Making Sense of the Indo-Pacific Strategy: An Inheritance from the Past

May 10, 2018

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Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 423

Making Sense of the Indo-Pacific Strategy: An Inheritance from the Past

By Takuya Matsuda*

The term “Indo-Pacific” has gained wider currency as the Trump administration promotes the Indo-Pacific Strategy as its flagship policy towards the region. Since the substance of this strategy has yet to be made clear, one could easily make speculations that the Indo-Pacific Strategy is a “containment policy” towards China given the emphasis the new National Defense Strategy has given to great power competition.

However, a brief overview of this concept may offer a different narrative. It is worth highlighting here that this increasingly popularized term is nothing new. “Indo-Pacific” is a concept that emerged as a culmination of policy choices made since the mid-1990s to incorporate India into the US strategic framework in the Western Pacific and to encourage allies including Japan to upgrade their roles in international security. In other words, this concept, which originated in the mid-1990s, gained momentum in the 2000s, before Chinese maritime expansion started to challenge American primacy in the Western Pacific.

The strong defense relationship that Washington and Delhi enjoy today would not be possible without policy choices made by the Clinton and Bush administrations. The US tilt to India during the Kargil Crisis in 1999 is often cited as the first indicator of America’s interest in strengthening ties with India. The civilian nuclear deal negotiated and signed in the mid-2000s was also consequential in forging closer ties between the two nations by setting aside one of the contentious issues that complicated the relationship. These policy choices made in the 2000s were crucial in realizing the “Strategic Handshake” between the two nations with India’s “Act East” and the US “Rebalance” to Asia, which have made strong defense ties between the two nations increasingly visible since the Obama administration.

On the other hand, Japan’s resurgence as a proactive player in international security has occasionally been portrayed as a balancing strategy against China, often attributed to the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Balancing behavior is a relevant factor in explaining Japan’s security policy; however, it is also worth highlighting here that the origin of Japan’s proactive security policy can be found in the mid-1990s, before Chinese maritime expansion started to become a major concern for Japan’s national security. Tokyo’s embrace of a proactive security policy stems from its pursuit of international security in the post-Cold War era corresponding to Washington’s strategy. The initial motivation for Japan to reconsider its pacifist security policy was the criticism received for its “checkbook diplomacy” in the first Gulf War, which prompted Japan to seriously consider ways to contribute to international security in a more concrete manner, such as in Peace Keeping Operations (PKO). Chinese maritime expansion along with the looming challenge posed by North Korea also have certainly played a certain role in dictating Japanese security policy. However, it is noteworthy that the main motivation behind the Japanese reexamination of strategy has been to become a constructive contributor to international peace and stability.

The concept “Indo-Pacific” highlights a strategic framework, where these Asiatic powers—Japan and India — enhance their collaboration in the maritime domain. In fact, the term “Indo-Pacific” was first unveiled by Mr. Abe in front of Indian members of parliament in 2007 in a speech entitled as “Confluence of the Two Seas”. As he discussed the maritime connections between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, he used the expression “broader Asia (kakudai Asia)” as he encouraged India to be part of the Asian security framework. Mr. Abe has developed this idea into what he called “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond”, which advocated for stronger ties among the US, Japan, India, and Australia. These concepts have now evolved into the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, which was announced by Mr. Abe at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) meeting held in Nairobi in August 2016.

These observations highlight how the concept behind the Indo-Pacific strategy demonstrates the constant effort policy-makers in Washington have made in maintaining a robust US presence in the region. In other words, the Indo-Pacific strategy is rather an inheritance from past U.S. administrations along with ideas produced by allies and like-minded nations in the post-Cold War era.

The current strategic environment tempts one to label this strategy as a containment policy against China. However, the intentions that shaped this concept in the past quarter century deserve some attention in making sense of this concept. The idea of Indo-Pacific emerged as Washington, Tokyo, and Delhi sought their role in preserving the status-quo in the post-Cold War era. The maritime nature of this concept, which is underscored by the fact that it involves the three participants of the Malabar Exercise, an annual trilateral naval exercise, illuminates this point.

