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
The U.S. has dominated the Pacific Ocean — sometimes called an “American lake” — since the end of World War II. Suddenly Americans have a competitor, although it is a rivalry that routinely gets overblown. China’s major thrust is economic, through its massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), not military.Read more
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
Xi Jinping’s Leninist calculus has contributed to China exhibiting both reformist and positionalist forms of revisionism simultaneously, both of which contain pathways toward revolutionary revisionism. The combination of reformist and positionalist forms of revisionism has significant implications for thinking about the future trajectory of Sino-US competition.Read more
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
The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on military and security developments in China describes an already formidable military capability, and China’s intention that its military strength will achieve parity with the US by 2049. Ironically, the report unintentionally reveals that China’s major strategic objectives mirror those of the US, past and present. Additionally, the report provides evidence that Australia’s increasing investment in Defence is no substitute for diplomacy.Read more
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 proximity and size of China, and the belligerence of the US toward China, has occluded the view of Russia among Australia strategic planners. While Russia poses no credible direct threat to Australia, it could be a key player in a conflict between the US and China. Once Russia is factored into the analysis of the situation in East Asia, the global consequences of a war are magnified and the recklessness of contemplating participating in such a conflict becomes even clearer.Read more
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
We have become very China-centric in our strategic thinking in Australia — and this could be to our detriment. Beijing’s deepening defence ties with Russia remain a blind spot in our public debate. China and Russia have grown much closer in recent years, especially when it comes to security and defence. Instead of taking a serious look at the ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ between Russia and China, we largely play down what unites these two major nuclear powers and the world’s most potent militaries outside the United States.Read more
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
ACRI’s Elena Collinson and James Laurenceson present a useful summary and analysis of major developments in July 2020. The authors’ observations about Australia-China and Australia-US trade issues are a welcome contribution to an area often long on rhetoric and short on analysis. Professor James Curran sees reason for optimism in an assessment of the state of the Australia-China relationship in light of the comments of Australian ministers Payne and Reynolds at the AUSMIN 2020 talks in Washington. But has Australia done enough to distance itself from the US’s confrontational stance with China? Or will Australia-China high-level channels of communication “continue to stagnate”?Read more
The Lowy Institute authors’ objective analysis suggests China has not been engaged in such problematic debt practices in the Pacific as to justify accusations of debt trap diplomacy, at least not to date.Read more
Announcing the strategic shift proposed by Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Prime Minister Morrison compares the current strategic environment to “the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s”.
Arguing from historical analogy is a dubious business. But if the Prime Minister believes current global circumstances are comparable to those that preceded the Second World War, the response in the Strategic Update is inadequate. If he doesn’t, his references amount to fear-mongering.Read more
Many EU member states are either internally divided between security circles and economic stakeholders, or fall in one of the following two categories: those having commercial interests in the Chinese market (largely, Northern Europe), and those expecting investment from China (Southern Europe, if not a partly disillusioned Central and Eastern Europe). The growing economic power of China, and Europe’s awkward situation in the US-China trade war, puts enormous pressure on the EU to find aRead more
Institute for National Security Studies (University of Tel Aviv) | Policy Analysis | Volume 23 | No. 1 | January 2020 | Author: François Heisbourg In historical terms, it is the seventy-year era of alliances that is the exception. This point is well made every time NATO prides itself on being without precedent: yes indeed, but that is not reassuring. The norm is what prevailed in previous centuries or millennia. In this interesting article Heisbourg frames his speculation aboutRead more
The much-used phrase ‘shared values’ is regularly used as the basis for international relationships and alliances. It can be used to selectively point to values found in political, social or economic ideologies, or in religious or ethical systems – and to divert attention away from substantive issues or conjure up imaginary communities of interest. In the context of the Australia-India Strategic Partnership, does the use of the phrase mask the real strategic purpose of the agreement?Read more
Australia’s Prime Minister recently said that Australia always respects the sovereignty of other nations, and simply expects the same in return. But cases like Kosovo, Crimea, Jammu-Kashmir and Hong Kong illustrate the tension between sovereignty and self-determination – and the significance of precedent-setting. Recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank requires careful, nuanced consideration. What position will Australia take?Read more
Positioning the adversarial relationship with China as one of morally superior western democratic nations in competition with a somehow illegitimate and malevolent China is an exercise in historical amnesia. The democratic United State’s 1890 – 1920 trajectory from western hemisphere state to global power has some economic, military and foreign policy parallels with authoritarian China’s growth in the twenty-first century.Read more
The recent report ‘Eyes Wide Open: Managing the Australia-China Antarctic Relationship’ contains a lot of information about China’s activities in Antarctica and usefully sets out aspects of the Chinese-Australian relationship.
But are the report’s recommendations a disproportionate reaction to a manufactured crisis regarding China’s presence and activities in Antarctica?