Rising Powers Initiative http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org Rising Powers Initiative- Sigur Center for Asian Studies Thu, 20 Jul 2017 16:47:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 Policy Alert: Rising Powers Welcome French Election Results After Unprecedented Political Tumult http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-rising-powers-welcome-french-election-results-after-unprecedented-political-tumult/ Wed, 10 May 2017 20:16:38 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=19264 MacronThe resounding victory of centrist business friendly Emmanuel Macron over right wing Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections on May 7 was greeted with widespread approval in most rising powers except Russia. Find out more here.

Policy Alert: Trump’s Missile Strike in Syria Continues to Reverberate in Rising Powers http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-trumps-missile-strike-in-syria-continues-to-reverberate-in-rising-powers/ Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:09:26 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=19249 On April 12, 2017, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution which aimed to condemn the reported use ...]]>

On April 12, 2017, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution which aimed to condemn the reported use of chemical weapons in northern Syria on April 4 and to demand that all parties provide speedy access to investigation. How did key rising powers react to the reported use to chemical weapons in Syria and the subsequent US intervention? Find out here.

RPI Director Deepa Ollapally on US bombing of Afghanistan http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/rpi-director-deepa-ollapally-on-us-bombing-of-afghanistan/ Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:17:43 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=19237 US bombing of Afghanistan: Policy shift or just political grandstanding?
Dr. Deepa Ollapally, director of the Rising Powers Initiative ...]]>

US bombing of Afghanistan: Policy shift or just political grandstanding?

Dr. Deepa Ollapally, director of the Rising Powers Initiative and a research professor of international affairs at GWU, argued in an article on Scroll.in  that “it could be a way of sending the message that the Trump administration is taking a ‘tough’ line on terrorism as promised, without making tough policy changes.” Find out more here.

Policy Alert: Key Rising Powers Warily Take Note of the Trump-Xi Summit http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-key-rising-powers-warily-take-note-of-the-trump-xi-summit/ Wed, 12 Apr 2017 01:17:29 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=19063 xresizer.php,qsrc=,hwww.outlookindia.com,_public,_uploads,_gallery,_20170408,_Trump_20170408_600_855.jpg,aw=630.pagespeed.ic.SbPh7SMVjWPresident 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.

Policy Alert: Rising Powers Ponder the Impeachment of South Korean President http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-rising-powers-ponder-the-impeachment-of-south-korean-president/ Thu, 15 Dec 2016 19:07:59 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=18600 park-downOn 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.”

Several liberal and conservative leaning papers called for pro-Park members – who “ruined the party” – to “step down along with President Park.”

President Park’s scandal prompted several newspapers to revisit the Park government’s slow and controversial response to the Sewol ferry tragedy in 2014 that resulted in the death of 304 passengers and crew members.

Some are hopeful that better days for the South Korean democracy are still ahead if political leaders and the public continue to fight for it.

  • Hankyoreh saw the impeachment as signaling a “new dawn” for democracy in the country with the vote “not the final stop in the Choi Sun-sil scandal but rather the first stop toward a new future for the Republic of Korea. This is an opportunity not merely to remove the people who appropriated state resources for themselves but to replace the obsolete systems, conditions, and structures that made such appropriation possible.”
  • The Chosunilbo appealed to the “rule of law” as the guiding force toward “an honorable outcome” as Korea enters “uncharted waters.”
  • The Dong-A Ilbo called on acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn to “remain politically neutral and cooperate with the National Assembly to become a successful acting president.” The paper also urged opposition parties to show him “due respect” during this political transition. The Chosunilbo echoed this position.


While avowing that China has a principle of not interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang hoped South Korea could soon restore stability and develop good relations with China. Beijing has been harshly critical of South Korea’s plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) – an anti-missile system targeting North Korea but one that China believes could disrupt its own nuclear deterrent – and will watch closely to see whether the new ROK leadership will continue the program.

Most of the media and expert commentary in China portrayed the embattled Park as unnecessarily impairing Sino-ROK relations and considered her downfall a direct result of these anti-China policies.

  • After leading “her country astray from the normal path,” Global Times blamed her fall from power on a “reckless and capricious” “180-degree change in foreign policy” with “hysteric criticism of China” and THAAD deployment having “seriously violated China’s national interest.” The paper alleged Park’s moves toward the United States and Japan pushed “South Korea back to the shadows of the Cold War.”
  • Liu Jiangyong, professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, admitted the uncertain political situation in South Korea might have “adverse consequences for China-ROK ties as well as for the Korean Peninsula.” Liu saw Japan moving in to take advantage of this chaotic period to sign a military agreement that may harm Beijing’s interests.
  • A major trilateral summit between China, Japan, and South Korea originally scheduled for this month has now been postponed to 2017. Huang Dahui, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Renmin University of China, lamented this delay and urged South Korea to adopt a “more balanced diplomacy between China and Japan,” especially as President Donald Trump may “change policy toward the Asia-Pacific.”
  • Korean studies expert Zhang Liangui of the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee predicted the THAAD deployment will move ahead since “nobody will stand up to say no” during the leadership transition. Cai Jian, professor of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University, blamed South Korea’s political turmoil on the THAAD deployment.
  • Lu Chao, research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, urged China and South Korea to “remain composed and avoid populist sentiments in economic, cultural, and people-to-people exchanges” at this time. Lu saw THAAD and Park’s efforts to have a “bigger presence of U.S. military forces” as worsening “inter-Korean relations in every aspect.”
  • Zhao Lixin, director of the Department of International Political Science at Yanbian University, questioned if the Trump Administration will redefine the U.S.-ROK alliance with Seoul becoming “humbler while the U.S. tougher.”


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Park have personally made efforts in recent years to build closer ties, including boosting trade and enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism and maritime security. Bilateral trade between India and South Korea has “consistently increased over the past decades” with a target of $40 billion in annual trade.

Indian media debated Park’s legacy.

  • The Hindu concluded Park’s “record in office was far from exemplary” with slower than expected economic growth, poor relations with China, a controversial THAAD deployment, and an inability to calm tensions with North Korea. The paper wanted Park to have resigned to spare the country from months of political uncertainty as the Constitutional Court issues a final decision.
  • In the days leading up to the impeachment, The Hindu criticized Seoul’s strategy of “picking winners” among competing industrial groups after allegations of extortion and corruption emerged during Park’s political scandal.


While Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted Tokyo “has not been affected so far” by the impeachment vote, a senior foreign ministry official admitted turmoil in South Korea and a possible inward-looking President Trump benefits Russia, North Korea, and China at the expense of Japan.

Many papers in Japan recognized that a prolonged turmoil is inevitable for the ROK. Most of the apprehensions seem to be about the impending power vacuum and the opposition parties’ stance on South Korea’s relationship with its neighbors, including Japan.

  • As of early December, The Japan News said “it is worrying that the opposition parties seeking to win back power harbor reconciliatory tendencies toward North Korea.”
  • Following the Parliament’s approval to impeach President Park, The Japan News also expressed concern over the South Korean opposition parties’ stance on South Korea’s relationship with its neighbor. “It is necessary to closely watch whether South Korean opposition parties will inflame national sentiment by taking advantage of issues related to the perception of history to change Japan-South Korea relations for the worse,” the paper said.
  • Nikkei Asian Review proclaimed that Park’s impeachment left “Japan fretting over power balance” in Asia working in favor of China and North Korea.
  • Asahi Shimbun opined “the country’s lawmakers need to use the challenging process of dealing with the current political confusion to push through serious political reform.”
  • Mainichi worried about the looming leadership vacuum and urged South Korea to not allow a lengthy leadership vacuum during the Court’s deliberation period since “South Korea will face difficulties building up good relations with the next U.S. administration” and other important regional security issues. The paper moaned that “uncertainty in South Korea’s political situation has discouraged companies from investing in the country.”
  • Asahi Shimbun also argued President Park “effectively destroyed herself with her utter ineptitude at responding to the crisis of her own making.” Furthermore, the paper thought the political turmoil surrounding President Park seriously undermined the South Korean people’s trust in politics.
Policy Alert: Rising Powers Reflect on the Passing of Fidel Castro http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-rising-powers-reflect-on-the-passing-of-fidel-castro/ Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:46:56 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=18495 castro-deathOn 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.


Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer released a public statement regarding Fidel Castro’s death, calling the Cuban a “leader of conviction, who marked the second half of the 20th century with a firm defense of his beliefs.” It appears that the Brazilian president has no plans of attending the funeral services for Fidel.

Brazilian news sources focused particularly on the global repercussions of Fidel’s death, what should be expected or not from the regime after his death, Cuban reaction on both the island and in Miami, and analyses of the historical impact of Fidel and his revolution.

  • Estadão published a piece that analyzes the many changes undergone by Cuba during the past five decades after the revolution. The article extensively covers the differences between Fidel’s and Raúl’s governance and reforms, such as the rise in autonomous workers and expansive tourism. Nonetheless, Estadão questions the future of U.S.-Cuba relations after the election of Donald J. Trump in the United States.
  • Folha de São Paulo covered the diplomatic issues and critiques behind sending representatives from different countries to attend Fidel’s funeral services in Cuba. The source reported Michel Temer, following the lead of German president Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, will send Minister of Foreign Affairs José Serra and Minister of Culture Roberto Freire to attend the services as his representatives.
  • G1- Globo reported former Brazilian president Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva’s heartfelt condolences to Fidel. With a history of camaraderie, Lula declared Fidel’s death felt “like losing an older brother, an irreplaceable companion, who I will never forget.” Former President Dilma Rousseff also said Fidel “believed in building a fraternal and just society, free from hunger and exploitation, a Latin America united and strong.”
  • Jornal O Globo reported on the emotional reactions to the news Fidel Castro’s death both in Cuba and in Miami. While O Globo reported an overwhelming sensation of celebration and joy in Miami, the mood in Havana was much more somber and mournful amongst those who lost their commander.
  • Huffpost Brasil ran an op-ed by historian and Latin America expert Roberto Moll where he questions whether Castro is a hero or a villain. Moll affirms, with certainty and hope, that Cubans should take this opportunity to continue to trace their country’s path while “conserving the conquests of the revolution.”


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to extend his “deepest condolences” on the “sad demise of Fidel Castro,” and “India mourns the loss of a great friend.” This sentiment was echoed by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee. Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other Indian politicians will attend Castro’s funeral in Cuba.

Several media outlets and experts in India praised Castro for his prominent role in history and his closeness to Indian leaders.

  • Vijay Prashad, chief editor of LeftWord Books, wrote in The Hindu that Castro was a “voice of the Third World” that fought against the Non-Aligned Movement’s (NAM) eagerness in early-1980s to take on greater debt offered by the International Monetary Fund and instead pushed a NAM “debt strike.” While his idea wasn’t followed, Prashad celebrated Castro’s resistance to imperialism and his support of aspirations in the developing world.
  • Sundheendra Kulkarni, aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, described Castro as a “superhero” who exerted his heroic influence on a global scale despite his “reluctance to introduce economic and political reforms.”
  • Kallol Bhattacherjee, journalist with The Hindu, recounted how Fidel Castro saved India “from a major international embarrassment” when he convinced Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to stay at a NAM summit hosted by New Delhi. The author said Castro was a friend to Indian leaders – including Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru – because they shared “common view points on world affairs.”

Other commentators expressed a more mixed reaction to Castro’s passing, noting his accomplishments and charisma but hoping Cuba and the United States will now move past Fidel’s major failings.

