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  • International affairs

    Afghanistan and China’s new neighbourhood diplomacy

    This article investigates the latest developments and changes in China’s increasingly active diplomacy towards Afghanistan. This is interpreted from two perspectives. First, focusing on China’s domestic perspective the author points out that under the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative, China’s interests in Afghanistan have expanded, particularly in the area of transport; it has started seriously to consider Afghanistan as a transport corridor. The other perspective considers the withdrawal of US military forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan in 2014, which has been followed by a critical transitional period. Concerned by these developments, China has increased its involvement and taken on more responsibilities, as demonstrated by the unprecedented frequency of Chinese senior officials’ visits to Afghanistan; the significant increase of bilateral aid to Afghanistan; and above all, the fact that Beijing has begun to coordinate negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The process of political reconciliation in the country will be extremely difficult and a quick solution is not to be expected. With regard to the idea that the Chinese are filling a ‘vacuum’ left by the US, the article argues that the so-called vacuum does not actually exist because the US military presence was temporary and the withdrawal of the US forces represents a return to the normal state of affairs. Also, excluding the US is not part of Beijing’s policy in this area; rather, it is cooperating with the US and other countries in assisting Afghanistan.
    924Zhao Huasheng
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  • International affairs

    China’s ambition in the South China Sea: is a legitimate maritime order possible?

    China’s expanding presence in the South China Sea is now a major source of escalating tensions leading to a spiral of confrontation with the United States and the littoral states of east Asia. Under these conditions, conventional analysis suggests that serious conflict is almost inevitable. This article provides an alternative perspective by situating China’s growing ambition within the broader transformation of maritime order in the contemporary era. On the basis of a new interpretation of maritime order, the study provides a deeper examination of China’s motivations in relation to the maritime disputes, US–China strategic competition, and Xi Jinping’s new strategy to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The analysis of the legal, strategic and political dimensions of China’s positioning in the South China Sea suggests that maritime nationalism rather than the quest for maritime hegemony is a central motivation driving Chinese actions. A second important insight is that the current approach is strengthening China’s control, but undermining its legitimacy in the eyes of other major powers and stakeholders. By focusing on legitimacy as an organizing principle in maritime affairs, it becomes clear that the Chinese leadership stands to gain from integrating its ambition more fully into the evolving maritime order.
    924Katherine Morton
  • International affairs

    The elusive EU–China strategic partnership

    In 2003 the European Union announced that it had launched a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ with China. This policy was intended to elevate EU–China relations beyond prosaic trade and investment issues to address some of the world’s most pressing political and security challenges. Anything approaching a comprehensive strategic partnership over the past decade linking the EU and China has failed to materialize, however. This article clarifies and examines those issues that have impeded a closer EU–China alignment, and that hold the greatest potential for future discord in their bilateral relations. It explains how clashing political values, diverging geopolitical interests and priorities, and competing conceptions of world order has limited and will continue to limit the scope and depth of any EU–China strategic relationship. EU–China relations are today, and are likely to remain, contested, uneven and—apart from trade and investment—shallow, and embody a limited rather than a strategic partnership. As China’s economic, military and political power continues to expand, the EU will need a new conceptual framework towards Beijing. This framework must be able to facilitate cooperation on issues and policies in which there is real potential for mutual gain, but also manage effectively the inevitable tensions and disagreements that arise.
    924Richard Maher
  • Image of Xi Jinping at military paradeInternational affairs

    Westward ho—the China dream and ‘one belt, one road’: Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping

    Its main emphasis is on making China ‘strong and powerful’ again. While China has pursued a more robust policy in the South China Sea, it has also launched two extremely ambitious long-term projects to expand land and maritime transport links between China and Europe, termed the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative. They aim to promote development of western China, but if successful, they should also help to transform economic relations across large parts of Eurasia. In geopolitical terms, they will expand China’s shadow over regions of the world where hitherto its presence has been relatively modest. They should strengthen links with Europe, as well as with other countries along the routes, to counterbalance potentially conflictual relations with the US. However, success will require active and enthusiastic cooperation from many neighbours. For that reason the risks are as great as the ambition.
    924Peter Ferdinand
  • International affairs

    Review article: Averting US–China conflict in the Asia–Pacific

    The rise of China both presents challenges and offers opportunities for Sino-US relations, transforming the Asia–Pacific region. Washington and Beijing have common interests and have cooperated on a range of global and regional issues, from climate change to nuclear non-proliferation. But, at the same time, China’s more assertive foreign policy and growing military buildup in the region are perceived as direct challenges to the primacy and staying power of the US. In recent years, tensions over Chinese activities in the East and South China Seas and US rebalancing to Asia have created a serious risk of escalation and of a direct showdown between these two Great Powers. The books under review offer timely, realistic and balanced analyses of the historical Great Power rivalry; the extent and limitations of China’s rising power status and its impact on the regional geostrategic and geo-economic landscape; the choice between cooperation and conflict that defines US–China relations in a period of power transition; and finally, they suggest pragmatic approaches that both countries can and should adopt to minimize misunderstanding and miscalculation, while striving to work out a modus vivendi that would allow them to contribute to global and regional governance, rather than being at each other’s throat.
    924Jingdong Yuan
  • International affairs

    Review article: Three perspectives on Chinese diplomacy: government, think-tanks and academia

    What can we expect from Chinese diplomacy in the coming years and what impact will it have on the world? Have there been any changes in direction at the top level in the Xi Jinping era? What are the challenges and opportunities facing Chinese diplomacy in the foreseeable future? China’s government, think-tanks and scholars are exploring these questions from different perspectives. They share a tacit understanding and consistently agree that China needs to fulfil its responsibilities as a major power, but not at the expense of sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, there are three key issues of importance, which are not given adequate attention in any of these circles: non-traditional security issues around national sovereignty and territorial integrity; the recruitment of child soldiers in neighbouring countries; and the rise of the Chinese private security industry.
    924Kai Chen
  • International affairs

    Book reviews section

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