President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Ji Xinping met for the first time amidst an air of expectancy and great uncertainty last week. The US attack on a Syrian airbase as the two leaders were sitting down to dinner on April 6 however, overshadowed this summit with the world’s attention re-directed to American policy in Syria. How did key rising powers anticipate and react to the summit amidst the US attack on Syria? Find out here.Continue Reading →
On December 9, the South Korean National Assembly voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye following a scandal that drove millions to protest throughout the country. While Park offered to step down or shorten her term to avoid an impeachment vote, her opposition in the legislature moved to impeach by a vote of 236 to 56. Park has been under fire with allegations she let a family friend, Choi Soon-sil, have undue influence over her administration with accusations that Choi extorted donations from businesses to curry favor with Blue House and had access to classified government documents.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will assume the presidency until the country’s Constitutional Court rules whether Park must permanently step down, a decision that may take up to six months. Should this happen, South Korea will hold another presidential election within 60 days but it remains uncertain whether the ruling Saenuri Party will be able to maintain its hold on power. In this Policy Alert, we review the reactions within South Korea, China, India, and Japan to Park’s downfall and South Korea’s future.
President Park said she was “gravely accepting parliamentary and public voices” and wished the “current turmoil comes to a stable end.” A Gallup opinion survey had her approval rating at just 4 percent with other polls showing 80 percent in favor of her impeachment. Even 62 members of her own political party voted against Park. This was just the second time a president has been impeached since the Republic of Korea (ROK) became a full-fledged democracy in the late 1980s.
Most editorials and op-eds in the South Korean press did not express much sympathy for President Park. In fact, some outright said “she does not deserve any sympathy.”
- Korea Times accused Park of having “been negligent of the people’s voices, only sticking to her own point-of-view.”
- Hankyoreh regretted Park was “getting ready to fight the people” and ignore the voices of millions of South Koreans who stood vigil against her presidency.
- Another Korea Times editorial claimed her “greatest crime that is not transcribed onto the official list of charges is the destruction of trust in the office of the presidency, and the subsequent sense of hopelessness among the people that may take a great deal of time to heal.” Nevertheless, the paper reminded that “all those involved, including the President, remain innocent until they are proven guilty.”
On November 25, Fidel Castro, the long-serving revolutionary leader of Cuba, passed away at the age of 90. After assuming power in 1959, Castro’s efforts to transform the Republic of Cuba into a communist country faced fierce opposition, economic blockades, and a myriad of assassination attempts from the United States. Throughout the Cold War, Castro inserted himself into global affairs – including the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and his close bonds with the Soviet Union and China – to a degree that outstripped the relatively small size of his island nation.
While his death was a moment of celebration for many Cuban-Americans, Cuban exiles, and U.S. politicians, several rising powers in Asia and Latin America took time to praise Castro’s leadership in fighting for the rights of developing countries. Fidel’s younger brother, Raúl, will remain as president – a position he has held since 2006 – until 2018 when he pledged to step down. In this Policy Alert, we survey the reactions from China, Brazil, India, Russia, Japan, and South Korea to the passing of Fidel Castro and the future of Cuba.
In offering his condolences to Cuba, President Xi Jinping called Castro a “great figure of our times” who made “immortal historic contributions to the world socialist development” and was a “close comrade and sincere friend” to China. Premier Li Keqiang praised Castro’s contributions to the bilateral relationship between China and Cuba and that Beijing was “willing to work with Cuba to inherit and carry on the traditional friendship.”
The vast majority of China’s media and expert commentary mourned Fidel Castro’s passing and noted the strong Sino-Cuban ties under his rule.
- To China Daily, Castro’s death was a “reminder the Cold War is already over,” and now it is time for world leaders to focus on joint cooperation between developed and developing countries based on “peace and development instead of confrontation.” The paper, which also ran a detailed biography of Fidel and his ties with China, concluded “the world cannot afford to relive the Cold War.”
