Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World
Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:55 pm (PST) . Posted by:
I herewith attach the US Strategy for 2030 published by Atlantic Council yesterday.
You may download the same from the link.
http://www.acus.org/publication/envisio ... tern-world
Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World is a report released today by the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative that
urges the Obama Administration to seize a historic opportunity to
ensure America’s global interests over the long term. It outlines a US
leadership strategy for the period ahead to 2030 and offers policy
approaches in key subject areas to ensure a positive outcome at this
inflection point toward a “post-Western world,” given historic shifts in
political and economic influence.
Offered as a companion to the US National Intelligence Council
(NIC)’s Global Trends 2030 quadrennial assessment released today, the
Council’s Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World surveys
the emerging economic and geopolitical landscape; it describes the
unprecedented policy challenges that landscape presents; and it outlines
a US strategy to avoid a zero-sum, conflictual future and move toward a
more cooperative and prosperous 2030. Six elements of strategy for
President Obama emerge from this report:
Frame second-term policies from a more strategic and long-term
perspective, recognizing the magnitude of the moment and the likelihood
that the United States’ actions now will have generational consequences. Continue to emphasize “nation-building at home” as the first foreign policy priority, without neglecting its global context.Recognize that the United States must energetically act to shape
dynamic, uncertain global trends, or it will be shaped unfavorably by
them.Pursue more collaborative forms of leadership through deepening
current alliances and interacting more effectively with a diverse set of
actors. Most importantly, it must reinforce its strategic base: the
transatlantic relationship. Deepen cooperation with China as the most crucial single factor that will shape the international system in 2030.Creatively address the locus of instability in the 21st century—the
greater Middle East from North Africa to Pakistan—a major threat to US
strategy and world order.“The United States has something rare among history’s great powers—a
second chance at molding the international system to secure its
long-term interests,” said Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick
Kempe. “No other nation is likely to have as much impact in influencing
the global future. Yet in a more complex and competitive world, the US
margin of error is smaller.”
An Indian grammar for International Studies by AMITABH MATTOO
Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:51 pm (PST) . Posted by:
"n m" nyayamurti1
An Indian grammar for International StudiesAMITABH MATTOO
http://www.thehindu .com/opinion/ op-ed/an- indian-grammar- for-internationa l-studies/ article4185358. ece
arts, culture and entertainment
Exploring our rich past can offer a vocabulary to understand the world in nuanced ways that go beyond the western constructs of realism and liberalism
A little over three years ago I wrote in The Hinduthat at a time when interest in India and India’s interest in the world are arguably at their highest, Indian scholarship on global issues is showing few signs of responding to this challenge and that this could well stunt India’s ability to influence the international system.
As we meet here now, at the first real convention of scholars (and practitioners) of International Studies from throughout India, we can take some comfort. A quick, albeit anecdotal, audit of the study of International Studies would suggest that the last three years have been unusually productive. So much so, that we are now, I believe, at a veritable “tipping point” in our emergence as an intellectual power in the discipline.
Stanley Hoffman, Professor of International Relations (IR) at Harvard, once famously remarked that IR was an American social science. The blinding nexus between knowledge and power (particularly stark in the case of IR in the United States) perhaps made him forget that while the first modern IR departments were created in Aberystwyth and in Geneva, thinking on international relations went back, in the case of the Indian, Chinese and other great civilizations, to well before the West even began to think of the world outside their living space.
Having absorbed the grammar of Western international relations, and transited to a phase of greater self-confidence, it is now opportune for us to also use the vocabulary of our past as a guide to the future.
Recovery of these Indian ideas should not be seen as part of a revivalist project or as an exercise that seeks to reify so-called Indian exceptionalism. Rather, interrogating our rich past with its deeply argumentative tradition is, as Amartya Sen put it, “partly a celebration, partly an invitation to criticality, partly a reason for further exploration, and partly also an incitement to get more people into the argument.” In the context of international relations it offers the intellectual promise of going beyond the Manichean opposition between power and principle; and between the world of ideas and norms on the one hand, and that of statecraft and even machtpolitik, on the other.
