19th CPC Congress in China: Ideology Dominant

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 »

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China and North Korea: A Convenient Arrangement

China has gone around Asia, particularly, Southeast Asia telling countries to behave because they are smaller than China.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] The huge US-ROK joint military exercises in March-April 2016[4] according to the Chinese caused major worry in Pyongyang, which sees such exercises as disguising potential military invasion.Read More »

Tsai-Trump Telephone Call: Reading Trump and the Chinese Response

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.[1]

Trump Testing the Waters?

Taiwan has in the past congratulated the US president-elect in private or in writing[2] 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.’[3]

Trump also tweeted about the occasion saying, ‘The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!’.[4] Read More »

Major Powers in the Indo-Pacific

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.

Japan

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 »

US FON Ops and China’s Continuing Challenge

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 »

Regional Hegemony or Peaceful Rise? China’s New Silk Roads and the Asia-Pacific

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 »

Obama’s India Visit and Chinese Reactions

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 »