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China Getting Bolder in Diplomacy Amid Financial Crisis

Posted December. 10, 2008 05:28,   


With China’s role on the global stage rapidly rising in the wake of the global financial crisis, its diplomatic policies are also undergoing big changes.

Gone are days when the Middle Kingdom kept a low profile and sought to avoid conflict and confrontation with other countries. Now, China is getting rough and ready to challenge its competitors.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country is this year’s chair of the European Union, announced a meeting with the Dalai Lama despite China’s warning not to, Beijing unilaterally canceled a bilateral summit with the EU. Sarkozy, however, held talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader in Poland Saturday.

China also canceled a meeting with Airbus to purchase planes worth 10 billion euros (12.8 billion U.S. dollars). With tacit approval of Beijing, 12 million Chinese signed a petition to boycott 50 French products.

China has also raised its voice against the United States. At the China-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue that ended in Beijing Friday, China opposed the yuan’s appreciation as an agenda item, a subject the United States has long pushed for.

These bold responses by China are in stark contrast to those it made in the past. When France sold Mirage fighter jets to Taiwan in 1992, China retaliated by closing the French consulate in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

When the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was bombed by U.S. warplanes in a NATO air raid in May 1999, it accepted the U.S. excuse that the wrong building was struck.

The cancellation of the China-EU summit is seen as a sign of a bolder Beijing in the international arena.

Significant changes in Chinese diplomacy are behind the rise in China’s global standing, experts say.

When China pushed for reform and opening three decades ago, its GDP ranked 10th in the world at 216.5 billion dollars. China now has the world’s fourth-largest economy with GDP of 3.28 trillion dollars last year and is expected to overtake Japan in 2010 as the world’s second-largest economy.

China, which has achieved rapid economic growth through exports, is set to maintain its business momentum by depending on domestic consumption amid the global economic crisis.

Its growing national power and change in economic development policy have led China to shift from passive to aggressive diplomacy, even at the risk of aggravating relations with powerful countries.

Shi Yinghong, director of American studies at Renmin University in Beijing, told the Hong Kong daily Ta Kung Pao, “China will say `no` often in diplomatic issues down the road.”