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R. Zalski: China’s territorial claims and cooperation with ASEAN on non-traditional threats: what it means for the US and its regional allies

China’s neighbors want to expand trade with it. At the same time they feel uneasy in terms of its rising economic and much more military clout and the way it uses both. As a result they have to deal with security concerns caused by China.

Those are generally coped with in two ways. First, within the China-ASEAN forum through diplomacy and non-traditional security – NTS. Second, through continuing or expanding ties with the US Army. ASEAN members need China as an economic and the US as a security ally.

The paper focuses on the last two decades. Within this timeframe it addresses two major areas of concern

  • China’s territorial claims and the way it handles neighbors’ concerns resulting from them

  • the China-ASEAN framework related to NTS.

The paper focuses both on PRC’s belligerent behavior and its institutional involvement. How does China use its rising economic and military clout – rather pressing neighbors or engaging and co-developing regional security-related institutions? How do tensions affect the regional security relationship of ASEAN countries both with the PRC and with the US.


PRC is faced with a problematic situation – due to its weakness after the WWII and in the following decades, it could not really take care of its regional policy. The US became a resident power in PRC’s closest neighborhood through its bases and alliances. Now, growing economically and militarily, China is trying to remove the superpower from its own periphery.

Its neighbors’ reactions vary. This paper will discuss Japan and Australia. Japanese authorities feel uneasy about e.g.  PLA’s regular intrusions into its aerial and littoral territory. Which caused changes in their defense policy. In recent years a major discussion on security issues has also been going on in Australia. Both Japan and Australia enjoy a growing trade with China and simultaneously have been adjusting their defense policies.

However, in the end of 80s and beginning of the 90s, the situation was quite different.  China’s neighbors were much more positive towards it. In order to understand the currently different situation, we will trace the region’s development in the last 20 years. I will discuss both China’s pulling its neighbors – through involvement within ASEAN, and pushing them away – through territorial claims based on historical arguments and aggressive behavior.

What changed in the 90s?

Western vs Asian reactions to the Tiananmen massacre

We will use the reaction to the tragedy to show the difference in Western and Eastern perceptions of China and its development. Until the beginning of the 90s, the view prevailed in democracies, especially among the American establishment, that the CCP would slowly become like the West.[1] “Until June 1989 the US and China were sharing intelligence, had a close security cooperation, their military cooperation included technology and weapons transfer projects, high-level exchanges of joint chiefs-of-staff, service chiefs and cooperation between defense universities; working-level exchanges  of experts in logistics, management maintenance and military medicine.”[2]

By turning against its own people, not only did the CCP’s image suffer domestically and internationally. As at the same time Eastern Europe was getting rid of its autocratic regimes and mostly peacefully embarking on both economic and political transformations, CCP’s legitimacy to govern and reform the country took a blow. What was especially worrying for the party – the economic development came to a halt.

Western countries instantly condemned Chinese rulers. Whereas PRC’s neighbors were not so eager to do so. Japan explicitly condemned the use of force, but opposed sanctions.[3] According to the South Korean government “the incident was regrettable”[4], Thai and Malaysian authorities called it an “internal affair”. The condemnation from Western democracies caused the Chinese regime to court its neighbors. In 1990 the CCP achieved breakthroughs in regional diplomacy – diplomatic normalization with Jakarta (after a 23-year break) and Singapore; relations with Vietnam began to warm. Soon Beijing had diplomatic relationships with all ASEAN states (except Brunei, this was finalized end of next year).

Another reason for engaging in local cooperation was the changing perception of the post-Cold War security environment in Southeast Asia. This brought the collaboration with ASEAN to the forefront of its diplomacy. Which was accompanied by inflating territorial claims. How both were handled will be analyzed on the following pages.

Inflating regional claims

The before mentioned positive attitude of China’s neighbors is important to highlight the initial good will and enthusiasm from ASEAN members towards PRC’s reforms, the support it enjoyed. How could this go wrong?

Already in the beginning of the 90s critical voices about its rise were heard[5], doubts and insecurity were rising from some of Asian neighbors about the direction of China’s regional policy. With accelerating economy, rising military expenditures and escalating claims – there were more and more reasons to carefully watch Middle Kingdom’s rise.

We only need consider China’s territorial expansion like Manchuria (40s), Xinjiang and Tibet (50s) and claims like Taiwan (30s), Senkakus (late 60s/70s), Koguryo (00s)[6], Arunachal Pradesh (00s)[7] Okinawa (more vague so far). Combined with repeated intrusions into neighboring aerial and maritime space, this tendency makes Asian countries  hedge their security allying with the US.


During the cold war Japan kept economic relations with China and resisted pressures to view its China policy as ideological competition. It has helped the country’s modernization and stability, as Japan even opposed international sanctions after June 1989. Prime minister Toshiki Kaifu was the first G-7 leader to visit China in August 1991 after Tiananmen.[8] Half a year later Japanese emperor first time ever visited China. The first serious crack in this improving relationship came with China’s proclamation in February 1992 of a territorial law claiming the Senkakus and the entire Spratly island group in the South China Sea. In September 1996 the US ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale indicated that the US-Japan security treaty did not apply to the Senkaku islands. Under Japanese pressure, the Assistant Secretary of Defense Kurt Campbell stated a month later, that the document obliged his country to the islands’ defense, adding, that it supported the position of neither side of the issue of territorial sovereignty.[9] Secretary of Defense William Perry confirmed this position on December 3rd.

A continuation of Japan’s mistrust towards China’s foreign policy went on during the for both sides disappointing visit of president Jiang in Japan in November 1998.[10]

The next event, which proved Beijing’s impotence to conduct dialogue with its neighbors, was the crisis in the Taiwan Strait in March 1996. The involvement of the 7th Fleet accelerated PLA’s modernization since then.

One month after the most intense phase of the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis the “Japan-US joint declaration on security: Alliance for the 21st century” was inked[11] and caused comments from the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman. One of the reasons was that the Chinese authorities interpreted the text as directed at China and referring to a peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue[12]. “Implicit references to China in the Declaration have become the focus of apprehensive Chinese commentary and debate. Chinese analysts noted that the Declaration cited sources of persisting instability and uncertainty in the Asia-Pacific region that by implication involve China, including unresolved territorial disputes, potential regional conflicts, heavy concentrations of conventional and nuclear forces, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.”[13]

Another step seen by China as directed against itself was the loosening of restrictions regarding US-Japan wartime cooperation under the Security Treaty (also in the 2nd half of the 90s). Which hinted a possible Japanese cooperation in case should America be involved militarily in the region (read – with China). For example in the case of Taiwan. Chinese experts see Japanese participation in peacekeeping operations as a veiled way to expand the reach of its power projection capabilities.[14]

ASEAN members were shocked by Chinese seizure of the Mischief Reef in 1995. Singapore stated the importance of providing access for the U.S. military “China would not have had the temerity to seize Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands” if the U.S. still maintained bases in the nearby Philippines.[15] The Mischief Reef action mobilized ASEAN to identify China as the region’s top security threat, although all of its member states wanted to deal with the problem through engagement rather than confrontation.[16]

After the Asian crisis in the end of the 90s, successive Japanese governments reduced the defense budget of the their Self-Defense Force. But as evidenced above the situation has been changing. And so beginning of 2012 Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura announced a decision to ease the country’s decades-long weapons export ban in a bid to lower purchase and production costs. Another reason was the possibility of participation in arms-development projects with other countries.[17] Japan and the US have already jointly conducted weapons research and development to step up their security alliance. Also in January 2012 Japan announced a costly deal by ordering 42 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Last year Japanese authorities started relocating its forces from the North to the South – to the Yonakuni island, next to the strategic Miyako channel. This change is related to China’s disputes over the Senkaku islands, called by the Chinese Daioyutai. Those troops were previously stationed to protect the country from the Soviets / Russians, however, with changing priorities they are being redeployed.[18]

Another reason for Japanese worries about China’s rise are not only its military’s and fishermen intrusions. It is for example diplomacy with Chinese characteristics[19] – namely the handling of a crisis. The boat accident in September 2010 and detention of a Chinese captain by the Japanese Coast Guard in the waters near the Senkaku islands. Chinese government’s reaction was disproportionate.[20] It could be, that this harsh reaction was also aimed at the region, at other territorial disputants for example, to prepare them for China’s might. The incident probably played a key role in changing the DPJ’s approach to the US alliance and may have contributed to a shift in Japan seeing China as a military threat. Although Japanese security officials had been concerned about PLA’s intentions and growing capabilities for years, this dispute may have convinced politicians and the broader public of the need to change Japan’s defense posture to counter China.

Contrary, Beijing’s suspicions towards US allies might be increased by actions like revision by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs of its Official Development Assistance charter in

2003.[21] Some principles for its implementation for its recipients included fostering peace, freedom, promotion of democracy and human rights and introduction of a market-oriented economy.

Unlike with China, the US almost does not have with Japan contradicting security interests. Both countries can look back on few decades of fruitful military collaboration. We could call it the antithesis of the Sino-US relationship. Which brings us to another close US ally in the region bound with it for decades.


Australia has a special position in the relationships of ASEAN, China and the US[22]. Enjoying a close and very profitable commercial link with China, its economy has been immunized against the global financial crisis. “Intergovernmental communications have increased since the mid-1990s to include senior-level exchanges, regional security and arms-control talks, consular talks, a human-rights dialogue, bilateral aid talks and annual defense-consultations. (…) A prominent symbol of the improving political relationship was Australia’s invitation to Hu Jintao to address parliament during and October 2003 trip to Canberra – just one day after President’s Bush’s address to parliament. (…) By many accounts Hu Jintao received a far warmer response than George W Bush.”[23]  At the same time it is one of America’s long-time major regional allies. All successive administrations from John Howard, through Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard have expressed their commitment to defense ties with America. ASEAN is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner[24] , it is the most important multilateral partner for Australia.

1995 / 1996 Australia and Indonesia entered an “Agreement on maintaining security”, which was an expression of uneasiness stemming from China’s military development (it is not a defense treaty). The document was not rich in details, but aimed at the neighboring rising power. Especially, that its signature followed PRC’s occupation of the Mischief Reef. In case of external threats to either country, they were supposed to hold consultations.

One of the outstanding issues in the Washington-Beijing-Canberra triangle is the question of Taiwan. Australia is much more restrained and reluctant in this matter, than Washington. Nonetheless, from time to time frictions arise in this regard.

As in the case with Japan, increasing mercantile ties are paralleled by security concerns and growing mistrust. In the last 4 years the share of Australian respondents believing China’s goal is to dominate Asia has risen from 60 to 65%, whereas 44% believe that it is likely or very likely to pose a military threat within the next two decades to Australia.[25] Almost 80% Australians believe China’s recent actions have been assertive and it will become an aggressive military power[26]. At the same time 75% are saying China’s rise has been good for Australia.[27]

Among Australia’s security experts opinions on this issue vary. The discussion was lead in recent years by the scholar and previous government member Hugh White and last year stepped up by another scholar – Ross Babbage, who served on the government’s advisory panel for the 2009 Defence White Paper. He made his point of view clear calling for a Flexible Deterrent Option, which i.e. would enable his country to “rip an arm off any major Asian power that sought to attack Australia”.[28] He calls China the most serious security challenge since World War II[29] and disagrees with some views expressed in the White Paper that he coauthored. Babbage – “this report does argue that the Western Pacific security environment is being changed in fundamental ways by the scale and pattern of PLA development.” How to cope with it? “The United States and its close allies should not seek to confront China. Rather, the intent should be to offset and balance the PLA’s more threatening force developments and operations.” The “main purpose should be to balance the PLA, to deter adventurism.”[30]

Those voices are part of an Asian-wide discussion – how are we going to cope with China’s military rise? How do we combine it with the ongoing economic cooperation?