Moreover, this concept underlines the evolving nature of America’s alliance network in the region. Moving beyond a bilateral-based system that put constraints on allies, this concept illustrates how a multilateral security network is emerging out of the existing hub-and-spokes system. This maritime-based security network based on the Indo-Pacific concept underscores a status-quo preservation mechanism instead of a mere balancing coalition, where US allies and defense partners play a major part in fulfilling that role.

The increasingly hybrid strategic environment in the South China Sea, for instance, indicates new challenges that the Indo-Pacific strategy will need to address. Nevertheless, as the Trump administration considers ways to add substance to their regional flagship policy, it is helpful to bear in mind that this is an inheritance from past administrations with an origin that could be traced to a period before Chinese maritime expansion started to challenge American primacy. A brief look at the evolution of this concept reveals a nuanced picture of how this seemingly new concept has developed as a means to preserve the status-quo in the Indo-Pacific, through enhanced maritime awareness in the post-Cold War era.

*Takuya Matsuda is a PhD student in War Studies at King’s College, London and has his MA from Johns Hopkins/SAIS. He can be contacted at
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The sharp power of development diplomacy and China’s edge

April 12, 2018

Chinese development diplomacy not only offers alternative sources of finance, but also presents a model that seems to overcome the major criticisms of traditional aid. However, such power relations are rarely horizontal, and often come attached with significant geopolitical implications.

Development Diplomacy,The China Chronicles

This is the fifty third part in the series The China Chronicles.

Read all the articles here.

Military might and economic coercion have traditionally been the preferred tools for the pursuit of geopolitical ambitions with soft power playing a supporting role. For the first time in contemporary geopolitics, we witness this accepted norm turn on its head. The experience of China being a classic example — where, in several cases, we see development diplomacy assume a central role in reinforcing Beijing’s hegemonic ambitions. Beijing’s conduct calls into question not only established understanding of geopolitics, but also that of global development.

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The sphere of global development will increasingly be the arena where geo-strategic tensions play out. As such, perhaps it is time to give development cooperation some serious consideration in the larger study of geopolitics.

The soft power of attractiveness and persuasion has often been treated as the stepsibling of coercive hard power. As Joseph Nye Jr. argues, diplomacy and economic assistance programmes are generally underfunded as they rarely show immediate visible results. Take the case of the United States — with arguably the largest strategic influence across geographical clusters, foreign aid makes up less than 1 percent of the American federal budget. In addition, when budget cuts take place aid faces the axe first, creating the perception that development aid is dispensable, particularly when compared to military spending. Yet, it is development diplomacy that has come to China’s advantage in securing its interests abroad.


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The soft power of attractiveness and persuasion has often been treated as the step sibling of coercive hard power.

China’s development assistance model — much like those of other emerging powers — are based on two fundamental pillars articulated in the two White Papers on foreign aid. First, it stresses non-interference and respect for the sovereign rights of partner countries. Articulated as a direct contradiction to the controversial conditionalities prescribed by traditional aid donors — most particularly the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank — the Chinese development approach provides recipient countries with the agency to choose their independent growth and development trajectories based on individual requirements.

Second, Chinese development finance follows the win-win principle. Identifying itself as a country still struggling with its own domestic development challenges, China’s economic assistance must bring benefits for the Chinese state — in addition to development gains recipient countries reap. The mutual-benefit principle also brings with it another aspect — the perception of a horizontal partnership and equal power dynamic. Thus, Chinese development diplomacy not only offers alternative sources of finance, but also presents a model that seems to overcome the major criticisms of traditional aid. The issue, however, is that such power relations are rarely horizontal, and they often come attached with significant geopolitical implications.

