ISLAMABAD - Leading Chinese scholar, Prof Zhou Rong of the Chinese Guangming daily, said on Wednesday that China does not want war, but it does not fear war either to ensure its territorial sovereignty.

He was speaking at a discussion organised by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) on “China: An International Perspective” along with Mu Zongcong, Pakistan Bureau Chief of the Chinese People’s Daily.

Talking about the recent tension with Japan over the status of the disputed Diaoyu Island, Prof Zhou claimed that the island and its adjacent islets were historically part of China. He added that despite coming under Japanese control after the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the Japanese were obliged to return all such territories to China pursuant to the spirit of Cairo Declaration of 1943 and Postdam Proclamation of 1945. According to Prof Zhou, the islands were instead given under the trusteeship of the US under the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, which the Chinese never accepted.

Prof Zhou said that China had always attached great importance to its relations with Japan and that the people of both countries would suffer because of any confrontation over the issue of Diaoyu Island. He urged Japan to put this issue in the context of the broad contours of the cordial bilateral relations between the two countries and their common economic interests.  Mu Zongcong called the dispute a legacy of World War II, and added that the US had interest in the island because it is very close to China. He was of the view that the US wanted to challenge peaceful rise of China. He further said that the US was not only afraid of China’s growing power but also the potential challenge it posed to its dominance in the world economic order.

Prof. Zhou argued that some of the neighbouring countries try to take undue advantage of Chinese policy of peaceful rise and, thus, they sometimes tend to cross the red lines.

He added though that US policy of containing China might not necessarily lead to war.

Prof Zhou saw obvious contradictions in Indo-US partnership.

He was of the view that an independent pursuit of foreign policy on the part of India was likely to get in the way of its relations with the US. “India wants to be a regional United States, therefore, it can only play a partial role for the US,” said Prof Zhou. Mu maintained that China needed to further enhance its good relations with all neighbouring countries and also needed to help them economically in times of need. He added, however, that China still viewed itself as a developing country with large economic gaps to fill domestically, which was making it more inward looking.

Li Xiaohua, Vice President of China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC), also said that China believed in peaceful development based on non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. He expressed concerns over the announcement of the shift of US naval pivot towards the Pacific and its growing involvement in South China Sea.

Ashraf Azim President IRS said that the situation in Afghanistan was presenting new challenges for the region, and cautioned China against the growing U.S. interest in South China Sea. Azim was of the view that Pakistan and India needed to be assimilated fully into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Dr Shaheen Akhtar maintained that the U.S. wanted India to play a “rebalancing role in Asia Pacific.” She was of the view that Taliban might be willing to negotiate because they seemed incapable of dislodging the government in Afghanistan. She called for strengthening of trilateral dialogue between Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan.

Aarish Khan was not very optimistic about the security situation in Afghanistan beyond 2014 because of the ongoing insurgency and the internal weaknesses of Afghan government. Both the roundtables were widely attended by researchers from IRS.