Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

China’s PAFMM grey zone maritime challenge to the Philippines

Hand out file photo dated 27 October, 2019 of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Akizuki-class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki (DD 118) are underway in formation while conducting a bilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea. An unknown number of sailors onboard the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which forward-deployed in Japan and presently pier-side there, have tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. This comes just a day after the U.S. Navy announced it had quarantined the entire crew of another aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on their ship in port in Guam after a number of sailors contracted the virus (Photo: Reuters/Codie L. Soule).

Author: Christian Vicedo, Manila

China’s People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) is key to understanding Beijing’s grey-zone operations in the South China Sea (SCS). The PAFMM is organised and linked to the People’s Liberation Army chain of command through the People’s Armed Forces Districts. PAFMM members are trained in maritime claims enforcement, logistics support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and sabotage. Operating about 84 large vessels with reinforced hulls and water cannons, the PAFMM serves as China’s third force in the SCS.

Read more…

Demystifying Australia’s South China Sea stance

An F18 fighter takes off from the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt while transiting the South China Sea, 10 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Karen Lema).

Author: Sam Bateman, University of Wollongong

On 23 July, Australia lodged a note verbale to the UN Secretary-General setting out its position on China’s claims in the South China Sea. This was part of a series of notes verbale from countries bordering the South China Sea that was triggered by a December 2019 Malaysian submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) claiming a partial outer continental shelf in the South China Sea. Read more…

A chance for Chinese economic leadership

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 25 October, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Lee).

Authors: Peter A Petri, Brandeis University and Michael G Plummer, Johns Hopkins University

In late June 2020, 15 East Asian countries — representing nearly 30 per cent of the world’s economic output and population — committed to signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in November. This will be the largest free trade agreement ever and complements the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Read more…

Why a ‘Nixon moment’ in India–China relations is unlikely

China's President Xi Jinping and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for a signing ceremony during Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China, 10 June, 2018 (Reuters/Aly Song).

Author: Raj Verma, Huaqiao University

India–China relations have hit a nadir after the recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley. Although disengagement and de-escalation is underway, tensions remain high. Some argue that there has been a Chinese and Indian leadership failure in ensuring amicable ties, pointing to ‘a historical failure on both countries’ parts to initiate a Nixonian moment in their relationship’, a reference to the former US president’s promoting pragmatic coexistence with China. Read more…

Vietnam rejects Chinese aggression in the South China Sea

Vessels from the U.S. Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy sail in formation at sea, in this recent taken handout photo released by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on 9 May 2019 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Nguyen Khac Giang, Victoria University of Wellington

As countries in the region are busy dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, China is stirring the pot in the South China Sea. This includes harassing other claimants’ normal economic activities, conducting large-scale drills, consolidating military bases on artificial islands, and sending research ships into other countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). Vietnam — as one of the claimants and perhaps the most stubborn — has become the chief target.

Read more…

US–China scientific cooperation faces an uncertain future

Chinese and US flags flutter near The Bund, Shanghai, China, 30 July 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song).

Authors: John P Haupt and Jenny J Lee, University of Arizona

Geopolitical tensions between the two largest scientific knowledge producers in the world are intensifying, and the Trump administration is now scrutinising scientific collaboration with China as a potential threat to US national security and economic prosperity. Chinese researchers and graduate students are being portrayed as potential spies who may steal intellectual property, while China’s ‘Thousand Talents’ program is characterised as a scheme allowing China to acquire US technology, intellectual property and know-how.

Read more…

Shaping from within: a UN with Chinese characteristics?

