POSTED on 08 February 2016 by Klaus Heinrich Raditio

Why ambiguity becomes China’s foreign policy strategy

When I conducted my doctoral fieldwork in China in November 2015, one scholar from Tsinghua University told me that “it is not that the world does not understand China; they just turn a deaf ear to China”. I disagree with him. I argue there is one thing China maintains which makes it difficult for outsiders to understand its behaviour: ambiguity. Ambiguity is ubiquitous in Chinese foreign policy. I mention two examples in this article, which are sources of confusion. The first is China’s projection of its power. Is China a developing country or a great power? In 2009, then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao shunned the assumption that China is a great power, and insisted that it is merely “a developing country” and would be “a peaceful and cooperative country”.  However, one year later Yang Jiechi, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated at the ASEAN Ministers Conference in Hanoi that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact”. This ambiguity continues in the era of Xi Jinping. On the one hand, when addressing the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum in Beijing, Xi said that “China remains the world’s biggest developing country and to narrow […]

When I conducted my doctoral fieldwork in China in November 2015, one scholar from Tsinghua University told me that “it is not that the world does not understand China; they just turn a deaf ear to China”. I disagree with him. I argue there is one thing China maintains which makes it difficult for outsiders to understand its behaviour: ambiguity. Ambiguity is ubiquitous in Chinese foreign policy. I mention two examples in this article, which are sources of confusion. The first is China’s projection of its power. Is China a developing country or a great power? In 2009, then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao shunned the assumption that China is a great power, and insisted that it is merely “a developing country” and would be “a peaceful and cooperative country”.  However, one year later Yang Jiechi, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated at the ASEAN Ministers Conference in Hanoi that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact”. This ambiguity continues in the era of Xi Jinping. On the one hand, when addressing the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum in Beijing, Xi said that “China remains the world’s biggest developing country and to narrow […]

POSTED on 10 November 2015 by Dominic Kocx

A house divided: Hong Kong electoral reform

On 17 June 2015, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) voted down a contentious electoral reform package. Eight lawmakers voted in favour of the reforms, while twenty-eight voted against. Judging by these numbers alone, the first inference one might jump to would be that the reforms had fallen well short of passing as electoral law, failing to gain a two-thirds majority. However, it must be noted that of the entire seventy LegCo lawmakers, only thirty-six were present and voting. A considerable amount of the Pan-Establishment lawmakers, who are often labelled as ‘pro-Beijing’ in political orientation, staged a sudden and somewhat puzzling ‘walk-out’. While ‘universal suffrage’ is planned to be implemented in time for the 2017 Chief Executive elections, exactly how universal suffrage in Hong Kong will and should take shape remains unsettled. With District Council elections soon to be held in November and LegCo elections next year, it is foreseeable that electoral reform will continue to be at the forefront of public debate. What were the proposed electoral reforms? Previously, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive has been appointed by a 1,200 member ‘Election Committee’ that is said to be broadly ‘representative’ of the cross-section of Hong Kong society. The reforms […]

On 17 June 2015, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) voted down a contentious electoral reform package. Eight lawmakers voted in favour of the reforms, while twenty-eight voted against. Judging by these numbers alone, the first inference one might jump to would be that the reforms had fallen well short of passing as electoral law, failing to gain a two-thirds majority. However, it must be noted that of the entire seventy LegCo lawmakers, only thirty-six were present and voting. A considerable amount of the Pan-Establishment lawmakers, who are often labelled as ‘pro-Beijing’ in political orientation, staged a sudden and somewhat puzzling ‘walk-out’. While ‘universal suffrage’ is planned to be implemented in time for the 2017 Chief Executive elections, exactly how universal suffrage in Hong Kong will and should take shape remains unsettled. With District Council elections soon to be held in November and LegCo elections next year, it is foreseeable that electoral reform will continue to be at the forefront of public debate. What were the proposed electoral reforms? Previously, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive has been appointed by a 1,200 member ‘Election Committee’ that is said to be broadly ‘representative’ of the cross-section of Hong Kong society. The reforms […]

POSTED on 05 November 2015 by Dominic Kocx

An Author in Demand: Liu Cixin

On Tuesday 3 November 2015, the University of Sydney hosted one of China’s most prolific contemporary authors, Liu Cixin. Sydney Ideas and the University of Sydney Confucius Institute teamed up to welcome the internationally celebrated science fiction author to deliver a public lecture, ‘The Future of China Through Chinese Science Fiction’. Liu Cixin was recently awarded the 2015 Hugo Award for his novel The Three-Body Problem (三体). The event began with a speech delivered by Liu, was followed by a conversation between Liu and Associate Professor Mingwei Song of Wellesley College (USA) and was topped off by a question-and-answer discussion with the audience. An interpreter, who provided running commentary in English, ably accompanied Liu. The bilingual event was a testament to the University’s support for cross-cultural exchange in the Australia-China relationship. Liu canvassed many thought-provoking ideas about China’s development that one might just expect from a Sci-Fi writer. He speculated on the role of the space industry in the future and stressed the importance of innovative thinking to China sustaining its position as a global power. Professor Mingwei described Liu as an author with a rare ability to make plausible what would otherwise be seen as implausible. Liu was modest and […]

