with China, sometime in the near future. So, with that, you know, and also, like, German Prime Minister [inaudible], he wants to improve Germany’s economic situation. So, I don’t say anyway, I don’t say the EU and the United Kingdom were launched. That kind of action you will get a chance to lock down by the United States in the futures.
Gray Sergeant 54:53
Thanks for that. Jagannath, Atmaja, would you like to take a couple more questions? I know there’s about three people waiting to get in, and then perhaps respond to them and the previous ones? Anyone? Yeah, sure. Excellent. Well, in that case, could we go to Jonathan Marx, please? Would you be able to unmute your mic?
Jonathan Marx 55:15
Yes, thank you. Would China’s overseas interests be sufficiently damaged to stop China, invading Taiwan or exerting more extreme pressure on them? And would ASEAN countries stand by or support any action taken by Taiwan’s friends in the West to help them?
Gray Sergeant 55:40
Thank you for your question. If I could go to William Claxton Smith next. That would be great. If you could unmute your mic.
William Claxton Smith 55:51
Hi, William practice with China has been relatively vocal of its support for climate change mitigation measures. In recent times, I wondered whether there was anything we should be reading into this.
Gray Sergeant 56:04
Thank you. And Yuri Rosen from? If you could unmute your mic. Thank you.
Yuri Rosen 56:12
Could I ask our Indian friend, actually, whether if the [inaudible] Chinese focus on middle ranking powers also applies to the strategy of China vis a vis the Western countries, not just fixing their interest on, let me say, the United States and the EU, as such, but also on the middle ranking powers within, for instance, Europe. Thank you. Thank you for your interesting questions. If we go to Atmaja first, to respond to them and the previous questions, then you Jagannath, and then we’ll go back to Professor Ding to respond to them last couple of questions. We’ve got about five minutes left, and then I wrap up.
Atmaja Gohain Baruah 56:59
Okay. Like to answer the person and ASEAN. So, I feel like ASEAN is in a very strategically important position. But also, it does not want to annoy or disturb, or you know, just disrupt the balance. So, I feel like it will maintain the status quo that has been happening so far, it will not take any drastic measure on a drastic change or foreign policy that I expect from ASEAN. And the other question on climate mitigation is that yes, it is. It has been so sorry. Just me, Prof Panda can answer. Just sorry.
Dr Jagannath Panda 57:39
Okay. Let me let me start with questions about EU and the UK, from the previous, you know, participants, and then try to link it with the middle-ranked countries in Europe. I think the debate about China in EU or let’s say in Europe is getting further divided. This pandemic has further divided the European community, even though today we see that France, Germany, Netherlands, and other mainstream European countries or highly developed ranked countries like Sweden has taken a, you know, overtly anti-China position. But I think it is too early to say that the European community has become anti-China. Once the pandemic goes down, once the Chinese again try to rebuild their diplomacy, we will see that the Chinese will try to, you know, their 17 plus one strategy is very effective in Eastern Europe. And I think they would like to continue and cultivate those, those strategies. So, what we’ll see is that further, probably the European community, to getting divided further on China. But while saying that, I think there is an interesting thing that we will see, probably some European countries, if not in, I don’t think in the EU there will be consensus on China ever. But I think some European countries, the kind of specific position they have taken into perspective. For example, France, Germany, Netherlands, not all they have, they are talking about Indo-Pacific that will create a new kind of debate to judge China much more better. I think it clarity on China might emerge. But the European community will still stay very much divided when it comes to China. About middle ranked countries in Europe. Yes, that’s very much true. I think what we will see in the Chinese foreign policy strategy probably is that European market is not a small market for China. It’s still a very significant and big market. The Chinese have lost out on the Indian market because of the because of the [inaudible] incident because of the [inaudible] one border incident this year. Indian domestic market is almost closed for the Chinese goods for the near future. The Southeast Asian communities’ market is still open but limitedly. So therefore, the Chinese would like to capitalize on two big regions for their market base. One is the European community, particularly the Eastern Europe and the central Europe, probably, and the African community, they would like to rebuild their ties with Africa. And when we’ll see the Chinese leadership, you know, visiting the African countries a lot. The other question