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Face to the world: What drives China's foreign policy?

China historian Prof Richard Rigby and political scientist Dr Pradeep Taneja discuss how a newly powerful China fares in promoting and protecting its interests in its dealings with the rest of the world. Presented by Eric van Bemmel.

"I think the Chinese Government is not particularly good at making a distinction between China's traditional values, what's liked about China by the rest of the world and what China stands for now.  In other words - what the Chinese Communist Party has done over the last 60 something years." -- Dr Pradeep Taneja




Prof. Richard Rigby
Professor Richard Rigby

Professor Richard Rigby graduated in History at the The Australian National University in 1970 and went on to do his PhD - subsequently reworked and published by the ANU Press as The May 30th Movement - under Professor Wang Gungwu in the then Department of Far Eastern History (now the School of Culture, History & Language). Richard joined Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs in 1975, where he worked until the end of 2001: postings included Tokyo, Beijing (twice), Shanghai (Consul-General 1994-1998), London, and Israel (Ambassador, 2000-2001). He then joined the Office of National Assessments as Assistant Director-General, responsible for North and South Asia, where he worked until taking up his current position with the ANU China Institute in April 2008. While engaged in government work, Richard continued to pursue his academic interests with a series of translations, book reviews and articles on China-related topics. His personal interests in Chinese studies are primarily literary and historical, but his profession has ensured a thorough immersion in all aspects of contemporary China and other major Asian cultures.

ANU China Institute

Dr Pradeep Taneja
Dr Pradeep Taneja

Dr Pradeep Taneja lectures in Chinese politics, political economy and international relations at the University of Melbourne. Born and raised in India, he has lived and worked in various parts of China for a number of years and is a fluent Mandarin speaker. His current research interests focus on the rise of China as a regional and global power, Sino-Indian relations and the international political implications of China’s energy security policy. He is also working on a project examining the relationship between China’s business elite and the Communist Party of China. Pradeep earned his PhD in Chinese political economy at Griffith University, Brisbane and his MA at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His books and monographs include China Since 1978 (with Colin Mackerras and Graham Young); Hong Kong and Australia: towards 1997 and beyond; and The European Union and China: Interests and Dilemmas (edited with Georg Wiessala and John Wilson). He has also contributed to the Dictionary of Chinese Politics and the Encyclopedia of Modern China. He is regularly interviewed by Australian and foreign media on various topics related to China and India.

Publications

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne

Credits

Presenter: Eric van Bemmel
Producers: Kelvin Param, Eric van Bemmel
Audio Engineers: Gavin Nebauer
Voiceover: Nerissa Hannink
Series Creators: Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param

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VOICEOVER
Welcome to Up Close, the research talk show from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  

ERIC VAN BEMMEL 
I'm Eric van Bemmel.  Thanks for joining us.  If, as the saying goes, a nation has no friends, only interests, then what are China's interests?  How do they go about promoting and protecting them in their engagement with the rest of the world?  China is already a great power, many would say an emerging superpower.  But can it, should it, be taking a leadership role on the world stage commensurate with its hard-won economic status?  What drives China in its foreign policy choices?  And how does it go about selling brand China to the rest of the world?  On Up Close this episode we're joined by two China policy hands as we look at China and how it handles its relations with other nations near and far from its shores.  Professor Richard Rigby is a historian of China and Executive Director of the China Institute of Australian National University.  He spent many years in a number of high-level diplomatic postings in China and elsewhere.  He's been Australia's ambassador to Israel and has had, for a time, the Prime Minister's ear on matters north and south Asian.  His research interests take in both historical and contemporary aspects of Chinese and other Asian cultures.  Professor Rigby is in Melbourne to speak at the 2012 Melbourne Conference on China.  Joining Richard is Dr Pradeep Taneja, no stranger to this program on topics Chinese.  Pradeep is with the University of Melbourne's School of Social and Political Sciences where he focuses on Chinese politics, political economy and international relations.  Educated in India, China and Australia, Pradeep provides a unique insight into the economic and political climate in both China and South Asia.  Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on Up Close.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Thank you.

RICHARD RIGBY
Thank you very much.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL 
I'd like to begin with a characterisation of contemporary Chinese foreign policy.  Richard, this notion that many of us have of a monolithic China, how realistic is that?

