China is interested in modernizing itself while at the same time maintaining security' is the only general statement that can be made about China's foreign policy. To achieve these two ends, China is willing to ignore conflicts that do not substantially affect its development or security. Economic organizations are welcomed because they facilitate economic development but security multilateralism is employed only where feasible, resulting in most security concerns solved bilaterally. This case-by-case determination of policy results in China supporting the status quo in some issues while challenging it in others. To better understand China's foreign policy requires an investigation into these three characteristics.
Post-Cold War Asia has been witness to a China that increasingly focuses its foreign policy on its neighbors rather than on a regional or global context. This stems from China's realization that free markets have triumphed over centrally planned economies and that a world revolution is not going to happen. This has two implications. One, China no longer needs to divert resources to involve itself in global politics since the proletarian revolution is not going to take place. Second, China needs to embark on a program of economic development and modernization (F. Wang p. 32 and J. Wang p. 80).
China has decided that economic growth should receive first priority before any other concerns because of two reasons. One, economic growth allows China to upgrade its aging military by purchasing advanced weapons or developing new weapons based on the infusion of technology from consumer goods. Second and perhaps more importantly, economic development has become crucial to the Party's legitimacy to rule.
During Mao's era, ideological fervor provided the basis of the Party's right to rule. However, since Deng Xiaoping's market reforms in the late 70's and 80's, the CCP has increasingly relied upon economic progress as a source of political legitimacy. The Party has promised economic prosperity in return for the undisputed right to rule. Any slowdown in economic growth could potentially lead to political instability. Therefore, all available resources are directed to maintaining a healthy pace of economic growth (Yu p. 186).
At this point in development, China does not feel that it has the resources to be involved in remote conflicts that do not substantially affect China (J. Wang p. 80). Since closer conflicts tend to affect China more strongly, the bulk of China's foreign policy is directed at her neighbors. For example, China has been politically active in neighboring Korea for two reasons. First, a war on the Korean peninsula has the potential to develop into a broader regional battle that might possibly draw the United States and China in. Such a conflict would obviously be detrimental for economic development and could possibly result in the United States retaining entire control over Korea (Yu p. 188)....