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  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: China hits back after NATO calls it a security challenge, dormant Chinese hacking group resumes attacks, and more.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, North Atlantic, Beijing, Asia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka
  • Author: David Gordon, Haoyu Tong
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: This report is the first of two synthesising the findings of a major research workshop convened in Washington DC on 26 June 2019, by The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), as part of its multi-year project on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The IISS commissioned ten papers that addressed development-finance and security issues in the BRI, prepared by leading scholars and policy practitioners. They were joined at the workshop by more than two dozen other experts on China’s international behaviour. This first report focuses on development-finance issues in the BRI; the second will address security issues broadly cast. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is now six years old. Announced by (then) newly ensconced President Xi Jinping, it has since become the centrepiece of Xi’s ambitious drive to make China a more active global leader, and to break free from the cautious approach set out more than 30 years earlier by then-paramount-leader Deng Xiaoping – that China’s strategic approach should be to ‘hide its capacities and bide its time’. At the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th Congress in 2017, the BRI was integrated into the party’s charter. Much of the early analytical work on the BRI has focused on questions surrounding China’s motivations – economic or geopolitical. Is Xi’s initiative a response to changing domestic economic circumstances? Or does it signal evidence of China’s intent to build a twentyfirst- century imperium modelled on the post-war United States-led experience, more than on European colonial or earlier Asian empires? The emerging consensus on this question is that it has been a bit of both. At the same time, an often overlooked factor is Xi’s constant need to further consolidate his power inside China, as the economics versus geopolitics debate about the motivations for the BRI gives too little attention to the more purely political dimension. The BRI cannot be separated from Xi’s efforts to cast himself domestically as an exceptional leader for an exceptional moment in China’s history.
  • Topic: Development, Globalization, Infrastructure, Hegemony, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Meia Nouwens
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Little is known about how China’s growing defence budget is allocated, particularly following recent structural reforms. In the absence of publicly available information and new research on Chinese defence economics, outside observers consider the official data to be incomplete. Publications addressing Chinese defence spending often claim that ‘it is widely believed’ official Chinese statistics exclude key categories of military-related spending. For instance, in 2003, one analyst wrote that ‘it is widely accepted that the official budget released by the Chinese every year accounts for only a fraction of actual defense spending. In particular, whole categories of military expenditure are believed to be missing from official figures.’ The methodologies employed by research institutions, such as the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), to estimate China’s total military spending date back to the late 1990s. Furthermore, existing estimates do not take into account China’s recent military reorganisation under President Xi Jingping’s direction, which began in 2015, and a wide range of defence reforms. For example, in 2018, the Chinese authorities integrated the China Coast Guard (CCG), the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and the maritime militias into the Central Military Commission’s (CMC’s) command structure. It is currently unclear how this restructuring has affected China’s defence spending. In addition, China’s defence spending could have been affected by the increasing fulfilment of weapons procurements by domestic firms. Therefore, a reassessment of China’s defence spending and the methodologies employed is required.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Budget
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Much has been written about China’s “mask diplomacy” during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the epicenter of the pandemic shifted from China to the rest of the world, China’s government sent planeloads of masks and medical supplies to hard-hit countries around the world. Beijing’s “mask diplomacy” sought to bolster China’s image as a responsible global power and was widely perceived as part of Beijing’s attempt to control the narrative around the pandemic and distract from its initial cover-up. But while all the attention focused on the Chinese government’s actions, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was carrying out its own, much quieter version of mask diplomacy. According to MERICS data, in the three months between March 13 and June 19, the PLA sent military planes full of medical material to 46 countries. The material, which mostly consisted of masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), was invariably donated to the recipient countries’ armed forces or defense ministries. The PLA also set up video conferences with foreign militaries to share its experiences of fighting the Covid-19 outbreak and strengthen military-to-military relations. At first glance, the Chinese government’s mask diplomacy campaign and the PLA’s look remarkably similar. However, a number of differences suggest there were different goals and strategies at play.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Public Policy, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: David F Gordon, Haoyu Tong, Tabatha Anderson
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In this second report published by the IISS Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Project under the Geo-Economics, Geopolitics and Strategy Programme, the authors examine a range of security-related challenges that the BRI confronts as it expands into diverse geographies to China’s west and south. The report explores the risks in operating across environments fraught with political, economic and social instability. Beyond this, it delves into the actual and potential challenges that the BRI faces from Islamic extremism and terrorism. The report also assesses the ways in which the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) fits into China’s growing strategic interests in Southeast Asia, and the development of the Digital Silk Road (DSR) at the forefront of the technological and geopolitical competition between China and the United States. Finally, the report explores the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a case study of the security risks and governance challenges present in what is probably the single most important country-wide BRI endeavour.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Infrastructure, Hegemony, Digital Economy, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Silk Road
