Over at the Asia Unbound blog (linked to the Council on Foreign Relations), Joshua Kurlantzick observes (in his post 'What is China Thinking') that in recent months China has destroyed much of the goodwill between itself and other Asian nations- the ongoing tension with Japan is a prime example of this. Building on this theme, Kurlantzick attempts to explain why Beijing has decided to follow this foreign policy strategy, and his insights are definitely worth a look by anyone interested in this aspect of Chinese current affairs.
According to his article, Beijing's approach is based on a mixture of forward thinking, domestic pressure, and an underestimation of the resilience of other Asian countries to Chinese actions. Kurlantzick's arguments are both valid and incredibly useful in helping to explain the context of the current Diaoyu Islands dispute which has been the main concern of this blog over the last fortnight. However, recent events and their coverage in China's media have shown that Beijing's policies are also based on the residual issues connected with the history of Asia in the 20th century. Xinhua articles on the Diaoyu affair have striven to prove China's historical claim to sovereignty over the disputed territories in the East China Sea, and tensions with Japan are rooted in long-standing anamosity between the two countries regarding the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. This is not to say that China is stuck in a rut vis a vis its past experiences, but it is vital to emphasise that as well as looking forward, the PRC's Asia policy is as much about looking backward. Until China and Japan can find an interpretation of their interactions in the 20th century which they both agree on, we should expect further tension in the future.