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  • Author: Malcolm Davis
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: This paper examines the key drivers shaping Australia’s role as a middle power in an era of intensifying US-China strategic competition. These drivers include the influence of strategic geography; its historical legacy in international affairs; the impact of its economic relationships with states in the Indo-Pacific region; the changing demands of defence policy, including the potential offered by rapid technological change; and, the impact of climate change, resource constraints and demographic factors. The paper considers three possible scenarios that will shape Australia’s middle power policy choices – a US-China strategic equilibrium; a “China crash” scenario that promotes a more nationalist and assertive Chinese foreign policy; and a third “major power conflict” scenario where competition extends into military conflict. The paper concludes that Australia cannot maintain a delicate balance between its strategic alliance with the US and trading relationship with China. It argues there is a need for Australia to adopt a deeper strategic alliance with the US while promoting closer ties with its partners in the Indo-Pacific and supporting the growth of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region to counterbalance growing Chinese power. Australia needs to embrace an Indo-Pacific step up, and as a middle power, reduce the prospect of a Sino-centric regional order emerging.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Australia, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: When Beijing threatened to restrict China’s export of rare earths (widely used in numerous important civilian and military technologies) to the United States at the end of May 2019, the world was reminded of China’s rare earths export disruption in the autumn of 2010 amid a maritime territorial conflict between China and Japan. In the past few years, the worldwide attention cast on the future supply security of rare earths and other critical raw materials has increased in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries owing to the global expansion of “green technologies” (including renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and batteries, and smart grids) and digitalisation as well as equipment and devices embedded with artificial intelligence. In this paper, the term “critical raw materials” (CRMs) refers to raw materials critical to industries that are also import-dependent on them, and to new technologies which often have no viable substitutes and whose supply, besides being constrained by limited recycling rates and options, is also dominated by one or a few suppliers. CRMs include rare earth elements (REEs), which comprise 17 different elements (see Figure 4). The global race for the most advanced technologies dependent on CRMs has intensified the competition for access to as well as strategic control of REEs, lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel and other CRMs. This working paper analyses the global supply and demand balance of three CRMs (REEs, lithium and cobalt, the latter two being major raw materials for batteries) in the foreseeable future and whether ASEAN countries can play a role as producers and suppliers of CRMs. It also examines potential counterstrategies for mitigating and reducing the global demand for CRMs, such as substitution, reduced use of CRMs, and recycling and re-use.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Digital Economy, Green Technology, Metals
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is officially neither a Chinese “Marshall Plan” nor a geopolitical master strategy. At present, it involves 84 countries, rising from 65 countries in 2015, and 15 Chinese provinces. Over the last year, the number of countries being concerned or ambivalent about China’s motivations and strategic objectives behind the BRI have increased. Despite officially supporting China’s BRI, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned last April, that China is supporting unneeded and unsustainable projects in many countries, leading to heavy and unpayable debt burdens. In ASEAN, Chinese investments are welcomed but there are also misgivings about the BRI’s strategic objectives which may constrain ASEAN’s policy options. As China is presently and will remain the single most influential country in global energy markets in the next decades, it is not surprising that its infrastructure plans of building railways, highways and ports are often interlinked with China’s energy and raw materials projects abroad and its domestic energy policies. This paper analyses the energy dimensions of the BRI and its strategic implications for its wider economic, foreign and security policies in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Military Strategy, ASEAN, IMF
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Steve Chan
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: This short essay introduces some concepts and propositions from social science research that I personally find helpful in understanding the ongoing Sino-American trade dispute. Naturally, they are not meant to suggest a comprehensive or exhaustive list of factors that inform this topic. Given the purpose and the limits of my essay, I also do not engage any specific theory or method, such as the efficient-market hypothesis or game theory pioneered by well-known Nobel laureates (e.g., Burton Malkiel and Eugene Fama1; Thomas Schelling2).