- Xinhua’s Chen Shilei called his death a “great loss to the Cuban and Latin American people as well as to the world socialist development.” Castro protected Cuba’s “national sovereignty and dignity against the long-time U.S. isolation and embargo,” and his “glorious image and great achievements” will be “remembered forever.”
- Hailing Castro as an “old friend to the Chinese people,” Global Times said Cuba “never wanted to make enemies and sour U.S.-Cuba relations to a large extent were caused by” the United States.
- Han Han, general secretary of the Center of Cuban Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, saw “time and history” having “vindicated and awarded Fidel Castro’s hard fight to uphold Cuba’s sovereign integrity and independence.” China and Cuba have a “comradely relationship” with China teaching the island how to open up to the world and achieve reform while staying true to its socialist roots.
- Global Times did not think Fidel’s death would have “political ramifications globally” since power has already transferred to Raúl Castro, but his passing “stirs ideology clash in China.” On Chinese social media, some Chinese youth have attacked Castro as being too close to the Soviet Union instead of China during the Cold War. The paper argued, however, these views were misguided as Castro was a “good friend” to China.
Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. After the polls closed and the votes were counted in a nail biter of an election on November 8, the Trump campaign won enough electoral college votes to defeat Hillary Clinton and retake the White House. Along with a GOP majority in the Senate and the House, President-Elect Trump and Republicans will have free rein over the instruments of American government. As demonstrated by previous Policy Alerts on the nominating conventions and the debates, rising powers have been closely watching the U.S. presidential election to understand how the next administration might change U.S. foreign policy and the global economy. In this Policy Alert, we explore the reactions from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea to the surprise conclusion of the 2016 race for the White House.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed congratulations to President-elect Trump and his desire to work closely together to “manage differences in a constructive way, in the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, cooperation and win-win.”
Several commentators in China worried Trump’s presidency might have a negative effect on U.S.-China relations and could complicate Beijing’s economic and foreign policy ambitions.
- China Daily saw Trump’s victory as the “logical outcome of the prevailing anti-establishment feelings” in a deeply divided U.S. society. China will have to adapt to “Trump at the helm” and see if his threats to slap a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States and withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change were just campaign rhetoric or a promise.
- Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University, foresaw Beijing being more assertive in its dealings with Washington with Trump’s China policy having “negative effects on Sino-U.S. economic cooperation.”
- Lin Hongyu, scholar at Huaqiao University, credited Trump’s win with the campaign riding a current of anti-globalization to the degree that the election result did “not come as a surprise at all” to those not blinded by the media and elites.
- Shen Dingli, professor of international relations at Fudan University, predicted if Trump “indeed removes the troops from Japan, the Japanese may develop their own nuclear weapons.” He worried “South Korea may also go nuclear if Trump cancels the missile deployment and leaves the country alone facing the North’s threats. How is that good for China?”
Others were less worried about Trump’s victory either because China can adapt or that Trump will be constrained at home.
- Mei Xinyu, research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, thought Trump’s victory would “create a chance to end the ‘self-damaging competition’” between China and the United States.
- On whether Trump would continue Obama’s “Pivot to Asia,” China Daily predicted that while the next administration will not “roll back the U.S. presence in the region,” it matters “a huge difference how the Trump-led” White House “goes about it.”
- Global Times guaranteed China was “strong enough to cope” with President Trump, who is “not as bold enough to really change” the United States.
- Jin Canrong of Remin University considered it “unlikely” Trump will be able to fulfill his foreign policy promises as he is restrained by other conservatives and a pluralistic democracy. Lin Hongyu voiced a similar viewpoint.
- “Democracy is the loser in U.S. Vote,” declared China Daily while criticizing the level of personal attacks and “nasty aspects” of American style democracy. The People’s Daily made a similar claim.
The rise in global demand for nuclear energy is heavily concentrated in emerging and aspiring Asian powers. While nuclear power may alleviate energy shortages and climate change concerns, the promotion of nuclear energy compounds Asia’s nuclear weapon proliferation problems alongside nuclear power safety risks. All this is exacerbated by rising geopolitical tensions in Asia with more assertive policies – especially from China – in the region testing regional stability.
