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

Standing up for ASEAN in the South China Sea

Warships and fighter jets of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy take part in a military display in the South China Sea, 12 April 2018 (Photo: China Stringer Network via Reuters).

Author: Collin Koh, RSIS

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently stated that the United States considers Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea illegal. This is a fundamentally new stance. While scholars and pundits are trying to make sense of what the statement means for the dispute, more interesting is how ASEAN will respond as it is inevitably caught in the eye of the South China Sea storm.

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A US vision beyond great power competition

A US flag is seen during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, 9 November, 2017 (Reuters/Peter).

Author: Adam Yang, American University

The 2017 US National Security Strategy (NSS) and the 2018 National Defense Strategy unilaterally declared the beginning of a new era in international relations. Together, these reports portend great power competition between the United States and China. The NSS demands that all federal agencies recalibrate their internal strategies accordingly and, more importantly, it serves as an ideological starting point for all US political interaction with China. But US grand strategy must move beyond ill-defined bilateral competition with China for the US to remain a global leader.

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The fear of managing Chinese investment

A view of local landmarks and skyscrapers in Shanghai, China, 18 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Xu Feng).

Authors: Shiro Armstrong and Adam Triggs, ANU

The trend in advanced economies of closing up to Chinese foreign investment has accelerated during the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Middle powers after the middle-power moment

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech at Seodaemun Prison History Hall in Seoul, South Korea, 1 March 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji).

Author: Jeffrey Robertson, ANU

Contemporary understanding of middle-power diplomacy is tied to a bygone era. Behavioural characteristics like activist diplomacy, coalition building, niche diplomacy and good international citizenship, which underpin norm entrepreneurship, always ultimately relied upon the support of the dominant power. That era may be over, and hopes of a revival rest on the illusion of a middle-power moment. So, what happens to middle powers after the middle-power moment?

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COVID-19 speeds up China’s ‘Health Silk Road’

A passenger plane filled with vital PPE from Singapore bound for London for the NHS, 22 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/ Charles Price).

Author: Ngeow Chow Bing, University of Malaya

China’s Health Silk Road (HSR) first appeared in a speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016 in Uzbekistan. But the concept can be traced back to a document prepared by China’s health authorities in 2015. The document laid out a three-year proposal (2015–2017) to promote the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through cooperation in the healthcare sector.

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Exposing the fragility of EU–China relations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi waits before a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel at the EU council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 17 December 2019 (Photo: Reuters/John Thys).

Author: Tim Rühlig, Swedish Institute of International Affairs

2020 was supposed to be an important year for EU–China relations as the European Union’s China policy is undergoing a deep transformation. Four summits had been planned this year. The first two were cancelled and a mid-September leaders’ meeting in Leipzig risks suffering the same fate. It also seems unlikely that the two sides will conclude an EU–China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment in 2020 after seven years of negotiations.

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The renewable energy transition is coming to Asia

Workers clean photovoltaic panels inside a solar power plant in Gujarat, India, 2 July, 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave).

Author: Tim Buckley, Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. It is a truly global threat, ignoring national borders and domestic politics. But this pandemic highlights the need for a global response to a second key global threat: climate change. It is now more important than ever to listen to the advice of experts before it’s too late. Read more…

COVID-19 fuels global health tensions

Warehouse with scarce medical supplies donated by China to Italy. Milan, Italy on 27 March 2020 (Photo: Maurizio Maule/IPA/ABACAPRESS.COM via REUTERS).

Author: Belinda Townsend, ANU

As of 10 May over four million COVID-19 cases had been reported worldwide, with 280,000 confirmed deaths. The pandemic has highlighted the need for strong national health systems and regional infectious disease monitoring. Rising global health tensions urge the need for governments to prioritise international mechanisms that promote affordable access to new treatments and vaccines.

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EU–Japan connectivity aspirations

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of a working lunch at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 27 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Francois Lenoir).