It should be noted, that this discussion refers to the PLA in a modernization process. Its adversaries in the region realize, they have to prepare for decades ahead when this army would present a totally different stature. When its demands might be also more authoritative. However, its neighbors aren’t passive either and build-up their own capabilities and strengthen regional cooperation. This leads us to the 2nd part – the institutional China-ASEAN framework.

China-ASEAN security cooperation

After looking at PRC’s claims and its hard power, let us analyze how it tries to soften it and  engages in a regional framework – the China-ASEAN community.

The before mentioned China’s relations with its neighbors partly explain why it was difficult to start this relationship. The first contact with ASEAN was initiated in 1994, which was not very fruitful at that time. China’s regional image improved in its favor after the 1997 financial crisis, when it assisted Indonesia and Thailand in their economic recovery. However, this development was restricted only to the economic realm. Still, it was a start for the country’s regional engagement.[31] Yet, this financial crisis and Beijing’s supportive involvement kicked-off its takeover of the regional leadership. Moreover, “ASEAN’s response to the financial crisis was not an efficient and decisive one, the association was effectively sidelined.”[32]

ASEAN countries present mixed attitudes towards a rising China. Therefore, they hedge their involvement, apply a dual-strategy. The more they engage the emerging power in cooperation, the easier for their relationships. This process includes inviting other powers, some of them competing with China for leadership like the US and its allies, India, Japan and Russia. “China’s rise to become the region’s central power has meant a huge shift for ASEAN, which was at first unquestionably most closely linked to the United States. With neighboring heavyweight China and its far-away security guarantor the United States taking such different positions, ASEAN’s decision-making process has become rather more complicated”.[33]

Non-traditional security

What is important in the context of China-ASEAN is that the cooperation has its distinct character. It differs from the Western understanding of security cooperation. It focuses on non-military threats to security. Voting procedures, obligations for members and treaty-based institutions are not the essence here. Therefore the organization is perceived from the Western point of view as weak and inefficient. The rationale of this whole concept also differs from the one we are used in the Western world. It is not about military threats, but more illegal immigration, drug trafficking, ethnic / religious movements, natural disasters, piracy etc. The keyword here is non-traditional security – NTS. Fragile Southeast Asian governments depend on economic growth for legitimacy, so non-military threats to regime survival are more likely to materialize than traditional military threats.[34]

The security component is the major difference from the ASEAN+3 meetings (which includes US allies / full-fledged democracies, one of them being PRC’s major regional rival). EAS with big players like India, Australia, New Zealand and the US makes consensus and concrete progress even less likely. Therefore currently the China-ASEAN platform seems the most active and efficient institution in Asia.[35]

CCP’s drive to exclude the US influence and military from the region[36] was also seen in its reluctance to non-Asian slash pro-American ARF participants (Australia, Canada, New Zealand) in 2005.[37]  Its major regional competitor – Japan – is the biggest supporter of including those members (plus India and the US). This more inclusive approach to regionalism is an alternative one to PRC’s.

How did China’s perception change in the 90s?

Between 1997 and 2001, the Chinese government significantly modified its assessment of regional, and particularly security-related, multilateral organizations. During this period, China’s perception of such organizations evolved from suspicion, to uncertainty, to supportiveness. Until the mid-1990s, China viewed such organizations as potential tools of the United States that could be used to contain it. After a year or two of sending observers to the meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP), and nongovernmental track 2 meetings, China’s Foreign Ministry became more agnostic and more open to learning about them. Chinese analysts soon discovered that the United States did not control these organizations; to the contrary, it became evident to China (and other Asian participants) that Washington tended to dismiss or ignore them. (…) By 1999-2000 Beijing’s greater receptivity had given way to China’s full-blown participation in a range of regional multilateral organizations.[38]

ASEAN’s attempts to socialize China and introduce to cooperative security and multilateralism slowly paid off. We have to note, that Beijing’s understanding of this involvement differs from ASEAN’s. “China’s interpretation of multilateralism is a rather limited one, in that it is considered to be a supplement, rather than a replacement of the traditional bilateral approach. It also has resisted the more formal institutionalization of the ARF, as desired by the western countries. Beijing’s comfort level clearly has increased with the understanding that ASEAN will remain in the driver’s seat, and the forum will not touch on issues of vital importance to China.”[39]

With China’s only recent move toward multilateralism, ASEAN’s 1994 proposal for the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum (…) resulted in some uneasiness on the part of China (…). As a result of its positive experience in the ARF, China supported the establishment of the ASEAN Plus Three from its onset, without the ambiguity with which it had initially approached the ARF.[40] Beijing has changed from viewing multilateralism in Southeast Asia as “constraining” to seeing it as useful for promoting China’s regional goals.[41]

Beijing’s push for regional institutions was only more obvious with Bush administration’s simultaneous retreat from them[42], the void filled by the Chinese diplomacy.[43] Accompanied by US’ focus on China, leaving ASEAN aside.[44]

Even the ARF was the only region-wide institution involving the US, this association shared a similar fate.[45] W Bush’s policy was probably the best case scenario for the rulers in Zhongnanhai. Involving the US in two disastrous wars, contributing to its financial meltdown, ruining international image and distracting from the Pacific for a decade plus making depending on China’s cooperation on the War on Terror was more than they could expect from an American head of state.

The question arises – did China use this unique window of opportunity? Not really. In terms of neighbors – the relationships worsened. The cross-strait policy is calm mostly because a very pro-Chinese administration has been in power on the islands. China’s US policy did not improve either – after an initial soft approach of the Obama administration, its policy recalibrated 2010/2011 as a reaction to PRC’s harsh behavior.

So were there no positive results of US’ presence in Asia?

US and Chinese rivalry in Asia

We just discussed PRC’s and US involvement with ASEAN. The association’s weakness in solving disputes and claims, lack of a collective security provisions and joint military forces – poses rather an opportunity than a threat to China. So far ASEAN has failed to collectively address the ongoing territorial claims, neither condemning China, nor supporting US involvement, as during the 1996 crisis in the Taiwan strait or during summits. Regional flashpoints like Taiwan or South China Sea can’t be discussed on the multilateral level. China made sure it joined a club, where it dictates the agenda.

It is then understandable then, that ASEAN members did separately step up cooperation with the US Army starting in the 90s – Singapore granting access to its Changi naval base, Thailand continuing to provide refueling and transit services, Indonesia allowing the US Navy use of the Ptpal dockyard in Surabaya, the Philippines intensifying military exercises. After the mentioned 95/96 crisis in the strait, the US Army significantly stepped up cooperation with Taiwanese forces on various levels.[46] In addition, ASEAN members intensified collaboration among each other in various security aspects like exercises, arms manufacturing and procurement. How much ASEAN countries will or will not need security cooperation with the US might also depend on how much Japan and India will act as local counterbalances to China.

Disputes over Spratlys and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea bring various ASEAN members together in different constellations. On that matter Indonesia cooperates with the Philippines, Vietnam collaborates with India.[47] Various military exercises are flourishing. At the end of 2010 Indian and Japanese prime ministers stated “fundamental identity of values interests and priorities” between their countries, “welcomed the recent decision of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to invite the United States and the Russian Federation to join as members of the EAS” plus “welcomed the launch of India-Japan Shipping Policy Forum and mutual exchange of schedules of escort operations by the Indian Navy and Japan Self-Defense Forces in the Gulf of Aden.”[48]

However, at the same time military exercises, arms sales between China and various ASEAN members intensified, defense and security ties developed (high-level visits to port calls, defense equipment transfers to military educational exchange programs) in the 90s/00s[49] Notwithstanding the flourishing trade, Singapore is a committed American military partner, Japan and Australia are official allies. The US also has military cooperation with Indonesia. However, simply by looking on a map, we can tell that all those three locations are indispensable for China’s oil deliveries. This does not leave much room for maneuver. Beijing must be able to have a say in a case of conflict.[50]

What are the lessons learned?

PRC’s vs US’ Asia-diplomacy

We can draw some conclusions on how China engages its neighbors and America. So far it seems, that mistrust toward the PRC is increasing e.g. due to its military modernization and state-owned media’s chest-beating. Simultaneously, US Army’s influence among China’s neighbors is on the rise, at the same time regional bi-and multilateral security cooperation within ASEAN intensifies. The US is a security partner of choice and it is exactly  b e c a u s e  of US military presence in the region, that China’s neighbors feel more comfortable to engage with it.

It also seems, that what makes neighbors concerned, is not so much the PLA modernization alone. No one denies China the possibility to protect its interests. It is rather the fact how the CCP conducts its dialogue with other-minded elements of its own society and international partners. Also the way how it responds to regional disputes – shying from institutionalized forms of seriously regulating disputes (historical vs legal claims).

We would be hard pressed to tell which country is China’s best friend (except for its Asian allies of reason North Korea, Pakistan and Myanmar plus Sudan, Syria). It is however much easier to tell who is its main competitor, if not enemy, in terms of regional dominance – the US, Japan. What it means on the contrary, is that in the last two decades, the CCP has been unable to bring any major Asian capital on its side. In addition, it is telling that only Beijing (and its allies) considers US military presence in Asia as not conducive to regional stability. All this also means, that there is no need to balance US influence in the region.[51]

How to evaluate Chinese ASEAN policy? We can quantify the accomplishments of Chinese diplomacy. In 2009 the Center for Strategic and International Studies published a report titled “Strategic Views on Asian Regionalism: Survey Results and Analysis”. One of the charts presents ‘Greatest threat to peace and stability in 10 years.’ In every country other than China, China was listed by Asian elites as the most likely threat to peace and security (38 percent), with North Korea the second-greatest (21 percent), and the US the third (13 percent). Since then the PLA has grown considerably. In terms of which nation, that respondents thought, would be the greatest force for peace, a weighted average was the US (40 percent), China (24 percent) and Japan (15 percent).[52] So from the above it seems like China’s failure to win major powers on its side means, that US influence won’t be altered in the near future. It also makes US decline at least in security terms, questionable. Also according to Pew’s data collection, PRC’s regional perception is not very positive.[53]

However, China’s cooperation with ASEAN itself is a very good sign. One, that can only benefit both sides. “According to many scholars, China’s policy shift in favor of Asian multilateralism was caused by two factors: the first being the ‘ASEAN Way’ rules of interaction; and the second factor being that with ASEAN in the driver’s seat, China felt confident, that it would not be turned into an anti-China forum. (…) Its principles of consensual decision-making, informal diplomacy and non-interference make China feel comfortable about sitting around the table with ASEAN.”[54]

We might expect that this marriage of convenience would flourish in the future. ASEAN’s centrality suits Chinese goals. It is a reciprocal relationship. It is however unequal in a sense, that China has much more leverage over the association, than the other way. It also legitimizes Chinese regional policy.

