China in Central Asia: Myth-making and Foreign Policy

China is deepening its ties with Central Asia through the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) initiative. Cooperation with the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that was already quite intense in the field of trade, especially in the energy sector, is broadening into infrastructure development with an eye on strengthening the region’s role as a transit hub for Chinese products moving to the more prosperous and bigger markets of Europe.

The primary objective for China is, of course, the maintenance of stability in Xinjiang, which is a key Chinese province and actor in the SREB. Despite all the troubles in Xinjiang, however, the province is today considerably better off economically than most of its eight neighbouring countries. Beginning in the 1990s China-CAR trade through Xinjiang has expanded and today, several companies from the province have a strong presence in Central Asia. For example, the Xinjiang-headquartered Chinese enterprise TBEA that has promoted connectivity in Central Asia by building power transmission lines in Kyrgyhzstan and Tajikistan. It is also noteworthy that there is a flight from Urumqi to every CAR capital and to many other cities besides. Indeed, many of these countries are connected to each other by air not directly but via the Xinjiang capital. Read more

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Using China as Leverage with Pakistan

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘UNGA is an opportunity for Modi to talk Pakistan with Xi Jinping’, Hindustan Times, 23 September 2015.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are both headed to the United States. If they meet on the sidelines of the 70th United Nations General Assembly, it would be a fitting backdrop for a fresh look at Sino-Indian ties after the high of the Modi visit to China in May this year and the low later of the Chinese blocking an Indian bid in New York to sanction Pakistan for releasing 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

This relook must in the main be about Pakistan. Read more

Counter-Terrorism in South Asia: China’s Win-Win Triangle

China’s position on terrorism occurring outside its borders is based on its own specific and national concerns about the unrest in Xinjiang and legitimating its responses rather than acceptance of any international standard or norm of understanding or dealing with terrorism. The Chinese statements on the 16 December 2014 Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan/Pakistani Taliban attack on a Pakistan Army-run school in Peshawar that resulted in the death of 145 people, including 132 children,[1] is a case in point. The Chinese reactions to the attack offers further evidence that Beijing has decided to buy into and support Pakistan’s dual approach on terrorism – countering those who fight against Pakistan on the one hand and supporting those who fight Pakistan’s enemies, namely, the US and India, on the other. This in turn should throw up questions for India about the wisdom of its annual counter-terrorism exercises with China. Read more

China and Pakistan: Towards Increasing Dissonance?

Presentation titled, “Sino-Pak Partnership: Changing Strategically” at International Workshop on Recent Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific and India-China Relations, Institute of Chinese Communist Studies, Taipei, Taiwan, 31 July 2013.

A. an important objective of the Sino-Pak relationship is to keep India off-balance.

a. Sino-Pak military cooperation is the primary method                                 i.      this involves the Chinese sale of conventional weapons  as well as earlier transfers of nuclear weapons

ii.      today, there is also transfer of civilian nuclear technology that can no doubt be put to dual use by Pakistan

iii.      cooperation with the Chinese military further strengthens the Pak military and helps to undermine still further the Pak civilian government’s attempts at putting down deep roots.

iv.      however, could there also be Chinese concerns about Pakistani military capabilities, if not Pakistani reliability in general, given the Abbottabad attack on Osama bin Laden’s hide-out by US special forces?

b. Sino-Pak political cooperation is secondary  Read more

Foreign Policy under China’s New Leaders: What India can Expect

(original version in English follows below Hindi text)

चीन में नेतृत्व परिवर्तन की एक बड़ी कवायद पूरी हो चुकी है। कुछ दिनों पहले 18वीं नेशनल कांग्रेस में शी जिनपिंग को चीनी कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी का महासचिव बना दिया गया। अब तक यह कमान हू जिंताओ की पास थी। शी ने सेंट्र्ल मिलिट्री कमीशन (सीएमसी) के चेयरमैन का भी पद संभाल लिया है। यह एक अहम पद है और इसके जरिये वह चीन की पीपुल्स लिबरेशन आर्मी के प्रभारी हो गए हैं। इसके साथ ही शी तीसरे अहम पद के तौर पर मार्च, 2013 में राष्ट्रपति का भी पद संभाल लेंगे।

अब सवाल यह है कि नए नेतृत्व के तहत चीन की विदेश नीति कैसी होगी? Read more

China-Pakistan Relations after Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden’s death and the circumstances of his killing continue to provoke plenty of comment and analyses as to what it means for the future of US-Pakistan relations. By contrast, there has been considerably less attention paid to the implications for Sino-Pakistani relations. This paper argues that the killing of bin Laden, while increasing frictions in the US-Pak relationship, does not necessarily also mean a warming of Sino-Pak ties. The latter relationship is, in fact, bound up in a number of issues over and beyond the US-Pak equation. These include Chinese concerns over ethnic separatism in its Xinjiang province and the post-US drawdown stability of Afghanistan, the Sino-Indian equation, the Sino-US relationship and Chinese economic interests in Pakistan.

