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China’s Rising Diplomatic Clout

Updated On: Nov 10, 2006

It is beginning to look like a busy run-up to the end of the year for the Chinese on the foreign policy front.

After hosting the ASEAN leaders for the ASEAN-China Summit, the Chinese held another summit with the African leaders. In less than a fortnight from now, the Chinese President Hu Jintao will meet other leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November and at the series of ASEAN meetings (e.g. ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Plus Three and the East Asia Summit) in December. These high-level summits are but another indication of the rising profile in which the Chinese are taking internationally.

48 African leaders attended the two-day China-Africa Summit where the participants agreed to build a “new strategic partnership.” At the Summit, the Chinese promised to double its aid to Africa by 2009 from the 2006 level. The Chinese also agreed to provide $3 billion in preferential loans and $2 billion in preferential buyer’s credits in the next 3 years. 14 agreements of approximately $1.9 billion worth of business deals were signed at the summit. The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also declared a target of increasing Africa-China trade from $39.7 billion in 2005 to $100 billion in 2010. The Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that Chinawould increase the number of products Africa could export to China tariff-free from 190 to 440. The summit is also seen as a means to isolate Taiwan further by attempting to win over the five African states that still recognise Taiwan.

Africa is an important source of raw materials for the booming Chinese economy. Africa accounts for about one-third of China’s oil imports. Other natural resources such as platinum from Zimbabwe, copper from Zambia, tropical timber from Congo- Braz    zaville, iron ore from South Africa- are crucial to support Chinese industries. Chinese investment in Africa is becoming increasingly important and is seen as more beneficial to the local population than those from Western Europe and the States. This is because Chinese firms investing in Africa tended to be state-owned and they can take a longer-term perspective of their investment.

Hu will also be making a 12-day trip from 15 November to VietnamLaosIndia and Pakistan. In Vietnam, he will be attending the APEC summit where he will hold bilateral meetings with US President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Hu’s talks with Bush are likely to centre on North Korea and the Six-Party Talks. The trade relations between the US and China is likely to be another issue on the agenda. Hu’s visit to Vietnam and Laos is seen as part of a move to balance the US’ stepped up efforts to improve ties with these two countries. Hu’s visit to India and Pakistan will be the first for him since becoming the President in 2003.

The election of Dr Margaret Chan from Hong Kong as the next World Health Organisation chief is one of the signs of growing Chinese interest in playing a more prominent role in the international arena. Chan will be the first Chinese to head a United Nations agency. Chan was Hong Kong’s health director during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and was credited for overseeing Hong Kong’s response to the pandemic. More significantly perhaps is the fact that Chan’s other contenders was from Japan.

Japan seems to be increasingly frustrated at the fact that it has been unable to translate its financial clout into political influence. For instance, despite being the second largest financial contributor to the UN budget, Japan has not succeeded in winning a permanent UN seat. Japan has recently tabled a proposal suggesting for the second time that the Chinese increase its share of annual UN contributions from 2.1% to 3.9%. In turn, Japan’s contribution will fall from 19.5% to 15.3%. It now seems to want China to put the money where her mouth is. China has to pay more if it thinks that it is becoming more important.

Sources:

Bush-Hu Meeting To Lay Basis for Korea N-Talks (Straits Times, 9 November 2006)

Japan Wants China to Pay More to UN (Straits Times, 9 November 2006)

Margaret Chan Wins WHO Race in China, HK (South China Morning Post, 9 November 2006

Chan First Chinese to Head UN Agency (Chinadaily.com.cn, 9 November 2006)

Beijing’s Close Ties with Africa Played Vital Role, Say Analysts (South China Morning Post, 9 November 2006)

Hu Sets Off On New Round of Diplomacy (The Straits Times, 8 November 2006)

ChinaAfrica To Build Strategic Partnership (The Straits Times, 6 November 2006)

Out of China Comes Economic Aid for Africa (New Straits Times, 6 November 2006)

China-Africa Summit Ends With Business Deals, Aid Pledges (Japan Economic Newswire, 5 November 2006)

China Pledges Bumper Aid Package (South China Morning Post, 5 November 2006)

China Emerges As Africa’s Benefactor (The Straits Times, 3 November 2006)

Another Chance to Woo Taiwan’s Friends (New Straits Times, 2 November 2006)