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
On January 16, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen defeated the incumbent Kuomintang Party (KMT) to become the first female president of Taiwan. The DPP also won a majority in the Legislative Yuan and vowed to start a “new era” in Taiwan with an improved economy and a relationship with China based on “dignity and reciprocity.” The United States congratulated Tsai on her victory and expressed its desire for continued peace and stability in the cross-straits. China – who pined for a KMT victory – and other powers responded to the news with a mix of cautious optimism and diplomatic tightrope walking. In this Policy Alert, we look at reactions in Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea, and India on what the election holds for the region.
While not entirely a surprise, the landslide victory for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) transformed the balance of political power on the island. It has also forced the Kuomintang Party to do some soul searching when it votes in March for a new leader after its 2016 candidate and former chairman, Eric Chu, resigned. Furthermore, the new DPP majority promised new legislation to strip the KMT of its multi-million assets through party finance and property reforms, which may make it more difficult for the KMT to mount an electoral comeback.
Taiwanese policymakers remained cautious in the handling of post-election cross-strait relations. (more…)Continue Reading →
As part of the Rising Powers Initiative’s efforts to analyze and compare the foreign policy thinking in today’s rising powers, we are pleased to announce the launch of the RPI Research Database, a specialized bibliography of books and articles on targeted subjects that reflect the RPI’s ongoing research. Each entry contains an abstract or summary of the article or book. The Database has been 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.
Countries and regions in the Database include:
- South Korea
- Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Topics and subjects in the Database include:
- Identity and foreign policy
- Energy security, maritime security, and Asian security
- Nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation
- Regional political economy
- U.S. foreign policy in Asia
The Research Database can be accessed here. We hope that this interactive 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. We encourage you to share the Database as a resource with your colleagues, and welcome your feedback and suggestions.Continue Reading →
Negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany – announced on November 24 that they reached a deal to address suspicions over Iran’s nuclear activities. In exchange for Iran freezing key elements of its nuclear program, the P5+1 offered $4.2 billion in foreign exchange and to ease some sanctions on Iranian energy and economic sectors for the next six months. The deal aims to be a sign of good faith between all parties as talks on a broader permanent deal continue.
This announcement sparked a dialogue within countries in Asia with their own varying levels of nuclear capacity. Since Iran’s primary foreign buyers of its oil are China, South Korea, Taiwan, India, and Japan, the agreement provides additional avenues for increased energy trade between Asia and Iran. However, the deal also opens up questions about the intersections of nuclear energy, nonproliferation policies, and regional security in Asia. In this Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest by Timothy Westmyer, research and program assistant at RPI, we explore how countries in our Nuclear Debates in Asia project – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam – reacted to the Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal and how they are addressing these pressing questions.
China, India, South Korea, and Thailand were among countries which recently received a waiver from U.S. sanctions targeting countries that import Iranian crude oil because these countries have reduced their dependence on Iranian supplies over the past several months. They will be allowed to continue to purchase Iranian oil over the next 180 days without penalties.
China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said the agreement “will help to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation system [and] safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.”
- -The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said it was a “mutually beneficial agreement which lives up to the broad expectation of the international community” and that “China will continue to play a constructive role and actively promote peace talks.” (more…)
Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced a $5.85 billion arms sales package to Taiwan, featuring upgrades for 145 of Taiwan’s F-16 A/B fighter jets. In this blog post, we highlight the contrast between China’s official responses to the arms deal, and reactions published in the Chinese media. The differences underscore some of the tensions and competing voices in China’s foreign policy establishment.
- In Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun summoned US Ambassador to China Gary Locke to protest the arms sales. The acting US military attaché to China was also summoned by China’s Ministry of Defense.
- In New York, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton: “China urged the U.S. to attach great importance to China’s solemn position and take it very seriously, correct the mistake of selling weapons to Taiwan by revoking the above-mentioned wrong decision, eliminate its negative influence, stop arms sales to Taiwan and U.S.-Taiwan military contact, and take real actions to uphold the larger interest of China-U.S. relations.”
- Defense Ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng said at a press briefing that “planned China-U.S. military exchanges, including high-level visits and joint exercises, will definitely be impacted.”
COMMENTARY IN THE PRESS
- The US-China relationship will suffer – such is the general sentiment voiced in several editorials and op-eds. In “A blow to Sino-US ties,” Shen Dingli of Fudan University writes that “Washington’s new arms sales to Taiwan squanders chances for further cooperation in economic and political areas,” and that “the US will have to deal with the consequences.” Sounding a similar note, Zhu Feng of Beijing University says that analysts who downplay Beijing’s reaction risk “overlook[ing] the negative consequences of China’s opposition.” Another common theme in the criticism is that the US is “putting domestic law above an international treaty,” referring respectively to the Taiwan Relations Act and the 1982 US-China communiqué, and calling for the abolishment of the TRA. (more…)
Ahead of Hu Jintao’s visit, the official tone is optimistic and confident, with editorials stressing the the shared interests of China and the United States, although other analysts take a more measured tone:
- The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, says that China should “seize the new momentum in Sino-US relations.” Citing the high volumes of trade and cultural exchanges between China and the U.S., the paper argues that “the space of mutual benefit and a win-win outcome” can be further expanded if the “US and China face challenges hand-in-hand.”
On military issues, several articles stress that China is not seeking to challenge the U.S., while making clear that China needs to and deserves to develop its military capabilities:
- “Mutual tolerance means both sides acknowledge and never challenge each other’s legal space and interests, including the development of military forces. The People’s Liberation Army is not capable and could never attempt to challenge the United States’ advantage in regional and global military maneuvers, nor does China plan to seek regional military hegemony.” (more…)