While it would be impossible to decipher the motivations behind China’s development diplomacy programme — other than those stated in the White Papers — development assistance has allowed China to secure a range of strategic gains. Beijing’s engagement with the African continent showcases many such instances. Beijing — through the People’s Bank of China, the China Development, the Export-Import Bank of China and the China-Africa Development — has provided Africa with a considerable volume of aid in the form of investments and loans. As per calculations by SAIS-CARI, Chinese loans to Africa amount to USD 86 billion in the 2000-2014 period. A major portion of these going to resource-rich countries such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. Today, Africa is the second largest source of crude oil to China. More important, however is the increasing Chinese military presence in Africa. China’s contribution of military personnel to peacekeeping missions in Africa has seen a sharp rise — with more than 2,500 troops and experts committed to six such UN missions, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Further, in 2015 Beijing promised the African Union military aid worth USD 100 million; and China’s first overseas naval base has recently been constructed in Djibouti.

Beijing — through the People’s Bank of China, the China Development, the Export-Import Bank of China and the China-Africa Development — has provided Africa with a considerable volume of aid in the form of investments and loans.

Asia too offers several such examples. The latest and most controversial one being Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. In 2010, Beijing provided a loan of USD 1.5 billion for the construction of the Hambantota port — a project that many deemed economically unviable from the start. This loan, in addition to many other Chinese loans for various other infrastructure projects, has meant a monumental debt. The turn of events has been well covered — Sri Lanka signing a 99-year lease with Chinese state-owned firms for the Hambantota port. This also raises alarm bells for the rest of the infrastructure projects financed by Beijing — for instance, the many segments of the Belt and Road Initiative, which are unlikely to provide any significant commercial returns. Further, Beijing has invested in the construction of the strategically located Gwadar port in Pakistan; it has pledged USD 7.2 billion to develop a deep-sea port in the Straits of Malacca; and has entered into an agreement to develop the international airport of Maldives.

A country’s development policy and economic assistance programme can, thus, lead to more than the mere creation of global goodwill. In fact, such diplomacy figures as a useful instrument for a revisionist power to further its geopolitical ambitions. Consequently, the conventional categorisation of development diplomacy within soft power no longer holds. Considering this, then, does the study of soft power in international relations require a revision that reflects current geopolitical realities? Secondly, is there an added urgency in reconciling the existing ideological differences between traditional and emerging providers of development assistance — in order to develop an internationally accepted normative framework that is conducive to development and geopolitical stability? Lastly, will the threat of becoming a global outlaw be enough to bring an increasingly confident Beijing within the boundaries of such a normative framework?

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

Japan buckles up to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

March 24, 2018

Japan buckles up to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

by Shutaro Sano, NDA

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BRI would definitely benefit Japan but it also poses political challenges  for Shinzo Abe’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy

In June 2017 the Japanese government suddenly reversed its original position on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and announced that Japan would cooperate and provide financial backing for the US$1 trillion cross-border infrastructure development project.


The extent of Japan’s cooperation remains to be seen, but this move may help Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe realise his ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’.

Engaging with the BRI allows Tokyo to pursue some of its important economic goals through greater overseas infrastructure investment. The Initiative may also motivate Japanese companies to seek greater business opportunities along the BRI route. Japan’s own regional connectivity projects can complement the BRI and strengthen regional integration in the Indo-Pacific.

Japan’s support for the BRI is likely to enhance the efficiency of both China and Japan’s ongoing infrastructure projects due to their overlapping functional areas like energy conservation, the advancement of industry and the distribution of goods. There is huge potential for cooperation between Tokyo and Beijing to help deliver more rapid and sustainable growth given the region’s high demand for infrastructure. Japan and China may also be able to use this opportunity to improve their bilateral relationship, including by resuming high-level visits and winding down existing tensions in the East and South China Seas.

But it will be difficult for Japanese companies to compete with their Chinese counterparts, which can offer cheaper prices and quicker delivery of infrastructure projects. The BRI also poses political challenges for Japan. Countries in the Indo-Pacific need to avoid trade wars, but trade and economic cooperation with China must remain governed by the rules of the existing liberal order if the benefits are to be shared.

