President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Ji Xinping met for the first time amidst an air of expectancy and great uncertainty last week. The US attack on a Syrian airbase as the two leaders were sitting down to dinner on April 6 however, overshadowed this summit with the world’s attention re-directed to American policy in Syria. How did key rising powers anticipate and react to the summit amidst the US attack on Syria? Find out here.Continue Reading →
On December 9, the South Korean National Assembly voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye following a scandal that drove millions to protest throughout the country. While Park offered to step down or shorten her term to avoid an impeachment vote, her opposition in the legislature moved to impeach by a vote of 236 to 56. Park has been under fire with allegations she let a family friend, Choi Soon-sil, have undue influence over her administration with accusations that Choi extorted donations from businesses to curry favor with Blue House and had access to classified government documents.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will assume the presidency until the country’s Constitutional Court rules whether Park must permanently step down, a decision that may take up to six months. Should this happen, South Korea will hold another presidential election within 60 days but it remains uncertain whether the ruling Saenuri Party will be able to maintain its hold on power. In this Policy Alert, we review the reactions within South Korea, China, India, and Japan to Park’s downfall and South Korea’s future.
President Park said she was “gravely accepting parliamentary and public voices” and wished the “current turmoil comes to a stable end.” A Gallup opinion survey had her approval rating at just 4 percent with other polls showing 80 percent in favor of her impeachment. Even 62 members of her own political party voted against Park. This was just the second time a president has been impeached since the Republic of Korea (ROK) became a full-fledged democracy in the late 1980s.
Most editorials and op-eds in the South Korean press did not express much sympathy for President Park. In fact, some outright said “she does not deserve any sympathy.”
- Korea Times accused Park of having “been negligent of the people’s voices, only sticking to her own point-of-view.”
- Hankyoreh regretted Park was “getting ready to fight the people” and ignore the voices of millions of South Koreans who stood vigil against her presidency.
- Another Korea Times editorial claimed her “greatest crime that is not transcribed onto the official list of charges is the destruction of trust in the office of the presidency, and the subsequent sense of hopelessness among the people that may take a great deal of time to heal.” Nevertheless, the paper reminded that “all those involved, including the President, remain innocent until they are proven guilty.”
On November 25, Fidel Castro, the long-serving revolutionary leader of Cuba, passed away at the age of 90. After assuming power in 1959, Castro’s efforts to transform the Republic of Cuba into a communist country faced fierce opposition, economic blockades, and a myriad of assassination attempts from the United States. Throughout the Cold War, Castro inserted himself into global affairs – including the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and his close bonds with the Soviet Union and China – to a degree that outstripped the relatively small size of his island nation.
While his death was a moment of celebration for many Cuban-Americans, Cuban exiles, and U.S. politicians, several rising powers in Asia and Latin America took time to praise Castro’s leadership in fighting for the rights of developing countries. Fidel’s younger brother, Raúl, will remain as president – a position he has held since 2006 – until 2018 when he pledged to step down. In this Policy Alert, we survey the reactions from China, Brazil, India, Russia, Japan, and South Korea to the passing of Fidel Castro and the future of Cuba.
In offering his condolences to Cuba, President Xi Jinping called Castro a “great figure of our times” who made “immortal historic contributions to the world socialist development” and was a “close comrade and sincere friend” to China. Premier Li Keqiang praised Castro’s contributions to the bilateral relationship between China and Cuba and that Beijing was “willing to work with Cuba to inherit and carry on the traditional friendship.”
The vast majority of China’s media and expert commentary mourned Fidel Castro’s passing and noted the strong Sino-Cuban ties under his rule.
- To China Daily, Castro’s death was a “reminder the Cold War is already over,” and now it is time for world leaders to focus on joint cooperation between developed and developing countries based on “peace and development instead of confrontation.” The paper, which also ran a detailed biography of Fidel and his ties with China, concluded “the world cannot afford to relive the Cold War.”
- Xinhua’s Chen Shilei called his death a “great loss to the Cuban and Latin American people as well as to the world socialist development.” Castro protected Cuba’s “national sovereignty and dignity against the long-time U.S. isolation and embargo,” and his “glorious image and great achievements” will be “remembered forever.”
