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  • Author: Erica Downs
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Pakistan is increasing its use of coal to generate electricity at a time when many other countries are reducing coal use in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions or pollution. China is helping Pakistan expand its coal-fired generation capacity through the financing and construction of coal power plants as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a component of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to forge greater global connectivity in part through infrastructure development. Nearly 75 percent of the generation capacity of CPEC power plants is coal-fired. Pakistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) expects that CPEC coal power plants will be largely responsible for the projected increase in the country’s coal-fired generation capacity from 3 percent as of June 30, 2017 (fewer than six months after the first CPEC coal plant began commercial operation), to 20 percent in 2025. As part of its series on the Belt and Road Initiative, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy initiated research into the CPEC power sector projects, which account for the majority of the cost of CPEC projects. This paper examines two of the key concerns critics have about the BRI: environmental sustainability and debt sustainability. Concerns about environmental sustainability center on the ways in which an expansion of the amount of electricity generated globally by fossil fuels, especially coal, will increase greenhouse gas emissions, making it more difficult if not impossible to meet the emissions targets in the Paris Agreement. Concerns about debt sustainability focus on whether China’s lending in support of infrastructure projects will lead to problematic increases in debt, with some analysts maintaining that Beijing is intentionally seeking to push countries into debt distress in an attempt to gain control over strategic assets or decision-making in borrowing countries. The main findings of this study are threefold. First, the heavy focus on coal in the new generation capacity added by the CPEC power projects stems from both “pull” factors from Pakistan and “push” factors from China: The CPEC coal power projects reflect Pakistan’s long-standing goal of diversifying its generation mix away from fuel oil toward domestic coal in an attempt to decrease generation costs and conserve foreign exchange. They also reflect the perception of the administration of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose pledge to end power outages helped his party win the 2013 election, that coal was the best option to bring on a large amount of new capacity in the short term. Although Pakistan has vast renewable energy potential, solar and wind power were considered too expensive and difficult to integrate into electric grids. Meanwhile, Chinese companies had several reasons to sell coal power plants to Pakistan, including exporting rather than warehousing excess power generation equipment, financial incentives provided by Beijing and Islamabad, and the ability to execute projects fast enough to help Sharif eradicate the blackouts hurting Pakistan’s economy before he stood for reelection in 2018. Second, there is a mismatch between the dominance of coal in the CPEC power generation mix and Beijing’s recent emphasis on green development as an important feature of the BRI. This gap between Beijing’s rhetoric and the reality on the ground can be explained in large part by Pakistan’s preference for building coal-fired generation capacity. Ultimately, it is up to the host country to decide the composition of its electricity mix. The Chinese government has a long-standing reluctance to interfere in decisions of this type. Moreover, China regards some of the CPEC coal power plants as environmentally friendly because they use relatively modern technologies and are expected to emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the fuel oil plants Pakistan is replacing. Third, there is a risk that the CPEC power projects will add to Pakistan’s sovereign debt burden, but multiple factors indicate that any increase in sovereign debt from these projects is unlikely to be the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of China. Although the debt financing arrangements for CPEC power sector projects primarily involve loans from Chinese banks to project companies wholly or partly owned by Chinese firms, these projects may increase Pakistan’s debt because of sovereign guarantees issued by Islamabad to support CPEC power projects and the liquidity crisis in Pakistan’s power sector known as circular debt. That said, several aspects of the China-Pakistan relationship and the large stake that China’s government and companies have in the success of CPEC indicate that Chinese interests are better served by sustainable CPEC projects than unsustainable ones.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Regional Cooperation, Green Technology, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, Asia
  • Author: Richard Nephew
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Though historically China has been a sanctions recipient, with only a few isolated incidents of using sanctions in return, this situation is likely going to change in the years to come. China’s global economic position — as well as its ambitions to serve as not only a global power, but also potentially the leading international power — will push it to consider means of exerting international leverage. The United States has shown vividly in the last 30 years that sanctions are one means to this end, and Chinese scholars are demonstrating increasing facility with sanctions doctrine. China’s increasing assertiveness in economic sanctions will allow it to not only hit back directly against the United States with retaliatory measures, but also to develop independent rationales to apply sanctions in pursuit of Chinese policy objectives. China may begin using sanctions as an affirmative instrument of policy. The United States is vulnerable to disruptions in U.S.-Chinese economic ties. The U.S. reliance on Chinese financing, especially for U.S. national debt, and Chinese economic growth in areas where the U.S. typically excels demonstrate China’s capacity to target the U.S. To combat this potential emerging threat, the United States should seek first to negotiate with China on ways to avoid conflict. But, given the likelihood of competition nonetheless, the United States should also add sanctions development to its crisis management process, and increase intelligence and analytical capabilities that focus directly on Chinese sanctions doctrine and practice.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Sanctions, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America
  • Author: Ilan Goldenberg, Jessica Schwed, Kaleigh Thomas
