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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: Charles Dunst
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s close relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has led scholars and policymakers alike to suggest that Beijing’s backing will keep him in power. While Hun Sen himself seems to believe this to be true, his reliance on China is actually enflaming Cambodian discontent to such an extent that his planned patrimonial succession is at risk. Given the fragility of regimes mid-succession, Hun Sen’s Chinese shelter is augmenting the potential of his clan’s fall. Yet as Hun Sen faces increased domestic opposition, he will only further deepen ties with China in hopes of remaining in power, thereby creating a vicious cycle from which escaping will prove difficult.
  • Topic: International Relations, Power Politics, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Cambodia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Miriam Heß
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The European Union should actively address the problematic use of counterterrorism by non-European states – especially Russia – and make it a permanent aspect in developing counterterrorism strategies and agendas. Failing to address the misuse of counterterrorism sends the wrong signal not only to those with reason to fear geopolitical interference by their countries of origin, but also to states that pursue “anti-terrorist-operations” in the form of abductions and executions abroad.
  • Topic: European Union, Counter-terrorism, Geopolitics, Risk
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Markus Jaeger
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The Biden administration has just issued its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The guidance document states the need to “build back better at home” and acknowledges that “international economic policies must serve all Americans” – a theme often referred to as “foreign policy for the middle class”. While the interim guidance does not preclude cooperation with China in selected policy areas, it is unambiguous in considering China a strategic competitor. The prospect of intensifying China-US geopolitical and (geo)economic competition is bad news for Germany, which has high value trading and investment relationships with both countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, National Security, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a military parade in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku on December 10 to celebrate Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the war over the Karabakh region that ended with the Russia-brokered armistice on November 9-10. The Russian historian, Andrey Zubov, describes the Baku parade as an occasion “rather to celebrate the birth of a new geopolitical alliance than the victory over Armenia”1 . Following the parade, Russia imposed a ban on tomato imports from Azerbaijan in its flagship manner and Russian peacekeepers attempted to do something around the town of Shusha in Karabakh resembling what they have done in Georgia: “borderization”. Azerbaijani state TV, other media outlets and public figures widely and explicitly condemned such behavior of the Russian peacekeepers as a jealous response to the parade demonstration of Armenia’s Russian-made weapons and military equipment captured by the Azerbaijani armed forces or destroyed using Turkish-made Bayraktar drones . Erdogan and the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, watched Turkish soldiers march alongside with Azerbaijanis on the central streets of Baku to the joy of local residents who took to the streets despite the COVID-19 related restrictions in order to salute them. This scene shows a major Russian weakness vis-àvis Turkey in Azerbaijan. Unlike Moscow, whose perception in Azerbaijan is controversial, Ankara enjoys nation-wide support. Recently leaked Russian secret files reveal that it is much more difficult for Moscow to develop proRussian civil society organizations and soft power instruments in Azerbaijan than even in staunchly pro-Western Georgia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, France, Georgia, South Caucasus
  • Author: Benyamin Poghosyan
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The 2020 Karabakh war has significantly shifted the geopolitics of the South Caucasus. Armenia suffered a tough defeat while the non-recognized Republic of Artsakh (Republic of Nagorno Karabakh) lost almost 80 percent of its territories. Azerbaijan won a decisive victory and took not only territories outside of the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) but 30 percent of NKAR itself. The November 10 trilateral statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia not only stopped the war in Karabakh but ushered in a new era in regional geopolitics.1 The key features of the new status quo are the increased role of Russia and Turkey and the significant reduction of Western involvement. However, the South Caucasus is far away from stability and, most probably, volatility will continue. We will seek to analyze the main interests of the key regional and external players and what may play out in a short/mid-term perspective.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Geopolitics, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Erekle Iantbelidze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The transfer of the international political reality to a new multi-polar prism makes geopolitics, as one of the directions of interdisciplinary education, more important in the current situation. The development of digital and scientific technologies has moved the phenomenon of the balance of power to a new stage and for a number of states and intergovernmental organizations, the term geopolitics has become the flagship of security strategy, cultural domination and democratic processes. In terms of the new “geopolitical commission,” the action plan of Ursula von der Leyen rests on two main principles – Europe’s climate and digital transition (European Parliament, 2020). Therefore, in the conditions of a war of values, geopolitics and digitalization, technological development has become a super-important component that the European Union is attempting to bring to the forefront as it wrestles with the world’s foremost states (China, India, Russia, Turkey). As the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, stated, Europe must not become a playground for other great powers and it must take the role of a geopolitical leader in the world (Barigazzi, 2019). It must also be pointed out that the geopolitical nature of Europe also envisages the development and gradual expansion of its neighborhood policy. That said, the associated partners within the Eastern Partnership (EaP) format (Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine) have bigger ambitions and goals than the development of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and the full implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) (European Commission, 2019).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, European Union, Geopolitics, Free Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • 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: Courtney Weatherby
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has re-centered discussion of geopolitical competition in Asia around infrastructure. Responding both to BRI and the region’s well-known infrastructure gap, the United States has launched efforts to unlock US private investment for infrastructure. Japan’s engagements in the region emphasize high-quality infrastructure and best practices (an implicit criticism of China’s sometimes less rigorous standards). The foreign policy approaches of the United States and Japan dovetail nicely and have led to many new initiatives and institutional partnerships, as well as the quality-focused Blue Dot Network. But despite the two countries’ intentions to work collaboratively, their efforts have been held back by differences in organizational practices, the lengthy overhaul of US financing, and a lack of immediate movement from US-Japan consortia. For now, a less ambitious approach of closely coordinating technical assistance and conditional funding on proposed projects may serve as a model for closer US-Japan collaboration as efforts mature.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Bilateral Relations, Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Renewable Energy, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, United States of America