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The Comparison of China and US Strategies in South China Sea

Mehwish Akram

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Globalization has also played a vital role in integrating the world and economic dependence of countries. For instance, in case of Sino-US they are dependent upon each other in economic sector. They avoid direct confrontation with each other. They have experienced period of good and bad relations and the distrust is major cause of conflict between the two parties. The high diplomatic visits in 1960s reduced the tension between Sino-US relations and marked beginning of new chapter of good relations. US is not ignorant about the growing role of China in global politics especially within in Asia-Pacific region. This research focuses on Sino-US rivalry over South China Sea; the comparison of strategies of both and how they have developed overlapping interests in Asia-pacific region. Usually states have good or bad relations with each other, but in this case what is unique to note is that they (Sino-China relations) had phases of cordial and strained relations. As a consequence, they keep check on each other power to safeguard their area of influence in the world by using military, economic and political means.

This paper is divided into five main parts. The first one deals with the historical background of conflictual relations between US and China. Second section concerns with the significance of South China Sea in Asia Pacific Region. Third section is about Chinese strategies over South China Sea. Fourth section explains the strategies of USA in the Asia Pacific region. Fifth section is mainly a comparative analysis of their strategies which seems to be influenced or derived from offensive and defensive realism. Last and sixth section deals with conclusion and recommendation to resolve this conflict in an effective manner.

Background

It is believed that the rivalry between US and China is not a current phenomenon. It has its roots that can be traced back since the inception of PRC. The US initial reluctance to recognize the communist China is often quoted as one of the major impediment that laid the very foundation of strained relations from the beginning. Furthermore, China remained suspicious of US true intentions as they have been deceptive in their policies especially towards China and their increasing economic growth. Similarly, US support for nationalist against PRC proved to be another obstacle that tarnished the relations between China and US until Nixon came to power in US during 1960s; this paved the path in normalizing relation with China in form of various confidence building measures.

Open policy towards rest of world can be safely called as one of the most defining moment for the future of China that was envisaged by Deng Xiaoping. Basically, Deng’s policy involved a drastic shift from an Isolationist policy of Communist China to more of an open system that embraced the changes of the modern world. The policy of openness has helped to change the fate of China from an internally conservative and weak state to a leading economic power of the Asia Pacific region.

Significance of South China Sea

South China Sea basically consists of four groups of islands. First, the Pratas Islands are (located 200 miles to southwest of Hong Kong) claimed by both China and Taiwan. Second, although the Parcels Islands are located in the northern part of the South China Sea and near from the coastlines of Vietnam and China (Hainan), however, these islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. On the other hand, China took control of Paracels in 1974, by using the means of force from South Vietnamese troops. It is a main reason of conflict between China and Vietnam. Fourth, Saparatly Islands (are located in the centre of the South China Sea. to the north of the island of Borneo [which comprises Brunei Darussalam and the east Malaysian States of Sarawak and Sabah]. The east of Viet Nam, and west of the Philippines and south of Hainan) are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, while some islands and other features are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines. Brunei has established a maritime zone that overlaps a southern reef, but it has not made any formal claim.  Therefore, the intense competition among states has become a main source of concern and even potential conflict as it consists of cluster of small islands that have distributed claims by almost all ASEAN states.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

UNCLOS provided a framework in 1982 on how to use oceans that came into force on 1994. It was ratified by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei except for Taiwan as it was not recognized as a state. It is a convention related to laws of sea, navigation, fishery and using natural resources for energy production in form of hydrocarbons.

(UNCLOS) establishes a legal framework to govern all uses of the oceans. UNCLOS was adopted in 1982 after nine years of negotiations. It entered into force in 1994 and has been almost universally accepted. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei are all parties are signatory of UNCLOS. Taiwan is not able to ratify UNCLOS because it is not recognized as a state by the United Nations, but it has taken steps to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with UNCLOS.

Chinese Strategies for South China Sea

Delay Strategy

In Deng view, China always pursued a policy of delay to respond to any foreign stimulus. The application of this policy can also be seen in implementation processes of the final choices or decision. Since the policy of delay is all about concealment of China’s true intentions to prevent any kind of escalation and stresses the maintenance of a cooperative policy with rest of the world. As a result, it helps to accelerate the development and prosperity of China in term of utilizing economic means to the fullest.

Politics of claims and counter claims

South China Sea had been one of the most contentious areas of world. Most of the states involved in this area claim certain area, while rest declares their open claims on the other part in Asia –Pacific region. The policy of claims and counter claims is the main source of conflict. Despite many efforts of ASEAN and regional players, the South China region continues to be matter of contention and a major impediment in bringing peace and stability in the region.

Military means

Although the nature of warfare has changed to a large extent, however, the significance of military means cannot be denied in contemporary world. For instance, the defense budget of countries has increased from 1980s to 1990s in accordance with the technological advances and revolutionaries in weapons. The military agreements between US and Taiwan and US and Japan in Guam is another example that established military buildup against Chinese expansion in the region to secure an array of states from any potential Chinese attack. According to Andrew Erickson, China is also increasing its defense budget to secure its territory of East and South China seas and their airspace above this area. This implies that the reliance of states on traditional means or military continues to play an important role in providing security to states.

