Creating Space for the Formation of the Grand Alliance:

Possible Initiatives to Distract China from the Formation of the Grand Alliance

Matthew Anderson - matta@uga.edu

September, 2007

                The "Grand Alliance" of democracies described in Carlo Pelanda's book may be the best hope for preserving the relative peace and prosperity of the last sixty years while the structure of global governance changes.?However, the first step of creating an EU-US alliance is vulnerable to attempts by those who may be threatened by the formation of such an alliance to sabotage its birth.?China, which stands to lose the most from the Grand Alliance, is unlikely to stay idle while this counterweight to its emerging power is formed.  China's most probable response would be to intensify its current tactic of using its massive economic clout to divide and conquer individual European countries so as to prevent them from cooperating with the US.? Although the recent past has shown examples of European leaders being both willing and able to resist Chinese attempts to influence their foreign policy through economic blackmail, it would be naive and irresponsible to simply assume that this will always be the case.?Therefore, the US should initiate a concerted, offensive strategy that distracts and diverts Chinese focus and resources in order to alleviate the pressure China can exert on prospective Grand Alliance members.    

  ††††††††?These proposals are being presented under the assumption that US policymakers have already labeled China as a threat and view the Grand Alliance as a feasible approach to confront the challenge of China.?These plans should in no way be viewed as an alternative to the Grand Alliance. While they could be conducted outside of the framework of the Grand Alliance, they are intended be used in conjunction with the Grand Alliance.?The plan is to consume Beijing's foreign policy experts' attention with the necessity to defend against perceived threats to its influence in regions that it deems strategically important, thus distracting them from the formation of the Grand Alliance and allowing EU-US convergence to proceed unhindered.?While China pays close attention to the moves of the Western powers and fears the formation of an anti-Sino bloc, the Chinese leadership's goals are to:?First, preserve power over a unified China; second, assure the dominance of China in the Asia-Pacific theater.?Only after achieving these goals will China concern itself with other global developments.? China has been able to act on a global scale and counter the formation of a Grand Alliance until now because Beijing's first two goals have been seemingly unchallenged, thus giving it the luxury to play a larger role on the world stage.?However, given the current regimeís strategic goals it is likely that if its priorities in China and the surrounding Asia-Pacific region were threatened, then it would delay or abandon its larger global strategy while it restored its dominance in its immediate neighborhood.?China's preoccupation with the events within its own borders and those of its neighboring countries would give the Western democracies a chance to pursue the Grand Alliance without, or at least diminished, Chinese interference.  

 

Phase one:  China

                The first and most sensitive area to consider for this plan is China itself.   The Communist regime has since the founding of the PRC acted with intense paranoia as it has ruthlessly fought to maintain political control over a multi-ethnic Chinese empire.?Its paranoia is reasonable considering its lack of legitimacy and the many forces that want to tear the country apart.  Its two largest fears are a democratic uprising and ethnic-minority dissent

The first fear of the regime is a direct challenge to the Chinese Communist Party's rule by democratic forces.?In the past three decades the CCP has been seriously challenged twice with the 1979 Democracy Wall movement and the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989.  Further, the CCP has witnessed the fall of communism in most other parts of the globe, as well as the emergence of an ethnically Chinese democracy across the Taiwan Straits.?All of these events have put pressure on the Chinese Communist Party because they fear that they will be the next communist regime to succumb to the wave of democratization that occurred with the fall of the Soviet Union. Although the trend of democratization has since stalled and even reversed in some regions, the CCP still fears that it is under attack from democratic forces.?The US needs to exacerbate the regime's fear of a democratic revolution.  Direct US government initiatives to this end would neither be effective nor beneficial.  The government in Beijing would perceive this as flagrant meddling in its internal affairs, and possibly respond by using its economic power to manipulate US business interests to exert pressure on Washington to stop such policies.?However, NGO's and other second- track initiatives could be very useful.  By focusing on particular issues like the environment or rule of law, the US should encourage American and other international NGO's to help expand or create mirror Chinese NGO's.?Funding along with help in organizing and running large campaigns could help the fledgling Chinese NGOís flourish as they take advantage of common Chinese citizens?growing concern with the environment and rule of law issues.?The increase in the number of NGOís and amount of public protests inside China relating to these issues demonstrate their potential for being used to challenge the regime.?Any increase in the number and efficacy of NGOís would be especially troubling to the regime since it is very suspicious of any groups not directly controlled by the CCP.      

The next force that is threatening China's internal cohesion is the grievances of its ethnic minorities.?China's population is over 90% Han, but the rest of the population is a mixture of fifty-five different ethnic groups.  These minority ethnicities may only constitute a small fraction of China's overall population, but in many provinces they are the majority.  These ethnic minority-majority provinces are the poorer and less developed regions of the interior that are increasingly opposed to being ruled by Beijing because they are not benefiting from China's economic development.  China's current leader, Hu Jintao, has tried to address this problem with his "Harmonious Society" platform, but in terms of investment and economic growth, the interior provinces where most of the ethnic minorities live lag far behind the Han Chinese-dominated Eastern coast.  

The most visible of these problems is the province of Xinjiang in western China.?It has a majority Uighur population that is Muslim and ethnically closer to the population of Kazakhstan.?Discontent with the Han Chinese who control Xinjiangís economy and Beijingís oppressive religious policies have created much animosity towards Beijingís control of the region and there is a small separatist movement currently operating. There have even been terrorist attacks attributed to the Uighurs in China in the past.?While an independent Xinjiang, or Eastern Turkestan as the Uighurs call it, is not possible in the near future, Washington could find a way to at least alarm the authorities in Beijing enough to warrant the initiation of a massive campaign to restore order.?Given the regimeís enduring paranoia, it would not take much to alarm it.?Strengthening the economic and political position of Kazakhstan, which will be proposed in a following section, could serve to increase the ethnic pride of the Uighurs and show how life might improve with separation from China as their more affluent relatives in Kazakhstan would serve as an example of what the Uighurs could aspire to with their own sovereign state not run by the Han Chinese.?In addition, the US should expand its Voice of America to broadcast in Uighur as many Uighurs cannot speak Mandarin.?

Phase two:  China's Asian Neighbors

Outside of China, the next area where the US should look to attack Chinese interests is China's neighbors.   China's plan for the future is to build a Chinese sphere of influence in Asia so that the Chinese bloc will be the largest and most powerful bloc in the world. With events in the Middle East distracting the US, China has moved aggressively to consolidate its influence in the region and work toward the goal of eventually kicking the US out of Asia.  With the US focused elsewhere, China has been able to achieve its goals in the region virtually unopposed.  The US needs to regain the initiative in Asia and bog China down in its own region in order to inhibit Beijing's ability to derail EU-US convergence.  Outside of Japan and India this region may seem unimportant and therefore not merit much attention from the US.  However, this is a western view that fails to recognize Beijing's strategy.?China's history in this region and foreign policy priorities make the countries in this region more important to China than the West realizes.?Therefore, the goal is not to bring Southeast or Central Asia into the Grand Alliance, but rather to take advantage of the greater importance that China attaches to them by making it appear that they are leaning towards the Grand Alliance-- or at least staking out an independent stance not aligned with the Grand Alliance, but also not aligned with China.?The US does not have to successfully turn these countries into allies, but simply needs to make China feel that its influence in these countries is threatened.  However, if the US does succeed in prying some of these countries away from China's grip, then that is an added bonus. 

US Penetration of ASEAN

The first specific set of China's neighbors that deserves attention is the ASEAN countries.?To the West they are small, insignificant countries that have no geopolitical value to the larger strategy of the Grand Alliance.?But to China they are countries that have historically been under Beijing's influence and therefore have symbolic power in that the reclamation of their "Tributary" status is important for the re-emergence of China as a great power.?This historic relationship between Southeast Asia and China also presents an opportunity for the US because it is the source of many grievances against China that can be exploited to diminish Chinese influence in the region.  

Many of these countries have a strong sense of nationalism that stems from centuries of fighting for independence from their larger neighbor to the North.?The US should try to use its soft power to foment this nationalism and shape it into an anti-Sino form of sentiment that would pressure their government to be less acquiescent with Beijing.?Accomplishing this would be very difficult.?Covert US cooperation with parts of these countries?art and media communities could be useful.?Monetary encouragement for the creation of books and movies that highlight the historical atrocities committed by China against these countries could rekindle past grievances.? Even the soft power of Hollywood could be useful given its global popularity.? So, while the US government would not be able to make the Vietnamese resent the Chinese, a Hollywood blockbuster about the celebrated Trung sisters who repelled the Han dynasty or a native Vietnamese authorís historic account of past Chinese aggression might stoke Vietnamese nationalism by reminding the Vietnamese how troubled their history with China has been.?

Also, some of these countries, like the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia have domestic problems with ethnic-Chinese minorities controlling a disproportionate amount of economic power relative to their size.?Again, the US should quietly try to highlight these problems in order to make these countries' populations more hostile to China.  Working with local journalists to describe and expose the large wealth disparity between the Chinese and the locals could do a lot to incite anti-Chinese sentiment.?These feelings are already there, as can be seen by anti-Chinese rampages in Indonesia in 1998.?These tactics are unlikely to make the governments of those countries ignore their interests and directly oppose China, but anti-Chinese sentiments of their populations could be enough to make Beijing's dealings with them that much more difficult. Also, any severe anti-Chinese incidents could force Beijing to abandon its non-interference policy and act to protect the overseas Chinese community, which it still sees as part of China.?Any Chinese intrusion into another sovereign stateís territory would hurt Beijingís image in the region.

Other tactics that would focus more on the interests of these states would be the settlement of the territorial disputes of many islands in the South China Sea.?China currently claims the Paracel and Spratly Islands while many other ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines also have claims on them.?China has in the past addressed these disputes very aggressively and has even resorted to force with Vietnam. The US should work with ASEAN to try to settle these disputes, but in a way so as to isolate China and put it into direct confrontation with these countries.?It should also make sure that the format of any negotiations includes all ASEAN members as one bloc and not just be a series of bilateral agreements.?Otherwise, China would use its strength to bully the other countries in a one-on-one format.?If the US were successful in having a united ASEAN confront China on these issues, China would then be forced to do one of two things.  It could use carrots to try to entice all of the concerned parties or use the stick to coerce them.?Economic and political coercion could act to drive ASEAN away from China and to the US while military action would do the same but also damage their international reputation.  Economic and political incentives, on the other hand, run the risk of doing the opposite and helping cement Chinese dominance in the region, but it would also force Beijing to expend more resources there and increase its cost of empire in the region.  These outcomes aside, the time consumption of the process is almost as important.  If Beijing were involved in serious dialogue about the demarcation of its maritime boundaries, something that is very important considering the vital sea lanes this area contains, it would be less focused on US-EU convergence.  

 

The Special Case of Burma

Events currently unfolding during the writing of this paper warrant that the country of Myanmar (Burma) should receive special attention.?The military junta that controls Myanmar, the SLORC, has been a client regime of China for a long time. While many western nations have limited their trade with the country due to its human rights record, China has continued to do business with the regime and has firmly brought it into its sphere of influence.  China has done this because controlling Burma has many benefits for China's future goals.  The first benefit is the natural resources vital to China's growth, most notably timber and natural gas, which the Chinese are extracting from Burma.?The second and third reasons are both related to Burma's location.  Burma sits on the Indian Ocean and China has used this location to build many ports.  China currently has plans to build a pipeline from one of these ports to its Yunnan province, thus giving the Chinese the advantage of bypassing the Straits of Malacca, a possible choke point.   Also, these ports give a supply and fuel depot for China's future blue water navy, which will allow the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to operate in the Indian Ocean and be closer to their potential rival, India.?That last goal of China has been noticed by India and has forced them to pay close attention to Myanmar

Currently, large masses of civilians being led by Buddhist monks are protesting the regime and presenting it with its strongest challenge in seventeen years.  Whether or not this particular development will evolve into a larger rebellion and the destruction of the military junta remains to be seen.?But if this incident does not end up bringing down the junta, it is clear that there are strong internal forces that want to see the end of the current regime.  The US should work with India and do all it can to help those forces in deposing the SLORC and installing a new democratically-elected regime.   It is no guarantee that any new regime will be enthusiastically pro-West or pro-India, but it is almost assured that it will be less pro-China. 

The Battle for Central Asia

The next region to examine is Central Asia.  This region's location and energy resources make it very appealing to China.?However, since the US invasion of Afghanistan the region has had a large US presence.?The US's involvement in the region has spurred the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which is a vehicle for Russia and China to work together for the purpose of expelling the US from the region.   This cooperation between Russia and China, though, is only existent because they both happen to share an interest in getting the US out of the region.  Beyond that there is not much trust in the relationship and actually is a latent competition for influence in the region.?For this reason, it might be beneficial for the US to withdraw from the region.   This seems counterintuitive for the US to battle Chinese influence by withdrawing from a region and possibly leaving it open for China, but the vacuum created could be better for the US.   The first reason it may be beneficial is because Russia is included in designs for the Grand Alliance and the US's presence in the region has angered and insulted Moscow because it appears to be a US invasion of its traditional sphere of influence.  Secondly, it eliminates a source of convergence of Chinese and Russian interests.?Finally, a US withdrawal from the region could create a vacuum in which Moscow and Beijing come to compete against each other, in which case Russia could be driven further into the camp of the Grand Alliance.  By doing this the US is risking losing Central Asia to Chinese influence, but it stands to gain a bigger prize in Russia

However, if US withdrawal is unpalatable either because of the risk of handing that resource-rich region over to China is too high or because it is too vital a strategic asset for US counterterrorism efforts, then other options need to be explored.?A more palatable policy might be staying involved in Central Asia while bolstering the region so that it can independently stand up against China.  To do this the US needs to focus on the key country of Kazakhstan.  This country, which is the largest and wealthiest of the region, has a leader who already has ambitions of becoming the leader of Central Asia.   The US should work with Russia in courting Kazakhstan and bringing it closer to Europe and Russia than it is to ChinaChina will fight vigorously to prevent this because Kazakhstan is a large country bordering China, it has strong ethnic ties to China's Xinjiang province, and because it controls many pipelines that carry energy resources into China.?So far China has taken advantage of the tiny countries by using its size to put pressure on them in a one-on-one basis.   To change this, the US should encourage more regional cooperation so that there could be a unified voice when dealing with China.?A more unified Central Asia would still be tiny compared to China, but at least it would be a little better positioned to negotiate with the Chinese.  President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has expressed his desire for more cooperation in the region and has even proposed a Central Asian market.   Any level of unity in Central Asia would naturally be led by Kazakhstan.  Therefore, if the Western democracies and Russia can first win over Kazakhstan and then help it to form a unified Central Asian bloc, the rest of the region will follow.   To persuade Kazakhstan to look West, the interests of Kazakhstan must be considered.?Given the nature of Kazakhstan's government, its interests are decided by the individual ambitions of its president.   He is an autocrat who has already secured president-for-life status and destroyed most of his internal opposition.  What he needs now is international legitimacy and recognition.? Therefore, the members of the Grand Alliance should mute their criticisms of his government and help him attain the international publicity that he desires.?One encouragement they could give is to abandon their opposition to his desire to chair the OSCE in 2009.

