The CSS Blog Network

Rough Patches on the Silk Road? The Geopolitics of the Belt and Road Initiative

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Courtesy Victoria Pickering/Flickr

This article was published by Political Violence @ a Glance in October 2016. The post draws on the author’s chapter in a recently released Peterson Institute for International Economics Briefing volume.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a plan to build a vast network of roads, rail lines, new ports, and other infrastructure improvements a in more than 60 countries, at a cost of $4 trillion – is an economic policy designed to radically expand trade and investment in Asia and around the Indian Ocean. Critically, however, it is also a security initiative with the aim of facilitating economic integration and promoting longer-run peace in the region.

The economic benefits are likely to be large, but there may be rough patches along the new Silk Road. While the proposed investments are precisely the types of trade-enhancing projects development economists have long called for, the geopolitical implications of BRI are complicated. From the restive western Chinese province of Xianjing to Jammu-Kashmir, the Myanmar-Chinese border, and the Indian Ocean, BRI-related initiatives target or traverse some of the world’s most contested territories. Major power development programs abroad – such as the US Marshall Plan and Alliance for Progress – have always been motivated by a mixture of economic and security concerns. Indeed, BRI is intended in part to address security fears emanating from these regions by improving economic prospects.

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Is Globalisation Really Fuelling Populism?

One world / courtesy of Kai Schreiber/flickr

This article was originally published by the the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 11 May 2016.

On both sides of the Atlantic, populism on the left and the right is on the rise. Its most visible standard-bearer in the United States is Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. In Europe, there are many strands – from Spain’s leftist Podemos party to France’s right-wing National Front – but all share the same opposition to centrist parties and to the establishment in general. What accounts for voters’ growing revolt against the status quo?

The prevailing explanation is that rising populism amounts to a rebellion by ‘globalisation’s losers’. By pursuing successive rounds of trade liberalisation, the logic goes, leaders in the US and Europe ‘hollowed out’ the domestic manufacturing base, reducing the availability of high-paying jobs for low-skilled workers, who now have to choose between protracted unemployment and menial service-sector jobs. Fed up, those workers are now supposedly rejecting establishment parties for having spearheaded this ‘elite project’.

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China-EU Relations: Post-Summit Perspectives

China and EU Flags

Courtesy Friends of Europe/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Polish Institute of International Relations on 27 July 2016.

The latest EU-China summit confirmed the increasing discrepancies between the two sides. China, in protecting its own market, treats European investors unevenly. Simultaneously, the PRC is seeking unlimited access to the EU market to export products resulting from its overcapacity. The EU is concerned about subsidised Chinese exports, which may increase unemployment in Europe. There are rifts in the normative domain as well: China has not accepted an arbitration tribunal’s decision about the South China Sea. The EU, in supporting peaceful means of resolving international disputes, has acknowledged the ruling. Now more than ever, the member states should take into account the European context of relations with the PRC and coordinate their policies towards China with the EU institutions.

The latest EU-China summit (12–13 July) was held after the release of a new EU strategy towards China and coincided with an announcement by an arbitration tribunal of its decision about the South China Sea.[1] The new strategy is the EU’s response to China’s global ambitions and the increasing number of problems in bilateral relations. The noticeable differences in the topics raised by the two sides during the summit vindicates the assumption of deepening discrepancies, including asymmetry in relations at the expense of the EU.

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China: A Partner for the Development of Latin America?

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Courtesy Diego Wyllie/flickr

This Expert Commentary was published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 11 July 2016. It also appeared in the discussion paper “EU-China Relations: New Directions, New Priorities” by Friends of Europe.

China’s re-emergence over the last few decades coincides chronologically with the process of diversification in Latin America’s pattern of international insertion. We have witnessed Beijing grow from a marginal factor in Latin America, to become a key player in shaping the evolution of countries in the region and their process of regional integration. Deepening relations with non-traditional partners has opened a more pluralistic scenario for Latin American countries, extending the range of their international cooperation options in all spheres.

The economic dimension of Chinese-Latin American relations has blossomed in the areas of trade and finance. Beijing has become the second largest trade partner and the main source of international public finance for Latin America. With that being said, the economic development of some Latin American countries is so dependent on the performance of the Chinese economy that a fall of one percentage point in the growth rate of Chinese GDP would reduce Latin American growth by 0.6%, according to the World Bank. Therefore, it is particularly relevant to analyse whether engagement with China is healthy for the economic development of Latin America or not.

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The Eurasian Union: Rising or Shooting Star?

Peligroso Putin

Peligroso Putin, Madrid 2008, Courtesy David/flickr

This article was originally published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) in June 2016.

Russia’s recession and its geopolitical standoff with the West are taking their toll on the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). During a summit of the EAEU’s leaders in Astana on 31 May, several participants voiced concerns over the union’s poor economic performance. And Moscow’s reaction to the recent flare-up of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict cast doubts for Armenia on the security benefits of EAEU membership.

Against this backdrop, 18 months after the launch of the EAEU, its member states are demonstrating increasing resistance to Moscow’s vision of Eurasian integration. As a result, its success will largely depend on Russia’s leverage – positive and negative – over its smaller partners.

Looming stick, dwindling carrot

The launch of the EAEU was overshadowed by two developments. First, Russian pressure on Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine in the context of the finalisation of Association Agreements with the EU and accession to the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), culminating with the annexation of Crimea and a Moscow-backed insurgency in the Donbas; and, second, the global slump of commodity prices and the enforcement of Western economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, leading to a slowdown of the Russian economy (the ultimate guarantor of the union’s economic success). In this context, EAEU accession was perceived by its signatories as a bitter pill that could not be refused.

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