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  • Author: James Andrew Lewis, John J. Hamre
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S.-China relationship is one that neither country can escape. Both benefit from it in important ways. The question for quite some time, though, has been whether China’s economy, international presence, and participation in global institutions would come to look more like our own, or whether it would seek to challenge the order the United States has built and led over the past 70 years. While China’s economic size does not necessarily threaten the United States, China’s willingness to use its economic leverage to forge a global economy closer to its image raises complicated questions considering its lack of transparency. The essays in this volume, written by a diverse group of CSIS scholars, address some of the key issues that currently vex the U.S.-China economic relationship.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Global Political Economy, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Daniel F. Runde, Romina Bandura
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is a small independent federal agency whose mission is to help American “companies create U.S. jobs through the export of U.S. goods and services for priority development projects in emerging economies.” USTDA links American businesses to export opportunities in emerging markets by funding activities such as project preparation and partnership building in sectors including transportation, energy, and telecommunications. Since it was established 25 years ago, the agency has generated a total of $61 billion in U.S. exports and supported over 500,000 American jobs. In connecting American business to such opportunities, USTDA also links American technology’s best practices and ingenuity with U.S. trade and development policy priorities. USTDA is an instrument to enable American-led infrastructure development in emerging economies and, therefore, frequently sees increasing competition from government-backed Chinese firms and the challenge they can pose to American commercial engagement under the flag of One Belt, One Road (OBOR). OBOR is paving the way for Chinese engineering, procurement, and construction companies to prepare and develop infrastructure projects in OBOR countries in a way that favors Chinese standards, thereby exerting significant pressure to select Chinese suppliers. This creates a potentially vicious cycle—the more China builds, the faster their standards become the international norm, and, ultimately, this cycle could foreclose export opportunities for U.S. businesses and harm American competitiveness in global infrastructure development. U.S. exporters are increasingly requesting USTDA intervention at the pivotal, early stages of a project’s development, to compete in markets, such as the OBOR countries, where they frequently face Chinese competition. Of note, 40 percent of USTDA’s activities in 2016 were in OBOR countries across South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Although there are other agencies that may seem to do work similar to USTDA, there are various aspects that make it a unique agency. This paper provides a brief description of USTDA, its origin and evolution, the impact on the U.S. economy and its proactive collaboration across U.S agencies. Finally, it offers a set of recommendations for USTDA on how to improve its operations and strengthen its role in the developing world.
  • Topic: Development, Energy Policy, Communications, Infrastructure, Trade, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy outline a U.S. shift from counterterrorism to inter-state competition with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. However, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for much of this competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs of conventional and nuclear war would likely be catastrophic. U.S. strategy is evolving from a post-9/11 focus on counterterrorism against groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State to competition between state adversaries. As the National Defense Strategy notes, “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”1 This shift has significant implications for the U.S. military, since it indicates a need to improve U.S. capabilities to fight—and win—possible wars against China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea if deterrence fails. Though it is prudent to prepare for conventional—and even nuclear—war, the risks of conflict are likely to be staggering. Numerous war games and analyses of U.S. conflicts with Russia in the Baltics, China in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, and North Korea on the Korean peninsula suggest the possibility of at least tens of thousands of dead and billions of dollars in economic damages. In addition, these conflicts could escalate to nuclear war, which might raise the number of dead to hundreds of thousands or even millions. According to one analysis, for example, a U.S. war with China could reduce China’s gross domestic product (GDP) by between 25 and 35 percent and the United States’ GDP by between 5 and 10 percent. The study also assessed that both countries could suffer substantial military losses to bases, air forces, surface naval forces, and submarines; significant political upheaval at home and abroad; and huge numbers of civilian deaths.2 These costs and risks will likely give Washington, Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and even Pyongyang pause, raising several questions. Will these high costs deter the possibility of conventional and nuclear war? If so, what are the implications for the United States as it plans for a rise in inter-state competition? The Cold War offers a useful historical lens. NATO planners prepared for a possible Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. The U.S. military, for example, deployed forces to the Fulda Gap, roughly 60 miles outside of Frankfurt, Germany, as one of several possible invasion routes by Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces. NATO also planned for nuclear war. The United States built up its nuclear arsenal and adopted strategies like mutually assured destruction (MAD). The concept of MAD assumed that a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. The threat of such heavy costs deterred conflict, despite some close calls. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the two superpowers nearly went to war after a U.S. U-2 aircraft took pictures of Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction in Cuba. But Washington and Moscow ultimately assessed that direct conflict was too costly. Deterrence held. Instead, the United States and Soviet Union engaged in intense security competition at the unconventional level across Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Both countries backed substate groups and states to expand their power and influence. Under the Reagan Doctrine, for example, the United States provided overt and covert assistance to anticommunist governments and resistance movements to roll back communist supporters. The Soviets did the same and supported states and substate actors across the globe. In addition, the Soviets adopted an aggressive, unconventional approach best captured in the phrase “active measures” or aktivnyye meropriatia. As used by the KGB, active measures included a wide range of activities designed to influence populations across the globe. The KGB established front groups, covertly broadcast radio and other programs, orchestrated disinformation campaigns, and conducted targeted assassinations. The Soviets used active measures as an offensive instrument of Soviet foreign policy to extend Moscow’s influence and power throughout the world, including in Europe. Unlike the Cold War, the United States confronts multiple state adversaries today—not one. As the National Defense Strategy argues, the United States is situated in “a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory” where “the central challenges to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers.” But based on the likely costs and risks of conventional and nuclear war with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, much of the competition will likely be unconventional—and include what former U.S. State Department diplomat George Kennan referred to as “political warfare.” The term political warfare refers to the employment of military, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other means—short of conventional war—to achieve national objectives. It can include overt operations like public broadcasting and covert operations like psychological warfare and support to underground resistance groups.3 The United States’ adversaries today are already engaged in political warfare. Russia, for instance, utilizes a range of means to pursue its interests, such as technologically sophisticated offensive cyber programs, covert action, and psychological operations. Moscow has conducted overt operations like the use of RT and Sputnik, as well as semitransparent and covert efforts. It has also become increasingly active in supporting state and substate actors in countries like Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya to expand its influence in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and even North Africa. Finally, Russia is attempting to exploit European and transatlantic fissures and support populist movements to undermine European Union and NATO cohesion, thwart economic sanctions, justify or obscure Russian actions, and weaken the attraction of Western institutions for countries on Russia’s periphery. Iran is using political warfare tools like propaganda, cyber attacks, and aid to substate proxies to support its security priorities, influence events and foreign perceptions, and counter threats. Tehran is also assisting state and substate actors in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Afghanistan. Iran supports Shia militia groups in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. In the South China Sea, China is pouring millions of tons of sand and concrete onto reefs, creating artificial islands. It is also conducting a sophisticated propaganda campaign, utilizing economic coercion, and using fleets of fishing vessels to solidify its assertion of territorial and resource rights throughout the Pacific. Finally, Beijing is targeting the U.S. government, its allies, and U.S. companies as part of a cyber-espionage campaign. With political warfare already alive and well with the United States’ state adversaries, there are several implications for U.S. defense strategy. First, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for significant inter-state competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs and risks of conventional and nuclear war may be prohibitively high. This should involve thinking through trade-offs regarding force posture, procurement, acquisition, and modernization. A U.S. military that predominantly focuses on preparing for conventional or nuclear war with state competitors—by modernizing the nuclear triad, building more resilient space capabilities, acquiring more effective counter-space systems, equipping U.S. forces with high-technology weapons, and emphasizing professional military education (PME) to fight conventional wars—may undermine U.S. unconventional readiness and capabilities. Second, even organizations that already engage in some types of political warfare—such as U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. intelligence community—will need to continue shifting some of their focus from counterterrorism to political warfare against state adversaries. This might include, for example, providing more aid to the Baltic States to conduct an effective resistance campaign against unconventional action by Moscow. Or it might involve aiding proxies in countries like Syria and Yemen to counter Iranian-backed organizations. It could also include improving the border security capabilities and effectiveness of Ukrainian military and police units against Russian-backed rebels. Third, the United States should invest in resources and capabilities that allow the military and other U.S. government agencies to more effectively engage in political warfare—and to provide agencies with sufficient authorities to conduct political warfare. One example is improving capabilities to conduct aggressive, offensive cyber operations. Other examples might include advanced electronic attack capabilities, psychological warfare units, security force assistance brigades, and precision munitions. Recognizing that other powers routinely conduct political warfare, George Kennan encouraged U.S. leaders to disabuse themselves of the “handicap” of the “concept of a basic difference between peace and war” and to wake up to “the realities of international relations—the perpetual rhythm of struggle, in and out of war.” Kennan’s advice may be even more relevant today in such a competitive world.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: David Kelly
