Desperate after ‘fiasco’ in Alaska? What is the Chinese Communist Party’s intention in its frequent diplomatic moves?

Chinese Communist Party Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at an online meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers (Sept. 9, 2020).

At the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Philippine Foreign Minister Lok Chin held separate meetings with CCP Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Nanping, Fujian this week, followed by a visit by South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.

Philippines Protests Communist Rally of Civilian Ships These diplomatic talks come against the backdrop of disputes between some of these countries and the Chinese Communist Party.

Just this week, Manila also protested to Beijing over the build-up of more than 200 Chinese communist civilian boats in the waters of Whitsun Reef (known in the Philippines as Julian Felipe, or Bull Yoke Reef), over which the Philippines claims sovereignty. In an exclusive report Wednesday, the Manila Bulletin said a document and several photos from the “West Philippine Sea National Working Group” showed 220 boats believed to be operated by Communist Party militias did not leave Whitsun Reef after the Philippines’ protest to the Chinese Communist Party, but spread out over a wider area of water.

“clearly engaged in maritime patrol-like activities.”

Concerns over CCP’s maritime police law

During a phone call between Philippine National Security Adviser Esperon and U.S. National Security Adviser Sullivan on Wednesday, the two discussed their shared concerns about the Communist Party of China’s activities in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Sullivan said the United States will work with its ally, the Philippines, to maintain a rules-based international maritime order and also reaffirmed the applicability of the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty in the South China Sea.

In addition, the recent passage of the Chinese Communist Party’s Maritime Police Law has also caused concern and anxiety among neighboring countries. Indonesia and Japan held 2+2 talks between foreign and defense ministers on Tuesday (March 30), and Kyodo News reported that “Japan and Indonesia shared serious concerns about attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force, considering the Chinese Communist Party’s movements in the East China Sea and South China Sea. “

Competitive post-Alaska dynamics

Analysts believe that the intensive diplomatic moves by the Chinese Communist Party are not unrelated to the U.S.-China major power rivalry after Wang Yi’s saber-rattling talks in Alaska with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and director of the Central Foreign Affairs Office, and U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan.

In response to Wang Yi’s meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers, former U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Stephen Young told Voice of America, “For those who need the economy and trade, they will do that with the CCP because it’s a major producer and a major investor, but that’s a little different than friendship, meaning that within those countries there most people are suspicious of the Chinese Communist Party and their intentions.”

In an interview with Voice of America, Sun Yun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, said one can understand the CCP’s engagement with ASEAN foreign ministers in several ways.

Weakening the Anti-China Alliance

First, after the “fiasco” in Alaska, the Chinese Communist Party has been trying to consolidate its global diplomacy, “with the greater goal of weakening the U.S. ‘alliance’ against the Chinese Communists. Southeast Asia is part of that campaign.”

Second, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Communist Party-ASEAN dialogue partnership, which Myanmar was supposed to host, but now even the legitimacy of the Myanmar government is in question. If planning these relations in this critical year is a major issue, the South China Sea Code of Conduct in particular is not likely to offer much hope either; then there are other regional issues, including the CCP’s urgency for ASEAN to increase its diplomatic efforts on Myanmar and to make relations as smooth and less problematic as possible on the South China Sea and Mekong River, subjects of friction.

If these are the goals of the Chinese Communist Party, what do each of the ASEAN countries want to achieve? Sun Yun told VOA that for the ASEAN ministers, economic recovery is the highest on their agenda, and that “the Chinese Communist Party will be happy to provide what they can. Note that these four countries are the four maritime countries of Southeast Asia, which are traditionally seen as the sphere of influence of the United States.”

Reinforcing CCP Influence

What will the Chinese Communist Party do next to successfully achieve the so-called “weakening of the U.S. anti-China ‘alliance'”? Sun Yun said the question is, “What does the CCP want to achieve success in? To completely replace the United States? That’s unlikely. But to strengthen its influence, its presence, and to shake up those countries, that’s definitely the case. The CCP has a consistent, purposeful strategy toward Southeast Asia and the Middle East. One often wonders if the U.S. has that same strategy.”

Taiwan’s Tamkang University’s East Association (i.e., ASEAN) Research Center Director Lin Ruorun also believes that under the U.S.-China global competition strategy, with the two countries competing on all political, economic and military levels, the CCP’s contacts with ASEAN foreign ministers “naturally prioritize the CCP’s own national interests,” and ASEAN countries “will also take the ASEAN countries “will also take the U.S.-China rivalry into account, each with their own interests.”

In an interview with Voice of America, Lin said that the RCEP, which was completed last year, and economic recovery after the new epidemic are the focus of talks between China and ASEAN foreign ministers, and that the Chinese Communist Party would like to have better relations with these Southeast Asian countries and avoid some potential conflicts, although she believes that these conflicts are not easy to resolve, such as the dispute between Vietnam and the Chinese Communist Party over civilian vessels and the Philippines’ perceived sovereignty over islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which are also under persecution by the Chinese Communist Party. persecution, etc.

“These countries clearly see no possibility of the Chinese Communist Party letting go and becoming more assertive on the South China Sea, or sharper and more intensified in terms of military construction on these artificial islands, and basically it’s not that easy to dissolve these disputes.”