China is the world’s second-largest economy and one its major political powers. While it has not been tested in battle for some 40 years, it has the largest military in the world and the second-largest military budget. For nearly 70 years, the world’s most populous country has been ruled by a single political party – the Communist Party of China (CPC) – and so when it holds its once-in-five-years national congress, it is an important event that the rest of the world and especially neighbouring India would do well to watch closely and understand. Read more
China has gone around Asia, particularly, Southeast Asia telling countries to behave because they are smaller than China. Beijing however, is strangely more diffident when it comes to Pyongyang’s consistently cocking a snook at it and also complicating China’s regional security environment at the same time. As opposed as they are to the DPRK’s nuclear status, the Chinese also do not seek a US-led regime change through military meansand to see either North Korean refugees or American troops on its borders.
Chinese Views on North Korea’s Nuclear Programme
Chinese scholars also view the DPRK as feeling genuinely threatened by the US and that its development of nuclear weapons is for regime survival. The huge US-ROK joint military exercises in March-April 2016 according to the Chinese caused major worry in Pyongyang, which sees such exercises as disguising potential military invasion. Read more
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called up US President-elect Donald Trump on 3 December to congratulate him on his victory. A statement from the Taiwan Presidential Office stated that the call lasted just over 10 minutes and that Tsai and Trump ‘shared views and ideals on governance, especially on promoting domestic economic development and strengthening national defense’ and ‘also exchanged views briefly on the situation in Asia’. Tsai ‘expressed the wish of strengthening [Taiwan-US] bilateral exchanges and contacts and establishing closer cooperation relations.
Trump Testing the Waters?
Taiwan has in the past congratulated the US president-elect in private or in writing but this is possibly the first time since 1979, the two sides have actually spoken over the phone. Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang said, ‘Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.’
Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Role of Major Powers in the Indo-Pacific Region’ in Gurpreet S Khurana and Antara Ghosal Singh (eds). India and China: Constructing A Peaceful Order in the Indo-Pacific (New Delhi: National Maritime Foundation, 2016), pp. 79-89.
The conversion of the ‘Asia-Pacific’ into the ‘Indo-Pacific’ – a construct of fairly recent vintage – is of somewhat varying legitimacy depending on the issues one is dealing with. From an economic perspective, the ‘Indo-Pacific’ makes sense given the long energy supply lines between West Asia and East Asia and also from a goods trade perspective. The ‘Indo-Pacific’ is also increasingly relevant on the basis of various new and specific themes such as climate change, theft of intellectual property, currency manipulation and cyber-security.
However, from a traditional security perspective, the new nomenclature appears rather contrived still even if energy security or nuclear proliferation – that link the Indian and Pacific Oceans – are major issues for the growing powers in Asia. This is so because it is only truly the United States that links the two geographies in terms of credible security capacity. Further, concerns of piracy in the Indian Ocean apart, it is the East Asian half of the Indo-Pacific that is the more critical region from a maritime security perspective given the various maritime disputes involving China and its neighbours, the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula and the incipient great power competition between China and the United States. Keeping this context in mind, this essay will examine the role of three major powers in East Asia, namely, Japan, Russia and the United States, and their interactions with China as a way of understanding evolving dynamics in the Indo-Pacific.
As neighbours and sibling civilizations, China and Japan have been structurally oriented towards rivalry. China is unwilling to forgive or forget the humiliation by and depredations of the Japanese during WW II and the Japanese elites that matter are unwilling to fully and genuinely apologize or to let go of the chip on their shoulder from having bested and dominated their larger neighbor for however brief a period. The current Chinese territorial claims over the Senkakus are only a manifestation of this historical reality rather than the main problem. Read more
Originally published as Jabin T Jacob, ‘China’s aggression in South China Sea a global challenge’, Hindustan Times, 4 November 2015.
In late October, the American destroyer USS Lassens sailed within a 12 nautical mile territorial waters limit claimed by China at Subi Reef in the South China Sea. China has no right to such a claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the US was exercising its rights to freedom of navigation under the Convention.
Predictably Beijing has protested while others have cheered the US action but American freedom of navigation (FON) operations are nothing new and have been carried out regularly in other seas despite the fact that the US itself has not ratified UNCLOS. In the South China Sea itself, the US has carried out FON operations previously to counter excessive maritime claims by Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Read more
Based on a presentation made at a conference on The US Rebalance and Asia Pacific Region, organized by the Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi, Kerala, 7 March 2015.
The questions asked of China about whether it is engaged in a regional hegemony project in the Asia-Pacific are deeply problematic. For one, there is a great deal of ignorance about China and so the starting assumptions are underlined by misinformation or lack of knowledge of China’s internal political dynamics, its external concerns as well as of its policy processes. For another, similar questions are not asked of the United States. Is the United States engaged in hegemony or is it a power that maintains peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific? Or is it both? Can the responsibility to maintain regional or global peace be separated from the need to also be hegemonic in order to actually successfully carry out that role? These are big questions but the more interesting one from an Indian point of view is why this question today is asked more of China than of the United States. Read more
The Chinese objective will be to keep India out of the US camp in a way that prevents any substantial balancing or containment strategies against China. Chinese commentary and analyses of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India offer some clues to how they might seek to go about achieving this goal. China will employ both rhetorical devices and measures that have to be taken sooner or later such as for example, support for Indian membership of important regional and international bodies as well as substantial measures such as trade and investment opportunities from China. Read more
At the 17th China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar in November 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for the formulation of a Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2016-2020) to ensure good neighbourly relations. A Global Times commentary has pointed out that while the Chairman’s Statement of the 24th ASEAN Summit on the South China Sea disputes ‘expressed serious concerns over the ongoing developments in the South China Sea’, the statement at the 25th Summit that concluded in Naypyitaw on 13 November, only mentioned that it was ‘concerned over the situation in the South China Sea’. Clearly, the Chinese are working on the ASEAN members to moderate their views on the seriousness of the impact of the South China Sea disputes, and by extension, China’s actions, on regional stability. Read more
Originally published as “美国 ‘转向’ 亚洲: 对印度外交和安全政策的影响,” (“The US ‘Pivot’ to Asia: Impact on Indian Foreign and Security Policies”), 中国国际战略评论2012 (China International Strategy Review 2012), Centre for International Strategic Studies, Peking University, June 2012, pp. 62-72.
Abstract: Announced in January 2012, “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” expounds on the United States’ key security goals in the coming decade, and has generated wide interest in the countries of the region. This article begins by outlining the domestic and international contexts and the key points of the United States’ rebalancing towards Asia. It then analyzes the possible foreign policy, security and other implications for China and India, pointing out that there are insurmountable differences between the United States and India. In the new environment, India has to simultaneously handle well its relations with both the United States and China while trying to achieve its regional, even global, ambitions most effectively.
Keywords: American international security strategy, Indo-US relations, Asia-Pacific security, Sino-Indian relations
(The abstract above in English is a rough translation. I would have summarized it somewhat differently. The original text in English follows below).
In January 2012, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released a new strategic plan titled, “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” putting forward key American security goals for the coming decade. While US military forces will continue to be involved in security missions around the world, the Pentagon document was notable for the assertion that the US “will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region” (italics in original) (p.2). This doctrine has been widely described as a US ‘pivot’ toward Asia and within China views about the American move have ranged from seeing a fresh US attempt at a containment strategy to calling for calm while continuing to pursue its national interest. Read more