Against this perilous setting, Nuclear Debates in Asia: The Role of Geopolitics and Domestic Processes – a new book by the Rising Powers Initiative (RPI) at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies – questions the extent to which we can infer nuclear thinking simply from external conditions and instead considers policy thinking on nuclear power and proliferation in Asia to be more complex and variegated than often posited. In this Asia Report, we present analysis offered at a recent RPI book launch event at the Elliott School for International Studies at George Washington University (GWU) with commentary by several of the authors on South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan. You can also listen to the event’s audio on the Sigur Center’s website.
Five Important Findings in the Book
The Nuclear Debates in Asia book found several illuminating common features across Asia:
- First, decision making on nuclear issues is still largely centrally controlled in a process dominated by elites in both democratic and authoritarian states.
- Second, this stranglehold on nuclear decision making has at times been confronted by grassroots level movements often focused on a specific nuclear question (e.g. protests against nuclear power plants or reprocessing facilities, anti-nuclear weapon groups) especially as pluralism is on the rise in parts of Southeast Asia, Japan, India, and even China.
- Third, nuclear weapons policy has been remarkably consistent despite tremendous external security challenges (particularly China’s ascendancy) and the rise of so-called “resource nationalism” alongside growing energy demands. Instead, nuclear policy appears to be relatively insulated from the whims of populist Nationalism.
- Fourth, the overall center of gravity in most of the countries studied shows the dominance of a Realist-Globalist coalition.
- Finally, Pakistan remains the outlier in this trend with nuclear debates essentially dominated by elites with Nationalist
The first U.S. presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump had over 80 million people tune in to watch in the United States. Over the last month, tens of millions more around the world followed the three presidential debates (September 26, October 9, and October 19) and the vice presidential debate (October 4). Though most of the debate time was spent with candidates arguing about the other’s scandals, rising powers have been watching to see whether Asia, Eurasia, and South America found their way onto the agenda. Two of our previous Policy Alerts covered how rising powers witnessed the Democratic and Republican conventions. In this Policy Alert, we explore commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the U.S. presidential debates as the November 8 election date approaches.
China found itself as the focus of discussion at several of the debates. For example, China Daily reported the second debate saw Clinton accuse Beijing of orchestrating an “illegal dumping” of cheap steel in the United States and that “Trump is buying it to build things.” Being the center of debate is not a position that many commentators in China appreciated.
- Pushing back against claims by Trump and Clinton that China was manipulating its currency, China Daily ran an entire story quoting a “top U.S. economist” who disagreed with that view.
- Global Times argued Trump’s “particularly arrogant” comments about China has “spread the mentality that the U.S. has suffered losses from its relations with China,” a view that “poses potential threats to global stability.”
- China Daily noted that neither of the vice presidential candidates – Senator Tim Kaine nor Governor Mike Pence – took “radical positions regarding China” when they were governors or congressmen, but they have shifted their views once they joined their respective tickets.
- After the third debate, China Daily’s reporting pushed back on Clinton’s criticisms of women’s rights in China and accusation of dumping cheap steel on the market.
- One light-hearted way some Chinese netizens (an avid internet user) responded to criticisms of their country was by posting joking images of the town hall debate on China’s social media platforms like Weibo making it appear Clinton and Trump were engaged in a musical duet.
The Rising Powers Initiative (RPI) at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies is pleased to offer the RPI Research Database.
RPI is a multi-year, cross-national research effort that examines the role of domestic identities and foreign policy debates of aspiring powers in Asia and Eurasia. As part of our efforts to analyze and compare the foreign policy thinking in today’s rising powers, the Research Database is an edited bibliography of books and articles on targeted subjects that reflect our ongoing research.
Each entry contains an abstract or summary along with further information on how to access the resource. The database is compiled by our research staff and is frequently updated with articles and books from 1990 onwards with emphasis on the latest academic and policy publications.
