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China’s “tri-ring” approach to the Afghanistan issue and beyond



Over the past decade, the India-Pacific Quad which includes the United States, Japan, India and Australia has been discussed widely and controversially as well. Due to the uncertainties in Asia and the Pacific, the U.S. has tried to transform this strategic forum into a geopolitical means with a view to containing the rise of China. For sure, sovereign states have rights to set up multiple dialogue among themselves in terms of mutual respects. Yet, it becomes a serious scenario whenever a state or alliance tends to dismiss the legitimate security concerns of other states in the region and beyond.

China has pursued what is called national rejuvenation which has been taken for over one century by Chinese people. According to the doctrine of classic realism put forward by Hans Morgenthau, any nation and particularly a rising power has to deliberate and reconsider the fundamental elements which are the components of what we call national power. First of all, geography is the most stable factor on which the power of a nation depends. Second, equally vital are other elements such as natural and human resources, industrial capacity and military preparedness backed by technology. Third, the decisive element of nations is the leadership which is dispensable, as Henry Kissinger put it, to make strategic decision, earn trust from both domestically and internationally and lead people to reach from where they are to where they have never been and, sometimes, can scarcely imagine going. Without leadership, otherwise, governments drift and nations court growing irrelevance and, ultimately disaster.

As the major neighbor to each other, China and Russia have perceived common threats looming from the hawkish clique of the Anglo-American elites that have driven the AUKUS pact, the Quad security forum and the prospect of the global NATO in both Europe and Asia. Given this, it is self-evident that China is aware of the consequences if it would alienate Russia as the strongest strategic sinew in the global vicissitudes. In the long-run, Beijing and Moscow need to maintain strategic focus and work together with the global partners to warrant the peace and stability in the world generally and the Eurasian region particularly.

Geographically, Eurasia refers to the “Heartland” of the world which stretches from the Volga to the Yangtze and from the Himalayas to the Arctic Ocean. Yet, it is under the jurisdiction of China and Russia.[1] More than that scenario, now the two countries have seen each other as the geostrategic partners in the region and globally. Since 2014, China has used “standing back-to-back” strategic neighbors with Russia to jointly address common risks and challenges. But the United States have highlighted Eurasia as the pivot of the grand chessboard since the end of the Cold War. Then, U.S. strategists like Kissinger, Brzezinski and etc. argued that “no matter which power, either of Europe or Asia, dominates Eurasia, that danger is seen by Washington as a structural threat to its primacy in the world.”[2] China and Russia will definitely react to how the U.S. would have treated them as the major powers of the world.

This article aims to interpret the “tri-ring” approach of China to the issues of Afghanistan and Eurasia which is seen as the strategic corridor for China’s access to its energy and trade markets. First, since the summer of 2021, the regime-change in Kabul has grabbed the world’s attention to how China would respond to the geopolitical void left by the U.S. For China has enhanced strategic coordination with Russia, Pakistan and Iran, known as the Eurasian strategic partners on the Afghan issue. To the strategists in Washington, such a grouping would have the capacity to outstrip the U.S. economically and, in the end, militarily. As Kissinger argued earlier that strategic danger for the U.S. is domination of Eurasia by a single power from either Europe or Asia, so it would be resisted even were the dominant power apparently benevolent or cooperative. To that end, the United States has mastered its economic and high-tech advantages to buttress its military supremacy globally. This is the fundamental reason why the United States has increasingly treated China, Russia and Iran as strategic competitors and systemic rivals in Eurasia due to its geostrategic dimensions and tremendous resources available in the upcoming competitions of the major powers.

For the similar reason, China’s strategic project like the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) led by Russia are seen by the U.S. and its allies as the Sino-Russian joint efforts to remove the West out of Eurasia. Since the Afghan Taliban returned to power in August 2021, the world has questioned how China would play a seminal role in the postwar Afghanistan where the U.S. had faltered during the two-decade military occupation. As the first step, on September 16, the Foreign Ministers of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran held talks in Dushanbe and presented a five-point formula on national reconstruction in line with the “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” principle initiated by China. One month later, a round of talks were held in Moscow with an emphasis on the issues of Afghanistan and the region along with the member states of the SCO plus Iran and Turkmenistan as well. It revealed that since Afghanistan links the BRI straightly to the heart of Eurasia and also likely acts a new haven to all the terrorists once again as it did before, the future of the country would affect all the neighboring countries including China if the chaos surges again. The Moscow meeting reaffirmed the SCO support to rebuild the war-torn Afghanistan in line with universally accepted principles and norms of international law, primarily the UN Charter.

