Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Washington Post has an interesting article today on the "wide shadow" which China is increasingly casting in East Asia. China's political and economic leadership is of most interest for its regional and global implications.
With stronger economic ties between East Asian countries and China has come a rise in Beijing's political and diplomatic influence, according to a variety of sources in China and the region. Treading softly but casting a big shadow, they say, China has emerged as an active and decisive leader in East Asia, transforming economic and diplomatic relationships across an area long dominated by the United States.
While the article speaks of China's leadership in East Asia writ large, the empirical examples are nearly all from Southeast Asia with a few from the former Soviet Union, and I think this is an important point. While China is seemingly welcomed, if cautiously, as an economic power in southeast Asia and an increasingly important player in central Asian security matters over which the Russians are happy to engage China, things are much more frosty in northeast Asia.

The article mentions China as a much stronger regional leader than Japan, which has been fretting most over Beijing's rise. It says nothing about Taiwan, which is in much the same boat as Japan, nor does it mention South Korea which has its own problems with China and especially China's erstwhile ally in Pyongyang. While China's shadow is rising with some aid in the southeast and central Asia, in the northeast it is far from quiet or welcomed. And that has vast political and economic consequences for both the region and the world.


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