US policy toward Myanmar is shifting from one of isolation to engagement, as underscored by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s three day visit to Myanmar in early December. In this post, we highlight how this change is viewed in India and China, two major Asian powers with potentially competing interests in Myanmar.
Of the diverse range of Indian commentaries on this topic, a generally shared opinion is that this liberalization of relations with Myanmar shows that India’s policy of engagement since the mid-1990s has been the right approach all along.
- An Indian Express editorial states, India has “won the argument for bringing change and openness in Myanmar with a guiding presence rather than punishing sanctions.”
- After all, India has a range of concrete interests in Myanmar, including energy, trade and transport routes, border security and development of relations with ASEAN. India’s recent offer of $500 million in credit to Myanmar is an example of possible economic leverage, as the Times of Indiapointed out.
On the geopolitical implications of US engagement with Myanmar, many see this as an opportunity for India to counterbalance China through strengthened relations with Myanmar. See, for example,commentary by Shyam Saran, the former Indian ambassador to Myanmar.
- Some are wary of aligning too closely with the US on this issue. C. Raja Mohan, expressing what is known as a “Great Power Realist” school of thought, says India will have to “raise its game” with an “independent, credible and sustainable strategic engagement with Myanmar and its people.“
- The “Liberal Globalist” perspective is more optimistic about cooperating with the US. Sreeram Chaulia, Vice Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, argues that an “India-US team” with common geopolitical interests “can tilt Myanmar decisively away from authoritarianism and Chinese stranglehold.”
- The exception are Leftist opinions, such as this editorial in The Hindu, which are deeply suspicious of America’s pivot toward Asia and stress that China is an important neighbor that cannot be slighted.
A critical question is whether India’s relations with Myanmar should take into account the country’s progress in political liberalization. (more…)Continue Reading →
In our previous blog post, we examined Asian reactions to the economic aspects of America’s “pivot” back to Asia strategy. Today’s post looks at what China, India, and Japan are saying about the geopolitical implications of US plans to strengthen its presence in Asia.
Official commentary specifically on this topic was expressed by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson during a regular press briefing: “In handling Asia-Pacific affairs, one should comply with the basic trend of peace, development and cooperation upheld by regional countries, and respect the diversity and complexity of the region.”
Similarly, the press has stressed China’s commitment to peaceful development and coexistence with neighbors. Commentaries characterize US intentions as reflecting a “Cold War mentality” aiming to encircle China, then explain why such plans are likely to fail:
- In general, the entire region is suspicious of US motives. An article in the People’s Daily says Asian countries are “unlikely to approve of the US attempt to impose its values on them or the so-called ‘leadership’ it aspires to exercise in Asia.”
- Specific countries such as Australia cannot be counted on either, because Australia [is] currently swaying between China and the US,” says a Global Times editorial. Li Hongmei, editor of the People’s Daily Online, also cites a former Australian defense official who said the plan “was a very risky move” for his country.
- Economically, strategic encirclement of China is not truly possible because of Chinese economic clout. “Any country which chooses to be a pawn in the US chess game will lose the opportunity to benefit from China’s economy. This will surely make US protection less attractive.“
- China may also retaliate economically at neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, for cooperating militarily with the US. The Philippines is “walking a very fine line,” warned a Global Timeseditorial that recommended economic “punishment” such as postponing the implementation of investment agreements and decreasing imports from the Philippines. In the meantime, “China should enhance cooperation with countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, allowing them to benefit more from the Philippine vacuum.”
For reactions by Chinese netizens, the Dutch nonprofit foundation Global Voices has a report here.
Across the board, commentary in India is welcoming of America’s plan to strengthen its presence in Asia, and sees this renewed attention on the region as a chance for India to assert its strategic role. (more…)Continue Reading →
The United States is “pivoting” toward Asia. This strategy was formally publicized last month with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s essay on “America’s Pacific Century.” This week, President Barack Obama has been visiting Asia to push for a Trans-Pacific trading bloc and stronger military ties with US allies. How are major Asian powers reacting to America’s strategy to “re-engage” the Asia Pacific region? Today’s post highlights Chinese, Russian and Japanese views on the economic aspects of this strategy.
