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Evolving China–ASEAN Relations and CAFTA: Chinese Perspectives on China’s Initiatives in Relation to ASEAN Plus 1

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China’s rising profile as a global economic and geopolitical actor has been matched with a parallel improvement in its relationship with its Southeast Asian neighbours. Many Chinese scholars see this improvement as a testament to the efficacy of a Chinese geopolitical strategy which combines economic diplomacy launched during the late 1990s, with an on-going diplomatic ‘charm offensive’. To them, it is this geopolitical strategy which has made it possible for both China and its ASEAN neighbours to move away from antagonism and confrontation towards economic partnership, mutual cooperation and good-neighbourly relations. From this perspective, CAFTA, initiated by China within the framework of ASEAN Plus 1, has not only created the world’s largest free trade area that represents the world’s most energetic and fastest growing economy, it has also made it possible for China to leverage itself internationally. For most Chinese scholars, CAFTA seems to have ensured that while China claims its due place on the global stage by virtue of its wealth, power, modernisation of its military might and its cultural expansion, its neighbours do not construe its ‘peaceful rise’ as a threat.

Affiliations: 1: University of South Australia ; 2: University of South Australia


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