- Hailing Castro as an “old friend to the Chinese people,” Global Times said Cuba “never wanted to make enemies and sour U.S.-Cuba relations to a large extent were caused by” the United States.
- Han Han, general secretary of the Center of Cuban Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, saw “time and history” having “vindicated and awarded Fidel Castro’s hard fight to uphold Cuba’s sovereign integrity and independence.” China and Cuba have a “comradely relationship” with China teaching the island how to open up to the world and achieve reform while staying true to its socialist roots.
- Global Times did not think Fidel’s death would have “political ramifications globally” since power has already transferred to Raúl Castro, but his passing “stirs ideology clash in China.” On Chinese social media, some Chinese youth have attacked Castro as being too close to the Soviet Union instead of China during the Cold War. The paper argued, however, these views were misguided as Castro was a “good friend” to China.
Dr. Deepa Ollapally, director of the Rising Powers Initiative and a research professor of international affairs at GWU, was quoted by the magazine India Abroad on how the U.S. election result will impact India:
“Trump’s shocking victory is hardly good news for India. Most obvious is Trump’s continuing battle cry against free trade and his promise to slap heavy penalties on American companies who set up shop overseas. This assault couldn’t come at a worse time for India. Prime Minister Modi’s much touted Make in India initiative is very dependent on foreign investment to kick start Indian manufacturing. It is key to generating an annual 10 million jobs that economists say India will need to match the needs of its mushrooming youth demographic.
If Trump has his way, Ford Motor Company that now has car manufacturing factories in Chennai, Pune, and Sanand, with plans of stepping up its exports, may find itself faced with stiff tariff barriers back in the American market. Modi’s Make in India and Trump’s Make in America agendas seem destined to collide.” (more…)Continue Reading →
Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. After the polls closed and the votes were counted in a nail biter of an election on November 8, the Trump campaign won enough electoral college votes to defeat Hillary Clinton and retake the White House. Along with a GOP majority in the Senate and the House, President-Elect Trump and Republicans will have free rein over the instruments of American government. As demonstrated by previous Policy Alerts on the nominating conventions and the debates, rising powers have been closely watching the U.S. presidential election to understand how the next administration might change U.S. foreign policy and the global economy. In this Policy Alert, we explore the reactions from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea to the surprise conclusion of the 2016 race for the White House.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed congratulations to President-elect Trump and his desire to work closely together to “manage differences in a constructive way, in the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, cooperation and win-win.”
Several commentators in China worried Trump’s presidency might have a negative effect on U.S.-China relations and could complicate Beijing’s economic and foreign policy ambitions.
- China Daily saw Trump’s victory as the “logical outcome of the prevailing anti-establishment feelings” in a deeply divided U.S. society. China will have to adapt to “Trump at the helm” and see if his threats to slap a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States and withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change were just campaign rhetoric or a promise.
- Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University, foresaw Beijing being more assertive in its dealings with Washington with Trump’s China policy having “negative effects on Sino-U.S. economic cooperation.”
- Lin Hongyu, scholar at Huaqiao University, credited Trump’s win with the campaign riding a current of anti-globalization to the degree that the election result did “not come as a surprise at all” to those not blinded by the media and elites.
- Shen Dingli, professor of international relations at Fudan University, predicted if Trump “indeed removes the troops from Japan, the Japanese may develop their own nuclear weapons.” He worried “South Korea may also go nuclear if Trump cancels the missile deployment and leaves the country alone facing the North’s threats. How is that good for China?”
Others were less worried about Trump’s victory either because China can adapt or that Trump will be constrained at home.
- Mei Xinyu, research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, thought Trump’s victory would “create a chance to end the ‘self-damaging competition’” between China and the United States.
- On whether Trump would continue Obama’s “Pivot to Asia,” China Daily predicted that while the next administration will not “roll back the U.S. presence in the region,” it matters “a huge difference how the Trump-led” White House “goes about it.”
- Global Times guaranteed China was “strong enough to cope” with President Trump, who is “not as bold enough to really change” the United States.
