chapter  5
30 Pages

China’s regional governance: Developing norms and institutions

ByNICHOLAS THOMAS

As a rapidly modernising power China has attracted considerable attention from the international community with respect to its current intentions and future ambitions. Nowhere is this attention more apparent than with the countries of Asia, where there has been a long-running debate over whether China’s rise constitutes a ‘threat’ or a ‘promise’ to the established regional order. Even though the current thinking appears to be favouring the ‘promise’ side, there is still a degree of wariness within regional policy communities as to China’s intentions. This is a wariness fostered by historical memories of China’s regional engagement as well as uncertainties over its longer-term intentions. A key objective of this chapter is to better understand the parameters of China’s regional policy with its four peripheral regions: Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Northeast Asia and South Asia – so as to be able to evaluate the impact that China has on Asian regionalisation. A useful way to understand this policy is through an examination of

China’s foreign policy norms and its involvement with regional institutions. To undertake this examination the chapter draws on the work of the governance school (presented in Chapter 1), but adopts the model so as to take into account specific cultural and historical nuances that are present in China’s international relations. This requires the location of China’s pattern of regional engagement in a longer historical perspective, taking into account domestic pressures on foreign policy development. In doing so, this chapter will attempt develop a basis from which China’s

current regional policy can be understood and its implications for the development of regional governance in Asia be considered. To realise this, the chapter will first review China’s modernisation, with specific reference to the development of its foreign policy. China’s institutionalised and noninstitutionalised engagement with surrounding Asian regions is the subject of the following two sections. China’s engagement with Southeast and Central Asia and with Northeast and South Asia are analysed in tandem so as to highlight common patterns in the articulation of its regional policy, but contrasted so as to ensure that differences in approach are understood. The

impact of China’s engagement in the development of regional institutions and norms is considered in the fourth section, before some concluding remarks are made. As these sections are considered, it is important to note that this chapter seeks to understand China’s role in the formation of regionalism and governance in Asia. While any foreign policy process is a complex undertaking, with a range of actors and pressures, the chapter is primarily concerned with Chinese international engagement at the regional level.