In doing so we are not being particularly subversive. A 2011 survey of American IR scholars by Foreign Policy found that 22 per cent adopted a Constructivist approach (with its privileging of ideas and identity in shaping state preferences and international outcomes), 21 per cent adopted a Liberal approach, only 16 per cent a Realist approach, and a tiny two per cent a Marxist approach. When academics were asked to “list their peers who have had the greatest influence on them and the discipline,” the most influential was Alexander Wendt, the Constructivist, and neither the Liberal, Robert Koehane, nor the Realists, Kenneth Waltz or James Mearisheimer.
Mohandas Gandhi once said that “if all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live forever.” Let me make what may seem like another astounding claim, and which I hope, in the best argumentative tradition, will be heavily contested. If all the books on war and peace were to suddenly disappear from the world, and only the Mahabharata remained, it would be good enough to capture almost all the possible debates on order, justice, force and the moral dilemmas associated with choices that are made on these issues within the realm of international politics.
Uncertainty in the region
Beyond theory, we are faced with a period of extraordinary uncertainty in the international system and in our region. Multilateralism is in serious crisis. While the U.N. Security Council remains deadlocked on key issues, there is little progress on most other issues of global concern, be it trade, sustainable development or climate change. As academics, we cannot remain unconcerned about these critical failures.
Our continent is being defined and redefined over time. Regions are, after all, as much shaped by the powerful whose interests they seek to advance as by any objective reality. Whatever nomenclature we adopt, and whatever definition we accept, we are faced with, what Evan Feigenbaum and Robert Manning described as two Asias: the ‘Economic Asia’ whose $19 trillion regional economy drives global growth; the “Security Asia,” a “dysfunctional region of mistrustful powers, prone to nationalism and irredentism, escalating their territorial disputes over tiny rocks and shoals, and arming for conflict.”
The Asian Development Bank says that by nearly doubling its share of global GDP to 52 per cent by 2050, Asia could regain the dominant economic position it held 300 years ago. Yet, as several academics have pointed out “it is beset by interstate rivalries that resemble 19th century Europe,” as well the new challenges of the 21st century: environmental catastrophes, natural disasters, climate change, terrorism, cyber security and maritime issues. An increasingly assertive China that has abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s 24-character strategy of hiding its light and keeping its head low, adds to the uncertainty of the prevailing strategic environment.
India’s military and economic prowess are greater than ever before, yet its ability to influence South Asian countries is less than what it was, say, 30 years ago. An unstable Nepal with widespread anti-India sentiment, a triumphalist Sri Lanka where Sinhalese chauvinism shows no signs of accommodating legitimate Tamil aspirations, a chaotic Pakistan unwilling to even reassure New Delhi on future terrorist strikes, are symptomatic of a region being pulled in different directions.
Can our thinking from the past help us navigate through this troubled present? Pankaj Mishra, in his brilliant book, From the Ruins of Empire: the Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, describes how three 19th century thinkers, the Persian Jamal-al Din al-Afghani, Liang Qichao from China and India’s Rabindranath Tagore, navigated through Eastern tradition and the Western onslaught to think of creative ways to strike a balance and find harmony. In many ways, these ideas remain relevant today as well. For if Asia merely mimics the West in its quest for economic growth and conspicuous consumption, and the attendant conflict over economic resources and military prowess, the “revenge of the East” in the Asian century and “all its victories” will remain “truly Pyrrhic.”
(Professor Amitabh Mattoo is President of the Indian Association of International Studies. This is an edited version of his presidential address to the Annual Convention of the Association in New Delhi on December 10, 2012.)
