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  • Author: Valerie Niquet
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: To Japanese authorities, there is no such thing as the “Senkaku question”. China is pursuing with increased assertiveness a strategy of coercion, using ambiguity and “grey zone” operations to put the onus of potential escalation on Tokyo.1 The vague and ambiguous nature of this strategic power play makes it all the more dangerous and complex. When Tokyo proclaims, with reason, that “the government continues to control and administer the territory by such means as patrolling and law enforcement,” it seeks to answer the permanent pressure that China exerts in the zone.2 However, the maintenance of the status quo, when China exerts an almost continuous pressure in the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands and Japanese fishermen do not have access to part of Japan’s own national territory, poses other types of problems that the People’s Republic of China tries to exploit at the service of broader ambitions. It also poses a challenge in crisis management: how can the Japanese government be active and in control of situational developments, and not just reactive, without going as far as sparking a major incident in the East China Sea?
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia
  • Author: Toru Onozawa
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: Since its inauguration, the Biden administration has been rapidly changing Trump administration's policies in both domestic and foreign affairs. The extension of the New START with Russia, the return to the Paris Agreement and the suspension of support for Saudi Arabia's intervention in the Yemeni civil war are just some of the pledges that Biden made during his presidential campaign. The new US administration seems to be on a steady track to make changes it deems necessary.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Conflict, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Masaaki Yatsuzuka
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: There is no question that China's presence in the Middle East is growing significantly. Will China continue to deepen its involvement in the region and play a role in shaping the regional order, taking the place of the United States? In other words, will China practice major power diplomacy in the Middle East? The view among researchers in China and elsewhere1 over this question is divided. To categorize their arguments into two camps, there is a cautious engagement theory that warns against the risk of getting caught up in the turmoil in the Middle East and recommends (or predicts) that China protect its economic interests while maintaining political neutrality vis-à-vis the Middle East as it has done so far. On the other hand, there is an active engagement theory advocating (or foreseeing) that China deepen its engagement, proactively participate based on the responsibility of a major world power in solving problems in the Middle East, and actively propose its own ideas in order to protect Chinese interests in the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Thomas S. Wilkins
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The notion of the “Indo Pacific” (IP) as a regional construct has gained significant traction in the last few years, at least in part due to its adoption in the centerpiece “Free and Open Indo Pacific” (FOIP) strategies of the United States and Japan. The continued application of the term by policymakers, analysts and scholars has served to further entrench its prominence within the regional security discourse. As a consequence, all states with major interests in this “new” region have felt compelled to engage with the concept and formulate appropriate policies to embrace or otherwise react to it. This task is made all the more difficult due to the fluidity of its definitions, interpretations, and the differing motivations of competing regional states that either adopt or reject it.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: Japan, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Monika Chansoria
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: South China Sea’s territorial disputes gained the spotlight yet again with the April 18, 2020 announcement1 by China’s State Council, through which, it approved setting up ‘two new’ municipal districts (dependencies of the southernmost Sansha city, in the Hainan province) covering the South China Sea – namely the ‘Xisha District’ and ‘Nansha District’. Home to an estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil, and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea possess rich natural resources and fishing areas. The Fiery Cross Reef will be in charge of the administration of the islands, reefs, and sea areas of the Spratly Islands.2 The Fiery Cross Reef used to be an underwater reef that was converted into an artificial island following massive land reclamation undertaken by China. This reef was virtually untouched by manmade structures until March 2014 and was transformed into an artificial island in the span of one year by March 2015. Furthermore, the Woody Island will be in charge of the administration of the islands, reef, and sea areas of the Paracel Islands.3 China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Natural Resources has released the longitudes, latitudes, and standardized names of 25 islands and reefs and 55 undersea geographic entities in the disputed South China Sea. The listed islands include Sanzhizai – an islet north of the Woody Island in Sansha city in South China’s Hainan Province.
