“The project of the century” is how Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi touted the Belt and Road Initiative to the world when addressing the UN General Assembly on 21 September. It was only the latest in a series of pronouncements and events, including a Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May and the ninth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Xiamen in early September, choreographed to position China at the vanguard of a new stage of globalisation. Step by step, China is demonstrating that the Belt and Road is now the guiding framework for its international economic statecraft.
This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 11 September 2017.
China’s global geopolitical aspirations, backed by growing economic clout, shape the direction and character of its military-technological choices and China’s strategic interest to strengthen its position in global arms markets.
Over the past decade, China has been able to accelerate its transition from a large arms importer to a major exporter, with a potential to become one of the world’s leading arms exporters, by providing low cost and affordable service and upgrade packages without geopolitical strings.
According to recent data by SIPRI, the Stockholm-based think-tank, Chinese exports of major arms have increased by 74 percent between 2012 and 2016, and its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 percent, making it the world’s third-largest supplier in the world, after the United States and Russia. The geographic spread and number of recipients of Chinese weapons exports have also increased. In 2012-16, China delivered major arms to 44 countries – more than 60 percent of China’s exports went to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and another 22 percent went to Africa. China also delivered major arms to ex-Soviet states for the first time, including the 2016 delivery of surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems HQ9 (FD-2000) to Turkmenistan.
India deftly used the BRICS summit to end the standoff with China in Bhutan, but challenges remain for bilateral relations
One week can be a long time in inter-state relations. In a week’s time, India and China had kissed and made up after their armies stood eyeball to eyeball at the Doklam Plateau for more than two months. The trouble at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction started June 16, when Indian soldiers detected construction activity on what is considered disputed territory on the Doklam Plateau. Chinese workers seemed to be building a road that would have allowed China to project power further into the territory claimed by Bhutan, thereby giving Beijing an ability to cut India’s northeast from the mainland.
India’s response was immediate. The government sent troops into Bhutan to halt the roadbuilding, demanding restoration of status quo ante. As the Indian external affairs minister explained in the Indian Parliament: “Our [Indian] concerns emanate from Chinese action on the ground which have implications for the determination of the tri-junction boundary point between India, China and Bhutan and the alignment of India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector.” Sushma Swaraj added that “dialogue is the only way out of the Doklam standoff…and this should be seen in the context of the entire bilateral relationship.”
Demands for perfect security by one nation, without regard for others, heighten anxiety and prompt unnecessary weapons buildup
The G20 summit in Hamburg, the Russian-Chinese presidential meeting, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization leadership summit underline new concerns driving such public gatherings of world leaders. Among the major obstacles to great power cooperation that preoccupy leaders is how they perceive one another as selfishly advancing their individual national security heedless of others’ concerns.
At the G20 summit, some delegates criticized the US policy of putting American economic interests first above the need for global cooperation to limit climate change or to sustain international free trade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel openly said that Europeans would have to assume the mantle of climate change leadership from what she depicts as a security-selfish US.
This security dilemma impeding great power cooperation is also evident in how the presidents of China and Russia approached North Korea’s latest missile tests, an action underpinned by Pyongyang’s own quest for absolute security from US military threats by acquiring a nuclear deterrent. At their July 4 presidential summit in Moscow, China and Russia urged Pyongyang to suspend missile testing in return for a US–South Korean freeze on major military activities, which the US rejected as a Chinese-Russian attempt to exploit the North Korean threat to weaken the US–South Korean alliance.
By 2024, India will slip past China to become the most populous country and must rapidly prepare for a fast-changing economy.
India will likely hold that rank throughout the 21st century. Its population is 1.34 billion, nearly a fourfold increase since independence 70 years ago. China’s population, at 1.41 billion, roughly doubled over the same period. The pace of India’s population growth, now at 15 million per year, is the world’s largest. The two nations alone have more than a billion people, and their population gap is projected to widen to 500 million by 2100. By comparison, the third and fourth most populous countries in 2100, Nigeria and the United States, are projected to have populations of nearly 800 million and 450 million, respectively.
The long-term growth of India’s population, largely a function of fertility rates, is less certain. UN population projections indicate a range of possible scenarios. For example, if India’s current fertility of 2.3 births per woman remains constant, its population would grow to 1.8 billion by 2050 and 2.5 billion by 2100. Even under the instant-replacement fertility variant, with the country’s fertility assumed to fall immediately to 2.1 births per woman, India’s population would reach 1.9 billion by the century’s close.