Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New Chinese Foreign Policy

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Ryan Manuel, postdoctoral fellow and Will Zou, Morrison Scholar at the Australian Centre on China in the World, are speaking on 'Xi Jinping's "New Confucian" Foreign Policy'. Ryan argues that the Chinese Communist Party sees itself as a moral player on the world stage. Xi Jinping needs to reflect this, combining messages for the Chinese domestic ears and for the world. An interesting point made in terms of the situation in the South China Sea was that China uses scale: one country sets the precedent by doing small small scale building on a reef, China then builds a large airstrip on another reef. He suggests that the Chinese response to the US sending one frigate will be to send a fleet.

One problem for researchers is to determine what is an authoritative Chinese foreign policy statement. Ryan showed a diagram of the Chinese government and commented the state component looks much like that of Australia, the difference being the overriding role of  the party. The party Politburo Standing Committee issues "commands" equivalent to policy documents in the Australian system.

Ryan's analysis of 931 central decrees indicates that there are no authoritative foreign policy documents. He pointed out that the Chinese foreign minister has a relatively low rank in the government, compared to western equivalents. He conclusion was that it is Xi Jinping sets the foreign policy directly. An example "One Belt On Road" (September 2013) speech resulted in an action plan in 2015. However, Ryan did not indicate to what extent the action matched the original vision (in western government it is common for what is implemented to not match the original announcement).

Will Zou, addressed the question of what a Confucian foreign policy would look like. He carried out an analysis showed that Xi Jinping had used far more traditional Chinese sayings (such as "What matters most is harmony" and "It is the nature of things to be of unequal quality") than Hu Jintao. These were used particularly for USA, multilateral organizations and India. Will argues that therefore these speeches were intended for Chinese literate audiences and internal Chinese domestic audiences. The message is that China has its own culture which must be respected. This, I suggest, also is not different to western practice, where a leader will make a public speech in an international forum, but addressed at a domestic and internal government audience, drawing on national culture.

Will Zou, points out that Xi Jinping draws not just from Confucian sources. He quoted the People's Daily newspaper "We can already leave behind the experience and language of the west ...". This I suggest brings up a point in interpreting what a leader says: who actually wrote the speech? Leaders do not generally write their speeches and there is a team of people involved. There can be factions and differences of opinion within a leader's office. In answer to a question, Ryan said it was not possible to work out who wrote the speeches. However, I suggest it may be possible, I suggest, to carry out an analysis of speeches to determine who wrote which part and see what the factions are.

I had some insight into the Chinese government when I took part in a Beijing 2008 Olympics Organizing Committee meeting in 2003. Musch as might happen in Australia there were government, academic, business and media people involved. The Peoples Daily newspaper were providing the website for the Olympics. The closes equivalent of the Peoples Daily in Australia is the ABC, but the Peoples Daily is part of the government, rather than a media organization owned by the government. I asked Ryan if the way speeches are promulgated has changed and he said it had not: the text is put out and then the government system "kicks in" to interpret and "operationalize" it.

No comments: