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  • Author: Malcolm Davis
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: This paper examines the key drivers shaping Australia’s role as a middle power in an era of intensifying US-China strategic competition. These drivers include the influence of strategic geography; its historical legacy in international affairs; the impact of its economic relationships with states in the Indo-Pacific region; the changing demands of defence policy, including the potential offered by rapid technological change; and, the impact of climate change, resource constraints and demographic factors. The paper considers three possible scenarios that will shape Australia’s middle power policy choices – a US-China strategic equilibrium; a “China crash” scenario that promotes a more nationalist and assertive Chinese foreign policy; and a third “major power conflict” scenario where competition extends into military conflict. The paper concludes that Australia cannot maintain a delicate balance between its strategic alliance with the US and trading relationship with China. It argues there is a need for Australia to adopt a deeper strategic alliance with the US while promoting closer ties with its partners in the Indo-Pacific and supporting the growth of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region to counterbalance growing Chinese power. Australia needs to embrace an Indo-Pacific step up, and as a middle power, reduce the prospect of a Sino-centric regional order emerging.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Australia, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: When Beijing threatened to restrict China’s export of rare earths (widely used in numerous important civilian and military technologies) to the United States at the end of May 2019, the world was reminded of China’s rare earths export disruption in the autumn of 2010 amid a maritime territorial conflict between China and Japan. In the past few years, the worldwide attention cast on the future supply security of rare earths and other critical raw materials has increased in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries owing to the global expansion of “green technologies” (including renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and batteries, and smart grids) and digitalisation as well as equipment and devices embedded with artificial intelligence. In this paper, the term “critical raw materials” (CRMs) refers to raw materials critical to industries that are also import-dependent on them, and to new technologies which often have no viable substitutes and whose supply, besides being constrained by limited recycling rates and options, is also dominated by one or a few suppliers. CRMs include rare earth elements (REEs), which comprise 17 different elements (see Figure 4). The global race for the most advanced technologies dependent on CRMs has intensified the competition for access to as well as strategic control of REEs, lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel and other CRMs. This working paper analyses the global supply and demand balance of three CRMs (REEs, lithium and cobalt, the latter two being major raw materials for batteries) in the foreseeable future and whether ASEAN countries can play a role as producers and suppliers of CRMs. It also examines potential counterstrategies for mitigating and reducing the global demand for CRMs, such as substitution, reduced use of CRMs, and recycling and re-use.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Digital Economy, Green Technology, Metals
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is officially neither a Chinese “Marshall Plan” nor a geopolitical master strategy. At present, it involves 84 countries, rising from 65 countries in 2015, and 15 Chinese provinces. Over the last year, the number of countries being concerned or ambivalent about China’s motivations and strategic objectives behind the BRI have increased. Despite officially supporting China’s BRI, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned last April, that China is supporting unneeded and unsustainable projects in many countries, leading to heavy and unpayable debt burdens. In ASEAN, Chinese investments are welcomed but there are also misgivings about the BRI’s strategic objectives which may constrain ASEAN’s policy options. As China is presently and will remain the single most influential country in global energy markets in the next decades, it is not surprising that its infrastructure plans of building railways, highways and ports are often interlinked with China’s energy and raw materials projects abroad and its domestic energy policies. This paper analyses the energy dimensions of the BRI and its strategic implications for its wider economic, foreign and security policies in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Military Strategy, ASEAN, IMF
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Steve Chan
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: This short essay introduces some concepts and propositions from social science research that I personally find helpful in understanding the ongoing Sino-American trade dispute. Naturally, they are not meant to suggest a comprehensive or exhaustive list of factors that inform this topic. Given the purpose and the limits of my essay, I also do not engage any specific theory or method, such as the efficient-market hypothesis or game theory pioneered by well-known Nobel laureates (e.g., Burton Malkiel and Eugene Fama1; Thomas Schelling2).