As John Lee rightly states, American future influence in Asia does not solely depend on hard-power. It relies on approval and cooperation of other states in the region to stay dominant. The US military posture in Asia depends on bases in other sovereign states and those are always subject to the acquiescence of other democratic host countries. Its maritime and naval operations are structurally bound to enforce the region’s public goods.[55]

In terms of bilateral Sino-US relations, China has the upper hand. Its laser-focused approach, combined with lush funding, makes Washington often bend to its will. Especially on issues like Taiwan. It is enough to observe the last three administrations. President Clinton stood up to PLA’s aggression towards the islands in 1996, but then gave in 1998 in with the three no’s. President Bush started as a strong supporter of Taiwan and ended up loathing Chen Shui-bian and opposing a democratic referendum. So did president Obama, reaching out to Beijing, then appeasing the regime to the detriment of the islands. Each administration did so for different reasons, but the result is the same – a pro-Beijing policy on Taiwan’s expense. In terms of multilateral relations, the PRC diplomacy used US passivity in the 00s, its focus on the Middle East and filled the void in the region. Not only with extensive programs and funding, but in various forums and lastly militarily. A 2006 Congressional Research Report argued that “in the Southeast Asian context there has not been a time “when the US has been so distracted and China so focused”.[56]

What the US can do to make its presence be more felt is twofold. First, cultivate relationships and alliances, engage in FTAs – boost its own diplomacy and economy, expand low-level exchanges and cooperation with ASEAN countries (to increase trust and  manage potential crises[57]). Second, continue its military presence. PRC’s trading partners constantly increase mercantile cooperation with it, at the same time many of them expand cooperation in security-related areas with its main military adversary. So the constant intensifying China-ASEAN economic collaboration is paralleled by expanding ASEAN-US military ties.

What PRC’s neighbors can do to restrain its behavior is to keep involving it in multilateral cooperation and at the same time allying with American armed forces and expanding security-related cooperation among themselves. Also include other US allies into regional frameworks.


[1] Detailed and very insightful analysis of failed US perceptions – James Mann, The China Fantasy: how our leaders explain away Chinese repression, Viking Penguin 2007.

[2] Robert Ross, Alastair Ian Johnston eds, Engaging China: the management of an emerging power, Robert Ross

[3] Although this pro-China attitude represented the elites of the country, the populace was much more reluctant to support the massacre, Neil E. Silver, The United States, Japan and China: setting the course, p. 20.

[4] Even in the aftermath, Seoul supported tourism to China and the Asian Games 1990 in Beijing, Robert Ross, Alastair Ian Johnston eds, Engaging China: …, Victor Cha, Engaging China: the view from Korea, Routledge 1999, p. 39, 44.

[5] The head of the Malaysia Institute of Maritime Affairs, Hamzah Ahmad – perceived China as seeking to replace the United States and Russia as the region’s principal military power. „China should not attempt to revive the Middle Kingdom mentality and expect tribute from Southeast Asia”, The Economist, Trick or treat, July 10th 1993, p. 29. 4 years later lieutenant colonel Katsushi Okazaki observed “it is evident by her actions that China does not plan to maintain the status quo; it appears to be developing her maritime power, her military, and her prosperous economy. China, therefore, presents a dangerous dilemma for all of Asia”, Katsushi Okazaki, China’s seaward adventurism and the Japan-US alliance, Okazaki.htm, 1997. “The Chinese are investing in both diesel-powered and nuclear-powered submarines—a clear signal that they intend not only to protect their coastal shelves but also to expand their sphere of influence far out into the Pacific and beyond.” Robert Kaplan, How we would fight China, The Atlantic Magazine, June 2005, p. 3.

[6] This article relates both to China’s claims to part of Korea as to Taiwan, David Scofield, China puts Korean spat on the map, 19 August 2004,, accessed 10 March 2012.

[7] This claim was brought first time to an international forum, when PRC opposed 2009 India’s request for a 2,9 billion USD loan from the Asian Development Bank. The same year China protested the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Dalai Lama’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh on the grounds, that it is South Tibet.

[8] Muthiah Alagappa ed, Asian security practice: material and ideational influences, Stanford University Press 1998, Yoshihide Soeya, Japan normative constraints versus structural imperatives, p. 203-204.

[9] Robert Ross, Alastair Ian Johnston eds, Engaging China: …, Michael Green Managing Chinese power: the view from Japan, Routledge 1999, p. 162.

[10] More on the visit and its background Neil E. Silver, The United States, Japan and China: setting the course, p. 18. On the complex relationship and mistrust from Japan towards China, their competition for supremacy in Asia, also Japan’s alliance with the US, see ibid pages 23-25.

[11] It was accompanied by a drop of Japanese population’s acceptance of Chinese politics, United States Information Agency Office of research and media reaction, Japanese public’s views of China, opinion analysis, 30 April 1999.

[12] 5 (b) The two leaders agreed on the necessity to promote bilateral policy coordination, including studies on bilateral cooperation in dealing with situations that may emerge in the areas surrounding Japan and which will have an important influence on the peace and security of Japan, see Japan-US joint declaration on security: Alliance for the 21st century,, accessed 20 February 2012. On the security and oil import-related importance of Taiwan for Tokyo, see Jason Blazevic, The Taiwan dilemma: China, Japan and the strait dynamic, Journal of current Chinese affairs, 39, 4, p. 150-155.

[13] Banning Garnett and Bonnie Glaser, Chinese apprehensions about revitalization of the US-Japan alliance, Asian Survey, vol. 37, no. 4, April 1997,  p. 388.

[14] Banning Garnett and Bonnie Glaser, Chinese apprehensions…,  p. 396.