  • After highlighting Castro’s influential role in NAM, The Hindu hoped President-elect Donald Trump will pursue President Barack Obama’s “process of resumption of diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington.
  • The Times of India compelled Cuba to “leave behind the shackles of the past and integrate faster with the global order.”
  • The Indian Express contended Castro’s “record in suppressing dissent and free speech, discrimination against sexual minorities, was no different from that of many Third World despots,” but the Cuban people trusted him as their quality of life generally improved.
  • Castro’s death evoked “mixed feelings” in India, wrote the Hindustan Times. His “Third World Robin Hood” image endeared him to many “Indians of a certain age,” but the paper recalled his legacy of “inflicting the worst ideas of Communism, from collective farming to suppression of thought, on his free-spirited people.”
  • Portraying Castro as a polarizing figure who stood strong against the U.S. “Goliath”, Economic Times predicted the Cuban revolution will now “disintegrate, with the pace accelerating when Raúl resigns in 2018. However, Cuba will make “Castro proud” since the country is “better prepared than most nations for broad-based capitalist growth” due to its high quality healthcare and education programs.


For decades, Fidel Castro was Moscow’s communist ally in the United States’ backyard and a symbol of defiance to U.S. influence abroad. The news of his death saddened many in Russia, leading many to pile flowers outside the Cuban ambassador’s residence in Moscow. Putin praised Castro as a “wise and strong person” who was a “symbol of a whole era of modern world history” and a “sincere and reliable friend of Russia.” He declared a “free and independent Cuba built by him and his colleagues became an influential member of the international community and has served as an inspiring example for many countries and peoples.”

Russian newspapers and establishment politicians in general had a positive and glowing view of Castro’s legacy with most repeatedly citing Castro’s as a “hero holding out against the U.S. empire.”

  • A columnist at Pravda remarked “Castro will enter the annals of history as a Hero of Humanity.”
  • Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev thought Castro “stood up for and strengthened his country at the time of the toughest American blockade” and “all the same he led his county” onto the “road of independent development.”
  • John Wright, commentator with RT, wrote that “though his detractors may celebrate his death, truth will always prevail. And the truth, when it comes to Fidel Castro, is that he led and inspired a revolution that today ensures the only place you will find homeless Cuban children in the world is Miami.”
  • RT ran a collection of analysts from around the globe warning “those dancing on Fidel’s grave” and hoping for Cuba to become a Western style democracy “may soon be disappointed.”
  • Alexei Pushkov, former head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, said “Castro has proven that you can spend 55 years being a target of pressure and economic war from the USA and stand up to it. And now the head of the USA is going to Havana, and not the other way round.”

Some media outlets and opposition politicians pushed back on this praise for Castro.

  • Contrary to the opinion held by the establishment politicians, opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Castro’s legacy was one of “POVERTY, RUIN, EMBEZZLEMENT.” Fellow opposition leader Vladimir Milov compared the GDP per capita of Cuba ($7,000 USD) and the Puerto Rico ($29,000 USD) to declare “they started off from the same level. So much for your Castro.”
  • Kommersant promised Castro would be remembered as a “divisive figure” with people debating whether “Castro became ‘a bloody dictator’ or ‘a great fighter against American imperialism’ – just as they now argue about Joseph Stalin or Ivan the Terrible.”
  • Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov declared that “Castro ruined his own country, he brought down a once-rich region to the state of the poorest African nations. Medicines and foodstuffs are still in short supply here.” Varlamov remarked “people are working for peanuts and the only joy is to steal something.”


Abe expressed his “sincere condolences” to Cuba on the passing of Fidel Castro. Abe was “impressed to hear Castro talk about world affairs passionately.” When Castro visited Hiroshima in 2003, he commented on his country’s experience during the Cuban Missile Crisis and how close Cuba came to being nuclear bomb victims as well.

Japanese media and political leaders reflected on Castro’s life and his affinity for Japan.

  • Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida promised to continue to deepen Cuban-Japanese bilateral ties even after Castro’s death.
  • Keiji Furuya, chief strategist within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, remarked on Castro’s interest in pursuing closer ties with Japan. Keiji will attend Castro’s funeral in Cuba as an envoy of Abe.
  • In the Asahi Shimbun, Castro was remembered as a “charismatic leader, who left a mark in world history” for resolutely resisting American “colonialism,” and for promoting “development of farming villages and industrialization,” but also for “mercilessly executing opponents as dictator.”
  • Although recognizing his mixed legacy, Japan Timesspoke sympathetically of Castro. The paper recounted how “Castro visited the U.S. in the months after the revolution, but President Dwight Eisenhower refused to meet him. Nationalization followed, which prompted U.S. oil companies to place an embargo on Cuba, driving the country into the armed of the Soviet Union…” Thus, the author wondered whether Castro’s role in turning Cuba into a communist dictatorship was fated.
  • An article inThe Japan News fondly commemorated Castro for his denouncement of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The author recalled Castro “criticized a speech U.S. President Barack Obama delivered when he visited Hiroshima in May, saying that the speech lacked an apology for killing a number of people with the atomic bomb.”


The Foreign Ministry offered the government’s sympathies to Cuba after Castro’s death despite the two countries not having official diplomatic ties. This may change in the coming years with South Korea looking to normalize relations after Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s historic visit to Cuba this past summer. In contrast, Pyongyang plans to send a delegation to express their condolences in person, in addition to a three-day mourning period within North Korea and flags flown at half-mast.

While the South Korean newspapers recognized Castro’s mixed legacy, their primary focus was juxtaposition between him and the Kim family in North Korea, which led them to view Castro in a positive light.

