China in Asia: What is behind the new silk roads? Notes de l'Ifri, July 2015
The Asia-Pacific region is now more than ever a priority for China’s foreign policy. The combined economic, energy and security interests concentrated in the region are of key importance for Beijing.
China is trying to consolidate its regional power status through proactive diplomacy with all its neighbors. On the one hand it is reinforcing its economic diplomacy (with particular emphasis on building transport infrastructure) in a soft, flexible and often seductive manner. On the other hand China is maintaining a firm position on territorial and border disputes and is increasingly showing its strength, particularly in the East and South China Seas.
This two-pronged regional approach – soft and firm – is not new and had already begun under Hu Jintao. It is clear, however, that since the 18th Communist Party congress in November 2012, Xi Jinping has sought to accelerate the consolidation of China’s economic presence and geostrategic base in the Asia-Pacific region.
This change in pace must be understood in the wider context of fiercer competition between China and the United States in the region as a whole. China wants to limit American influence in this zone in a number of areas – military, economic, financial, institutional, among others – and to become the agenda-setter in Asia and beyond.
At the moment, China remains relatively isolated in Asia. Chinese initiatives in the China Seas and wider uncertainties about Beijing’s true ambitions in the region tend to benefit the United States and Japan, who are strengthening their links with several neighboring countries, which are alarmed by China’s rising power.
This study has been realized within the partnership between the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri) and OCP Policy Center.