Conclusions: Beijing's power and China's borders
China has more neighbors, and thus boundary treaties with more countries, than any other state, a situation that is rich with opportunities for conflict as well as mutually beneficial exchange. Geography has positioned China’s neighbors at the “front line” of Beijing’s rising power. This book examines China, and particularly its rise, through the lens of its interactions with its immediate, and in some cases not so obviously immediate, neighbors.
A challenging geography and complex geopolitics are not unique to China. Other large countries often placed in the same category, the so-called BRICs—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—have sprawling territories and multiple international boundaries. Russia, like China, has fourteen land neighbors, though it has fewer maritime neighbors (four, rather than China’s six). India has eleven neighbors. Brazil has ten. By contrast, the mainland of the United States has just two land neighbors, even while its islands in the Pacific border on many more. A distinction can, however, be drawn as China’s economy is far larger than that of Russia, India, or Brazil, and Beijing’s impact on its neighbors, indeed on the world, continues to be significantly greater. Ongoing border claims and counter-claims can be expected to have a major impact on the extent and durability of China’s power, both in its region and on the world stage.