Author: Kai Schulze, Free University of Berlin

The recently launched EU–Japan Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure (EU–Japan Connectivity Partnership) signals a new stage for EU–Japan infrastructure cooperation. This agreement follows on the heels of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) that took effect on 1 February 2019. But this new initiative will go beyond the bilateral EU–Japan focus of the EPA and SPA agreements. It ambitiously aims to connect the two poles at either ends of Eurasia, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasised in his speech at the EU–Asia Connectivity Forum.

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The sustainability challenge of China’s BRI

Chinese billionaire businessman Cheng Wei, the founder and CEO of Chinese mobile transportation platform DiDi, middle, delivers a speech at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on Cyberspace at the 6th World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit held in Wuzhen town, Jiaxing city, east China's Zhejiang province, 21 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Imagine China/Ni Yanqiang).

Author: Yong Deng, US Naval Academy

China is focusing on its commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the expense of long-term sustainability. In the early stages of BRI, an overriding concern with commitment set off what Yuen Yuen Ang calls a Maoist mass campaign to promote the BRI ‘with frenzied enthusiasm and little coordination’. All provincial governments rolled out their local plans to support the central directive while Chinese companies rushed to justify their projects under the pretext of the BRI. Read more…

Xinjiang casts uncertainty over the Belt and Road Initiative

Local students drum dance at the opening ceremony of the 14th Xinjiang Winter Tourism Trade Fair and the skiing carnival at a skiing field on Jiangjun Mountain in Altay, northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, 27 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Imagine China/Zhang Xiuke).

Author: Wei Shan, NUS East Asia Institute

Xinjiang is China’s bridge to Central Asian, Middle Eastern and European markets, placing it at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is the largest logistical centre among the BRI countries. Of the six planned BRI economic corridors, three will pass through Xinjiang, including the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor linking Kashgar in Xinjiang to Port Gwadar in Pakistan. A distribution hub is also being developed in Khorgos on the Xinjiang–Kazakhstan border.

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Are Japan and China really getting along?

China's President Xi Jinping is greeted by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, 28 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).

Author: Tsuyoshi Minami, Shanghai Normal University

Following the 2019 Osaka G20 summit, Japan–China relations appear to have entered a new period. While improved Japan–China ties are in the national interests of both countries, the ongoing US trade war with China is beginning to have significant effects on the relationship. Can Japan and China continue to improve relations? What benefits does this rapprochement offer the two countries?

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Three’s a crowd? China, Pakistan and the IMF

A soldier stands guard beside the Cosco Wellington, the first container ship to depart after the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan November 13, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Caren Firouz)

Authors: Naved Hamid, Lahore School of Economics and Hasaan Khawar, CDPR

China–Pakistan relations, while close, were primarily restricted to political and military spheres until the signing of their FTA in 2006. Economic relations received a further boost in 2013, when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a flagship project. Although CPEC has seven areas of cooperation, four in particular — Gwadar, energy, transport infrastructure and industrial cooperation — were assigned special priority.

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Caribbean countries turn to China’s Belt and Road

China's President Xi Jinping and Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela, flanked by their wives: Peng Liyuan and Lorena Castillo, pose for a picture at the Cocoli locks during a visit to the expanded Panama Canal, in Panama City, 3 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Carlos Jasso).

Author: Jared Ward, University of Akron

China’s ability to connect Caribbean nations to the Maritime Silk Road is an important barometer of the Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) global applicability. In recent years, the United States has become an absent steward over the Caribbean. Read more…

Making the Belt and Road work for Southeast Asia

Chinese President Xi Jinping shows the way to the meeting room to Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah before the bilateral meeting of the Second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People on 26 April 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Pool via Reuters).

Author: Phidel Vineles, RSIS

Southeast Asia is an important strategic partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The region serves as a key link in the BRI’s Maritime Silk Road, which aims to connect China’s coast to South Asia, the Middle East and Europe through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. But criticisms of the BRI highlight some of the risks of participation. Southeast Asian countries should address these risks by persuading China to adopt multilateral rules that broaden participation in the BRI, including by leveraging ASEAN’s potential role. Read more…