‘China growing like crazy facing more disputes worldwide’

The more China grows as a world power the more complicated its relations with the US become. But it is unlikely that China would ever resort to a military means to solve its disputes worldwide, China expert Martin Jacques told RT.

RT:It looks like Xi Jinping is going to adopt the foreign policy course of his predecessor, what will that mean for relations between Beijing and Washington?

Martin Jacques: It is no surprise that Xi Jinping is really expressing continuity because that is the whole way now the Chinese leadership is constructed. I mean, if it is going to shift, it is not going to shift now, it will shift several years down the road, I think. What will it mean for the relations with the United States?

The relations with the United States have steadily been getting more complicated, and I think the reason for that is because, before China was very much still a developing country and a much weaker global power than the United States. China, of course, has been growing like crazy and is more and more present around the world, in different continents, in different countries, so their interests are liable to be in more conflict in more areas that in previous decades. And I think is the reason why it’s getting more complicated. 

RT:Some experts fear the US and China are fighting a cyber-war - do you think the digital space could turn into a physical battlefield?

MJ: I doubt it. The first thing I would say when we say “more physical,” is that I don’t think the Chinese are going to be militarily aggressive. That has not been, firstly in Chinese history and secondly the tradition of this regime, especially since 1978. And the Chinese military, talking about the rise of military expenditure, but actually compared with the United States, China is very weak militarily. So, I do not think we’re going to see some of that. And I don’t think the Chinese would want that to happen at all, because really, it would startle me to see what has been the great priority and remains it, which is their economic development.

Now, it is true, things like the cyber question and so on could lead to deterioration in relations. Personally, I take the American accusations with a pinch of salt, I’m not saying that the Chinese are not up to it, but I’m pretty sure the Americans are up to a lot more. 

RT:Washington is not the only problem for China - the Senkaku Islands dispute has put it at loggerheads with Japan.  How dangerous could this dispute turn out to be?

MJ: I think that is the most dangerous dispute. It is much more serious than the South China Sea. There is no way China is going to go to war in the S. China Sea. These skirmishes might continue, but there is not going to be a war. China’s relations with some of these South East Asian countries are quite good – there are problems with the Vietnam, which is a very long historical problem and Philippines.

A sign at a Beijing restaurant barring citizens of nations involved in maritime disputes with China. (AFP Photo / Mark Ralston)

Japan is a very different matter. Why? Because of the history. It’s about history. It’s about what Japan did essentially from 1895 onwards and especially in the Second World War. This is still a huge scar for the Chinese. But again, personally I think the Chinese will be very cautious when it comes to any kind of serious escalation of conflict. They will resist that. It is not in their interest and I don’t think they are going to go down that path. And actually I don’t think the Japanese will either. 

RT:The new President has already scheduled his first diplomatic visits - and the list starts with Russia. So what will he want to achieve in Moscow?

MJ: Although we know that the relationship between Russia and China is quite complex and all sorts of difficulties. The really striking thing, looking at it from a slightly longer period in relationship between Russia and China, is how much their relationship has improved. There was a long border war. Those days are long since gone. The borders have been completely agreed and there has been a remarkable cooperation through BRICS and on a lot of international issues that Chinese and the Russians agree. The Chinese by and large have been very happy to follow the Russian lead on these questions.

I think that it would be a question of furthering their cooperation, furthering trade agreements. It is always the most important thing for the Chinese - trade, trade relations, economic relations and at the same time discussing future development of the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and so on. And a general discussion on international issues - of course Syria will feature. But the lead player on Syria there has been Russia, not China.

AFP Photo / Liu Jin