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RECP, START and Germany´s Indo-Pacific Strategy

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Cabinet Secretariat / Via Kyodo

There are five interesting events in US-Eurasian relations: First the rejection by the Trump-USA of Putin’s offer to extend the initial START contract by 1 year and Putin’s declaration at the Valdai Club that Russia is now planning a military alliance with China and that he had no worries if China rearms itself and, like the USA and Russia, acquires 1,500 ICBMs. Second, Biden’s election victory, which at first did not result in any obligatory congratulations from Beijing and Moscow, especially since Trump got 8 million more votes than in the last election and is now aiming for a revival of his politics in 2024, with a Republican majority in the Senate and the fundamental opposition of the Republicans, he will try to paralyze and boycott Biden’s politics. The third significant event was the signing of the Pan-Asian Free Trade Area Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership (RECP), which China is now using to sell itself a a pioneer in matters of reliability, free trade, multilateralism and shared prosperity like the BRI’s New Silk Road.

Despite of all critical consideration of the Chinese motives, it can be said that the other Asians no longer want to wait for the USA despite Biden’s victory and don´t see the USA as a reliable partner anymore. Otherwise, they would have waited until Biden could possibly revert to the old Obama’s plans of two free trade blocs against China, the transatlantic TTIP and the transpacific TPP revived, especially since under the leadership of Japan there was a successive smaller TPP without the USA waiting for the USA to join it again after Trump and hoped for the USA to take a leading role. This apparently is not only because of the Covid crisis, China’s victory over Covid and the reboot of China´s economy, that was essential for the Asians that they joined RECP, but that the USA is still looking for some time internally to cope with the Covid crisis and especially the USA is no longer perceived by most Asians as Europeans as a reliable power in economic policy and beyond, as well as there is domestic political resistance in the USA against TPP and even if a new TPP should come about, this could be terminated with the next election of a new US president in 2024, like the Iran deal or TPP and TTIP under Trump.

That is why the pro-Western Asians, above all Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, regard China as a more reliable partner in terms of economic policy, as a force for trade and multilateralism. Whereby the western allies within RECP, above all Japan, did this to send a signal and clear message to the USA: If you want to be expelled from Asia, if you don’t want to enter into a reliable consensus between Democrats and Republicans on new transpacific free trade that will survive a Trump, you will become economically isolated. We don´t wait forever. So far, NAFTA and now the planned free trade agreement between the EU and the Latin American Mercusor were the largest free trade agreements in the world, but RECP has now completely surpassed these dimensions.

„Asia-Pacific countries including Japan, China and the 10 members of ASEAN signed a regional trade deal on Sunday covering nearly a third of the global economy, wrapping up eight years of negotiations following the withdrawal of India.The 15 signatories to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership reached the agreement, aimed at cutting tariffs and establishing common rules in areas such as e-commerce and intellectual property, during a virtual leaders’ summit.RCEP — also including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea — will create Asia’s biggest free trade zone encompassing about a third of the world’s population.

It will be Japan’s first trade deal with both China, its largest trading partner, and South Korea as negotiations for a trilateral pact have yet to be concluded.Speaking to reporters after signing the deal, trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said the 15 countries were seeking to wrap up domestic procedures quickly and put the pact into effect “as quickly as possible.”

“Through the tariff removals, I believe there’ll be a major impact on improving Japan’s exports and making the region’s supply chains more efficient,” Kajiyama said. “I strongly believe we are building free and fair economic rules through introducing new rules on data free flows and the banning of demands for technology transfers, as well as the protection of intellectual property.”

Supporters of the trade pact, which covers 2.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $26.2 trillion, said it will bolster pandemic-weakened economies by reducing tariffs, strengthening supply chains with common rules of origin, and codifying new e-commerce rules.

“The completion of negotiations is a strong message affirming ASEAN’s role in supporting the multilateral trade system,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said as he hosted the virtual signing ceremony. The agreement will contribute to “developing supply chains that have been disrupted due to the pandemic as well as supporting economic recovery,” he said.