Chinese officials have so far made only brief comments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), all of which express China’s support for regional economic integration but stressing its preference for existing mechanisms. Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua said any trade mechanism should be “open and inclusive,” while Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said economic integration should proceed in a “step-by-step manner.”
Commentary in the press characterized the TPP as a part of a wider strategy to contain China:
- Li Hongmei, editor of the People’s Daily Online, wrote that “the U.S. intends to play a dominant role in the to-be Trans-Pacific architecture by handpicking its members and systemizing and regulating them in political and military spheres in accordance with its own standards so as to turn out a comprehensively economic and political alliance under the U.S. leadership.”
- In addition to similar criticisms, a Global Times editorial pointed out that “any Asian cooperation with the absence of Beijing will not have much heft. China never lacks channels for conducting cooperation with its regional counterparts.”
Academic opinions leaned toward a “wait-and-see” attitude:
- Wang Yuzhu of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, “Economic regionalism is China’s most pragmatic choice, because the international architecture is changing rapidly. China has to recalibrate its relations with the rest of the world.”
- According to Lu Jianren, deputy director of the APEC Study Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “How the TPP negotiations will progress is still a matter of great uncertainty. What can be certain is it will be strategically detrimental to the old ASEAN Plus Three coalition, which has long been lagging behind in forming a free-trade zone that can allow a level of economic unity in the region.”
As Russia gears up to host the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostock, commentary on U.S. re-engagement in Asia was introspective, questioning Russia’s own unique orientation as both a European and Asian state. (more…)Continue Reading →
Since Yoshihiko Noda took office as Prime Minister of Japan two months ago, there appears to be some possibility that the United States and Japan will be able to make progress on the stalled issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa prefecture. However, even cautious optimism should be tempered by the reality of domestic politics in Japan and a thorough consideration of Japan’s overall strategic thinking.
Noda has made specific gestures expressing an intent to honor the U.S.-Japan agreement to relocate the Futenma base from densely populated Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago City in northeastern Okinawa, where a new on-shore facility would be built. To win political support from Okinawans, he announced in late September that his government would remove the conditions currently attached to development subsidies to the prefecture. In October, he told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the government would submit an environmental impact assessment report to Okinawa prefecture by the end of this year, which would formally start a legal process whereby the Okinawa government is required to respond within 90 days. From Washington’s perspective, these moves may indicate some long-awaited momentum on the Futenma issue.
Opposition and skepticism in Japanese domestic politics
However, the official message coming from Tokyo stands in stark contrast to the local opposition in Okinawa, which has grown stronger and more vocal over the years. Just days after Panetta’s visit, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima told Noda that the Futenma relocation within the prefecture was “virtually impossible.” In a recent speech delivered at The George Washington University, Nakaima stressed the intolerable impact of Futenma on the daily lives of Okinawans, and compared it to having a military base in the middle of New York City on 36th Street. Added to this is the sense of unfairness of having to bear the lion’s share of U.S. military presence in Japan: Okinawa comprises only 0.6% of Japan’s national land mass, but hosts 74% of American facilities in Japan.
While there is nothing new about local opposition to U.S. military basing in Okinawa, observers note that it has dramatically strengthened in the past few years that the Democratic Party of Japan has been in government. (more…)Continue Reading →
Economic integration in Asia has progressed further and enjoys broader support than political integration. Whether economic integration requires political integration in order to survive, and the nature of the relationship between interdependence and conflict, remain open questions. That is the case in general as well as in the particular case of key contemporary rising powers: China and India. These questions will play an important role in understanding the prospects for conflict or cooperation in Asia. This Policy Commentary outlines the general debate on these questions and applies it to China and to India.
The Interdependence Debate
The main argument linking economic integration and peace is as follows. Increasing trade and international investment facilitates economic efficiency by allowing for economies of scale, and for countries to take advantage of the benefits of specialization and exchange. Once international economic links are established, governments do not want to interrupt them and suffer an economic loss. They consequently pursue stable and peaceful relations with their trading partners.
The counterargument is that economic integration can increase the likelihood of conflict in two principal ways. First, integration can lead to trade disputes. For example, trade imbalances can lead to complaints by the country that is experiencing a trade deficit. Inflows of foreign investment can lead to concerns about excessive influence by foreigners. (more…)Continue Reading →
Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gaddafi’s death last Thursday sparked heated reactions from major powers in Asia. In this post, we highlight the viewpoints coming out of Russia, China and India, many of which are highly critical of NATO’s role in Libya.
