Since opining up its economy in 1978, then joining the WTO in 2001, China’s economic development has been quick and robust. Its role on the international economic stage has become more and more important ever since. As the world’s second largest economy, with regional economic integration being important in the global economic system, China has not only aggressively participated in the global economic system and related organizations, but has also attempted to take a leading position in order to set the agenda of global economic or at least regional economic rules, instead of being just a follower. That’s the only way that China could exert its real influence in the operation of the global economic system, that is to say to make sure it’s in China’s best interest.
Geographically, China is close to Southeast Asian countries. Both sides have engaged in trade activities for ages. Apart from Singapore and Brunei, which possess a relatively high GDP per capita, most ASEAN members are at a similar stage of economic development, and share a similar industrial structure with China. This is why ASEAN has become the best testing ground for regional economic integration. Since China signed an FTA with ASEAN (10+1), it has been trying to dominate the recent RCEP negotiations which ostensibly center around ASEAN. These movements are very important for China’s economic strategy. Starting with the economic integration from ASEAN, whose signatories share a similar economic structure and geographic proximity, China intends to further integrate itself economically with Northeast Asia, the Pan-Pacific region, or even territories farther afield in the future. The strategy China has adopted is quite practical.
Being the largest global economy, the US has undergone some major events such as the 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent wars, the 2008 financial crisis, and its recent “pivot towards Asia” policy and TPP negotiations. These major events have truly affected China’s strategy towards 10+1 and RCEP with ASEAN, so it’s meaningful to study which lessons China might take from its interactions with the US and other regional economies via its participation in the RCEP negotiation process.
This thesis adopts a framework of “Neoclassical Realism” to compare China’s strategies on the 10+1 and RCEP respectively through documentary analysis. The analysis will be focused on China’s leaders’ policy-making process and related implementations, the first step in the 10+1, then trying to dominate the RCEP under shifting international conditions. The analysis also presents China’s interactions with the US and its stance on the TPP, and will suggest how these interactions might shape its global economic strategy in the future. My findings are as follows: at the early stage of 10+1, Sino-American cooperation was more pronounced than competition; throughout the negotiations for the RCEP, it has become apparent that competition is now more pronounced than cooperation. In the future, China hopes to maintain a big power relationship with the US where cooperation and competition coexist peacefully.