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  • Author: Mordechai Chaziza
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The Middle East was already plagued by war, famine, and wholesale death in the form of multiple civil wars when the outbreak of Covid-19, a novel coronavirus, added pestilence to the mix. The pandemic offers a unique prism through which to assess the way China interacts with Middle Eastern states in time of crisis. While many countries in the Middle East suspended bilateral air travel, repatriated their citizens from China, and prevented Chinese workers from returning to the region, the same governments also sought to maintain close relations, expressed support for Beijing, and delivered aid to China. The findings show that at least for now, the relationship between China and the Middle Eastern states remains close. However, it may take months to see the full ramifications of the pandemic in the Middle East, so it is too soon to tell how China’s interactions with the countries of the region will develop.
  • Topic: International Relations, Health, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: ONG Keng Yong
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Ambassador ONG Keng Yong, who graduated from MAAS in 1983, remembers his time in Washington and sheds light on Singapore’s “price taker” approach to foreign policy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Higher Education
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Asia, Arab Countries, Singapore, United States of America
  • Author: Yun Sun
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Since being applied to U.S.-Soviet-China trilateral relations after the Sino-American rapprochement in the early 1970s, the notion/theory of “strategic triangles” has been widely used to examine many trilateral relations. The model of “U.S.-China plus one” is popular among students of U.S.-China relations and, consequently, the policy community has witnessed an increasing amount of scholarship on triangles among U.S.-China-India, U.S.-China-Japan, U.S.-China-Russia, and even U.S.-China-Taiwan. Unsurprisingly, this begs the question whether a strategic triangle could be construed and constructed among the United States, China, and South Korea. Generally speaking, despite the trilateral nature of U.S.-China-ROK relations, the Chinese policy community rarely subscribes to the existence of a strategic triangle among the U.S., China, and South Korea. This is not necessarily because South Korea does not carry the same strategic weight as the two great powers, but more importantly is because China does not see South Korea as possessing the strategic autonomy to act as an independent player in the trilateral relations. Although arguably such autonomy might exist in economic and trade relations, on key political and security issues, the Chinese see South Korea as invariably constrained by the U.S.-ROK military alliance and unable to form its own independent national security policy. In writing about the post-Cold War period with an emphasis on geopolitics, Chinese authors do not often treat South Korean policy or Sino-ROK relations as autonomous. Given the great weight given to the U.S. role, it is important, therefore, to take a triangular approach in assessing these writings centered on South Korea. I do so first explaining in more detail why the “strategic triangle” framework does not apply, then examining views on how this triangle has evolved in a period of rising Chinese power relative to U.S. power and fluctuating U.S.-ROK relations as the leadership in Seoul changed hands, and finally returning to the triangular theme to grasp how this shapes China’s understanding of Seoul’s policies with emphasis on the ongoing Moon Jae-in era.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jin Linbo
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: This chapter draws a rough sketch of the evolution of Chinese views on Korean history in the Cold War era in three parts. The first focuses on the formulation of Chinese views of the Korean War in 1950 and the mainstream assessment of the war after Sino-South Korean diplomatic normalization in 1992. The second focuses on China’s attitudes and policies toward the two Koreas in the Cold War years. The third deals with the changes and limits of perceptions on Korean history after diplomatic normalization and their impact on bilateral relations between Beijing and Seoul. For centuries many Chinese have firmly believed that the relationship between China and the Korean Peninsula is like that between lips and teeth, they are not only close to but also dependent upon each other. If the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold. From the middle of nineteenth century, the geopolitical proximity and interdependence between the two have become the determining factors in formulating Chinese perceptions towards Korea. Since then the national security concerns symbolized by the sense of lips and teeth had been frequently stressed by some Chinese intellectuals and officials when both China and Korea were exposed to the growing imperialist expansion and geopolitical competition in East Asia. In order to maintain the traditional tributary relationship between China and Korea, China fought the first Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95. Although it was miserably defeated, and Korea was consequently annexed to the Japanese empire in 1910, the Chinese sense of lips and teeth remained undiminished. Rather, it was further strengthened among ordinary Chinese when the Cold War began and especially when the Korean War broke out in 1950. After the end of World War II, China faced a new situation on the peninsula. Korea was liberated from Japanese rule but soon divided into the Soviet backed socialist North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and the U.S. backed capitalist South Korea, the Republic of Korea (ROK). As a newly established socialist country, China naturally allied itself with the Soviet Union and viewed the DPRK as a close friend while regarding the United States and ROK as hated foes. The intensified Cold War confrontation between the two camps and two Koreas triggered the outbreak of the Korean War. In order to safeguard its own political, ideological, and security interests, China quickly got involved in the war by sending the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (CPVA) to fight together with its DPRK friend against their common enemies. The war ended with a cease-fire armistice and created a friend and foe Cold War framework, which the new China was compelled to face even beyond the Cold War era. Under these circumstances, the majority of Chinese held the view that it was the capitalist enemy rather than the socialist friend who started the Korean War with a view to overthrowing not only the socialist government in Pyongyang but also the similar one in Beijing. Therefore, it was against this background that China’s attitudes and policies toward the two Koreas in the post-Korean War era were doomed to be ideologydriven and DPRK sympathetic.