[15] Michael Leifer, Singapore’s foreign policy: coping with vulnerability, Routledge London 2000, p. 160.

[16] Sheldon Simon, Security, economic liberation and democracy: Asian elite perceptions in post-Cold War foreign policy values, NBR Analysis, Security, democracy and economic liberalization: competing priorities in US Asia policy, vol. 7 no. 2,  September 1996, p. 26.

[17], accessed January 8th 2012.

[18] In earlier decades the US-Japan security relationship has rested on the shared sense of the threat posed by Soviet military to Japanese territory. For years both felt concern about potential Soviet strikes against Japanese military targets.

[19] Leadership with Chinese characteristics, Richard Zalski,  &task=view&id=3700&Itemid=171, accessed 5 April 2012.

[20] China’s suspension of a range of high-level government talks with Japan, including talks over the expansion of air linkages, also threat of a severe escalation in retaliation for the captain’s detention. In addition, China has suspended a substantial youth exchange initiative.

[21], accessed 5 April 2012. There is also causes for the Chinese side to be worried about the nationalistic attitude of Japan (textbook controversy, Yasukuni shrine visits, article IX of the Constitution). Frances Rosenbluth, Jun Saito, Annalisa Zinn, America’s policy toward East Asia: how it looks from Japan, Asian Survey, vol. 47,  no. 4, July / August 2007, p. 588-594. Those attitudes cause a wide discussion among Chinese netizens and give the government opportunities to criticize Japanese authorities and society. This way Japan can also be portrayed as part of a Western, most of all American, plot to hinder China’s rise.

[22] For diverging Australian views on the country’s alliance with the US, see the pro-American one – Andrew Itarer, Uncharted waters: the US alliance and Australia’s new era of strategic uncertainty, August 2011, Lowy Institute, p.9 vs the more pro-Chinese one – Hugh White, Power shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing, Quarterly Essay 39 2010, p.8.

[23] Pacific currents The responses of US allies and security partners in East Asia and to China’s rise, Rand Corporation 2008, p. 21-212.

[24] Roughly equal with Europe, and the third biggest export destination after Japan and marginally behind China. With the exception of China, Australia’s two-way trade with ASEAN has been growing faster than all Australia’s trading partners over the last decade, at an annual rate of 10 per cent. (…) until the last few years, some economies in ASEAN have still been climbing back from the depths of the Asian financial crisis. Australia and ASEAN: towards 2015, ASEAN business and investment summit, 28 0ctober 2010, Hanoi, David J. Twine, Executive director South East Asia, South Asia and Pacific Austrade,, accessed 6 January 2012.

[25] Fergus Hanson, Australia and the world: public opinion and foreign policy, Lowy Institute, 2011, p. 25.

[26] ibid, p. 26.

[27] ibid, p. 10.

[28] Ross Babbage, Learning to walk among giants: the new Defence White Paper, Security Challenges vol. 4 no. 1, Autumn 2008, p. 18.

[29] Ross Babbage, Australia’s strategic edge in 2030, Kokoda Papers, no 15 February 2011.

[30] ibid, p.60.

[31] It was also argued that this engagement not only helped China, but combined with US failure to help Asia, eroded latter’s position in the years to come. Which might be a reason why the US was not invited to the EAS meeting in Manila in 2005, Daniel Sneider, Asian powers outgrowing American leadership, 12 November 2005,, accessed 3 April  2012. At this time a widespread belief in Washington and in the IMF blamed lack of transparency and “Asian values” for the crisis. Which made America even less popular in the coming years as opposed to China’s support.

[32] Fenna Egberink Frans-Paul van der Putten, ASEAN, China’s rise and geopolitical stability in Asia, Clingendael paper no 2, April 2011, p. 11, 16-18.

[33] Fenna Egberink Frans-Paul van der Putten, ASEAN, China’s…, p. 23.

[34] One needs only recall that the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis led to the fall of the Thai government, the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia, and a political confrontation between Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his finance minister, Anwar Ibrahim, that was resolved only after Ibrahim was arrested and jailed. China and ASEAN share the belief that if economic stability and growth falter—which could be precipitated by any number of non-military events—regime survival is potentially at stake. David Arase, Non-traditional security in China-ASEAN cooperation: the institutionalization of regional security cooperation and the evolution of East Asian regionalism, Asian Survey, vol. 50, no. 4, July / August 2010, p. 810.

[35] More on differences between Western and Eastern understanding of institutions, how they work and operate, what constitutes one, see David Arase, Non-traditional security in China-ASEAN cooperation: the institutionalization of regional security cooperation and the evolution of East Asian regionalism, Asian Survey, vol. 50 no. 4, July / August 2010, p. 825-827.

[36] “China resents the role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific Region. This means that China is not a ‘status quo’ power but one that would like to alter Asia’s balance of power in its own favor. That alone makes it a strategic competitor, not the ‘strategic partner’ the Clinton administration once called it.” Condoleezza Rice, Promoting the National Interest, Foreign Affairs January / February 2000.

[37] “In November 2003, China circulated a concept paper at ARF that proposed an ARF Security Policy Conference, which involves the member states’ vice minister-level defense and security officials. The first meeting of the new conference was held in Beijing in November 2004 and the second in Vientiane, Laos in May 2005. Although the Conference nominally invites all current members of ARF, many regional observers interpret the new proposal as an attempt by Beijing to gain control over ARF. Like its proposals for ASEAN+3, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone, and the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), the ARF Security Policy Conference is another instrument of Chinese hegemony. (…)While the ASEAN foreign ministers made do without the company of their U.S., Japanese and Indian counterparts, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing’s presence in Vientiane was conspicuous. He attended separate one-on-one sessions with each of the ten ASEAN foreign ministers and joined the ASEAN+3 forum with diplomats from Japan and South Korea. But he left the Laotian capital at the opening of the ARF meeting, which included ministers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and of course the U.S. deputy secretary of state. Savvy diplomatic observers saw Minister Li’s snub of the ARF as a clear signal of China’s disdain for Asian security meetings that included “non-Asians” (…).”Dana Dillon and John Tkacik jr., China’s quest for Asia, Policy Review December 2005 / January 2006, no 134.

