China's Role in the Asia Pacific Region and Beyond

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To the Editor--Recently, much has been said about China's role in East Asia. In your Spring 1996 issue, Gerald Segal wrote an article entitled "The Giant Wakes: The Chinese Challenge to East Asia," and Ronald N. Montaperto and Karl W. Eikenberry authored a piece entitled "Paper Tiger: A Skeptical Appraisal of China's Military Might" in which China's relationship with the rest of East Asia was examined. A fashionable view in the United States is that China's economic and military modernization signals an intention to assert itself as a regional power and that such an increase in power would pose a threat to East Asian security. These ideas seem to be the result of a lack of understanding about China's past and present. Therefore some facts and explanations are necessary on this issue.

China pursues a foreign policy of peace, which is built upon the ideals that China independently decides on its approaches and policies regarding world affairs, refrains entering into alliances or strategic relations with any large power or group of nations, and opposes hegemonism and power politics. China's foreign policy is designed to maintain world peace and create a peaceful international environment for the nation's modernization efforts. China develops relations with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Acting in accordance with these principles, China has established and developed amicable relations with its neighboring countries with a view to boosting the country's economic construction and promoting stability and development in the region.

In recent years, East Asia has experienced comparative political stability and sustained economic development. China's policy of reform and opening up as well as its political stability and economic growth have contributed to prosperity and stability in East Asia. A stable, developed, and strong China will only make it a greater contributor to peace and development in Asia and around the world.

Furthermore, China is a responsible sovereign state. Many issues concerning boundaries between China and its neighbors have already been resolved, and talks are being held to address other territorial disputes. Relations between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been strengthened. China shares common ideas on some important international issues with the ASEAN countries, and their friendly relations in all fields have entered a new phase of development.

China's responsible policies are clear in its dealings with the Nansha Islands (called the Spratly Islands in the West). Long ago, China exercised jurisdiction over the Nansha Islands and conducted development and exploration in that area. At the end of World War II, after Japan surrendered, the Nansha Island were put back under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. There was no dispute surrounding this move before the 1970s, but questions arose after that time. It is China's position that all disputes should be resolved by peaceful means on the basis of the provisions of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In order to maintain peace and stability there and in the Asia Pacific area generally, China repeatedly expressed its readiness to negotiate with countries that might have disputes. The Chinese government also proposed that the disputes be put aside and efforts be made to develop the Nansha Islands jointly. …