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  • Author: Christopher K Johnson
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Nearly two weeks after the U.S. “Trade Avengers” unleashed during their visit to Beijing what one reasonably could call “trade shock and awe” with a very aggressive—if thoroughly researched and well-crafted—set of demands targeting the yawning U.S. trade deficit with China and the core of that country’s throaty industrial policy, China this week is taking its turn with the visit of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo member and Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s economic point man who is almost universally described as a thoughtful, pragmatic, and mild-mannered policy academic. In the interim, voices from a wide swath of official Washington have sounded the alarm about the dangers of Chinese influence operations and the presence of alleged subversives, while President Trump himself seemed to cast aside these growing concerns by suggesting via Twitter that he would ask the Commerce Department to overturn its action against the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE—long a focus of the U.S. security community for suspected cyber espionage activity and irrefutable violations of U.S. law—in response to protests that reportedly emanated directly from President Xi. With such frenetically sustained action in such a short period of time, the fog of war seems particularly thick at the moment. As such, it seems like a good time to slow down and have a think about how we got here, what actually is going on, and, with a little bit of luck, perhaps think about some ways to craft a viable way forward. Just like milestone birthdays in one’s personal life, important political anniversaries also can incline the mind toward reflection. Next year, of course, marks the fortieth anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and China. As such, much breath and a lot of ink have been devoted to analyzing the course of the bilateral relationship over that nearly half-century. Although certainly not a universal opinion, it seems fair, if perhaps overly reductionist, to suggest that the general conclusion among a substantial number of U.S. officials, policy analysts, and journalists has been that the consistent U.S. policy emphasis on engagement with China during those forty years was, at the end of the day, a sham. In this rendering, naïve groups of senior policymakers in succeeding U.S. administrations and in most of the U.S. China-watching community were hoodwinked by wily CCP leaders who talked the talk of integrating into the so-called U.S.-led rules-based international order, but all the while they had a secret master plan to instead subvert that order and challenge U.S. primacy throughout the globe. In a slightly less menacing (if no less absurd) version of this narrative, China was, indeed, headed generally toward this hoped for integration under the stewardship of deceased paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and his handpicked successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao until Xi Jinping arrived and, through a ruthless consolidation of power, decided instead to change course in what now regularly is referred to in shorthand as Xi’s “authoritarian turn.” But this conclusion seems utterly wrongheaded when examined in the light of hard facts. On the Chinese side of the equation, for example, Deng Xiaoping may have appeared warm and cuddly when donning his cowboy hat during his famous 1979 visit to the United States, but he could be just as ruthless and grasping as any other authoritarian leader. Deng’s exceptionally courageous and dogged pursuit of the policies of reform and opening certainly are worthy of praise, but they cannot, and therefore should not, be separated from the fact that he was content to sit idly by as Chairman Mao’s loyal lieutenant as Mao decimated his political rivals during the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-59) and the Great Leap Forward (1958-62). Nor should we forget that Deng used every ounce of his massive personal prestige with the People’s Liberation Army to, with steely determination, rally his many reluctant commanders to execute the brutal Tiananmen crackdown of June 4, 1989. Similarly, Xi Jinping is no Jack-in-the-Box-like figure who has pulled a fast one with a sharp directional turn in the last couple of years made all the more stark after his sweeping consolidation of power at last fall’s 19th Party Congress. In fact, it is this author’s contention, as supported by a large body of written work and public commentary, that everything Xi has done over the last five years was abundantly clear, whether explicitly or in embryonic form—from the moment he was introduced to the world as China’s new top leader in the fall of 2012, as encapsulated in his call for his country to pursue the “China Dream” set on a foundation of “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” This by no means suggests the United States should express support for, or even acquiescence in, Xi’s policies, but only that it should not be reacting with the borderline hysteria that now seems to be gripping Washington.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Global Political Economy, Trade Wars
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: President Trump's cancellation of the summit with North Korea is a warning as to just how difficult it is to bring any kind of stability to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. It is also a warning that the U.S. cannot focus on the nuclear issue and ICBM, rather than the overall military balance in the Koreas and the impact that any kind of war fighting can have on the civil population of South Korea and the other states in Northeast Asia. The nuclear balance is an all too critical aspect of regional security, but it is only part of the story and military capability do not address the potential impact and cost of any given form of conflict.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Scott A. Snyder, Geun Lee, You Young Kim, Jiyoon Kim