Negotiators pushed the deal across the finish line after India surprised participants late last year by abandoning the agreement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he pulled out over concerns about how RCEP would affect the livelihoods of Indians, particularly the most vulnerable. India, though, will be allowed to rejoin the trade pact.“

The big thing at RECP is that India didn´t join it. The fear of Chinese hegemony, the protection of its own industries, especially its dairy farmers, service branch, China´s aggressive assertiveness in the Himalaya region and Ladakh, Modi´s more protectionist ideology prevented this at the moment. India has also not joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) AIIB), one of the backbones of China´s New Silkroad, resists the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and has initiated its own Silkroad by the Asian- African Economic Corridor- in cooperation with Japan and the USA. The fourth interesting aspect in US-Eurasian relations is the upgrading of the Quad. While China had undeniable success in free trade policy with RECP, the military forces against it are also regrouping. While at the economic front there are undeniable contradictions between a Trump- and Biden administration, at the military front the USA is pushing bipartisan ahead-. be it the increase of the defense budget or building of military alliances in Asia, especially the Quad, a forerunner-front for some sort of an Asian NATO. While there won´t be a US-led super command integrating all allied forces, the Quad is already not a loose alliance anymore.

„Malabar exercise that upsets China is a tectonic shift in power balance | Analysis

India has already asked its navy to start prepping to counter the China’s navy and change its orientation from diplomacy to deployment

Warships of four major Indo-Pacific democracies – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – will manoeuvre together in the Malabar naval exercise off the Goa coast on Tuesday, the second round of the war games by the QUAD countries over the last month that marks the evolution of the informal ‘QUAD’ partnership into a potential strategic alliance.

India had invited Australia to this year’s war games for the first time in more than a decade, a move that has angered President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party of China government to an extent that its mouthpiece, China Daily chided the Australian government for “aggressively sending warships to China’s doorsteps” as part of Exercise Malabar. India and Australia, however, stayed firm, a sharp contrast from 2007 when several countries that had participated in the naval exercise eventually backed down in face of China’s protests.(…)

Beijing’s approach in Ladakh has convinced India that it needs to be prepared for similar Chinese aggression in the high seas. People familiar with the matter said the government has already asked the Indian Navy to start prepping to counter the PLA Navy and change its orientation from diplomacy to deployment. The focus should be on the navy developing the capacity to be deployed from the Gulf of Eden to the Malacca Strait, and beyond.

This year’s Malabar exercise – that mirrors the deepening strategic ties within QUAD – is one step. That is why, a national security planner said, the presence of the USS Nimitz strike group and India’s INS Vikramaditya at the exercise reflects the determination of the four countries to draw red lines for China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy.

“It is a tectonic shift in the regional power balance,” he said.“

However, if one looks at the present Sino-Indian border conflict and the rising assertiveness and nationalism on both sides, it is hard to imagine, at least for the foreseeable future, a harmonious Eurasian Heartland cooperation between China, Russia and India to exist. Even if Russia tried to mediate and support India’s membership in the permanent UNSC, with China blocking all these efforts, raising doubts about a possible Eurasian world, cooperation remains quite unlikely. And while Russia has also good contacts with India beyond the BRICS and the SCO, it also didn´t like the idea that Modi accepted the invitation to Trump´s anti-Chinese G 11 idea which wanted to split the Eurasianism by the formation of an anti-China bloc including Russian, India, South Korea and Australia. While Putin didn´t react to Trump´s offer, India wanted to see what Trump can offer against China and Pakistan and also intensifies the cooperation within the Quad. While the Trump- USA offered India a G 11 participation, it also seems to propose more formal military ties. In his article “US seeks formal alliance similar to Nato with India, Japan and Australia, State Department official say “published 1 Sep, 2020 in the South Chjina Morning Post Robert Delaney writes:

“Washington’s goal is to get countries in the Indo-Pacific region to work together as a bulwark against ‘a potential challenge from China’, says the US official. He says the four nations are expected to meet in Delhi sometime this autumn.“

As the world is in a transition period to a more multipolar world and a struggle between the weakened USA and the rising China, strategic balancing becomes the new normal as Indian General Asthana once claimed.

