Competing for Influence: China’s Strategic Constraints and Challenges in the Indian Ocean

Chetananand Patil, Research Intern, ICS

The Indian Ocean is increasingly becoming a platform for the new emerging competition between major powers with China making its forays into the region, India seeking to preserve its dominance and the US keen to contain rise of China. Conventional wisdom perceives Chinese presence as a threat for the region and especially for India as it challenges Indian supremacy in its own backyard. Although China’s increasing presence cannot be overlooked or seen in idealist terms, there are certain limitations to its expansion which places Beijing in a strategically disadvantaged position vis-à-vis India.

The most important aspect that needs to be taken into account regarding China and the Indian Ocean Region is that China has no maritime territorial claims in the IOR and the region is not its strategic backyard. For Beijing, to protect maritime sovereignty in the South China Sea is the first priority Continue reading “Competing for Influence: China’s Strategic Constraints and Challenges in the Indian Ocean”

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19th National Congress of the CPC: Xi Jinping Firmly in Charge

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Xi Jinping is officially China’s strongest leader in decades. The Communist Party of China’s Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) was unveiled at the end of the 19th National Congress of the CPC in Beijing yesterday with Xi Jinping reelected General Secretary for a second term. The 7-member PBSC includes besides Xi and his Premier Li Keqiang, at least four of Xi’s close allies in key positions. Also, in a departure from Party norms it offers no choice of potential successors to take over from Xi in 2022 when again according to norms, he is supposed to step down from power.

This composition of the PBSC in favour of Xi is the culmination of a series of steps he has taken over the past five years, foremost of which was a popular and far-reaching anti-corruption campaign that netted hundreds of senior Party and military officials including a potential rival and a former PBSC member, no less. Continue reading “19th National Congress of the CPC: Xi Jinping Firmly in Charge”

China Diary: First Impressions

Monish Tourangbam, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University, Karnataka & South Asian Voices Visiting Fellow, Stimson Center, Washington D.C.

As an academic actively teaching and writing on issues of international relations and geopolitics, visiting the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has always been a priority on my bucket list. So, when an opportunity came to visit the PRC, I embraced it with an open mind, with an intention to listen, observe and learn. A trip spanning less than two weeks is hardly an adequate time to even start scratching the surface of a country that is often associated with opacity. Hence, these are mere first impressions that in no way can be seen as definitive impressions.

One is often struck by the geographical nearness of China to India, and yet the political distance, in terms of a complex adversarial and competitive relationship, and divergent political systems. Continue reading “China Diary: First Impressions”

The Doklam Standoff and After: Whither India-China Relations?

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

The standoff between China and India in the Doklam area of Bhutan has been resolved with each government putting out differing versions of the exact terms of the settlement. But it is certain that status quo before 16 June this year has been restored. The Chinese have stopped their road construction in the area, which had led to the Indian action in the first place and Indian troops have pulled back to their positions.

The Chinese government has sought to sell the deal as a case of the Indians having blinked, of having bowed to Chinese threats and coercion. It is doubtful that the line has much purchase even within China where the netizen community might have constraints on their conversations but are not stupid and not entirely without access to information from the outside world. Continue reading “The Doklam Standoff and After: Whither India-China Relations?”

China in the Afghan Imagination

Rustam Ali Seerat, Research Scholar (International Relations), South Asian University, New Delhi

China though geographically close to Afghanistan, has been a distant land, politically and socially . The Afghan people have little knowledge about China. The socio-political distance extends to the era prior to the decline of China in the 18th century. Though the Silk Road had connected Central and West Asia to Chinese lands and commodities were flowing along the Silk Road, from China to Europe, passing through the Muslim world of present-day Afghanistan. However, economic exchanges brought less of China’s political influence in the region. Even with the re-emergence of China in the latter half of the twentieth century and the flow of its products into the Afghan market, the socio-political influence of China on Afghanistan remains limited. Socially, culturally and politically, China is still a far and mysterious place for Afghans. Continue reading “China in the Afghan Imagination”

Nepal’s Views on the Doklam Standoff

Avadhi Patni, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi

The Doklam standoff between India and China has caused security, economic as well as political concerns for other countries of the South Asian region. This article explains general views and opinions of Nepal on the Doklam standoff. Nepal has signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with both India (Ministry of External Affairs 1950) and China (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung 1960). It has two tri-junction points with India and China and its dependency on both the countries raises security as well as economic concerns for Kathmandu.

One tri-junction point between Nepal, China and India is at Lipulekh in western Nepal and the other is at Jhinsang Chuli in eastern Nepal. Concerns for Nepal started in 2015 when India and China signed a bilateral agreement to increase trade through Lipulekh but without any consultation with Nepal. This tri-junction point is considered crucial by Nepal for developing it as an economic bridge between India and China. Following this event was the 2015-2016 India-Nepal border blockade. These incidents have created a popular opinion in Nepal about India being at fault in the current standoff in Doklam (Baral 2017).

A statement by Gopal Khanal, the foreign policy advisor to the ex-Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Continue reading “Nepal’s Views on the Doklam Standoff”

Opening Doors Southwards: China’s Increasing Presence in Nepal

Aakriti Vinayak, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi  

China is making its influence keenly felt in Nepal today. China is using different strategies from road connectivity, hydroelectric projects to using soft power as an approach to forge linkages with Nepal. China’s concentrated effort to use soft power diplomacy in Nepal – with heavy investments in religion, education and tourism – has been a success on the high tables and between the government elites, relations have been institutionalised. One sees a prospective future for Nepal where there is an attempt to tilt more and more towards China – on almost every front – economic, cultural and regional. When Nepalese president Bidya Bhandari released the Nepalese edition of the book, Governance of China by Chinese president Xi Jinping, Upendra Gautam the General Secretary of China Nepal Study Centre said that the event befittingly heralds Nepal and China relations into the 21st century kinship where soft power plays a paramount role (Gautam 2016).

Under former Nepalese prime minister Prachanda, China started using Buddhism as a tool of soft power by Continue reading “Opening Doors Southwards: China’s Increasing Presence in Nepal”