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  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The recent swarming of Chinese militia boats in Whitsun Reef may indicate that President Duterte’s appeasement strategy towards China does not really work. Asserting the Arbitral Ruling must therefore be explored by Manila.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Militias
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam, Philippines
  • 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: Ong Keng Yong, Noorita Mohd Noor, Iftekharul Bashar, Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman, Nodirbek Soliev, Remy Mahzam, Amalina Abdul Nasir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The January issue provides an overview of terrorist and violent extremist threats in key countries and conflict zones in the Asia-Pacific throughout 2019. Regional specific threats and responses covering Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Middle East are assessed. In addition, themes such as the online narratives propagated by global threat groups and counter-ideological dimensions of terrorism and violent extremism are analysed. Globally, despite suffering severe territorial, leadership and organisational losses in 2019, Islamist terror groups Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda (AQ) continued to pose the most potent terrorist threat. Early in the year, IS’ territorial reign was ended by American-backed coalition forces, following which its networks became scattered and, in a bid to overcome its physical decimation, more decentralised across the globe. The death of IS’ “Caliph”, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in October 2019, raised further questions about the group’s continued resiliency. Yet, IS has proved persistent and adaptive. The group’s violent ideology continues to bind its myriad followers across regions. In the aftermath of its territorial and leadership losses, IS’ terror attacks and online offensives have been sustained. The global security landscape was further complicated by the emergence of Right Wing Extremist groups as violent actors on the world stage in 2019. Mass political protests around the world further underscored growing dissatisfaction with the present status quo, amid perceptions that some states are unable to articulate masses’ aspirations and meet their demands. The threat of Islamist terrorism will persist into 2020, especially with escalating geo-political tensions in the Middle East. Overcoming the physical and ideological threat by global militant groups, including far-right extremist groups, will remain very much a work in progress in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Protests, Violence
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Lina Gong
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Chinese government formed two new bodies in 2018 that have been expected to improve China’s response to natural hazards and humanitarian emergencies in other countries. What are the implications for Southeast Asia, where the risk and threat of different types of disaster persist?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Government, Risk, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Jose Montesclaros
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Given the credible threat of disease re-emergence and evolution, governments today should allocate resources to preventing future novel diseases, even as they face ‘wartime conditions’ in battling COVID-19.
  • Topic: Government, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Global Focus
  • Author: Lina Gong
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: An outpouring of international humanitarian aid to China has alleviated the severe shortage of key medical supplies in its fight against an outbreak of COVID-19. This highlights the role humanitarian aid plays in managing the risk of pandemics.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, Humanitarian Crisis, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: 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