Therefore and after the rejection by the Trump-USA for his prolongation of START, Putin now threatens the West and the rest of Asia with a Chinese-Russian military alliance. However, the question would be what Putin could offer China. How should he support China in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, Taiwan? Would he send an aircraft carrier against the USA or some vessels or airforce or threaten the USA with his ICBMs or start a conflict in Europe to overstretch the US military? Or deliver oil and gas if the Malakka Street should be blocked for China´s energy imports? But therefore some new pipelines have to be built and that will take some time. At the moment Putin´s declaration seems more than a pressure instrument than a real plan, even if China and Russia want a multipolar world, but Russia doesn´t want to become a colony of China..

The new and fifth moment is the Indo-Pacific strategy of the German government which shall become the blueprint for a European Indo-Pacific strategy. However, the term Indo-Pacific was first created by the USA and the Trump administration. It replaced the old geographical concept of the Asia-Pacific. Under Trump the Indo- Pacific strategy pronounced an economic decoupling and containment strategy against China. The German Indo-Pacific strategy pronounces that decoupling and containment and confrontation with China was not desirable. Germany had to see that Asia is the new center of world politics and the world economy and that Germany had to realize this.

Germany should reduce its dependence from China, diversify its economic and political relations and focus on the ASEAN which were also the frontrunner for RECP in Asia. But also use the leverage for strengthening a value-based, ecological, multilateral policy and have even an inclusive approach towards China, but not as main centre of all German foreign policy perspective. As an export nation, Germany had also to support the freedom of navigation in the open seas and even militarily support this goal and like-minded allies. In the German version Indo-Pacific doesn´t mean a defined geographical area, but a geopolitical and geoeconomic space. While the French government already had a Indo-Pacific strategy and already send some military ships to this region, , even to the Malaba drills, Great Britain is building a new naval base in Singapur along the already existing US naval base. German defense minister Anngeret Kramp- Karrenbauer already proposed to send German military ships to the Indo- Pacific and to build and support alliances with Indo-Pacific partners, especially Australia.

The German government wants to push its Indo-Pacific strategy within the EU and to integrate it with the French Indo-Pacific strategy to design an EU Indo-Pacific strategy. NATO for the first time declared China as a new challenge for the transatlantic military alliance. It remains to be seen if Germany´s plans for an Indo-Pacific strategy will see a unilateral approach which is unlikely or a European pillar, militarily relying on Frech and German vessels, maybe even with British as it seems unlikely that a Global NATO will appear or NATO extends its reach to the Indo-Pacific. As European ships in the Indo-Pacific are more a symbolic act than real militarily decisive hard power, it remains to be seen if they will join the Quad drills or the Malaba maneuvers and the East Europeans won´t like that idea too much as they perceive this as a distraction from the European NATO front against Russia and have to be convinced by other incentives for NATO. Another big project will be a EU-ASEAN free trade agreement after the EU already signed FTAs with Japan, Singapur and Vietnam and is negotiating with Indonesia at the moment.

Due to Trumpism, in the Biden-USA the old engagement policy is over and will be replaced by congagement, while it is still debated what this term means in reality, how much the elements of engagement and containment will be pronounced. As Madeleine Albright already proposed a Community of Democracies and John Mc Cain wanted a League of Democracies, Biden spoke of an Alliance of Democracies. However, in the past, these mostly were pipe dreams which never materialized and critics think that this value-based approach prevents cooperation of the USA with non-democratic states as Vietnam, Saudi Arabia or Turkey and would narrow the scope of US influence and alliance building.

However, it remains to be seen if the German words and deeds fit together. An article in the Falungong newspaper Epoch Times, one of the most popular Chinese opposition organs which wants to topple the CP China perceives the new German Indo-Pacific strategy not as a real cut and diversification of Germany´s and Europe´s dependence from China but see it more as a continuation of the former appeasement and engagement policy. It asks whether this strategy can be taken seriously while BASF, Daimler, BMW and Siemens are expanding their investments in China and not redirecting it to other regions and countries.

However, the German mainstream newspaper FAZ calls the Indo-Pacific strategy a „warning signal to China“. As the RECP, India´s approachment to the Quad and Putin´s remarks at the Valdai Club , there seem to be more warning signals from all sides in the transition period for a more multipolar world.