RICHARD RIGBY
No, there's absolutely not a monolith.  I think this applies both to China in terms of its foreign policy and very much in terms of domestic policy as well.  I think if there was one word that I would like to ban in the discussion of China it would be the word totalitarianism.  Now, totalitarianism is sometime used as a term of abuse.  But it's often used as a descriptor which is supposed to have some accuracy.  And my problem with this is that, while there may have been some countries - and one thinks of Stalin's Soviet Union, perhaps Nazi Germany for a little bit.  But even there the totalitarian model probably didn't really apply in the terms in which it's generally understood, by which I mean, okay, you've got a single government.  You've got a party.  And nothing happens in the country except what the party state wants.  And if anything does happen it's because the party state wants it and that the party state speaks with a single voice.  I think this has been rarely true in China.  Even today China sometimes still, I think, wishes to project something of that image.  But it's not true.  If you look at foreign policy in particular there are just many, many players.  You know, does the Chinese Foreign Ministry - well, it does foreign policy but it is the primary determinant?  No, it's not.  There are many, many players within the bureaucracy, other powerful ministries, agencies, think tanks.  There are powerful provincial forces.  There are groups within industry depending very much on the subject obviously.  But if you look at policy towards Iran, for instance - which is one of the areas which are often seen to be rather controversial because it's where China plays a role that the west, the US and others don’t always like.  The Chinese nuclear industry is interested in Iran.  The Chinese power energy industry is interested in Iran.  You know, the foreign ministry might have one view.  Other ministries may have others.  It all comes together in the end probably at the top in the small, leading group on foreign policy.  But a lot of stuff happens on the ground on a day to day basis which doesn’t go right up to the top.  In the last couple of years China's actions in the South China Sea have been very controversial but, again, many, many players.  I don’t see that all being centrally directed from Beijing.  It's not just the PLA Navy.  You've got the Coast Guard.  You've got the fisheries resource people.  You've got the provincial interests with those provinces that have...

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Each with their own interests?

RICHARD RIGBY
Each with their own interests and, of course, looking for resources, making power bids of their own.  So it's a far more confused and confusing picture which is, I think, a problem for the top authorities in China.  It's a problem for the rest of us as we seek to deal with China.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Pradeep, for all these different actors, each acting out of their own interests, is there, in Beijing at the top, nonetheless, a clear and unified vision among the leadership of what the world or regional order is?

PRADEEP TANEJA
I think the Chinese - the Government - the Communist Party, like to project an image of a unified, you know, government, that there's a unified voice coming out of China on various regional and global issues.  But, as Richard said, there is a diversity of interests in China.  In Chinese politics today, of course, in domestic politics we hear a lot about the role of various interest groups.  And clearly, now we are seeing increasingly these interest groups play an important part in Chinese foreign policy making decisions too.  For example, the People's Liberation Army has a great deal of influence when it comes to foreign policy decisions dealing with countries with which China has territorial disputes, with India, for example, with Japan, with Vietnam.  We see PLA play a much more significant role in foreign policy decision than it does in other areas.  Similarly, you have the Chinese state-owned enterprises.  They are increasingly playing an important role in China's foreign policy decision, at least in setting the direction in lobbying the foreign ministry, lobbying senior leaders.  Africa is a very good example where Chinese foreign aid - China's investments in Africa has been growing very rapidly.  China is now seen as one of the biggest investors in Africa.  And there, Chinese state-owned enterprises are playing an increasingly important part in setting the direction of the foreign policy and particularly China's oil companies.  You know, they're playing a big part in that too.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Independent of so-called foreign ministry policy?

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, ultimately their influences - it's channelled in such a way that it changes or influences the decisions of the foreign ministry.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Richard, from a Chinese perspective, where do the Chinese feel they're doing things well foreign policy-wise?

RICHARD RIGBY
To start with there's a little bit of a problem when one says the Chinese.  That refers to what we've just been talking about.  There are presumably some people in China who are fairly happy with the way some things are going.  But I'm actually not quite sure who they are.  I've not met too many of them.  I don’t get much of a sense of self satisfaction on the part of either policy-making or policy thinking circles in China at the moment.  And indeed, if anything - and here again the South China Sea case is perhaps particularly prominent - there's a sense that perhaps China has indeed overreached itself a bit in the last few years and needs to step back a little, certainly because of China's more active, pushy, if you like, role in the South China Sea.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Just for a moment if I can ask you for listeners not familiar...

RICHARD RIGBY
Sure.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
...what's the 30 second version of the South China Sea problem?