- South Korea
- Southeast Asia and ASEAN
- Identity and foreign policy
- Energy security, Asian security, and maritime security
- Nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation
- International political economy
- U.S. foreign policy in Asia
The Research Database can be accessed here.
We hope that the Database is a useful tool for conducting research on rising powers in Asia and for keeping up to date on the latest relevant academic and policy publications.
On October 2, voters in Colombia narrowly rejected a negotiated peace deal between the government and rebel forces that would have ended a five decade long conflict. After four years of talks, President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement in late-September to disarm the rebels and integrate them into the political system. The referendum was widely expected to pass, but voters who considered the truce too lenient on FARC surprised everyone and defeated the deal by a margin of 50.21 percent for “No” to 49.78 percent for “Sí.” While leaders promised to return to the negotiating table to work out a new deal, rising powers were left wondering whether violence would break out again. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the breakdown of the peace deal and its future prospects in Colombia.
The Brazilian media shared the widespread disappointment with the outcome of the Colombian vote to ratify the peace agreement between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC revolutionary forces. The media also applauded President Santos’ efforts and the recognition provided by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. This focus included both the sentiments of Brazilian President Michel Temer as well as governments and political leaders around the world.
Much of the media drew attention to the very small winning margin for the “No” vote and the concurrent high voter abstention rate to call into question whether the ballot result was truly representative of the sentiments of a majority of Colombians.
- Globo, the major Rio de Janeiro daily and multimedia news outlet, asked how it was possible a country suffering from a half a century of armed conflict at the cost of more than 200,000 lives could reject negotiated peace agreement? The report emphasized the very close vote totals and, even more importantly, the historically large abstention rate at 63 percent. Globo quoted journalist Ana Cristina Restrepo Jiménez that the Colombian voter was motivated by “fear” and just could not take the next step toward peace.
- Folha de São Paulo also noted the high abstention rate but focused on the arguments of the “No” campaign. The São Paulo daily newspaper quoted the leader of the “No” campaign and former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe saying “our national democracy overcame the government’s efforts to impose a “yes” vote for the peace agreement.”
- The Porto Alegre daily Zero Hora reported on the international repercussions of the failure to ratify the peace agreement. The coverage also included a joint press conference between the presidents of Argentina and Brazil in Buenos Aires where Argentine President Mauricio Macri argued the slim vote margin indicated many Colombians support peace and efforts should be made to find a solution. Temer added that the abstention rate was so high as to encourage further efforts to reach an acceptable peace agreement.
- The weekly Exame conveyed the economic implications of the vote against ratification.
- Brasil de Fato provided detailed coverage of the peace process in Colombia and focused on the FARC’s reaction to the winning “No” vote. This media outlet quoted FARC leader, Timelón Jiménez, who criticized the hatred expressed by the winning voters, but also reaffirmed his organization’s dedication to return to civilian politics.
On September 19, the Syrian army declared the end of a weeklong ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia. The Syrian regime accused rebels of violating the truce, Russia blamed a U.S. airstrike that killed dozens of Syrian troops, and the United States condemned an attack on a UN aid convoy as being conducted by Russian forces. Many observers hoped the ceasefire might lead to a longer break in fighting with a goal of finally ending the civil war that has been raging since 2011. However, airstrikes by the Syrian government and Russia against rebel targets in Aleppo have resumed at a steady pace.
While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry argued “the ceasefire is not dead” yet, rising powers reacted to the deal’s apparent collapse. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, and Brazil on the current situation in Syria and the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement.
According to some reports, Russian military leaders in Syria and within the Defense Ministry held an “unusually skeptical attitude toward the deal” and predicted the deal would collapse because of Syrian rebels and U.S. violations. In seeking blame for the ceasefire’s breakdown, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the United States of being “‘preferred to fully distance itself‘ from keeping in touch with the Russian Armed Forces, ignoring their inquiries and not answering the phone.” Once the deal collapsed, the Kremlin said the chances of restoring the ceasefire were “weak.”
For the breakdown of the ceasefire itself, some directly and indirectly blamed the U.S.