US Strategies for South China Sea

The term pivot was coined by Leon Panetta, who is US secretary of defense. He had used the term to explain the adversarial interactions between rising and falling power. In this context, a rising power refers to a potential power that is China in this paper and falling power is an entity that confronts challenges to maintain its power. So, US can safely be claimed as a state falling in the latter category. Theoretically speaking, offensive realism most appropriately explains the US policy behavior in South China Sea, their attempts to undermine the Chinese potential hegemonic power in the Asia-Pacific is a proof of that. As per offensive realism, a hegemonic power cannot stand any rising power. It further explains the inevitability for two hegemonic powers to co-exist with each other that can be seen in case of US and China rivalry over South China Sea. Although offensive realism is presented by John Mearsheimer, but contribution of Organski and Gilpin cannot be ignored. Similarly, Chinese strategy can be understood with the help of defensive realism that concerns with increase of power to secure the interests from any threat or foreign intervention that is often taken as offence by US. Consequently, it results in security dilemma that leads to a never ending game of power politics

Generally speaking, USA National Strategy for South China Sea consists of five main points. First deals with their official stance over South China Sea. Second one is about legality of the nine-dash line claim of China. Third one concerns with freedom of navigation in South China Sea and fifth deals with supporting Philippines in their arbitration case against China. The United States developed a policy document—a National Strategy for the South China Sea (NSSCS)—that contains:

An official position regarding the nature of the disputed land features in the SCS;

A legal memorandum concerning U.S. military activities in the SCS, including military surveys;

An opinion on the legality of China’s “nine-dash line” claim;

An affirmation of U.S. “freedom of navigation” operations in the SCS; and

A statement of support for the Philippines in its arbitration case against China

In 2010, the Obama administration declared what was then referred to as the “US pivot to Asia,” that consists of multi-faceted strategy of US policy in the Asia pacific region. It includes shift of 60% of the United States naval assets to the pacific region reversing a policy that had been exercised in Europe since the Second World War. In November 2011, US president Barrack Obama announced in his speech to the rotational stationing in the Australian city of Darwin in front of 2,000 marines. The strategy was supposed to go beyond the military means. The Obama administration began to define its non-military aspects. These included an emphasis on the trans-pacific partnership (TPP), a club of high-performing economies in the region intended to push economic agenda beyond the pace set by the Asia pacific economic cooperation (APEC).

Support of Arbitration cases against China

The United States reluctance to remain merely an observer in the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China is evident and a matter of their interest. Since arbitration in favor of the Philippines can play a vital role in discrediting the nine-dash line that is of utmost significance to China. Similarly, US pressurize other states in South East Asia, for example, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia to support Philippines arbitration request against China. The main purpose of this pressure is to undermine the power of China as per UNCLOS that encourages states to resolve disputes by peaceful means and prohibits use of force.

The United States Official Stance in 2011

In 2011, Hilary Clinton believed that US policy towards South East Asia is not limited, but it is multifaceted policy that includes six main issue areas namely; bilateral security alliances, involving international organizations, expanding trade, providing military assistance, promoting human rights and democratic values. According to my understanding initially US used the pretext of war on terrorism to shift their attention towards Asia-Pacific region by announcing and diverting all their efforts and resources to secure South East Asia from potential threat of terrorism and providing security to region. Alongside they made military agreements with countries especially with Taiwan and Japan .US attempts to exploit the grievances of countries against China for the sake of undermining Chinese power within the region cannot be denied either. The security umbrella to weak states against any potential attack from China is one of the many examples; however, the shift of policy towards efficient utilization of both means (force and flexible measures) to accommodate the concern of china is evident in American policy.

It also reflects in President Obama’s long-held view, expressed even before his election, that the “center of gravity in this world is shifting Towards Asia,” requiring the U.S. to “look east” and “take a more active role,” as well as his identity as “America’s first Pacific president.” Obama in his election campaign expressed that attention of world is diverting to Asia-Pacific region.

Pentagon has adopted an Air-Sea Battle (ASB) strategy. Its main purpose was to restore the ability of the US to provide security to its allies in the region and to the international order (including freedom of navigation), and maintenance of status as the world power. ASB explains that, in case of conflict with China. American forces will attack on the Chinese mainland to neutralize the A2/AD weapon systems that is, an escalation to total war. It involves a coordinated attack using bombing, missile and cyber-attacks, and space weapons among others.

On the contrary, skeptics are of the view that use of force in form of ASB strategy (Air-Sea Battle), support of allies in region by US and counter attacks against Chinese aggressive policies over South China on the principle of collective security would be a mistake, because both states (US and China) are nuclear and any miscalculation or overestimation could lead to escalation or war in the worst case scenario. Therefore, there is a need to exhaust diplomatic means to resolve matters related to South China Sea and myriad of other issues between two states.

Overview of US policy

In my understanding, US is pursuing a policy of ‘smart diplomacy’. In simple words, smart diplomacy entails the effective utilization or use of force along with  economic means to keep a firm check on Chinese potentials capability to challenge United States hegemony in three main aspects;  economic, military and political spheres. Although China and US are economically depended upon each other, both continues to have a clash over the South China Sea.

The two main questions that emerge from this research are; can the rivalry between US and China continue and can it transform in a beginning of a new cold war? Can China rise peacefully without any conflict with US? First off, it would be implausible to say that it is a start of new cold war as the conditions and scenarios ware quite different during cold war between USA and Soviet Union. They were not economically integrated as US and China is in the contemporary times. Second, cold war was more of power rivalry that had not much to do with economic ties. During cold war, USA and Soviet Union were two states having different ideologies. US were a capitalist state that believed in free trade. On the hand USSR was a socialist state that advocated nationalist economy under the government control. One can say it was clash of ideologies between two powers. It was more about acquiring more territory to increase their sphere of influence in global politics and becoming sole power of world. On the other hand, the conflict between China and US cannot be equated to cold war between US and USSR. Since the rise of USSR was not peaceful, it was attained by Stalin expansionist policies; whereas China’s rise was not only peaceful, but it took time to become a potential power of the world.

