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China’s influence in Asia: a challenge more than a feat

By Su Tan
China will remain the most influential country in Asian affairs in the decade to come, surpassing the US, according to the latest poll released by the Global Times Global Poll Center on Saturday. This opinion was held by 44.6 percent of 16,172 respondents in the survey that covered residents aged above 18 years living in 16 countries across the world. Interviewees worldwide are increasingly recognizing the positivity that China has brought to the world.
The clout of a rising China has become undisputable, with the US as the only competitor in this regard. It’s fair to say that in Asia, if China catches a cold, the whole region will sneeze. And the country has worked hard to assume its responsibilities as a regional and global power. It put forward a series of initiatives and strategies to promote regional economic integration and connectivity. High on the list is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the One Belt and One Road initiative. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is also gaining momentum.
But this does not mean China can embrace popularity and rest easy. The Global Times poll found that the respondents consider China’s most memorable image is “complicated” and “militarily aggressive.” This indicates a misperception of China’s policies and worrying sensitivity against China.
China has more to worry about than to celebrate. It faces an uphill journey to restructure its own economy and climb up the global industrial chain, as its economy slows down. China cherishes a peaceful and stable environment in Asia that is conducive to its economic development, but it sits in a region plagued by a heavy US presence and unsettling disputes. This becomes particularly complicated and disturbing as uncertainties heralded by Donald Trump’s presidency cast a heavy shadow on the region, not to mention his already brazen rhetoric against China.
During one session of Saturday’s Global Times annual conference, the host asked seven guests on the stage from China, Japan and South Korea to choose from a list of events that may be most likely to evolve into clashes in 2017. It includes the Korean Peninsula tensions, the disputes in the South and East China Seas, pro-independence forces in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Almost all the options were picked by the guests.
All these issues have the US as a common factor. In fact, none of these problems can be resolved without Sino-US cooperation. It indicates that in future, how much influence China can assert in the region will in large part depend on the quality of the Sino-US relationship.
(Global Times)

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