Reviewed by Meredith Oyen (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
Published on H-Diplo (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
The impact of domestic politics on foreign policy is a subject of long-standing interest for both historians of American foreign relations and political scientists concerned with international relations. A new volume edited by Henry R. Nau and Deepa M. Ollapally, Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia, brings together prominent scholars from across the world to explore the domestic dimension of foreign policy in five important countries. The core argument of this book is that domestic debates powerfully affect foreign policy, sometimes exerting as much influence as external factors. The authors consider the implications of the contesting worldviews not only for each country’s foreign policy, but also for U.S. foreign policy responses. Worldviews of Aspiring Powers therefore offers both a model for future studies of domestic debates in other rising or aspiring powers as well as some thoughtful advice for policymakers.
In order to develop a common vocabulary for discussing and analyzing these debates across the countries under study, Nau’s introductory chapter discusses three aspects of foreign policy under debate everywhere: the scope, means, and goals of policy. By analyzing these three aspects across three broad categories of worldviews–national, regional, and global–he sets up a broad framework of twenty-seven possible worldviews, which the authors of the individual chapter then use as a guide to explore the unique variations of the country under their consideration. Nau makes clear from the outset that reality does not fit the generalized model perfectly, and each country under consideration possesses attributes that make it unique. (more…)Continue Reading →
The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met in Durban last week for the 5th BRICS Summit, where the group appeared to make some progress on the idea of a BRICS development bank. In today’s Policy Alert, we examine and contrast Russian and Chinese optimism in BRICS, with the much more cautious and cynical views from India and South Korea.
Commentary in Russia uniformly praised the BRICS countries for establishing a “polycentric system of international relations,” and noted the importance of Russia-China relations within the BRICS framework.
- “BRICS has transformed itself from a political idea into a tangible symbol of a multipolar world,” said Vadim Lukov, the Russian foreign ministry’s special envoy to BRICS. Lukov also highlighted the importance of Russia-China relations within the BRICS. “China’s approach to BRICS is characterized by a deep understanding of the significance of creating a new multi-polar international system. Russia-China cooperation within BRICS is one of the important engines of its development.”
- The absence of consensus on a BRICS development bank, initiated during the previous summit in India, elicited mixed views from Russian experts:
- Leonid Gusev, expert at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), predicted that making progress on the bank is unlikely, noting that the BRICS economies, particularly China and India, are too closely integrated with the American market for significant changes to take place.
- Sergei Katyrin, chairman of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was more optimistic, stating that “while no ultimate decisions have been made on the bank’s quantitative parameters, its authorized capital, its contributors and the volume of contributions…I think this project will eventually take shape.”
Most Indian views on the BRICS were either skeptical that the bloc can have any real impact, or were wary of China dominating a BRICS bank in the future. (more…)Continue Reading →
Gregg Brazinsky, RPI author and Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at GWU recently wrote in the Chicago Tribune:
The North Koreans are at it again. In the past few weeks, their erratic young leader Kim Jong Un, 30, has raised tensions in the Asia Pacific with a string of alarming actions and an almost incessant torrent of threats against the United States and its allies. He has vowed, among other things, to hit American cities with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, to turn Seoul into a sea of fire and to strike newly elected South Korean President Park Geun-hye with a “bolt of lightning.”
Although Kim’s vitriolic attacks are unprecedented in their intensity and sense of urgency, rhetorical bluster does not necessarily correlate with actions when it comes to North Korean foreign policy. The situation is not without its dangers, but Americans don’t need to stock the shelves in their fallout shelters any time soon. There are a few good reasons to think that the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea won’t carry through on their threats: (more…)Continue Reading →
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama visited three Southeast Asian countries in his first foreign trip after being reelected. The Asian media’s attention has focused on Obama’s visit to Burma, and as we point out in this post, the Indians are highlighting Obama’s trip as a continuation of the U.S. pivot, while the Chinese are downplaying its significance. For South Koreans, Burma’s liberalization evoked comparisons with North Korea’s political development.
- An op-ed in the Times of India expressed strong support for the U.S. pivot, listing a series of concrete measures that show the “seriousness of the competition for influence” and the “enduring impact of American democracy’s soft power” in Burma.