RICHARD RIGBY
There's the sense that in - particularly, I think, in 2009/2010, perhaps early 2011 - that China had become more proactive in pushing its interests in the South China Sea, including by promoting its presence using, you know, fishing vessels, coast guard vessels, and so on and so forth.  Now, the Chinese themselves would say that actually we were largely responding to what other people were doing.  But, nevertheless, because China is just so big they can’t really do stuff without other smaller and more vulnerable countries feeling that they're being put under a good deal of pressure.  I think as China emerged relatively successfully from the Global Financial Crisis there was indeed a sense, a fairly widespread sense in China, that, well, we've done pretty well.  Our thinking prior to the GFC - the Global Financial Crisis - was that the United States is without question the superpower.  It's going to continue to be the sole superpower for probably a couple of decades to come.  We need to avoid directly tackling US interests.  We need to, in fact, follow Deng Xiaoping's dictum of biding our time, keeping a relatively low profile, making a few contributions if and when we can, you know, but basically just concentrating on the major effort of building up our economy at home and presenting a smiling face to the world, in particular, to the region.  But then I think with the combination of the difficulties in which the US power found itself, first in Iraq and then subsequently Afghanistan, and then the very considerable shine that was removed from the US' exemplar of how to do an economy with the GFC starting with subprime loans crisis, it was understandable that many people in China thought, well, do we actually have to keep our heads down for this period of time?  Can’t we start, you know, becoming a bit more active in promotion of our own interests?  And this was noticed.  But I think also by late 2011 anyway you saw in quite a number of Chinese foreign policy journals beginning to sense of a bit of unease, you know, with Southeast Asia in particular.  We seem to be undoing so much of the really good work, the achievements that we've made over the past 10 years through positive engagement, working out win/win solutions, all these sorts of things.  

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
This is Up Close coming to you from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  I'm Eric van Bemmel.  In this episode we're speaking with political scientist, Pradeep Taneja, and historian, Richard Rigby, about Chinese foreign policy, both intended and unintended, and how it's perceived by the rest of the world.  Now, Pradeep, Richard a moment ago mentioned Deng Xiaoping.  His rise to prominence, particularly in the early 80s, signalled great changes for China internally and also foreign policy-wise, which brings to mind the power of an individual, the change that one person, one personality can bring.  I'm wondering are there motivations other than material power than may figure into a country's foreign policy trajectory?  That is to say, the personality of a leader?

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, material power obviously is the basis of power.  And there is a realisation in China that, now that we have the second largest economy in the world, China is now the envy of the world in terms of economic growth, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, that China should be seen as a much more influential power in the world.  Deng Xiaoping's advice that Richard referred to clearly was influential in shaping Chinese foreign policy throughout the 1980s and even in the 1990s.  But there is a feeling now that China has become much more assertive - China has long defined its national interest.  There are a number of interests which China defines as core interests - Taiwan, Tibet.  But recently there's been attempt to broaden what is meant by core interest, South China Sea obviously, the Spratlys - that's an issue in which China has, you know, tried to enlarge its interest.  That's really made some countries in the region very nervous about China.  In fact, some diplomats and academics in the region will tell you that China has become arrogant.  This is a view shared by some Chinese academics also, that there is a degree of arrogance in the way China projects its interests and projects its foreign policy in the region.  Partly I think it is related to the absence of this charismatic, you know, paramount leader.  Deng Xiaoping, as the paramount leader, was able to influence not only domestic policy but foreign policy.  And he had, in a way, the last word.  Now China no longer has a paramount leader.  There is supposed to be a collective leadership.  But we also know that there a number of factions within the Chinese Communist Party.  And they're each trying to influence policy decisions, whether in the domestic sector or in foreign policy.  Sometimes that leads to conflicting voices coming out of China, particularly in the area of foreign policy.  I mean, that doesn’t mean that these conflicting voices are only present in foreign policy.  We see them represented in domestic policy also.  But they're noticed much more clearly in the foreign policy area because obviously foreign policy decisions, foreign policy pronouncements coming out of China, affect how other countries in the region see their interests.  Therefore they pay much more attention to foreign policy than they do to domestic policies in China.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Richard, I'd like to turn now to how China views itself and some of the internal drivers that affect its foreign policy.  One thing one often reads about is what some call China's victimisation syndrome.  China was, of course - historically it was cut up like a melon, to use a term I've read, by predatory western and Japanese powers for a century of humiliation and that they remained trapped in sort of a mindset, a past that's steeped, in a sense, of victimisation.  What's your take on that?

