China should prioritise its relations with its neighbours

China should prioritise its relations with its neighbours

14 April 2015

Under the banner of the Silk Road initiative, first introduced in fall 2013, China has just announced a host of economic projects such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Beneath the eye-catching name, these projects amount to a giant push towards the Asian neighbourhood.

This special issue of China Analysis, 'Explaining China's foreign policy reset', concerns the geopolitical underpinning of China’s new outward-looking economic policy. It documents, through examining the writing of some of China’s best-known international relations specialists, the shift in foreign policy that has caused Xi Jinping’s government to prioritise China’s neighbourhood again:

  • The “Chinese century” has not yet arrived, and China has neither the capacity nor the willingness to compete for leadership in a still US-led international order. Indeed, China still faces internal problems and its “comprehensive” national power remains limited.
  • China’s rise is “unstoppable”, but it is not violent, and China represents no danger to world peace. However, an emerging China and declining United States and Japan are bound to compete - yet not to confront each other, due to structural constraints.
  • Thus, China should adopt a “two-pronged approach", establishing a new type of great power relations with developed countries, including the US and the European Union, while improving its relations with developing and neighbouring countries.
  • Overall, China should prioritise its relations with its neighbours since a peaceful and stable periphery is the key to China's sustainable rise. To do so, China is willing to share the benefits of its economic development through the Silk Road initiatives.

In his introduction to the analysis, Francois Godement, Director of ECFR’s China and Asia programme, comments: “This foreign policy shift can only be for the better, although one thing must be remembered: President Xi Jinping has the capacity to ‘turn on a dime’, and he can make others follow his turnaround – suggesting that there is no policy that cannot be overturned, should he deem it necessary.”

To download a pdf or an e-book version of this publication, click here.

Yesterday we also published the anthology ‘How do Asians see their future’, which you can find here.

Contact author:

Agatha Kratz:    Phone: +33 33 1 83 79 08 07 

Francois Godement: 

ECFR Press:   Phone: +44 (0) 20 7227 6864               

Notes for Editors:

Picture credits: Trey Ratcliffe/Flickr 

This paper, like all ECFR publications, represents the views of its authors, not the collective position of ECFR or its Council Members.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is the first pan-European think-tank. Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values based foreign policy. ECFR is an independent charity and funded from a variety of sources. For more details go to

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