- Even The Hindu, generally more skeptical of U.S. power, gave credit to the Obama administration for crafting a Burma policy that is both more strategic and pragmatic than that of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- The Indian Express, in contrast, was much more supportive of Indian foreign policy, arguing that Obama’s visit “vindicates” India’s past policy of gradually promoting change by engaging rather than isolating Burma. In the larger context of this U.S. pivot to Asia, Express columnist C. Raja Mohan noted that “smaller nations of Asia are caught in a bind.” He urged the Indian government to take on more responsibility as a rising power to “mitigate great power tensions and defuse regional conflicts in Asia.”
For months, Asian powers have been closely following the US presidential election campaign. With President Barack Obama now re-elected, this post highlights views from Russia, India, South Korea, Japan and China on what this means for bilateral relations with the United States.
Obama’s victory generated sighs of relief among Russian leadership, despite dissenting opinions among some observers.
- Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, stated, “The Kremlin greets the information about Barack Obama’s election victory very positively. We hope to develop and improve the positive initiatives in bilateral relations between Russia and the US in the interests of internal security and stability on the world stage.”
- Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed open relief that Russia wouldn’t have to deal with Mitt Romney. “I am pleased that the president…will not be someone who considers Russia as enemy number one,” referencing statements made by Romney on the campaign trail.
Despite well-wishes from Russian officials, some analysts and opposition leaders remained skeptical about the level of progress that can be made. US plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the future of the US-Russia “reset” figured prominently in their calculations for the future.
- Fyodor Lykyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, wrote that “The two countries must realize that they will never enjoy linear relations – they will neither be unequivocal foes or genuine allies…a desire to achieve full clarity, in whatever field, undermines all attempts to create a solid foundation for relations, whereas a willingness to be flexible on current issues makes it possible to achieve concrete results.” (more…)
This month, the International Monetary Fund published a report projecting that China’s economy is heading toward a “soft landing.” Although growth is expected to remain around 8% at least this year, the report created a stir. Today’s post summarizes recent Chinese and American commentary on China’s economic prospects.
The main message in the officially-sanctioned press is that China’s economic slowdown is a normal result of ongoing efforts to restructure the Chinese economy and stimulate domestic demand.
- There is “no need to panic about slowdown in China,” ran the headline of a People’s Dailyeditorial, while the more Hard Nationalist Global Times prescribed the following: “China’s economy must create more jobs, boost consumption by increasing individual incomes, and improve social harmony my reducing income disparity.”
- Additional coverage and commentary on China’s economic restructuring cited positive projections by an International Trade Centre director, a Malaysian economist, and an American academic. A report on recently released job figures also emphasized “China’s improving ability to create jobs even in times of economic slowdown.”
UNITED STATESContinue Reading →
Ongoing tensions over territorial disputes in Asia were brought to the foreground last week by several events. ASEAN foreign ministers for the first time failed to agree on a final communiqué at their annual meeting, due to divisions amongst members over how to handle disputes in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, tensions between Japan and China flared up over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. On the sidelines of the forum, South Korea, Japan, and the US met to discuss strengthening mechanisms for national security cooperation amidst stalled progress on the Korean peninsula. Our latest post highlights commentary in China, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea on these developments.
Official Chinese rhetoric at the ASEAN meeting expressed support for formulating a Code of Conduct to address disputes in the South China Sea, while commentary in the state and party-owned newspapers were less accommodating, blaming Vietnam, the Philippines, and more broadly the United States, for the region’s tensions:
- “Public opinion in China is already on the brink of boiling over,” said a Global Times editorial. “Further provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines would mean direct confrontation with China’s angry public.”
- The People’s Daily opined that “US interference in Asia-Pacific may be self defeating,” and that enabling Southeast Asian countries to “side with the US against China” will only entangle the US in South China Sea disputes.
On Sino-Japanese relations, the People’s Daily called the Japanese government’s recent proposal to purchase islands a “farce,” saying that “if it develops unchecked, it will surely result in the issue of the Diaoyu Islands spiraling out of control.”
It was widely reported in the Indian press that Vietnam’s decision to extend an oil exploration contract to an Indian company was a sign that Vietnam wants a continued Indian presence in the South China Sea. General commentary on the ASEAN meeting, however, was relatively sparse. (more…)
At the Third U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue held last Wednesday (June 13) in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Indian Minister of External Affairs Shri S.M. Krishna announced in a joint statement several agreements on strategic cooperation, security, energy, trade, and education. This post examines the key issues that garnered the most attention in the Indian media.