From our partner RIAC

Political Scientist (diploma) , Open Source Analyst, Chinese-German translator, based in Munich, Germany

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Victor Orban’s eyes may be bigger than his stomach

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When Prime Minister Victor Orban recently spelled out his vision of Hungary’s frontiers, he joined a club of expansionist leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, and members of the Indian power elite who define their countries’ borders in civilisational rather than national terms.

Speaking on Romanian territory in the predominantly ethnic Hungarian town of Baile Tusnad in Transylvania, a onetime Austro-Hungarian possession home to a Hungarian minority, Mr. Orban echoed the worldviews of Messrs. Xi and Putin.

Those views are on display in the South China Sea and Ukraine, as well as in statements by the Russian leader about other former Soviet republics.

It’s a worldview also embraced by members of India’s Hindu nationalist elite that endorses a country’s right to expand its internationally recognized borders to lands inhabited by their ethnic kin or territories and waters that historically were theirs.

Unlike the Russian and Chinese leaders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been careful to avoid public support for the civilisationalist concept of Akhand Bharat embraced by his ideological alma mater.

The concept envisions an India that stretches from Afghanistan to Myanmar and encompasses nuclear-armed Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Mr. Modi’s silence hasn’t prevented Mohan Bhagwat, head of the powerful ultra-Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS) or National Volunteer Organization, from recently predicting that Akhand Bharat would become a reality within 15 years.

Mr. Modi has been a member of the RSS since the late 1960s. However, he is believed to have last referred to the Akhand Bharat concept in an interview in 2012 when, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he suggested that “Hindustan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh should rejoin.”

However, in contrast to his more recent silence, Mr. Modi has approached Indian Muslims, the world’s largest minority and its largest Muslim minority, in much the same way that Mr. Orban envisions a racially and religiously pure Hungary.

The Hungarian prime minister sparked outrage in his July speech when he rejected a “mixed-race world” defined as a world “in which European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe.”

Mr. Orban asserted that mixed-race countries “are no longer nations: They are nothing more than conglomerations of peoples” and are no longer part of what he sees as “the Western world.” Mr. Orban stopped short of identifying those countries, but the United States and Australia would fit the bill. 

Romanians may be more concerned about Mr. Orban’s racial remarks than his territorial ambitions, described by one Romanian Orban watcher as a “little man having pipe dreams.”

Romanians may be right. Mr. Orban’s ability to militarily assert his claims is far more restricted than those of his Russian and Chinese counterparts. Nevertheless, one underestimates at one’s peril.

Mr. Orban shares Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi’s resentment of perceived historical wrongs that need to be rectified irrespective of international law and the consequences of a world whose guardrails are dictated by might rather than the rule of law.

His speech seems to promise to reverse what he sees as an unjust diktat. His revanchism may explain why Russia’s alteration in Ukraine of national boundaries by force doesn’t trouble him.

Mr. Orban left no doubt that his definition of the Hungarian motherland included Transylvania and other regions in the Carpathian Basin beyond Hungary’s borders that ethnic Hungarians populate.

Insisting that the world owed Hungary, which eventually would call in its debt, Mr. Orban asserted that his country was driven by the notion “that more has been taken from us than given to us, that we have submitted invoices that are still unpaid… This is our strongest ambition.”

Mr. Orban implicitly suggested a revision or cancellation of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which deprived Hungary of much of its pre-World War I territory.

Two months earlier, Hungarian President Katalin Novak ruffled diplomatic feathers when she posted a picture of herself climbing a mountain peak in Romania’s Alba County, standing by a disputed milestone painted in Hungarian colours.

At the time, Ms. Novak advised Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu that it was her duty to represent “all Hungarians, regardless of whether they live inside or outside the borders” – a claim Romania rejected.

Mr. Orban’s grievance and racially driven nationalism may be one reason the Hungarian leader has been Europe’s odd man out in refusing to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine fully.

In a break with European Union policy, Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjarto met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on the eve of Mr. Orban’s speech to request additional gas supplies.

In contrast to the EU, which wants to remove Russia as a supplier of its energy, Mr. Orban insisted that “we do not want to stop getting energy from Russia, we simply want to stop getting it exclusively from Russia.”