  • Dong-A Ilboeditorial writer Song Pyeong-in compared the legacy of Castro to that of Kim Il Sung of North Korea and remarked that “both people were dictators, but while Kim maintained his regime with an awe-inspiring sentiment, Castro did so with friendliness.” It noted that unlike Kim, Castro did not set up statues of himself nor did he stop people complaining about his regime from leaving the country, which made Cuba less fearful than North Korea.”
  • Dong-A Ilbo editorial writer Han Ki-heung further pointed out that “neither did Castro pass down his power to his son and grandson, nor did he force his people to worship him like Kim Il Sung.”
RPI Director Deepa Ollapally on President-Elect Trump: “Make in India and Make in America Destined to Collide” http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/rpi-director-deepa-ollapally-on-president-elect-trump-make-in-india-and-make-in-america-destined-to-collide/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 17:26:01 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=18458 Dr. Deepa Ollapally, director of the Rising Powers Initiative and a research professor of international affairs at GWU, was ...]]> dmo-quote

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.”

On other foreign policy matters, Dr. Ollapally argued: “India and the U.S. are probably not going to seS eye to eye on strategic policy in Asia either. Worried about China’s growing influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, New Delhi has been inching toward an unprecedented alignment, if not alliance, with Washington in the wake of the U.S. ‘pivot’ or rebalance. Trump’s, however, is no believer in this strategy crafted by Secretary Hillary Clinton and instead wants Asian allies and strategic partners to pay more and do more on defense and security while the U.S. takes on China more forcefully in economic relations.”

Finally, although Trump’s “promise to reduce taxes on corporate profits and capital gains might actually be helpful to the tech sector populated by many people of Indian origin,” Ollapally concluded: “As an Indian-American,, the most troubling part of Trum’s victory personally is the racist anti-immigration and anti-minority rhetoric that was part of his electioneering. Having riled up his supporters with racism and xenophobia and the idea that foreigners are stealing American jobs in places like India, China, and Mexico, I am worried this resentment might manifest itself in dangerous ways.”

“We will just have to wait and see what’s really in store for India from the new dispensation in Washington,” Ollapally declared.

You can read the full story by clicking here.

Policy Alert: Rising Powers React to President-Elect Donald J. Trump http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-rising-powers-react-to-president-elect-donald-j-trump/ Thu, 10 Nov 2016 18:12:18 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=18407 trump-winDonald 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 Kremlin was ecstatic over Trump’s victory. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to personally congratulate Trump and pledged Russia would “fully restore relations” with the United States “from its deep crisis under the Obama administration.” When the State Duma was told of Trump’s victory, it “broke into applause” with a celebration complete with champagne, sweets, and sausages.

  • In spite of the Kremlin’s excitement, there is concern over Trump’s foreign policy positions precisely because they are not fully fleshed out. Moscow Times’ Vladimir Frolov supposed “Trump’s impulsiveness and unpredictability, particularly his penchant for going personal, unnerve the Kremlin,” as “having an equally unpredictable partner in Washington may actually limit Moscow’s freedom of maneuver.”
  • On the other hand, Frolov said Trump will lead to an economic “full-blown crisis,” and with the United States “occupied with its own issues,” Washington “will not bother Putin.” He saw a geopolitical “window of opportunity” for Russia to regain control over the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. “What is there not to like?” he asked.
  • Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev hoped that with close ties between Trump and Putin, “the Russian-American relationship could get significantly better.”
  • Mikhail Fishman, Moscow Times’ editor-in-chief, expressed concern over the effect of Trump’s victory on Kremlin. Although “there was a fresh sense in the air that the [Russian] regime might start loosening its grip,” he urged that the unpredictability and messiness that the Trump presidency brings would make “taking advantage of the disorder looks much more rational as a strategy.”
  • RT op-eds drew a parallel between Trump’s victory and the U.K.’s Brexit vote as they both sent “an unmistakable message to the elite that [the people] are tired of business as usual.”


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded Trump on Twitter with a message saying “we appreciate the friendship you have articulated toward India in your campaign.”

Many commentators in India worried about the prospects of Trump’s surprise win.

  • The Times of India saw “opportunities and dangers for India” in President Trump. Closer U.S.-Russia ties would benefit Indian interests and a U.S. split with Pakistan could pressure Islamabad on its support for terror. However, Trump-style protectionism “could unleash trade wars and pile up unstainable debt,” hurting the U.S. and Indian economies.
  • Srinivasan Ramani, deputy national editor at The Hindu, wanted the U.S. election to “make American normal again,” but he was left disappointed.
  • Hindustan Times said Trump’s victory was evidence of an “inward looking America” and one more internally divided over the next several years.
  • Business Standard saw Trump’s win as adding greater uncertainty to the global order.

Others tried to explain the election results and show that fears about the Trump White House are overblown.

  • The Hindu explained the “Trumpocalypse” saw voters “throw a metaphorical grenade” at the country’s political and financial elites. Comparing the election to Brexit, the paper hoped Trump’s “conciliatory” victory speech could help heal the nation and continue the U.S. tradition of lending “strength to the global order.”
  • Economic Times urged its readers to “beware, don’t fear, President Trump” because no one has any “reliable” guide to what he will actually do in office. The paper welcomed the constraints that would be placed on the Trump administration, including a Republican Congress that favors U.S. engagement in the world.
  • Sanjaya Baru, director for Geo-Economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, mocked U.S. political commentators who showed an ignorance of the “yawning gap between ivory tower analysts and grass roots politicians.”


Brazilian President Michel Temer assured nothing has changed for U.S.-Brazilian relations: “when one assumes power, they must govern for all the people.” He said he intends to work with President-elect Trump to achieve the best relations possible. Brazilian media outlets quickly responded to the surprising results of the United States elections with many of the reports focusing on the immediate impacts upon the financial markets and the longer term prospects for the U.S. economy and trade policy overall.