  • Topic: Conflict, Trade, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Pradumna B. Rana, Chai Wai-Mun, Ji Xianbai
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), officially unveiled in 2013, is China’s landmark foreign and economic policy initiative to achieve improved connectivity, regional cooperation, and economic development on a trans-continental scale. China has promoted the BRI as a cooperative initiative that will lead to a win- win situation for both China and BRI partner countries. However, there are many different views and pushbacks against the BRI and suspicions of China’s underlying intentions. Impacts of the BRI can be assessed either through a model-based quantitative study or through a broadly representative survey. Our paper used the latter approach as we were not aware of any such study in the past. We implemented an online survey from 20 June to 19 July 2019 which over 1,200 Asian opinion leaders responded to. Asian opinion leaders were defined as policy makers, academics, businesses, and media practitioners from 26 Asian countries that have signed a BRI agreement with China. Stakeholders’ perspectives on the following issues were solicited: (i) why China might have been interested in launching the BRI; (ii) perceived benefits and risks to countries participating in the BRI; and (iii) policies that the stakeholders would like to recommend both to China and their own governments. Though mixed views on the specifics of the BRI emerged, respondents generally felt that the BRI was a positive development facilitating international economic cooperation and development. The recommendations of this survey should be of some use in making the BRI a truly win-win initiative for all.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Economic Policy, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Margareth Sembiring
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: International garbage disputes are rare. Lately, however, the world witnesses waves of newsworthy trash saga. From the Philippines shipping containers of rubbish back to Canada, to Malaysia planning to return tons of garbage back to countries of origin, to China’s near-total ban of plastic waste import, it is hard not to wonder whether this is a real sign of rising environmentalism. Have countries begun to think that the environment is worthy of a similar priority as the economy? This Insight argues that behind the seemingly growing pro-environment attitudes, it still remains to be seen whether this trend is sustainable in the long run. Considering that the global waste trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, the balance may tip to favour the economic activities again once the dust has settled back. The paper first looks at a brief description of the global waste trade industry. It then discusses some of the contemporary development in the global waste industry particularly on the issues of waste smuggling and China’s plastic waste import ban. It describes related experiences in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.
  • Topic: Security, Environment, Economy, Trade, Waste
  • Political Geography: China, Malaysia, Canada, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Philippines and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development, demonstrating their willingness to explore joint development as a pathway to collaboration, notwithstanding their territorial disputes. Recent commentaries on joint development are mostly framed on legal challenges, South China Sea (SCS) rows, geopolitics, and state-centric security issues. However, there have been no extensive discussions on the potential contributions from non-state stakeholders that can make joint development agreements environmentally sound, sustainable, and less political. These stakeholders are the oil companies, fishermen and coastal communities. In this regard, this NTS Insight explores potential roles of these stakeholders in promoting joint initiatives to share and develop resources in the SCS. It argues that the engagement and participation of non-state stakeholders in resource sharing and joint management must be pursued to address key non-traditional security challenges in the SCS. It also examines mechanisms to integrate marine environmental protection and sustainable fishing management into joint development agreements.
  • Topic: Security, Development, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: China, Philippines, Southeast Asia, South China Sea
  • Author: Pradumna B. Rana, Xianbai Ji, Wai-Mun Chia, Chang Tai Li
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trump’s “America First” agenda have ignited a second round of interest in mega-free trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region. Countries have been motivated to explore alternative trade policy options. Using national real gross domestic output gains estimated by the GTAP model to construct “preference ordering” for 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and their six regional dialogue partners, this paper comes up with several findings. First, when multilateral agreements are not possible, countries are better off with a narrower regional trading agreement than without one. Second, in the region, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has higher beneficial impacts than the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Third, for dual-track countries, that is countries that are negotiating both the CPTPP and the RCEP, implementing both agreements is better than each separately. Fourth, as expected, economic impacts of the CPPTP are lower than those of the original TPP12, but all CPPTP members will benefit although to different degrees. Fifth, economic impacts of open regionalism are higher than those of a closed and reciprocal one. Going forward, the paper argues that ASEAN countries and their regional dialogue partners need to adopt a “multi-track, multi- stage” approach to trade policy.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Free Trade, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Martin van Bruinessen
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: In the two decades since the fall of the Suharto regime, one of the most conspicuous developments has been the rapidly increasing influence of religious interpretations and practices emanating from the Middle East and more specifically the Gulf states, leading observers to speak of the “Arabisation” of Indonesian Islam. In the preceding decades, the state had strongly endorsed liberal and development-oriented Muslim discourses widely perceived as “Westernised” and associated with secularism and Western education. Indonesia’s unique Muslim traditions have in fact been shaped by many centuries of global flows of people and ideas, connecting the region not just with the Arab heartlands of Islam and Europe but South Asia and China. What is relatively new, however, is the presence of transnational Islamist and fundamentalist movements, which weakened the established nation-wide Muslim organisations (Muhammadiyah, NU) that had been providing religious guidance for most of the 20th century. The perceived threat of transnational radical Islam has led to renewed reflection on, and efforts to rejuvenate, indigenous Muslim traditions.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, transnationalism, Secularism
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Indonesia, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: You Ji
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: China’s five-year plan of PLA reform marked a new page in the history of PLA transformation. This article will analyse two major aspects of this round of unprecedented PLA reforms: (i) the politics of the military reform; and (ii) the PLA’s efforts to reshape its force establishments, organisational structure, and command chains. The first concerns Xi’s political leadership and the second draws a roadmap to remould the PLA by 2020. By now the reform has yielded substantial achievements: (i) the overhaul of the apex of power; (ii) the reshaping of the mid-level command chains of the war zone and service; and (iii) the restructuring of the overall force establishments. It has also created some transitional uncertainties as well.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Reform, Political structure, transnationalism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Kai He, Huiyun Feng
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has signified a “charm offensive” by China towards multilateral institutions and existing global financial governance. If the rise of China is inevitable, what will the future world look like and what should other countries be prepared for? Borrowing insights from institutional balancing theory and role theory in foreign policy analysis, this project introduces a “leadership transition” framework to explain policy dynamics in global governance with the AIIB as a case study. It suggests that China, the US, and other countries have employed different types of institutional balancing strategies, i.e., inclusive institutional balancing, exclusive institutional balancing, and inter-institutional balancing to compete for influence and interest in the process of establishing the AIIB. A state’s role identity as a “leader,” a “challenger,” or a “follower” will shape its policy choices regarding different institutional balancing strategies in the process of leadership transition in global governance. Institutional balancing is a new form of balancing among states in the future of global governance. China’s institutional rise in global governance might be more peaceful than widely predicted.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Infrastructure, Governance, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: As ASEAN’s energy demand is likely to increase by almost two-thirds in the period up to 2040, the regional oil and gas resources in the offshore zones of the ASEAN member states will become even more important for enhancing the energy supply security of both the individual member states as well as for ASEAN as a whole. Accordingly, access to and political as well as physical control and security of these offshore energy resources will receive even more governmental attention. In context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative as well as South China Sea policies and its energy dimensions, they can fuel already existing maritime competition and conflicts in the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the interconnecting sea lanes and regional choke points. This paper analyses the question to what extent are energy security concepts and challenges are interlinked with maritime policies, particularly in regard to the unresolved overlapping claims in the South China Sea and the perceived intensifying naval competition in the Indian Ocean. It also highlights the strategic implications of ASEAN's rising energy demand and growing exploitation of its offshore maritime energy resources for future regional cooperation, enhanced competition and potential strategic rivalries as well as conflicts.
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, Oil, Gas, Maritime, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Indian Ocean, South China Sea
  • Author: Graham Ong-Webb, Collin Koh, Bernard Miranda
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: This paper explores the possibility of South China Sea claimants and regional countries playing an active role in developing measures to prevent untoward incidents involving government (including naval and maritime law enforcement) and non-government vessels while political negotiations take place with respect to the proposed Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China. It argues that such a comprehensive incident prevention and mitigation plan must be multidimensional and multilevel in its approach, cascading from the political, strategic, operational, to tactical levels. This study breaks down into three main sections. The first examines the framing of the existing Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) and its expansion as well as any new prevention and mitigation initiatives. The center of gravity and theory of success for CUES must be at operational and tactical levels, this paper highlights, while also proposing that CUES should be expanded to include sub- surface and aerial- based actions as other potential triggers for unplanned encounters and unintended escalations at sea. The end-state calls for a comprehensive CUES in light of the multidimensional nature of the SCS maritime landscape. The second section of this paper assesses the prospects for an expanded CUES, focusing on maritime law enforcement and irregular forces. It examines the viability of expanding this mechanism through what this paper terms as “Phased” and “Blanket” Approaches, which is dependent on the regional political climate. The third, final section raises two proposals at the strategic level, and six proposals pegged at the operational and tactical levels of planning and activity to build on and enhance the existing slate of such mechanisms as CUES to promote navigational safety and risk reduction in regional waters.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Non State Actors, Maritime, Conflict, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Asia, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, South China, Brunei
  • Author: Alessandro Arduino
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The unprecedented amount of Chinese funds funnelled into the Belt and Road Initiative and Beijing’s vision of global connectivity will face a harsh reality that encompasses a wide spectrum of threats. Chinese corporations have just started to acknowledge that the risks associated with outbound foreign direct investments carry higher failure rates due to intertwined factors such as economic crisis, conflict, civil unrest, nationalisation, and currency devaluation, to name a few. In several cases, the Chinese state-owned enterprises’ infrastructural projects add stress to the already unstable socio-political environments because of their size and speed of implementation. Understanding and managing this stress is a challenge that cannot be ignored if benefits of these projects are to be realised. The solution to political and criminal violence requests a broader participation that encompasses the insurance and private security sectors.