Mr. Orban’s speech is unlikely to ease the task of Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s regional development minister and a former EU commissioner. Mr. Navracsics arrived in Brussels this week to persuade the EU to release €15 billion in covid recovery funds amid an unprecedented disciplinary process that could lead to the suspension of EU funding because of Hungarian violations of the rule of law.

So far, Mr. Orban’s support of Russia has isolated him in Europe with the de facto demise of the Visegrad 4 or V4 in its current form in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine and the threat of an economic recession.

Grouping the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, the Visegrad 4 were united in their opposition to EU migration and rejection of what the Hungarian leader termed Europe’s “internal empire-building attempts,” a reference to the European Commission’s efforts to stop moves that hollow out Central European democracy.

Leaving Mr. Orban isolated, Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger has pledged to use his current six-month presidency of the European Council to return the Visegrad 4 to the roots of its founding in 1991 as the four countries emerged from communism: respect for democracy and a commitment to European integration.

If successful, Mr. Heger’s V4 will likely be a V3 with Hungary on the outs.

Said Mateusz Gniazdowski, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Centre for Eastern Studies: “Attempts to ideologically use the V4 brand harm mutual trust and don’t contribute to building a strong Central Europe in the EU.”

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The End of History, Delayed: The EU’s Role in Defining the Post-War Order

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While the world is following the dramatic unfolding of the Russian aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Europe needs to start elaborating its vision for the post-war world. While a new Yalta might be needed, we all should realise that a peaceful world order has never existed outside the European Union. This in itself grants the EU the credibility – and responsibility – for arranging the post-war framework that secures the peaceful future of the continent.

By Dr.Maria Alesina and Francesco Cappelletti*

In the interconnected international society, war is not only a horrific and painful but also irrational choice. It is a zero-sum game, which sets into motion the domino effect of global repercussions. However, rational considerations have little to do with what stands behind the ongoing military attack on Ukraine. Russia’s war is not limited to Ukraine or aimed at a regime change to strengthen regional influence (as realists would say), nor does it represent an attempt to reinforce specific strategic interests (as a cognitivist analysis would suggest). It has emerged as something beyond traditional disputes: it is, as a matter of fact, an ideological war against the West. More than anything, it is Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”, although driven not by ideology or religion but by the two conflicting standpoints on human life – as a value and a non-value. This fundamental clash is happening now on the Ukrainian soil, and the battle is as fierce as it can possibly get.

The propaganda-driven “Rus-zism” rhetoric, missing any solid ideological basis or constructive meaning, consists of an overt anti-Western narrative aiming to establish a multi-polar world order and a vaguely defined concept of Russia’s “greatness”, entrenched in the shreds of evidence given by altered revision of events, such as the Great Patriotic War. A war that, in the eyes of the Russian establishment, has never ended. In the anti-Western rhetoric, the corroborating factor is a series of facts, events, convictions, beliefs, interests that support the leitmotif of the inevitability of “blocks”, an enemy, the “others”. A heritage of the Cold War. All this is grounded in the historical super Troika of the Russia’s foreign policy: fear of external threats, dispersed economic and political inefficiency, and focus on securing citizens’ support – by all means, ranging from propaganda to political repressions. This is a sheer exercise in power without purpose, control without vision, projected both internally and externally. This dynamic, although never fully dissipated, has been re-gaining momentum starting with Putin’s speech at the 2007 Munich Security Conference.

Today, in mid-2022, Russian aggression in Ukraine is only growing in atrocities and cynicism. In contrast, the EU politics still remain a palliative medicine, by definition unprepared to dealing with the concept of war. Political crises in several Member States – Italy, France, Estonia, Bulgaria – risk becoming a further destabilizing factor preventing the EU from fully standing up against Putin’s war plans. Meanwhile, the Europeans are becoming increasingly concerned with the upcoming ‘Russian winter’, recession, global food shortages, and a new migration crisis. As much as citizens advocated for support to Ukraine in the beginning, soon they might start demanding peace at any cost – most likely, Ukraine’s cost. This is the trap that Russia is orchestrating.

However, any simple, although desperately needed, ceasefire agreement risks only deepening the problem and postponing the solution. It will be a matter or years, if not months, when Russia restarts its aggression, possibly better prepared the next time around. The somewhat belated understanding of this simple truth should prevent us from re-engaging into the dilemma of prioritizing short-lived comfort and material gain over long-term solutions based on our fundamental, “civilizational” priorities. We need to remember that Europe’s prosperity has resulted from a prolonged period of peace – not vice versa. Those who threaten the peace, by definition threaten our growth and sustainability. Alongside building up its strategic autonomy for the 21st century, Europe must be prepared to do what it takes to secure a new long-term peaceful world order – not simply patch the old one.

Given that the ‘Russian factor’ will not disappear even after the overt military conflict is over, the Cold War II stands in the midst of diplomatic challenges anticipated for the post-war scenario. On the one hand, as Russia has acquired the official status of the world’s villain, dethroning China from this role, it will continue to face some extent of isolation. Regaining any level of trust will require years, and Moscow will struggle to find a credible audience to speak to when trying to redefine its external relations, while having to deal with a prolonged recession and a technological slowdown never experienced since 1991. On the other hand, without being naïve, we cannot expect any substantial regime changes to happen in Moscow. For centuries, the narrative ‘Russia vs. the West’ has constituted the very central axis of the national public discourse, even within the liberally-minded opposition circles. Such long-standing trends do not change quickly, if ever.

Although no notions of trustworthy diplomacy will bring Russia to the international negotiation tables for a long time, the need to guarantee security goes beyond this conflict and its territorial or ideological implications. The only viable solution is to find a way to contain Russia within a binding and comprehensive international framework. This means a pragmatic approach is needed in developing untouchable geopolitical, diplomatic, and security-related boundaries of the new order. The exact same boundaries that kept the first Cold War “cold”, with the difference that this time one of the great powers involved is – to use Kennedy’s word – declining.

The results of the potential Kyiv-Moscow talks will largely depend on the West’s willingness to avoid grey zones in the future security settlements. It is a matter of responsibility, especially for the EU, to provide a forum to assess, judge, clarify, evaluate, measure, and pragmatically set limits of the new post-war security system. While the US is interested, first and foremost, in slowly weakening Russia politically and economically, Europe’s long-term concern consists primarily in preventing its giant neighbour from disrupting the very basic principles of coexistence on the continent. A zero-trust model should be applied to Russia, while a new paradigm for debates should be developed from scratch: there is no more “balance of power” and “deterrence” to fit into the discourse. The world is now divided into nations that either care or not about commonly accepted principles, rights, and, above all, about the value of human life. The end of history, in 2022, is farther away than expected.

*Dr Maria Alesina and Francesco Cappelletti are Policy and Research Officers at the European Liberal Forum. Dr Alesina holds MA degrees in Political Science and EU Studies obtained in Ukraine, Germany and Belgium and a PhD degree in interdisciplinary cultural studies from Ghent University. She specializes in EU foreign, social, and cultural affairs. Francesco Cappelletti holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Florence and MA in World Politics from MGIMO. Member of Center for Cybersecurity in Florence. He focuses on cybersecurity, digitisation, Russian-Western relations and the relation between sustainability and technologies.

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“No longer analyze Asia with European eyes”, says French expert in Bucharest conference

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A 2-day academic hybrid conference organized in Bucharest at mid-July by MEPEI (Middle East Economic and Political Institute) and EuroDefense Romania, two Bucharest-based think-tanks, was the perfect venue to learn about the latest analyses on economic, geopolitical and security topics related to the Middle East and Asia, during which China was mentioned by all speakers as clearly playing a role in today’s international order. Entitled “Middle East in Quest for Security, Stability, and Economic Identity”, the conference was the 8th in a series of international conferences that annually gather well-known experts from all over the world to present their analyses and research on highly debated topics such as terrorism, Middle East, emerging Asian countries, the rising China, to which this year a new topic was added: the conflict in Ukraine.

Interesting ideas derived from the speakers’ presentations.

