Is there an ally for the People’s Republic of China in today’s world? Absolutely, China no longer has enemies, in the traditional sense of enmity between states. Even with regard to the other China, the national China, or Taiwan, enmity refers either to the past or to the deferred. As for the dispute over the status of Taiwan itself, and whether it will eventually accept the principle of “one China, two systems”, or succeed in the long term in perpetuating its separation as an island from the mainland of China, it is accompanied by the development of economic and trade relations between the two sides from the nineties to today, as it invests Taiwanese companies in mainland China, benefiting from the low cost of labor and the control of the “communist” system for the working class on its land so that its people go without “union headache” to factories, and where mainland China has become a major market for Taiwan’s exports.
Moreover, the dispute over Taiwan’s entity status is an internal one. On the one hand, the Kuomintang, which is the Chinese national party that lost the civil war on the Chinese mainland in front of the communists at the end of the 1940s, and after that there was nothing left for it except Taiwan to establish the one-party system, in its own way, under American auspices, even after the qualitative diplomatic shift in the early 1970s. That made Washington recognize the government of Beijing as the government of China as a whole, in parallel with the exclusion of national China from the Security Council, and the entrustment of China’s permanent seat in it to the communist regime. The irony here is that the sworn enemy of the communists in Chinese history, the Kuomintang, still supports the one-China policy, albeit with two systems. Basically, it is difficult for the Kuomintangi not to see that it was the ideas of his party that triumphed after the departure of Mao, in the “Chinese Communist Party” itself, which became an ethnic-nationalist party par excellence, raising issues from the position of the ethnic majority of the Han people in China, and running the largest “state capitalism” can be imagined in history. But the Kuomintang are mainly associated in Taiwan with those who sought refuge from mainland China after losing to Mao and the Communists, and for this reason the Kuomintang gradually turned into a political minority after the adoption of multi-party and representative democracy in Taiwan.
In contrast to the Kuomintang, whose role has declined, and it is basically bidding on the Chinese Communists for national unity, and tends to accuse them of abandoning Mongolia, and being lenient in Tibet and East Turkestan-Xinjiang, and not the other way around. In contrast, the political majority emerges in the past years in favor of the left-liberal line on the island. That is, the line that does not stem from a national bidding with Beijing that has turned with time into acceptance of the One China policy, with two systems, but rather says what it means that the island’s entity experience has acquired with time a status that qualifies it for self-determination in isolation from an inclusive Chinese concept, and therefore there is no solution to the outstanding problem between the two sides. Except for the successful independence of Taiwan from mainland China.
So, it is difficult to say that Taiwan today is an enemy of China. It is difficult to find enemies in the traditional sense between countries between China and any other country in the world. China is the second largest country after the United States in terms of the number of diplomatic missions across the world. However, after the Cold War, the United States found itself waging successive wars, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, against al-Qaeda and ISIS, and Russia found itself, after the demise of the Soviet Union, waging successive wars, on its federal territory in Chechnya, then against Georgia, then in the Donbass and then against Ukraine as a whole. There is more than one station of escalation at sea with Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan in the last three decades, and more than one moment of clash in the high Himalayas with the Indian side, but the last war China fought was when it invaded North Vietnam in 1979 in response to Vietnam’s intervention in Cambodia. Thus, by analogy with America and Russia, China has succeeded for more than four decades in not getting involved in any of the wars and large-scale military operations. It is the same stage of time that witnessed the building of China’s current capabilities as a major economic power, and then, the growing capabilities of the Chinese army and fleet.
But does China have allies in today’s world?
Of course, China’s ally will not be Vietnam, which shares with China the adoption of Marxism-Leninism as an official ruling ideology, and simulates the model of economic development under a model similar to state capitalism seeking a balance between attracting investments and directing them, but rather by moving away more and more from “planning”, viewing it as a contradictory mechanism. to market mechanisms. Since China’s opening up to South Korea, China has had to balance its relations between the two archparts of the peninsula, and it is no longer easy to call Pyongyang an ally. As for the relations between China and its immediate neighborhood, they are of various levels, but they are generally difficult. Vietnam, which did not fully recover from the Chinese invasion of its north a few years after it liberated its south and expelled the Americans from it. The irony is that Vietnam has become one of the countries that no longer suits America’s diminishing influence in Southeast Asia, so that China does not single it out. It has border disputes with its neighbor over islands in the South China Sea. This is the case with China, as is the case with Japan, disputes over islands, and behind them Japanese distress that the relationship has turned in this way in East Asia in favor of China, in a comprehensive curtailment of the Japanese role. Japan inaugurated in the late nineteenth century the era of the Asian Industrial Revolution, and its relationship with China changed its day from being culturally subordinate to the Chinese mainland to being an invader and colonizer of its coasts and a resident of a subsidiary entity in Manchuria. Although Japan, after its defeat in World War II, returned and was able to take off economically, and succeeded in developing towards a representative democracy that bears some authoritarian hallmarks. Once again, it reversed the relationship between the center and the periphery between it and Japan, and it is difficult for Japan, despite this, to accept its periphery regarding the Chinese metropol at present.
