China and Russia's separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants. To the smaller, embryonic Central Asian nation states, the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict.
China, traditionally averse to intervening abroad, is testing the role of peacebuilder in South Sudan, where it has unique leverage. This could portend a growing global security role, but further Chinese engagement will likely be tempered by self-interest, capacity constraints and aversion to risk.
Dangerous aerial and naval encounters are rising as China and Japan spar over disputed islands in the East China Sea. A promising reconciliation process has floundered. To prevent an accident tipping the dispute into open hostility, both sides urgently need a credible crisis management protocol to insulate any negotiations from their broader rivalry.
The race for hydrocarbon reserves in the South China Sea is aggravating conflicting territorial claims. The regional players need cooperation, yet have increasingly open confrontations at sea. For peaceful joint energy development, all parties need to stop acting unilaterally and do more to understand the others’ goals and limitations.
The South China Sea is the cockpit of geopolitics in East Asia, and growing tensions pose a serious threat to stability in the region. China and ASEAN must take advantage of the currently favourable environment to establish new codes of crisis management, especially at sea, to withstand any new conflicts.
The deterioration in relations between China and Japan has spiraled beyond an island sovereignty dispute and risks an armed conflict neither wants. A November regional summit is a fence-mending opportunity – if the two countries’ leaders rise above nationalism and manage multiple flashpoints.
China is implementing the sanctions [on North Korea] with unprecedented rigor and determination. But does that mean everything is being followed through completely? Not necessarily.
China sees sanctions as punishment for bad behaviour rather than an effective means of achieving disarmament [of North Korea].
[Frustration] has created space for a wider policy debate in China, between those who think China has to stand behind North Korea and those who call for abandoning it and cooperating more with the U.S.
Chinese analysts continue to argue that no amount of pressure, short of what might cause a collapse, will bring North Korea to denuclearize.
China is putting a lot of capital and institutional effort behind the Belt and Road. But it’s not going to reshape Asia in a few years. It will take a couple of decades to assess the impact, if China sticks with it.
The main significance of [China's Belt and Road Forum] is optics: Making Xi Jinping look presidential and effective at home and making China look rich and powerful on the world stage.
China’s growing involvement in South Sudan’s civil war differs from its past approach to non-interference, though there is debate on the long-term implications as its role in African, and global, security affairs expands.
Originally published in South China Morning Post
Cooperating on oil won't work - but fishing might.
Originally published in The National Interest
An international tribunal has issued a sweeping ruling against China in a landmark case brought by the Philippines over disputed claims in the South China Sea. Beijing rejected the ruling, but the judgment’s legal clarity could ultimately provide the basis of a better, durable, negotiated outcome for the many parties involved.
The Hague’s looming decision on a Filipino challenge to Chinese claims could reverse the region’s collision course.
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal