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  • Author: John Mueller
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: China, even if it rises, does not present much of a security threat to the United States. Policymakers increasingly view China’s rapidly growing wealth as a threat. China currently ranks second, or perhaps even first, in the world in gross domestic product (although 78th in per capita GDP), and the fear is that China will acquire military prowess commensurate with its wealth and feel impelled to carry out undesirable military adventures. However, even if it continues to rise, China does not present much of a security threat to the United States. China does not harbor Hitler‐​style ambitions of extensive conquest, and the Chinese government depends on the world economy for development and the consequent acquiescence of the Chinese people. Armed conflict would be extremely—even overwhelmingly—costly to the country and, in particular, to the regime in charge. Indeed, there is a danger of making China into a threat by treating it as such and by engaging in so‐​called balancing efforts against it. Rather than rising to anything that could be conceived to be “dominance,” China could decline into substantial economic stagnation. It faces many problems, including endemic (and perhaps intractable) corruption, environmental devastation, slowing growth, a rapidly aging population, enormous overproduction, increasing debt, and restive minorities in its west and in Hong Kong. At a time when it should be liberalizing its economy, Xi Jinping’s China increasingly restricts speech and privileges control by the antiquated and kleptocratic Communist Party over economic growth. And entrenched elites are well placed to block reform. That said, China’s standard of living is now the highest in its history, and it’s very easy to envision conditions that are a great deal worse than life under a stable, if increasingly authoritarian, kleptocracy. As a result, the Chinese people may be willing to ride with, and ride out, economic stagnation should that come about—although this might be accompanied by increasing dismay and disgruntlement. In either case—rise or demise—there is little the United States or other countries can or should do to affect China’s economically foolish authoritarian drive except to issue declarations of disapproval and to deal more warily. As former ambassador Chas Freeman puts it, “There is no military answer to a grand strategy built on a non‐​violent expansion of commerce and navigation.” And Chinese leaders have plenty of problems to consume their attention. They scarcely need war or foreign military adventurism to enhance the mix. The problem is not so much that China is a threat but that it is deeply insecure. Policies of threat, balance, sanction, boycott, and critique are more likely to reinforce that condition than change it. The alternative is to wait, and to profit from China’s economic size to the degree possible, until someday China feels secure enough to reform itself.
  • Topic: Government, GDP, Geopolitics, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Claire Young
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Australia’s interests in Antarctica are better served by the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) than anything we could negotiate today. We should redouble our commitment to its ideals of science-driven, rules-based management — and counter the narrative of ATS ‘failure’. China is pushing the boundaries of ATS practice by exploiting fisheries and tourism, and probably seeking access to Western technologies in Antarctica. And in the future, Beijing could lead a coalition of states seeking mineral riches that only China is likely to be capable of retrieving. Australia should watch China’s activities closely, but react cautiously. We should be wary of false analogies with the Arctic and not overreact to marginal military developments. We should shield the ATS from Australia–China tension and US–China competition.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Treaties and Agreements, Natural Resources, Tourism, Geopolitics, Fishing, Coalition
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia, Arctic
  • Author: M. Patrick Hulme, Tai Ming Cheung
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC)
  • Abstract: Growing distrust in East Asia, especially in the security arena, is increasingly critical as new and long-standing hotspots— including the Taiwan strait, Korean peninsula, East China Sea, and South China Sea—become more volatile. The need for confidence-building measures is clear, and a central tool of confidence building is defense transparency. The Defense Transparency Index (DTI), a project of the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, ranks six countries on their efforts to promote transparency in defense and national security, including the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea, and the major external powers most involved in the region—the United States and Russia.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Geopolitics, Transparency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, Taiwan, East Asia, Asia, North Korea, Korea, East China, United States of America
  • Author: Luke Patey, Elizabeth Wishnick
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
  • Abstract: From its Belt and Road Initiative linking Asia and Europe, to its "Made in China 2025" strategy to dominate high-tech industries, to its significant economic reach into Africa and Latin America, China is rapidly expanding its influence around the globe. Many fear that China's economic clout, tech innovations, and military power will allow it to remake the world in its own authoritarian image. But despite all these strengths, a future with China in charge is far from certain. Rich and poor, big and small, countries around the world are recognizing that engaging China produces new strategic vulnerabilities to their independence and competitiveness. Researching the book took Dr. Patey to East Africa, Latin America, Europe, and East Asia over the past five years and he will discuss how countries in these parts of the world are responding to China’s rise and assertiveness. This event was cosponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the APEC Study Center and the Columbia Harvard China and the World Program at Columbia University.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, Geopolitics, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Jason Po-Nien Chen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
  • Abstract: This talk was composed of three main sections. First, Dr. Chen introduced the DPP's evolving cross-Strait policy by breaking it down into three respective phrases:1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. Then he explained why the party changed from championing independence versus unification in 1990s; intraparty power struggle between de facto and de jure independence in 2000s; and reach the current position of "opposition to de facto unification under one China" rather than "pursuit of Taiwan de jure independence" in 2010s. Second, he shared his research finding and understanding regarding the DPP's view towards the status quo of cross-Strait relations. Third, he discussed the change and continuity of the DPP's position towards sovereignty and cross-Strait relations. Jason Chen has served in different positions in the Democratic Progressive Party for years mainly covering the party's external relations including cross-Strait relations and national security. His last position with the DPP was advisor (Section of National Security) in New Frontier Foundation, the DPP's think tank.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Geopolitics, Domestic politics, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia
  • Author: Billy Agwanda
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Rest: Journal of Politics and Development
  • Institution: Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN)
  • Abstract: During the last two decades, key reforms in social, economic, and political structures have elevated Turkey into a rising regional power. In the Middle East, the increasing influence of Turkey for a better part of the last two decades has been reinforced by its humanitarian oriented foreign policy. Whereas this transformation is extensively attributed to the reform agenda by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the last decade has proved to be challenging for Turkey’s foreign policy stance. Regional dynamics, such as the Syrian civil war, Qatar crisis, and the Kurdish question, have influenced Turkey to gradually shift from its previous subtle to a more assertive foreign policy. Additionally, the frequent domestic political challenges and economic pressure on the AKP government have only pushed Turkey further towards a more assertive Middle East foreign policy. This article examines how regional and domestic political developments are influencing Turkish foreign policy approach. The analysis will attempt to provide a comprehensive perspective on why Turkish geopolitical engagement and an increasingly assertive foreign policy that is characterised by unilateralism particularly in the pursuit of national and regional security is leading to its isolation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Domestic politics, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Contemporary analysis of Eastern Mediterranean geopolitics tends to focus on the discovery of offshore hydrocarbons, and how a desire to maximize commercial profits has spurred a realignment of regional interests. There is similar emphasis on how this realignment pushed some Eastern Mediterranean states into conflict with one another over maritime boundaries and drilling rights. But while natural gas pipelines may dominate political and analytical discourse, there are other infrastructure projects that deserve attention and shed further light on the region’s evolution and Israel’s role in this transitionary period. One example to support this claim is the EuroAsia Interconnector, an ambitious infrastructure project that intends to connect the European electrical grid via undersea cable from Greece to Cyprus, and Israel. Few in Israel are familiar with the interconnector. Unlike the much-publicized EastMed pipeline, the interconnector garners little attention. Ironically, there is a greater chance that the interconnector – whose cable would run along a similar route as the EastMed pipeline – will successfully link Israel and Europe in the Eastern Mediterranean, and not the more recognizable natural gas project.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Gas
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: Valerie Niquet
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: To Japanese authorities, there is no such thing as the “Senkaku question”. China is pursuing with increased assertiveness a strategy of coercion, using ambiguity and “grey zone” operations to put the onus of potential escalation on Tokyo.1 The vague and ambiguous nature of this strategic power play makes it all the more dangerous and complex. When Tokyo proclaims, with reason, that “the government continues to control and administer the territory by such means as patrolling and law enforcement,” it seeks to answer the permanent pressure that China exerts in the zone.2 However, the maintenance of the status quo, when China exerts an almost continuous pressure in the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands and Japanese fishermen do not have access to part of Japan’s own national territory, poses other types of problems that the People’s Republic of China tries to exploit at the service of broader ambitions. It also poses a challenge in crisis management: how can the Japanese government be active and in control of situational developments, and not just reactive, without going as far as sparking a major incident in the East China Sea?
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia
  • Author: Masaaki Yatsuzuka
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: There is no question that China's presence in the Middle East is growing significantly. Will China continue to deepen its involvement in the region and play a role in shaping the regional order, taking the place of the United States? In other words, will China practice major power diplomacy in the Middle East? The view among researchers in China and elsewhere1 over this question is divided. To categorize their arguments into two camps, there is a cautious engagement theory that warns against the risk of getting caught up in the turmoil in the Middle East and recommends (or predicts) that China protect its economic interests while maintaining political neutrality vis-à-vis the Middle East as it has done so far. On the other hand, there is an active engagement theory advocating (or foreseeing) that China deepen its engagement, proactively participate based on the responsibility of a major world power in solving problems in the Middle East, and actively propose its own ideas in order to protect Chinese interests in the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Andrew Yeo
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: This paper addresses the U.S.-South Korea alliance in the context of Asia’s evolving security architecture. At the crux of the issue is the Biden administration’s desire to uphold the rules-based international order by reinforcing the network of inter-Asia alliances and multilateral institutions, on one hand, and the Moon government’s relative reluctance to deepen and expand security ties linked to an Indo-Pacific strategy that counter-balances China, on the other hand. Leveraging the existing alliance relationship, the Biden administration should encourage Seoul to coordinate with other like-minded countries committed to sustaining a rules-based regional order while assisting Seoul in mitigating potential strategic vulnerabilities. Conversely, as a middle power, South Korea must not shy away from the region’s security architecture, but instead actively coordinate with other actors in shaping the region’s strategic environment. By working in concert with other countries in the Indo-Pacific, Seoul can reduce its geopolitical vulnerability while advancing its national and regional interests.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Craig S. Faller
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Project 2049 Institute
  • Abstract: The Project 2049 Institute is pleased to announce the publication of remarks made by Admiral Craig Faller at our recent event, “Near and Present Danger: SOUTHCOM Commander ADM Faller on U.S.-China Strategic Competition in the Western Hemisphere.” In his remarks, Admiral Faller addresses the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ambitions in Latin America and the Caribbean, from both an economic and strategic perspective, which support its pursuit of global dominance and the imposition of authoritarian values on international institutions. In addition, Admiral Faller highlights SOUTHCOM’s recent activities in the Western Hemisphere and suggests a practical framework to develop and sustain trusted partnerships in the region that will promote democratic values in the face of CCP coercion.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Authoritarianism, Geopolitics, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Rafał Lisiakiewicz
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Nowa Polityka Wschodnia
  • Institution: Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
  • Abstract: Th e article presents an idea of the possible Russian - Chinese strategic economic partnership at the beginning of the 21st century. Th e author indicates the main factors infl uencing Russian Federation foreign policy towards China from the perspective of a neoclassical realism.Th e author stands that according to J. Rosenau, the main factors determining the Russian foreign policy are idiosyncratic and role. Th en he analyses the Russian documents of foreign policy, economic data and geopolitical ideas. On that ground, he makes a simple analyse using the neoclassical realism model, that’s integrates Foreign Policy Analyse and International Relations Th eory, joining independent and intervening variables, to support the article’s hypotheses. Th at hypotheses say that, fi rstly, Th e Peoples Republic of China (PRC) plays a role of diversifi cation of Russia’s international economic ties; and secondly, Th e PRC status as a Russia’s strategic partner is at issue, despite the official declarations of both sides.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Partnerships, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Ketian Zhang
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: China’s coercive behavior in the post–Cold War period suggests three patterns. First, China uses coercion when it wants to establish a reputation for resolve. Second, China has been a cautious bully, resorting to coercion only infrequently. Third, when China perceives the “geopolitical backlash cost” of military coercion to be high, it chooses instead to use sanctions and grayzone coercion. (“Geopolitical backlash cost” refers here to the possibility that the target state will seek to balance against China, with the potential for U.S. military involvement.) When China perceives the geopolitical backlash cost to be low, it is more likely to use military coercion.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Power Politics, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South China Sea
  • Author: Vincent Artman
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The ecological dimensions of the death of the Aral Sea are fairly well known. Once the fourth largest lake in the world, the Aral has all but disappeared since 1960. The complex and fragile ecosystems that once characterized the Aral Sea basin have been supplanted by the parched landscape of the Aralkum Desert, leading to a dramatic collapse of biodiversity. Desertification, in turn, has profoundly altered the regional climate, for the absence of the sea’s moderating influence has resulted in drier, hotter summers and more frigid winters.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Energy Policy, Environment, Water, Geopolitics, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Kazakhstan, Asia, Aral Sea
  • Author: Dario Cristiani
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In September 2019, the once anti-establishment Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle – M5S) agreed to enter a ruling alliance with the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico – PD).[1] By establishing this “yellow-red” coalition government with what was considered its political nemesis, the M5S managed to preserve its presence in power and avoid early elections. However, its influence gradually weakened, as attested to by poor performances in local elections. The M5S’s declining political fortunes and the changing composition of the government have a significant foreign policy dimension, especially if addressed through the lens of Italy–US relations. The PD is a solidly pro-Atlanticist party in Italy. The M5S, despite its evolution towards greater pragmatism over the years, remains a source of concern, being still perceived as the most pro-China actor within the Italian political landscape.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Geopolitics, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, United States of America
  • Author: Bart Gaens, Ville Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The United States and China are posited to be at the epicenter of an emerging and – by most accounts – intensifying rivalry. This report delves into the theoretical underpinnings as well as the geostrategic and geo-economic dynamics driving this great-power competition. It explores future prospects for contestation and engagement in key issue areas, such as arms control, trade and sanctions. The chapters in this volume also examine the Indo-Pacific as the immediate regional frontline of the unfolding great-power contest and explore the role that Europe has to play in this game. As the world is crossing the threshold into a new age of great-power competition, the debate on the US-China rivalry reveals the complex and contested nature of the meanings, causes, policy implications and future prospects of what is set to become the “new normal” in global politics.
