Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

China is a partner, not a foe

By Henry Leong - posted Wednesday, 10 May 2006

With the United States-led war on terror, and its disastrous Iraqi occupation saturating the media, Washington is turning to yet another rising security challenge - China. Over the past few months, key speeches by the Bush administration and policy documents have signalled US concerns about a rising China.

They included Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s speech in Sydney for a trilateral approach by Australia, Japan and the US to “engage” China; Pentagon’s 2006 Quadrennial Defence Review and mixed signals sent by Congress and the executive over the re-evaluation of the yuan; the Sino-US trade deficits and the repeated concerns over human rights in the communist state.

When one follows the US-dominated rhetoric and discourses, it would appear that China is the next Soviet Union: a precursor to the next stage of the Cold War that never ended in 1991. But is there a real basis for making such an assessment? Or is the nature of China’s rise something more complex than it is purported to be?


The article argues that while China’s rise is complex, the nation of 1.3 billion people is unlikely to be the nemesis in the new cold war. Three themes will support the proposition that China is not the existential threat that some sectors of the American establishment perceive the country to be.

Chinese power is different

First, the nature of Chinese power is very different from the defunct Soviet Union, notwithstanding that both are communist states.

The Soviet Empire was an expansionist and totalitarian regime. It inherited the Tsarist mantle of enlarging its borders in the European theatre, the Far East Asian front, the Caucasus corridor and the Central Asian region in the name of national security; messianic propagation of its values and ultimately, absolute control.

The first salvo fired in the Cold War was Stalin’s move into East Berlin after World War II. The Berlin Wall was built, dividing the capitalist west and the communist east in a protracted ideological tussle between Moscow and Washington that lasted over four decades.

On every front, the Soviet leadership presented the “Socialist paradise” as an ideological, political, economic, military and cultural rival to the United States. Although the Soviet empire was essentially a military power, it did not prevent the Kremlin from forming alternative organisations such as COMECON, the Warsaw Pact and other Soviet-led security and friendship pacts.

The many proxy wars fought by the two superpowers in the developing world were one of the many expressions of this rivalry. If there was one enemy that matched the true definition of a nemesis, it was the Soviet Union.


In contrast, China is not an expansionist power in the classical or contemporary sense. Neither does Beijing harbour colonial or hegemonic aspirations to pressure other states to embrace all things communist and Chinese. China is more concerned with recovering lost territories, a legacy of colonialism where dynastic China was “carved” up by western interests.

China’s policy towards Taiwan illustrates a claim in territorial sovereignty rather than an act of aggression. From the perspective of history and international law, China is exercising its sovereign prerogative to reclaim what rightfully belongs to the Chinese people. Beijing is staking a legal right to repossess a “renegade province” in a similar manner that it brought Hong Kong and Macau into Special Administrative Regions post-1997.

The circumstances of how the three regions were denied to China may differ but its legal right over them remains inviolable.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

7 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Henry Leong is a graduate student in international relations at the Australian National University. His research interest is in Asian Security, particularly, in alliances and multilateralism. He trained as an archivist in Singapore.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Henry Leong

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Henry Leong
Article Tools
Comment 7 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy