China and its Peripheries: Limited Objectives in Bhutan Emery Denson Author
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China’s objectives in Bhutan remains limited in the short term which partly explains its comparatively aggressive stance towards Bhutan till the 1960s. Of late, however, Beijing has displayed relative patient farsightedness in considering Bhutan as a small but important element of its South Asia policy framework. Like Nepal, Beijing has employed a mix of persuasion and coercion with Bhutan as well reminding the repercussions of siding with India. Of all the nations that border China, its comparison with Bhutan would appear to be a paradox. In comprehensive power terms, Bhutan is almost a nonentity to China. Bhutan’s biggest disadvantage is its geography that limits its connectivity to India in South and China in north with no access to sea or any other third country without using either Indian or Chinese land or airspace. Nevertheless, in the geopolitical context of today’s South Asia, Bhutan’s geography has strategic ramifications for both India and China. Bhutan forms one of the fingers of China’s five finger policy. China considers Tibet as the ‘palm consisting of five fingers policy’ namely, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. This exemplifies the importance of Bhutan in Chinese foreign policy. China has always been keen on maintaining good relations with its Asian neighbours – ‘periphery countries’ (zhoubian goujia). The peripheral policy forms the core of China’s external strategy. Relations with these countries help to avoid external instabilities that may cause any internal frictions. China needs a peaceful and stable periphery for its ‘Peaceful Development/Rise’. Today more than three fourth of Bhutan’s trade is with India unlike till the 1960s when Bhutan had a flourishing trade with Tibet. The closing of Bhutan’s Tibet trade and diversification of modern trade into new areas of commerce like tourism, industry and technology – areas where Bhutan lagged behind – has made Bhutan today an economically backward country. This is in complete contrast to the period even during the British domination when Bhutan served as a major trade point. The book seeks to explore and expose rhetoric and reality of the system, which claims to be democratic and participatory.


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