A number of countries including the United States, Russia, Australia and India have already become skeptical about Beijing’s intentions. New Delhi sees the BRI as likely to contain India’s own regional ambitions and security. Countries such as Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia and even Pakistan have started to turn down major BRI projects offered by China due to concerns over their validity and project delays.

Another obstacle is the precarious security environment along parts of the BRI route. Afghanistan remains unstable despite years of military intervention and political and economic support. Iran has become a vital transport and logistics hub for the Initiative and has long been of vital importance to Japan and India due to its oil and the development of Chabahar port. But relations with Iran have been made difficult by Iran’s long-standing differences with the United States and its own domestic problems.

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The BRI still has the potential to establish a new global economic centre of gravity. For Japan, China remains not only an important trade partner, but also a country with which Japan could construct a ‘Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests’. Japan’s cooperation on the BRI depends largely on Tokyo’s ability to find a way to strengthen regional economic connectivity without endangering the present geopolitical architecture on which Japan’s own security interests continue to rest.

To do this, Tokyo should, together with Australia and India, ensure that the United States maintains its geopolitical presence in the Indo-Pacific region and that the Japan–US alliance continues to function as the cornerstone of regional peace and stability.

Japan must focus on the quality and affordability of the various infrastructure projects it funds. Tokyo can seek stronger international support in shaping economic public goods like the BRI by supporting the involvement of likeminded countries in regional groupings — India’s membership of APEC, for example.

The BRI must become a more inclusive initiative. Japan should ensure that the funding and implementation of BRI projects are based on international standards and rules. Japan may be able to contribute to this by joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Tokyo must also continue strengthening relations with like-minded countries to demonstrate their opposition to any attempt to change the status quo by force. The ‘Quad’ countries — Japan, the United States, Australia and India — have been discussing the establishment of a joint regional infrastructure project as an alternative to the BRI. Yet the four countries each have different geopolitical calculations, as indicated by their failure to produce a joint statement during their November 2017 dialogue.

Japan must be pragmatic and continue strengthening its bilateral strategic partnerships with Australia and India rather than becoming overly focused on the Quad. Japan–ASEAN relations require improvement, as these countries are also deeply involved in the BRI. Tokyo also needs to increase domestic support for its involvement in the BRI.

Whether or not Japan’s decision to support the BRI will bear fruit depends on how deeply Tokyo chooses to engage with the Initiative. This will largely be determined by how well its members, especially China, can manage the challenges that the BRI faces.

In any event, the Abe government needs to establish sufficient political groundwork with the United States, Australia and India if it and its partners want to have a serious voice on how the BRI develops.

Shutaro Sano is Professor and Deputy Director at the Center for International Exchange, National Defense Academy of Japan.

A version of this article was first published here by the Australian Institute of International Affairs.


Xi Jinping and the Perils of One-Person Rule in China

March 3, 2018

Xi Jinping and the Perils of One-Person Rule in China

Last year, during several trips in which I travelled across China by train, two things in particular caught my attention. First, the red hammer and sickle—the universal symbol of the Communist Party—seemed to be proliferating on posters in cities, towns, and villages with the kind of vigor that I hadn’t seen since my childhood, growing up in an army hospital in Chongqing. Second, the only image I saw more frequently—in elementary-school classrooms, in airports and shopping malls, on billboards on highways and in rice paddies—was the face of President Xi Jinping. Each image was identical: the country’s supreme leader, with raven-black hair and a face fastidiously airbrushed to erase any hint of human blemish, smiling calmly, against a sky-blue background: an unimpeachable deity in an officially atheist state.

The announcement, made last Sunday, that the Party is proposing to abolish term limits for the Presidency further confirms the notion that Xi aims to be something other than just another leader in a parade of apparatchiks. In October, when he presided over the nineteenth Communist Party Congress, where his doctrines were enshrined in the constitution, I wrote that Xi’s status licensed him to “play an almost imperial role in shaping the fate of the nation.” Shortly after the term-limits announcement, a widely shared image of China’s last Emperor, Pu Yi, with the caption “Emperor calls: ‘Is my Qing Dynasty returning?,’ ” was banned on WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app.

