CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Print Print Email Email Share Share Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close

loading...

Europe Talks China

by Elizabeth C. Economy
January 28, 2011

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, and Spain's Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian talk during the signing of commercial agreements between China and Spain at Madrid's Moncloa Palace January 5, 2011.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, and Spain's Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian talk during the signing of commercial agreements between China and Spain at Madrid's Moncloa Palace on January 5, 2011. (Susana Vera/Courtesy Reuters)

It is always good to get out in the world to gain a little perspective. I’ve spent the past week in Europe, and from London, to Stockholm to Davos, the message seems remarkably similar: as an economy, China rocks; as a global political player, not so much. While the Chinese Foreign Ministry has not acknowledged any missteps in its year of living dangerously — indeed Foreign Ministry officials are hewing very closely to the more assertive line that got them in trouble in the first place — the rest of the world is clearly a bit nonplussed.

For the Europeans, Chinese intentions and the uncertain political situation appear to be the source of greatest concern.  To what extent does the party actually have control over the military? Are the young military officers more brash, potentially even rash, than the old guard? Can the top leadership effectively manage the growing chorus of disparate bureaucratic interests?  Will this new leadership of Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and others actually cohere?

More surprising for me here at Davos, has been the very direct pitch by the large — and very talented — Indonesian delegation that Indonesia (and India as well) is on an equally exciting development trajectory, and by the way, it has the great benefit of being a democracy.  While several smaller Asian countries are clearly worried about China’s foreign policy direction, some of the larger ones appear to sense an opportunity from China’s apparent overreach.

My takeaway so far: China’s foreign policy message has clearly gotten off track. If China doesn’t feel it necessary to reassure the world of its peaceful intentions through words and deeds, it should know that there are other large Asian countries eager to seize the moment.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Jenn

    What I appreciate about this is the consideration about Indonesia’s trajectory. Given the events of the summer over the South China Sea and the talk about the reintroduction of American attention to Southeast Asia as a counter to China’s rising assertiveness, it is refreshing to consider alternatives. Furthermore, the pundits all talk about CHina-India, Chindia, and whatnot, but Indonesia is often ignored, but is a critical piece in the geopolitics of the region. How will Indonesia impact regional balancing? As the chair of ASEAN this year, how will Indonesia’s leadership impact the region? Will it be a kind of coming-out party?

    Ms. Economy, I always appreciate your commentaries.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required