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov scolded Washington for not doing enough to control Syrian rebels under its guidance, adding that “Syrian government troop withdrawals had not been matched with rebel retreats.”
- One senior lawmaker in the upper house of Russian parliament, Franz Klintsevich, claimed “Washington is trying to shift the blame for an attack on a humanitarian convoy in Syria on Russia.” He added, “if the [United States] does indeed seek peaceful settlement in Syria, it needs to really cooperate with Russia rather than make unfounded accusations.”
- Pravda published an op-ed titled “U.S. Massacre of Syrian Anti-ISIS Soldiers,” which made note of the U.S. “stubborn refusal to cooperate against terrorists.”
- John Wight, a political commentator for Sputnik, stated “if the Americans genuinely and sincerely held the wellbeing of the Syrian people as a priority in this conflict, they would have already joined with Russia, the Syrian government, and its allies in defeating Daesh, Nusra, and the various other groups of religious and sectarian fanatics.”
- Sputnik reported the United States further strained the U.S.-Russia relationship “as both countries, distrustful of each other and their local allies, try to salvage the fragile peace process in Syria and breathe life into the” ceasefire agreement.
Russian officials and journalists all expressed some level of skepticism over the original ceasefire deal:
- Vanessa Beeley, analyst and journalist, said “there is no guarantee the radical groups backed by the United States, the Gulf states and Turkey will respect the upcoming ceasefire.”
- Russian political analyst Vladimir Frolov agreed with the pessimistic outlook of the deal and explained that “a gaping lack of trust between Moscow and Washington, unruly and suspicious local proxies, unhappy outside players in Iran and in the Gulf states, a hodgepodge of legal loopholes and lack of viable enforcement mechanisms” make “a successful implementation” quite “hard to fathom.”
- Looking ahead, Russia announced it would send its aircraft carrier to Syria’s coast for use against ISIS and other groups fighting in the country. Kerry has asked Russia to ground its warplanes in order to save the ceasefire.
China supported the ceasefire deal when it was announced with Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang appealing to “all parties involved to enhance coordination and cooperation to continue to carry out the ceasefire in Syria, as well as make joint efforts to help restart Syria Peace Talks and provide humanitarian aid smoothly and effectively.” At the United Nations, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered $100 million in humanitarian aid to address the refugee crisis stemming from Syria and other war zones.
Chinese media and experts debated the country’s efforts in Syria and why the ceasefire failed, largely blaming the United States.
- Last month, Rear Admiral Guan Youfei of the PLA Navy visited with Syrian and Russian senior military officials and pledged medical training for Assad’s forces. This marked an increased level of Beijing’s engagement in Syria from its usual stance of non-interference.
- China’s newfound interest in the Syrian civil war and general support for Assad may be related to “the presence of the Turkistan Islamic Party,” an insurgent group with ties to one Beijing linked to violence in Xinjiang after 9/11. Chaos in Syria spilling over to the broader Middle East also puts China’s “One Belt, One Road” investments in the region at risk.
- Analysis published in Xinhua declared the errant U.S. airstrike on the Syrian military as “one of the main reasons behind the faltering efforts to resume a recently-established ceasefire.”
- Xinhua writer Chen Shilei said China’s investment in developing countries have improved economic conditions to reduce “people’s pressures to leave home” and called on the “international community” to “act urgently and strongly in unity to more effective respond to the issue.” This view was echoed by Chinese Ambassador La Yifan.
- The Global Times singled out the United States and Europe for having “hastily pushed for Western-style democracy in the Middle East, contributing to the inflow of refugees” and the ongoing crisis. Chen echoed this view as well.
The Indian government has largely refrained from taking a strong position on the Syrian civil war as New Delhi seeks closer ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as Israel. In August, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar met with Assad to restart several business deals – including a $320 million power plant project and investments in the Syrian oil industry – suspended at the start of the civil war due to safety risks for Indian workers. The two countries discussed their “common problem of cross-border terrorism” with support for India’s position on Kashmir and plans for further cooperation on counterterrorism.