  • Folha de São Paulo ran a detailed article of Donald Trump’s surprising victory and characterized his rise as improbable and a challenge to both the conventional wisdom and the political class in Washington.
  • Folha de São Paulo also noted a majority of economists conclude Trump’s stated intentions of cutting taxes and imposing strict immigration rules could throw the country into recession. The story asserted Trump could complicate international affairs given his derogatory comments against Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans among other nationalities.
  • The financial periodical Valor Econômico reported an immediate drop in value for the São Paulo stock exchange. Several Brazilian financial market analysts claimed it will take a while to understand how Trump’s campaign statements might translate into concrete action and policy. These analysts, including Julio Zamora of Citi, forecast a 5 to 10 percent drop in stock values throughout Latin American markets, but others argued Trump will be favorable to business and stimulate greater interest over time in buying stocks than selling them.
  • Lucianne Carneiro of O Globo thought Trump’s isolationist tendencies foretold the United States entering into a more ‘protectionist’ trade policy and the decline of free trade globalization. The article quoted Mark Langevin, director of the Brazil Initiative and research professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, who reminded readers the U.S. presidency is less powerful than its Brazilian’s counterpart, and that the next president will need to negotiate with Congress to approve of any big changes in fiscal or trade policy.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conveyed his “heartfelt congratulation” to Trump “as a very successful businessman with extraordinary talents.” Furthermore, he predicted “America will be made even greater” under Trump’s “strong” leadership even after Trump’s statements on the campaign indicated a willingness to pull back U.S. military support for Japan without economic concessions. Abe underscored that peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region is “a driving force of the global economy” and security for the United States. The two leaders are expected to meet while Abe is in New York next week.

There was overwhelming concern and uncertainty expressed in Japanese newspapers with headlines like “Trump’s White House Victory Sends Shock Through World” in The Japan Times and “Global Concern Over Trump’s victory” in The Mainichi. The apprehension was not just for Japan and the international arena but the possibility of a surge of exclusion and discrimination against minorities in Trump’s America.

  • Takeshi Yamawaki, U.S. bureau chief of The Asahi Shimbun, saw Trump’s victory as an indication the United States “has become disengaged and inward-looking in an unprecedented way.”
  • The Asahi Shimbun stated “Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election amounts to a huge political earthquake that will shake the postwar world order to its core.” The paper hoped Trump will learn quickly what role the America should play and how cooperation with allies serves the interests of the United States and the world as a whole.
  • The Japan Times questioned what Trump’s vague promises to “make America great again” and of “winning” mean in terms of policy implications and concluded “the Trump victory means that U.S. politics and policies have entered vast and uncharted waters.”
  • As news of Trump’s victory was reported, the Nikkei Stock Average plunged and the appreciation of the yen against the dollar progressed. Japan’s finance ministry and central bank held an emergency meeting Wednesday after wild trading in Japan’s stock market and currency unleashed by the U.S. election.
  • “The question is whether you will continue to be involved in international affairs as a dependable ally to your friends and allies,” argued Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat and professor at Ritsumeikan University. “If you stop doing that, then all the European, Middle Eastern and Asian allies to the United States will reconsider how they secure themselves.”


In a phone conversation with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Trump pledged to maintain Washington’s “firm, strong” security commitment to Seoul. Despite moments during the campaign where Trump questioned the cost of the U.S. alliance with South Korea, Park expected they “can strengthen and develop the alliance down the road for the shared interest in various areas,” including on North Korea which she urged was “the greatest threat” facing the two nations.

Trump’s victory was described as a “dark event” by many in the South Korean press. Like the Japanese papers, South Korean papers also highlighted uncertainty. And Korea’s business community appeared as shocked by the news of Donald Trump’s victory as everyone else.

ASIA REPORT: Uncovering Nuclear Thinking in Asia http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/asia-report-uncovering-nuclear-thinking-in-asia/ Tue, 08 Nov 2016 16:33:21 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=18361 nuclear-logoThe 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

Book Overview

The book is the product of a two year RPI study (2012-2014) that explored the trajectory of nuclear energy, security, and nonproliferation in several key countries in Asia: China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other states in ASEAN. Arguing against conventional wisdom, the project made the case that rather than simply viewing nuclear debates through the lens of state-level, structural drivers, that the domestic variable is a powerful factor in shaping nuclear decision making.

Deepa Ollapally, Research Professor of International Affairs and one of the project’s Principal Investigators, presented the book’s overarching framework of looking at various schools of thought within these domestic nuclear debates: Nuclear Realists, Nuclear Nationalists, and Nuclear Globalists. Realists stress the importance of self-strengthening and self-reliance but are relatively open to forming alliances with other states, especially great and rising powers. In pursuing strength, Realists value tangible military and/or economic assets. Still, they prefer to use this power prudently and worry about overstretching their capabilities. They are therefore willing to exercise self-restraint or be restrained by others if it serves national interests.

Nationalists see the world as hostile and strive for policies, postures, and capabilities similar to Realists. The key difference, however, is Nationalists emphasize these assets as not just a means to achieve national goals but as an end itself. As a result, they view the rise of their nation or attaining nuclear capability as a matter of national pride and sometimes a moral obligation. They are firmly skeptical of international alliances and international regimes that might restrain their options on nuclear matters.

In contrast to the other groups, Globalists tend to favor international political and economic integration over military solutions as means to resolve security and political disputes. They are sensitive to how their country is viewed around the world and many prefer to work with nations that espouse democratic values. They are supportive of international regimes such as the nonproliferation treaty and multilateral nuclear energy cooperation mechanisms.

These schools are thought are not absolute demarcations; individuals may subscribe to one viewpoint on a nuclear energy but hold another on nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, they are useful characterizations to gauge the center of gravity within a country on nuclear debates and assess the future direction of countries in Asia on these issues. With this overview, authors delve into individual cases, focusing here on China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.


After surveying Chinese debates on nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, arms control, nonproliferation, and nuclear security, the chapter on China by Hui Zhang, Senior Research Associate within the Belfer Center at Harvard University, demonstrates the supremacy of Realist and Globalist views on these issues. Robert Sutter, Professor of Practice of International Affairs at GWU, offered his thoughts on the chapter at the book launch.