  • Topic: International Relations, Cold War, History, Korean War
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Kirk W. Larsen
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: In July 2014, Ambassador Qiu Guohong in preparation for Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul stated that the “relationship between South Korea and China couldn’t be any better.”1 Among the many reasons for this—economic, geostrategic, cultural—was a shared sense of history. China and Korea, officials and commentators in both nations claimed, were close because of their agreement regarding the significance of their experiences as victims of foreign, particularly Japanese, imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. History, that constellation of memories, stories, and notions about the past, has often been deployed to reinforce conceptions of identity, to support certain courses of action, and to demarcate between the in-group and the other. But history is ever malleable and protean. Not only do individuals, institutions, and ideas change but so does the understanding of them. When one draws on the past, one inevitably focuses on a limited set of events or narratives that best serve one’s interests—to the exclusion of potentially equally valid candidates. Their utility can vary over time; one need only think of how figures such as Zheng He or Confucius have been imagined and re-imagined over the last century. This has been the case with the history of relations between China and Korea from the latenineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. For many Chinese, Korea has served first as a subject of contestation as China’s position in Korea was challenged by both Western and Japanese powers. Then, when it became increasingly clear that China (or the Qing Empire) was losing this contest, Korea became an omen of China’s own fate absent significant course changes. As Japan’s growing empire engulfed Korea and subsequently threatened parts of China, resistance served to bring China and Korea closer; many in China celebrated what they saw as courageous resistance to Japan—such as when An Chunggun assassinated Ito Hirobumi in 1909. Shared status as victims of Japanese imperialism in an age of “humiliation” brought the two closer, and the mutually shared memory of “humiliation” has been deployed by contemporary Chinese and South Korean leaders—Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye—to foster greater levels of cooperation. However, past conceptions of China, Korea, and the Sino-Korean relationship have sometimes ranged far afield from the cherished tropes of humiliation and the struggle for independence. Even seemingly universally agreed upon symbols, such as An’s heroic 1909 assassination, find themselves subject to changing interpretations such as recent emphasis by some on his pan-Asian vision of Sino-Korean-Japanese cooperation rather than his bold anti-Japanese act. As interests and priorities change, so does the utility of any particular historical narrative.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Imperialism, History
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Sheila A. Smith
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Once more, the United States, South Korea, and Japan have confronted a crisis with North Korea. The pattern is now well established. First, there is a provocation—a missile test, a nuclear test, and even worse, the use of force. Next, the United States and its allies in Northeast Asia muster their forces, strengthen their trilateral policy coordination, and sanction the belligerent Pyongyang. The three nations advocate for the accompanying effort by the United Nations Security Council to condemn North Korea’s behavior. Setting aside their political differences, Seoul and Tokyo intensify their military cooperation and Washington calls for greater trilateral unity in confronting a shared security challenge. In 2017, policymakers in Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo found themselves in a similar cycle but with the threat of war ever more real. The dramatic escalation of tensions between President Donald J. Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seemed to bring the region to the brink of a second Korean conflict. But today, just as dramatically, an accelerated series of high-level summits suggests that the Korean Peninsula could be on the brink of peace. President Moon Jae-in met with Kim at Panmunjom, and both Kim and Moon stepped across the line of demarcation at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. The two leaders have embraced a “new era of peace,” with the promise of ending the state of war on the peninsula. Trump has also said he is willing to meet Kim to discuss denuclearization. CIA director Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang on April 1 to test out that proposition, and as secretary of state, Pompeo had the lead in setting the stage for a meeting in Singapore. The Moon-Kim meeting set up the premise of a negotiated denuclearization process. Trump and Kim will define the contours of that path forward.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Peace
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, South Korea, North America, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Chung Jae Ho