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: In recent months, Iran has responded to rising tensions with the United States—particularly the US launch of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran—by attacking oil tankers and infrastructure in the Persian Gulf region around the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait). These actions have been designed to signal to the United States, the Gulf states, and the international community that the American strategy of strangling Iran economically will not be cost-free, and to Saudi Arabia in particular that it is highly vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. As the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most critical energy chokepoints, the implications of Iran’s efforts merit close scrutiny and analysis. This study was designed to examine three scenarios for military conflict between Iran and the United States and assess the potential impacts on global oil prices—as one specific representation of the immediate economic impact of conflict—as well as broader strategic implications. The three scenarios are: Increasing US-Iran tensions that ultimately lead to a new “Tanker War” scenario similar to the conflict of the 1980s, in which Iran attacks potentially hundreds of ships in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman over a prolonged period while also launching missiles at Gulf oil infrastructure. An escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States in which Iran significantly increases the scope and severity of missile attacks directed at major oil and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. A major conflict between Iran and the United States that includes damage to Gulf oil infrastructure and a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Its main conclusions are: The risk of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran has increased in recent months but still remains relatively low, as neither the United States nor Iran wants war. That said, the September 14, 2019, attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities was a strategic game changer and shows that the biggest risk is a prolonged, low-intensity military conflict. The fact that Iran was willing to conduct such an attack was a surprise to most analysts and to the US government and its Gulf partners. The level of accuracy it showed in the strike demonstrated a technical proficiency the US government and outside analysts did not believe Iran had. In the more moderate and likely conflict scenarios, increasing tensions between the United States and Iran are unlikely to dramatically affect global oil prices. The most profound costs in the more likely scenarios are not energy-related but security-related. Even in the less escalatory scenarios, the United States would be forced into long-term deployments of a large number of air and naval assets that would need to remain in the Middle East for years at a cost of billions of dollars. Such deployments would take away resources that would otherwise be dedicated to managing great power competition with China and Russia. In the more extreme conflict scenarios, major loss of life and an even bigger and longer-term American military deployment would be expected. In the lower likelihood scenario of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran, global oil prices would be dramatically affected, though price impacts would not be prolonged. All assumptions about the potential impacts on oil prices are based on the supposition that the United States protects global shipping lanes, but that theory deserves further scrutiny. For more than a generation, the United States has viewed securing global shipping lanes that are critical for commerce and energy as a core vital interest. But given the isolationist tendencies in the United States and President Donald Trump’s attitude that America should stop underwriting the defense of its allies, it is conceivable he may choose not to respond in the types of scenarios described in this paper or demand that countries most dependent on oil trade from the Gulf—most notably China—step up instead. Another wild card for oil prices in a major crisis scenario would be President Trump’s unpredictable policies regarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Typically, an administration would be expected to coordinate an international response with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to release the SPR of a number of countries, but this cannot be assumed in the current administration. Though these conclusions are to some extent comforting, the authors acknowledge that a key issue with any analysis of this situation is the unpredictability of the United States. In the present moment, neither US adversaries nor partners know quite what to expect—and, for that matter, neither does the US government or its observers.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Oil, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Europe has become a major target of China’s push to acquire advanced key technologies. These technologies support the development of dual-use products with civilian as well as military applications, a development that is in line with China’s efforts towards civil-military integration. The EU has been slow to wake up to this trend. Despite recent efforts, including those to set up a tighter investment screening mechanism, it still lacks strong coordinated regulations to protect its research and technologies. Even more importantly, the author of our newest China Global Security Tracker, MERICS researcher Helena Legarda, warns that Europe lacks a clear policy or strategy to keep up with China’s ambitions in this area. Joint European initiatives providing strategic guidance and adequate funding for innovation in dual-use technologies will be needed to not only preserve but to advance the EU’s scientific and engineering expertise. The China Global Security Tracker is a bi-annual publication as part of the China Security Project in cooperation between Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). This issue also features the Trump administration’s tightened export controls in response to China’s civil-military integration efforts, and it tracks other security developments in China in the second half of 2018, from the launch of a number of new defense systems to an increase in China’s military diplomacy activities around the world.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Presenting China as a 'responsible power' – Beijing releases first major defense white paper in four years
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe, Canada, Taiwan, France, North America
  • Author: Nicholas Crawford
