Policy Alert: Rising Powers Assess 2013 and Give Expectations for 2014
2013 was rife with diplomatic challenges to the world order, including: increasing tensions in the East China Sea, China’s new air defense zone, Japan’s new active security policy under Prime Minister Abe,the U.S. government shutdown, Russia’s takeover of Syria’s chemical weapons deal, and the NSA spying scandal. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on their assessment of international developments in 2013 and prospects for 2014.
Commentary in China characterized 2013 as a year of internal reform and envisioned continued domestic and international growth for China in 2014.
- An op-ed by People’s Daily editors Liang Jun and Yao Chun aptly summarized 2013 for China: “China has promoted integration between the ‘Chinese Dream,” with the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as its core, and the ‘World Dream,’ proposing a strategy of mutual benefit and a commitment to maintaining a just position on diplomatic interests.” As for 2014, Liang and Yao stated, “China will create a closer relationship with countries on its periphery…and raise pragmatic cooperation with the U.S., Russia, and the EU, and with other emerging countries, to a new level.”
- Chinese president Xi Jinping, in his New Year’s Day address, defined 2013 as a time of “comprehensively deepening reform and [laying] out a grand blueprint for future development.” For 2014, he envisioned “advanced reforms with the fundamental purpose of making our nation stronger and more prosperous.”
- o China Daily praised these reforms, noting that “the fact that 18 officials at vice-minister level or above had been placed under investigation for abuse of power in 2013 alone has demonstrated the top leadership’s resolve to root out corruption.”
- On January 1, 1979, China and the United States established formal diplomatic ties. China Daily raised the importance of continuing to strengthen U.S.-China relations, while another editorial warned that “some [countries] have tried to maintain their leading role in world affairs through reorganization of old powers in the name of equilibrium of power, which will only trigger an even more serious imbalance in world order.”
- The Moscow Times praised Putin for “settling” on Russia’s international image in 2013: “He began to more clearly position Russia as a country whose legitimacy derives from its strict adherence to the letter of international law and as a conservative state professing traditional values.”
- Dr. Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the UK, attributed Russia’s success in Syria as stemming from “Russian diplomacy [that] has proceeded from the need to respect the people’s right to determine their own future, without outside interference.”
- Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, noted that “The accepted view on Russia in general, and on President Vladimir Putin’s Russia in particular, is of a country pursuing an archaic foreign policy…Russia believes that in the final analysis- no matter what people say about various new types of power, good old ‘hard power’ will always prevail.” He argued that Moscow’s approach has worked well, particularly in 2013, because it is “abiding by a certain methodology that sets Russia apart from other major players.”
Indian media and commentators gave severe verdicts on the country’s international standing in 2013, discussing potential ways to achieve diplomatic successes in 2014.
- The Times of India called 2013 “India’s most disastrous foreign policy year in a very long time,” citing its damaged relationships with Sri Lanka due to the prime minister’s cancelled trip to CHOGM, with Bangladesh due to its reluctance to support Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her upcoming reelection, with the United States due to the Devyani Khobragade incident, and with China due to the border dispute. The Indian Express shared a similar view that “in 2013, India failed to manage important bilateral relationships.”
- The Times of India, however, took a positive note of the new, “transformational” India-Japan strategic partnership based on the mutual distrust of Sino-centric order that took flight last year, while suggesting India should recalibrate its China strategy based on “what kind of a power China is likely to become.”
- C. Raja Mohan, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, also emphasized the importance of Japan-India relations, arguing that “India…must come to terms, like the rest of the region, with Tokyo’s determination to shape the Asian security order.”
- Arvind Gupta, director general of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, claimed that India’s 2014 foreign policy must become bolder, not only “looking east” to strengthen its economic and defense ties with East Asian countries and the United States but also “looking west” to enhance its political, economic engagement in West Asia and the Gulf.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a New Year Reflection that promised to “restore a strong Japan” through revitalizing the economy under his economic policy known as Abenomics and strengthening defense and promoting world peace under his strategy called “proactive pacifism.” Japanese newspapers expressed diverse opinions on Abe’s vision of a strong Japan.
- The Yomiuri Shimbun agreed with Abe’s agenda, calling for an aggressive implementation of a growth strategy-the third pillar of Abenomics-and stressing the need for a more robust defense policy and a deeper cooperation with the United States to deal with China’s military threat in the East China Sea.
- The Sankei Shimbun,citing China’s rapid military buildups and U.S. relative decline articulated in President Obama’s speech last year that admitted “America is not the world’s policeman,” argued that Japan must depart from its postwar military dependence and become capable of defending itself with constitutional amendment and the right of collective self-defense.
- The Mainichi Shimbun remained critical of Abe’s “rule of power” that pursued divisive policies, such as the state secrets protection law, the new national security strategy, the visit to Yasukuni Shrine, and constitutional revision. Mainichi contended that a new, strong Japan must become a “generous democratic society” that respects diverse opinions and can say no to Abe’s controversial agenda.
- The Asahi Shimbun shared similar concerns, accusing the government of implementing “policies that people find objectionable,” including the state secrets protection law, and concluding that “when a divisive policy is on the table, the government is especially obligated to engage in a dialogue with the people.”
Reflecting upon 2013’s security developments, such as North Korea’s execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle and renewed provocation, Japan’s militarization under Prime Minister Abe, and China’s announcement of a new ADIZ, South Korean media outlets predicted a challenging year for the country, debating policies to weather through the year ahead.
- The Hankyoreh warned that given the intensifying security environment surrounding the Korean peninsula, the country “is in danger of being pulverized in a conflict between larger powers…If we are to safely navigate the turmoil of international conflict, it is imperative that we maintain internal stability and forge a cooperative relationship with North Korea.”
- The Dong-A Ilbo called for the country to unite and develop strategies based on strong alliance with the U.S. and close strategic cooperative partnership with China, concluding that “keeping [such] a balance among powerful nations was and is the way to go for Korea.”
- The Korea Joongang Daily argued that in order to overcome the diplomatic quagmire, the government must first put the economy back on track by redirecting its “creative economy” policy toward protecting entrepreneurship and improve inter-Korean relations by activating the Korean Peninsula Trust Process.
The Snowden NSA wiretapping revelations and June riots made 2013 a pivotal year for Brazil on the global stage. The economic slowdown in 2013, after years of optimism and growth has caused many to become frustrated with their system of government and look towards the future with a dose of skepticism.
- Snowden’s December open letter to the people of Brazil did not produce a positive response for his continuing request for asylum, it did reinvigorate some of the public support among certain groups in Brazil. While many are sympathetic to Snowden, the government has publicly refused request for further cooperation with the NSA leaker.
- Folha de Sao Paulo stated there is a “…feeling that 2013 will not end on December 31 and that we will live the first months of the New Year as if we were still in the past.” New policies replacing the old will take time to implement, so at least for some in Brazil 2013 is not over yet.
- There is economic optimism, as the Estadao de Sao Paulo reports. However, in the industrial sectors where this optimism exists, growth still “depends on increased credit availability…of the end consumers.”