What China wants to see is a peaceful and friendly Afghanistan as the neighbor. Given the lessons of the Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States in Afghanistan, China has indicated that it will never be involved into the country alone. Yet, the issue remains how China would work with its strategic partners and friendly countries to help the Taliban, now the ruling party of Afghanistan, to attain political stability, economic recovery and diplomatic recognition from the international society. Based on the survey and examined, China’s “tri-ring” approach to the Afghanistan issue is essentially and officially consistent.

First, China has been committed to working with Pakistan, Russia and Iran to jointly deal with the issues in Afghanistan. Next, China has appealed to the neighboring countries of Afghanistan—China, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan—together to make assure the Taliban to get rid of all the terrorist groups under UN Resolutions. Then, the SCO and the Eurasian partners would be needed to take part in the post-war reconstruction from humanitarian aid, security to diplomacy, including the Taliban in charge of the country be recognized as the de jury government of the country. In doing so, it can assist the restructuring a modest and inclusive governance in the already so-called “failed” Afghanistan. This is the reason why this article aims to dissect China’s “tri-ring” approach to Afghanistan and Eurasia.

On April 12 and 13, the 4th foreign ministers’ meeting of neighboring states of Afghanistan was held in the capital of Uzbekistan. The foreign ministers of China and five Central Asian countries met to discuss the issues like common security, lasting peace and sustainable development in the region. To those ends, they vowed to deepen relations through extensive mutual understandings on cooperation after Chinese F.M. Qin Gang consulted with his counterparts from the five countries in Central Asia. With regards to the scenario in Afghanistan, all the participants agreed to further consolidate the consensus of the neighboring countries on the Afghan issue, and firmly implement the outcomes and consensus of the previous meetings to support its social-economic reconstruction and feasible cooperation in the country. China reiterated to cement multilateral contacts and cooperation with Central Asian partners in the framework such as the U.N. and the SCO to safeguard the basic norms of international relations, the international system with the U.N. In a long run, six countries also agreed to upgrade cooperation in a wide agenda of trade, investment, interconnection, green agriculture, medical and health care, energy and minerals.

Two weeks later, on 27, China once again hosted four countries of Central Asia (this time, Turkmenistan not present) in ancient city of Xi’an, China. The discussion aimed to make full preparations for the upcoming Summit between China and Central Asia. The upcoming agenda is that first, all parties have agreed to host China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an in May with a view to presenting the high-level China-Central Asia cooperation to the world and also ushering bilateral relations into a new era. Second, all parties have vowed to respect each choice of a development path suited to their own national conditions and resolutely reject any individual or any force creating chaos and turbulence in Central Asia. The Chinese government is committed to taking the responsibility of a major country in the region and beyond. Its stance on the issues of the core interests and national security of all the countries in the region has never changed and will not change. Third, as the largest economy in Eurasia, China will continue making all efforts to increase the level of economic, trade, investment and financing cooperation with the five countries of Central Asia. Meanwhile, China and Central Asian countries will keep close collaboration within such multilateral regimes and frameworks as the UN and the SCO in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and other recognized norms of international law.

If it is coincident or not, on 27-28, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu attended the meeting of the Council of the Defense Ministers of the SCO member states in New Delhi, India where Mr. Li met with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and the two sides exchanged views on relations between the two countries and militaries. As the media said, Chinese Defense Minister Li who is a career soldier made it clear that China is ready to cooperate with other members of the SCO to build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture since it has become a key platform for SCO member states to strengthen strategic communication and discuss security cooperation. Given this, the defense ministers of China and India pledged at the meeting to boost strategic dialogue, expand SCO cooperation and jointly safeguard regional security and stability, all of which were written into a joint communique after the meeting.

Now in summary that China has valued the tri-ring approaches to the issues of Afghanistan and the Eurasian regions. First, on the issue of Afghanistan, China has committed to working with other players such as Pakistan, Russia, and Iran. Second, to make sure the peace in Afghanistan and beyond, China has worked with the Eurasian Quad along with all neighboring states of Afghanistan, which covers major countries of Central Asia. Third, in a long run and from the geopolitical perspective, China as one of the key driving forces of the SCO has advocated the role of the SCO which has included the major and minor countries in the Eurasian regions which not only occupies the heartland of the world, but also possesses the tremendous deposit of oil and strategic routes. Given this, China adeptly follows the lore of ancient China that together, it never fails in foreign affairs.