As for India, China’s relationship with it has not completely left the memory of the collision between the two countries – the two civilizations in 1962. The border dispute between them is still great. China’s plans to expand its economic and political influence, along with the “New Silk Roads”, are seen by India only as a strategic encirclement from all sides. On the other hand, the Chinese-Indian dissonance pushed the relations between Beijing and Islamabad forward. And here we get to the bottom line. If there is a strategic ally of China in the world today, that ally is Pakistan. He has been an ally for sixty years. Since the border problem between the two countries was resolved sixty years ago, which then allowed the development of relations in a close alliance between the two countries. In a sense, the blow that India directed at Pakistan in the “Bangladesh Liberation War” in the early seventies was a process of restoring the position that India lost when it appeared that it had failed to repel the Chinese attack on it.
What we see today of China’s movement towards the Middle East region is, on one hand, an extension of the movement towards the Central Asian republics with an Islamic majority, most of which speak one of the branches of the Turkish linguistic family, and on the other hand, it is an extension of the Sino-Pakistani relationship, which represents the only strategic alliance for Beijing with another country. In the world, a solid alliance did not prevent the US-Pakistani relationship. Indeed, in the early seventies, Pakistan contributed to securing the way for the Sino-American convergence, whose general framework was a tripartite alliance between Washington, Beijing and Islamabad against the Soviet Union … and against India.
What has changed today is that the relationship between Beijing and Washington has returned to dissonance. Even if the West – and America in particular – is obsessed with the question of jointness and risk between Russia and China, which of the two countries is more dangerous to the strategic interests of the West, and to America in particular. What has changed is India’s shift towards religious nationalism internally, and towards a direction in which the relationship with Washington has developed, and the determinants of anxiety and tension with Beijing have continued.
As for the relationship between China and Russia, it cannot simply be called an alliance. Today, China is concerned that it will not be affected by negative repercussions from Russia’s war on Ukraine, while it is waiting for any positive that it can seize from this war, or from its indirect repercussions.
The Shanghai Regional Cooperation Organization is basically the framework that has allowed in the last two decades to develop the strategic relationship between China and Russia. But it cannot be compared to NATO. Not a military cooperation treaty. It allowed security cooperation between the regimes involved in the fight against terrorism, and did not open the way for the establishment of an “Atlantic-Eurasian alliance.” It does not seem that the Russian war could encourage that, regardless of the fact that Sino-American tensions did not recede after this war, or the emergence of an American attempt to win over China is compared to what Kissinger and Nixon succeeded in in the early seventies. Then, the Shanghai Regional Cooperation Organization, which has been expanding to arch-rival India and Pakistan, an ally for five years, expanded in September 2021 for the first time to a Middle Eastern country, Iran. Before that, China, as well as Russia, were reluctant to include Iran as a full member of the Shanghai Organization. Not to provoke the United States in the first place. Iran’s admission to the organization can be considered an indicator of the opposite trend. Or it could be considered a Eurasian preemption of a possible US-Chinese settlement on the nuclear issue. Whatever it is, Iran is a new ally of China. But the paradox is that in order for China to develop its relationship in an allied manner with Iran, it had to develop in a balanced manner its relations on the opposite side in the Gulf region, especially with Saudi Arabia. But can China develop with Iran and Saudi Arabia – despite the difference between them in terms of the model and what China can benefit from the relationship with each of them – a relationship that mimics the model adopted sixty years ago with Pakistan? The model adopted between China and Pakistan is governed by the existence of a common rival for the two countries, India. Is it possible to replace this with the banner of “weakening American influence” in the region? That is not enough.