- Jin Canrong of Remin University considered it “unlikely” Trump will be able to fulfill his foreign policy promises as he is restrained by other conservatives and a pluralistic democracy. Lin Hongyu voiced a similar viewpoint.
- “Democracy is the loser in U.S. Vote,” declared China Daily while criticizing the level of personal attacks and “nasty aspects” of American style democracy. The People’s Daily made a similar claim.
The rise in global demand for nuclear energy is heavily concentrated in emerging and aspiring Asian powers. While nuclear power may alleviate energy shortages and climate change concerns, the promotion of nuclear energy compounds Asia’s nuclear weapon proliferation problems alongside nuclear power safety risks. All this is exacerbated by rising geopolitical tensions in Asia with more assertive policies – especially from China – in the region testing regional stability.
Against this perilous setting, Nuclear Debates in Asia: The Role of Geopolitics and Domestic Processes – a new book by the Rising Powers Initiative (RPI) at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies – questions the extent to which we can infer nuclear thinking simply from external conditions and instead considers policy thinking on nuclear power and proliferation in Asia to be more complex and variegated than often posited. In this Asia Report, we present analysis offered at a recent RPI book launch event at the Elliott School for International Studies at George Washington University (GWU) with commentary by several of the authors on South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan. You can also listen to the event’s audio on the Sigur Center’s website.
Five Important Findings in the Book
The Nuclear Debates in Asia book found several illuminating common features across Asia:
- First, decision making on nuclear issues is still largely centrally controlled in a process dominated by elites in both democratic and authoritarian states.
- Second, this stranglehold on nuclear decision making has at times been confronted by grassroots level movements often focused on a specific nuclear question (e.g. protests against nuclear power plants or reprocessing facilities, anti-nuclear weapon groups) especially as pluralism is on the rise in parts of Southeast Asia, Japan, India, and even China.
- Third, nuclear weapons policy has been remarkably consistent despite tremendous external security challenges (particularly China’s ascendancy) and the rise of so-called “resource nationalism” alongside growing energy demands. Instead, nuclear policy appears to be relatively insulated from the whims of populist Nationalism.
- Fourth, the overall center of gravity in most of the countries studied shows the dominance of a Realist-Globalist coalition.
- Finally, Pakistan remains the outlier in this trend with nuclear debates essentially dominated by elites with Nationalist
The first U.S. presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump had over 80 million people tune in to watch in the United States. Over the last month, tens of millions more around the world followed the three presidential debates (September 26, October 9, and October 19) and the vice presidential debate (October 4). Though most of the debate time was spent with candidates arguing about the other’s scandals, rising powers have been watching to see whether Asia, Eurasia, and South America found their way onto the agenda. Two of our previous Policy Alerts covered how rising powers witnessed the Democratic and Republican conventions. In this Policy Alert, we explore commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the U.S. presidential debates as the November 8 election date approaches.
China found itself as the focus of discussion at several of the debates. For example, China Daily reported the second debate saw Clinton accuse Beijing of orchestrating an “illegal dumping” of cheap steel in the United States and that “Trump is buying it to build things.” Being the center of debate is not a position that many commentators in China appreciated.
- Pushing back against claims by Trump and Clinton that China was manipulating its currency, China Daily ran an entire story quoting a “top U.S. economist” who disagreed with that view.
- Global Times argued Trump’s “particularly arrogant” comments about China has “spread the mentality that the U.S. has suffered losses from its relations with China,” a view that “poses potential threats to global stability.”
- China Daily noted that neither of the vice presidential candidates – Senator Tim Kaine nor Governor Mike Pence – took “radical positions regarding China” when they were governors or congressmen, but they have shifted their views once they joined their respective tickets.
- After the third debate, China Daily’s reporting pushed back on Clinton’s criticisms of women’s rights in China and accusation of dumping cheap steel on the market.
- One light-hearted way some Chinese netizens (an avid internet user) responded to criticisms of their country was by posting joking images of the town hall debate on China’s social media platforms like Weibo making it appear Clinton and Trump were engaged in a musical duet.
The Rising Powers Initiative (RPI) at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies is pleased to offer the RPI Research Database.