[1] Hans Morgenthau & Kenneth Thompson, Politics among Nations – the struggle for power and peace, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1985), p. 127 & p. 179.

[2] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 813; Also see Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (NY: Basic Books, 1997), p. 27.

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East Asia

Mongolia To Strengthen Transparency Through Constitutional Reforms

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The Government of Mongolia has this week made efforts to strengthen the governance of its legislature and increase transparency by passing into law a number of changes to the country’s constitution. The country hopes to create more opportunities for civil society representation by moving to a mixed electoral system.

Representatives in the country’s parliament, the State Great Khural, debated and approved reforms that will increase the number of members in the parliament from 76 to 126, with nearly 40% of the MPs now being elected through proportional representation. The Government is also shortly due to introduce separate proposals that will increase the representation of women in the parliament. All these changes are set to be in place in time for the next set of general elections in 2024.

Mongolia’s political system is centred on the sharing of executive power between the Prime Minister as the head of government, and an elected President. The country’s Constitution was adopted in 1992, with amendments made in 1999, 2000, 2019, and 2022. Recent changes have focused on securing political stability in the country, through for example limiting the maximum term of the presidency from two four-year terms to one six-year term, and amending the number of parliamentarians who can hold ministerial positions. 

The increase in the size of the State Great Khural will address the rise in the number of voters represented by each parliamentarian, which has increased from 27,000 in 1992 to 44,000 today. Alongside the move towards a more proportional electoral system, the reforms are designed to bring parliamentarians closer to the people they are elected to serve by enhancing the scrutiny given to new laws.

A separate amendment to the country’s constitution creates a role for Mongolia’s Constitutional Court in reaching a final decision on citizen petitions alleging breaches of civil rights and freedoms, including equal rights between men and women, freedom of thought, speech, and peaceful assembly.

Commenting on the proposed changes to the constitution, Mongolia’s Prime Minister, L. Oyun-Erdene, said:

“I strongly support these proposed changes to Mongolia’s Constitution. They represent a further step for our country in the direction of a more inclusive and democratic future. Through increasing the representation in our parliament and broadening input into the law-making process, we will be better placed to meet current challenges and ensure that we continue to make progress towards our Vision 2050 goals, improving the livelihoods of people across Mongolia.”

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East Asia

Taiwan’s International Status: “A Country Within a Country”

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. (Photo: Taiwan's Presidential Office)

In California, a recent meeting was held between the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, and the U.S. House Speaker, Mr. Kevin McCarthy, which holds political significance. This aforementioned meeting facilitated a negative shift in the bilateral relations between China and Taiwan.  The latent hostilities between China and Taiwan possess the potential to escalate into full-scale armed conflict at any given juncture.

The proposal

The incongruent dynamic existing between China and Taiwan has persisted since 1949, when Taiwan made the conscious decision to separate from mainland China.

From 1949 onwards, China and Taiwan have been embroiled in a geopolitical imbroglio pertaining to their respective territorial integrity and claims of sovereignty. The Chinese government asserts that Taiwan is an integral component of its sovereign geography. On the contrary, Taiwan is assertive of its autonomy as a distinct, self-governing entity that operates independently and is no longer subject to Chinese jurisdiction.

The discordant relationship between the two sides which has escalated over the preceding biennium, potentially heightening the likelihood of military confrontation.

Over the course of the past two years, there have been several instances in which China has deployed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct military maneuvers in close proximity to Taiwan. The aforementioned initiative was aimed at preventing any activities fueled by Taiwan that could have been construed as provocative and potentially encroach on China’s claims of rightful control over Taiwan’s sovereignty and territorial boundaries

The persistent geopolitical tensions between China and Taiwan since 1949 can be attributed to diverging opinions regarding the formal recognition of Taiwan, in particular, the contentious matter of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Tensions will continue Between China and Taiwan until Taiwan becomes independent or recognizes its self-identification as a constituent part of China.

Since 1949, the China has exerted persistent pressure upon Taiwan to acquiesce to the notion of reunification or the incorporation of Taiwan into the mainland territory of China. Nevertheless, it appears that Taiwan’s internal political circumstance and dynamics persist in maintaining its political choices and ideology as a democratic and self-governing entity.

The prolonged inability of both parties to develop a more extensive and adaptable resolution or methodology to address the matter implies that the aspiration to “normalize” relations between China and Taiwan continues to exist solely within the realm of rhetoric.