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The People’s Daily, however, noted of the move to abolish term limits that the “Party’s proposition is in accordance with the people’s will.” It is true that, while China’s liberal intelligentsia laments Xi’s increasingly repressive policies—which have curbed human rights and undermined the rule of law in the most severe crackdown on civil society in decades—the majority of Chinese people, who do not live in the élite coastal cities or have access to news beyond the Great Firewall, take comfort and pride in Xi’s projection of strength. Still, if Xi wants to extend his rule indefinitely, there are a few historic truths that he will need to confront.

The Communist People’s Republic of China was founded in a theatrical break with history. In 1949, Mao Zedong stood atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace and declared that the “Chinese people have finally stood up,” a slogan that became the origin story of the modern nation. Equating the people’s independence with the Communist takeover was imprinted in the minds of every man, woman, and child. To my mother’s and my grandmother’s generations, the Party is what saved the nation from existential peril. China’s current leaders, including Xi, remain the beneficiaries of that origin story.

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Sun Yat-sen, the first President of the Republic of China, had laid the groundwork for it a couple of decades earlier, in his manifesto “The Three Principles of the People.” He wrote, “If we do not earnestly promote nationalism and weld together our four hundred million into a strong nation, we face a tragedy—the loss of our country and the destruction of our race.” Xi echoed that conviction at last year’s Communist Party Congress, promising to “strive with endless energy” to restore China to its rightful superpower status by 2049, and invoking Sun’s principle of “national rejuvenation.” But Sun also highlighted the greatest challenge to that plan. “Despite four hundred million people gathered in one China, we are, in fact, but a sheet of loose sand,” he wrote. This is a point that Xi may do well to heed. He is stridently confident and has broad support among the population now, but, by attempting to concentrate political power in his own hands, in a nation of not four hundred million but 1.4 billion people, Xi is assigning himself the sole responsibility of protecting an origin story that has largely been a myth.

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In the more than a century since Sun’s rule, China’s loose sand seems hardly to have settled into concrete. The market reforms that Deng Xiaoping introduced, in the late nineteen-seventies, ushered in a period of prosperity (there are now nearly six hundred billionaires in China), and Xi, with his immensely ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, clearly intends to go far beyond Deng’s goals and make China the economic engine of the world. But, despite the improvement in the average standard of living, China has gone from being a collectivist state that aspired to be egalitarian to being one of the most baldly unequal societies in the world. According to a report from Peking University, the poorest twenty-five per cent of households own just one per cent of the country’s total wealth, and the income gap is increasing. And the wealth is accumulating among the coastal élites, while the economy in the remote rural regions, many of which are inhabited by minority populations, remains stagnant. China’s Han majority has always been culturally dominant, but the nation is home to fifty-five officially recognized ethnic minorities, and the culturally distinct and significantly poorer western borderlands of Tibet and Xinjiang are the scene of increasingly violent unrest.

One-person rule is also prone to the kind of excesses and paranoia that may not only alienate the citizenry but undermine the institutions that previously insured the country’s stability. The crackdown has affected not only pro-democracy activists but also Xi’s high-ranking opponents in the Party. The military, which Xi heads, has taken an aggressive stance in territorial disputes in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Internet censorship is increasingly absurd—this week saw the banning of not only Winnie-the-Pooh (because he has been compared to Xi) but, reportedly, the English letter “N” (because it may denote the number of terms Xi may want to remain in office), along with the words “shameless” and “disagreement.” The portraits of Xi that I saw all across China serve as a reminder that a government’s need for propaganda tends to be inversely proportional to the strength of its political mandate.

China’s slated return to a one-person autocracy is sobering but hardly exceptional, given the rise of populist strongmen around the world. Xi’s particular asset—and what may sustain his support—is the deferred dream of true solidarity that Mao promised the nation nearly seventy years ago and that generations have held onto. But then, as now, authoritarian command of the nation requires not that the Chinese people “stand up” but that they bow to authority.

