Archive for April, 2014

Announcing the Launch of the Rising Powers Initiative Research Database

As part of the Rising Powers Initiative’s efforts to analyze and compare the foreign policy thinking in today’s rising powers, we are pleased to announce the launch of the RPI Research Database, a specialized bibliography of books and articles on targeted subjects that reflect the RPI’s ongoing researchEach entry contains an abstract or summary of the article or book. The Database has been compiled by our research staff and is frequently updated with articles and books from 1990 onwards, with emphasis on the latest academic and policy publications.

Countries and regions in the Database include:

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • South Korea
  • Southeast Asia and ASEAN
  • Taiwan

Topics and subjects in the Database include:

  • Identity and foreign policy
  • Energy security, maritime security, and Asian security
  • Nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation
  • Regional  political economy
  • U.S. foreign policy in Asia

The Research Database can be accessed here. We hope that this interactive Database is a useful tool for conducting research on rising powers in Asia and for keeping up to date on the latest relevant academic and policy publications. We encourage you to share the Database as a resource with your colleagues, and welcome your feedback and suggestions.

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POLICY ALERT: Asian Powers Re-Assess U.S. “Rebalance” as President Obama Travels the Region

obamaasiaAs President Barack Obama wraps up his week-long trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Asian powers are re-assessing the U.S. economic and security commitment to the region. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Japan, South Korea, China, and India on U.S. foreign policy in Asia.


Japanese newspapers discussed the “mixed” results of the U.S.-Japan summit. (more…)

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RPI Author Henry R. Nau: “NATO Should Act Now, Not Later”

Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen at the Alliance headquarters in BrusselsHenry R. Nau, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, recently wrote an op-ed for Deutsche Welle on the ongoing Ukraine crisis. He argues that NATO should step in the crisis and use a little force to prevent Russia’s use of greater force in the future:

NATO is waking up to the single most important lesson of history. Use a little force early to avoid the use of greater force later. Just think if that lesson had been learned before World War II, says Henry R. Nau.

In Ukraine, a little force is being used early – but by only one side. Russia used a little force to occupy Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, then to annex Crimea, and today to dominate the governance of eastern and perhaps the rest of Ukraine. While Europe and America can’t believe what Russia is doing, Vladimir Putin is already using a little force early to address his next objective. Since 2009 Russia has doubled its military forces along its border with the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama announces, at a White House news conference, that “military options are not on the table in Ukraine because this is not a situation that would be amenable to a military solution.” Will that be the case too, if Russia beats the West to the use of a little force early in the Baltic states?

Obama, who had no negotiating experience going into the Oval Office, is getting an education. Diplomacy is not a substitute for the use of force, to be used only if diplomacy fails. In fact, diplomacy will fail unless it is backed by force. And when negotiations fail, much more force is needed. (more…)

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RPI Author Hui Zhang: Joining Nuclear Security Pledge in China’s National Interest

President Xi Jinping at Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands. (Source: Getty Images)

President Xi Jinping at Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands. (Source: Getty Images)

On the heels of last month’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Netherlands, Nuclear Debates in Asia project scholar Dr. Hui Zhang recently wrote an op-ed for The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists urging China to join 35 other countries who pledged to follow more rigorous nuclear security rules. Beijing and a handful of others declined to sign on to the joint document — known as the Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation agreement — which commits leaders to “incorporate the principles and guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding nuclear security into their national laws, and to allow teams of international experts to periodically evaluate their security procedures.” Hui, who is also a senior scholar at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, explored why China eschewed the joint agreement and why this decision should be reconsidered:

The most significant achievement to emerge from the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit was a pledge by 35 countries to observe the terms of a joint agreement, known as Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation. This document committed the signatories to incorporate the principles and guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)regarding nuclear security into their national laws, and to allow teams of international experts to periodically evaluate their security procedures. Promoted strongly by the chairs of all three nuclear summits—the United States, South Korea, and the Netherlands— the 2014 initiative is an important step towards creating a robust global security system designed to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Yet China, along with Russia, India, and Pakistan, did not join the pledge. Beijing has not offered any explanations. (more…)

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RPI Author Deepa Ollapally: “The Problem Next-Door”

afghan-electionDeepa Ollapally, Research Professor of International Affairs and the Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, wrote an op-ed for the Indian Express on April 15 discussing the presidential election in Afghanistan. She argues that Afghanistan’s unpredictable neighbor, Pakistan, remains a “wild card” for the new Afghan president, as Pakistani terror attacks continue to pose a threat to the country’s stability:

New Afghan president must deal with an unpredictable neighbour.

By all accounts, the much-awaited presidential election in Afghanistan was a success, at least in terms of the turnout and voting process. As we wait for official results to see whether a run-off is necessary, in the event that no single candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes, it is worth considering the looming question — Afghanistan’s post-election prospects. A pivotal actor in Afghanistan’s fortunes is not the Afghan voter, Taliban fighter, former warlord or even the new president. It is Afghanistan’s next-door neighbour Pakistan, which can only be characterised as a “wild card”.

It is hard to describe Pakistan as anything else when, even after 13 years of waging war together in Afghanistan, US officials and analysts on South Asia are not able to assess the Pakistan government’s “real” intentions towards Kabul after American withdrawal. Instead, they tend to offer two very divergent interpretations, an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic one, thus leaving this critical question unanswered.