Keywords: Internatio nal Studies, India, history, Internat ional Relations
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Three countries, one centre of gravity by PRIYA CHACKO
Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:53 pm (PST) . Posted by:
"n m" nyayamurti1
Three countries, one centre of gravity
http://www.thehindu .com/opinion/ op-ed/three- countries- one-centre- of-gravity/ article4188788. ece
More than a common regional vision, the distinctive domestic and foreign policy priorities of the U.S, Australia and India are driving their new attention to the ‘Indo-Pacific’ as a geostrategic category
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Australia’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith, India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai have all spoken of the “Indo-Pacific” — a region spanning the Indian and the Pacific Oceans — as the world’s new “strategic centre of gravity.” What is behind this new-found discovery of the Indo-Pacific and does it imply a strategic convergence between these three democracies?
A closer analysis suggests that the Indo-Pacific regional construction is driven more by a desire to resolve distinctive domestic and foreign policy preoccupations rather than promote a common regional vision.
For the U.S., central policy issues include reversing the slide in its economic fortunes and dealing with the shift of power to Asia in ways that preserve existing international rules and the U.S.’s position as the world’s foremost rule-maker.
Australia has long been preoccupied by the disjuncture between its geographical positioning in Asia and its historical links with the West. The implications of continuing a close alliance with the U.S., while growing increasingly economically enmeshed with Asia, have dominated recent foreign policy debates.
The Indo-Pacific regional construction is a key part of the U.S.’s “pivot to Asia,” which Australia has supported. For both the Australian and U.S. policymakers, adopting and shaping the “Indo-Pacific” as a geostrategic category helps them resolve their key domestic and foreign policy dilemmas while maintaining their positions in the global order as a great power and middle power respectively.
Fitting in India
But how does India fit into this emerging concept? While India supports a basic adherence to international law, freedom of navigation and peaceful dispute settlement, it is increasingly clear that its preferred regional architecture in the “Indo-Pacific” will be shaped by the demands of its domestic economic restructuring and its continuing adherence to the principle of strategic autonomy.
For this reason, any assumption that India will sign up to an Indo-Pacific security architecture devised in Washington and Canberra fundamentally misreads the domestic political projects that animate India’s own vision of the Indo-Pacific.
To see how different domestic imperatives lead to distinctive Indo-Pacific regional constructions, we can examine some of the major regional initiatives that have recently been promoted by the U.S., Australia and India.
Leaving out China
The U.S. has recently launched the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade initiative that does not involve China and includes trade, investment, intellectual property, health care, environmental and labour standards. It has also called for a “regional architecture of institutions and arrangements to enforce international norms on security, trade, rule of law, human rights, and accountable governance” in the Indo-Pacific region.
These regional initiatives are built on the promotion of regulatory frameworks in the Indo-Pacific — in areas such as intellectual property rights — that serve domestic political and economic agendas, namely increasing the competitiveness of the American economy and maintaining U.S. prominence as a global rule-setter. It is thus central to emerging geo-economic competition over the regulation and rules of the regional and global political economy.
The Australian bridge
Australia, meanwhile, is attempting to act as a classic middle power bridge between the East and West by balancing its commitment to a U.S.-driven framework of rules and regulations with the knowledge that its economic future is increasingly intertwined with Asia and China, in particular.
To manage these growing tensions, it has encouraged the U.S. pivot to the Indo-Pacific while advocating greater political, economic and strategic enmeshment between the U.S. and China and refocusing its attention on the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). Australia has also welcomed both the U.S.-centred TPP as well as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)-centred Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The RCEP includes China and focuses on a narrower set of issues than the TPP, excluding issues such as labour standards, which would deter China from ascension. Despite the differences between the two schemes, Australia regards the TPP and RCEP as complementary pathways to a regional free trade area and has vowed to promote the inclusion of elements such as environmental and labour standards during RCEP negotiations. Despite embracing the Indo-Pacific concept, India is not a member of the TPP but has joined the RCEP. The TPP’s rigid objectives of regulatory coherence do not fit with India’s stated desire for a “plural, inclusive and open security architecture in the Indo-Pacific” and India has long resisted the inclusion of non-trade related provisions in multilateral trade negotiations. RCEP’s provisions for “the different levels of development of the participating countries” and ASEAN’s emphasis on consensual decision-making are far
more conducive to the type of regional architecture that India desires, since they are more congruent with its domestic imperatives of development and autonomy. This suggests the contested nature of the Indo-Pacific.
