13 November 2017
So many hands have shaken and champagne glasses tipped by heads of state in Asia this month that it’s hard to remember who’s talked to who. But China hulks as the elephant in the room at every meeting. No one wants to anger it. Citizens in places such as Myanmar say China takes natural resources once it digs into a foreign country. And Vietnam can attest to ever-tightening Chinese control over a contested sea between them.
Yet China’s $11.2 trillion-plus economy keeps growing, likewise its cross-border investment clout. Foreign governments or multinational companies can’t run — but they can make friends with China under the right expectations.
China knows it’s rigid about certain things, such as authoritarian government, free speech curbs and occasional half-regard for international maritime law. Officials in Beijing genuinely get irritated when someone such as the European Union tells it to change. China spiked a visit from Australia this year over that kind of criticism. It doesn’t ask democratic countries to try authoritarianism, after all. That’s why skeptical Chinese neighbors tend to get along with Beijing.
“Asia doesn’t look at China as an all-out enemy. It is literally as some foreign policy pundits have put it, ‘frenemy,'” says Alan Chong, associate professor in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
CMS / GPO / Online
Last updated on 16/11/2017