Tag Archives: Southeast Asia

Interview: China Balances Assertiveness and Diplomacy

The original of an interview published in the Maharashtra Times, Pune in Marathi on 31 July 2016.

1. Why is China so aggressive in the South China Sea case? Are there any chances of war between China and other parts of the world?

A: China has a strong sense of having suffered from Western and Japanese colonialism and of being wronged. The so-called ‘century of humiliation’ is something that every Chinese man, woman and child is familiar with and hence, they have a great attachment to territory as a sign of their historical greatness. Right now, Chinese leaders seem their country as being militarily more powerful than their neighbours and so think they can also claim the territory they want in the South China Sea. But this is not simply a case of China versus its ASEAN neighbours. China is in the main trying to keep the United States from exercising power and influence in China’s neighbourhood. Chances of all-out war are low. China is smart enough not to damage its chances of growth and prosperity by going to war.

2. China has tense relations with almost all ASEAN countries. But, their Maritime silk route vision includes Southeast Asia also. Both these things stand in contrast. How will they manage? Continue reading Interview: China Balances Assertiveness and Diplomacy

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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. Continue reading US FON Ops and China’s Continuing Challenge

China and the Modi Visit to Bangladesh

China-Bangladesh relations have progressed significantly over the years. China has been Bangladesh’s largest trading partner for several years now and is also increasingly a major investor in the country with commitments to various physical infrastructure projects ranging from bridges and railways to water and sewage treatment plants. After the World Bank withdrew from the project of building of a bridge over the River Padma in Bangladesh’s southwest, it is the Chinese that have agreed to step in.

There was little coverage of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June this year but it is worth noting that China sent Vice Premier Liu Yandong to Bangladesh in late May to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Bangladesh. Continue reading China and the Modi Visit to Bangladesh

China and Vietnam: Neither Thick Friends nor Constant Antagonists

Given their deep historical linkages, China and Vietnam have a relationship that cannot simply be described as uniformly cooperative or conflictual at any given point of time. Vietnam appears to be a near-permanent bulwark against China in Southeast Asia but it will not and cannot simultaneously be in a state of constant antagonism, either.

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

The Sino-Vietnamese relationship is complex and multi-dimensional. Even as clashes between the Vietnamese and Chinese continue, including between their naval vessels in the disputed waters of the Paracels and Spratlys, bilateral trade stood at US$58.5 billion in 2014, up by 16 per cent from 2013; about 10 per cent of Vietnam’s exports – mainly food and natural resources – go to China. And while tourism between the two countries has dropped as bilateral relations deteriorated, regular interactions at the sub-national level continue. Nationalist eruptions are kept in check also by the memory of a common struggle against Western colonialism and imperialism. Despite strong nationalist tendencies on either side, like the Chinese, the Vietnamese too, emphasize people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

Party-to-party ties remain deep with regular bilateral visits and interactions focusing on the study of both theory and each other’s experiences, and messages of felicitation on important anniversaries on either side. Top leaders have also met in third countries on the sidelines of various multilateral forums. CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping and his counterpart in the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), Nguyen Phu Trong, marked the 65th anniversary of China-Vietnam diplomatic relations through a telephone conversation in February 2015 – the third year that the two have marked the occasion thus. Such regular telephone calls also take place between other officials on the two sides. Trong would later in April 2015 make a formal visit to Beijing as part of the celebrations with a delegation that included ‘about one third of Vietnam’s politburo’.

For the full article see, ‘China and Vietnam: Neither Thick Friends nor Constant Antagonists’, ICS Analysis, No. 30, May 2015.

China’s New Silk Roads: Reinterpreting History

Originally published as ‘Pothole potential on China’s silk roads’, Asia Times Online, 13 March 2015.

Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Silk Road Economic Belt (sichouzhilu jingjidai, 丝绸之路经济带) in a speech on 7 September 2013 at the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan[1] and the Maritime Silk Road (haishang sichouzhilu, 海上丝绸之路) during his visit to Indonesia, the following month.[2] The two initiatives – collectively termed the ‘one belt, one road’ (yidai yilu, 一带一路) initiative – taken together with his declaration of a new neighbourhood policy in October 2013 at the first work forum (zuotan, 座谈) on diplomacy towards China’s periphery(zhoubian, 周边),[3] constitute a major Chinese foreign policy initiative. It is designed not just to increase China’s influence but also to put forward a new way of doing business, different from the Western/American approaches and tries also to assuage fears of an impending Chinese regional and global hegemony.

Continue reading China’s New Silk Roads: Reinterpreting History

Divide and Rule: China Woos Southeast Asia

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)[1] 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’.[2] 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. Continue reading Divide and Rule: China Woos Southeast Asia

The Search for a Chinese Model of International Relations

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, “China in Southeast Asia: The Search for a Chinese Model of International Relations,” Special Issue: China and Southeast Asia, China Report, Vol. 48, No. 3, August 2012, pp. 317-326.

Abstract: Despite China’s claims of a foreign policy of ‘peaceful rise’/‘peaceful development’ and of seeking a ‘harmonious world’, and despite its economic openness and active participation in economic multilateralism, China’s neighbours continue to be concerned about the overall direction and intent of Beijing’s security policies. These concerns are particularly heightened by China’s rapid military modernization of the past couple of decades. The announcement in 2010 that China considered its territorial claims in the South China Sea a ‘core interest’, can be seen as a setback to its regional diplomacy, so diligently crafted over the years and drove its Southeast Asian neighbours to seek closer engagement with the US. This article argues that the contradictions evident in China’s neighbourhood foreign policy reflect its continuing search for a model of international relations that can balance its domestic interests such as the need for political stability, including regime stability, on the one hand and its external ambitions for a decisive role in regional affairs, on the other.

Read the full article here.

The US ‘Pivot’ to Asia: Impact on Indian Foreign and Security Policies

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.

内容提要:2012年1月发布的”维持美国全球领导地位:21世界国防重点”阐明了未来十年美国的重点安全目标,引起各国广泛关注.本文从美制定该战略的国内,国际背景和重点内容入手,分析了美国向亚洲再平衡将对中国和印度造成哪些外交,安全等方面的影响,指出印美间存在不可逾越的分歧,印应在新形势下同时处理好对华和对没关系,实现本国在亚洲,乃至世界发挥更大作用的抱负.

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.

关键词: 美国国际安全战略,美印关系,亚太安全,中印关系

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,”[1] 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.[2] Continue reading The US ‘Pivot’ to Asia: Impact on Indian Foreign and Security Policies

To Intervene or Not to Intervene?

China recently announced a defence budget of over US$100 billion as part of its continuing military modernization. Many observers outside China, including those from India, have concluded that this massive buildup indicates that China is intent on making war with its neighbours.

China’s intentions, however, are seldom as clear-cut as they are made out be. If anything, there is more debate than certainty in Beijing on how best to maximize Chinese influence and interests abroad. Continue reading To Intervene or Not to Intervene?