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'Washington can't be a counter-balancing force against China'


SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | New Delhi, April 26, 2012 14:28
Tags : Mark Zavadskiy | Chief Asia Correspondent | interview |

Mark Zavadskiy works as a Chief Asia Correspondent for the Russian business weekly Expert. He has been based in Hong Kong and China for the past seven years and his articles have appeared in many Russian media outlets including Russian Newsweek, GEO, BBC Russian and Izvestia. In an interview with Saurabh Kumar Shahi, he talks about the Asian economic scenario 

You have been closely following the IndoChina and East Asian region for quite sometime now. What prospects, as a business journalist, do you see in this region in the coming decade?
Most of this decade and the last, has largely been about the China story for many observers and journalists including me. When you are based in China, it’s very easy to forget about other countries that look so small and insignificant compared to this Asian giant – both in terms of territory, population and economic performance as well. Now we are witnessing the end of the China story and the beginning of the Asian saga. The rebalancing of the global economic system towards the East is still in place but now more dispersed – companies that used to focus on China exclusively are increasingly looking towards other countries both as production hubs and markets for their products. The implications are huge, especially for India which can be seen as the only possible rival to China in this region due to its vast territory and abundant population. India is using a very different economic model and obviously is not capable to execute a “China-style” rapid modernisation. But in the long run, the Indian strategy of sustainable economic development within the framework of a democratic society might be more successful. In fact, China is now approaching the limits of extensive growth. So it will be interesting to see if Beijing will be resorting to approaches already being used by other democratic Asian countries. 
There appears to be growing friction between China and countries like Vietnam due to territorial disputes. This has managed to offer the US some renewed footing in the region. What do you think the Chinese regime is doing to counter this? 
I believe that China is trying hard to use economic tools to bring Asian countries closer to itself. Let’s take an example of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. Basically China is Asia’s centre of gravitation, so it is really hard for smaller Asian economies to stop this trend. Obviously many of them would like to see the increased role of America in Asia as a counterbalancing force. But due to geographical constraints, it is hard for Washington to do that. 
Because of the exponential rise of China economically, it has acquired greater influence not jut in Asia but globally. This has prompted the West to play with the insecurities of neighbouring countries. How effective do you think this US-backed “China containment” policy will be in the coming years?
The effectiveness of this policy will depend a lot on the state of the Chinese and US economies. You could play the ideological game way back in the 20th century but that doesn’t really work these days. America has to offer something if it wants China to look beyond the ocean. With the US market shrinking and that of China expanding, circumstances are favouring the latter. But I think that many Asian countries would be happy to play on the differences brewing between China and America to gain something out of it. 
Russia and China are both members of the ‘BRIC’ bloc. Both these economies maintain a healthy relationship with one another along with the ASEAN bloc as far as bilateral trade is concerned. Can we see some sort of convergence between the two countries while they take on west dominating financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF?
BRICs just had a summit in India and it showed that these countries are quite serious about pursuing their goals as a bloc. Basically they want to tackle the “old guys” with new institutions like BRICs Bank and others. They are sending a very clear signal to the established powers – “please let us be part of the decision making mechanisms otherwise we will just find out alternatives”. The coming two or three years will show how this story unfolds. Russia’s position within this bloc is very similar to its position among the developed countries where Russia finds it hard to play a leading role. The BRIC bloc is dominated by China for obvious reasons, but even a comparison with India and Brazil does not make Russia a heavyweight. 
How do you see the dynamics of political and economic relationship between China and Taiwan evolving in times to come. Do you think that strong economic cooperation between the two countries can drive their political relations in the positive direction?
Yes and this is happening already. Over the last five years we have seen a lot of exchanges at various levels. But this can go on only to a certain point – Taiwan’s civil society will never agree to be part of China as it is now. If China goes through some transformational changes and becomes a democratic country with a political system similar to that of Taiwan, then the island might agree to become a part of China again. But of course we are not talking about the coming five to ten years. I don’t expect many changes over this period of time. I think economics will prevail over politics with the desire of maintaining the famous status-quo, even if it has different meanings for both sides.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017