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  • Introduction to the Special Section on China's Relations with Its Neighbors:Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Issues
  • Yafeng Xia (bio)

This edition of Asian Perspective features a special section on China's relations with its neighbors, following a full special issue on the topic (Asian Perspective, vol. 42, no. 4, 2018). This special section comprises three articles that offer a historical lens on China's contemporary relations with India, Burma, and Sri Lanka, respectively. Making use of archival documentation from the Chinese Foreign Ministry archives and the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Chaowu Dai explores the evolution of China's policy toward Sino-Indian border disputes. Dai argues that the People's Republic of China (PRC) attempted to peacefully resolve its border disputes with neighboring countries through negotiations. According to Dai, the PRC adopted this approach in resolving its border disputes with Burma, Nepal, and Pakistan prior to the Sino-Indian border clashes in 1959. He thus challenges the view of Indian and Western scholars that China was pursuing territorial expansion. Dai considers how ideology, domestic politics, and international politics affected Chinese leaders' perceptions and decisions as they handled the Sino-Indian border disputes. The author concludes by highlighting the lessons learned from the Cold War era interactions between China and India. He proposes that the important insights from history might help the two countries to finally reach a fair, reasonable, and mutually acceptable solution to their border issues.

For some time Chinese scholars have tended to view China's relations with neighboring countries from the Chinese perspective only. The limitations of such a one-sided approach are obvious. For one, it neglects how China's neighboring countries see their relations with China. It also tends to be colored by nationalist sentiments and thus fails to come to a deeper understanding of other countries' policies toward China. Hongwei Fan and Yizheng Zou redress the deficiency of this traditional approach through their case study of Burma/Myanmar–China [End Page 429] relations from Burma's perspective. The article examines the internal driving forces behind Burma's China policy reorientation during the formative period of its neutralist foreign policy, considering such factors as how Burma attempted to balance itself between the two confronting Cold War blocs. The authors argue that Burma successfully maintained its neutralism during the Cold War, and neutralism has thus become the hallmark in Burma's political and diplomatic traditions. The article points out that Burma's geographical location, its perception of China, its basic principles for managing its asymmetric relations with great powers, and its concept of security have shaped its foreign policy. These enduring and fundamental factors have constituted the substance of the Burmese foreign policy tradition and political culture and should form the basis for any scholarly examination of Burma's foreign policy. Together with Zhi Liang's article (Asian Perspective, vol. 42, no. 4, 2018, pp. 527–549), Fan and Zou offer a fuller understanding of China-Burma relations.

In the third article, Zhen Wang and Feng Ye explore the China–Sri Lanka relationship in the context of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative. The authors not only trace the history of the relationship between China and Sri Lanka but also take the Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port projects as case studies in order to analyze the opportunities and challenges in the context of the MSR. The authors argue that although Sri Lanka was located in the hub of Indian Ocean maritime transportation, in the 1970s and the 1980s during the economic take-off of numerous East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, it missed important development opportunities due to its outdated facilities as well as the Sri Lankan civil war. In the context of the MSR, with the help of China's investment and technology, Sri Lanka will, however, be able to upgrade its infrastructure, enhance its strategic position as a transportation hub in the Indian Ocean, and benefit from the continuous economic development in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, given China's excess production capacity, Sri Lanka is also expected to take the lead in international industrial transfers through domesticating and making good use of the MSR...


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pp. 429-434
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