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The View from Beijing
The other day in the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, there was an interview with Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University.
GT: How will the Taiwan issue affect relations between China and the U.S.?
Yan: It won’t be long before the Taiwan issue becomes the core divergence between China and the U.S. The separatist principle adopted by Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen is unlikely to change. One consensus between Chinese and U.S. scholars is that the strategic conflict between China and the U.S. will sharpen.
China defines Taiwan as its core interests, while the U.S. sees arms sales to Taiwan as its core interests. When the two sides discussed about respecting each other’s core interests, the first divergence was on the Taiwan issue. The “One China, One Taiwan” advocated by Washington contradicts Beijing’s reunification efforts.
If Taiwan goes on the path of separatism, this conflict will be inevitably intensified.
GT: China has been facing multifaceted pressures from the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. How possible is it that one conflict triggers the other three at the same time?
Yan: The threat from Taiwan separatism is not yet urgent at this moment. The East China Sea and the South China Sea are not directly linked. The Taiwan Straits sit between the two seas. When the Taiwan issue becomes intensified, it can easily stir the waves of the entire waters.
In regard to the issues on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea announced the deployment of the THAAD system at a time close to the award of the South China Sea arbitration initiated by the Philippines against China.
Many observers contend that Washington and Seoul deliberately chose this timing because they could take advantage of China’s difficult position on the issue of the South China Sea to ease their own pressures brought about by China’s objections to THAAD deployment.
When each stakeholder tries to worsen frictions between China and the others to reduce tensions between itself and China, all the frictions may increase at the same time. Currently, the possibilities that all conflicts between China and the other East Asian powers may erupt at the same time should not be excluded.
GT: Some scholars are doubtful about long-term strategic cooperation between China and Russia, despite that the leadership of the two countries has strived to push forward bilateral ties. What is your view of China-Russia cooperation?
Yan: In the early 1990s, I predicted that Russia would not swiftly regain its status as a superpower and it needs at least 100 years for Russia to become what it was during the Cold War. In the early 1990s, few Russian observers agreed with me as they believed Russia had good educational systems, a strong pool of talent, advanced industry, good infrastructure, and rich natural resources.
The longevity of Sino-Russian strategic cooperation will be determined by how long the strategic competition between China and the U.S. lasts. Those who are suspicious of strategic ties between Beijing and Moscow may deem that Sino-U.S. relations will improve in the short term. But I see little chance of this, and believe that China-Russia cooperation will last as long as China-U.S. competition.
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