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Pertinent literature abounds on how East Asian states have struggled to position themselves vis-à-vis a rising China over the past two decades. Due to its geographical proximity and cultural similarities with China, as well as its strategic importance to both the United States and China, South Korea’s tightrope-walking has been more pronounced than anyone else’s.1 Given the crucial strategic issues regarding U.S.-China relations and the North Korean conundrum, how the Seoul-Beijing relationship is to evolve undoubtedly constitutes a key variable in regional security dynamics. This chapter asks what is Seoul’s recipe for dealing with a China that is becoming more “assertive,” examining its changing strategic and diplomatic stance over the years of the Park Geun-hye administration and the first year of the Moon Jae-in government. Of the six sections, the first offers a brief overview of the complex relationship since diplomatic normalization in 1992. The second outlines key features of an era of overoptimism during the first three years of the Park administration (2013-15). The third delves into the issue of THAAD (terminal high-altitude area defense) deployment and how that utterly shattered the Park-Xi honeymoon in 2016. The fourth offers a discussion on China’s narrowly-focused sanctions during 2016-17. The fifth is devoted to the first year of the Moon administration, focusing on envoy politics, the “three-noes controversy,” and Moon’s state visit to China. The final section provides concluding assessments of the factors critical in shaping Moon’s policy toward China and where the room for mending relations remains.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Sanctions, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: China, East Asia, Asia, South Korea
  • Author: John Grundy
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The historical legacy of North Korea is characterized by occupation and conflict, and economic rehabilitation and then collapse, with tragic and widespread consequences for population health. From the standpoint of the historical determinants of health, this paper reviews the health system in North Korea between 1953 and 2016. Ideology and political relations have been dominant forces in determining the evolution of the health care system and population health. Despite the development of an extensive primary health care system in the country from the early 1960s following the establishment of the DPRK state in 1948, the public health system experienced a major decline in the 1990s, with catastrophic implications for the health and survival of the population. In recent years, evidence has emerged of some important public health gains, particularly through immunization, women's and children's health, and communicable disease control initiatives. This experience demonstrates that, within the overall policy context dominated by the historical and political determinants of health, there remains the capacity for implementation of public health programs that can yield both tangible health benefits for the population in North Korea, as well as assist the health system to edge closer to a regional standard.
  • Topic: International Relations, History, Ideology, Public Health
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Nimmi Kurian
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: A problematic set of binaries stands at the heart of India’s narrative on borders, one that has rendered its political signaling contradictory as well as virtually unintelligible. India’s border fencing project is a stark metaphor of this conflicted discourse, perching uneasily as it were between the feel-good narrative of rethinking borders as bridges on the one hand and an almost pathological fear of open borders on the other. This binary is what characterises India’s schizophrenic subregionalism, a discourse virtually in morbid fear of itself. The paper argues that this twisted logic runs the risk of turning against itself to subvert India’s subregional project itself. Its political fate is also critically linked to the larger question of how India perceives its role in the region and the extent to which it prioritises subregional integration as a regional public good.
  • Topic: International Relations, Border Control, Regional Integration, Borders
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India, Asia
  • Author: Nimmi Kurian
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: China’s growing water thirst lends an urgency to understand China’s resource choices, the possible conditions under which it is likely to exercise these choices and the ripple effects these are likely to have across the borders. While overinterpretation and hysteria has tended to take the place of informed scholarship and media, India’s official narrative has largely tended to downplay many of these concerns. The paper argues that the debate has also unwittingly ended up being a single-issue debate fixated on water diversion, in the process inadvertently diverting attention away from other equally important issues. Can we frame the water debate with China in ways that can create institutional entry points for a whole set of missing issues that are currently invisible to the mainstream policy and research gaze? India and China’s willingness to begin a subregional conversation on regional public goods could pave the way to designing norms of benefit sharing, negotiating trade-offs, and allocating risks and burdens on collective goods and bads in the region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Regional Cooperation, Natural Resources, Water, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, India, Asia