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THE CHANGING NATURE OF CHINESE DIPLOMACY

Introduction: Foreign Policies of Persuasion and compromise

  • U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt believed that if you “speak softly and carry a big stick: you will go far”.
  • Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, practiced Roosevelt’s belief.
  • Where Mao preferred to exercise his power from “out of the barrel of a gun”, Zhou preferred to seduce his opponents through word and gesture in the pursuit of national self-interest, with the elegance of an opera star.
  • The stick was used rarely, and only when all other means of persuasion failed.

Speaking Softly with Diplomacy: All roads led to Beijing

  • Zhou’s style of diplomacy came to define Chinese foreign policy over the next half-century.
  • The strategy was consistent: avoid isolation, build solidarity with non-aligned countries, divide the West.
  • The tactics were called ‘united front’ — isolate the main threat by building unity with all other forces.
  • Under Zhou, diplomats of calibre navigated the Cold War, playing the Soviets against the Americans.
  • To relieve pressure, Zhou opened border talks with the Soviets and channels to the U.S. Public animosity did not deter him from turning on the full extent of his charm on either Alexei Kosygin or Henry Kissinger.
  • In February 1972, he persuaded U.S. President Richard Nixon to abandon Taiwan when the communists had not exercised actual sovereignty over that island even for a single day since 1949. It was a staggering act of diplomacy.
  • It became the ‘mantra’ of Chinese diplomacy. Chinese diplomats measured their words and kept their dignity.
  • Zhou had taught them that the real advantage in negotiations was to know more than the other side.

Breaking away and showing the stick

  • China began to occupy centre stage in world diplomacy, and now persuasion is quickly abandoned in favour of the stick when countries take actions contrary to Chinese wishes.
  • The Chinese pursue unilateralism instead of compromise in the South China Sea.
  • Chinese even manipulate media to serve their purposes.
  • China, post-COVID-19, will be operating in a very different external environment.

Extra Background

What is Multi-track diplomacy?

In multi-track diplomacy, all sectors of society are important and need to be involved, supported, listened to, and trained in a shared language of dialogue, conflict resolution, and peace building in order to prevent or end violent conflict. It is an entanglement of interconnected activities, individuals, institutions, and communities that operate together for world at peace.

Multi-Track Diplomacy consists of nine complementary ‘tracks’. These are:

  • governments
  • professional organisations
  • the business community
  • private citizens
  • training, research and educational institutions
  • activists
  • church organisations
  • funding
  • media

Track One: Government, Official Diplomacy

Track Two: Nongovernmental/Professional and Peacemaking through Conflict Resolution.

Track Three: Business, or Peacemaking trough Commerce

Track Four: Private Citizens or Peacemaking through personal involvement

Track Five: Research, Training, and Education or Peacemaking trough Learning

Track Six: Activism, or Peacemaking through Advocacy

Track Seven: Religion, or Peacemaking through Faith in Action.

Track Eight: Funding or Peacemaking through Providing Resources.

Track Nine: Communication and the Media, or Peacemaking through Information

What is Chequebook Diplomacy?

The Chinese have either deployed “intimidation” or their famed cheque book diplomacy to “win” over other nations towards their own purposes. Both as an undisputed military and an economic powerhouse, the options for Beijing vary from flexing its military muscle (as done in the South China Seas) or by ensnaring nations into economic bondage by pouring billions of dollars.

Take the example of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), where a nation-sustaining investment of up to $60 billion has been made to Pakistan, whose economy is cash-starved today. Often, there is a hybrid model in between that entails the overlapping of the commercial-military footprint through strategic investments by China.

Chequebook diplomacy or Dollar diplomacy is a type of diplomacy based on debt carried out in the bilateral relations between countries. It involves one creditor country intentionally extending excessive credit to another debtor country with the alleged intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country when it becomes unable to honour its debt obligations.

What is soft-power diplomacy?

  • Soft power’ refers to the ability to persuade others to do something using neither force nor coercion (Joseph Nye).
  • While conventional, hard power relies on the State’s military and economic resources, soft power works on persuasion, aiming at furthering a country’s ‘attractiveness’.
  • It is based on three main categories of a country’s resources:
    • Culture
    • political values
    • foreign policies
  • Soft power is mostly based on intangibles such as the power of example. E.g. Yoga, Buddhism, movies, music, spirituality etc.
  • Today, most countries use a combination of soft power and hard power, together called ‘smart power’.

-Source: The Hindu

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