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 →
From September 4-5, China hosted this year’s G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, a city known for beautiful scenery and its historical West Lake. Launched in response to the 2008 global recession, the forum was an opportunity for the world’s 20 largest economies to convene and discuss major challenges. Although commentary in China and Russia was quite positive about the Summit’s results, others in India, Japan, and South Korea were less enthusiastic. The gathering was also part of Barack Obama’s last trip to Asia as president and was closely watched by rising powers for signs of what the future might have in store for the international political and economic order. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the G-20 Summit.
China’s theme for the Summit was “Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy.” As the host leader, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged leaders to avoid “empty talk” and instead seek “concrete actions to implement joint plans on sustainable development, green financing, and anti-corruption.” At a business focused event on the sidelines of the Summit, Xi promised China does “not seek to rewrite the international rulebooks” but instead wanted to “refine the existing mechanisms to facilitate global win-win cooperation.”
Most commentary in China hailed the Summit as a success and a clear sign of China’s rising economic and political strength on the world stage.
- Wang Peng, associate researcher at Fudan University, identified a “Hangzhou Consensus” emerge from the Summit with leaders recognizing the need to “revitalize globalization” in a “more comprehensive, innovative, and inclusive manner.”
- China Daily thought the host country left “its stamp on the G-20” by demonstrating “unswerving commitment to globalization,” expanding the existing global market system, fighting off protectionism, and aligning the G-20 agenda with UN development goals.
- Global Times declared “multiple victories” for China at the Summit, including recognition of Chinese soft power in spite of Western criticisms.
- Global Times blamed Western media outlets for making a “fuss over trifling issues” such as an awkward confrontation between Chinese officials and U.S. journalists/White House staff as Air Force One arrived in China.
- China Daily praised Hangzhou’s tour as host city and proving “how China has become a leader of growth, as the city is home to many new businesses and new management models.”
Indo-Afghan relations grew stronger as India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, traveled to Afghanistan on June 3rd to inaugurate the Afghan-Indian Friendship Dam. The 42 megawatt hydroelectric dam is the result of a $273 million investment by the Indian Government to promote agriculture in Afghanistan’s Herat province. It is estimated that the dam will be able to soon irrigate 75,000 hectares of farmland.
Construction of the dam, originally named Salma Dam, had actually begun in 1976, but was halted when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in 1979. The rebellion against Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war greatly damaged the dam’s infrastructure. However, after the overthrow of the Taliban, India renewed its commitment to building the dam. Thus, although forty years after initially starting, construction of the dam is now complete.
The inauguration of the dam is only one of many recent steps towards stronger Indo-Afghan economic and political relations. Recently, the two powers – along with Iran – signed a regional corridor trade agreement. The key feature of the agreement is India’s pledge to finance the development of the Chabahar port, Iran’s only port with direct access to the ocean. In return, Iran agrees to a sea-land trade route to India via Afghanistan’s road networks. (more…)Continue Reading →
Earlier this month, twelve Pacific Rim countries, including the United States and Japan, reached a final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest regional trade pact in history with its member states accounting for nearly 40 percent of global GDP. The pact also constitutes a cornerstone of President Obama’s “rebalance” toward Asia. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and India on the trade deal.
Chinese commentary urged the government to push forward with the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) while downplaying the potential impact of the TPP for China. (more…)Continue Reading →
Japan confronts an ever-changing security environment abroad and economic turmoil at home as it looks to maintain a role as a global power. Japanese and U.S. experts discussed how Tokyo should respond to these challenges at a recent conference that presented a wide array of domestic views in each country on the future of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, Japanese history and society, and domestic policy priorities.
Timothy Westmyer, research and program assistant at the Rising Powers Initiative, and Samuel Porter,
research assistant to Professor Mike Mochizuki, wrote a Policy Brief to illustrate how the contending views from Japan were expressed during this event.
As tensions continue to escalate between Japan and China over disputed island territories, it remains to be seen whether and how their economies will be affected in the short and long-term. China is Japan’s largest trade partner, while Japan is China’s fourth largest trade partner; bilateral trade volume was over $340 billion US dollars in 2011.
Following our Aug. 31 post on island tensions in Northeast Asia, in this post we focus on Japanese and Chinese commentary on the economic dimensions of this crisis.
Officials in Japan urged both countries to act with restraint, while Japanese companies in China began looking for ways to reduce their dependence on China amidst declining sales across various sectors.
- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda warned China on Tuesday that demonstrations in China over the territorial dispute could weaken China’s economy by scaring away foreign investors. PM Noda encouraged both countries to “behave with restraint’, and urged the Chinese government toprotect the safety of Japanese nationals and Japan-affiliated companies.
- Japanese automakers Toyota and Nissan announced on Wednesday that they are cutting back production in China and have dampened their sales outlook for 2012. Koji Endo, auto analyst at Advanced Research Japan, stated that “For the time being I think you’re going to see Japanese automakers’ sales in China down by 20 to 30 percent. The last time we had protests like this in 2010, the effects only lasted about a month, but I think this time is going to be different.”
- Meanwhile, the Asahi Shumbun reported that Japanese businesses are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on China for rare earth elements (more…)
By Shawn McHale, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, George Washington University
The South China Sea is one of the great connecting oceans of the world, acting as a major conduit of Asian and global trade. It has also been a worrisome site of conflict. In recent years, disputes over territorial claims have led to armed clashes involving China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It has also led to demonstrations. Arguments have spilled into cyberspace: on YouTube, Google Earth, online newspaper articles, and chat rooms, nationalist tempers have flared over their country’s claims to these tiny islands, atolls, and reefs.
