The CSS Blog Network

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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Managing Paul Kagame, Africa’s Enfant Terrible

Image: Flickr

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 30 March 2014.

South Africa is conducting a fairly delicate struggle with Rwanda, trying to choreograph and coordinate complex moves to manage the difficult and dangerous President Paul Kagame – on the hard streets of Johannesburg, in the polite halls of diplomacy, in the courts of law, and, by proxy, on the field of battle.

On Tuesday this week the terrain of this struggle moved to multilateral diplomacy in Luanda, where President Jacob Zuma once again attended a summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). South Africa is not a member of this body, but Zuma has become a sort of country member, having been invited to the last few summits as a special guest. » More

Connecting South Asia: The Stilwell Road & Sub-Regional Networks

Entering Burma through the Pangsau Pass on Stilwell Road at Border Post 173. (Photo: kazkapades/Flickr)

The ‘reopening’ of the Stilwell Road, as it were, has come to occupy news space with renewed vigour in the past few of years. The road finds its inception at Ledo Road in Assam, through Nampong and Pangsau Pass in Arunachal Pradesh (the latter is the international border point) through Bhamo and Myitkina in Kachin State of Myanmar, to Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province. The largest section of this currently dysfunctional route lies in Myanmar (1,033 km), a 61 km stretch traverses India and the remaining 632 km passes through China. It must be noted that this road was operational only during the period of World War II, during which time it was used as a military supply line. It lay redundant after this, as it does to this day. » More

Time for an Alliance Caucus

Handshake

Image by Flickr/buddawiggi

The post‑World War II “hub-and-spoke” alliance structure has served the United States and its allies well for the past six decades. Yet the transnational nature of current Asia-Pacific security challenges highlights the limitations of bilateral US‑ally relationships to handle regional security threats, traditional or not. Success demands that the US and its allies work with each other in a networked manner. This is not to suggest “NATO for Asia,” but it is time for an informal Alliance Caucus.

A Caucus of the US and its regional allies (Australia, Japan, the Philippines, the ROK, and Thailand) could provide – initially as informal knowledge-sharing gatherings alongside international forums – an opportunity to creatively address concerns relevant not just to the US and its allies, but to the region as a whole.

This proposal is not without precedent. The UN has a multitude of caucuses, informal and formal, where likeminded countries coalesce around shared visions of specific interests. East Asian governments for years have sought a caucus in APEC; they now seek a similar group in the G-20. » More

Turkish Delight

Fying high? Photo: Sergey Melkonov/flickr

Earlier this week, the ISN looked at the ‘Arab Spring’ from a geopolitical perspective – or more precisely, at how regional powers benefited from the recent political changes to further their own influence in the Middle East. Let’s now take a closer look at Turkey to see how the recent events impact upon Ankara’s geopolitical ambitions.

Unlike most advanced economies, Turkey survived the global financial crisis relatively unscathed. Indeed, Turkey’s steady economic growth partially explains why the country is of renewed importance to the West’s foreign policy agenda. Its close proximity to the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia means that it is critical to US, European and NATO policy objectives. Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO and is home to a US air-force base at Incirlik. Add to that a relatively moderate, secular democracy with a Muslim population of more than 75 million, and it becomes clear why Western powers simply cannot afford to ignore the geopolitical importance of Turkey.

Yet for Turkey, the balance between an east- and westward orientation in its foreign policy is a delicate one. Internally, there is a deep split within Turkish society between the mainly secular, Europe-oriented faction of the Sea of Marmara region and the religious faction of Anatolia. When Prime Minister Erdogan came to power in 2002, he seemed to restate the country’s long-standing allegiance to the West by making Turkey’s eventual accession to the EU a top priority. Yet accession talks have long stalled. This is mainly the EU’s decision, but Turkey’s desire to be a more integral part of Europe seems to be fading too. » More