Theoretical explanation

According to offensive realism, states acquire hegemony to dominate the rest of world and prevent the emergence of any potential power to share their superiority in the world politics.  Defensive realist assert that a state cannot lead to conflict as state try to increase power to provide or ensure security to state instead of dominating the world or becoming a hegemon.

According defensive realist, states try to maintain status quo and ensure their security instead of direct confrontation that would make them vulnerable and expose their weaknesses. In case of Sino- US conflict, China pursues a policy of non- confrontation, but it is often considered to be an offence by others states in the region. In this paper, Chinese defensive policies are taken as offensive by US and they try to limit their power in region and at global level. US on the other hand, pursues a policy of an offensive realist that curtails a rising power from emerging in terms of any compromise or tolerance to competition or sharing of the power as it would undermine their hegemony and their status of  sole power in global politics.

Conclusion

According to offensive realist, the conflict between US and China would eventually lead to a complex scenario as hegemonic power cannot co-exist peacefully together. The aim of hegemonic power is to curtail potential power from rising by use of economic, military and all available or possible means. Therefore, it would be safe to claim that US is following a policy of offensive realism to suppress China’s growing power in form of exploiting the countries in Asia Pacific who have resentment and envious attitude against China. This implies that the main aim of American policies is to limit Chinese ever increasing power especially their economic growth.

On the other hand, China is hesitating to declare its policy for coming years over South China Sea and in Asia-Pacific region. In my understanding, it is yet to be seen if or whether China employs military means or force to tackle the issues with other states within region, especially, with Taiwan and Japan or to predict the future of Asia-pacific region and outcome of the conflict between US and China.

Recommendations

1-Global institutions can help them to bridge the gap between US and China by promoting cooperation

2-Engagement in a dialogue process can help to reduce the tension between the two states (US and China)

4-Chinese perspective should be projected equally in global arena.

5-US should not involve herself in to the regional politics, rather china should be given adequate time to sort out their issues themselves.

6-In case of war like situation, US should encourage the role of global institutions rather than indulging into conflict unilaterally.

7-China should focus on building and strengthening good relations with its neighbors and with international community to minimize chances of conflict or escalation of conflict in the region or at the global level.

Mehwish Akram holds masters degree in International Relations and currently doing M Phil in Political Science. Her areas of interest are Democracy, Political theory and Environmental politics .

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East Asia

The battle for the Iranian nuclear deal: China approaches a watershed

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Conventional wisdom has it that China stands to benefit from the US withdrawal from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran, particularly if major European companies feel that the risk of running afoul of US secondary sanctions is too high.

In doing so, China would draw on lessons learnt from its approach to the sanctions regime against Iran prior to the nuclear deal. China supported the sanctions while proving itself adept at circumventing the restrictions.

However, this time round, as China joins Russia and Europe in trying to salvage the deal, things could prove to be different in ways that may give China second thoughts.

The differences run the gamut from an America that has Donald Trump as its president to a Middle East that is much more combative and assertive and sees its multiple struggles as existential, at least in terms of regime survival.

Fault lines in the Middle East have hardened because of Israel, Saudi and United Arab Emirates assertiveness, emboldened by both a US administration that is more partisan in its Middle East policy, yet at the same time less predictable and less reliable.

Add to this Mr. Trump’s narrow and transactional focus that targets containing Iran, if not toppling its regime; countering militancy, and enhancing business opportunities for American companies and the contours of a potentially perfect storm come into view.

That is even truer if one looks beyond the Gulf and the Levant towards the greater Middle East that stretches across Pakistan into Central Asia as well as China’s overall foreign trade.

China’s trade with the United States stood last year at $636 billion, trade with Iran was in that same period at $37.8 billion or less than five percent of the US volume.

The recent case of ZTE, one of China’s largest IT companies, tells part of the story.

Accused of having violated sanctions, the US Department of Commerce banned American firms from selling parts to ZTE, bringing the company to near bankruptcy. Mr. Trump appears to be willing to help salvage ZTE, but the incident significantly raises the stakes, particularly as China and the United States try to avoid a trade war.

That is but one consideration in China’s calculations. Potentially, other major bumps in saving the nuclear agreement lurk around the corner and could prove to be equally, if not more challenging.

Tensions in the Middle East are mounting. The fallout of Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and seemingly unqualified backing of Israel in its almost certainly stillborn plan for peace with the Palestinian is reverberating.

Discontent across the region simmers just below the surface, magnified by youth and next generations in countries like Syria and Yemen who have little to look forward to.

The bumps fall into three categories: the degree to which China feels that it can continue to rely on the US defence umbrella in the Gulf; pressure on China by Middle Eastern states to shoulder the responsibility that comes with being a great power, if not take sides; and change in a region that is in a process of transition that is volatile, violent and could take decades to play out.

Yet, as China takes stock of the Middle East’s volatility and China’s strategic stake in regional stability, it appears ill-equipped to deal with an environment in which its traditional policy tools either fall short or no longer are applicable.

Increasingly, China will have to become a geopolitical rather than a primarily economic player in competitive cooperation with the United States, the dominant external actor in the region for the foreseeable future.

China has signalled its gradual recognition of these new realities with the publication in January 2016 of an Arab Policy Paper, the country’s first articulation of a policy towards the Middle East and North Africa.

But, rather than spelling out specific policies, the paper reiterated the generalities of China’s core focus in its relations with the Arab world: economics, energy, counter-terrorism, security, technical cooperation and its Belt and Road initiative.

Ultimately however, China will have to develop a strategic vision that outlines foreign and defence policies it needs to put in place to protect its expanding interests; its role and place in the region as a rising superpower, and its relationship and cooperation with the United States in managing, if not resolving conflict.

