Academic journal article Parameters

China's Cambodia Strategy

Academic journal article Parameters

China's Cambodia Strategy

Article excerpt

National security strategy has been defined as the art and science of developing, applying, and coordinating the instruments of national power (diplomatic, economic, military, and informational) to achieve objectives that contribute to national security. [1] The purpose of this article is to present a case study of how the People's Republic of China is successfully applying all four instruments of national power to enhance its relationship with the Kingdom of Cambodia as part of a national security strategy of building regional alliances to counter US influence and to ensure China's security in Southeast Asia.

Since 1955 China's stated foreign policy has centered on five "Principles of Peaceful Coexistence." [2] But in the words of China scholar Michael Yahuda, "An immense gap exists between the declaratory principles of friendship, equality, mutual benefit, and noninterference that supposedly guide Chinese diplomacy, and the actual conduct of China's foreign policy, which is characterized by an exceptionally high dose of realism and a lack of openness." [3] China rails against "hegemonism," meaning America as the only superpower, and "power politics," meaning America's tendency to use force as a substitute for foreign policy.

A means to counter American influence might be alliances, yet China has few. Columbia Professor Samuel Kim calls China a "group of one" because of its tendency to see itself as set apart from others. [4] This may be changing. Chinese relations with Pakistan and Russia may be moving toward formal alliances, and in Southeast Asia China's relations with Burma, Cambodia, and, most recently, Indonesia may be a sign of things to come. Yan Xuetong of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a research center affiliated with the Chinese equivalent of the CIA, stated in the China Daily recently, "Diplomacy is a fine art, but its essence is simple: to push for maximum international support while upholding national interests. Achieving both can fortify a region militarily and put its economy on par with the world's best. China should take note here and apply diplomacy to foster good neighbor relations. Developing good relations, especially with Southeast Asian nations, should be China's priority." [5] Yan goes on to say that "China's national interest cannot be separated economically, militarily, or politically from the interests of other Asian countries," and "tighter regional relations can also help defuse international hegemonism by the United States because regional alliances can rival US power and cut into its influence." Although couched in the language of shared interests, Yan's commentary reflects the geopolitical reality that China is competing with the United States for influence in Southeast Asia. [6] It is the countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) closest to the United States, including two treaty allies, which stand in the way of China's dominance of that part of Asia. [7] If China can maintain a divided ASEAN, it can prevent an anti-China security consensus from developing. China is pursuing relationships with Burma, Cambodia, and Indonesia with this probable objective. This article discusses the application and coordination of China's instruments of national power to build a closer relationship with an unlikely partner, Cambodia.

Historical Ties

A close China-Cambodia relationship appears awkward on the surface because China was the devoted and dedicated patron of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from its inception in the 1960s through insurgency, conquest, genocide, defeat, insurgency, and peace. [8] Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, by contrast, has dedicated his life since 1977 to destroying the Khmer Rouge movement in which he was once a battalion commander. Although it was the People's Army of Vietnam that pushed the Khmer Rouge into Thailand in January 1979, it was Hun Sen and his peers in the Cambodian People's Party that assumed political leadership, led Cambodia into the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, and, arguably, earned a place in two coalition governments following elections in 1993 and 1998. …

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