(Mainichi Japan) December 24, 2010
China's boycott diplomacy ugly but effective

Mainichi Shimbun staff writer Mayumi Otani, who covered the Nobel Prize award ceremony this year, angrily said, "The Chinese government's behavior was ugly." She refers to pressure China applied to its allies to boycott the ceremony because the Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to Chinese anti-government activist Liu Xiaobo, and 17 countries refused to send representatives to the ceremony. (Mainichi Shimbun Dec. 20 morning edition -- from Norway)

Like Otani, I remember most Japanese journalists and newspapers criticized China's action as arrogant with the only exception being Bangkok-based journalist Makoto Suzuki. (The Sankei Shimbun Dec. 15 morning edition) He analyzed China's boycott diplomacy from the viewpoint of Southeast Asia.

Suzuki pointed out that of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand was the only country that sent a representative to the award ceremony as far as he confirmed. However, a minister at the Thai Embassy attended it on behalf of the ambassador, who the embassy said was staying in his home country.

The Indonesian ambassador was also absent from the ceremony for the same reason, while the Philippine ambassador also failed to be present because the ceremony did not fit his schedule. Even Vietnam, which is in dispute with China over sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, criticized presenting the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu on the grounds that the prize should not be used for political purposes. However, it is too naive to insist that Japan should join hands with ASEAN in an attempt to counter China.

Regardless of whether its behavior was ugly, China did score diplomatic points through its boycott diplomacy. This is the reality of Asia.

It raises the question why does China have such strong diplomatic power? This is apparently because the free trade agreement (FTA) between China and ASEAN came into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. China and ASEAN have been integrated into a single market and the amounts of goods and services traded in these areas sharply increased, improving the economic conditions of Southeast Asia.

As their economic relations have become closer, China and ASEAN tend to avoid political conflicts. Philippine news organizations criticized the ambassador's absence from the ceremony, but politicians in ASEAN member countries share the view that they will gain nothing if they anger China.

Shortly before the award ceremony, a high-ranking Philippine military officer visited China and held talks on the purchase of Chinese-made weapons. ASEAN member countries fear anti-government guerrillas within their respective territories more than the threat posed by China.

The United States is now pressing forward with a plan to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in a bid to counter the China-ASEAN FTA. Washington is now trying to increase its presence in the Asian market, but struggling to make up for its late start.

In the South China Sea where China is steadily increasing its military presence, the United States is soliciting ASEAN to build up a framework to counter the threat posed by China, but ASEAN is unlikely to comply. China's boycott diplomacy was certainly ugly. However, the brass-knuckles aggressiveness of its diplomacy should not be underestimated. (By Hidetoshi Kaneko, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2010年12月23日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2010-12-25 07:12 | 英字新聞

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