Most of the territorial claims over the South China Sea are surprisingly weak, and none is incontestable. Here we must distinguish between arguments over the Paracels, the far-flung cluster of islands, reefs, and atolls closest to China, and those over the Spratlys, a similarly widely spread set of islands further to the south. Only China and Vietnam contest the Paracels, whereas six countries have claims to the Spratlys. Finally, the contemporary bitter arguments over sovereignty in this area repeatedly invoke historical evidence. It is the latter issue that will be the focus of this Policy Commentary.
Bluntly stated, we cannot impose contemporary notions of sovereignty on historical practices before the twentieth century. Despite much misinformation and inflamed rhetoric to the contrary, historical evidence overwhelmingly supports the view that states did not, traditionally, claim exclusive territorial rights over the vast majority of the South China Sea. To the contrary: the area has historically been an Asian maritime commons. What, then, does the historical evidence suggest? And how has argument over this evidence shaped Asian identity politics today?Continue Reading →
The United States is “pivoting” toward Asia. This strategy was formally publicized last month with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s essay on “America’s Pacific Century.” This week, President Barack Obama has been visiting Asia to push for a Trans-Pacific trading bloc and stronger military ties with US allies. How are major Asian powers reacting to America’s strategy to “re-engage” the Asia Pacific region? Today’s post highlights Chinese, Russian and Japanese views on the economic aspects of this strategy.
Chinese officials have so far made only brief comments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), all of which express China’s support for regional economic integration but stressing its preference for existing mechanisms. Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua said any trade mechanism should be “open and inclusive,” while Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said economic integration should proceed in a “step-by-step manner.”
Commentary in the press characterized the TPP as a part of a wider strategy to contain China:
- Li Hongmei, editor of the People’s Daily Online, wrote that “the U.S. intends to play a dominant role in the to-be Trans-Pacific architecture by handpicking its members and systemizing and regulating them in political and military spheres in accordance with its own standards so as to turn out a comprehensively economic and political alliance under the U.S. leadership.”
- In addition to similar criticisms, a Global Times editorial pointed out that “any Asian cooperation with the absence of Beijing will not have much heft. China never lacks channels for conducting cooperation with its regional counterparts.”
Academic opinions leaned toward a “wait-and-see” attitude:
- Wang Yuzhu of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, “Economic regionalism is China’s most pragmatic choice, because the international architecture is changing rapidly. China has to recalibrate its relations with the rest of the world.”
- According to Lu Jianren, deputy director of the APEC Study Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “How the TPP negotiations will progress is still a matter of great uncertainty. What can be certain is it will be strategically detrimental to the old ASEAN Plus Three coalition, which has long been lagging behind in forming a free-trade zone that can allow a level of economic unity in the region.”
As Russia gears up to host the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostock, commentary on U.S. re-engagement in Asia was introspective, questioning Russia’s own unique orientation as both a European and Asian state. (more…)Continue Reading →
By Brad Glosserman, Executive Director, Pacific Forum CSIS
Americans tend to be skeptical about or troubled by the notion of regional integration in Asia.
There is some basis for concern, but the advantages of integration are likely to exceed the cost to the United States. An integrated Asia, the process of which has been shaped by the United States and like-minded partners, should strengthen the international system that Washington has labored to build over the last half century, reinvigorating and strengthening the norms and principles that have provided its foundation.
Defining “Asian integration” can be problematic for functional and geographic reasons. For my purposes, the term refers to East Asia, which I equate institutionally with ASEAN Plus Three. That narrowly conceived geographical scope allows me to demand more when it comes to functions. Meaningful integration means more than the loose confederation that defines ASEAN (its ambitions to create “communities” notwithstanding) but it doesn’t require the detailed legal framework of the European Union. At a minimum, it includes a regionwide free trade area, a political superstructure to express its collective will (no matter how sharp its teeth to demand conformity with its pronouncements) and recognition by the rest of the world that it is a meaningful political unit. Even that scaled-back objective may be too much. For many, Asian nations are too diverse, too committed to their (relatively) new sovereignty, and the benefits of integration are too diffuse to justify the costs. But if those formidable obstacles can be surmounted – and integration is proceeding, fitfully for sure, but there is progress nonetheless — most US observers worry that integration would come at their expense.
The Case Against Asia
There are three main objections to Asian integration. The first is that a regional economic unit would divert trade from the United States. Fred Bergsten (in “China and Economic Integration in East Asia: Implications for the United States”) estimates that “the United States could immediately lose as much as $25 billion of annual exports as a result of the initial static effects of the tariff discrimination that would result from truly free trade in East Asia (on the “10+3” model). These numbers could increase over time as dynamic economic effects, especially with respect to new investment patterns, are triggered.”Continue Reading →
President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia was a mixed bag of achievements and disappointments. This was the assessment of a panel of experts at a recent public event on “Obama’s Asian Journey: Prospects for US Policy,” co-hosted by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Asia Society. Speaking on the panel, Deepa M. Ollapally, Alasdair Bowie, Gregg A. Brazinsky and Mike M. Mochizuki assessed the outcomes of Obama’s visit to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, respectively:
Obama’s visit to India was a case of “low expectations, high results.”
Concrete gains for India included: clear support for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; lifting of nearly all embargos on dual-use technologies; and U.S. commitment to work toward India’s inclusion in a number of nuclear regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime.
More importantly, the visit marked a shift in U.S.-India relations from the narrow, sectoral engagement of the past, to a truly broad spectrum relationship. Obama is the first US President to view relations with India as a multi-layered partnership: (more…)Continue Reading →