RICHARD RIGBY
That is certainly an element in Chinese foreign policy thinking and perhaps even more in Chinese foreign policy feeling.  And there, I might just draw into our discussion a couple of aspects we've not yet looked at which is the role of the media, and not so much the top level, most authoritative media such as The People's Daily and The - even The People's Liberation Army Daily and so on, but some other more popular newspapers, in particular The Global Times, which is now...

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
An English language?

RICHARD RIGBY
...an English language.  It exists in both Chinese and English language versions.  And quite a lot of its articles and editorials adopt a rather more stridently nationalistic line than those from the most authoritative high level.  But, nevertheless, Global Times comes out of The People's Daily stables.  So it can’t claim to be a completely independent operator.  But then, going much further down the line, you've got the phenomena of all these angry, youthful nationalists on the internet.  And of course much of what they write is picked up by western and other media.  Then it feeds into general thinking about China, not only within China itself but outside.  There in particular, I think, you find the notion of China as an aggrieved power, a power which has been very badly done by which demands respect - is strong.  Part of this has been, I think, produced deliberately by the party state in the aftermath of what happened in 1989, the Beijing massacre, the crackdown and then in the early 90s then President Jiang Zemin's very focused program trying to reinstate a sense of national pride, political education, focussing very much on the humiliations, including, of course, Japan's admittedly pretty awful record in China. Because what happened in China was pretty shocking. Their world was turned upside down really from the beginning of the First Opium war in 1840, you know, right through for the following century and more.  Another way of looking at it though is that from the 1860s on, what successive Chinese governments sought was wealth and power.  You needed wealth and power to avoid China ever again being put in the position in which it found itself from the first Opium War onwards.  The Manchu Qing dynasty, the last great dynasty - they sought that in two or three different ways.  Then the Chinese Republic, both before the Nationalists took over in 1927, ’28 and after, also sought that.  Now the Communists continue to seek that, that never-ending search for wealth and power.  What that is about - and I repeat but it is important - is to try to ensure that never again is China subject to the humiliating situation in which it found itself.  And that is a really major driver.  But you cannot separate the ideational aspects of it from the very real elements of economic growth and building up more powerful armed forces.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
And maintaining unity?

RICHARD RIGBY
And maintaining unity.  I mean, in fact, if you look at Chinese history in the broad, it's been disunified for somewhat longer than it's been unified. But since at least a couple of centuries BC, the norm in Chinese political powers has always considered to be unification rather than the opposite.
 
ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Another aspect of China's view of itself is Chinese exceptionalism.  Much has been written about American exceptionalism, a sort of a special or distinctive role or purpose in the world seen as God-given by some.  Pradeep, what about Chinese exceptionalism?

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, this is an area in which, in the academic literature, recently some Chinese scholars have started looking at Chinese exceptionalism.  I think it does derive from the American idea, you know, American exceptionalism.  Their idea is that China is exceptional in the sense that China has never been an aggressor.  That's an idea that's being promoted as part of this thinking, that China is unlike any other great power of the past, and particularly of the recent century or so, that the rest of the world has nothing to fear from China because China is unlike other, for example, European colonial powers who went on a rampage, you know, colonising different parts of the world, unleashed, you know, untold violence in parts of the world that they colonised, that China is a very different kind of power.  Therefore the world should not be fearful of China's rise, that China is seeking its rightful place on the global stage.  But, at the same time, China will set a very different example to the great powers of yore that China is a benign power.  China's rise - China's, you know, status as a great power, is only going to benefit other countries - that they have nothing to fear from China's rise.

RICHARD RIGBY
If I could just come in on that to violently agree with what Pradeep has been saying, there's quite an interesting discussion going on in some of the Chinese foreign policy thinking circles, some of the think tanks, about the need to develop a specifically Chinese approach to the discipline of international relations that say that, look, you know, international relations have been completely dominated by the Americans, by the Europeans. But all the historical cases to which they refer are things that have actually occurred in the west.  They don’t take into account what's been happening in our part of the world which, you know, happens to represent something between a quarter and a fifth of humanity, depending on what time we're looking at.  We have done things in different ways.  We need to develop our own ways of thinking.  Part of that, I think, is a genuine intellectual search.  Part of it is to do again with the recovery of self respect.  You know, why should we be completely dominated by western ways of thinking when we come to consider these very important subjects in which we have strong interests?  Also, I think part of it is precisely based on this concern for China not to be seen as a threat, which Pradeep has mentioned.  The idea that perhaps the greatest threat that China faces now in its rise, or its more properly speaking its re-emergence as a major regional and global player, the greatest threat is the notion that we are a threat.  If other people think we are a threat then they're going to take counter actions and we'll get into what is classically described as a security dilemma.  So they want to try to find ways of avoiding that.  But there again, you know, the historical record is not quite as simple as the Chinese sometimes think.  What they see as purely defensive is not necessarily seen that way by other countries.  An interesting example is the voyages of the great Ming Dynasty Admiral Zheng He, the Muslim eunuch admiral who the Chinese now frequently refer to as an example of China engaging in the wider world in an entirely benign way.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
In which years?

RICHARD RIGBY
We're talking about the 15th century.  So he sailed throughout Asia, went to India, got to the west coast of Africa with this enormous fleet, far more powerful, far bigger than anything the Europeans ever had.  But they didn't establish colonies.  It was basically friendship and trade mission.  Certainly they did not establish colonies.  There was not notable conflict.  But, on the other hand, if you look at historical records, the way which this was looked at by some of the other countries, they didn't necessarily see it in this entirely benign way.  It was seen as somewhat threatening, as you would expect when large numbers of enormous vessels suddenly turn up on your coastline.  So even there I think they have to be a bit careful.  And they perhaps need to do a little bit more work in just thinking about how their, from their own point of view, entirely benign actions were perceived by other countries which could also have some relevance to the contemporary situation.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
I'm Eric van Bemmel.  On Up Close this episode we're getting perspectives on China's ever larger presence on the world stage from historian, Richard Rigby, and political scientist, Pradeep Taneja.  Up Close comes to you from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  I'd like to turn to the notion of Chinese global, or regional leadership or pretensions to, even responsibly leading multinational, multilateral initiatives, be they trade-focused, security-focused, dispute resolution, et cetera.  Pradeep, is China going to take that role?  Can it?  Should it?

PRADEEP TANEJA
See, if you look at China - and we are talking here about The People's Republic.  I mean, since 1949, China has been reluctant to take a lead in international affairs unless, of course, they concern China's immediate interests.  China, for example, was a reluctant participant in Asian regionalism.  That's why we have Association of Southeast Asian Nations as the centrepiece of regionalism because China, the biggest power in the region, was unwilling to be a participant in regionalism.  Of course, ASEAN itself was created as a kind of a, you know, bulwark against the spread of Communism.  Therefore China was the target of some of the initiatives of ASEAN and its allies.  But China has lately over the last decade or so, has become an active participant in regionalism.  China has played an important part, for example, in the East Asia Summit.  China now has a separate institutional arrangement for a dialogue with ASEAN, Japan and Korea in ASEAN Plus Three.  China really wanted ASEAN Plus Three to be the dominant sort of institution in the region.  But other countries wanted to bring in external powers to the regions.  So, for example, Singapore, Thailand and a number of other countries in ASEAN wanted the United States, the India and Australia to be also active players in regionalism.  Hence we've seen the East Asia Summit, which now includes the United States, Australia and India as well as, of course - China, Japan and South Korea with ASEAN, has become the pre-eminent institution in the region.  So China is now seeing that it's in China's interest to play an active part in institution building in the region.  But that's at the regional level.  At the global level, while China is as member of most of the international institutions, whether it's the United Nations or the financial architecture of the Bretton Woods institution, the IMF, the World Bank - China's increasingly seeking a greater role.  So I think China's policy towards global engagement has shifted in the sense that China is now more willing - in fact, keen - to play an international role.  But at the same time I think that China has its own internal compulsions.  And China doesn’t want those to be exposed to the rest of the world.  China has a soft underbelly.  So, for example, it's difficult these days to be a great power - an assertive great power - when you lock up a Nobel Peace Prize winner or when you lock up a blind, you know, activist.  I think that's the main obstacle in the projection of Chinese power in the rest of the world because over the last 50, 60 years we've seen a new kind of international order emerge in which, you know, human rights are important, in which democracy's important.  In all these areas, China still has a long way to go.  And therefore China wants to be an active player in international affairs on the world stage.  But I think those domestic compulsions that China faces are a major obstacle to that objective.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Richard, to what extent is China's leaders making conscious and effective use of projecting soft power?