was more about, you know, the overseas interest? And what would be the reaction of ASEAN or Asian countries if China invades Taiwan? And I think that’s a critical questions. And I think the response of the Asian countries and the response of the ASEAN countries will heavily be dependent on how United States of America reacts to the Chinese occupation on Taiwan. And, you know, I’m currently in dialogue with the Japanese and South Korean think tanks, and a few other think tanks from these regions, I could clearly say that none of them are thinking so seriously about Taiwan. And I think everybody’s trying to think about their own security and their own foreign policy positioning vis a vis China. Nobody’s actually thinking about the future of Taiwan per se, which is actually a very grey area in the Indo-Pacific regions. And hypothetically speaking, if China is occupying Taiwan tomorrow, I think a lot will depend on the response of the US, if the US response is effective, then probably India and Japan might respond. Australia might respond, which will actually trigger a new kind of debate in the ASEAN regions. I will stay at that. And about, and if I have one minute on India, Russia? I think this is one of the critical relationship when it comes to China. Russia, India-Russia ties, I think, China, Russia, relationship, Egypt, classical relationship. It’s a relationship with a lot of limitations as [inaudible] but I think all of these limitations are a good positive things for India-Russia relationship. As you know, India enjoyed a good network with the Soviet Union. But that’s not the case with Russia, our, India’s relationship with Russia is very much limited. It is very much specific on the defence sector. So therefore, the fall back on the grey areas of China relationship comes as an advantage to India-Russia relationship. While saying that I think India-Russia relationship is going to maintain a status quo, not so high, not so low, it will just keep on moving, agitates right now, which is a very normal relationship. There is no special influence on Russia in Indian foreign policy. But there is a special focus on China, mostly as a negative country as an enemy country in Indian foreign policy.
Gray Sergeant 1:02:59
Thank you. And Professor Ding, would you like to come back on the last few questions? We’ve got a couple of minutes left, and then I’ll wrap up.
Professor Ding 1:03:07
Yeah, I think the so called the China’s possible invasion of Taiwan by force, in the past couple of months, has been rising again. But I think China, I will say, I’m not saying China is we’re not taking very coercive means or even the so called directly invading Taiwan. But I think China will be careful to calculate, because on the one hand, you know, as Xi Jinping, as we say in the earlier that XI Jinping don’t think China economic transformation has been done. So, this way issue, not ask Dr Panda already said no, China, she knows quite well. She even knows quite well, China need to build up economically, before they can aspire to be a so called real power. On the other hand, China knows quite well, the majority speaking, they cannot compete with United States, although we don’t know how United States will come to Taiwan’s help. We don’t know that: it is everybody’s speculations. But it’s one thing as the participant [inaudible], so oversea Chinese, for instance, China is the number one so important these days. So, what if something happened in [inaudible] for showing us [inaudible] was [inaudible] by certain countries, like United States or whoever’s in China’s economy will be allowed to collapse so probably will be a serious impact. So that’s why that the point I’m saying China really, very careful to make a connection. Now what kind of factors will impact, or negative or positively? So, maybe as you know, the audio is the most important issue, the most important elements for China to consider, and this is why China want to diversify so called [inaudible] so called from the Pakistan or from Myanmar, so on so forth, China really make very effort on that. So those are, those are my very brief responses to the questions. Thank you very much,
Gray Sergeant 1:05:43
Thank you, Professor Ding, and thank you to Dr Panda and Atmaja. Particularly because you’ve joined us at such a late time on the other side of the world, I think we’ve had a really great discussion. And the fact that we’ve covered so much in terms of China and its relations to all sorts of different countries across the world goes to show the extent to which China is a global player now and perhaps if anything we can take away from what you’ve been telling us would be that when we’re talking about predicting China’s behaviour going forward, we should really look to different areas of the core and the Asia Pacific and the world and sort of treat them differently and try not to predict the same patterns of behaviour across all three areas. So, I would just like to thank you once again, and thank you to everybody that joined us on this Zoom feed and thank you for your questions. Have a good evening.