Adrian Severin, former Romanian minister of foreign affairs and EU parliamentarian, pointed out that “the conflict in Ukraine is actually one between Russia and the West, but economic sanctions never stop wars, and they even may lead to global disaster”. Severin considers it to be more and more difficult for NATO to defend its allies, with so many countries relying on NATO, and on the US, for their national protection, including non-European countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. When it comes to Asia, Severin sees “China to have a first rank role in shaping the world order.”

Teodor Meleșcanu, another former Romanian minister of foreign affairs, stressed that “Asia has the majority of the world’s population and lots and resources, and the future of Asia will assume the future of our civilizations.” Meleșcanu explained that “China wants to stabilize the world and to forge alliances, but not to fight with the West. Chinese trade is not interested in confrontation with Western partners by making alliance with Russia and it’s obvious why – because the West means more than 700 million people whereas Russia means only 114 million.” Meleșcanu suggested that the optimal solution in international relations is to operate with regional organizations in order to have dialogue, not directly with “the big boys in the garden.” Meleșcanu also encourages never-ending dialogue between the US-Russia-China, as the current situation proves it, in order to prevent such events that destabilize the world. He believes that the principles in Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion will always apply, as war does not actually mean conquering territories.  

Lily Ong, host of the Geopolitics360 live show in Singapore, confirmed that regional organizations are vital for dialogue: “Had not it have been for ASEAN, Singapore would have been on the menu, not at the table.”

Foad Izadi from the University of Tehran informed that Iran signed a 25-year agreement with China, and a separate one with Russia, and said “Iran would welcome such 25-year agreements with European countries. It’s Europe’s decision if they really want to follow the US decisions, but the US interests are often not aligned with the European interests”, concluded Izadi.

Vasily Kuznetsov from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow reminded the audience that Russia and the West cooperated very well in Libya, in fighting against ISIS in Syria, and expressed his confusion about Europe’ militarized approach towards Russia.  He stressed that “the current international situation will result into the strengthening of Asian centres of global power and global economics. China, as well as India and the Middle East as a collective actor become new great powers directly linked to each other, without the West.” At the same time, Kuznetsov sees “for China, a dilemma between pragmatic economic interest and global political ambitions, and for India, a choice between regional and global ambitions outside South Asia”, and he wondered whether “China can have a realistic foreign policy in the Middle East which  is facing issues of internal reconfiguration, sovereignty and security.” For the US, Kuznetsov sees the biggest challenge in the effort “to preserve leadership without more engagement, to make American politics more successful and to combine values and pragmatism.”

 “The rise of China is beneficial not only for China but for entire Asia”, believes Yao Jinxiang from China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) in Beijing. “The rise of Asia will rebalance the world.” Yao also stressed that “people are often biased about Asia. Let us not forget that, apart from the wars led by the US in Asia, Asia has been stable with no war for a long time. The self-control of the Asia countries ensures stability. It looks that it’s easier to attract Europe in a war than Asia. Asian countries try to solve problems by consensus. For example, China, Japan and South Korea step back because ASEAN is the leader. On the other hand, China has always been defensive. China does not want to claim hegemony or to replace the US, or another great power.” Yao equally explained the two terms used to refer to the same region: Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific: “Asia-Pacific reflects economic relations, whereas Indo-Pacific rather mirrors the political and military relations”, and he stressed that “China does not want to claim hegemony in this world or to replace the US or another great power. China is only interested in prosperity around the world and it watches carefully the Global Development Index and the Global Security Index”.

Pierre Fournié, French expert on Asia from SUFFREN International think-tank declared the Belt and Road Initiative, formerly One-Belt, One-Road (OBOR), to be “a magnificent project that could be pivotal in Europe” because “trade has always been a peaceful and fruitful relation among countries.” Fournié made clear that the war in Ukraine, inflation, migration, social discontent in Europe and the ongoing reconfiguration of the US society create conditions for Asian nations to become key partners in the post-war reshaping of Europe. “Thus, BRI, or the Indonesian Global Maritime Fulcrum are magnificent assets. Fournié also suggested that ”the current economic model creates tensions, and it’s time for  people to apply mutual aid and to unite to create coo-petition, a term coined by himself, and not competition. He recommended people to “no longer analyze Asia with European eyes.”

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