RPI is a multi-year, cross-national research effort that examines the role of domestic identities and foreign policy debates of aspiring powers in Asia and Eurasia. As part of our efforts to analyze and compare the foreign policy thinking in today’s rising powers, the Research Database is an edited bibliography of books and articles on targeted subjects that reflect our ongoing research.
Each entry contains an abstract or summary along with further information on how to access the resource. The database is 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.
- South Korea
- Southeast Asia and ASEAN
- Identity and foreign policy
- Energy security, Asian security, and maritime security
- Nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation
- International political economy
- U.S. foreign policy in Asia
The Research Database can be accessed here.
We hope that the 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.
On October 2, voters in Colombia narrowly rejected a negotiated peace deal between the government and rebel forces that would have ended a five decade long conflict. After four years of talks, President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement in late-September to disarm the rebels and integrate them into the political system. The referendum was widely expected to pass, but voters who considered the truce too lenient on FARC surprised everyone and defeated the deal by a margin of 50.21 percent for “No” to 49.78 percent for “Sí.” While leaders promised to return to the negotiating table to work out a new deal, rising powers were left wondering whether violence would break out again. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the breakdown of the peace deal and its future prospects in Colombia.
The Brazilian media shared the widespread disappointment with the outcome of the Colombian vote to ratify the peace agreement between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC revolutionary forces. The media also applauded President Santos’ efforts and the recognition provided by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. This focus included both the sentiments of Brazilian President Michel Temer as well as governments and political leaders around the world.
Much of the media drew attention to the very small winning margin for the “No” vote and the concurrent high voter abstention rate to call into question whether the ballot result was truly representative of the sentiments of a majority of Colombians.
- Globo, the major Rio de Janeiro daily and multimedia news outlet, asked how it was possible a country suffering from a half a century of armed conflict at the cost of more than 200,000 lives could reject negotiated peace agreement? The report emphasized the very close vote totals and, even more importantly, the historically large abstention rate at 63 percent. Globo quoted journalist Ana Cristina Restrepo Jiménez that the Colombian voter was motivated by “fear” and just could not take the next step toward peace.
- Folha de São Paulo also noted the high abstention rate but focused on the arguments of the “No” campaign. The São Paulo daily newspaper quoted the leader of the “No” campaign and former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe saying “our national democracy overcame the government’s efforts to impose a “yes” vote for the peace agreement.”
- The Porto Alegre daily Zero Hora reported on the international repercussions of the failure to ratify the peace agreement. The coverage also included a joint press conference between the presidents of Argentina and Brazil in Buenos Aires where Argentine President Mauricio Macri argued the slim vote margin indicated many Colombians support peace and efforts should be made to find a solution. Temer added that the abstention rate was so high as to encourage further efforts to reach an acceptable peace agreement.
- The weekly Exame conveyed the economic implications of the vote against ratification.
- Brasil de Fato provided detailed coverage of the peace process in Colombia and focused on the FARC’s reaction to the winning “No” vote. This media outlet quoted FARC leader, Timelón Jiménez, who criticized the hatred expressed by the winning voters, but also reaffirmed his organization’s dedication to return to civilian politics.
With the Abe-Putin summit scheduled in December, Japan should focus on solving not only the dispute over the Northern Territories but also the indigenous rights problem regarding the Ainu people, the native inhabitants of these disputed islands.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in December is a bold step to solve the decades-long dispute over the Northern Territories. The dispute over an island chain northeast of Hokkaido dates back to Soviet occupation of the islands at the end of WWII. Due to the dispute, the two countries have not signed a peace treaty to end the war.
As Japan refocuses on the disputed islands, it should also revisit their history, particularly the colonial past of their indigenous inhabitants, the Ainu. The Japanese government has not fully recognized Ainu indigenous rights while still using them for the territorial dispute negotiations. The country should solve not only the Northern Territories Problem but also the Ainu Problem.
The Ainu are the original inhabitants of Hokkaido (previously called Ezo), Sakhalin, Kuril mainland Japan, and the Northern Territories, where by the thirteenth century they had developed their own distinct culture, language, and livelihood. (more…)Continue Reading →