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: China has become the largest lender to developing countries, and a major investor there too. As a result, it has a major stake in many countries facing political and economic instability. Western policymakers involved in responding to instability and crises overseas need to understand how China navigates these situations. China’s approach is similar in some respects to that of Western states, but there are also important differences. China’s policy towards countries facing political and economic instability is driven by four main concerns: It seeks to strengthen and maintain its partnerships with those countries to ensure they remain open to and supportive of the Chinese government and its businesses. China is determined to protect its financial interests, businesses and citizens from the harms that result from instability. It is concerned to see its loans repaid, its investments secure, its workers safe and its supply chains undisrupted. It wants to maintain its narrative of non-interference. Any intervention in the politics or policies of its partner states must be seen as being at the invitation of their governments (although China may pressure its partners for consent). China wants to increase its influence in the world, independently and distinctively. It is increasingly proactive in its response to instability in partner countries. Some responses seek to address the instability directly; other responses are intended to protect Chinese interests in spite of the instability. This paper analyses the political economy of China’s responses to instability, identifies the types of responses China undertakes, and assesses these responses.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Cooperation, Developing World, Political stability, Trade
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, China, Europe, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Joseph Halevi
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: The paper highlights the position of German authorities, showing that they were quite lucid about the fundamental weaknesses inherent in a process that separated monetary from fiscal policies by giving priority to the centralization of the former. Instead of repeating the well known critiques levelled against the EMU – for which readers are referred to the unsurpassed treatment by Stiglitz, the essay highlights the splintering of Europe in the way in which it has unfolded during the 1990s and in the first decade of the present millennium. In particular the early economic and political origins of the terminal crisis of Italy are located between the late 1980s and the 1990s. France is shown to belong increasingly to the so-called European periphery by virtue of a weakening industrial structure and persistent balance of payments deficits. The paper argues that France regains its central role by political means and through its weight as an active nuclear military power centered on maintaining its imperial interests and posture especially in Africa. The first decade of the present millennium is portrayed as the period in which a distinct German economic area had been formed in the midst of Europe with a strong drive to the east with an increasingly powerful gravitational pull towards the People’s Republic of China.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, Political Economy, History, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Europe, Asia, Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Kai Gehring, Lennart C. Kaplan, Melvin H.L. Wong
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC)
  • Abstract: China’s development model challenges the approaches of traditional Western donors like the World Bank. We argue that both aim at stability, but differ in the norms propagated to achieve that. Using fixed effects and IV estimations, we analyze a broad range of subnational stability measures in Africa. Aid by both the WB and China does not increase outright conflict nor any type of citizen protest, on average. Both even reduce outright conflict by governments against civilians. Still, Chinese aid is associated with more government repression and an increased acceptance of authoritarian norms, while WB projects strengthen democratic values.
  • Topic: Development, International Political Economy, Political Economy, World Bank, Developing World
  • Political Geography: Africa, China
  • Author: Feng Jin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pacific Forum
  • Abstract: The issue of gray zone conflict between the US and China has attracted much attention in recent years. “Gray” indicates actions below the threshold of war, yet beyond normal diplomacy. The fundamental characteristics of gray zone activity include that they are well-planned, designed to be ambiguous amid strategic competition, and intended to leave opponents unable to launch an effective response. What demands special attention is that gray zone activity could cause unintended escalation, and that assertive responses to them may not be the best option. For instance, the United States’ gray zone retaliation to China’s activities in the South China Sea is hardly helpful to contain China’s activities, but certainly slow the pace of resolving the South China Sea dispute through negotiation and dialogue and jeopardize bilateral strategic stability. In the United States, current studies on the gray zone issue view the activity conducted by “measured revisionists” (such as Russia, China and Iran) as a major challenge to US national interest and the US-led international order. Today, as China and the United States are dancing on the precipice of a trade war, the geopolitical rivalry between the two countries raises major concerns and the possibility of a new Cold War has been discussed with increasing frequency. Although the United States and China are highly interconnected in many ways, entanglement also creates friction. In this context, the gray zone issue between China and the United States has a significant role in the relationship. How do we understand gray zone conflict? What challenges does the current gray zone activity pose to China and the United States? What measures should be taken to address such challenges?
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, War, Peace
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Clayton Cheney
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pacific Forum
  • Abstract: The Digital Silk Road is the component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that aims to establish China as the global technological superpower. While the Belt and Road Initiative is generally understood to be a foreign policy initiative, it is important to view the Digital Silk Road as both a foreign and domestically focused aspect of the initiative. The first step to analyzing this component of the Belt and Road Initiative is to create a conceptual roadmap to understand the components of the Digital Silk Road. This paper argues that it comprises four interrelated, technologically focused initiatives. First, China is investing abroad in digital infrastructure, including next generation cellular networks, fiberoptic cables and data centers. Second, it contains a domestic focus on developing advanced technologies that will be essential to global economic and military power. These advanced technologies include satellite navigation systems, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Third, because China recognizes the importance of economic interdependence to international influence, the Digital Silk Road promotes e-commerce through digital free trade zones. Last, digital diplomacy and governance, including through multilateral institutions, are key to China creating its ideal international digital environment.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology, Multilateral Relatons, Digital Economy, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Artificial Intelligence, Silk Road
  • Political Geography: China