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Despite becoming influential on the world scene, South Korea remains a relatively weak country surrounded by larger, more powerful neigh- bors. This contrast between its global rank as a top-twenty economy and its regional status as the weakest country in Northeast Asia (with the exception of North Korea) poses a paradox for South Korean for- eign policy strategists. Despite successes addressing nontraditional security challenges in areas such as international development, global health, and UN peacekeeping, South Korea is limited in its capacity to act on regional security threats. South Korea has historically been a victim of geopolitical rivalries among contenders for regional hegemony in East Asia. But the coun- try’s rise in influence provides a glimmer of hope that it can break from its historical role by using its expanded capabilities as leverage to shape its strategic environment. The pressing dilemma for South Korean strategic thinkers is how to do so. As the regional security environment becomes more tense, South Korea’s strategic options are characterized by constraint, given potentially conflicting great-power rivalries and Pyongyang’s efforts to pursue asymmetric nuclear or cyber capabilities at Seoul’s expense. South Korea’s relative weakness puts a premium on its ability to achieve the internal political unity necessary to maximize its influence in foreign policy. Students of Korean history will recall that domestic factionalism among political elites was a chronic factor that hamstrung Korea’s dynastic leadership and contributed to its weakness in dealing with outside forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Although the Barack Obama administration rhetorically made Southeast Asia a centerpiece of its “rebalance to Asia” strategy, the administration still largely focused on the Middle East and Europe, and Southeast Asia remained a low U.S. policy priority. The Obama administration did try to boost U.S. economic ties with Southeast Asia in 2016 by forging the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but that trade deal was broadly unpopular in the United States. The following year, the Donald J. Trump administration ended U.S. participation in the TPP, and it also suggested launching punitive economic measures against Southeast Asian states currently running trade surpluses with the United States. Many Southeast Asian leaders now worry that Washington has no clear security or economic strategy for the region, other than applying pressure on Beijing to respect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. In this perceived void of U.S. leadership and strategy, workshop participants assessed how Southeast Asia might change as China becomes an increasingly dominant regional security and economic actor. They also discussed the future of U.S. strategic and economic relationships with important partners in the region, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Participants further considered how China might use its growing leverage in Southeast Asia, and whether Beijing’s tactics could backfire. Finally, several workshop participants posited that the United States, China, and Southeast Asian states could cooperate on at least some nontraditional security issues, such as combating piracy and terrorism.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Euan Graham, Chengxin Pan, Ian Hall, Rikki Kersten, Benjamin Zala, Sarah Percy
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Australian National University Department of International Relations
  • Abstract: In this Centre of Gravity paper, six of Australia’s leading scholars and policy experts debate Australian participation in the ‘Australia-India-Japan-United States consultations on the Indo-Pacific’ - known universally as the ‘Quad’. A decade since its first iteration, the revival of the Quad presents significant questions for Australia and the regional order. Is the Quad a constructive partnership of the region’s major powers to safeguard regional stability, uphold the rules-based order and promote security cooperation? Is it a concert of democracies seeking to contain China? Or is it an emerging strategic alignment that risks precipitating the very confrontation with China it seeks to avoid? Or is it something else entirely? Euan Graham opens the debate by arguing that the Quad represents a rare second chance for Australia to cooperate with regional powers who have a shared interest is the maintenance of stability in Asia through the preservation of a balance of power. In addition to constraining China’s strategic choices beyond its maritime periphery, Dr. Graham argues that the Quad’s revival aims to send a concerted strategic signal to China along the four compass points of the Indo-Pacific region, but sufficiently restrained to avoid significant blowback from Beijing. Chengxin Pan responds that instead of forcing China to change tack, the Quad, by exacerbating China’s strategic vulnerability, will achieve precisely the opposite: prompting it to further strengthen its military capabilities. Dr. Pan argues that the nature of China’s challenge to the existing regional order is actually geoeconomic in design, as evidenced by the Belt and Road Initiative. To meet this challenge, however, the Quad’s military response is far from the right answer or an effective alternative. Ian Hall next argues that the Quad is neither a proto-alliance nor an instrument for containing China. Given that these states have so far failed to advance a coherent and coordinated line on Chinese initiatives to transform the region, Dr. Hall notes that the Quad offers something more prosaic and evolutionary: a forum for discussion and information exchange intended to lead to better policy coordination between like-minded states with a stake in the rules-based order. Rikki Kersten notes that the Japanese government wants Quad 2.0 to be seen as a Japanese initiative because it aspires to lead an ethical endeavour that reaches beyond the Asia-Pacific region. This represents a stepchange in post-war Japanese foreign and security policy