In order to achieve the objective of unification under the the idea of the “One China Principle” or One China Policy and to surmount the political divergence concerning Taiwan’s official position, has engendered several propositions by China aimed at resolving this issue. A proposed approach adopt the implementation of a “one country, two systems” protocol akin to that employed in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Chinese government has expressed that the policy is exceedingly permissive and capable of surmounting the distinct system variances that exist between the mainland region of China and Taiwan.

The proposal of “special administrative region” attributed to Taiwan enables the continued preservation of its economic, social, and security system that they have built so far, while attenuating or obviating any undue influence or interference by China. Nonetheless, the aforementioned proposal appears to be insufficient in instigating political transformation in Taiwan, given the persistent refusal of Taiwanese individuals and governmental officials to endorse unification and uphold their desire for independence.

In view of China, safeguarding Taiwan and accomplishing the complete unification of the country is not solely a matter of fulfilling its constitutional obligations, but also serves the purpose of preserving its stature as a dominant and revered nation on the global stage.

In contrast, Taiwan persistently endeavors to establish diplomatic and cross-strait relations through a range of diverse strategies and approaches with multiple nations across the globe. The clear objective is to secure the hearts and compassion of the global populace. Taiwan undertook this action with the aim of restoring its position in the global arena and paving the way for its eventual recognition as a self-governing entity with full political autonomy.

“Country within a country”

Again, the China-Taiwan issue is rooted in a territorial and sovereignty perspectives. In the global arena, China maintains a comparatively advantageous position. China, is a prominent participant in the United Nations, the most extensive intergovernmental organization encompassing numerous states worldwide, Positioning itself as a powerful participant in the direction and reflection of global politics. Furthermore, China belongs to “the distinguished” member of UN Security Council’s five permanent members, which has so far strong and great influence on world politics.

On the other hand, the international position held by Taiwan is considerably intricate. The question regarding the statehood of Taiwan remains a matter of unsettled dispute, given the absence of any universally recognized body empowered to render definitive judgments regarding the status of a nation-state.

Since the adoption of Resolution A/RES/2758 by the UN General Assembly on October 25, 1971, Taiwan has lost its international “stage”. This is because the resolution affirms China as the sole legitimate representative of China to the United Nations and consequentially nullifies Taiwan’s membership from the organization.

It is a well-documented reality that numerous nations have forged informal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, particularly in the realm of trade and investment. The United States, for instance, has solidified such relations through the Taiwan Relations Act. To the present day, a limited number of 22 nations have formally acknowledged and established official diplomatic intercourse with Taiwan. A notable aspect is that the majority of these nations lack any substantial sway or significant leverage on the international political sphere. Specifically, countries of comparatively small size in the African and Latin American regions, namely Haiti, Belize, and Tuvalu.

Taiwan has indeed met the three constitutive elements or absolute requisites deemed necessary for a country as exemplified by the 1933 Montevideo Convention. These components include the presence of a defined territorial boundary, a functioning populace, and a duly constituted government. However, Taiwan lacks a crucial element in its diplomatic status, namely the recognition from the international community through a declarative act.

The restricted global acknowledgement of Taiwan undoubtedly carries considerable political and legal ramifications. Recognition is widely regarded as the key component in modern international politics that has the potential to enhance the legitimacy and sovereignty of a given state.

Taiwan faces formidable challenges in achieving recognition. In order to attain successful governance, Taiwan must display adeptness in efficiently managing both internal and external political dynamics. Otherwise, the current state of affairs will persist, leading to Taiwan’s classification as a “subnational entity” Or “A country within a country”.

Ultimately, the resolution of the China and Taiwan conflict proves to be a formidable challenge. In order to mitigate potential future crises and uphold regional and international stability, it is necessary for China and Taiwan to refrain from engaging in provocative actions. It is imperative to adopt a cooperative approach through negotiations and concessions that are all-encompassing and pertinent, in order to attain a sustainable resolution that caters to the interests of both China and Taiwan’s populace of 23 million, while acknowledging and adapting to their respective challenges and circumstances.

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East Asia

The Sino-Russian-led World Order: A Better Choice for the Globe?

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Photo: Grigoriy Sisoev, RIA Novosti

International forums, which were once established to promote cooperation and dialogue among the world’s states, are now increasingly being used as platforms for confrontation and accusation. The recent example of G20 and G7 summits, where China and Russia faced criticism and isolation from Western countries over the Indo-pacific and their actions in Ukraine, plus India’s accusation of Pakistan as a terrorist sponsor state in the SCO summit, illustrate these trends. Instead of working towards finding a solution to pressing global problems, these meetings have devolved into platforms for airing grievances and pointing fingers – this shift in focus has undermined the effectiveness of these forums in addressing the very issues they were created to solve.

