The power of repetition: six persistent myths about China-Africa relations

An inconvenient truth often ignored or denied is that Chinese economic activities on the African continent are not worse than (and often not even as bad as) US or European activities in Africa. Clingendael Research Associate Sanne van der Lugt presents six persistent myths about China-Africa relations based on her own research experiences.

Read more

Earth may temporarily pass dangerous 1.5℃ warming limit by 2024, new WMO report says

The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century, a target likely to be exceeded by 2024. This first overshoot would be temporary – but it casts new doubt on whether Earth’s climate can be permanently stabilised at 1.5℃ warming. Modelling shows that if emission reductions are large and sustained, the Paris goals can still be met, and the most severe damage to the natural world, economy and people may be avoided. But worryingly, we also have time to make it far worse.

Read more

Crises only sometimes lead to change. Here’s why. (Sheri Berman)

“The coronavirus pandemic won’t automatically lead to reforms. Great upheavals only bring systemic change when reformers have a plan—and the power to implement it”. In this essay, Sheri Berman analyses historical crises and suggests why they may produce or fail to produce transformational change. The essay has a US focus and deals with the potential for systemic change to follow the coronavirus pandemic crisis, but the analysis could also help in understanding why the global warming crisis is failing to produce transformative change on the scale that is needed.

Read more

Science, solidarity and solutions needed on climate change (UN)

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are at record levels, and emissions that saw a temporary decline due to the pandemic are heading towards pre-COVID levels, while global temperatures continue to hit new highs, according to a major new UN report. UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that there is “no time to delay” if the world is to slow the trend of the devastating impacts of climate change.

Read more

The future of multilateralism and strategic partnerships (Elena Lazarou)

The current European Commission has set the defence and reform of multilateralism as one of its key priorities. In this ideas paper from the EU Parliament’s Research Service, Elena Lazarou tackles the question of how to achieve the EU’s objective in an environment where coronavirus has exacerbated the struggle to uphold multilateralism in a climate of growing nationalism, protectionism and rising great power competition.

Read more

After the ice: the Arctic and European security (Paul Taylor)

Friends of Europe have released a comprehensive study on Arctic defence cooperation. The report examines the strategic and political context surrounding Arctic security and defence focusing on the changing Arctic environment – the resurgence of great power competition worldwide against a backdrop of accelerating global warming which is melting the polar ice cap at a record pace.

Read more

National Cyber Power Index 2020: which is the world’s most powerful cyber nation? (Belfer Center)

Which is the most powerful cyber nation in the world? A recently published Belfer Center report, National Cyber Power Index 2020, is a new approach to conceptualizing and measuring cyber power at the country level – a multidimensional and disaggregated measure of national cyber power that reflects the complexity of the concept. The results provide a richly-layered and informative way of assessing the cyber capabilities of the studied countries.

Read more

Debunking the myth of ‘Debt-trap Diplomacy’: how recipient countries shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative (Chatham House)

Critics of the BRI accuse China of pursuing a policy of ‘debt-trap diplomacy’: luring poor, developing countries into agreeing unsustainable loans to pursue infrastructure projects so that, when they experience financial difficulty, Beijing can seize the asset, thereby extending its strategic or military reach. This paper from the UK’s Chatham House demonstrates that the evidence for such views is limited.

Read more

Sino-US competition: the importance of disaggregating China’s revisionism (Michael Clarke)

Revisionism as a strategy in international politics, and China’s revisionism in particular, however is not the “all-or-nothing” proposition portrayed by US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. A more accurate understanding of the factors that have driven Beijing’s transition between different types of revisionist behaviour suggests that rhetoric such as Pompeo’s will merely reinforce China’s move toward more problematic revisionist behaviours.

Read more

Primer on Hypersonic Weapons in the Indo-Pacific Region (Atlantic Council)

With Russia, China and the United States leading the development of operational hypersonic weapons, other Indo-Pacific states, including Australia, have indicated that they intend to do so in the intermediate future. This comprehensive Atlantic Council primer seeks to marry technological characteristics, geostrategic and military imperatives, and regional dynamics in order to provide a basis for further analysis about hypersonic development and application trajectories in the Indo-Pacific.

Read more

An alliance of democracies: with the US or for the US? (Sven Biscop)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for an “a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies”. By bringing together its European and Asian allies under American leadership, the US hopes to bring them into line with its own China strategy. But an “alliance of democracies” would not really be an alliance with the US – it would be an alliance for the US, to further the American interest, to which the interests of its allies would inevitably end up being subordinated.

Read more

The challenges of the post-pandemic agenda (Jean Pisani-Ferry)

There is a growing possibility that the COVID-19 crisis will mark the end of the growth model born four decades ago with the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, China’s embrace of capitalism, and the demise of the Soviet Union. The small government, free-market template suddenly looks terribly outdated. Instead of regarding growth as the ultimate solution to inequality, advanced economies will need to tackle distributional issues head on. It is to be hoped that they will be spared the convulsions that often accompany structural and policy changes of such magnitude.

Read more

Why is the South China Sea such a hotly contested region? (Greg Austin)

Australia’s statement on the South China Sea in July 2020 was its strongest rejection yet of China’s claims to the waters. It did not represent a new position on the legal issues, but marked a fresh determination to confront China over the maritime disputes. The United States is also pressuring Australia to join its freedom of navigation exercises in the sea — a move likely to further anger China. As tensions in the South China Sea mount, it’s important to understand how this dispute began and what international law says about freedom of navigation and competing maritime claims in the waters.

Read more

Why is ‘values’ the new buzzword in Australian foreign policy? (Benjamin Reilly)

In international affairs, words are bullets, according to an old diplomatic saying. If so, Australia in recent years has begun firing new ammunition. ‘Values’, a word seldom used in the past, has now assumed a central place in our foreign policy rhetoric. Speeches, press conferences and policy statements vibrate with the V-word. If values are now the coin of our foreign policy realm, we will have to start walking the talk.

Read more

Defence spending and plans: will the pandemic take its toll? (IISS)

That the Covid-19 pandemic will have an impact on defence ministries is beyond doubt, but can governments and defence ministries find a way to deal with the possible effects on military spending and resource allocations? One way or another, national governments and defence ministries will have to grapple with the immediate and extended effects of the pandemic on their countries’ military spending and resource allocation.

Read more

Demystifying Australia’s South China Sea stance (Sam Bateman)

Despite Australia and the United States having no direct interest in continental shelf claims in the South China Sea, both have recently joined the debate. Both appear to have sought maximum publicity for their submissions – which have been reported as providing the basis for confronting and false media headlines, such as ‘Australia says China’s claims to disputed islands are ‘invalid’ and are not consistent with UN convention on law of the sea’. In fact there is nothing new in the Australian or US statements despite suggestions that they reflect new aggressive stances against China, and it is not clear why Australia and the United States made statements at this particular point in time other than to add another dimension to the intensifying rivalry with China.

Read more