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Cooperation, competition and shaping the outlook: the United States and China’s neighbourhood diplomacy

International Affairs , Volume 92, No. 4, July 2016, pp.849-867.


  The United States has long maintained a significant political, economic and security presence in the Asia–Pacific region and has been a major factor shaping China's geopolitical and geo-economic environment. Over the last few years, China has demonstrably attached higher priority and devoted more resources to its neighbourhood diplomacy. This article examines the impact of the so-called ‘US factor’ on this recent shift in Beijing's international strategy under the new leadership of Xi Jinping. It looks at both cooperation/coordination and competition/conflict between China and the United States in a number of regional security issues in China's neighbourhood, such as in the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan and the South and East China Seas. It argues that it is principally the Obama administration's ‘rebalance to Asia’ strategy that has prompted China to take a number of initiatives to attend to its neighbourhood diplomacy. As Washington rebalances to Asia and Beijing rebalances to its neighbourhood, interactions between China and the US on China's periphery have intensified, which in turn has a significant impact on the configuration of China's neighbourhood diplomacy, as well as on the evolving regional order.