The Chinese national flag is seen in Beijing, China 29 April 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Rosemary Foot, University of Oxford

Chinese President Xi Jinping is urging China to ‘lead the reform of the global governance system’ and to ‘actively participate in the formulation of international rules’. Such statements suggest that we now should be able to gain better insight into Beijing’s vision for the world order. What can we learn from its efforts to reshape how the United Nations operates? Read more…

China’s challenge in Morocco’s Africa-to-Europe commercial corridor

French President Emmanuel Macron and Moroccan King Mohammed VI speak as they attend the inauguration of a high-speed line at Rabat train station, in Rabat, Morocco November 15, 2018 (Christophe Archambault/Pool via Reuters)

Author: Michaël Tanchum, University of Navarra

Morocco’s West-Africa-to-Western-Europe commercial transportation corridor is redefining the geopolitical parameters of the global scramble for Africa. Morocco has surpassed Spain and is poised to become the dominant maritime hub in the western Mediterranean. Morocco is now the geopolitical gatekeeper in a new global competition for manufacturing value chains, connecting West Africa to Europe in which the Middle East and China are vying for a role in this emerging commercial nexus. Read more…

Rebranding China’s internationalisation of higher education

Tourists crowd in front of the main gate of Peking University. Global university rankings show a direction for the development of China's higher education rather than a mere realization of the gap between top foreign and Chinese universities. China's prestigious Peking University and Tsinghua University dropped respectively from 54th to 92nd and 65th to 98th in the annual world university rankings published by the Center for World University Ranking (CWUR), headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, in Beijing, China, 4 October, 2018 (Reuters).

Author: Qiang Zha, York University

While China is having extraordinary success in internationalising higher education, progress mostly driven by a state-led agenda and a top-down approach is limited by the subordination of academic and educational interests to political ones. When China launched its world-class universities initiatives in the mid-1990s, it pledged to raise Chinese universities to a first-rate standing. Read more…

Laying down the law in the South China Sea

The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) is underway with the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and the Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea 18 April, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Nicholas Huynh).

Author: Donald R Rothwell, ANU

Australia’s 23 July statement to the UN Secretary-General in formal response to a series of diplomatic exchanges between Malaysia, China and other states is the clearest to date on legal issues associated with China’s South China Sea maritime claims. Diplomatically the statement is unremarkable, legally though, it makes Australia’s position on some key issues very clear.

Read more…

When rising powers clash: face-off versus face-saving in China–India relations

Demonstrators stand next to an effigy depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping before burning it during a protest against China, in Kolkata, India, 18 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri).

Author: Deepa M Ollapally, George Washington University

The border clash in the Galwan Valley between Asia’s two rising powers on 15 June has tested some key assumptions about their bilateral relationship. India and China both thought that they could contain any border disagreement without casualties. They were confident in their ability to rapidly de-escalate, as well as insulate their economic ties from a skirmish. There was also a prevalent assumption that it would take a lot more than border brawls to change India’s strategic preference for hedging and decisively move toward a US coalition.

Read more…

London and Canberra offer citizenship for Hongkongers

A couple hugs each other as police fire tear gas into the crowds to disperse anti-national security law protesters during a march on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China, Hong Kong, 1 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Tim Summers, Chatham House and CUHK

Following the announcement and enactment of a national security law for Hong Kong by China’s National People’s Congress, both the British and Australian governments have offered ‘pathways to citizenship’ for some of Hong Kong’s population. Why have they done this, and what are the implications?

Read more…

India does not need a Cold War alliance

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi make joint statements after bilateral talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, 25 February 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Al Drago).

Author: Arzan Tarapore, National Bureau of Asian Research

As the India–China border crisis continues, will India join an alliance with the United States? Some analysts have suggested that India may now jettison its diplomatic ambiguity and ‘pick a side in the new cold war’. Last week, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar rejected the idea of an alliance. But the border crisis may yet shift India’s approach to strategic competition with China.

Read more…

Crunch time for US allies and partners in navigating a new Cold War

A man works to remove the US Consulate plaque at the US Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, 26 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now leads the gathering charge in Washington to wage a new Cold War on China. All doubts about that were dispelled in his fiery speech at the Nixon Library last week and in his mission to lock Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom in behind him immediately afterwards. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, on their way to Washington for bilateral talks, will fly straight into the middle of this brewing geopolitical cauldron. Read more…

Canada contemplates the harsh realities of one world two systems

Picture of Canadian and Chinese flags at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, 5 December 2017. (Photo: Pool/Fred Dufour via Reuters).

Author: Paul Evans, UBC

The engagement approach that has been the bedrock of Canadian policy toward China for 50 years is teetering. Read more…