Overall assessments of the high-level bilateral talks took note of India’s usual strategic restraint and desire for autonomy.
- The Times of India contrasted America’s sense of urgency and impatience with India’s much more cautious attitude and slow-moving pace. “New Delhi’s views…are tempered by years of experiencing what is said to be Washington’s whimsical and near-sighted policies.”
- The left-leaning Hindu observed that this Strategic Dialogue “ lacked the energy” of the previous round, with Washington pre-occupied with the upcoming election. On the other hand, The Indian Express faulted Delhi’s coalition government for its weak domestic support and hence inability to deliver on international expectations.
Media coverage focused on two main developments: Washington’s announcement prior to the Strategic Dialogue that it will exempt India from sanctions related to importing oil from Iran, and the U.S.-India decision to begin holding formal trilateral consultations with Afghanistan.
- The Times of India reported that New Delhi “welcomed warmly” the sanctions exemption, whereas the The Indian Express characterized India’s reaction as “cautious.” The Express also published an op-ed by Harsh V. Pant, a U.K.-based academic, who explained that “Iran has now only a marginal role in India-U.S. relations.”
- On Afghanistan, an editorial in the hard-nationalist Pioneer attributed Washington’s “new-found love for India” to the sharp deterioration in U.S.-Pakistan relations. However, commentator Jyoti Malhotra also wrote in the Business Standard that this is a “ great leap forward for the Americans.”
Another issue that garnered much attention in the Indian press but minimal coverage in the U.S. media was India’s ongoing request to gain access to two suspects in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, currently in U.S. custody. The Hindu asked, is India’s request “falling on deaf ears?”Continue Reading →
U.S. and Indian leaders are hosting the third annual session of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in Washington this week. Topics for discussion will include bilateral and regional economic engagement, public health, innovation, regional security and defense, agriculture, and women’s empowerment.
The June 8 edition of India Abroad covers prospects for the U.S.-India strategic partnership, as discussed at the April 16 Rising Powers Initiative Conference on “Power, Identity, and Security in Asia: Views on Regional Cooperation and the U.S. Role”Continue Reading →
Earlier this month, Washington was riveted by the escape of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng to the US Embassy in Beijing and the intense US-China negotiations that ensued. In this Policy Alert, we highlight how the Chinese press has covered and commented on these events, and note some contrasting reactions from India.
Significant coverage and commentary in the officially sanctioned Chinese media portrayed Chen Guangchen in a very different light from Western media accounts.
- In several Global Times op-eds by individuals identified as bloggers and “grassroots intellectuals,” Chen was described as “ vulnerable to manipulation” and an “ unwitting tool” of some Western and domestic forces with “ulterior motives.” These authors also downplayed the extent of Chen’s fame inside China, with some attributing his imprisonment to local village disputes instead of his legal work.
- A commentator with the Chinese edition of the Global Times said that “Chen’s case is only an interlude for China’s development,” and that “it will not undermine social stability…[or] the progress of China’s human rights.“
On China-US relations, the China Daily echoed the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s stance that the US had violated international law and should apologize, but also cast Chen as a “one-man show” who was “just a distraction.”Regarding the concurrent Strategic Dialogue with the US, editorials stressed the problem of strategic mistrust between the two nations:
- “China’s claim that it does not intend to be a superpower will not convince Americans. But similarly China is not buying the US’ pledge of not wanting to contain China,” wrote the Global Times.
- In a similar tone, a senior writer with the China Daily noted that “it is a worrying fact that mutual distrust remains, despite the commitment and dedicated efforts of both leaderships and the bond between our two economies and our two peoples growing increasingly strong.”
Indian coverage of Chen Chuangchen drew mostly from Western news agencies and media organizations such as the New York Times, though there was some domestic commentary:
- Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs, wrote in the Times of India that “A country which spends more on internal surveillance than on its military defence, and which has the largest number of political prisoners in the world has a lot to hide…The saga of Chen Guangcheng is thus not only a prickly issue in the US-China diplomatic relations but also a mirror of the distortions and myths imposed on Chinese society under a long spell of dictatorship.”
- An article in the Hindustan Times drew attention to several other imprisoned dissidents in China, and noted that “as the leadership of the Communist Party of China gears up for a once-in-a-decade change of leadership this autumn, the government seems to be increasingly sensitive towards critical opinion.”