  • Topic: Conflict, Trade, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Pradumna B. Rana, Chai Wai-Mun, Ji Xianbai
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), officially unveiled in 2013, is China’s landmark foreign and economic policy initiative to achieve improved connectivity, regional cooperation, and economic development on a trans-continental scale. China has promoted the BRI as a cooperative initiative that will lead to a win- win situation for both China and BRI partner countries. However, there are many different views and pushbacks against the BRI and suspicions of China’s underlying intentions. Impacts of the BRI can be assessed either through a model-based quantitative study or through a broadly representative survey. Our paper used the latter approach as we were not aware of any such study in the past. We implemented an online survey from 20 June to 19 July 2019 which over 1,200 Asian opinion leaders responded to. Asian opinion leaders were defined as policy makers, academics, businesses, and media practitioners from 26 Asian countries that have signed a BRI agreement with China. Stakeholders’ perspectives on the following issues were solicited: (i) why China might have been interested in launching the BRI; (ii) perceived benefits and risks to countries participating in the BRI; and (iii) policies that the stakeholders would like to recommend both to China and their own governments. Though mixed views on the specifics of the BRI emerged, respondents generally felt that the BRI was a positive development facilitating international economic cooperation and development. The recommendations of this survey should be of some use in making the BRI a truly win-win initiative for all.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Economic Policy, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Pradumna B. Rana, Xianbai Ji, Wai-Mun Chia, Chang Tai Li
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: The withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trump’s “America First” agenda have ignited a second round of interest in mega-free trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region. Countries have been motivated to explore alternative trade policy options. Using national real gross domestic output gains estimated by the GTAP model to construct “preference ordering” for 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and their six regional dialogue partners, this paper comes up with several findings. First, when multilateral agreements are not possible, countries are better off with a narrower regional trading agreement than without one. Second, in the region, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has higher beneficial impacts than the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Third, for dual-track countries, that is countries that are negotiating both the CPTPP and the RCEP, implementing both agreements is better than each separately. Fourth, as expected, economic impacts of the CPPTP are lower than those of the original TPP12, but all CPPTP members will benefit although to different degrees. Fifth, economic impacts of open regionalism are higher than those of a closed and reciprocal one. Going forward, the paper argues that ASEAN countries and their regional dialogue partners need to adopt a “multi-track, multi- stage” approach to trade policy.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Free Trade, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Martin van Bruinessen
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: In the two decades since the fall of the Suharto regime, one of the most conspicuous developments has been the rapidly increasing influence of religious interpretations and practices emanating from the Middle East and more specifically the Gulf states, leading observers to speak of the “Arabisation” of Indonesian Islam. In the preceding decades, the state had strongly endorsed liberal and development-oriented Muslim discourses widely perceived as “Westernised” and associated with secularism and Western education. Indonesia’s unique Muslim traditions have in fact been shaped by many centuries of global flows of people and ideas, connecting the region not just with the Arab heartlands of Islam and Europe but South Asia and China. What is relatively new, however, is the presence of transnational Islamist and fundamentalist movements, which weakened the established nation-wide Muslim organisations (Muhammadiyah, NU) that had been providing religious guidance for most of the 20th century. The perceived threat of transnational radical Islam has led to renewed reflection on, and efforts to rejuvenate, indigenous Muslim traditions.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, transnationalism, Secularism
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Indonesia, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: You Ji
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: China’s five-year plan of PLA reform marked a new page in the history of PLA transformation. This article will analyse two major aspects of this round of unprecedented PLA reforms: (i) the politics of the military reform; and (ii) the PLA’s efforts to reshape its force establishments, organisational structure, and command chains. The first concerns Xi’s political leadership and the second draws a roadmap to remould the PLA by 2020. By now the reform has yielded substantial achievements: (i) the overhaul of the apex of power; (ii) the reshaping of the mid-level command chains of the war zone and service; and (iii) the restructuring of the overall force establishments. It has also created some transitional uncertainties as well.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Reform, Political structure, transnationalism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Kai He, Huiyun Feng
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: The establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has signified a “charm offensive” by China towards multilateral institutions and existing global financial governance. If the rise of China is inevitable, what will the future world look like and what should other countries be prepared for? Borrowing insights from institutional balancing theory and role theory in foreign policy analysis, this project introduces a “leadership transition” framework to explain policy dynamics in global governance with the AIIB as a case study. It suggests that China, the US, and other countries have employed different types of institutional balancing strategies, i.e., inclusive institutional balancing, exclusive institutional balancing, and inter-institutional balancing to compete for influence and interest in the process of establishing the AIIB. A state’s role identity as a “leader,” a “challenger,” or a “follower” will shape its policy choices regarding different institutional balancing strategies in the process of leadership transition in global governance. Institutional balancing is a new form of balancing among states in the future of global governance. China’s institutional rise in global governance might be more peaceful than widely predicted.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Infrastructure, Governance, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: As ASEAN’s energy demand is likely to increase by almost two-thirds in the period up to 2040, the regional oil and gas resources in the offshore zones of the ASEAN member states will become even more important for enhancing the energy supply security of both the individual member states as well as for ASEAN as a whole. Accordingly, access to and political as well as physical control and security of these offshore energy resources will receive even more governmental attention. In context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative as well as South China Sea policies and its energy dimensions, they can fuel already existing maritime competition and conflicts in the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the interconnecting sea lanes and regional choke points. This paper analyses the question to what extent are energy security concepts and challenges are interlinked with maritime policies, particularly in regard to the unresolved overlapping claims in the South China Sea and the perceived intensifying naval competition in the Indian Ocean. It also highlights the strategic implications of ASEAN's rising energy demand and growing exploitation of its offshore maritime energy resources for future regional cooperation, enhanced competition and potential strategic rivalries as well as conflicts.
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, Oil, Gas, Maritime, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Indian Ocean, South China Sea