By Diego Leiva,School of Government and International Relations

The rise of China has raised concerns in the region and in the West, particularly over the South China Sea disputes and China’s new Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Scholars debate what the impacts of China’s rise are on the current US-led liberal order. Is China going to challenge the existing order? Does China want to replace it with a new order? These are significant questions that were the central theme of a workshop titled “Looking to the future: China and Regional Order” hosted by Griffith Asia Institute on August 28. The workshop was attended by distinguished scholars from Australia and China, with heated discussions on Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping and its new assertiveness, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the implications on the existing regional order.

Understanding China’s institutional strategies

On China’s institutional strategies and the challenges posed to the existing regional order, and the evolution of Beijing’s stance regarding the international economic order, Professor Kai He emphasised how China challenges the international order through multilateral institutions, proposing a “prospect-institutional balancing” model in order to explain how Beijing has used two types of institutional balancing strategies to challenge the US-led order, as evidenced in the cases of APEC as inclusive balancing case, and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) as exclusive institutional balancing. Dr. Amy King traced China’s approach to the international economic order, after WWII till now, to fill in an analytical gap that overlooks the role of China in the development of the Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

China and the Regional Order

Dr. Darren Lim, by hypothesising how a China-led order would look like, developed a “pragmatic developmentalism” model. Professor Ian Hall and Dr. Weizhun Mao provided analysis on the hotly debated Belt and Road Initiative from Indian and Chinese perspectives, looking at the evolution and impact of China’s infrastructure diplomacy in shaping the regional order. On the Sino — Japanese Diaoyu/Senkaku Island Dispute and the Chinese economic statecraft, Dr. Dalei Jie analysed the conflict using prospect theory while Dr. James Reilly proposed a list of characteristics of “the China model” of economic statecraft. They evaluated the effectiveness of China’s uses of economic resources to advance foreign policy objectives.

Griffith University scholars Haig Patapan, Ian Hall, and Andrew O’Neil, along with Professor Bates Gill from Australian National University participated as chairs and discussants on panels.

The Workshop has provided a great opportunity for scholars to debate and exchange ideas on the timely topic of China’s rise and its implication on regional order.