Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 23: East Asia
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent rise to becoming a global power has meant that there has been an increasing interest in China’s growing role in Africa and Latin America. However, one of Beijing’s most important geographical areas in its foreign relations has been East Asia, and will continue to be so. Its regional neighbours, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK; or South Korea), are economic powerhouses that enjoy a much higher level of economic development than China. While still constricted by its constitutional constraints, Japan also has a formidable military. Furthermore, both Japan and South Korea are key allies of the United States (US), and act as important stations for the projection of American power in East Asia. Simply put, East Asia contains two regional powers that both have the ability to influence the regional distribution of power, and thus factor in Beijing’s strategic calculations (Buzan 2004). East Asia is also important for China because it is one of its most challenging areas of foreign policy. The region contains Taiwan, the last refuge of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party. Taiwan has since evolved into a thriving democracy, decreasing emotional and nationalistic ties with the communist Chinese mainland. The PRC regards Taiwan as an integral part of China, and lists reunification with the island as one of its key long-term national goals.
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