  • Topic: Hegemony, Geopolitics, Conflict, Rivalry
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America
  • Author: Sardar Aziz
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When I moved into new accommodations in the centre of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, the lift announcements in the apartment tower were in Chinese, followed by Kurdish, Arabic and English. This multilingualism was surprising but positive; it was a clear sign of the dawn of a new era. If in the past, Kurdish was the local language, Arabic regional, and English global, the addition of Chinese signified the plurality of global language and, potentially, of global power. These days, there is a regional focus on Iran’s newly announced 25 year deal with China, which has resulted in a lot of noise both inside and outside Iran. It is not surprising that Sino–Iranian relations are continuing to develop as both countries are hoping for a different world order. Though not so scrutinized, Iraq has seen its own growing ties with China, with the two countries having signed a number of agreements last year. Former Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi, once a Maoist himself, stated in his visit to Beijing ‘we belong to Asia and we want to be a part of its emergence.’ The large Iraqi delegation accompanying him—as told to me by one member of the delegation—all noted and admired what they saw as China’s shift from a poor country to a global power. The deal agreed upon during that meeting, in remaining secret, has created fertile ground for conspiracy and speculations inside Iraq.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Iraq, Middle East, Asia, Kurdistan
  • Author: Kevjin Lim
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Beijing has steadily become Tehran’s economic ventilator, diplomatic prop, and military enabler, and the Iranians need this backstop now more than ever. When the coronavirus spun out of control in Wuhan this January, Iran ignored the example of many other countries and continued to maintain direct flights and open borders with China. Even after President Hassan Rouhani’s government suspended all such flights on January 31, Mahan Air—a company affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—kept flying between Tehran and four first-tier Chinese cities, leading many to allege that the airline was instrumental in introducing or at least exacerbating Iran’s raging epidemic. Whatever the truth behind these allegations, Mahan’s policy is symptomatic of a larger geopolitical reality: Tehran has become profoundly, disproportionately, and perhaps irretrievably dependent on Beijing, despite its own revolutionary opposition to reliance on foreign powers. Where diplomatic and economic sanctions have fallen short, the pandemic has succeeded in isolating the Islamic Republic like never before, compelling it to keep its borders to China open. COVID-19 has also dispelled the notion that Iran’s heavily-sanctioned “resistance economy” still suffices to keep the country solvent. The government has conceded that staying afloat would be impossible if it curtailed cross-border trade, shut down industries, and quarantined entire cities. The crisis is so severe that Iran’s Central Bank has for the first time in decades requested billions of U.S. dollars in assistance from the IMF. Indeed, according to Deputy Health Minister Reza Malekzadeh, whenever his colleagues questioned why China flights continue, bilateral economic relations were among the reasons given. Two days after the government’s ban on such flights, Chinese ambassador Chang Hua tweeted that Mahan CEO Hamid Arabnejad wanted to continue cooperating with Beijing. Neither man specified exactly what this meant, but the implied message to Tehran was clear given China’s resentment of travel bans. Meanwhile, the Iranian Students News Agency, Tabnak, and other domestic media criticized Mahan for prioritizing profit margins over public health.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: China has embarked on a grand journey west. Officials in Beijing are driven by aspirations of leadership across their home continent of Asia, feelings of being hemmed in on their eastern flank by U.S. alliances, and their perception that opportunities await across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean. Along the way, their first stop is South Asia, which this report defines as comprising eight countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—along with the Indian Ocean (particularly the eastern portions but with implications for its entirety). China’s ties to the region are long-standing and date back well before the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Alliance, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, South Asia, India, Asia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives
  • Author: Laura Barber
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Sudan's decades-long economic relationship with China has almost always been dominated by oil. Yet this relationship has changed significantly in the past decade—first with the loss of oil reserves when South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011, and more recently due to the ouster of longtime ally President Omar al-Bashir. This report, based on interviews with policy officials, diplomats, industry and security experts, and others, examines China’s evolving commercial and political interests in this vital nation in the Horn of Africa.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Geopolitics, Conflict, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Sudan, Asia