Why China stands to benefit from ambiguity on Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (L) take part in video conference in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Maria Repnikova, Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Georgetown University

From the outset of the Russia–Ukraine escalation, Russian official sources claimed to have secured China’s support. Most recently, following Russia’s official annexation of Crimea, President Vladimir Putin thanked China and India, which abstained from the UN Security Council vote condemning Russia.

In reality, however, Russia’s projection of China’s stance in this crisis has been misconstrued, as China consistently favoured strategic ambiguity Read more…

Can China win the war on air pollution?

Chinese tourists wear facemasks during a visit to Tiananmen Square as heavy air pollution shrouds Beijing.(Photo: AAP)

Author: Daniel K. Gardner, Smith College

China’s polluted air — so much in the news these days — has been 30 years in the making.

When Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in the late 1970s, the country started its steady rise from the economic doldrums, largely through investment in heavy industrialisation. Since then, its GDP has grown about 10 per cent annually, and its economy has displaced Japan’s as the world’s second largest.  Read more…

Embrace China, but for just a moment

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao engage in talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, December 2013. Despite extremely close Sino-Australian economic relations, Bishop has argued that the US is Australia’s most important economic partner. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Derek Scissors, AEI

Shiro Armstrong recently claimed in these pages that China is Australia’s most important economic partner, indicting Australian government endorsement of the US for the position. The defence of the US offered by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop and others is unsatisfying, and the case for China is reasonable. However, Australians and others should be mindful that China’s current importance is probably transient and there are subtle reasons to regard the US as Australia’s key partner. Read more…

Strategic ambiguity a hazard for Asian security

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage after a tour at Pearl Harbour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Richard A. Bitzinger, NTU

One of the most dangerous challenges facing the Asia Pacific is ambiguity — particularly strategic ambiguity on the part of the two most important players in Asian security, the United States and China. How these two nations engage with each other is ultimately of paramount importance to regional security. Therefore, it is crucial that they make their intentions crystal clear, not only to each other but to the other Asia Pacific nations as well. Read more…

Is Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy threatened by pandas?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang as they attend the cooperation signing ceremony between Russia and Vietnam at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam in November 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thuy T. Do, ANU

Vietnam is maximising its political leverage with ‘clumping bamboo’ diplomacy. Although Thailand is famous for its skilful ‘bamboo diplomacy’ — always solidly rooted but flexible enough to bend whichever way the wind blows to survive — the Vietnamese have found another diplomatic philosophy to engage great powers. Read more…

How the Ukraine crisis is pushing two superpowers together

Chinese President Xi Jinping is welcomed by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his first foreign visit since assuming the presidency. Western political and economic sanctions will inevitably push Moscow toward Beijing. (Source: AAP).

Author: Artyom Lukin, Far Eastern Federal University.

There is one international player that stands to gain from the recent turn of events in Ukraine, regardless of its outcome. This player apparently has nothing to do with the crisis that has engulfed Russia, the EU and the United States, and makes a point of staying on the sidelines. This player is China. Read more…

Abbott pivots from enragement to engagement of Asia

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at an address to the Asia Society of Australia in Canberra on 25 March 2014. The prime minister said that China, Japan and South Korea have decisively shifted the world centre of economic gravity. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott heads off on a major expedition at the end of this week in a make-or-break effort to unlock the opportunities of the Asian century for his country in Japan, South Korea and China. The mission includes a large delegation of businesspeople and state premiers as well as many of Australia’s top officials. It embraces Australia’s top-three export markets Read more…

Embracing China as number one

The Chinese flag seen here on the Mekong River (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

China is Australia’s most important economic partner. That is true now and it is only likely to become more so in the future.

In January Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop unexpectedly declared that ‘the United States remains our single most important economic partner. When you combine two-way trade and investment, it stands at over $1 trillion’. Read more…

Beijing’s South China Sea strategies: consolidation and provocation

A Chinese marine surveillance ship alongside a Japan Coast Guard ship near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Gregory Poling, CSIS

Recent months have seen a steady progression of China’s long-term strategy in the South China Sea, which can be loosely divided into two parts. Beijing is building up its maritime surveillance forces in the area and strengthening effective control of the features it occupies. At the same time, Chinese vessels are venturing far afield with greater frequency to assert Beijing’s claims to the entire area encompassed by the ‘nine-dash line’, and to provoke missteps by fellow claimants. Read more…

Challenges remain for China–Sri Lanka FTA

Sri Lankan students watch coal being unloaded for the only coal-powered electricity generating plant in the nation, which is Chinese built. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Saman Kelegama, IPS

Although China–Sri Lanka trade had been growing steadily beforehand, China was not a large trading partner of Sri Lanka until 2005, which was a turning point in China–Sri Lankan economic relations. In the mid-2000s, China was increasingly asserting its global power via bilateral loans for developing countries in Asia and other continents. In Sri Lanka, a new government was looking for unconditional loans with negotiable repayment periods to defeat a drawn-out separatist war and develop neglected infrastructure in the country. Read more…

Is China preparing for a ‘short, sharp war’ against Japan?

A PLA soldier of a frontier defence corps jumps through an obstacle on fire during a military exercise in northeast China on 5 March 2014. Territorial claims have stirred tensions with Japan; although such exercises trigger anxiety in China’s maritime neighbours, Chinese planners conceptualise them as part of conventional deterrence. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Jonathan D. Pollack, Brookings Institution, and Dennis J. Blasko, independent China military analyst

Heightened tensions between China and Japan in recent months have triggered widespread debate over Beijing’s ultimate intentions. There are even predictions of direct armed conflict in the East China Sea. Is an acute crisis likely? What potential actions might China take to protect its interests? Read more…

Who will help the helpers in Hong Kong?

Domestic workers wear black cloths and paint their faces to symbolise their unhappiness during a protest at a down town Hong Kong street. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Zhuoni Zhang, City University of Hong Kong

Foreign domestic helpers have come under the spotlight in Hong Kong recently, with several foreign domestic maids making allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of their employers. According to the Hong Kong Police Force, every year there are 30–40 reported cases of disputes between foreign domestic helpers and local employers. This number may seem relatively small compared to the 320,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong in 2013. Yet life is tough across the board for domestic helpers, who work long hours for low pay, have little privacy, and risk significant breaches of their legal rights which are afforded only weak protections. Read more…

Hong Kong press freedom under attack

Staff of the Ming Pao newspaper hold the front page of their newspaper with the headline on the former editor Kevin Lau who was assaulted and injured during a protest outside the Ming Pao office.

Author: Joseph Cheng, City University of Hong Kong

The recent stabbing of Kevin Lau, former editor-in-chief of the prestigious Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, has aroused much concern about press freedom in the territory. It comes in the context of severe political polarisation in the territory, and at a time when it is likely that the Chinese authorities will reject the pro-democracy movement’s demand for political reforms. There is some speculation that the attack was related to Ming Pao’s stories on the wealth of top Chinese leaders’ families. Read more…

China debates the TPP

Chinese Chief Delegate Wang Shouwen, Assistant Minister of Commerce of China, speaks during the 4th Round of Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement among China, Japan and South Korea in Seoul on 4 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia

A host of issues continue to plague Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Constant reminders of how difficult these issues are to conclude come from actors as diverse as Japanese rice farmers, health care advocates in Canada and Australia, and Chilean officials concerned about intellectual property rights and capital controls. Read more…