Domestic imperatives also drive India’s increased attention to regional groupings like the IOR-ARC and smaller, more specialised forums that deal with issues like piracy, energy and food security. These initiatives focus on non-traditional security issues, which India sees as posing the most significant external threat to its economic development. This bottom-up, issue-driven approach to Indo-Pacific regionalism may prove, over the long run, to be more sustainable than the elite-driven regional projects that were the hallmark of Asia-Pacific regionalism.
Hence, a new “Indo-Pacific” era may well be dawning. But the adoption of the concept in the foreign policy debates and vocabularies of India, Australia and the United States reflect a heightened focus in all three countries on domestic political and economic challenges rather than a strategic convergence or a common regional vision.
(Priya Chacko is at the University of Adelaide and the author of Indian Foreign Policy: The Politics of Postcolonial Identity from 1947 to 2004, Routledge, 2012.)
Keywords: foreign policy, US, Australia , India, Indo- Pacific, ASEAN, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Trans-Pacific Partnership
THE DIVIDED OCEANS - Towards a larger Asia-Pacific security archite
Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:55 pm (PST) . Posted by:
"n m" nyayamurti1
THE DIVIDED OCEANS- Towards a larger Asia-Pacific security architecture
http://www.telegrap hindia.com/ 1121213/jsp/ opinion/story_ 16302719. jsp#.UMk03KUTtkc
The security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, which American ‘re-balancing’ towards Asia and Barack Obama’s tour of some Asian countries so early into his second presidency seek to address, are many and complex. Territorial disputes remain sharp in the region. China lays claim to Indian territory and so does Pakistan. Afghanistan and Pakistan have border differences. China has maritime territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Taiwan is also party to these disputes, besides China itself having sovereignty claims over Taiwan. Japan and Russia have an outstanding dispute over the Kuril Islands.
The problem of terrorism is more acute in this region than anywhere else. Pakistan, along with the border areas of Afghanistan, is a breeding ground of terrorism targeting India and Afghanistan, and creating a sense of vulnerability in Central Asia. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have seen terrorism on their soil. So has China in Xinjiang. Terrorism has afflicted Thailand and Indonesia. Nuclear proliferation is a problem in the two extremities of this region, in Iran and North Korea. At the eastern end, the threat of a military strike against Iran is real despite the position of Russia and China, while it is most unlikely against North Korea at the western end in deference to China’s opposition.
The presence of the United States of America in the region is substantial, with its Seventh Fleet as well as military bases in Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Diego Garcia. With concerns about China’s rise in mind, the US is reinforcing its military assets in the region further. The US defence secretary has described India, a bit exaggeratedly no doubt, as a “lynchpin” of this new strategy. In any case, this shows the direction of American thinking in terms of partnering with India strategically in this region.
With its Fifth Fleet and bases in the Gulf countries, the US has now a presence in the western end of the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz. Apart from putting pressure on Iran, the US claims that this presence is intended to maintain stability in the region and ensure uninterrupted supplies of oil and gas to American friends and allies, more so now that the US imports only 10 per cent of its hydrocarbon needs, and even this figure will decline with huge discoveries of shale gas in the US.
The US navy has a sizable presence in the Indian Ocean for assuring the security of sea-lanes of communication. For this, it has been engaging the Indian navy in a big way, with the two countries holding frequent naval exercises together. These exercises are now being held also in the trilateral India-US-Japan format.