When the ceasefire was announced, several India media outlets expressed hope the deal would lead to a lasting peace in the war torn country.
- Left leaning The Hindu said it was “the best opportunity for a solution to the five-and-a-half-year old civil war” due to its support by the “rebels and the regime” as well as Moscow and Washington.
- The Pioneer – a newspaper favorable to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – called the ceasefire “Syria’s chance for peace” though “obstacles remain” such getting Russia to push Assad toward an “honorable exit” or “devises a comprehensive framework under which the major opposition parties are brought under one head.”
- The ceasefire should evoke “cautious optimism” wrote The Times of India, though the paper did not think the agreement would “solve Syria’s long-term problems” such as who will lead the country.
The Brazilian media covered the cease-fire in Syria, its collapse, and recent negotiations between Russia and the United States to reestablish a truce. While Valor Econômico covered the Brazilian government support for the initial cease-fire, there has been few follow-up reports on President Temer’s position and associated efforts regarding the United Nation’s sponsored efforts to broker a temporary peace. Brazilian Foreign Minister José Serra remarked that Syria is a “sister” nation and Brazil supports efforts to reach a final peace. However, the Brazilian government has not played any demonstrable role in the conflict aside from calling for dialogue.
Much of the Brazilian media covered accusations that blamed Russia and the United States for the collapse of the cease-fire. Several media outlets drew from Sputnik, the Russian news agency, to report on Russian allegations that the U.S. Department of Defense was to blame.
- Valor Econômico, the prominent Brazilian economic and financial media outlet, reported Foreign Minister José Serra’s remarks that “the cease-fire serve as a positive step forward toward a resolution of the Syrian conflict through dialogue.” Serra also insisted that all parties comply with the UN Security Council’s resolutions aimed at impeding the flow of weapons to those forces associated with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
- Veja.com, the popular Brazilian news magazine, reported on Russian allegations that the United States did not comply with the terms of the cease-fire, quoting Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konachenkov saying “it seems that the objective of Washington’s nebulous rhetoric is to hide the fact that the U.S. government is not complying with the conditions of the cease-fire.”
- Sputnik Brasil, the Russian government media outlet for the Brazilian audience, claims than an unnamed Turkish diplomat suggested that the recent bombings of Aleppo were carried out by the United States Department of Defense, the Pentagon, and that there as a split between the White House and the U.S. armed forces
- Globo reported on efforts to reestablish the Syrian cease-fire and the recent meeting of the International Syria Support Group. The Rio de Janeiro paper summarized the meeting as long, painful, and very disappointing in the words of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
- The weekly magazine Istoé recounted the failure to restart the cease-fire and Kerry’s call for a suspension of all aerial bombardments while efforts continue to reach a renewed cease-fire agreement.
- Portal Vermelho, a popular media outlet of the Brazilian left, drew from the Russian outlet Sputnik to summarize an Associated Press story quoting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the United States intentionally bombed Syrian government forces as the cease-fire collapsed.
The “One Belt, One Road” policy in China has received a great deal of attention over the past few years. This policy is the focal point of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy and domestic economic plan. While it is often referred to as “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR, the policy is in actuality a combination of two individual parts. The first part, the “Belt,” is a network of oil and natural gas pipelines as well as road and rail routes that span the distance between Xi’an and Western Europe. The second part, the “Road,” refers to waterways or a chain of ports and infrastructure projects on China’s coasts that travel from South and Southeast Asia to East Africa all the way to the north Mediterranean Sea.
One subject of particular interest with regard to the policy is the set of opportunities and challenges it presents, both for China and the countries it directly affects. Michael Clarke, in his report “Beijing’s March West: Opportunities and Challenges for China’s Eurasian Pivot,” points to several of these challenges and opportunities. Among the opportunities, Central Asia can act as a safety valve for China as US influence in the region tapers off. On the other hand, the stability of the far west regions of Xinjiang and Tibet is a challenge that China will continue to face as it pursues this policy. (more…)Continue Reading →