[38] This whole paragraph is from David Shambaugh, China engages Asia: reshaping the regional order, International Security, vol. 19, no. 3, winter 2004/2005, p. 68-69; see also Jing Dong-yuan, China-ASEAN relations: perspectives, prospects and implications for US interests, October 2006, p. 45-46.

[39] Jing Dong-yuan, China-ASEAN relations:…, p. 24-25, Beijing’s early concerns fell in four areas: that the regional forum would be dominated by the United States or otherwise could provide the justification for Washington to intervene in the region’s affairs; concern over the internationalization of territorial disputes; concern that the Taiwan issue might be brought on the table, hence interfering China’s internal affairs; and concern that China would be pressured to display greater military transparency. Ibid  p.24.

[40] Fenna Egberink Frans-Paul van der Putten, ASEAN, China’s…, p. 31.

[41] Daine K Mauzy and Brian L Job, US policy in Southeast Asia: Limited re-engagement after years of benign neglect, Asian Survey, vol. 47 no.4, July/August 2007, p. 631.

[42] “In February 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick downgraded bilateral strategic dialogues with Australia and Japan to the undersecretary level while inaugurating a new strategic dialogue with China at his level. (…) Despite the fact that no secretary of state had missed an ARF meeting since 1982, at her first opportunity to attend, Secretary Rice skipped the July 25–29, 2005 meeting in Laos (and in 2007 – R.Z.), sending her deputy in her place. (…) Confirming ASEAN suspicions about America’s attitude toward the region, there was no American representation at the ASEAN Economic Ministers meeting in September (2005 – R.Z.). An event normally attended by the United States Trade Representative, in 2005 it was not downgraded but ignored”, see Dana Dillon and John Tkacik jr., China’s quest for Asia, Policy Review December 2005 / January 2006, no 134.

[43] “In contrast, in just the first six months of 2005, President Hu Jintao visited Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines, and National People’s Congress chairman Wu Bangguo visited Singapore and Malaysia. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met separately with ASEAN ministers at the Asia-Europe ministerial meeting in Tokyo (and in July attended the ARF), and Premier Wen Jiabao visited Indonesia, where he attended a meeting on tsunami relief efforts.” David Arase, Non-traditional security in China-ASEAN cooperation: the institutionalization of regional security cooperation and the evolution of East Asian regionalism, Asian Survey, vol. 50, no. 4, July / August 2010, p. 824. The crisis contributed also to the replacement – in 2009 – of the G-8 (US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Canada and Japan) with the G-20, which included 5 Asian countries (China, India, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan).

[45] Richard Armitage was quoted as characterizing the institution as “I wish the region would get much more involved with the US in protecting its own security interests, but the ARF has been so flabby and disparate, as to make it unworkable” Peter Hartcher, Who will keep the peace in Asia when the US leaves, Australian Financial Review, 11 September 1999.

[46] Alexander Chieh-cheng, The United States and Taiwan’s Defense Transformation, opinions/2010/02_taiwan _defense_huang.aspx, Alexander Chieh-cheng, Innovative U.S.-Taiwan Security Cooperation, issue_id=212&chapter_id=5.

A number of high-ranking US officials visited Taiwan after the crisis – in January 1998 – former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs Ashton Carter, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili, two months later – former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Joseph Nye, a year later General Shalikashvili, Carter and Perry returned for another visit, accompanied by former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft plus retired Admiral Ronald Hayes.

[47] Also, in a letter to the United Nations in July 2011, the Indonesian government formally challenged the PRC’s claims to the South China Sea.

[48] Vision for India-Japan strategic and global partnership in the next decade, 25 October 2010, new site/erelease.aspx?relid=66562, accessed 28 February 2012.

[49] Jing Dong-yuan, China-ASEAN relations: …, p. 1-15.

[50] More on various strategies within ASEAN states to counterbalance US’ and PRC’s influence, a specific hedging and ambiguity towards both powers, distinction between older and newer, smaller and bigger, continental and maritime members,  see Jing Dong-yuan, China-ASEAN relations: …, p. 26-27.

[51] John Lee, Lonely power, staying power: the rise of China and the resilience of US pre-eminence, Strategic Snapshot 10 Lowy Institute,  September 2011, p. 2.

[52] Leadership with Chinese characteristics, id=3700&Itemid=31, accessed 15 January 2012.

[53] Since Pew Research started its global data collection in 2001, there is no previous data available. Therefore we can measure attitudes only in the last decade. China’s attitude towards the US stays more or less constant, US’ towards China seems to have slightly improved. Japan’s perception of China fell noticeably within the last decade, similar applies to South Korea’s view of its big neighbor. What is interesting is the extremely high grading of China among its own citizens. See, accessed 15 January 2012.  In 2011 Chinese had more favorable opinions of the EU (47%) than the US (42%). Which is reciprocated with 47% EU citizens seeing China favorably (to be precise 12 EU countries were included in the survey), see Transatlantic trends 2011. In another paper its author cites  data proving China’s positive perception vs falling US perception in Asia Renato Cruz de Castro, Confronting China’s charm offensive in East Asia: a simple case of fighting fire with fire?, Issues and Studies, 45 no1, March 2009,  p. 92.