At their recent summit in Hiroshima, Japan, the G7 leaders issued their strongest-ever condemnation of Russia and China. They accused them of using economic coercion and militarizing the South China Sea and urged them to push Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Furthermore, at the G7 summit, leaders of the significant democracies pledged additional measures targeting Russia and spoke with a united voice on their growing concern over China.

Similarly, in Feb 2023, at the G20 finance minister’s summit held in Bengaluru, Russia and China declined to sign a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and of course, as a sovereign state, Russia has the right to defend its territory and combat threats that pose a danger to its survival. These are just a few instances that illustrate how the Western world reacts to the actions and policies of China and Russia on the global stage.

Consequently, this recent condemnation and blaming at the Hiroshima summit demonstrate that international forums can no longer address serious global issues; instead, they have become arenas for blaming and accusing one another. This shift in the nature of international forums has significant implications for global governance and cooperation – It highlights the need for the failure of the current global system dominated by the Western bloc.

Besides, accusing states such as China and Russia at international forums is not a solution to global problems; instead, it can exacerbate regional tension and promote anti-sentiment against influential states. Furthermore, instead of promoting cooperation and dialogue, such accusations can foster an environment of mistrust and hostility, making it more challenging to find common ground and work towards resolving global issues.

In one of my previous papers, I argued that “the contemporary geopolitical landscape is characterized by escalating tension between the United States and its allies and China and Russia. This can be attributed to the absence of transparent and inclusive unipolar world order that effectively addresses the interests and concerns of all nations.

I further elaborated that the US and its allies are not inclined to recognize the emergence of a Sino-Russian-led world order, as evidenced by the recent summit development. The West has frequently chastised China and Russia for their autocratic governments, breaches of human rights, and expansionist ambitions. Such claims, however, are based on a skewed and obsolete understanding of the global system that ignores the two countries’ legitimate interests and aspirations. Instead of making allegations, the Western world should be grateful for the Sino-Russian-led international system, which provides a more democratic, multipolar, and peaceful alternative to the US-dominated regional hegemony.

To begin with, the Sino-Russian-led international order is more democratic than the Western one since it recognizes the globe’s diversity of political systems and cultures. China and Russia do not push their ideals or ideologies on other countries but instead encourage them to exercise their sovereignty and self-determination. They also reject any influence or intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, particularly by the United States and its allies. In contrast, the Western world has frequently employed economic and military force to compel or remove governments that do not share its interests or tastes. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, and Iran are a few examples. Such operations have breached international law and generated insecurity and misery in several places.

Second, the Sino-Russian-led international order is more multipolar than the Western one because it balances the strength and influence of many global players. With expanding economic, military, and diplomatic capacities, China and Russia have emerged as crucial powers in the twenty-first century. They have also formed strategic alliances with other growing nations, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Iran. They have joined forces to oppose the US-led unipolar system and call for more egalitarian and inclusive global governance. On the other hand, the Western world has attempted to preserve its domination and hegemony over other countries, particularly in regions such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. Many countries seeking greater autonomy have expressed displeasure and hostility to such a system.

Third, the Sino-Russian world order is more peaceful than the Western one because it values discussion and collaboration above confrontation and war. China and Russia have settled their historical differences and formed a comprehensive strategic alliance based on mutual trust and respect. They have also collaborated on several regional and global concerns, including counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, climate change, energy security, and pandemic response. They have also backed international institutions and procedures such as the United Nations (UN), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and others. In contrast, the Western world has frequently instigated or intensified tensions and disagreements with other countries, particularly China and Russia. A few examples are NATO expansion, missile defense deployment, sanctions system, and commerce.

Finally, international forums have the potential to promote cooperation and dialogue among nations; however, their effectiveness is hindered when they become platforms for confrontation and accusation. In contrast, the Sino-Russian-led world order is a superior choice for the globe to the Western one. It is more democratic because it values diversity; multipolar because it balances power; and more peaceful because it promotes dialogue – thus, rather than criticizing, the Western world should commend the international order led by Sino-Russian cooperation.

In conclusion, while international forums have the potential to promote cooperation among nations, they are increasingly being used for confrontation. In this context, the Sino-Russian-led world order offers a more democratic and peaceful alternative to the US-dominated hegemony and may be a better choice for promoting global cooperation.

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