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  • Author: Luke Patey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Much of Europe’s attention to Asia is currently being captured by China. However, if the European Union and its member states are serious about maintaining a rules-based global order and advancing multilateralism and connectivity, it should increase its work in building partnerships across Asia, particularly in the Indo-Pacific super-region. To save multilateralism, go to the Indo-Pacific. RECOMMENDATIONS: ■ Multilateralism first. Unpack and differentiate where the United States and China support the rules-based order and where not, but also look to new trade deals and security pacts with India and Southeast Asia partners. ■ Targeted connectivity. The EU should continue to offer support to existing regional infrastructure and connectivity initiatives. ■ Work in small groups. EU unanimity on China and Indo-Pacific policy is ideal, but not always necessary to get things done. ■ Asia specialists wanted. Invest in and develop career paths for Asia specialists in foreign and defence ministries and intelligence services.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Emerging Markets, International Organization, Science and Technology, Power Politics, European Union
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Camilla Tenna Nørup Sørensen
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: U.S.-China strategic rivalry is intensifying – and nowhere more so than in the Indo-Pacific. This is likely to result in new US requests to close allies like Denmark to increase their security and defense policy contributions to the region. French and British efforts to establish an independent European presence in the Indo-Pacific present Denmark with a way to accommodate US requests without being drawn directly into the US confrontation with China. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ The importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Danish security and defense policy is likely to grow in the coming years. The focus and resources should therefore be directed towards strengthening Danish knowledge of and competences in the region. ■ Several European states, led by France and the UK, are increasing their national and joint European security and defense profiles in the Indo-Pacific by launching new initiatives. Denmark should remain closely informed about these initiatives and be ready to engage with them. ■ Regarding potential requests to the Danish Navy for contributions to the Indo-Pacific, Denmark should prioritize the French-led European naval diplomacy.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Politics, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Denmark, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Cullen S. Hendrix
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s Africa strategy is rooted in three misconceptions about China’s African footprint—and a fourth about US-Africa economic relations—that are either factually incorrect or overstated in terms of the broader strategic challenges they pose to US interests: (1) Chinese engagement in Africa crowds out opportunities for trade and investment with and from the United States; (2) Chinese engagement in Africa is resource-seeking—to the detriment of US interests; (3) Chinese engagement in Africa is designed to foster debt-based coercive diplomacy; and (4) US-Africa economic linkages are all one-way and concessionary (i.e., aid-based). Hendrix finds little evidence to suggest Chinese trade and investment ties crowd out US trade and investment opportunities. China’s resource-seeking bent is evident in investment patterns, but it is more a function of Africa’s having comparatively large, undercapitalized resource endowments than China’s attempt to corner commodity markets. Chinese infrastructural development—particularly large projects associated with the Belt and Road Initiative—may result in increased African indebtedness to the Chinese, but there is little reason to think debt per se will vastly expand Chinese military capacity in the region. And finally, US-Africa economic relations are much less one-sided and concessionary (i.e., aid-based) than conventional wisdom suggests.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Infrastructure, Economy, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ana González, Euijin Jung
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: By refusing to fill vacancies in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body—the top body that hears appeals and rules on trade disputes—the Trump administration has paralyzed the key component of the dispute settlement system. No nation or group of nations has more at stake in salvaging this system than the world’s big emerging-market economies: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, and Thailand, among others. These countries have actively and successfully used the dispute settlement system to defend their commercial interests abroad and resolve inevitable trade conflicts. The authors suggest that even though the developing countries did not create the Appellate Body crisis, they may hold a key to unlock it. The Trump administration has also focused its ire on a longstanding WTO practice of giving these economies latitude to seek “special and differential treatment” in trade negotiations because of their developing-country status. The largest developing economies, which have a significant stake in preserving a two-step, rules-based mechanism for resolving trade disputes, could play a role in driving a potential bargain to save the appeals mechanism. They could unite to give up that special status in return for a US commitment to end its boycott of the nomination of Appellate Body members.
  • Topic: Development, Government, World Trade Organization, Developing World, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Brazil, North America, Mexico, Thailand, United States of America
  • Author: Karina Gerlach, Robert Kang
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: 2020 is the 75th anniversary year of the United Nations (UN), and it has already shaped up to be a year of unprecedented international shocks and potential for transformation, from COVID-19’s impact to the current mobilization for racial justice in many areas of the world. What does this mean for global trust in international cooperation and multilateral institutions? This briefing by Karina Gerlach and Robert Kang examines recent global polling data, finding a growing demand for international cooperation but diminished trust in international institutions to play a role in the response to COVID-19. It also looks at shifts in member state leadership and perceptions of United States-China rivalry, arguing that middle power alliances and regional networks offer a path forward for international cooperation even in difficult circumstances.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Race, United Nations, Reform, Multilateralism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of 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
  • Author: Frank Aum, Jacob Stokes, Patricia M. Kim, Atman M. Trivedi, Rachel Vandenbrink, Jennifer Staats, Joseph Yun
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: A joint statement by the United States and North Korea in June 2018 declared that the two countries were committed to building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Such a peace regime will ultimately require the engagement and cooperation of not just North Korea and the United States, but also South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. This report outlines the perspectives and interests of each of these countries as well as the diplomatic, security, and economic components necessary for a comprehensive peace.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Diplomacy, Economy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula, United States of America
  • Author: Richard Weitz
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: For the first time, the European Commission has identified the People’s Republic of China (PRC), along with Russia and other actors, as responsible for conducting “targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighborhood, and globally” (European Commission, June 10). In the past, PRC media management normally focused on censoring undesirable narratives at home while employing positive messaging to promote favorable images of China’s policies abroad. This contrasted with the more combative international approach traditionally adopted by Moscow. During the current COVID-19 crisis, however, PRC propaganda has followed the Russian practice of not only advancing positive reviews of its own actions, but also promoting negative messages about other states. The PRC and Russian foreign ministries have jointly complained that “certain [i.e., Western] countries, out of ideological bias and political needs, have been spreading disinformation, distorting history, attacking other countries’ social systems and development paths, politicizing the pandemic, pinning labels on the virus, and restrict[ing] and oppress[ing] foreign media for doing their job” (PRC Foreign Ministry, July 25). Their information departments have agreed to cooperate against the West’s media policies, including by executing joint digital media projects (Russian Foreign Ministry, July 24).
  • Topic: Pandemic, COVID-19, Disinformation, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia