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”

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Pressing Pause: India’s Absence at China’s Belt and Road Forum

Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy

The successful conclusion of the Belt and Road Forum (BARF) in Beijing, which India chose to stay away from, has led to a chorus of voices warning that in doing so, India has isolated itself both regionally and globally.

With the exception of Bhutan, all the South Asian neighbours of India participated, as did countries India regards as its partners in resisting the Chinese dominance of Asia; these include the US, Japan, Australia and Vietnam. Japan and Vietnam are also countries of South East Asia, which, like India, have territorial disputes with China, but they did not consider those disputes reason enough to stay away. It may also be argued that India itself has not let its territorial disputes with China stand in the way of cooperating with it on matters of mutual interest such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) or the BRICS Development Bank (DB).

India’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will also present opportunities for regional cooperation with China and other member countries. These opportunities constituted a rationale for seeking membership in the organisation. So, did India make a wrong call in staying away from the BARF? Continue reading “Pressing Pause: India’s Absence at China’s Belt and Road Forum”

US-Africa Relations Under Trump and What It Means for China

Veda Vaidyanathan, PhD Candidate, University of Mumbai and ICS-HYI Doctoral Fellow

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of chatter in virtual corridors that Africanists inhabit, trying to assess what the new presidency in the US means for the continent. Donald Trump’s repeated references to the region during the campaign had not struck the right chords with African scholars and leadership alike.

US President Donald Trump’s tweets on South Africa before his election

Much hyperbole criticizing aid to Africa, using labels of corruption and crime and even mispronouncing ‘Tanzania’ during a foreign policy speech in April[1] failed to project Africa as a reasonable foreign policy priority. Some analysts attributed the Trump’s lack of seriousness in addressing Africa – a region that houses some of the world’s fastest-growing economies – to his lack of substantial investments in the continent. Continue reading “US-Africa Relations Under Trump and What It Means for China”

Tsai Ing-wen’s Visit to Central America

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

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Central America from 7-15 January 2017 came amidst the tensions set off by US President-elect Donald Trump publicly tweeting about his phone conversation with her soon after his election. Over time, Trump’s tweets on China have gotten ever more provocative, and questions are now being raised about his administration’s willingness to adhere to the one-China policy, which the Chinese have called the fundamental basis of US-China relations, never mind the fact that in reality China has also never supported the one-China policy as the Americans themselves interpret it which is of Taiwan joining the PRC only with the free will of the people of Taiwan themselves. China insists on maintaining the threat of the use of force if the decision of the Taiwanese does not go its way. Continue reading “Tsai Ing-wen’s Visit to Central America”

CPEC: Views of the Business Community in Pakistan

Jyotishman Bhagawati, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies 

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has created a sense of both euphoria and scepticism in Pakistan. The euphoria is because of the size and scale of the corridor project which is expected to create 700,000 direct jobs and whose total cost, according to a Deloitte study, is estimated to touch US$75billion upon completion [1]. At the same time, there are also increasing concerns over the project primarily due to the lack of concrete details about the various schemes falling under it which the government is accused of not sharing with the public [2]. Against this backdrop, it is imperative to note the perceptions of the business community in Pakistan regarding the CPEC as it is one of the most crucial stakeholders in the project. Continue reading “CPEC: Views of the Business Community in Pakistan”

Tibet’s Place in China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative

Tshering Chonzom Bhutia, PhD, Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

By now, China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is familiar to scholars and officials around the world. It has become the catchphrase for all of China’s international outreach, including conferences, seminars, and delegation visits to and from China. However, China has not completely reassured its neighbors. The various terms and phrases that have been used to refer to this idea embody the contention surrounding it – from the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and Maritime Silk Route (MSR), to One Belt One Road (OBOR), to the current BRI. More broadly, some describe it as “strategy,” others call it a “project” with the Chinese now settling on “initiative.”

Having played an important role in the whole Silk Route trade route historically, India finds China’s attempt to revive it in the modern context without any consultation with Delhi troubling. Continue reading “Tibet’s Place in China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative”