Introduced: Huang Jing

December 2022

Huang Jing is an expert in foreign and security policy and focuses on China's foreign policy, the military, US-China relations and security issues in Asia-Pacific.

 

Huang_Jing2.jpg
Robert Bosch Academy/Frauendorf

What do you work on as a Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy?

While it is uncertain when and how the Russo-Ukraine war will end, it is certain that Russia will continue to impact on our life in a significant way. This is not only because of the enormous nuclear weapon arsenal Russia possesses, but because the key challenges Russia faces will remain – no matter how this war ends. 

Thus, I am at the Robert Bosch Academy to probe a field that is not really my expertise. But as an intellectual, it has such an irresistible appeal to me.  The way that post-Putin Russia will evolve, given the challenges Russians face in past decades. The most fundamental challenges to Russia are three imbalances: highly imbalanced distribution and utilization of resources; highly imbalanced economic development/structure; and highly imbalanced population distribution and migration.

I don’t pretend that I’ll find a solution to these challenges. I do believe, though, that these problems, unless addressed in a timely manner, will eventually take a disastrous toll on Russia and beyond.  My ambition is to locate the roots of these challenges and how exactly they are presented in Russia’s economic and political life. It will take meaningful international cooperation, not conflict, to overcome these challenges. The focus should be more on laying the groundwork for a stable, prosperous and civilized Russia rather than focusing on its ‘defeat’. After all, a stable Russia is essential for safeguarding peace and stability in Europe and beyond.

 

What are the most relevant issues in your field?

My field of study focuses on major power relations, and the US-China relationship in particular.  Nowadays, the overriding issue in this field is how the two great powers can manage to maintain a stable, or at least a manageable, relationship.  It is true that both President Biden and President Xi have promised that the two countries will not head into a cold war or a hot conflict. But the reality is that the Biden administration sees China as “the most consequential” challenger to the US and the US-led international order. It has thus pledged that the US will “outcompete” China with the support of its allies and partners. 

To achieve this goal, the US has endeavored to decouple with China economically (at least in the high-tech fields), contain China politically, and encircle China with superior military forces. Meanwhile, China appears increasingly assertive in international affairs, especially in the Asia Pacific region, and goes all out on its Belt and Road initiative, which Washington sees as a means to expand China’s influence, on the one hand, and revise the rule-based international order, on the other hand.

Essentially, this US-China competition is a facade, beneath which is a race between the two great powers to get its house in order.  After all, the most formidable challenges for both Washington and Beijing are from within. These internal challenges are fundamental drivers in policymaking in both countries.  As such, neither leadership can afford to appear compromising in the competition. 

The good news is that both the US-American and Chinese leaderships realize where the real challenges are.  While the Biden administration has prioritized “investment” at home so as to strengthen the US, President Xi has also repeatedly emphasized that first and foremost China needs to “do our own things well.” What is worrisome, however, is the possibility that the US-China competition evolves into a zero-sum rivalry. And the rise of nationalistic sentiment in China and political uncertainty in the US, caused by deep socio-political division and cutting-throat partisan politics, are particularly unhelpful in this regard.

 

How has the current war in Ukraine influenced China’s policy towards the so-called West?

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine is essentially an onslaught against the existing international order –– or, as Moscow puts it, the “West’s international order.”  This has put China in an uneasy situation, in which the Chinese leadership faces three questions. First, whether it should remain in the existing international order. From China’s perspective, the existing international order is supported by three pillars: 1) the political order institutionalized with the UN; 2) the economic and trade order structured on WTO, OECD, RECP, CPTPP, and so on; and 3) the financial order regulated by the World Bank and IMF.  These three pillars are all established on multilateral arrangements –– that’s why China upholds multilateralism in international affairs. As such, however, the US and its allies play an important and irreplaceable role in the establishment and maintenance of this order. 

This leads to the second question: whether the decline, especially a disorderly one, of the US, serves China’s interest; and third: whether China needs to maintain a stable, or at least manageable, US-China relationship.

A close look at the government documents and Chinese leaders’ speeches, especially the political report delivered by Xi at the recent 20th National Congress of the CPC, shows that China wants to stay in and, moreover, help to improve the existing international order. (Some argue that China wants to revise this order in its interests, but revisionism requires compromise rather than conflict, and it is a far cry from a revolution that seeks to destroy first.) In doing so, a fast decline of the US is undesirable for China and, therefore, China wants to maintain a stable, or at least manageable US-China relationship.

Thus, China has carefully maintained a “neutral” position (or in Putin’s words, “a balanced relationship”) in the Ukraine war. In general, China endeavors to engage the West, and the US in particular. It seeks to further integrate into the world market economy, and advocates “cooperative security” in an effort to establish a favorable security environment, especially in China’s surrounding areas.

 

What insights for your work are you expecting to gain during your fellowship?

I hope to find the roots of the challenges Russia faces and how exactly they are presented in Russia’s economic-political life. Specifically, I want to see why all efforts to address these issues, especially the highly imbalanced development of economy, has failed despite Russia’s extraordinarily rich natural resources and the industriousness of the Russian people. 

 

What makes Berlin and Germany relevant for your work?

Given that happenings in Russia have always had a profound impact to Germany’s political, economic, and social life, Berlin, after the reunification of Germany, has become the center of diplomatic, economic, social, educational, and humanitarian exchanges between Russia and Germany, and Europe in general. Not only are there top scholars and experts in Russia studies, but also rich literature and Russia-related events in Berlin.  Moreover, Berlin provides a researcher with an open, free-spirited, and collegial environment with both inspiration and sense of prudence.

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