  • Topic: Globalization, Nationalism, Conflict, Violence, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: China, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: China’s increasingly significant economic and security interests in the Middle East have several impacts. It affects not only its energy security but also its regional posture, relations with regional powers as well as the United States, and efforts to pacify nationalist and Islamist Uighurs in its north-western province of Xinjiang. Those interests are considerably enhanced by China’s One Belt, One Road initiative that seeks to patch together a Eurasian land mass through inter-linked infrastructure, investment and expanded trade relations. Protecting its mushrooming interests is forcing China to realign its policies and relationships in the region. As it takes stock of the Middle East and North Africa’s volatility and tumultuous, often violent political transitions, China feels the pressure to acknowledge that it no longer can remain aloof to the Middle East and North Africa’s multiple conflicts. China’s long-standing insistence on non-interference in the domestic affairs of others, refusal to envision a foreign military presence and its perseverance that its primary focus is the development of mutually beneficial economic and commercial relations, increasingly falls short of what it needs to do to safeguard its vital interests. Increasingly, China will have to become a regional player in competitive cooperation with the United States, the dominant external actor in the region for the foreseeable future. The pressure to revisit long-standing foreign and defence policy principles is also driven by the fact that China’s key interests in the Middle East and North Africa have expanded significantly beyond the narrow focus of energy despite its dependence on the region for half 1 China has signalled its gradual recognition of these new realities with the publication in January 2016 of an Arab Policy Paper, the country’s first articulation of a policy towards the Middle East and North Africa. But, rather than spelling out specific policies, the paper reiterated the generalities of China’s core focus in its relations with the Arab world: economics, energy, counter-terrorism, security, technical cooperation and its One Belt, One Road initiative. Ultimately however, China will have to develop a strategic vision that outlines foreign and defence policies it needs to put in place to protect its expanding strategic, geopolitical, economic, and commercial interests in the Middle East and North Africa; its role and place in the region as a rising superpower in the region; and its relationship and cooperation with the United States in managing, if not resolving conflict.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Economics, Imperialism, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, China, Middle East, Asia, North Africa
  • Author: Bhavna Dave
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Russia-ASEAN summit being held in Sochi on 19-20 May 2016 to mark twenty years of Russia’s dialogue partnership with ASEAN is a further indicator of President Vladimir Putin’s ‘pivot to Asia’ policy, triggered also by its current confrontation with the west. Through this pivot, Moscow wants to assert Russia’s geopolitical status as a Euro-Pacific as well as Asia- Pacific power. It is a pragmatic response to the shifting of global power to Asia. It also builds on the growing Russo-Chinese relations to develop the Russian Far East, a resource-rich but underdeveloped region into the gateway for expansion of Russia into the Asia Pacific. At the same time, the growing asymmetry in achieving the economic and strategic goals of Russia and China has resulted in fears that the Russian Far East will turn into a raw materials appendage of China. Moscow lacks the financial resources to support Putin’s Asia pivot. Therefore, Russia needs to strengthen ties with other Asia-Pacific countries and ASEAN as a regional grouping so as to attract more diversified trade and investments into its Far East region. It is in this context that the Sochi summit takes on added significance. However, given Russia’s sporadic interest in Southeast Asia and its strategic role defined mainly by the limited potential of Russian energy and arms exports to ASEAN Member States, the PR diplomacy and summitry at Sochi may not deliver substantive outcomes for Russia. Nonetheless, Moscow aims to enhance its status in the east and seek business and strategic opportunities through the summit thereby compensating to some extent Russia’s loss following the sanctions imposed by the west over the annexation of Crimea.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Xianbai Ji, Pradumna B. Rana, Wai-Mun Chia, Changtai Li
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The advent of mega-free trade agreements (mega-FTAs) including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a defining feature of global trade governance in the 21st century. What are the costs and benefits of mega- FTAs? What is the political and strategic calculus behind mega-FTAs? Is there a “domino effect” triggering off the mega-FTA troika in a chain of reactions? Does mega-regionalism reinforce or undermine multilateralism? Since commonly used econometrics models cannot shed light on non-economic issues, this paper examines mega-regionalism by conducting a perception survey. This survey received responses from 648 opinion leaders located in 31 Asian countries. Respondents felt that mega-FTAs are good trade policy instruments that are “building blocks” to multilateralism. Linked by a “domino effect”, the mega-FTAs have important political and strategic dimensions. The United States wants to socialise China by writing high- standard “rules of the road” through the TPP. China then pivoted to RCEP to counter the TPP. Brussels through TTIP wanted to join the mega-FTA bandwagon to stay relevant. Additionally, remaining questions on decentralising global economic architecture highlight the need for regional and global institutions to complement each other.
  • Topic: European Union, Multilateralism, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Free Trade, Decentralization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, Asia, Global Focus