To be sure, China is taking baby steps in that direction with its greater alignment with international moves to combat Islamic militancy even if its campaign in north-western China risks straining relations with the Islamic world, the creation of a military facility in Djibouti, work on a naval base in Pakistan’s Jiwari peninsula, and cross-border operations in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Those may be the easier steps. Dealing with partners like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that seek to establish regional hegemony by imposing their will on others at whatever cost may be more difficult. So far, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not pressured China to choose in their rivalry with Iran.

But it can only be a matter of time before they do, particularly if Chinese investment in Iran and trade were able to offset the impact of US sanctions to the degree that the Islamic republic is not forced to compromise. To evade that situation, China has offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran, an offer the kingdom was unwilling to take up.

China is not immune to Saudi pressure. To protect their Saudi and UAE interests, Chinese alongside Hong Kong and Japanese banks refused earlier this year to participate in a one-year extension of a $575 million syndicated loan to Doha Bank, Qatar’s fifth-biggest lender.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia in April forced major multi-national financial institutions to choose sides in the Gulf spat with Qatar. In response to Saudi pressure, JP Morgan and HSBC walked away from participating in a $12 billion Qatari bond sale opting for a simultaneous Saudi offering instead.

The stakes for Saudi Arabia in Iran are far greater than those in Qatar. Iran poses an existential threat to the House of Saud for reasons far more intrinsic than the accusations Riyadh lobs at Tehran. The more Iran is able to defeat US sanctions, the more Saudi Arabia is likely to push China and to reduce their support of the nuclear agreement.

That pressure can take multiple forms. With US-backed efforts at regime change in Tehran potentially on the horizon, Saudi Arabia has put building blocks in place over the last two years.

Large sums originating in the kingdom have found their way to militant, virulently anti-Shiite, ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim madrassas or religious seminaries in the Pakistani province of Balochistan that borders on the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan.

A Saudi thinktank allegedly backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has developed plans to stir unrest among the Baloch minority in Iran, partly in a bid to complicate operations at the Indian-backed port of Chabahar, a mere 75 kilometres up the coast from Gwadar, a crown jewel of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, China’s $50 billion plus Belt and Road stake in Pakistan.

China, moreover, has so far relied on its economic clout as well as Saudi Arabia to remain silent about a crackdown in Xinjiang that targets Islam, putting the kingdom as custodian of Islam’s two most holy cities in an awkward position.

The long and short of all of this is that, in an environment in which the Middle East views conflicts as zero-sum games, China is likely to find it increasingly difficult to remain aloof and straddle both sides of the fence. Salvaging the Iranian nuclear deal could come at a cost China may not want to pay.

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Why is the Korean Reunification not to Work anytime soon

Anis H. Bajrektarevic

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How to draw the line between the recent and still unsettled EU/EURO crisis and Asia’s success story? Well, it might be easier than it seems: Neither Europe nor Asia has any alternative. The difference is that Europe well knows there is no alternative – and therefore is multilateral. Asia thinks it has an alternative – and therefore is strikingly bilateral, while stubbornly residing enveloped in economic egoisms. No wonder that Europe is/will be able to manage its decline, while Asia is (still) unable to capitalize its successes.

Asia clearly does not accept any more the lead of the post-industrial and post-Christian Europe, but is not ready for the post-West world.

Following the famous saying allegedly spelled by Kissinger: “Europe? Give me a name and a phone number!” (when – back in early 1970s – urged by President Nixon to inform Europeans on the particular US policy action), the author is trying to examine how close is Asia to have its own telephone number.

Another fallacy is that the German reunification can be just copied. 15 days at any German institute of political science and one becomes expert of reunification. Yes, Germany is a success story since the neighbors were extremely forgiving. And that was enhanced by the overall pan-continental commitment to multilateralism – by both institutions and instruments.  Europe of German re-unification was the most multilateralised region of the world. Asia today is extremely bilateral – not far from the constellations at the time of Hiroshima or Korean War of 1950s. No multilateralism – no denuclearisation; no denuclearisation – no reunification; no reunification – no overall cross-continental tranquilization of relations; no tranquility – no Asia’s sustainable success.

Why multilateralism matters? Author tries to answer it …  

By contrasting and comparing genesis of multilateral security structures in Europe with those currently existing in Asia, and by listing some of the most pressing security challenges in Asia, this policy paper offers several policy incentives why the largest world’s continent must consider creation of the comprehensive pan-Asian institution. Prevailing security structures in Asia are bilateral and mostly asymmetric while Europe enjoys multilateral, balanced and symmetric setups (American and African continents too). Author goes as far as to claim that irrespective to the impressive economic growth, no Asian century will emerge without creation of such an institution.

For over a decade, many of the relevant academic journals are full of articles prophesizing the 21st as the Asian century. The argument is usually based on the impressive economic growth, increased production and trade volumes as well as the booming foreign currency reserves and exports of many populous Asian nations, with nearly 1/3 of total world population inhabiting just two countries of the largest world’s continent. However, history serves as a powerful reminder by warning us that economically or/and demographically mighty gravity centers tend to expand into their peripheries, especially when the periphery is weaker by either category. It means that any absolute or relative shift in economic and demographic strength of one subject of international relations will inevitably put additional stress on the existing power equilibriums and constellations that support this balance in the particular theater of implicit or explicit structure.

Lessons of the Past

Thus, what is the state of art of Asia’s security structures? What is the existing capacity of preventive diplomacy and what instruments are at disposal when it comes to early warning/ prevention, fact-finding, exchange mechanisms, reconciliation, capacity and confidence– building measures in the Asian theater?

