”How do you deal toughly with your banker?” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, referring to China, asked then Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd in March 2009, according to US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
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Party leaders were evidently pleased with what they described in their main annual meeting as China’s ”marked rise in international status and influence”. Beyond exploiting the domestic propaganda value, however, they struggled to find ways to put China’s new-found power to good use.
Throughout 2010, the leadership appeared to lurch from underestimating its power to overestimating it. The signs of overreach were most evident in the geopolitical realm. Beijing showed a new willingness to throw its weight around in pursuit of narrowly defined self-interest, which generated an acute sense of unease among many of China’s neighbours. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, India and Vietnam have responded by inviting the United States to re-establish its diplomatic and military primacy in the region, despite Chinese protests.