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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: Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: In an atmosphere of heightened geostrategic competition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has raised questions about the risk of debt problems in less-developed countries. Such risks are especially worrying for the small and fragile economies of the Pacific. A close look at the evidence suggests that China has not been engaged in debt-trap diplomacy in the Pacific, at least not so far. Nonetheless, if future Chinese lending continues on a business-as-usual basis, serious problems of debt sustainability will arise, and concerns about quality and corruption are valid.There have been recent signs that both China and Pacific Island governments recognize the need for reform. China needs to adopt formal lending rules similar to those of the multilateral development banks, providing more favorable terms to countries at greater risk of debt distress. Alternative approaches might include replacing or partially replacing EXIM loans with the interest-free loans and grants that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce already provides.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Dominic Sachsenmaier
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Living through historically unprecedented times has strengthened the Toynbee Prize Foundation's commitment to thinking globally about history and to representing that perspective in the public sphere. In this multimedia series on the covid-19 pandemic, we will be bringing global history to bear in thinking through the raging coronavirus and the range of social, intellectual, economic, political, and scientific crises triggered and aggravated by it. Dominic Sachsenmaier, the President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, is Chair Professor of Modern China with a Special Emphasis on Global Historical Perspectives in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Göttingen. His expertise centers on global and transnational Chinese history, with a focus on Chinese concepts of society and multiple modernities, among other topics. He is co-editor of the Columbia University Press book series “Columbia Studies in International and Global History“ and an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.
  • Topic: Health, International Affairs, Geopolitics, Global Focus, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Roland Rajah, Alexandre Dayant, Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has not been engaged in debt trap diplomacy — at least not yet. China has not been the primary driver behind rising debt risks in the Pacific, although a continuation of business as usual would risk future debt problems in several countries. There is scope for a new Australian infrastructure financing facility to provide loans to the Pacific without causing debt problems, particularly as it has adopted key sustainable lending rules. Pacific nations have an opportunity to obtain more favourable financing from official development partners but care must be taken to avoid overly geopolitical aid.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: Paul Rivlin analyzes the economic background of China's involvement in the Middle East. Several key questions arise with respect to China’s economic involvement in the Middle East: What are China’s interests in the Middle East? How far are they dominated by its energy needs? How are they affected by its relations with the United States?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Foreign Direct Investment, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East
  • Author: Greg Colton
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Greater Australian engagement in the Pacific Islands region is needed if Canberra wants to ensure regional stability and underpin Australia’s national security. Inconsistent engagement by Australia, the United States, France and New Zealand in the Pacific Islands region has created space that non-traditional powers have exploited to engage with sovereign Pacific Island states. There is an increasing risk of geostrategic competition in the region, particularly with the growing influence of China and the economic leverage it holds over some indebted Pacific Island nations. The Australian Government should pursue a deliberate strategy of forging stronger links with its traditional partners in the region, and more equitable partnerships with its Pacific Island neighbours, if it is to underpin regional stability and strengthen Australia’s national security.
  • Topic: International Relations, National Security, Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, France, Australia, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Arthur Herman
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: There is certainly no denying that, in terms of trade and investment alone, the burgeoning economic partnership between Israel and China has at least the potential of transforming not only Israel itself but also Israel’s position vis-à-vis the rest of the Middle East—and most notably vis-à-vis Iran, which happens to be Beijing’s other key partner in the region. Inevitably, it could also have an impact on Israel’s relations with the United States. But is this a marriage made in heaven? Or is it something else? Weighing the answer to that question involves probing beneath the two countries’ currently successful dynamic of trade and commercial transactions to their respective geopolitical agendas. When it comes to Israel, the acknowledged junior partner, it also requires examining whether and how the relationship with China could become a dependency. Such a change might please Beijing, but it would impose on Israeli national security a new kind of vulnerability, one very different from the challenges it has faced successfully in the past.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, National Security, Bilateral Relations, Partnerships, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia
  • Author: Kevin Rudd
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Asia Society Policy Institute
  • Abstract: U.S.-China relations have now entered into a new structural phase. Officially, the Americans describe this as a change from 40 years of “strategic engagement” to a new period of “strategic competition.” The precise definition of strategic competition, as an operational rather than a declaratory strategy, has yet to fully emerge. But we would be foolish not to recognize that there has been a fundamental systemic shift in U.S. sentiment toward China
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Jenny Hayward- Jones
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The new O'Neill government faces a rapidly changing external environment as it struggles to manage a significant domestic economic downturn and unprecedented pressures on the national budget. Australia remains Papua New Guinea's closest foreign partner; by far its largest bilateral aid partner, trading partner and foreign investor, but its influence is diminishing as that of other actors is growing. China is an increasingly important player - as a trade partner, investor in infrastructure and source of foreign loans, as well as in the small to medium business sector. Relations with other Asian nations are expanding. Large foreign companies are exerting more influence on government policy than most nation state development and trade partners of Papua New Guinea can hope to exercise. These relationships are likely to come into sharper focus over the next year, as the PNG government prepares to host APEC in 2018. It is not clear that the new PNG government has the capacity to pursue the national interest abroad while it is preoccupied with a complex set of challenges at home.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, AustralAsia, Papua New Guinea