Read the full article here: Jabin T. Jacob, “The Future of China-Pakistan Relations after Osama bin Laden,” Associate Paper, Future Directions International (Perth), 8 August 2011.

Learning Chinese, Understanding China

This is a presentation, I made at the Department of Chinese Language, Foreign Languages Wing, Army Education Corps Training College and Centre in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh in early July 2011.

The officers and other ranks learn in Chinese in a 96-week course starting at the beginner’s level. I basically, shared with them my own experiences of studying Chinese in Taiwan and given that most of the students will be frequently posted in Sino-Indian border also gave them a broad overview of the Chinese political and administrative system and of Sino-Indian border relations.

Download the full presentation here: JabinJacob-2011Jul8-ArmyEdnCorps-Learning Chinese, Studying China

Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Provinces/States as Ice-Breakers

Original Article: Jabin T. Jacob, “The Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Sub-National Units as Ice-Breakers,” Eurasia Border Review (Hokkaido University, Japan), Vol. 2, No. 1, Summer 2011, pp.35-45.

Abstract: Despite being among the fastest growing world economies, interactions between China and India remain limited owing to their unresolved boundary dispute. Tensions have grown over rapid military and infrastructure development by both countries along the disputed boundary but these developments can also be used as opportunities to encourage development in the relatively poor and underdeveloped provinces and countries along their disputed boundary. In this context, it is important to also understand domestic socioeconomic and political developments taking place in these border provinces how they might shape the future contours of the Sino-Indian boundary dispute and relations.

Given that in both China and India, years of prioritizing national security considerations over political accommodation and economic development in their provinces have not really led to the fulfillment of any national security objectives, the time has come to examine if prioritizing the latter set of considerations to the benefit of their border provinces can ensure peace and stability between China and India. The solution to both the political and economic discontent of Chinese and Indian provinces as well as the unresolved boundary dispute between the two countries could be to allow their provinces greater freedom to interact with each other in terms of people-to-people and economic contacts.

Read the full article here.

China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir

Presentation: Jabin T. Jacob, “Interpreting China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir,” Conference on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Internal Dynamics and Externalities, Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, 28 March 2011.

Summary: While Pakistan remains a vital cog of China’s South Asia policy it is important to note that the superlative is not applicable in Sino-Pak relations; rather, a range of factors influence Chinese policy including India, the United States and now the progress and consequences of the American drawdown in Afghanistan. Kashmir is but one factor in the larger Chinese calculus.

Further, as important as China’s geopolitical interests in the region are, it has other wider interests globally on which India, more than Pakistan, is an important actor. Thus, whether on climate change or global trade negotiations and in a variety of multilateral organizations ranging from the Kunming Initiative to the Russia-India-China trilateral and the BRICS grouping, India is a key player that China has to engage with. Against such a backdrop, China tries both to prevent India from truly rising to challenge China as well as to ensure that it can work together with India when necessary. Given Indian sensitivities over Kashmir, China’s Kashmir policy forms a useful leverage with India. But there is a fine balance that China needs to achieve which will be increasingly difficult as India grows more powerful on the world stage and if Pakistan continues to remain unstable. China will therefore, have to make some important choices in this regard, in the future.

Meanwhile, India too can contribute to modifying China’s Kashmir policy in its interests. On the positive side of things, showing greater interest in border trade across the LAC with both Tibet and Xinjiang and through them with the rest of China is one way. But most measures will have to be non-Kashmir-specific in nature including greater openness of the Indian economy as a whole to Chinese investments and trade with China. In the more negative set of actions are of course, classic geopolitical games such as balancing with the US or a host of China’s smaller, neighbours fearful of its rise.

What methods China or India will adopt, however, remain to be seen.