Conventional wisdom proposes that China’s efforts to modernize its nuclear weapon arsenal and make it more reliable and effective are proof of a more aggressive threat. Zhang, however, pushed back on this interpretation and asserted the modernization push is driven by a Realist preference to maintain a “minimum nuclear deterrent,” a No First Use pledge, and other restraints on China’s nuclear options in order to prevent a costly nuclear arms race with the United States and other nuclear powers. Gains in nuclear weapon capabilities, Realists argue, could be used by Beijing as leverage in future arms control talks with Moscow and Washington. Furthermore, the Globalist school’s contention that China needs to maintain a positive international image on nonproliferation matters as a means to reach its wider economic and development goals appears to be holding strong within the country’s governing elite.

China’s massive push for more domestic nuclear energy aims to: (1) address the country’s air pollution crisis; (2) mitigate climate change and meet international emission reduction targets; and (3) enhance national energy security. Realists in China see nuclear energy as a means to protect the current Chinese growth and development model by offering a solution to the public’s anxieties about air quality and to provide sufficient energy outputs to continue expanding the economy. Globalists favor nuclear power to improve China’s image on the international stage as a prime contributor to climate change solutions. Nationalists promote nuclear power for reasons of self-sufficiency on energy, but that view is overshadowed by Realist and Globalist arguments. These nuclear energy debates are largely controlled by elites in China, but after the nuclear power plant accident at Japan’s Fukushima prefecture in March 2011, local protests against several nuclear energy plants and related projects indicate that this grip has somewhat weakened. Despite an ever more challenging security and energy situation for China, Zhang still foresaw a remarkable consistency in the country’s nuclear policies.


The chapter on Japan by Mike Mochizuki, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at GWU and the project’s co-Principal Investigator, cuts against the prevailing discourse claiming Japanese security anxieties toward threats from China and North Korea will push Tokyo in favor of developing nuclear weapons or at least encourage Japan to hedge on this choice. By maintaining a large stockpile of separated plutonium from its nuclear power industry, this perspective contends, Japan’s leaders leverage their ability to quickly build a nuclear arsenal to deter its rivals and keep the United States close. While there is some truth to these positions, Mochizuki believes they are quite exaggerated.

The threshold for Japan to make a decision in favor of obtaining its own nuclear weapons is extremely high. Even the threat of a growing nuclear armed North Korea, a rapidly modernized Chinese military, and the possibility of a Donald Trump Administration is not enough for Pro-Nuclear Nationalists to overcome the Japanese public’s strong anti-nuclear bias and the country’s pacifist constitution. After Fukushima, the center of gravity within Japan on nuclear debates shifted toward a coalition of Nuclear Realists and Anti-Nuclear Activists. The Pro-Nuclear Nationalist voice may be loud, but it is very much in the minority.

Mochizuki saw a fundamental bargain develop in 1950s Japan between nuclear energy proponents and anti-nuclear weapon activists: nuclear energy can be a national policy priority only under robust nonproliferation constraints. This norm or allergy against nuclear weapons is resilient and further strengthened by an increasingly popular Globalist position of Nuclear Double Zero: no nuclear weapons and no nuclear energy. The author doubts Japan’s recently restarted nuclear energy plants will ever return to a level of output that once supplied over 30 percent of the country’s electricity or its pre-Fukushima ambition of nearly 70 percent by 2030; a more realistic target is closer to 10 to 15 percent. In recent weeks, Japan has even started to walk away from prior massive investments in reprocessing and fast breeder nuclear reactors. On the other hand, Japan and its U.S. partners are still deeply interested in exporting Japanese nuclear energy technology abroad where Japan is less constrained in its activities than at home.

On the military side, Mochizuki expects the public’s anti-nuclear sentiment to continue reinforcing Japan’s commitment to non-nuclear principles. To address the security challenges posed by North Korea and China, security Realists will focus their attention on upgrading conventional defense capabilities and tightening the alliance with the United States, rather than seriously considering a nuclear weapons option.

South Korea

The chapter on the Republic of Korea (ROK) by Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea studies and Director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, identifies three categories of nuclear debates in the country: (1) the drive for energy self-reliance through nuclear power; (2) whether South Korea should rely on nuclear weapons – their own or the U.S. stockpile – to deter North Korea; and (3) the balance between nonproliferation objectives and spent nuclear fuel management. Snyder observes that each of these debates were shaped over past decades by changes in the U.S.-ROK alliance, the country’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy, and the evolution of ROK technical capabilities.

There is a dominant Realist-Globalist coalition in South Korea today, but it was not always the case. In the 1970s, Seoul had a secret nuclear weapons program advanced by Nationalists unsure of the U.S commitment to South Korea after the Nixon Doctrine, U.S. military escalation in Vietnam, and an ever provocative North Korea. It took an ultimatum by Washington and a promise to reengage the Peninsula for South Korea to abandon these ambitions or else risk a divorce from its Western allies.

As South Korea moved toward a more democratic government, Globalists furthered an export driven economic plan that included the transfer of ROK civilian nuclear power reactor technology abroad. This has resulted in a rift between the U.S. nonproliferation agenda and Korean scientists and politicians who want the freedom to engage in some form of plutonium reprocessing to manage the country’s radioactive waste storage challenge and remain competitive in the global nuclear energy marketplace. The United States insists South Korea’s particular approach to reprocessing – called pyroprocessing – still poses a proliferation risk since this type of technology has applications in producing fuel for both nuclear reactors and nuclear warheads. Globalists have thus far won the argument that collaboration with Washington on nuclear energy and protecting South Korea’s image as a nonproliferation supporter outweighs the benefits of more flexibility. These compromises have allowed the latest and long negotiated U.S.-ROK civilian nuclear cooperation agreement to move forward last year.

North Korean military provocations, especially the second nuclear test in 2009, have tested the Realist-Globalist coalition and South Korea’s non-nuclear weapon status. Frustration with inconsistent U.S. policy on North Korea and a perception that China refuses to reign in its partners in Pyongyang create conditions in Seoul that could see a new Nationalist push toward an indigenous nuclear arsenal. For the time being, however, this viewpoint is in the minority, though Realists express versions of it by advocating for the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.


In the 1960s and 1970s, Taiwanese elites attempted on two occasions to pursue a nuclear weapons program. These days, Robert Sutter proclaims in a chapter on Taiwan that this line of thinking is mostly discarded. Taiwan’s support for nonproliferation norms and safeguards against the spread of nuclear weapons is strong. The island has instead been intensely deliberating on whether to keep or expand the number of nuclear power plants in the country with the debate centered on reactor safety and energy demands. These debates were heated during the recent national elections with the now ruling Democratic Progressive Party campaigning against the pro-nuclear power position supported by the Kuomintang (KMT).

After the January 2016 presidential election, however, the intensity of the nuclear energy debate diminished with the country moving on to other pressing issues. Sutter argues the United States can rest assured that Taiwan will not resume nuclear weapon ambitions nor backtrack on commitments to being an ideal model for nonproliferation. Still, due to Taipei’s turbulent political dynamics, Washington should not expect a stable and consistent position on nuclear power within Taiwan even as the country aims to be nuclear free by 2025.

Conclusions for U.S. Foreign Policy

The United States has played an important role in shaping the discourse and policies on these nuclear debates in all the Asian countries reviewed by the book. By reaffirming its regional security commitments, Washington has prevented pro-nuclear Nationalist discourse from gaining a foothold in allied states like Japan and South Korea. Moreover, the U.S. ability to regulate access to nuclear technologies has compelled states like South Korea and Taiwan to abandon clandestine nuclear weapon programs or encourage nations like India and Vietnam to accept constraints.

In terms of nuclear energy, the U.S. government and nuclear industry has supported the expansion of civilian nuclear energy programs in Asia and has helped impede the Japanese movement to abandon nuclear power altogether. The United States has an interest in strengthening nuclear safety and nonproliferation throughout Asia and can advance this agenda by moving from an Asian nuclear network dominated by the United States through bilateral relationships to a more multilateral structure that promotes cooperation among Asian countries as well as between Washington and individual Asian capitals.

By Timothy Westmyer, Research and Program Associate, Rising Powers Initiative, Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University

POLICY ALERT: U.S. Presidential Debates through the Eyes of Rising Powers http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/policy-alert-u-s-presidential-debates-through-the-eyes-of-rising-powers/ Thu, 20 Oct 2016 20:29:19 +0000 http://www.risingpowersinitiative.org/?p=18274 The first U.S. presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump had over 80 million people tune ...]]>

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 Chinese government tried to block access to online streams of the U.S. presidential debates. As a result, commentary in China mostly came from the official press, which addressed the issues (or lack thereof) discussed at the events, how the debates reflect poorly on American style democracy, and the future of U.S. politics after the election.

  • After the first debate, Xinhua reported neither candidate did enough to convince undecided U.S. voters to move into their camp. In China, however, views on the candidates appear to have shifted by some measures. Last May, an online survey by Global Times reported 83 percent of Chinese respondents thought Trump would win the election. However, after the first debate, a poll on Weibo said Clinton won the debate by a score of 48 percent to 29 percent. In fact, Global Times was censured by the Chinese government for its editorializing on Trump.
  • Zhang Guoxi, Ph.D. candidate at Beijing Foreign Studies University, characterized the first debate as an “international spectacle” and a “spectator sport” highlighting the “troubling state of U.S. politics” divided against itself.
  • Zhang Zhixin of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said the Trump’s campaign and his debate approach has “irreversibly damaged U.S. democracy” but also “highlighted the inconvenient truth” of discrimination, bias, and economic disparities in the United States. This view was seconded by Charhar Institute researcher Zhao Minghao.
  • The People’s Daily declared the personal attacks at the debates and other election chaos “exposes [a] flawed political system” and that it was time for America to “take a close, honest look at its arrogant democracy.” Global Times and Guancha.cn agreed.
  • Global Times wrote the “ugly unity” of the U.S. media’s debate coverage went overly negative against Trump. The paper felt China is treated just as unfairly by a U.S. press who ignores China’s progress on human rights.
  • Following the second debate, Xinhua’s commentary centered on the “bad blood” between the debaters. Shenzhen News said that divided “Americans are still torn” on who won the town hall. Beijing News said the debates have “left many Americans with a grim outlook on the future of their country.”
  • Chinese social media was enamored of the final debate moderatorFox News’ Chris Wallace, for being the son of Mike Wallace, a “tough interrogator” famous for conducting popular interviews with then Chinese president Jiang Zemin in the early 2000s.
  • Ed Zhang, editor-at-large at China Daily, worried that the only thing the candidates seem to agree on is to “backpedal” on free trade, a “setback for globalization” that will hurt Chinese citizens.
  • Trump is winning the “massive endorsement from the middle and lower classes” while facing resistance from the elites, remarked Global Times. Whatever the result on November 8, the paper foresaw the “rebellion” from his supporters “against the elites will not die down.”


In the lead up to the first debate, Deepalakshmi K. compiled for The Hindu collection of the biggest moments in past U.S. presidential debates broadcasted on television and their importance in elections. When the first debate was over, commentators in India had a lot to say.

  • Ashok Malik, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, set the stage for the first debate with a discussion on why “Trump voters are unwilling to trade with Asia [and India], but willing to go to war to defend it.” The answer: “the impulses of the Republican/Trump backer identify the same villain – China.”
  • The Hindu felt that while the first debate “lived up to the hype,” Trump’s very presence on the debate stage “hints at continuing nationwide disenchantment over political dysfunction in Washington.”
  • The Hindu journalist Varghese K. George thought Trump’s emphasis in the debates on the need to fight “radical Islam” align him closely with the Indian government’s recent “surgical strikes” against terrorist groups in Pakistan.
  • Hindustan Times said the exchange between the candidates “revealed that only one, Hillary Clinton, is genuinely presidential” with her showing a strong grasp of policy details and an “embarrassing” lead over Trump on foreign policy matters.

The VP debate was held on October 4, but most of the commentary in India centered on the second and third Clinton-Trump debates.


There is deep tension between Washington and Moscow after their disagreements over Syria and Ukraine and after the White House accused Russia of trying to influence American election through the hacking of Clinton campaign emails and the Democratic National Committee. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Clinton and the White House of using “scaremongering” to manipulate the American electorate. According to Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, although the Kremlin does not watch the race “with bated breath,” it remains attentive to the candidates’ statements.

Trump’s admiration for Putin did not go unnoticed by the Russian press. Overall, there seemed to be a more pro-Trump sentiment in the Russian newspapers.

  • According to Nikolai Shevchenko of Russia Beyond the Headlines, “overall, Russian media downplayed the candidates’ rare references to Russia during the debate, with only few publications highlighting Clinton’s ‘confrontational’ attitude to Moscow.”
  • Shevchenko also reported that while some media organizations questioned the objectivity of the CNN poll naming Clinton the winner of the first debate, “most Russian mass media outlets concluded” she beat her Republican opponent.
  • A report in Sputnik stated “the pro-Clinton media sources have even gone so far as to dub Trump and Putin ‘soul-mates.'” It continued that Clinton is “playing the Russia card to win the hearts and minds of American voters and demonize her opponent.”
  • Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russian ultra-nationalist ally of President Vladimir Putin, said “Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump. But if they vote for Hillary it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere.”
  • At the third debate, Kommersant reported on the candidates’ debating whether Trump was a puppet of Russia and how Clinton’s idea for a no fly zone in Syria might lead to an accident with the Russian air force.
  • After the third and final debate wrapped up, RT declared that it was “thankfully the last one because it can’t get much worse.”


The Brazilian press continues to report on the elections and the debates, including stories that directly involve Brazilians who support or oppose Trump. Much of the reporting has centered on Trump’s bombast and most recent suggestions that the elections are “rigged.” In the past, the Brazilian media have often framed stories of U.S. presidential elections around the question of which candidate would be better for Brazil. This year the media has touched on this issue, but continues to focus on the tension between the two candidates and the provocative nature of Trump’s statements on immigrants, Clinton’s fitness for office, and the legitimacy of the elections themselves.

  • Globo’s report reviewed the structure and rules of the three United States presidential debates and concluded that the most polemical issues were Trump’s questioning of the legitimacy of the elections and Clinton’s private e-mails.
  • EBC Agencia Brasil reported on the observable tension between the two candidates during their last presidential debate in Las Vegas and led with the accusation made by Hillary Clinton that Trump would be a puppet of Putin. The report focused on Trump’s promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and his claim that the presidential election is “rigged” despite the moderator’s efforts to caution the candidate against making such a provocative claim.
  • Terra point to the policy differences explored in the last debate and contrasted the candidates’ personal perspectives on issues ranging from the Islamic State to Women’s rights. Following the U.S. press, Terra reported on Trump’s provocative declaration that he would reserve judgment on the legitimacy of the elections themselves.
  • Duda Teixeira of Veja published a story that evaluates the two nominees in relation to Brazilian interests. The story is largely based on an interview with John Hudak of The Brookings Institution who claims that Clinton would likely be a much more dynamic policymaker that her opponent, based on her prior experience and time in the White House as First Lady. The report quotes Hudak’s suggestion that Clinton would maintain better relations with Brazil and that if a Trump presidency followed the nominee’s rhetoric then relations with Brazil would likely worsen.
  • Veja also reported that “Juntos para Brasil” organized a pro-Trump rally in São Paulo with over 500 people. According to group, Trump represents nationalism and patriotism and will work to save capitalism from the socialists and communists that are protected by the Democratic Party. The event also associated Hillary Clinton as the North American version of the recently impeached Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.  


Japanese press has deemed the 2016 presidential debates as abnormal and potentially an ample alarm for Japanese leaders, primarily due to Trump’s candidacy.

  • The Japan Times reported “the Japanese government was slower to take Trump seriously. It was not until March that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced he instructed his Foreign Ministry to look into Trump’s policies.”
  • After the first debate, Mainichi said “it is hard to say that important issues such as the Syrian civil war, counterterrorism measures and the South China Sea conflict were given sufficient discussion during the debate.”
  • The Japan Times lamented that Trump diminishes “our partnership” to nothing more than a business transaction. However, the editorial praised Clinton’s reassurance to the U.S. allies as something “the world expects from the U.S. president.”
  • Nikkei Asian Review expressed concern over the Republican and Democratic nominees’ apparent unfavorable stance at the debates on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and warned that turning back on TPP wouldn’t be good for the United States because it “stands to gain more than it loses from the progress of free trade.”
  • After recounting tabloid-like details of the current campaign, such as the leaked videos of Trump and how he held a press conference before the second debate with women who accused his opponent’s husband victimizing them, Mainichi remarked Trump’s “transgression of lowering the quality of the presidential election to this level is serious indeed.” The Japan Times said of Trump’s claims of rigged election, “it is hard to imagine a statement more corrosive for U.S. democracy.”
  • After the final row, The Japan Times wrote “in the end, the third debate did not offer much solace to Tokyo in terms of the future of the 12-nation free trade framework [TPP], as Clinton rejected it in the strongest terms.”


As in the Japanese media, Trump’s accusations about other countries getting a “free ride” on national security was a central issue in the South Korean press. As can be expected, the candidate’s policy toward North Korea was also a highly cited issue.