Phase Three: ?/span>Going Global

Africa:  No Longer the White Man's Burden

So far the recommendations given have focused on China and the surrounding region.  However, in the past decade China has emerged on the world stage as it looks to secure vital natural resources and gain international recognition.?One of its grandest feats yet has been to conquer AfricaChina has very quickly and cleverly consolidated its presence in Africa by offering illegitimate and unsavory regimes UN protection in exchange for lucrative business dealings.?This development is a fait accompli and should not try to be reversed by the western democracies.?Trying to do so would be too costly and unlikely to succeed in the near future.?The resentment of colonization still lingers in many nations and China's own history of being colonized and abused by the same powers gives it credibility that the US and Europe do not have when it assures them that it does not want to interfere with their domestic affairs.?However, if China aspires to have an honorable reputation amongst the nations of the world, then the West should do everything to hold China accountable for its closeness to cruel and oppressive regimes.?Therefore, the US and Europe should turn the tables and make China's new found pro-status quo position a liability by making its costs of empire in the continent as high as possible.?The US should analyze China's presence in every country individually and then choose one of two options:  1) When possible, it should draw attention to egregious human rights abuses performed by regimes friendly with Beijing and use the international outcry against its support of these regimes to blackmail China or, 2) support anti-regime forces to destabilize those resource-rich nations that are friendly with China in order to hinder Chinese business dealings.  

The first tactic can be used in cases like Sudan.  In those cases human rights organizations and activists should be aided in attacking China's public image and force its PR machine to work even harder at preserving its desired image.?These campaigns against China's image should be directed towards the Olympics whenever possible as this is a unique event in which China is especially sensitive about its public image in the world.  This attack on China's image should be pushed to the point where China has to either back out of its commitments of non-interference to certain regimes, and thus lose credibility with others, or risk being vilified on the world stage, thus making it easier for democracies to see the merits of the Grand Alliance.

 †††††††††† If the second tactic is employed the aim is to make China sink more and more resources into protecting its business interests. Every time China reaches a deal with a regime, that regime should be attacked by internal anti-regime forces so as to make China spend more time and resources to protect the regime, or if that regime is overthrown, then sink more resources into trying to buy the new regime. This tactic plays on the fact that it takes more resources to maintain stability in a country than it does to destabilize a country.?The abundance of rebel militias and separatist groups in Africa makes it so that nearly every African regime has a ready enemy that the US could call on to attack Chinese interests in the region.  

Caveats

††††††††††?It should be noted that the policies discussed here are just proposals; they need to be more closely examined for their feasibility and whether or not any negative side effects would potentially offset their benefits or interfere with broader foreign policy goals.?Many of these proposals depend on covert operations abilities that the intelligence agencies may not have or are not willing to use.?Also, all of these proposed policies have foreseeable possible consequences that do not pertain to the desired effect on Chinese policy but could make them unattractive.?Therefore, before implementation they should be more closely analyzed to first list all possible outcomes and then create plans to address these outcomes.?

Conclusion

It needs to be stressed that the intent of these proposals is to merely require the Chinese to take their attention off of the core Grand Alliance countries and instead focus on and expend vast resources in the peripheral countries.?China is in many aspects a first-rate power that is capable and willing to use its weight to get what it wants in the world.  These proposals are not intended to be prohibitive forces to Chinaís emerging power status; all of these challenges to Beijingís goals could be easily overcome and defeated by a determined China.?The key to this plan is to try to concert all of these efforts so that China is confronted with a multitude of dispersed threats to its interests at the same time.?This strategy will not allow Beijing to focus and concentrate its might on any one problem and will force it to give up on some foreign policy goals as it prioritizes its interests.  If Beijing is forced to choose between its various foreign policy goals, thwarting EU-US convergence will likely be one of the first goals to be abandoned as the formation of the Grand Alliance is only a possible future threat where as firm control over China and the Asia-Pacific region are considered more vital and urgent to Chinese interests.?That prioritization of goals is what allows this plan shield the formation of the Grand Alliance.