  • Topic: Territorial Disputes, Geopolitics, Arbitration
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Philippines, South China Sea
  • Author: Thomas S. Wilkins
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The spread of the novel Corona Virus COVID-19 from the Chinese province of Hebei across the world has resulted in a global pandemic of catastrophic proportions. Certain countries have been affected more severely than others, and there have been glaring disparities in how national governments have responded to the outbreak. In addition to the global death toll of 400,000 (and counting), the industrial and financial disruption has been severe, with the Asian Development Bank estimating the loss to the global economy at between USD$ 5.8-8.8 trillion.1 To overcome the current crisis, and work toward a vaccine, global solidarity, including cooperation through multilateral organizations like the World Heath Organization (WHO), is desperately needed.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Monika Chansoria
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: Understanding classical geopolitics remains crucial to the study of international relations based on considerations of location and physical geography and to their adaptation of political goals. The said process has been a dynamic and evolving one, with the effects of location, geomorphology, and conditions for national power being regarded as essential constituents. It is often argued that geopolitics has always ‘self-consciously’ been a theory of foreign policy, wherein physio-geographical conditions were a vital parameter of the studies that explained the expansion of European powers in the past. From thereon, a dominating geostrategic prediction for the 21st century was that it would be an Asian one. That notwithstanding, Asian states find themselves at a strategic crossroads in the midst of multiple, overlapping challenges, which include: putting their domestic fiscal houses in order; ensuring long-term economic growth; and a critical need to shape a leaner and technologically advanced joint force in the military sphere. Even as the United States and its alliance partners in Asia hopefully work toward cooperative exits from the increasingly unsustainable current global co-dependency—where the economic growth is being viewed through continued consumption and utilization of resources loaned by others—Washington’s approach and focus on renewing its economic and military power is being watched carefully. The US position has been confronted with serious challenges, all of which, if left unaddressed, could undermine the current security environment.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Economic Growth, Geography
  • Political Geography: United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Thomas S. Wilkins
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The introduction of the term “Indo Pacific” is designed to focus attention on a vast geographic space stretching from the eastern coast of Africa and the Gulf to the eastern seaboard of Asia, via its great continental heartland. Its advocates claim it represents nothing less than the conceptualisation of a new “mental map” precipitated by the intensifying trade and energy flows across between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and the pulsing economies of the Asian continent that they propel forward. In short, the Indo Pacific is now viewed by many as the heart of the global economic and political system. As the discussion below reveals the Indo Pacific mental map is a conscious attempt by certain governments to reframe or “rescale” the region they inhabit, or must interact with. In the case of several key countries featured below, the Indo Pacific has now displaced the earlier “Asia Pacific” regional descriptor. Yet this by no means indicates consensus on its exact definition and interpretation among such states, nor its universal acceptance among others.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Borders, Regionalism
  • Political Geography: Asia, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Hans Kundnani
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: Since the euro crisis began in 2010, there has been much debate about German power in Europe. Germany has been widely seen as a kind of European “hegemon.” But this both exaggerates the extent of German power in Europe and underplays how problematic it is. Rather, Germany has reverted to the position of “semi-hegemony” within Europe that it occupied between 1871 and 1945.1 However, whereas the classical “German question” was geopolitical, the new version of the “German question” is geo-economic – that is, German power is now economic rather than military. These questions around German power are extremely important for the future of Europe. But why should anyone in Japan be interested in them?
  • Topic: History, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Japan, Europe, Asia, Germany
  • Author: John Berkshire Miller, Thomas S. Wilkins
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The Indo-Pacific, as a geographic concept that connects the vast oceans of Pacific and the Indian along with the states in between, is not a new idea. Indeed, the idea of a broader geographic region – rather than more traditional subsets such as East Asia, South Asia, or the more expansive Asia-Pacific – has been used for more than a decade by scholars and practitioners in the region. An Indian naval captain began using the concept in geopolitical terms more than a decade ago, but the terminology has not been limited to scholars in Delhi. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, back during his first stint as Prime Minister in 2007, spoke to India’s parliament about his country’s vision for Indo-Pacific noting a “confluence of the two seas” and pressed for a need to transcend beyond traditional frameworks that often separated or minimized the geopolitical connections between South Asian and the Indian Ocean region with that of East Asia and the Pacific.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Canada, Australia, Asia-Pacific, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Hideshi Tokuchi
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: It is almost a cliché that Australia and New Zealand are canaries in the coal mine for Chinese attempts at exerting political influence. In fact, Chinese influence is not a topic that affects just Oceania. It is already a serious challenge that confronts all democracies and open societies. According to Clive Hamilton’s “Silent Invasion,” a Chinese diplomat who sought political asylum in Australia told Hamilton that Australia’s openness, relatively small population, a large number of Chinese immigrants and commitment to multiculturalism have weakened Australia’s capacity to recognize and defend against the Chinese infiltration, but all democracies and open societies are susceptible to the threat
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Geopolitics, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia