Dealing with Assertive China: Time for Engagement 2.0

map of China and its neighbors

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 12 January 2016.

By all accounts, China’s rise as a great power has reached a new phase. In 2010, by nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), China overtook Japan as the world’s second largest economy, following stunning leaps over France, the United Kingdom, and Germany in the previous five years. Symbolically, this marked China’s arrival as the second largest global power. Concurrently, Chinese foreign policy has abandoned its earlier “lie-low, bide our time” strategy and turned assertive.

China’s rising challenge calls for a revamped American policy. To devise an effective response, we will need to be clear-eyed about the persistent drivers as well as the changing dynamics of Chinese foreign policy. We will also need to be clear on both the limitations and the adaptability of the past policy that has successfully facilitated China’s integration into the international system. Decades of China’s internationalization diminishes the prospect of war and tightens the place of China in the existing world order. But the two sides now seem stuck in a hapless state of strategic mistrust. America’s heightened concern over China is crystallized in the danger of what Professor Graham Allison calls the Thucydides Trap, the risk of war during a power transition typified by the Peloponnesian War between the rising Athens and the reigning Sparta. Chinese strategy analysts are acutely aware of the number two-power conundrum, as their country becomes the target of security fixation from the United States and its allies.

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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Towards a New ‘Heartland’?

Colorful Globe focued on India, China, Pakistan

Colorful Globe. Image: Carol VanHook/flickr

This article was originally published by the LSE South Asia Centre on 16 November 2015.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), first announced during Xi Jinping’s state visit to Pakistan in April this year, is a crucial component of the Chinese President’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, which has become an indispensable element of discussions about China’s foreign policy and one of the Chinese President’s most emblematic policy initiatives.

CPEC has been heralded as a game-changer for regional and global geopolitics, for reasons that go beyond the unprecedented scale of China’s largest overseas investment project to date. The project consists of extensive investment in Pakistan’s transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure, with an estimated value of over $46 billion USD. It will eventually extend about 3,000 km, linking the southwestern Pakistani port of Gwadar to the city of Kashgar, in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. » More

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Don’t Expect Too Much from Growing Sino–Indonesia Ties

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Image: arifdani nugraha/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 7 November, 2015.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) visited China twice in his first year of presidency alone. In contrast he made his first state visit to the United States only in October 2015. But although Sino–Indonesian relations are currently strengthening, economic and geostrategic obstacles are likely to limit progress.

When the Jokowi administration came to power in 2014, it inherited an already strong relationship with China. Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) relations were upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2013, which saw enhanced cooperation in areas such as defence and scientific research. In 2010, China also became Indonesia’s largest trade partner and committed to assist Indonesia in infrastructural development. » More

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Migratory Labor for Extractive Industries Creating “Sons of Soil” Conflict in China

Miners entering a coal mine. Image: Unsplash/Pixabay

This article was originally published by New Security Beat on 13 October, 2015.

In May 2011, two weeks before I was scheduled to start research in the region, a Mongol herder named Mergen was hit by a mining truck while protecting his pastureland in Xilingol, Inner Mongolia. He was dragged 140 feet and killed. His death sparked a month of protests.

It was not the first or last time extractive industries have collided with ethnic minorities in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, an area nearly twice the size of Texas and home to 25 million people, 17 percent of whom are ethnic Mongols. Several studies have shown that natural resources – whether through abundance or scarcity – are sometimes linked to the onset, duration, and intensity of armed conflict. Yet, the identity of those who exploit natural resources has been largely ignored. A closer look at tensions surrounding China’s voracious appetite for nature resources reveals this may be mistake. » More

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The Geo-Economic Potential of the China–Japan Relationship

Japanese and Chinese Flags. Image: futureatlas.com/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 28 September, 2015.

China and Japan already together account for more than a fifth of global output, bigger than the share held by the United States or that of Europe. Over three-quarters of that, of course, is generated in mainland China but, contrary to widely held perceptions, the China–Japan economic partnership is one of the biggest in the world.

The bilateral trade relationship is the third-largest in the world, with a US$340 billion trade relationship in 2014. China is Japan’s largest trading partner, accounting for one-fifth of its trade, and Japan is China’s second-largest. Japan is the largest investor in China, with a stock of direct investment at more than US$100 billion in 2014 or US$30 billion more than the next largest source, the United States. But even those massive trade and investment figures understate just how intertwined are these two Asian giants. » More

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