Although the takers for an optimistic scenario are decreasing, it is perhaps understandable from a diplomatic viewpoint that a dire prediction is not a desirable policy option for the US: it would highlight just how little has been achieved even as it departs, and just how little can be done even if it wanted to change the equation with Pakistan. (more…)

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RPI Author Mike Mochizuki: Bridging Asia’s Historical Divides


Dr. Mike Mochizuki, Identity and Power in Asia project co-director and associate dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon recently co-wrote an op-ed in The National Interest on healing Asia’s “wounds of history.” The authors discuss nationalist tendencies by China as well as U.S. allies and suggest actions the United States and countries in Asia can take to seek reconciliation on these tensions. Mochizuki and O’Hanlon stress that the “stability of Northeast Asia in coming years could hang in the balance”:

As President Obama prepares for his trip to Asia in two weeks, tensions are remarkably high in a part of the world that was supposed to be smart enough to focus on getting rich even as the Middle East remained bogged down in conflict. Although much of the problem originates in China, American allies sometimes play a role too—including the government of Shinzo Abe in Japan. His visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo are one big reason. Mr. Obama, like other American officials, will probably ask him to desist from future visits when the two heads of government meet in Tokyo. But in fact, Obama should concentrate on a more realistic agenda—asking Abe to redefine and transform the shrine, rather than stop visiting it.

The wounds of history are profound in East Asia. Simple repetition of the official Japanese apology first articulated by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in August 1995 will not suffice to promote historical reconciliation. And as Abe demonstrated by his visit to Yasukuni in December 2013, Japanese political leaders like their counterparts in other countries naturally feel compelled to honor their country’s war dead. The Yasukuni Shrine memorializes millions of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers who died for their country, not just the fourteen Japanese leaders who were convicted of “Class A” war crimes or who died while on trial for such crimes. (more…)

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RPI Author Allen Carlson: “Reflecting on the Kunming Terrorist Attack One Month On: Comparisons with September 11th, and the Broader Implications for China”

Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in the Department of Government, Cornell University, discusses the implications of the Kunming Terrorist attack for China’s national identity and ethnic conflict.

In Emily T. Yeh’s excellent new book, Taming Tibet (Cornell University Press, 2013), one of her interlocutor’s darkly warned, “China will have its terrorists, its September 11” (p. 57). Unfortunately, the March 1 Kunming train station terrorist attack proved this observation to be all too prophetic as the incident is now widely viewed by many Chinese as their version of America’s  2001 experience. Even if this comparison might be considered by some to be over-blown, the fact that it has taken root within China speaks to three significant and troubling trends within the country.

First, the attack underscores the deeply fractured state of relations between the majority Han Chinese and minority populations now living within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). To be clear, not all non-Han peoples in the PRC are contesting the political status quo within the country.  However, in recent years, two of the most important of such groups, the Tibetans and Uyghurs, have quite openly expressed their discontent with Chinese rule. The Tibetans took the lead on this score when violent protests erupted in Lhasa in March of 2008. In Xinjiang the Uyghurs followed suit with the July 2009 Urumqi riots.  Subsequently, Tibetan areas have been rocked by a wave of self-immolations, and Xinjiang has been roiled by repeated incidents of Han-Uyghur violence. In other words, the Kunming attack placed a violent exclamation mark on a development that was already well underway.

Second, it elicited an unprecedented flood of popular condemnations within Chinese social media. This blunt commentary denounced the perpetrators of the attack, and, more broadly, disparaged the Uyghurs as violent, dangerous, threats to the Chinese nation. In this sense, the virulent online response to the attack demonstrated the extent to which some in China have grown impatient with the perceived slights the Han Chinese have suffered at the hands of the country’s minorities. On the other hand, much of the online activity also admonished Beijing for its inability to discipline such groups. This backlash reveals just how contested Beijing’s orthodox narrative of a singular Chinese national identity, one that encompasses both Han and non-Han peoples, has become, and not just by those on the country’s territorial periphery. Such an understanding of ethnic relations is the product of a burgeoning sense of pride among Chinese netizens in a narrower understanding of what the Chinese nation is (Han rather than multi-ethnic).

This shift then reveals the third main implication of the Kunming attack.  In short, nationalism, when it is framed with reference to the outside world tends to bring many within China together against external foes. In contrast, when the primary antagonist to the Chinese nation is instead found within the boundaries of the PRC, in the form of Tibetan or Uyghur separatism, the situation is much more volatile (in regards to risks to the existing political status quo). First, the odds for inter-ethnic violence (rather than inter-state conflict) to escalate is all the more real and less easy for Beijing to control. Second, if the state does not do enough to protect Han Chinese in such situations, it may find itself labeled as anti-nationalist and subject to challenges to its legitimacy. Third, if it acts strongly in minority regions to quell unrest, it may only strengthen anti-Chinese sentiment there and fuel further uprisings.

As a result of these trends, China’s leaders are now between a rock and a hard place, with no easy way to satisfy either their country’s Han Chinese majority or minority nationalities. Therefore, unfortunately, it is all too likely that yet another incident of ethnic conflict will take place within the country’s borders in the future. It is sadly not a question of whether or not an incident will occur, but rather when, where, and how de-stabilizing it will be.

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Policy Alert: Rising Powers React to Nuclear Security Summit

nuclear security summitLast week, world leaders from over 50 countries attended the third Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague, Netherlands to discuss nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism while holding side meetings over the Ukraine crisis and other issues. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the outcomes of these diplomatic meetings.


While Russia and the United States agreed to strengthen international cooperation to address nuclear terrorist threats, the Ukraine crisis still loomed large at the summit. (more…)

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