Europe needs to step up vigilance on China’s influence

February 21, 2018

Europe needs to step up vigilance on China’s influence

Beijing’s authoritarian brand presents a direct challenge to liberal traditions
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 President Xi Jinping and France’s President Emmanuel Macron

Mike Pompeo, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, said last month that Beijing’s efforts to exert influence in liberal democracies are just as concerning as those of Moscow, citing China’s “much bigger footprint”. Indeed, China’s rapidly increasing political influencing efforts and the self-confident promotion of its authoritarian ideals present a fundamental challenge to western democracies.

Drawing on its economic strength and a Communist Party of China apparatus that is geared towards strategically building stocks of influence across the globe, Beijing’s efforts are bound to be much more consequential in the medium to long term than those of the Kremlin. Nowhere is the gap between the scale of China’s efforts and public awareness of the problem larger than in Europe. EU member states urgently need to devise a strategy to counter China’s authoritarian advance.

As we detail in a new report, Beijing pursues three related goals. First, it seeks to weaken western unity within Europe and across the Atlantic. One aim of this is to prevent Europe from challenging China’s human rights record and its hegemonic ambitions in the South and East China seas.

Second, it aims to build European support on specific issues such as market economy status and a free pass for Chinese investments.

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President Xi Jinping seeks strategic partnerships around the world for business. Europe should not be tempted to adopt  Trump’s hostile attitude towards China. Be smart.–Din Merican


Third, Beijing pushes hard to create a more positive global perception of China’s political and economic system as a viable alternative to liberal democracies. To further these goals, China commands a comprehensive and flexible influencing toolset in Europe, ranging from the overt to the covert and strategically deployed across three arenas: political and economic elites, media and civil society & academia.

Beijing uses investments in infrastructure and public utilities to create political leverage in Europe’s periphery. In Greece, for example, it controls the port of Piraeus, leading the government in Athens to torpedo a joint EU resolution on human rights in China in the Human Rights Council.

In the Czech Republic, it placed an adviser in the president’s office. Across Europe, it buys the services of former politicians such as Philipp Roesler, the former German vice-chancellor who was hired by HNA, the Chinese conglomerate, and David Cameron, the former UK prime minister, who has signed up to lead a joint UK-China investment fund.

Many smaller eastern and southern EU members align with China in fits of “pre-emptive obedience”. They try to curry favour with China and lure investment by supporting China’s political positions. Some illiberal governments, such as that of Viktor Orban in Hungary, do so all too happily. They see China’s authoritarian model as attractive and a convenient source of leverage against Brussels and western EU members pushing back against their illiberalism.

Mr Orban has already played the China card to put pressure his EU partners who are considering reducing structural funds in response to his authoritarianism and a post-Brexit recalibration of the EU budget. “Central Europe needs capital to build new roads and pipelines. If the EU is unable to provide enough capital, we will just collect it in China,” Mr Orban said in Berlin this year.

To sweeten the deal for China, Mr Orban is gladly working to prevent a strong EU stance on China’s territorial advances in the South China Sea.

In parallel, Beijing has invested in shaping the narrative on China. Across central and eastern Europe, China-supported Confucius Institutes, as well as China-linked think-tanks and university scholars dominate discussions, while an increasing number of journalists go through training programmes designed and funded by the Chinese Communist party.

In Brussels and other capitals, China funds think-tanks and pays lobbyists to project a favourable image. It spreads Chinese official views and creates subtle dependencies by paying for inserts in European quality newspapers.

It uses the lure of the Chinese market to encourage self-censorship in film, art, and academic publishing. Springer Nature, the German group that publishes Scientific American, has removed content in China that was deemed politically sensitive by the party. China even went as far as demanding that Germany ensure that its visiting football teams are not met by protests about Tibet during paid friendly games on German soil.

If the EU is unable to provide enough capital, we will just collect it in China Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister.