It is argued that while the security architectures during the Cold War were based primarily on military alliances, the need today is to base these architectures on shared values, interests and challenges. This Euro-Atlantic- centric view is debatable, as China, India and scores of non-aligned countries were outside the Cold War alliance systems. Today, Nato not only exists, its membership has been expanded and its role has been geographically extended. Nato operated in Yugoslavia and Iraq. It is operating in Afghanistan; it acted in Libya. The US has declared its intention to strengthen its military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. Russia is working to strengthen the Collective Security Treaty Organization in the erstwhile Soviet space. It is wrong to downplay too much the security role of military alliances today.
The idea of basing the new security architectures on “shared values” is also a Euro-Atlantic view. What are these “shared values”: those of democracy, pluralism, human rights and so on? But then, there are serious differences over these issues. Many countries are either not democratic or have their own concept of democracy. There is serious opposition to what is seen as the US crusade for democracy for geopolitical reasons, a tendency to impose it by force at great human cost, and double standards in the application of this principle.
Similarly, the human rights issue has been highly politicized by the West, there is selectivity in its application and the critics believe the issue has been used cynically for regime change, among other things. So, can the new security architectures be built on highly contested notions in their controversial practical application? Can the US, Russia and China be brought on a common platform on them, not to mention many others, including the Islamic countries?
The question arises whether the Indian and Pacific Oceans constitute a single strategic space? The answer would be “yes” from the US navy’s point of view with its responsibilities extending across the two oceans. It could be true for India, which dominates the Indian Ocean geographically, only in the specific context of the expansion of the Chinese blue-water navy and its future ability to break through the first and second chain of islands and establish an increasing presence in the Pacific and eventually in the Indian Ocean, for which China is already creating the basis.
Our navy signals its ability to operate far from Indian shores by, for instance, periodically holding exercises with the Russian navy at Vladivostok. The Pacific is also the venue now of the trilateral India-US-Japan naval exercises. But the Pacific Ocean is too vast for India to have strategic interest in it. As regards the security of sea-lanes of communication, the problem pertains largely to the Indian Ocean area, from the Strait of Hormuz through the Malacca Strait to the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, not the Pacific as such.
The energy and trade flows across these waters are huge and vital for the economies of Japan, South Korea and China. In this vast stretch, there are problems of piracy in the southern Indian Ocean area off the coast of Somalia, but no issues of sovereignty that can threaten international navigation rights, except in the South China Sea. All concerned countries would not want these vital lanes to be interfered with in case of tensions or conflict, but how to ensure this?
For the moment, the two navies best placed to provide security in much of this area are the US and Indian navies, but countries like China may want an independent capacity to do so. This is where geo-political concerns come into play and can be a source of mistrust and problems. The challenge is for all to agree to certain rules of the road and norms of conduct. A wider Asia-Pacific security architecture will not be easy to build. Other continents have continental- scale organizations, but not Asia. There are too many players with conflicting interests and ambitions. Several disputes remain unresolved. The world-view as well as political, social and religious values of countries differ.
It would be more realistic to first build bilateral understandings between countries that have differences and then seek to widen the circle of these understandings to solidify them at the multilateral level in an incremental process. As bilateral relations between key countries markedly improve, existing organizations like SCO, SAARC, ECO, CSTO, ARF, IOC-ARC, BIMST-EC, and the East Asia Summit could become the building blocks of a larger Asia-Pacific security architecture. But that seems far away for now.
The author is former foreign secretary of India
Indo-US 'bonhomie’ strains bilateral ties with Iran By Indran
Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:01 pm (PST) . Posted by:
"n m" nyayamurti1
Indo-US 'bonhomie’ strains bilateral ties with Iran
By Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Dec 14, 2012, 07.26 PM IST
http://timesofindia .indiatimes. com/india/ Indo-US-bonhomie -strains- bilateral- ties-with- Iran/articleshow /17615286. cms?