RICHARD RIGBY
Frankly, I don’t think they really understand what soft power is.  They know that soft power's important.  They've read, or at least are aware of, some of the literature.  But they seem to think that soft power is something that you can get if you could spend a lot of money on it, Confucius Institutes, those sorts of things.  From my understanding of soft power, it is actually the moral example that a country exerts through the way in which it engages with the rest of the world but, even more importantly, the way in which it behaves at home.  Thomas Jefferson's idea of the light on the hill as being a force which attracts naturally others by virtue of - yes, certainly its wealth and its influence but also its moral goodness, its just sheer attractiveness as a place in which to live.  That is precisely, I think, where China is vulnerable.  You cannot exert that sort of power unless you change things domestically.  I think China will have soft power when the numbers of people in the world who currently want to go to live in the United States want to go instead to live in China or, conversely, when hardly anybody in China wants to go to the US anymore.  They just want to stay at home.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
I'll put a similar question to you, Pradeep.  Does China wish to be loved for more than its money, not just respected or tolerated?

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, there was a perception amongst some China scholars that China doesn't really care about what the rest of the world thinks about China.  I think China cares deeply about what the rest of the world thinks about China.  That's why I think the Chinese are very keen to project the Chinese soft power.  There's been a great deal of emphasis, both by the Chinese Government and Chinese academics.  In fact, Joseph Nye, who is the chief sort of theorist on the soft power, was recently in China.  He went on a lecture tour of a number of Chinese universities.  So the Chinese are keen to project soft power.  But the problem, I think, is with their understanding of what soft power means, as Richard just said.  There is an idea that soft power is something that can be just pushed by the Government.  One of Richard's colleagues at ANU, Peter Van Ness, in fact, once wrote that China has negative soft power.  In other words, China has an image problem.  Until China is able to change that China is unlikely to have a great deal of soft power.  I don’t necessarily share the view that China has negative soft power.  I think China does have many values which are practised in other parts of at least Asia.  China's cultural achievements are not to be undermined by any means.  But, at the same time, I think the Chinese Government is not particularly good at making a distinction between China's traditional values, what's liked about China by the rest of the world and what China stands for now.  In other words - what the Chinese Communist Party has done over the last 60 something years.  And one classical example is, you know, earlier we were having this discussion about this century of humiliation, this idea that China has been humiliated by colonial powers in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century.  But, at the same time, everyone knows what happened during the Great Leap Forward, during the Cultural Revolution.  China seeks apology.  The Chinese Communist Party seeks apology from Japan and from other major powers who are supposed to have inflicted, you know, humiliation on China.  At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party has never apologised to the Chinese people for what happened during the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution.  Individuals are blamed.  But the party itself has never taken responsibility for, you know, the atrocities committed during those two campaigns.

RICHARD RIGBY
Yes, the problem is distinguishing between the China as the party state that we've known since 1949 and China as China.  I think there is no question, but, that China, as a civilisation, has enormous soft power, if you like.  The influence of it as one of the great human civilisations...

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Cultural prestige?

RICHARD RIGBY
Its cultural prestige is enormous.  And you know, one of the more positive things that's going on in China at the moment is a revival of interest in traditional Chinese culture, traditional Chinese values.  This is somewhat ambiguous.  At one level it's run by the State for its state-owned interest.  On another level it is a genuine bottom up return interest in revival of the tradition.  Then again, it's a very ambiguous tradition which has both strongly statist elements but also quite anarchic and humanly liberating elements as well.  Now, those things are very attractive.  But that is not what the party state is seeking to inculcate as what they understand to be China's soft power.  For them truly, you know, "L'...tat, c'est moi" the State is us, the Communist Party.  We are China.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Gentlemen, thank you very much.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Thank you, Eric.

RICHARD RIGBY
Thank you very much.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
We've been talking about China and its foreign policy drivers with historian, Professor Richard Rigby, executive director of Australia National University's China Institute, and political scientist, Dr Pradeep Tanja, of the University of Melbourne's School of Social and Political Sciences.  Relevant links, a full transcript of this and all our episodes can be found at our website at http://upclose.unimelb.edu.au.  Up Close is a production of the University of Melbourne, Australia.  This episode was recorded on the 30 May 2012 and produced by Kelvin Param and me, Eric van Bemmel.  Audio engineering by Gavin Nebauer.  Up Close is created by me and Kelvin Param.Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, goodbye.

VOICEOVER
You've been listening to Up Close.  We're also on Twitter and Facebook.  For more info visit http://upclose.unimelb.edu.au.  Copyright 2012, the University of Melbourne.


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