In part, China uses covert methods, such targeting German lawmakers and government employees via fake social media profiles. But most influencing comes through the front door. Beijing takes advantage of the EU’s one-sided openness. Europe’s gates are wide open whereas China seeks to tightly restrict access of foreign ideas, actors and capital.

Beijing profits from willing enablers among European political and professional classes who are happy to promote Chinese values and interests. They do so mostly for financial or other advantages but at times also out of genuine political conviction or convenience. Rather than only China trying to actively build up political capital, there is also much influence courting on the part of those political elites in EU member states.

China has already made significant progress toward a more fragmented and pliant Europe that better serves its authoritarian interests. If Europe intends to stop the momentum of Chinese influencing efforts, it needs to act swiftly and decisively. In responding to China’s advance, European governments need to make sure that the liberal DNA of their countries’ political and economic systems stays intact.

Some restrictions will be necessary, but Europe should not copy China’s illiberalism. While staying as open as possible, Europe needs to address critical vulnerabilities to Chinese authoritarian influencing through a multi-pronged strategy that integrates different branches of government, businesses, media, civil society, culture/arts as well as academia.

To better leverage the collective weight of EU member states, larger member states, such as Germany and France, need to take serious steps towards putting their privileged bilateral relations with China in the service of common European interests. Complaining about the 16+1 format China uses to interact with smaller EU members in central and eastern Europe while engaging in 1+1 formats with Beijing undermines a common EU response to challenges from China.

In addition, European governments need to invest in high-calibre, independent China expertise. Raising awareness about and responding to China’s political influencing efforts in Europe can succeed only if there is sufficient impartial expertise on China in think-tanks, universities, NGOs and media across Europe.

Furthermore, the EU needs to continue providing alternatives to the promises of Chinese investments in European countries. It also needs to enable EU members and third countries in the neighbourhood to properly evaluate, monitor and prepare large-scale infrastructure projects, including those financed by China.

The EU and its members must be able to stop state-driven takeovers of companies that are of significant public interest. In addition to high-tech sectors as well as key parts of public infrastructure, this notably includes the media, as an institution of critical importance to liberal democracies.

Foreign funding of political parties from outside Europe, not least from China, should be banned across the EU. European intelligence services urgently need to enhance co-operation on Chinese activities to arrive at a common understanding of the threat and to deliver joint responses.

EU members should put additional awareness-building measures in place sensitise potential targets of Chinese intelligence activities. In particular, decision makers and scholars should be briefed more systematically about common patterns of contact-building and approaches by Chinese intelligence agencies or related actors.

For the wider public to get a full picture of authoritarian influencing, liberal democracies need to leverage one of the key assets of open societies: the power of critical public debate. Implementing transparency requirements concerning collaboration with Chinese actors for media agencies, universities and think-tanks, among others, would help raise awareness of the various influencing mechanisms Chinese state actors employ.

“Vigilance is wise; confidence a useful adjunct,” the Economist counselled recently in a piece on China’s influence in Europe. With the necessary defensive mechanisms in place, confidence should come more easily.

Thorsten Benner is director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin. Kristin Shi-Kupfer is director of the research area on public policy and society at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. They are co-authors of “Authoritarian Advance: Responding to China’s increasing political influence in Europe”. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved

A new model of great-power relations?

February 14, 2018

A new model of great-power relations?

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

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Asia’s economic ascendancy over the past half century has depended on a period of remarkable regional peace and stability. This is not the natural order of the world: international relations theorist Hedley Bull reckoned that the natural order is prone not to stability but to chaos. The current international order was a product of political choice, framed fundamentally by the post-war choice to put in place the institutions agreed at Bretton Woods that guaranteed the evolution of an open, multilateral regimeThis regime fostered both economic prosperity and international political stability among those who chose to sign on to it.

Asia will continue to prosper and be secure if that framework can be sustained, but for that to happen, the order must evolve. We have with little thought simply taken the current order for granted. The advent of Donald Trump, the potential disintegration of Europe and how these two events interact with the rise of China and other powers mean that taking this framework for granted is no longer tenable.

