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China's Participation in RIMPAC Exercise: Model for Future Cooperation?

June 26, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Rim of the Pacific Exercise has begun in waters near Hawaii. For the first time, China is joining the drills. That’s a small but positive step for integrating Beijing into more international institutions.

RIMPAC started in 1971 with the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and United Kingdom. Now held every two years, the exercise was broadened to include ships from allied and friendly nations. This year there are 23 participants, including the original nations as well as France, India, Indonesia, and South Korea.

It will be up to Beijing, its Pacific neighbors, and the U.S. to find other opportunities to further invest the PRC in the existing geopolitical order.”

And the People’s Republic of China. The PRC has sent four ships, a destroyer, hospital ship, missile frigate, and oiler. China’s Defense ministry explained that the maneuvers are “an important mission of military diplomacy” and a means to strengthen “friendly relations with countries of the South Pacific through public diplomacy.”

Beijing’s participation comes at a time of significant regional tension. Most of which is maritime. The PRC’s more aggressive stance in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and Sea of Japan have led to threatening confrontations with Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. It is widely believed that China’s military has been particularly vocal internally in pressing more extreme demands on the PRC’s neighbors. 

RIMPAC offers an opportunity to create at least some countervailing pressure in favor of a less threatening regional naval environment. At the political level inviting Beijing to participate demonstrates respect for China’s increased military power and international role.  Doing so also counters the charge that Washington is seeking to isolate and contain the PRC.

Moreover, inclusion hints at the benefits for Beijing of a civil if not necessarily friendly relationship with its neighbors as well as America. No doubt, the direct pay-off for China from RIMPAC is small. But to be treated as an equal and regular participant in international affairs is advantageous. Especially since the PRC increasingly is being looked at as a potential adversary, especially by surrounding nations.

Although any great power must be prepared to accept unpopularity when necessary, in general a friendly environment is more conducive to ensuring both peace and prosperity. Better that neighboring states view Chinese ships as potential partners than as likely threats.

Military cooperation also is important. As the PRC grows wealthier and the Chinese military grows more …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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