NEW DELHI: As Iran reached a deal with theInternational Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA) forthe next round of nuclear talks to be held on January 16, Tehran said India was leaning too close to the US for bilateral ties to remain untouched.
"We have long and friendly relations with India. We can continue to be friends. We can try to materialize this potential. But if India keeps moving towards Washington, then there will be some limitations for us," Mostafa Dolatyar, head of Iran's Institute of Political and International Studies and a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, told journalists. However, he added that Tehran understood New Delhi's constraints and left it to India to define its relationship with Iran. "India is a developing country. We know their limitations. We are not living in Mars. We are living on earth."
Dolatyar was particularly critical of India not utilizing adequately the Iranian market, when even the US could do so despite its sanctions. "When American products can find their way into our markets, why can't India products. They (India) have to find a way. It is not the fault of the Iranian government because despite sanctions American products continue to be sold in Iran," he said.
Iran was also supportive of India's role in Afghanistan, but was clear that the US presence could be a negative. "If India wants to do something substantive we are fine with it because Afghanistan is in India's immediate neighborhood. But we have doubts as far as American involvement is concerned," he said.
On Thursday, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said India would "review" its oil imports from Iran in new year. India has substantially reduced its oil imports from Iran, which is down from 16% to 10% in a couple of years. New Delhi also recently got an extension of a waiver by the US administration.
"I think we are well within the structure of US waiver. The bottom line of the conditions of the waiver has been satisfied which is you should not increase dependency on it," the minister said on the sidelines of a CII seminar.
The Bullies of Beijing: China’s Image Problem
Sat Dec 15, 2012 2:03 pm (PST) . Posted by:
"n m" nyayamurti1
The Bullies of Beijing: China’s Image Problem
EAST ASIAPOLITICSREGIONS ECURITYTOPICCHIN A
December 15, 2012
By Minxin Pei
http://thediplomat. com/2012/ 12/15/the- bullies-of- beijing-chinas- image-problem/ ?all=true
Actions by the People's Republic -- intentional or not -- have created the worst regional environment for China since Tiananmen.
* China’s ‘Image’ Problem in Africa
* Sorry World: What Happens in Beijing, WON’T Stay in Beijing
* China’s Amateur Spying Problem
* China’s Proliferation Problem
* Beijing’s South China Sea Gamble
One of the elementary rules of foreign policy is when you are in a hole, stop digging. But judging by their recent behavior, Beijing’s foreign policy mandarins and national security establishment are clearly in violation of this rule. Despite the diplomat heat China has received for its tough stance on territorial disputes in recent months, the Chinese Foreign Ministry apparently seemed to believe that it could strengthen Chinese claims symbolically by issuing a new passport containing a map that claims the disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea and the contested territories along the Sino-Indian border. The reaction was predictable. Southeast Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, protested loudly. India retaliated by promising to stamp visas containing its own map on Chinese passports.
At around the same time as the diplomatic uproar over the new Chinese passport design, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) conducted its first successful landing and take-off operations from its retrofitted aircraft carrier. The televised test might have boosted the Chinese military’s image and self-confidence, but the message this event sent around the region, given China’s hardline position on territorial disputes and its neighbors’ fears of the PLA’s growing military capabilities, cannot be very reassuring.
But that is not the end of the actions taken by China recently that are likely to cost Beijing’s new government dearly. A few days before Japan’s Diet elections on December 16, which are expected to produce a right-wing government with deep antipathy toward Beijing, the Chinese government escalated its challenge to Japan’s territorial claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands by flying an official, albeit unarmed, maritime surveillance plane over the airspace of the disputed islands. As expected, the move incensed Tokyo and can only be expected to bolster the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) chances and lend more credence to their call for a tougher policy toward China.
Obviously, it is inconceivable that Chinese policymakers intentionally desired such boomerangs with these recent moves. One possible explanation is that this is simply a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Given the fragmentation and stove-piped decision-making process inside the Chinese national security establishment, lack of policy coordination is certainly a systemic weakness. However, internal disarray is no excuse. The damage done to China’s image and national interests is real and can be long-lasting.
The challenge facing the new leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping is how to dig China out of its own geopolitical hole. Because of Beijing’s foreign policy missteps in the last three years, China today faces the worst regional environment since Tiananmen. Its relations with Japan are at a record low; China-ASEAN ties have similarly deteriorated due to the South China Sea disputes and China’s heavy-handed use of its clout to divide ASEAN. The Sino-American relationship is increasingly turning into one of strategic rivalry. Even South Korea, which has sought to strengthen Seoul-Beijing ties for two decades, has distanced itself from China because of China’s reluctance or inability to restrain North Korea’s aggressive acts (its latest missile test is but one example).
It is hard to know whether Beijing’s foreign policy establishment sees things the same way. But if they happen to agree with this assessment, they must act quickly to reverse a self-defeating strategy.
The most urgent action item is to stabilize Beijing-Tokyo ties. The actions taken by Beijing to contest Tokyo’s claims to the disputed islands in the East China Sea are fraught with risks of escalation. While they may be designed to force the Japanese to the negotiating table, the Chinese government needs to take extra precaution to avoid dangerous confrontations and escalations. Under current circumstances, the smarter way is not to escalate, but deescalate, so that Beijing can give Tokyo an opportunity to respond. With anti-China sentiments high among a broad segment of Japan’s population and elites, it is unwise to expect Tokyo to meet Chinese escalations with concessions.
Clearly, Beijing may have to wait for the outcome of the Diet elections on December 16. Should the LDP win, the Chinese government will be smart to send conciliatory signals to the new Japanese government. Of course, Shinzo Abe, the leader of the LDP, has taken a hardline on China during the campaign, but he should be given a chance to show his sensibility and pragmatism. China will not hurt itself by displaying some flexibility and willingness to compromise initially. If Japan rejects such friendly overtures, China will have ample time to play a game of tit-for-tat.
Parallel to its efforts to stabilize Sino-Japanese relations, Beijing’s second policy priority is to defuse itstensions with ASEAN over the South China Sea disputes. Chinese policymakers must first realize that its stance on the maritime disputes in the South China Sea has painted Beijing into a corner. The historical claims are increasingly difficult to defend. The insistence on bilateral negotiations, not multilateral ones, looks too self-serving. The use of a proxy such as Cambodia to undermine ASEAN’s unity on the South China Sea disputes may be a temporary tactical success, but it comes with long-term strategic costs and will ultimately be futile.
A bold move for the new Chinese government to take is to do a U-turn on the South China Sea. It can do so by announcing its willingness to negotiate in a multilateral setting and adhere to existing international laws, not historical claims. This dramatic change of policy will not necessarily produce an outcome totally unfavorable to China. Because most of Vietnam and the Philippines’ claims are equally weak under existing international laws, shifting China’s position will not necessarily strengthen their claims. The practical effect will be prolonged negotiations that can defuse the tensions – and repair China’s tattered image as a bully.
Putting U.S.-China ties on a more solid footing and reversing the dangerous dynamics of strategic competition is more difficult and requires steps that Mr. Xi may not be able to take immediately. The factors driving the U.S. and China toward strategic rivalry are not hard to see: mutual distrust, a shift in relative balance of power, China's military modernization, and a lack of transparency in China's domestic political system. It is impossible to address all these factors, and some of them defy short-term solutions. However, Mr. Xi will find that the immediate key to improving Sino-American relations will not be found in China’s policy toward the United States, but in its policy toward its neighbors. It is the fears China has aroused among its neighbors that have given the United States the strategic leverage to deal with China and to view China from darker lenses. So it will be China’s success in reassuring its neighbors and the
United States, not with rhetoric but real policy changes, that will help dig Beijing out of its current geopolitical hole.
Photo Credit: Flickr (Francisco Diez)