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The ‘peace’ in Asia resulted from the situation that emerged in the early 1970s when China decided to follow Japan in accepting the United States as the primary strategic power in Asia and in emulating the West’s modern economic development. That choice eliminated major-power rivalry as a source of tension and conflict in the region.

China’s President Xi Jinping perhaps prematurely heralded a successor to the old model of great-power relations in his famous summit with America’s then president Barack Obama at Sunnylands in June 2013. There the focus turned to China-US relations. Xi proposed to inject ‘new momentum’, not satisfied with short-term gains but rather striving for long-term mutual benefit and the achievement of a grand geopolitical win-win. The new model, Xi urged, would promote world peace and the stable development of the Asia Pacific.

The Obama leadership did not reject this notion outright, but never embraced it. Obama himself gave it no traction at all. The model appeared to give Beijing too much space in defining its own core geopolitical interests. Policymakers and analysts in Washington remained in denial about the seriousness of China’s claim to more geopolitical space — a claim that had already become a reality because of China’s new economic and political power.

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy has discarded all pretence at defining the Sino-American relationship in cooperative terms: it has now cast it in terms of the contest for global geopolitical supremacy in all theatres.

China may no longer accept American leadership as the foundation of the regional or global strategic order, but Beijing is now confronted with explicit rebuff of its new model of great power relations, which stresses cooperation among the major powers. Few, if any, in Asia or around the world want China to get all it wants: US leadership has served the region well and no one wants to live exclusively under China’s shadow. But China is deeply embedded in the current global order both economically and politically, and it has accepted and incorporated into policies and institutions many tenets of the formerly US-led established international order.

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John Kelly is now White House Chief of Staff

Image result for Kirstjen Nielsen is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S. on November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Kelly’s successor Kirstjen Nielsen 

Not many would see China’s engagement in the global system as an all-or-nothing game. The zealots in Mr Trump’s team and a deep current in the political security community that are innocent of the connection between economic openness and political security would do well to calculate the costs to global prosperity of trying to extricate China’s mutual engagement from the United States, it allies and partners.

The idea that Asia could be transformed economically by the biggest shift in the distribution of wealth in history without its also being transformed politically and strategically is a delusion. It would have been remarkable if China had not sought a bigger global role as its power has grown in the same way that every rising power before it has done. That it has sought such a small role relative to its weight and importance thus far has been remarkable and to the benefit of the international system (which has proven stubborn to change).

Given the stand-off, one might think that there is no future for a new era of great-power relations. Perhaps that will turn out to be so.

This week’s lead essay by Zha Daojiong at Peking University reminds us that short of military conflict — which even the hawks in the Pentagon and a few fledglings in Ichigaya and Russell Hill baulk at openly advocating — the choice will not be entirely Washington’s.

‘It is not difficult to understand the United States’ characterisation of China as “disruptive”’, says Zha. ‘It repeats US insistence on maintaining its own continuous primacy in the regional and global order’.

‘US security elites across the ideological spectrum have for decades argued that the pillars of recent Chinese success are made in the United States’, Zha notes. ‘They argue that Washington carved out this path by letting China into the World Trade Organization and that it continues to facilitate China’s success by providing their navies to help keep the Indian and Pacific oceans open for shipping in and out of Chinese ports’. But China had to deliver on the opportunity from its own starting point. And it has to find its own way through.

China has a right to choose its own path of development, given its own set of historical assets and liabilities, Zha insists. He concedes that some in Beijing are too enthusiastic about associating its ‘unique path’ with ‘superiority’ but notes that China rejects imposing its system of governance as a precondition for engagement through trade, investment or aid upon others around the world.

Zha’s message is this: China should not be tempted to the take up the competition on the terms that Mr Trump and (more tentatively) some of America’s partners appear to be spoiling for. It should stand back from the bully pit.

China would have the most to lose if it foolishly failed to put the new American security strategy rhetoric into proper perspective and to work hard at alleviating feelings of uncertainty about its intentions in Washington and elsewhere.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.