Explaining China’s foreign policy reset

Under the banner of the Silk Road initiative, first introduced in fall 2013, China has just announced a host of economic projects such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Beneath the eye-catching name, these projects amount to a giant push towards the Asian neighbourhood.

This special issue of China Analysis concerns the geopolitical underpinning of China’s new outward-looking economic policy. It documents, through examining the writing of some of China’s best-known international relations specialists, the shift in foreign policy that has caused Xi Jinping’s government to prioritise China’s neighbourhood again:

  • The “Chinese century” has not yet arrived, and China has neither the capacity nor the willingness to compete for leadership in a still US-led international order. Indeed, China still faces internal problems and its “comprehensive” national power remains limited.
  • China’s rise is “unstoppable”, but it is not violent, and China represents no danger to world peace. However, an emerging China and declining United States and Japan are bound to compete – yet not to confront each other, due to structural constrain
  • Thus, China should adopt a “two-pronged approach”, establishing a new type of great power relations with developed countries, including the US and the European Union, while improving its relations with developing and neighbouring countries.
  • Overall, China should prioritise its relations with its neighbours since a peaceful and stable periphery is the key to China's sustainable rise. To do so, China is willing to share the benefits of its economic development through the Silk Road initiatives.

The article in this special issue of China Analysis has been written by Antoine Bondaz.

For more on the reaction of countries in the region on China's policy, read our new essay collection How do Asians see their future?

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

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