HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Central-eastern Asian state. The numerous disputes affecting the extended border perimeter of the China are favorably affected by the choice of the rulers of Beijing to credit their country as a ‘quiet great power’ on the international political front. Thus, even if the budget of the Ministry of Defense expands rapidly by virtue of the purchase of increasingly sophisticated war material, the signals sent to the countries of the region are mostly reassuring. In particular, for the archipelagos of the South China Sea (Paracelsus, Spratly, Macclesfield, Pratas), also claimed by other states bordering that sea, in 2002 China took the initiative to propose to the countries adhering to the) a common code of conduct, which neutralizes tensions. On the side of relations with Russia, the disputes, mostly related to the sovereignty of the territories along the Amur River, were settled with the agreements of 1997, in a new climate of collaboration with Moscow. The creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded in 2001, is also a product of this newfound harmony with Russia and the four former Soviet republics of Central Asia to resolve, among other things, border issues and to form a common front against the “threats of Islamic terrorism and separatism”. Collaboration with the Kremlin in defensive matters then went as far as experimenting with joint military maneuvers. Even along the border with North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of refugees flocking to China who have escaped the difficulties of that country, tensions are eased: in order to alleviate the situation, China has interposed its good offices to to favor the meeting between the rulers of Pyeongyang and those of Washington and to dilute the international measures against North Korean nuclear initiatives.
According to Calculatorinc, the most consistent territorial node remains, however, the claim made regarding the sovereignty of the island of Taiwan. The explosive potential increased when the exponents of the Taiwanese independence forces, who established themselves in the 2000 elections, went so far as to envisage a popular referendum that sanctioned the definitive proclamation of a state distinct from the old motherland. Subsequently, the rulers of Taipei mitigated this address; this has made it possible to intensify business relations with the mainland, gradually shifting the geo-economic fulcrum of the island towards the sphere of influence of China continental. The same propensity for a ‘soft’ recovery is thus emerging also towards Taiwan 20th century for Hong Kong and Macau.
The end of the twentieth century and the early years of the new century saw the People’s Republic of China (PRC) reaffirm and consolidate economic growth, openness to the outside world and rise in the regional and international fields. At the same time, evident signs of old and new problems appeared in various sectors, caused both by the breadth and depth of the reform process, and by the delays and shortcomings it highlighted, particularly in the political field and in that of state-society relations. and individual-state. At the same time, the rise of China provoked different and sometimes opposing reactions in the world: satisfaction with Beijing’s integration into international institutions, but also mistrust and even forms of protectionism towards the ‘Chinese challenge’. In this sense,it can be considered decidedly emblematic. At a distance of 10 years from the serious political and social crisis which culminated in the suppression of the ‘Beijing Spring’ (1989), China appeared as a country that had recovered a substantial stability inside and was able to regain a presence significant internationally. On the domestic front, the new leadership, centered on the binomial Jiang Zemin (at the top of the political-military system) and Zhu Rongji (at the head of the government), seemed to have consolidated their positions and ensured the country a stable and authoritarian leadership, considered indispensable especially after the disappearance of Deng Xiaoping. Among other things, the harsh repressive measures adopted in the spring and in the1999 against the Falun Gong sect, part of a wider preventive action against what the Chinese authorities considered as ‘dangerous cults’ or anyway potential threats to the established order.
In terms of international relations, two major themes dominated the scenario: trade agreements with the United States and the European Union (signed respectively in November 1999 and October 2000), which effectively opened the door to the PRC’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the political turning point in Taiwan. The agreements included a series of measures aimed at the gradual liberalization of some important sectors of the Chinese economy, and the commitment of Beijing to gradually reduce customs duties and eliminate quotas, licenses and subsidies to export sectors. These were decisions that offered significant advantages to the economy of China, in the sense of its greater integration into the world economy. The significant changes that took place in Taiwan had obvious implications for the PRC, which has always considered the island a ‘rebel province’, an integral part of Chinese territory. In March 2000, after more than 50 years, Guomintang) was defeated in the presidential election by the opposition (the Progressive Democratic Party), led by Chen Shui-bian (later confirmed to power in 2004). Chen’s victory was viewed with great concern by Beijing, as he was the leader of a party in which there was traditionally strong pressure towards the proclamation of independence from China, an event that Beijing considered unacceptable.