To H.E. Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing

My professor instructed us to attend a forum on China‘s foreign policy making. She also instructed us to create a paper on it, and here it is.

A Reaction to H.E. Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing

A forum on China’s foreign policy was held last Friday at William Hall Theatre, and the guest of honour was none other than Her Excellency Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Keqing. This forum was held two days after Xi Jinping succeeded as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the highest rank any official could achieve, which was preceeded by China’s current President, Hu Jintao. In all honesty, I was quite surprised that the Ambassador agreed to have this forum when she would most often decline television interviews on the matter of the West Philippine Sea dispute. Most, if not all of us were expecting to hear the Ambassador talk on that issue; although, we partially knew that the forum would not come to that. Tensions are high as they all ready are; I believe that tackling that maritime issue would only ensue more anxiety and degrade the image of the university. There are some details that the Ambassador talked about that came into my attention: 1) the economic improvements of China during its past years, 2) the fact that it is not China’s intention to be a state that expresses aggressive military power, and that 3) China has always been about peace and cooperation with its neighbours.

During the first part of the Ambassador’s presentation, we saw how well China has grown economically. The most impressive achievement that China has attained has to be overtaking Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. The Ambassador was quick to state, that although China is the world’s second-largest economy, it places 90th in GDP PPP per capita; this is even behind some countries in Africa. The Ambassador explained, not only has China have to feed its people, it also has to feed 20% of the world, and it only has around less than 10% of the world’s farmland and freshwater. Unable to cater to its own people translates to poor economic development, even if economic growth has boomed. Hence, maintaining trade cooperation with its neighbours is most paramount.

Tensions begin to ease between our state and China’s since the Rizal Park Hostage-taking Incident1, and as affirmation to these re-finding relations, China has started importing Philippine bananas. It may sound ridiculous, but trade between two states is very important. The trade itself may not prove to be beneficial to China, but the mere action of trading with the Philippines means that relations are beginning to look up for the better. One thing the Ambassador said which truly impressed us all was the old proverb that goes, “Your close neighbour is more important that your distant cousin.” This type of philosophy has proven to be beneficial to both China and the Philippines in trade and economy.

As China becomes the region’s emerging power, many states have been on alert since its building of maritime power. Many see this as a sign of “China flexing its muscles”2 to gain control of its South China Sea; others see that it is China’s right to build its naval capabilities to defend itself. At either case, China’s core interest seems to be peace. And as the Ambassador said at one point, “We will not engage with arms race [and China]… does not pose [a] military threat to any nation.”3

I find this ridiculous for two reasons. First, a country who has a core interest of peace have better look into itself before stating peace is its core interest in foreign policy. In a recent development, Hong Kong was going to implement Chinese patriotism classes as a part of standard form of education. Many protestors took to the streets, as they saw this as a form of ‘brain washing the youth.’4 Second, on my analysis, I would think that most and if not all states’ core interest would be economic growth and development, not peace. Relations between states would dictate how well trade-relations are going.

The Ambassador has greatly impressed us with how well China has done in its past years, becoming the world second-largest economy. Although, China does lack the qualities of what a respected hegemon has, of which I think they are implicitly interested in even though the Ambassador has explicitly stated otherwise. I wouldn’t think that China would be the next great power. Many other states in the region and the United States are watching closely, and maybe even see to it that China does not assume the role of a hegemon that would exploit other countries’ resources.

1 Office of the President of the Philippines. “First Report of the IIRC on the Rizal Park Hostage-taking Incident.” Official Gazette. September 16, 2010. http://www.gov.ph/downloads/2010/09sep/IIRC-Report-on-the-Aug-23-hostage-taking-incident.pdf. (accessed November 21, 2012).

2 Tang, Wenfang. “China flexes muscles at home and abroad.” Deutsche Welle. 11 15, 2012. http://www.dw.de/china-flexes-muscles-at-home-and-abroad/a-16381398. (accessed November 21, 2012).

3Arcibal, Cheryl. “China envoy: We won’t engage in arms race.philstar.com. November 17, 2012. Nation section. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/11/16/12/china-envoy-we-wont-engage-arms-race. (accessed November 21, 2012).

4Liu, Juliana. “Hong Kong backs down over Chinese patriotism classes.” BBC News. September 8, 2012. Asia – China section. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-19529867. (accessed November 21, 2012).

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