Archive for March, 2012

China’s Military Budget Increase Draws Responses from Asian Powers

Earlier this month, China announced an 11.2% increase in its official defense budget, bringing the total figure to $110 billion (RMB 670 billion). Although this increase did not come as a surprise, the announcement still drew wary responses from India, Japan and Russia, which we examine in this post.



The message in the officially-sanctioned press was consistent across the board: China’s increasing military budget is in line with the nation’s overall economic growth, military modernization is necessary for responding to increasingly complex security challenges, and China is committed to peaceful development.

The Global Times elaborated on this rationale in several pieces:


India is also reviewing its defense budget for 2012-13, which the government announced will be $38.5 billion (1.93 trillion rupees), or about one-third the size of China’s military spending. It was also reported that a high-level defense meeting had a special focus on China and Pakistan, in addition to internal security issues.

This increase, though, is not without strains on other fiscal needs. Before it was announced, the Economic Times had reported that “the symbolic reminder of China’s official military budget crossing $100 billion couldn’t have come at a worse time for India that is seeing a series of steps to curtail defence spending due to mounting fiscal crisis.” (more…)

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GWU’s Office of the Vice President for Research Awards $100,000 for RPI Project

George Washington University’s Office of the Vice President for Research awarded the Sigur Center for Asian Studies $100,000 today in support of a major research project called “Asian Powers and Economic Challenges: Impact on International Cooperation and Conflict.” This major award will fund research for two years beginning this July. This generous support from OVPR follows a previous $100,000 grant for the first phase of the “Asian Powers and Economic Challenges” project.

The new project is interdisciplinary and cuts across three GW schools – the Elliott School of International Affairs, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Business – and includes seven faculty researchers from a range of departments: history, international affairs, international business, political science, and public policy and public administration.

The GW faculty investigators will conduct their research in partnership with co-researchers from Asia as well as GW student research assistants.  This grant was designed to foster the highest degree of faculty-student interaction and therefore funds have been allocated for student research assistants to accompany their faculty member to Asia to conduct field research alongside them.

Specific topics to be researched include: the rise of green industrial policy; trade, finance, and economic policy in China, Japan, and Korea; China’s monetary policy coordination with the United States; international economic relationships in India; and India’s economic relations with China.

Both phases of the Asian Powers and Economic Challenges project are part of the Sigur Center’s Rising Powers Initiative, which also explores domestic foreign policy debates in key Asian and Eurasian countries  and also examines the national identity orientations and implications for US foreign policy in much of Asia.

Edward McCord, Sigur Center for Asian Studies Director and Deepa Ollapally, Sigur Center for Asian Studies Associate Director, will serve as co-principal investigators on this project.

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Asian powers assess Putin’s electoral victory

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was elected to his third presidential term on Sunday. In this post, we examine reactions to his victory in Russia, China, India, and Japan.




The Russian press overwhelming warned of a tough road ahead for Putin in all reform areas including the Russian economy, foreign relations, and domestic politics.

There was near universal agreement that Putin will encounter many forthcoming challenges:

  • Putin faces the daunting task of convincing “foreigners and Russians alike that Russia is not only a good place to live but a great place to invest,” says the Moscow Times. The editorial urges Putin to level the playing field for foreign investors, and to take action against government corruption.
  • “The next government no longer has the luxury of relying on rising oil revenues to fund growth and buy internal stability…Russia’s economy needs a new growth driver,” says Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Troika Dialog.
  • Alexei Makarkin, first vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, predicts that the government will respond to specific challenges on a case-by-case basis. “I don’t think the government will pursue a purely liberal or reactionary course,” Markarkin said. Rather, it willharden its policy in some areas and make concessions in others.

Commentators were mixed on the direction of Putin’s foreign policy:

  • Rising Powers Initiative Russia expert Andrew Kuchins takes a different view, arguing that because domestic political stability is Putin’s principal concern, he sees the United States as a threat to his sovereign rule. (more…)
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Conflict Over the South China Sea: Identity Politics Meets History

By Shawn McHale, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, George Washington University 


The South China Sea is one of the great connecting oceans of the world, acting as a major conduit of Asian and global trade.  It has also been a worrisome site of conflict.  In recent years, disputes over territorial claims have led to armed clashes involving China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It has also led to demonstrations.  Arguments have spilled into cyberspace: on YouTube, Google Earth, online newspaper articles, and chat rooms, nationalist tempers have flared over their country’s claims to these tiny islands, atolls, and reefs.

Most of the territorial claims over the South China Sea are surprisingly weak, and none is incontestable.  Here we must distinguish between arguments over the Paracels, the far-flung cluster of islands, reefs, and atolls closest to China, and those over the Spratlys, a similarly widely spread set of islands further to the south. Only China and Vietnam contest the Paracels, whereas six countries have claims to the Spratlys. Finally, the contemporary bitter arguments over sovereignty in this area repeatedly invoke historical evidence. It is the latter issue that will be the focus of this Policy Commentary.

Bluntly stated, we cannot impose contemporary notions of sovereignty on historical practices before the twentieth century.  Despite much misinformation and inflamed rhetoric to the contrary, historical evidence overwhelmingly supports the view that states did not, traditionally, claim exclusive territorial rights over the vast majority of the South China Sea.  To the contrary: the area has historically been an Asian maritime commons. What, then, does the historical evidence suggest? And how has argument over this evidence shaped Asian identity politics today?


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India ponders response to bomb plot in New Delhi

The car bomb targeted at an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi has accentuated the ongoing tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and the imposition of sanctions on its oil exports. India in particular is having a hard time responding to the ramifications of this attack. Today’s post highlights the variety of Indian viewpoints, as well as reactions from China and Russia.  


This incident has castIndia’s diplomatic and strategic predicament in a harsh light. Indian commentaries reflect a deep anxiety and uncertainty over what this means for the future of Indian foreign policy toward the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as its energy supply and relations with theU.S.

A few analysts are more explicit in their foreign policy recommendations: (more…)

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