While all other major theaters do have the pan-continental settings in place already for many decades, such as the Organization of American States – OAS (American continent), African Union – AU (Africa), Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – OSCE (Europe), the state-of-arts of the largest world’s continent is rather different. What becomes apparent, nearly at the first glance, is the absence of any pan-Asian security/ multilateral structure. Prevailing security structures are bilateral and mostly asymmetric. They range from the clearly defined and enduring non-aggression security treaties, through less formal arrangements, up to the Ad hoc cooperation accords on specific issues. The presence of the multilateral regional settings is limited to a very few spots in the largest continent, and even then, they are rarely mandated with security issues in their declared scope of work. Another striking feature is that most of the existing bilateral structures have an Asian state on one side, and either peripheral or external protégé country on the other side which makes them nearly per definition asymmetric. The examples are numerous: the US–Japan, the US– S. Korea, the US–Singapore, Russia–India, Australia–East Timor, Russia–North Korea, Japan –Malaysia, China–Pakistan, the US–Pakistan, China–Cambodia, the US–Saudi Arabia, Russia –Iran, China–Burma, India–Maldives, Iran–Syria, N. Korea–Pakistan, etc.

Indeed, Asia today resonates a mixed echo of the European past. It combines features of the pre-Napoleonic, post-Napoleonic and the League-of-Nations Europe. What are the useful lessons from the European past? Well, there are a few, for sure. Bismarck accommodated the exponential economic, demographic and military growth as well as the territorial expansion of Prussia by skillfully architecturing and calibrating the complex networks of bilateral security arrangements of 19th century Europe. Like Asia today, it was not an institutionalized security structure of Europe, but a talented leadership exercising restraint and wisdom in combination with the quick assertiveness and fast military absorptions, concluded by the lasting endurance. However, as soon as the new Kaiser removed the Iron Chancellor (Bismarck), the provincial and backward–minded, insecure and militant Prussian establishment contested (by their own interpretations of the German’s machtpolitik and weltpolitik policies) Europe and the world in two devastating world wars. That, as well as Hitler’s establishment afterwards, simply did not know what to do with a powerful Germany.

The aspirations and constellations of some of Asia’s powers today remind us also of the pre-Napoleonic Europe, in which a unified, universalistic block of the Holy Roman Empire was contested by the impatient challengers of the status quo. Such serious centripetal and centrifugal oscillations of Europe were not without grave deviations: as much as Cardinal Richelieu’s and Jacobin’s France successfully emancipated itself, the Napoleon III and pre-WWII France encircled, isolated itself, implicitly laying the foundation for the German attack.

Finally, the existing Asian regional settings also resemble the picture of the post-Napoleonic Europe: first and foremost, of Europe between the Vienna Congress of 1815 and the revolutionary year of 1848. At any rate, let us take a quick look at the most relevant regional settings in Asia.

Multilateral constellations

By far, the largest Asian participation is with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation – APEC, an organization engulfing both sides of the Pacific Rim. Nevertheless, this is a forum for member economies not of sovereign nations, a sort of a prep-com or waiting room for the World Trade Organization – WTO. To use the words of one senior Singapore diplomat who recently told me in Geneva the following: “what is your option here? …to sign the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), side up with the US, login to FaceBook, and keep shopping on the internet happily ever after…”

Two other crosscutting settings, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – OIC and Non-Aligned Movement – NAM, the first with and the second without a permanent secretariat, represent the well-established political multilateral bodies. However, they are inadequate forums as neither of the two is strictly mandated with security issues. Although both trans-continental entities do have large memberships being the 2nd and 3rd largest multilateral systems, right after the UN, neither covers the entire Asian political landscape – having important Asian countries outside the system or opposing it.

Further on, one should mention the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization – KEDO (Nuclear) and the Iran-related Contact (Quartet/P-5+1) Group. In both cases, the issues dealt with are indeed security related, but they are more an asymmetric approach to deter and contain a single country by the larger front of peripheral states that are opposing a particular security policy, in this case, of North Korea and of Iran. Same was with the short-lived SEATO Pact – a defense treaty organization for SEA which was essentially dissolved as soon as the imminent threat from communism was slowed down and successfully contained within the French Indochina.

Confidence building – an attempt

If some of the settings are reminiscent of the pre-Napoleonic Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – SCO and Cooperation Council for the Arab states of the Gulf – GCC remind us of the post-Napoleonic Europe and its Alliance of the Eastern Conservative courts (of Metternich). Both arrangements were created on a pretext of a common external ideological and geopolitical threat, on a shared status quo security consideration. Asymmetric GCC was an externally induced setting by which an American key Middle East ally Saudi Arabia gathered the grouping of the Arabian Peninsula monarchies. It has served a dual purpose; originally, to contain the leftist Nasseristic pan-Arabism which was introducing a republican type of egalitarian government in the Middle Eastern theater. It was also – after the 1979 revolution – an instrument to counter-balance the Iranian influence in the Gulf and wider Middle East. The response to the spring 2011-13 turmoil in the Middle East, including the deployment of the Saudi troops in Bahrain, and including the analysis of the role of influential Qatar-based and GCC-backed Al Jazeera TV network is the best proof of the very nature of the GCC mandate.

The SCO is internally induced and more symmetric setting. Essentially, it came into existence through a strategic Sino-Russian rapprochement , based, for the first time in modern history, on parity, to deter external aspirants (the US, Japan, Korea, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) and to keep the resources, territory, present socio-economic cultural and political regime in the Central Asia, Tibet heights and the Xinjiang Uighur province in line.

The next to consider is the Indian sub-continent’s grouping, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – SAARC. This organization has a well-established mandate, well staffed and versed Secretariat. However, the Organization is strikingly reminiscent of the League of Nations. The League is remembered as an altruistic setup which repeatedly failed to adequately respond to the security quests of its members as well as to the challenges and pressures of parties that were kept out of the system (e.g. Russia until well into the 1930s and the US remaining completely outside the system, and in the case of the SAARC surrounding; China, Saudi Arabia and the US). The SAARC is practically a hostage of mega confrontation of its two largest members, both confirmed nuclear powers; India and Pakistan. These two challenge each other geopolitically and ideologically. Existence of one is a negation of the existence of the other; the religiously determined nationhood of Pakistan is a negation of multiethnic India and vice verse. Additionally, the SAARC although internally induced is an asymmetric organization. It is not only the size of India, but also its position: centrality of that country makes SAARC practically impossible to operate in any field without the direct consent of India, be it commerce, communication, politics or security.

For a serious advancement of multilateralism, mutual trust, a will to compromise and achieve a common denominator through active co-existence is the key. It is hard to build a common course of action around the disproportionately big and centrally positioned member which would escape the interpretation as containment by the big or assertiveness of its center by the smaller, peripheral members.

Multivector Foreign Policy

Finally, there is an ASEAN – a grouping of 10 Southeast Asian nations , exercising the balanced multi-vector policy, based on the non-interference principle, internally and externally. This, Jakarta/Indonesia headquartered  organization has a dynamic past and an ambitious current charter. It is an internally induced and relatively symmetric arrangement with the strongest members placed around its geographic center, like in case of the EU equilibrium with Germany-France/Britain-Italy/Poland-Spain geographically balancing each other. Situated on the geographic axis of the southern flank of the Asian landmass, the so-called growth triangle of Thailand-Malaysia-Indonesia represents the core of the ASEAN not only in economic and communication terms but also by its political leverage. The EU-like ASEAN Community Road Map (for 2015) will absorb most of the Organization’s energy . However, the ASEAN has managed to open its forums for the 3+3 group/s, and could be seen in the long run as a cumulus setting towards the wider pan-Asian forum in future.

Before closing this brief overview, let us mention two recently inaugurated informal forums, both based on the external calls for a burden sharing. One, with a jingoistic-coined name by the Wall Street bankers  – BRI(I)C/S, so far includes two important Asian economic, demographic and political powerhouses (India and China), and one peripheral (Russia). Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran are a few additional Asian countries whose national pride and pragmatic interests are advocating a BRIC membership. The G–20, the other informal forum, is also assembled on the Ad hoc (pro bono) basis following the need of the G–7 to achieve a larger approval and support for its monetary (currency exchange accord) and financial (austerity) actions introduced in the aftermath of still unsettled financial crisis. Nevertheless, the BRIC and G-20 have not provided the Asian participating states either with the more leverage in the Bretton Woods institutions besides a burden sharing, or have they helped to tackle the indigenous Asian security problems. Appealing for the national pride, however, both informal gatherings may divert the necessary resources and attention to Asian states from their pressing domestic, pan-continental issues.

Yet, besides the UN system machinery of the Geneva-based Disarmament committee, the UN Security Council, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – OPCW and International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA (or CTBTO), even the ASEAN Asians (as the most multilateralized Asians) have no suitable standing forum to tackle and solve their security issues. An organization similar to the Council of Europe or the OSCE is still far from emerging on Asian soil.

Our history warns. Nevertheless, it also provides a hope:  The pre-CSCE (pre-Helsinki) Europe was indeed a dangerous place to live in. The sharp geopolitical and ideological default line was passing through the very heart of Europe, cutting it into halves. The southern Europe was practically sealed off by notorious dictatorships; in Greece (Colonel Junta), Spain (Franco) and Portugal (Salazar), with Turkey witnessing several of its governments toppled by the secular and omnipotent military establishment, with inverted Albania and a (non-Europe minded) non-allied, Tito’s Yugoslavia. Two powerful instruments of the US military presence (NATO) and of the Soviets (Warsaw pact) in Europe were keeping huge standing armies, enormous stockpiles of conventional as well as the ABC weaponry and delivery systems, practically next to each other. By far and large, European borders were not mutually recognized. Essentially, the west rejected to even recognize many of the Eastern European, Soviet dominated/installed governments.

Territorial disputes unresolved

Currently in Asia, there is hardly a single state which has no territorial dispute within its neighborhood. From the Middle East, Caspian and Central Asia, Indian sub-continent, mainland Indochina or Archipelago SEA, Tibet, South China Sea and the Far East, many countries are suffering numerous green and blue border disputes. The South China Sea solely counts for over a dozen territorial disputes – in which mostly China presses peripheries to break free from the long-lasting encirclement. These moves are often interpreted by the neighbors as dangerous assertiveness. On the top of that Sea resides a huge economy and insular territory in a legal limbo – Taiwan, which waits for a time when the pan-Asian and intl. agreement on how many Chinas Asia should have, gains a wide and lasting consensus.

Unsolved territorial issues, sporadic irredentism, conventional armament, nuclear ambitions, conflicts over exploitation of and access to the marine biota, other natural resources including fresh water access and supply are posing enormous stress on external security, safety and stability in Asia. Additional stress comes from the newly emerging environmental concerns, that are representing nearly absolute security threats, not only to the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu , but also to the Maldives, Bangladesh, Cambodia, parts of Thailand, of Indonesia, of Kazakhstan and of the Philippines, etc . All this combined with uneven economic and demographic dynamics  of the continent are portraying Asia as a real powder keg.

It is absolutely inappropriate to compare the size of Asia and Europe – the latter being rather an extension of a huge Asian continental landmass, a sort of western Asian peninsula – but the interstate maneuvering space is comparable. Yet, the space between the major powers of post-Napoleonic Europe was as equally narrow for any maneuver as is the space today for any security maneuver of Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and the like.

Let us also take a brief look at the peculiarities of the nuclear constellations in Asia. Following the historic analogies; it echoes the age of the American nuclear monopoly and the years of Russia’s desperation to achieve the parity.

Besides holding huge stockpiles of conventional weaponry and numerous standing armies, Asia is a home of four (plus peripheral Russia and Israel) of the nine known nuclear powers (declared and undeclared). Only China and Russia are parties to the Non-proliferation Treaty – NPT. North Korea walked away in 2003, whereas India and Pakistan both confirmed nuclear powers declined to sign the Treaty. Asia is also the only continent on which nuclear weaponry has been deployed.

Cold War exiled in Asia

As is well known, the peak of the Cold War was marked by the mega geopolitical and ideological confrontation of the two nuclear superpowers whose stockpiles by far outnumbered the stockpiles of all the other nuclear powers combined. However enigmatic, mysterious and incalculable to each other , the Americans and Soviets were on opposite sides of the globe, had no territorial disputes, and no record of direct armed conflicts.

Insofar, the Asian nuclear constellation is additionally specific as each of the holders has a history of hostilities – armed frictions and confrontations over unsolved territorial disputes along the shared borders, all combined with the intensive and lasting ideological rivalries. The Soviet Union had bitter transborder armed frictions with China over the demarcation of its long land border. China has fought a war with India and has acquired a significant territorial gain. India has fought four mutually extortive wars with Pakistan over Kashmir and other disputed bordering regions. Finally, the Korean peninsula has witnessed the direct military confrontations of Japan, USSR, Chinese as well as the US on its very soil, and remains a split nation under a sharp ideological divide.

On the western edge of the Eurasian continent, neither France, Britain, Russia nor the US had a (recent) history of direct armed conflicts. They do not even share land borders.

Finally, only India and now post-Soviet Russia have a strict and full civilian control over its military and the nuclear deployment authorization. In the case of North Korea and China, it is in the hands of an unpredictable and non-transparent communist leadership – meaning, it resides outside democratic, governmental decision-making. In Pakistan, it is completely in the hands of a politically omnipresent military establishment. Pakistan has lived under a direct military rule for over half of its existence as an independent state.

What eventually kept the US and the USSR from deploying nuclear weapons was the dangerous and costly struggle called: “mutual destruction assurance”. Already by the late 1950s, both sides achieved parity in the number and type of nuclear warheads as well as in the number and precision of their delivery systems. Both sides produced enough warheads, delivery systems’ secret depots and launching sites to amply survive the first impact and to maintain a strong second-strike capability . Once comprehending that neither the preventive nor preemptive nuclear strike would bring a decisive victory but would actually trigger the final global nuclear holocaust and ensure total mutual destruction, the Americans and the Soviets have achieved a fear–equilibrium through the hazardous deterrence. Thus, it was not an intended armament rush (for parity), but the non-intended Mutual Assurance Destruction – MAD – with its tranquilizing effect of nuclear weaponry, if possessed in sufficient quantities and impenetrable configurations – that brought a bizarre sort of pacifying stability between two confronting superpowers. Hence, MAD prevented nuclear war, but did not disarm the superpowers.

As noted, the nuclear stockpiles in Asia are considerably modest . The number of warheads, launching sites and delivery systems is not sufficient and sophisticated enough to offer the second strike capability. That fact seriously compromises stability and security: preventive or preemptive N–strike against a nuclear or non-nuclear state could be contemplated as decisive, especially in South Asia and on the Korean peninsula, not to mention the Middle East .

A general wisdom of geopolitics assumes the potentiality of threat by examining the degree of intensions and capability of belligerents. However, in Asia this theory does not necessarily hold the complete truth: Close geographic proximities of Asian nuclear powers means shorter flight time of warheads, which ultimately gives a very brief decision-making period to engaged adversaries. Besides a deliberate, a serious danger of an accidental nuclear war is therefore evident.

Multilateral mechanisms

One of the greatest thinkers and humanists of the 20th century, Erich Fromm wrote: “…man can only go forward by developing (his) reason, by finding a new harmony…”

There is certainly a long road from vision and wisdom to a clear political commitment and accorded action. However, once it is achieved, the operational tools are readily at disposal. The case of Helsinki Europe is very instructive. To be frank, it was the over-extension of the superpowers who contested one another all over the globe, which eventually brought them to the negotiation table. Importantly, it was also a constant, resolute call of the European public that alerted governments on both sides of the default line. Once the political considerations were settled, the technicalities gained momentum: there was – at first – mutual pan-European recognition of borders which tranquilized tensions literally overnight. Politico-military cooperation was situated in the so-called first Helsinki basket, which included the joint military inspections, exchange mechanisms, constant information flow, early warning instruments, confidence–building measures mechanism, and the standing panel of state representatives (the so-called Permanent Council). Further on, an important clearing house was situated in the so-called second basket – the forum that links the economic and environmental issues, items so pressing in Asia at the moment.

Admittedly, the III OSCE Basket was a source of many controversies in the past years, mostly over the interpretation of mandates. However, the new wave of nationalism, often replacing the fading communism, the emotional charges and residual fears of the past, the huge ongoing formation of the middle class in Asia whose passions and affiliations will inevitably challenge established elites domestically and question their policies internationally, and a related search for a new social consensus – all that could be successfully tackled by some sort of an Asian III basket. Clearly, further socio-economic growth in Asia is impossible without the creation and mobilization of a strong middle class – a segment of society which when appearing anew on the socio-political horizon is traditionally very exposed and vulnerable to political misdeeds and disruptive shifts. At any rate, there are several OSCE observing nations from Asia ; from Thailand to Korea and Japan, with Indonesia, a nation that currently considers joining the forum. They are clearly benefiting from the participation .