On Tuesday 3 November 2015, the University of Sydney hosted one of China’s most prolific contemporary authors, Liu Cixin. Sydney Ideas and the University of Sydney Confucius Institute teamed up to welcome the internationally celebrated science fiction author to deliver a public lecture, ‘The Future of China Through Chinese Science Fiction’. Liu Cixin was recently awarded the 2015 Hugo Award for his novel The Three-Body Problem (三体). The event began with a speech delivered by Liu, was followed by a conversation between Liu and Associate Professor Mingwei Song of Wellesley College (USA) and was topped off by a question-and-answer discussion with the audience. An interpreter, who provided running commentary in English, ably accompanied Liu. The bilingual event was a testament to the University’s support for cross-cultural exchange in the Australia-China relationship. Liu canvassed many thought-provoking ideas about China’s development that one might just expect from a Sci-Fi writer. He speculated on the role of the space industry in the future and stressed the importance of innovative thinking to China sustaining its position as a global power. Professor Mingwei described Liu as an author with a rare ability to make plausible what would otherwise be seen as implausible. Liu was modest and […]

POSTED on 19 October 2015 by Simon Norton

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

On 14 October, the China Studies Centre co-hosted Professor Wang Yuzhu, Director of the Centre for APEC and East-Asia Cooperation at the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), to discuss China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI). The BRI is a concept that has evolved from two separate ideas. The first, the Silk Road Economic Belt, was introduced by President Xi Jinping during a visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013. The second idea, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was announced by Xi whilst in Indonesia in October 2013. These two concepts were soon combined into the joint BRI which was adopted as a national strategy in late 2013. A government white paper was later released in March 2015, and a ‘Leading Small Group’, chaired by Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, was formed. According to the white paper, the aim of the BRI is to build connectivity between Asia, Europe, and Africa via land and sea, by aligning and coordinating the development strategies of the countries along the routes. It aims to improve the region’s infrastructure, develop efficient and secure land, sea, and air corridors, increase connectivity, facilitate greater trade and investment, and establish a network of free trade areas, thus creating […]

On 14 October, the China Studies Centre co-hosted Professor Wang Yuzhu, Director of the Centre for APEC and East-Asia Cooperation at the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), to discuss China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI). The BRI is a concept that has evolved from two separate ideas. The first, the Silk Road Economic Belt, was introduced by President Xi Jinping during a visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013. The second idea, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was announced by Xi whilst in Indonesia in October 2013. These two concepts were soon combined into the joint BRI which was adopted as a national strategy in late 2013. A government white paper was later released in March 2015, and a ‘Leading Small Group’, chaired by Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, was formed. According to the white paper, the aim of the BRI is to build connectivity between Asia, Europe, and Africa via land and sea, by aligning and coordinating the development strategies of the countries along the routes. It aims to improve the region’s infrastructure, develop efficient and secure land, sea, and air corridors, increase connectivity, facilitate greater trade and investment, and establish a network of free trade areas, thus creating […]

POSTED on 06 October 2015 by Andrew Asquith

The China model?

How is the ‘rule of law’ understood in China and what implications does that have for governments, corporations and people who seek to engage with China? Ms Jean-Marie Gescher addresses these questions in her soon to be published book: ‘All under Heaven? China’s dreams of order’. Gescher is a Canadian born and British educated barrister, she was legal counsel to the British ambassador in China and has lived and worked in China since 1989. Last week Ms Gescher delivered a thought provoking seminar on the rule of law in China with the support of the China Studies Centre. All under heaven: good government and the rule of law in China To begin to understand the ‘rule of law’ from a Chinese perspective, people need to cultivate knowledge of the Chinese classics, history and geography. Developing knowledge of China builds an ability to empathise and to see the world through Chinese eyes. Chinese history is beset with stories of catastrophe as the power of a dying dynasty wanes and the new rulers assume power. The wars, famines and destruction of 20th Century China are no exception. China dreams of order because the consequences of disorder are apocalyptic. In Chinese terms: “heaven […]

How is the ‘rule of law’ understood in China and what implications does that have for governments, corporations and people who seek to engage with China? Ms Jean-Marie Gescher addresses these questions in her soon to be published book: ‘All under Heaven? China’s dreams of order’. Gescher is a Canadian born and British educated barrister, she was legal counsel to the British ambassador in China and has lived and worked in China since 1989. Last week Ms Gescher delivered a thought provoking seminar on the rule of law in China with the support of the China Studies Centre. All under heaven: good government and the rule of law in China To begin to understand the ‘rule of law’ from a Chinese perspective, people need to cultivate knowledge of the Chinese classics, history and geography. Developing knowledge of China builds an ability to empathise and to see the world through Chinese eyes. Chinese history is beset with stories of catastrophe as the power of a dying dynasty wanes and the new rulers assume power. The wars, famines and destruction of 20th Century China are no exception. China dreams of order because the consequences of disorder are apocalyptic. In Chinese terms: “heaven […]

Chinese Tea Set