China should respect its neighbours’ interests and solve bilateral disputes to minimise opposition to Beijing’s quest for global influence, official media said today, weeks after the resolution of the Dokalam standoff with India. “We must stick to our principles but respect the interests of our neighbours,” an Op-ed article in the Global Times said. Solving disputes with neighbours means much to China, as it needs to maximise its support and minimise opposition in its endeavour to achieve its ambitions, it said.
“Since no one in the world dare look down upon China, China needs to pay attention to more urgent issues,” it said. “China should safeguard its sovereignty and avoid confrontation between peripheral sovereignty disputes and efforts to ease international strategic pressure that hamper China’s rise. This is our basic tactic,” the article said. In what appears to be a veiled attack on India, Japan, Vietnam and other neighbouring countries in the South China Sea region, it said some neighbours are playing “hardball in solving their maritime and land disputes with China” and trying to extract concessions from Beijing.
China has maritime disputes with Japan in the East China Sea. Its claims over the South China Sea are opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. China’s border disputes with India stretch over 3,488 kms along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both countries were involved in a 73-day standoff at Dokalam in the Sikkim sector over China’s attempts to build a strategic road. The crisis ended on August 28 after China halted the road building.
“Due to various frictions in China’s neighbourhood in recent years, Chinese public opinion about some neighbouring countries has deteriorated with calls on China to hit back at a few of them,” the article said. “While China cherishes the period of strategic opportunity for peaceful development, a few neighbours take it as an opportunity to play hardball in solving their maritime and land disputes with China,” it said.
The article said, what the country needs to avert most is the US attempt to strategically contain China with its major Asia-Pacific allies, and it has to patiently differentiate between the peripheral frictions and US pressure. “The provocations by China’s neighbours are attempts at bargaining for benefits from China. These provocateurs don’t have the intent or ability to strategically confront China,” it said.