Consequently, the largest continent should consider the creation of its own comprehensive pan-Asian multilateral mechanism. In doing so, it can surely rest on the vision and spirit of Helsinki. On the very institutional setup, Asia can closely revisit the well-envisioned SAARC and ambitiously empowered ASEAN  fora. By examining these two regional bodies, Asia can find and skillfully calibrate the appropriate balance between widening and deepening of the security mandate of such future multilateral  organization – given the number of states as well as the gravity of the pressing socio-political, environmental and politico-military challenges.

In the age of unprecedented success and the unparalleled prosperity of Asia, an indigenous multilateral pan-Asian arrangement presents itself as an opportunity. Contextualizing Hegel’s famous saying that “freedom is…an insight into necessity” let me close by stating that a need for the domesticated pan-Asian organization warns by its urgency too.

Clearly, there is no emancipation of the continent; there is no Asian century, without the pan-Asian multilateral setting.

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East Asia

Modi-Xi Wuhan Summit: Critical Analysis of Competition and Co-operation

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“When two Asian giants shake hands, world notices,” (Manmohan Singh)

Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and India are known as the two most populated states of the globe. Both states have been closely interlinked through history and civilizational interactions; as both are the ancient civilizations of this world. Both countries found their place on the map around the same time period, both countries underwent economic transformation around the same time and turned into big giants in the field of economy. Surprisingly, the growth is almost parallel to each other. It is also important to note that both states have territorial disputes over Tibet issue, Aksai-Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, disputes over the Twang district, and Shaksgam valley. Both countries have fought a deadly war in 1962 over the Aksai-Chin area, and have faced skirmishes with each other in the decades of 1970s and 1980, including 2013 border tensions.  Therefore, a relationship of co-operation and competition exists between both states.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Wuhan in central China for an “informal summit” with the Chinese President Xi Jinping on 27 and 28 April 2018. The most significant element of this meeting is that Modi’s visit came against the backdrop of almost two years of friction between China and India over various issues including the most significant Doklam standoff. In addition to this, India’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have also been the frictional points between the two.

The bilateral relationship of China and India badly deteriorated due to friction on multiple fronts. However, in December 2017, two high-level visits from China were marked as important and represented that both states are looking for a fresh review of their bilateral relationship. Within a few weeks both the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and State Councilor Yang Jiechi visited India. Additionally, Since February 2018, efforts from the Indian side to normalize the relationship, have been quite noteworthy – especially the cancellation of Dalai Lama’s events in Delhi marking the occasion of 60 years in exile of Dalai Lamais a significant step by the Indian government to appease China. On the occasion of cancellation of Dalai Lama’s events, the Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha and India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale stated that “very sensitive time” in India’s bilateral relations with China and therefore, it is “not desirable” for government officials and other leaders to take part in the celebrations of the Tibetan government in exile”.

Later, on 23 February, the Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to China presented the idea of an informal summit which found ready approval by Modi. Since then various visits by the Indian officials, including India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj have been taking place.  These visits have played a significant role in preparing for Modi’s summit in Wuhan.  The later events witness the reciprocal visit by the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou to India in April 2018 to finalize the matters regarding the summit.  The MODI-XI summit is considered as timely and bold move by India to make an earlier visit to China before the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit scheduled to be held on June 9-10, 2018.The summit is actually an informal meeting with specific agenda mainly based on the idea of engaging in a free-flowing conversation between the two leaders.

During the meeting, PM Modi identified five “positive” characteristics of the Indo-China relationship: soch (thinking), sampark (contact), sahyog (cooperation), sankalp (determination) and sapne (dreams).  On the other side, President Xi asserted that the problems between India and China are only temporary and limited, and the two countries are the “backbone of the world’s multipolarization and economic globalization.”  These statements from both sides indicate that there is the intention to steer the domestic and international focus away from the contentious matters in the bilateral relationship, and is an effort to avoid further derailment.

Discussion on vital issues took place between the officials of both states which included the domestic, political and economic matters, as well as the regional developments like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and international issues such as the US-China trade war. The discussion also included China’s contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou confirmed that China will not force India to join the BRI.

The summit is also marked by some important policy directions provided by the two leaders. Another noteworthy development is Xi’s willingness to provide strategic guidance to their respective militaries in order to strengthen existing communication mechanisms and to collaborate on an economic project in Afghanistan. These developments make one wonder about the impact of the Summit on Pakistan and its probable repercussions for the Asian security and stability at large.

It is significant to note that only a day after the announcement of first “informal summit” between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Beijing mentioned that importance of Islamabad cannot be ignored, which provided necessary  reassurance to Pakistan that their relationship would remain unaffected and would “never rust”. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that: “We are ready to work together with our Pakistani brothers to undertake the historical mission of national rejuvenation and achieve the great dream of national prosperity and development,” and “in this way, our iron friendship with Pakistan will never rust and be tempered into steel.” Such statements highlight the importance of Pakistan within the strategic contours of Asia.  Additionally, the fact cannot be ignored that Sino-Indian military confrontation is a reality that cannot be resolved simply by conducting bilateral exercises.  However, significance of Modi-Xi summit cannot be ignored which over a period of time, even could become a matter of concern for Pakistan. Nonetheless, the statements by Chinese officials after the summit, and the support that Pakistan has been receiving from China through CPEC somewhat dispels Pakistan’s concerns.

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