thinking. Japan under Abe is seeking to harness rising insecurity to underpin its own regional leadership credentials and enhance the geographical scope of its security policy ambition. Benjamin Zala responds that the potential risks associated with sending containment-like signals to Beijing in the short-term and the potential for misperceptions over ambiguous commitments during a future crisis in the longer-term clearly outweigh the benefits of the current vague aspiration to cooperation with no clear purpose. Dr. Zala also warns against blurring the lines between formal military alliances and strategic partnerships like the Quad which increase the odds of miscalculation during times of power transition. Finally, Sarah Percy rounds out the debate by arguing that discussions of the Quad’s high politics have thus far obscured the more practical and interesting questions about how it might function and contribute to maritime security. Dr. Percy notes that that the day-to-day operations of most navies are focused on the more proximate security challenges posed by maritime crime. The Quad would yield tangible and possibly lasting benefits from such cooperation.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Maritime
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, India, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Terry Branstad
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: When I welcome visitors to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Beijing, they often comment on a black-and-white photo of my first meeting with Xi Jinping. In the picture, the members of the 1985 Chinese agriculture delegation to Iowa stand calmly behind my desk, peering into the camera, as Xi Jinping stands unobtru­sively to my right. Some visitors ask, “Ambassador Branstad, did you know this young man would become President of China?” Indeed, I did not—I treated him with the same Iowa hospitality with which I welcome all my guests. His importance as a rising leader of China, though, became increasingly apparent over the course of six gubernatorial visits I made to China during the subsequent 30 years. The same is true of U.S.-China relations. Today, I have the honor of representing the United States in the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world, one that we absolutely have to get right. During President Donald Trump’s November 2017 state visit to China, the President identified three priority tasks for the two nations’ relationship. First, work with the Chinese govern­ment to address the North Korean nuclear and missile threat. Second, seek a more balanced and reciprocal trade and investment relationship. And third, partner with Chinese authorities to reduce the flow of illicit opioids from China to the United States. Each task presents its own unique challenges and opportunities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Richard N. Holwill
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: A meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un (KJU), the Supreme Leader of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), can be a success even if it fails to achieve President Trump’s announced goal: an end to the DPRK nuclear weapons program. This meeting starts by giving KJU one of his long-sought goals. It will, in effect, be more than a meeting. It will be a “summit” and will confer on KJU the status of the leader of a legitimate government. President Trump would be wise to redefine success. He should not fall into the trap of saying that success will be defined by a “denuclearization agreement.” While that should be a long-term goal, it will not happen at this meeting. Still, the summit will be successful if it produces a process that can lead to a substantial reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula. This is not to say that an agreement on denuclearization is off the table. Rather, it is to rec­ognize that these talks could present a framework for negotiation that would be very valuable, even if they will fall short of a nuclear disarmament accord. To understand the difficulty of reaching a nuclear arms agreement, we need only look at the way the two leaders speak about denuclearization. Each appears to define it differently. President Trump applies the term to nuclear weapons in the DPRK. KJU speaks of it as applying to the entire Korean Peninsula. He will argue that, if he must allow a mean­ingful verification regime, so must U.S. forces in South Korea.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Marcin Kaczmarski
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Despite concrete achievements in energy and military-technical cooperation, long-term trends, such as Russia’s growing dependence on China, India’s tilt towards the US, and tense Sino-Indian relations are not conducive to closer strategic cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Energy Policy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, India, Asia
  • Author: Bart Gaens
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU’s new strategy for connecting Europe and Asia, implicitly a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is an important first step in promoting European priorities in terms of connectivity. However, uncertainties, including those surrounding the financial implications, remain.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, European Union
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Jean-Pierre Cabestan
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Chinese troops have been stationed in Mali for the last half-decade as part of the UN-mandated stabilization force. Deployed after rebel groups overran large portions northeastern Mali in 2013, it was just the second time Beijing had ever contributed combat troops to a UN peacekeeping mission. This Special Report examines how China is using its peacekeeping activities in Mali as an opportunity to train troops and test equipment in a hostile environment—and as a way of extending its diplomatic reach and soft power in Africa and beyond.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Asia, Mali