China’s Near Abroad
This chapter examines the status of China’s current relations with its neighbors. First we examine current and near-term relationships and their effect on China. Then we explore how these relationships might change in the medium to far term. China’s evolving relations with its neighbors will, of course, significantly influence China’s strategic situation and resource expenditures. For purposes of this discussion, we divide China’s near abroad into three regions: the east and northeast, the southern tier, and the west.
The PRC enjoys good or very good relations with its southern tier of neighbors (i.e., Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, the Philippines, and India). Whereas in earlier decades there was considerable tension or even open warfare between the PRC and most of those nations, today China has mutually beneficial and growing economic ties with the southern tier. China’s economic-political model, which combines many of the benefits of capitalism with single-party authoritarian rule, has considerable appeal in Vietnam, which is adopting a similar approach. The Philippines and Thailand, who in the past regarded the PRC with considerable suspicion and even fear, today see China as the main economic engine in Asia. They increasingly regard China as a primary trading partner and a means to enhance their own economic growth. Even India, who fought China in the 1960s, now regards the PRC as an increasingly important trading partner. Trade between China