[54] Fenna Egberink Frans-Paul van der Putten, ASEAN, China’s …, p. 31

[55] John Lee, Lonely power, …, p. 2.

[56] CRS Report for Congress, China-Southeast Asia relations: trends issues and implications for the United States, Bruce Vaugh and Wayne Morrison, April 2006, CR-2.

[57], remarks of the former US ambassador in China Stapleton Roy on everyday cooperation among ASEAN members as more engaged and advanced as with the States, minutes 56-58.


The paper was originally presented at the 2012 International Conference on „American Foreign Policy and the New Global Milieu” at Tamkang University.

R. Zalski: China’s territorial claims and cooperation with ASEAN on non-traditional threats: what it means for the US and its regional allies Reviewed by on 24 lipca 2012 .

China’s neighbors want to expand trade with it. At the same time they feel uneasy in terms of its rising economic and much more military clout and the way it uses both. As a result they have to deal with security concerns caused by China. Those are generally coped with in two ways. First, within




komentarze 4

  • 7 nie twierdze ze we wladzach chinskich nie ma ludzi chcacych madrzej i lepiej
    z pewnoscia sa
    uwazam ze jak za administracji mlodego busha nie moga sie przebic i nie maja wplywu, system na to nie zezwala
    moze kiedys

  • tu nawet nie o samo dazenie do wojny chodzi, bo o to ich nie posadzam

    1 nalepszy w ostatnich latach raport na ten temat opublikowal international crisis group, wlasnie ukazala sie druga czesc o reakcjach sasiadow – stirring up the south china sea …
    nie bede streszczal kilkudziesieciu stron, trzeba przeczytac
    super publikacja
    to samo slyszalem od amerykanow z departamentu stanu, think-tankow i pentagonu. tak to widza. tyle ze raport uwzglednia setki wywiadow z urzednikami i specjalistami chinskich sasiadow, tak wiec jest dosyc wiarygodny
    jenda z glownych tez – nie ma osrodka wladzy, jest wewnetrzna i niekontrolowana wladza o wpplywy, pieniadze i wladze i wewnatrz wojska i cywilnych sluzb morskich, np prowincji

    2 potyczki i starcia nie na wodach chinskich, ale ich sasiadow, pod granicami filipin i japonii oraz wietnamu. to nie jest agresja?

    3 nie ma procedur wspolpracy, wiele razy o tym tu pisalem. chinczycy nie wspolpracuja, by poprawic sytuacje i sie dogadac – spojrz na ostanie spotkanie ASEAN u. pierwszy raz od 45 lat bez ostatecznego komunikatu. i zachod i azja obwiniaja za to chiny

    4 nacjonalizm. tez o tym pisalem. przerasta kontrole wladz

    5 chinskie zadania sa nie prawne ale historyczne. nie maja podstaw
    tak samo wlosi mogliby zadac odbudowania imperium rzymskiego i polacy kraju od morza do morza

    6 wydalenie USA z regionu. cisnienicie japonii i filipin to nie przypadek – panstwa te maja umowy o obronie z USA. to rekawica rzucona temu krajow.
    ostatnie starcie z filipinami na scarborough shoal. patrz – w trakcie manewrow z USA, kiedy filipiny mogly wyslac jedynie wlasnie przekazany przez USA statek. to dosyc czytelne. dla mnie to komunikowanie sie z potega.

    dzieki za wnikliwy komentarz !

  • Ryśku – wreszcie zebrałem się i przeczytałem twój artykuł od A do Z.

    Bardzo dobrze przedstawiony problem, ale teza tutaj przedstawiona będzie trudna do obrony, a teraz spróbuje wytłumaczyć mój punkt widzenia.
    Chiny w ostatnich 20 latach są o wiele bardziej stabilne i zrównoważone niż w latach ’60 , ’70 oraz ’80 kiedy to w większości rządzili twardogłowi, którzy byli nastawieni na konflikt. W ostatnich 20 latach Chiny nie prowadziły żadnych wojen – co bardziej istotne są one bardzo nastawione na biznes. Język ekonomii przemówił KPCH do rozumu i teraz już wiedzą, że biznes jest o wiele lepszym rozwiązaniem niż wojna.
    Przypominam konflikt chińsko- indyjski z 1962 oraz wojnę chińsko-wietnamską z 1979 oku !!
    Teza, że rosnąca rola ekonomiczna i wojskowa może być zagrożeniem nie jest do końca prawdziwa !! Przeważnie w historii państwa decydowały się na wojnę kiedy chciały coś odzyskać lub miały problemy gospodarcze, a społeczeństwo głodne chciało się na kimś wyżyć !! Przykład ZSRR lub nazistowskich Niemiec upokorzonych po 1WŚ.

    Chiny podpisały traktat pokojowy z Indiami w 1996 co pokazuje, że preferują pokój i wzajemne relacje gospodarcze niż podbijanie sąsiadów. Dzisiejsza klasa polityczna ma za dużo do stracenia !!

    Więc ja stawiam tezę – Chiny są najbardziej stabilne w swoich ostatnich 200 lat !!
    Zresztą same chińskie społeczeństwo nie jest zainteresowane wojną – oni są zainteresowani bogaceniem się. kiedy przeprowadzano badanie na świecie z pytaniem : ” Czy bogaci zasługują na swoje bogactwo ” ponad 60 % ludzi w Chinach powiedziało TAK, bogaci zasługują na swoje bogactwo !! W Grecji i Hiszpanii twierdząco odpowiedziało około 10 % respondentów !!

    Same wysuwanie żądań ma na celu sprawdzenie swojej pozycji w regionie. Dokładnie tak samo ZSRR testowało USA i Europę Zachodnią w czasach zimnej wojny !!

    • i vice versa … USA testowała radzieckich towarzyszy :)

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