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10Taipei Times, January 16, 2013, p. 1.9
northern Fujian province in order to deter ships of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.11-Jet-fighters from Japan’s air force scrambled 156 times, a record number since the data was released, in 2011 to intercept fighters lunched by the PLA;12- over 70 islets in the Diaoyutai island chain were named by China’s State Oceanic Administration on March 3, 2012;13-China and South Korea fought over Socotra Rock (or Suyan Islet by China) in March 2012.Telltale signs like these are sufficient to suggest that China is forging a new and more assertive strategy towards its neighbors. Is there cause to be concerned? What is to be done?A New Order in East AsiaA new order is evidently in the shaping in East Asia. In this new strategic landscape China no doubt plays a pivotal role. The question is: Would this emerging super power adopt a benign policy for a common good of the region as a whole? Or alternatively, would there be a predatory power rising at the expenses of its neighbors? These are legitimate concerns registered by many in the region. From historic point of view, China of course craves for an order revolving around itself. If history is any indication, what China is trying to revive is a hierarchical system where adjacent countries are treated differently according to their geographic and ethnic proximity to the Middle Kingdom. Under this system, countries with common borders such as those in Southeast Asia and Korea are treated with the utmost caution, followed by Japan and so 11Zhongguo shibao, May 27, 2012.12Taipei Times, May 10, 2012, p. 1.13Taipei Times, March 4, 2012, p. 3.10
on. As its northern neighbor Russia was not as important because the bordering areas are large swathes of land without much inhabitation. It should be noted that in light of the complexity of the current internationalcommunity in the wake of globalization and changing dynamics among the countries in the region vis-à-vis those hundreds of years ago, Beijing’s strategies would no doubt be more flexible and adaptable.If Sino-centrism is the approach, then it is inevitable that the Asia-Pacific area is to become an arena of contestation between the United States, the exiting hegemon, and China, the rising power which is not necessarily trying to unseat the US as the global hegemon but to seek a “rightful place” on the global stage. Actually, the race is already on featuring the two powers seeking for alliances and countering alliances. As vital part of its new policy the US is renewing and restrengthening its alliances and partnerships in the region with countries ranging from Australia to Japan, and India to Myanmar.14And it is a comprehensive race as President Obama has promised to add a new element of economy into its “pivot policy,” or the “rebalancing policy.” Whether to join the Washington-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, heavily influenced by Beijing, is not going to be an easy choice for many in this area.