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China watch

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China watch

Trade between China and its neighbours mitigates regional territorial disputes in under-explored ways, according to an expert on China’s foreign policy.

Dr Nicholas Khoo (Politics) is spending a month at the Peking University School of International Studies in Beijing, researching the relationship between China and neighbouring states.

“I will be interviewing Chinese academics to gain further insight into Chinese foreign policy over the last three or four years. During that period there have been a number of high-profile territorial disputes involving China and its neighbours, in particular Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“These disputes have to be set against a backdrop of robust levels of trade between China and its neighbours.”

He notes that China is the number one trading partner of Japan and Vietnam, and the Philippines’ third largest trading partner.

“This makes for some very interesting and complex dynamics. While economic interdependence between states clearly does not prevent conflict erupting, it arguably does exert a restraining effect on all actors concerned,” Khoo says.

“How powerful this effect is, and how it relates to other considerations, is an area of critical importance to policymakers and academics.

“There is clearly scope for further research exploring the relative importance of economics and other factors operating in the region, such as rising nationalism, the United States’ alliance network and the role of multinational organisations.”

A Singapore-national, Khoo is a former visiting professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.