Chinese foreign policy to be ‘less isolated, more ambitious, more aggressive’

China's new Politburo Standing Committee members Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Dejiang, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Yu Zhengsheng and Wang Qishan, line up as they meet with press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Reuters / Carlos Barria)
As China acquires a larger global footprint, the new leadership understands the days of maintaining a position of isolationism are over, according to the president of the Diplomatic Academy of Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

As this Asian nation of 1 billion people consolidates its powerhouse status, the world may witness a China with teeth.

“China foreign policy under the new leadership of Xi Jinping will continue to evolve and become less isolated, more ambitious, and perhaps even a bit aggressive,” Evgeny Bazhanov told RT in a telephone interview.

“Every strong state must sooner or later attempt to influence events in the world,” he added.

Outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao, 69, formally stepped down this week as leader of the Communist Party, clearing the way for his successor, Xi Jinping.

Beijing’s newfound assertiveness, however, will be more of a need to defend its economic interests than any sort of desire for imperialistic ambitions.

China now has economic interests all over the world – Africa, South America, Europe – but it has no means of defending these interests, Bazhanov noted. Thus, the new Chinese leadership is discussing the need to strengthen its military, specifically its naval forces.

Protecting its economic interests, however, is not the only reason for China wanting to bolster its military. Beijing sees the United States directing its naval might right into China’s backyard, as Washington nurtures military ties with Pacific countries, including in the Philippines, Vietnam and most recently in Australia.

Just this week, the US military announced it will station a radar station and a space telescope in Western Australia as part of Washington’s strategic shift towards Asia.

“China sees [America’s military shift to the East] as a real threat,” Bazhanov said.

China’s adjustment to this regional challenge comes at a time when Beijing is facing the prospect of an economic decline due to the global financial crisis, while many are calling for more democracy and openness.

“The educated and middle class are demanding more political freedoms,” he noted. “And there is growing social tension over the many wealthy Chinese at the top.”

This pressure must be accommodated, Bazhanov stressed.

At the same time, the United States – partly in an effort to deflect attention from its own domestic woes – preaches to China on the subject of democracy while knowing that the country is unprepared for such a transition.

All of these issues reinforce the bilateral relationship between Russia and China.

These two countries have resolved all of their historic territorial issues, while they share a nearly identical view on how the world should be run – that is, multilaterally.

“Moscow and Beijing both hold similar positions on the global hotspots, including in Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran,” Bazhanov noted. “They are also both deeply suspicious of the US missile defense system.”

At the same time, there are no ideological differences separating the two neighboring countries.

Finally, the China-Russia relationship is reinforced by natural resources. China’s exploding economy requires a reliable flow of oil and gas, while Russia welcomes the opportunity of diversifying away from Europe, where tensions remain high over the US missile defense shield.

All things considered, the Russia-China relationship is in very healthy condition, Bazhanov concluded.

Robert Bridge, RT