Compared to China and India, reactions from Russia have been the most critical and extensive, including the official response. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said NATO actions preceding the death of Gaddafi should be scrutinized for their compliance with international law, and emphasized “they should not have killed him.”
Commentaries in the press have likewise been negative. A round-up of expert reactions was reported by the Moscow News:
- Andrei Fedvashin, RIA Novosti political analyst: “No one gave NATO sanction to hunt Gaddafi and bomb the suburbs of Sirte under siege.”
- Georgy Mirsky of the World Economy and International Relations Institute, however, thought that Russia was to some extent complicit in NATO’s actions in Libya: “If in March, Moscow did not abstain in the UN Security Council vote [that authorized the no-fly zone], then the colonel would still be in power now.”
Views on Libya’s future appear mixed:
- Sergey Markov, director of the Institute for Political Research: the situation in Libya “will be more or less peaceful.” He expressed confidence that the new Libyan government would be able to unify the different tribal factions, including those who were dominant during Gaddafi’s rule.
- Evgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute for Political Enterprise, was less optimistic: “low-intensity civil war…is likely to continue for quite a while, same as…in Iraq and…the AfPak region.” (more…)
The Eurozone’s debt crisis has spurred talk about a possible role for BRIC countries to lend a helping hand through increased financing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While discussions are still under way over whether the IMF will even step into the euro crisis, rising powers such as China and Brazil continue to express interest. G20 finance ministers and central bankers met in Paris over the weekend and said they expected the October 23 European Union summit to “decisively address the current challenges through a comprehensive plan“. Today’s blog post highlights the views in China, India, and Russia on this issue:
The mixed views in China indicate an interest to help the Eurozone in such a way that is both economically practical and politically beneficial to China-EU relations.
- Several op-eds in the People’s Daily highlight China’s shouldering of responsibility in global finance. They point to China’s purchase of European debt securities, expressed confidence in the Eurozone, and continuing trade and investment relations with the EU.
- Nevertheless, some voices emphasized that “China has to be cautious while expanding in Europe,” and consider “many factors including investment return, security, risk and national interests.”
- Ding Gang, a senior reporter with the People’s Daily, was more blunt about what China should expect in return: It is only “the most basic fair treatment” to ask that the EU recognize China’s market economy status and end the arms sale ban on China.
- Specific policy recommendations came from a recently organized academic forum at Tongji University. It was reported that Qiao Yide, secretary-general of the Shanghai Development Research Foundation, recommended the following: 1) purchase bonds from multilateral institutions (the European Financial Stability Facility) instead of national bonds; 2) encourage Chinese businesses to expand in Europe; and 3) increase the euro’s weight in the currency basket of the Chinese yuan.
- A Global Times op-ed commented on the geopolitical opportunity of the crisis. (more…)
Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced a $5.85 billion arms sales package to Taiwan, featuring upgrades for 145 of Taiwan’s F-16 A/B fighter jets. In this blog post, we highlight the contrast between China’s official responses to the arms deal, and reactions published in the Chinese media. The differences underscore some of the tensions and competing voices in China’s foreign policy establishment.
- In Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun summoned US Ambassador to China Gary Locke to protest the arms sales. The acting US military attaché to China was also summoned by China’s Ministry of Defense.
- In New York, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton: “China urged the U.S. to attach great importance to China’s solemn position and take it very seriously, correct the mistake of selling weapons to Taiwan by revoking the above-mentioned wrong decision, eliminate its negative influence, stop arms sales to Taiwan and U.S.-Taiwan military contact, and take real actions to uphold the larger interest of China-U.S. relations.”
- Defense Ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng said at a press briefing that “planned China-U.S. military exchanges, including high-level visits and joint exercises, will definitely be impacted.”
COMMENTARY IN THE PRESS
- The US-China relationship will suffer – such is the general sentiment voiced in several editorials and op-eds. In “A blow to Sino-US ties,” Shen Dingli of Fudan University writes that “Washington’s new arms sales to Taiwan squanders chances for further cooperation in economic and political areas,” and that “the US will have to deal with the consequences.” Sounding a similar note, Zhu Feng of Beijing University says that analysts who downplay Beijing’s reaction risk “overlook[ing] the negative consequences of China’s opposition.” Another common theme in the criticism is that the US is “putting domestic law above an international treaty,” referring respectively to the Taiwan Relations Act and the 1982 US-China communiqué, and calling for the abolishment of the TRA. (more…)
This past weekend, the U.S. commemorated the ten year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Across the globe, other countries also took a moment to reflect on this day. In this post, we examine views from Russia, India, China and Japan.
InRussia, commentators asserted thatU.S.unilateralism in the “war on terror” has interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. At the same time, they concede that the Kremlin also lost an opportunity to deepen U.S.-Russian relations in the 9/11 aftermath.
- The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that although the 9/11 attacks were “provocative and cruel,” they also led to broad international cooperation that has helped to bring global counter-terrorism cooperation to a higher level. The Foreign Ministry emphasized thatRussia supports an international coalition of nations, as opposed to some form of unilateralism, as the best mechanism for battling against the specter of terrorism.
Multiple commentaries described the 9/11 tragedy and subsequent global fight against terrorism as a missed opportunity for the Kremlin to boost ties with the West:
- The Moscow Times, which tends to express opinion that the Rising Powers Initiative characterizes as Pro-Western Liberal, favoring modernization and integration with the West, noted that although U.S.-Russian cooperation got off to a strong start after 9/11, it quickly fizzled. “Moscow was counting on getting something in return fromWashington…butWashington simply tookMoscow’s assistance for granted, interpreting it as a response that any civilized country would have taken to support a partner hit by a major terrorist attack.”
- Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal, corroborated this view, asserting that “good will and compromise on strategic issues are always the result of tough bargaining and never reciprocity.” Ultimately, Lukyanov concludes,Russia’s tough stance towards theU.S. was “the result of feeling that it had been betrayed,” leadingMoscow to conclude that “only power is respected in this world.”
- Another editorial in The Moscow Times attributes the dramatic increase in opium production and drug addiction-related deaths in Russia as an offshoot of the decline in U.S.-Russian security cooperation. The author insists that Washington has a “moral responsibility” to help Moscow control the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.
- RIA Novosti military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov remarked, “If there’s anything that the ten years of the ‘war on terror’ have demonstrated, it’s that the world leader is incredibly isolated. America is stubbornly and methodically trying to impose its own designs on a desperately recalcitrant world.” As the state news agency, RIA Novosti’s views are close to the current government position and reflect what the Rising Powers Initiative has identified as the Great Power Balancers viewpoint—those that seek great power status in relations with U.S. and China.
In India, 9/11 was an occasion to reflect on the country’s own problems with terrorism, in the context ofAmerica’s war on terror over the past ten years. (more…)Continue Reading →
The decision by the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Perth in October has caused considerable disappointment in Canberra.
The absence of the head of the world’s largest democracy, and the Commonwealth’s largest member, will take the sheen off the forum and postpone an Indian prime ministerial visit to Australia after more than two decades into the uncertain future.
Commentators have been quick to identify the Labor government’s decision not to supply uranium to India as influencing Singh’s travel plans. The reality is more complex. Despite a growing convergence of values and interests, and the efforts of the countries’ two very competent high commissioners, there is still little real conversation between key players in Australia and their counterparts in India. New Delhi and Canberra may know each other, but they still do not have a nuanced understanding of each other. Thus in the absence of a sustained engagement at many levels, even a single issue can derail bilateral ties. This needs to change if the two countries are to work with each other and in the interests of the region.
Take the case of India. At the official level, there are no more than one or two officers in the severely shortstaffed Ministry of External Affairs who pay attention to Australia, and rarely for more than a couple of hours a week. It requires great persistence for Australian officials and diplomats to secure high-level attention from India.This lack of real communication even at the government-to-government level undermines the political relationship.
A recent private poll of the political and civil service elite in India suggests that while Australia may be a preferred tourist destination, and continues to rank quite highly for the quality of its tertiary education, there are few who would rank Canberra high in terms of political or strategic salience even among the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.
And, unfortunately, the Cold War divide, Canberra’s strident response to India’s nuclear tests, and the uranium decision still seem to drive the Indian elite’s “limited” understanding of Australia and its potential as an ally. (more…)Continue Reading →