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, Asia
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: For the past two decades the US and its allies have faced a very limited surface-to-air threat in wars in which they have engaged. This is now changing as the worsening security environment and the emergence of near-peer rivals once again raises the spectre of a strongly contested air domain. A central element of the renewed challenge is the surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. China and Russia have fielded and continue to develop SAM systems across all range categories – and to offer many of these for export – that pose a credible threat to air operations. The US, and to an even greater extent the Europeans, have reduced emphasis and expenditure on what is known as the suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) role. Counter-insurgency rather than counter-integrated air-defence operations have been the priority since the turn of the century. There is now, however, the renewed challenge of being able to carry out air operations in airspace defended by the latest generations of point-, short-, medium- and long-range SAM systems. Low-observable aircraft only offer a partial solution, particularly as the US and its allies will operate mixed fleets of stealthy and non-stealthy combat aircraft at least until around the middle of the century. The latter types of aircraft remain at greater risk from SAM threats than low-observable aircraft, and their operational utility will depend partly on the wider capacity to counter surface-based threat missile systems. SEAD is an asset-intensive capability, particularly in the early days of a conflict, and has traditionally involved dedicated platforms as well as fighter ground-attack aircraft. In SEAD operations in the 1990s, such as Operation Allied Force during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, up to one-third of strike missions were tasked against ground-based air defences. While the force mix will change as uninhabited systems are increasingly adopted in the inventory, a variety of crewed and uninhabited aircraft and associated weaponry will still be required for the task, and will be required in numbers greater than are available in current inventories if faced by a peer or near-peer threat. Collating what is known as an electronic order of battle against peer and near-peer rivals should once again become a priority, as should the capacity to counter, disable or destroy surface-to-air threat systems.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The fourth in a series analysing the ways COVID-19 is affecting stability across the world, this paper explores the impact on organised crime in the Western Balkans of the health and economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. Criminal organisations active in the Western Balkans have proved very apt at exploiting the evolution of the pandemic and related government responses to expand their activities regionally and globally. The key role played by the European Union in recent times to promote the rule of law and institutional reforms against organised crime in the region is at risk of setback given its limited economic firepower post-COVID-19 and China’s increasing influence through its economic and investment diplomacy. Law-enforcement agencies will struggle to prevent criminal groups from further infiltrating the region’s economies amid increasing budgetary constraints. Western Balkans governments should use the current challenging circumstances as an opportunity to redefine medium- and long-term priorities in their efforts against organised crime. However, for these efforts to be successful, the sustained political and operational support of other countries will be needed, given the expanding international reach of regional criminal groups.
  • Topic: Political stability, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19, Organized Crime
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Balkans
  • Author: Meia Nouwens, Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In December 2019, for the first time, NATO leaders recognised China as a new strategic point of focus for the Alliance. This reflects growing concern among NATO members surrounding China’s geopolitical rise and its growing power-projection capabilities, as well as the impact that these may have on the global balance of power. Today, China is not only taking a central role in Indo-Pacific security affairs but is also becoming an increasingly visible security actor in Europe’s periphery. As such, the question of how to deal with an increasingly global China has been an important part of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s NATO 2030 reflection process. China poses a wide range of challenges to NATO. Beijing sees the Alliance as a United States-centric outfit that may be used by Washington to contain China, and has therefore tried to influence individual NATO members’ decisions in order to weaken the Alliance’s unity. Close ties between China and Russia, especially in the security and military spheres, have also been a source of concern for NATO allies. Besides the Chinese and Russian navies’ joint exercises in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, there is also the potential for the two sides to further coordinate – or at least align their behaviour – on issues of relevance to the Alliance, including hybrid warfare and cyber espionage, arms-control issues, and their approach to Arctic governance, among others. China’s defence spending and military-modernisation process, along with the growing strength of its defence industry, have led to the proliferation of more advanced military platforms around the world. Beijing is also expanding its stockpile of missiles, some of which have the range to reach NATO countries. China’s military-power-projection capabilities have likewise edged towards Europe as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has expanded its international presence over the last few years. While NATO allies may have agreed that China presents a number of challenges to the Alliance’s security, they have yet to achieve consensus on how to address them. Some of these issues lie beyond NATO’s traditional areas of competence and will require expertise best provided by partners of the Alliance rather than the Alliance itself. NATO allies will need to prioritise how, when, where and with which partners to use their combined resources to deal with them. At the same time, the Alliance acknowledges that China is not its adversary. NATO thus must find areas of common interest where it can continue to cooperate with China, albeit with a more clear-eyed approach than it has done in the past. Addressing the opportunities and problems posed by China as a cohesive alliance will be more important than ever.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, North Atlantic, Asia, North America
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Europe has become a major target of China’s push to acquire advanced key technologies. These technologies support the development of dual-use products with civilian as well as military applications, a development that is in line with China’s efforts towards civil-military integration. The EU has been slow to wake up to this trend. Despite recent efforts, including those to set up a tighter investment screening mechanism, it still lacks strong coordinated regulations to protect its research and technologies. Even more importantly, the author of our newest China Global Security Tracker, MERICS researcher Helena Legarda, warns that Europe lacks a clear policy or strategy to keep up with China’s ambitions in this area. Joint European initiatives providing strategic guidance and adequate funding for innovation in dual-use technologies will be needed to not only preserve but to advance the EU’s scientific and engineering expertise. The China Global Security Tracker is a bi-annual publication as part of the China Security Project in cooperation between Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). This issue also features the Trump administration’s tightened export controls in response to China’s civil-military integration efforts, and it tracks other security developments in China in the second half of 2018, from the launch of a number of new defense systems to an increase in China’s military diplomacy activities around the world.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Presenting China as a 'responsible power' – Beijing releases first major defense white paper in four years
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe, Canada, Taiwan, France, North America
  • Author: Nicholas Crawford
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: China has become the largest lender to developing countries, and a major investor there too. As a result, it has a major stake in many countries facing political and economic instability. Western policymakers involved in responding to instability and crises overseas need to understand how China navigates these situations. China’s approach is similar in some respects to that of Western states, but there are also important differences. China’s policy towards countries facing political and economic instability is driven by four main concerns: It seeks to strengthen and maintain its partnerships with those countries to ensure they remain open to and supportive of the Chinese government and its businesses. China is determined to protect its financial interests, businesses and citizens from the harms that result from instability. It is concerned to see its loans repaid, its investments secure, its workers safe and its supply chains undisrupted. It wants to maintain its narrative of non-interference. Any intervention in the politics or policies of its partner states must be seen as being at the invitation of their governments (although China may pressure its partners for consent). China wants to increase its influence in the world, independently and distinctively. It is increasingly proactive in its response to instability in partner countries. Some responses seek to address the instability directly; other responses are intended to protect Chinese interests in spite of the instability. This paper analyses the political economy of China’s responses to instability, identifies the types of responses China undertakes, and assesses these responses.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Cooperation, Developing World, Political stability, Trade
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, China, Europe, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: James Hackett
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: As US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet in Singapore on 12 June, it is useful to keep in mind what is at stake. The long-standing tinderbox of the Korean Peninsula, if ignited through another provocation or miscalculation, could spark a full-scale war that could well go nuclear. The prize of diplomacy – sustainable peace on the peninsula – is all the more valuable when one considers the range of military capabilities potentially in play. This information is of use in assessing both the goals of diplomacy and the risks should the current efforts fail. Weapons based on the Korean Peninsula have become faster, more precise and more powerful. North Korea has tested a thermonuclear weapon, an intercontinental ballistic missile and more accurate shorter-range missiles, all designed to offset the relative qualitative weakness of its broader conventional forces. It has also pursued advanced cyber capabilities. South Korea, meanwhile, has focused on developing military systems allowing for more rapid and precise strikes. US forces on the peninsula have introduced yet more advanced capabilities. For these reasons the IISS provides this independent, measured and detailed analysis of military dynamics on the peninsula. The report focuses on the defence policies and military capabilities of the two Koreas, and the US military forces stationed in South Korea which can be brought to bear in a crisis. While it does not ignore unconventional systems, it principally focuses on conventional capabilities. Due to its poverty and isolation, North Korea’s conventional forces have become relatively weaker, compared with those of South Korea and its US ally. Aware of this qualitative inferiority, Pyongyang has invested in asymmetric capabilities, particularly the pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Nonetheless, Pyongyang’s armed forces remain equipped with a wide range of conventional military systems, including large numbers of artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems. Its armed forces, at around 1.2 million, are the fourth-largest in the world. Its conventional military power remains significant, not least because of these numbers (for instance, 4,000 main battle tanks and 8,500 self-propelled- and towed-artillery systems) and the weight of fire they could rapidly bring to bear if employed. Seoul, for instance, is within range of many of North Korea’s artillery systems. North Korea has also developed increasingly advanced cyber capabilities as another aspect of its asymmetric power. The North will continue to improve these, if only to slow the decline in military parity between it and the South. US and South Korean defence authorities assume that the North will, in the event of major conflict, use cyber attacks against South Korean critical infrastructure and command-and-control networks. However, recent events like the Wannacry ransomware attacks have shown that North Korea is now using its cyber power for another purpose: raising revenue to support the regime. Meanwhile, South Korea’s defence policy and military posture is dominated by the security challenge from the North. This has led Seoul to pursue military capabilities, and strategies, designed to defeat North Korean provocations. These range from developments in air-defence, intended to tackle North Korea’s air force and missile capabilities, to strategies designed to pre-empt a potential North Korean provocation. To enable these strategies, South Korea has developed and procured increasingly advanced military systems, ranging from its own Hyeonmu ballistic- and cruise-missiles, to advanced air-to-ground air-launched weapons and, in the next few years, squadrons of F-35A combat aircraft. Working closely with the South Korean armed forces, the US maintains a military presence some 28,500-strong in South Korea, augmented by advanced military systems on the peninsula like the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic-missile-defence system, and the military power deployed by the US in the broader Indo-Pacific. This publication builds on the contributions of expert analysts of military power on the Korean Peninsula, and the extensive information holdings available in the IISS Military Balance+ database. It was prepared with the support of the Korea Foundation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Michael Elleman
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: With the Iran nuclear accord currently on life support, it is not too late to pursue diplomatic measures that address the growing challenge posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles, argues Michael Elleman in a new report. The lack of curbs on Iran’s missile programme was cited by President Donald Trump in May 2018 as one of the principal reasons for withdrawing from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). With the nuclear accord consequently on life support, it is not too late to pursue diplomatic measures that address the growing challenge posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles. The most promising would be to lock in, through negotiations, the 2,000 kilometre-range limit that Iran has previously stated is its maximum requirement. While this would not reduce the threat perceived by Iran’s regional neighbours, it would forestall development of systems that could target Western Europe or North America. Tehran is not likely to commit to verification measures for such negotiated range limits, however, without receiving something in return. One bargain that could be considered would be to allow Iran to continue its satellite-launch programme, under certain conditions, while capping the maximum range of its ballistic missiles. Such a trade-off may also be relevant to the North Korean case.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Meia Nouwens, Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Chinese private security companies are going global to protect the country's assets and citizens, in the sometimes unstable countries linked to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. Following the build-up of infrastructure and investment projects along China’s extensive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), private security companies from China are also increasingly going global – to protect Chinese assets and the growing number of Chinese nationals living and working in countries along the BRI, in sometimes unstable regions. Out of the 5,000 registered Chinese private security companies, 20 provide international services, employing 3,200 security personnel in countries like Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan. The impact of this newly developing Chinese activity abroad is analyzed in this MERICS China Monitor. Chinese private security companies’ international activities pose a challenge to European interests as they are often largely unregulated and their security staff are often inexperienced in dealing with serious conflict situations and combat. EU policymakers, thus, are called upon to encourage and assist Beijing to pass laws regulating Chinese private security companies’ activities overseas.
  • Topic: Security, Globalization, European Union, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Helena Legarda, Meia Nouwens
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The focus of this issue of the China Global Security Tracker is the growing threat that China’s rapid military modernization presents to Taiwan. The People’s Liberation Army has demonstrated its new capabilities through aggressive maneuvers over the last few months, simulating an attack on Taiwan. China’s party and state leader Xi Jinping has left no doubt that he views the reunification with Taiwan as key for China’s future national strength. The China Global Security Tracker is a semi-annual publication. It is part of the China Security Project, a cooperation between the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). In her analysis of events during the first half of 2018, MERICS researcher Helena Legarda tracks China’s growing military expenditures as well as steps taken by the Chinese Communist Party to extend its control over the military.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Military Strategy, Military Spending, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, China, Taiwan, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Helena Legarda, Meia Nouwens
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In its quest to become a global ‘science and tech superpower’ and to build a strong military that can fight and win wars, China has embarked on a major process to achieve civil–military integration (CMI) and develop advanced dual-use technologies. Using various methods both to promote indigenous innovation and to access foreign technology and know-how, China’s goal is to leapfrog the United States and Europe and achieve dominance in these technologies, which will have major civilian and military implications in the future. The EU does not have strong, coordinated strategies to promote the development of indigenous dual-use technologies or to protect Europe’s indigenous innovation. As a result of this patchwork regime, China is either catching up to, or surpassing, European capabilities regarding most of these technologies through a ‘whole-of-government’ regulatory framework and financial investment, as well as by accessing European innovation and technology through a variety of means. For Europe, the incentive to keep up with China’s progress in these technologies, and to protect its own innovation in this field, is one with military, but also commercial and economic, imperatives. At a time when China is increasing its commitment to this process of developing advanced, dual-use technologies, it is high time for Europe to think strategically and take action to leverage its own competitive advantages.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, Asia