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The debate about China’s changing role in global affairs is often framed as a dichotomous choice between a peacefully rising China that seeks to be a constructive stakeholder and an increasingly dangerous China that is challenging the status quo, both in terms of its norms and the place of the United States. The reality is more complicated. There are not only signs of both elements, but the foundations shaping Chinese behavior is multifold. Most international relations scholars examine China through one or another version of realism or liberalism. David Kelly, head of research at China Policy, offers an alternative approach that examines the nature of Chinese identity, or rather, Chinese identities, plural, and how they exhibit themselves in Chinese foreign policy. Using his renowned skills in reading Chinese-language official documents and the broader commentary, Kelly teases out seven narratives that Chinese tell themselves and the world, and he provides a codebook for explicating shifting Chinese behavior in different arenas. Kelly concludes that some of these narratives facilitate cooperation, but most point toward deep-seated tensions between China and the West in the years ahead.

  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Globalization, Imperialism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Tom Karako, Wes Rumbaugh
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: President Trump’s 2019 budget request includes $12.9 billion for missile defense programs, including $9.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency and about $3 billion in modernization in the military services, building upon the acceleration initiated in the $323 million FY 2017 Above Threshold Reprogramming and the FY 2018 Budget Amendment of $2.0 billion. The proposed budget continues the recent trend of procurement consuming a greater portion of overall missile defense spending, reflecting a choice for prioritizing near-term capacity over longer-term capability. With the exception of two new Pacific radars and a modest effort for tracking hypersonic threats, the request includes strikingly few changes to the program of record. The submission fails to address past shortfalls for more research and development of new missile defense technologies and capabilities, most significantly with its lack of real movement toward a space-based sensor layer for tracking and discrimination, as opposed to merely missile warning. Pursuit of more advanced capabilities will require substantial programmatic changes in the 2020 budget, or with a budget amendment later this year, if such capabilities are recommended by the forthcoming Missile Defense Review. On February 12, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its budget request for FY 2019, which included a total of $12.9 billion for missile defense-related activities. The proposed topline for the Missile Defense Agency comes in at $9.9 billion, comprising $2.4 billion for procurement, $6.8 billion for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E), $500 million for operations and maintenance (O&M), and $206 million for military construction (MILCON). The $9.9 billion request is a 26 percent increase from the FY 2018 budget request of $7.9 billion. Funding for ballistic missile defense within the services includes about $3 billion, largely for the procurement of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) and Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) interceptors. Overall, the budget reflects a near-term focus on capacity of existing programs, even at the expense of capability improvements. In its current form, the request boosts funding for all four families of interceptors. For homeland missile defense, this includes the continued improvements to the capacity and reliability of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system by continuing to deploy an additional 20 interceptors, several testing spares, and a new missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska. The request also deepens the magazines for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis, and Patriot interceptors, continuing a procurement-heavy trend from last year.1 The focus on capacity does not answer the question, however, how missile defense efforts will be adapted to the new reality of great power competition described by the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy.2 One of the few new muscle movements in the entire budget is the addition of two radars in the Pacific for discriminating long-range missile threats to the homeland. The idea of a discrimination radar for Hawaii had been publicly floated over the past two years, and had previously been part of the yet-unpassed appropriations marks from the House and Senate appropriations committees. The Hawaii radar is scheduled for a 2023 deployment, with an additional radar deployed by 2024 at a yet-undisclosed location. The two radars will cost approximately $2.5 billion over the course of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). The inadequacy of the request lies not with the top line, but rather with the capabilities and strategy that the top line fails to prioritize. Although these radars would be useful to close the near-term Pacific midcourse gap against limited ballistic missile threats to the homeland, such funds must be weighed against the opportunity cost for larger improvements in capability provided by a space-based sensor layer that could provide substantially more capable birth-to-death tracking and discrimination on a more global scale and against a wider diversity of threats. The choice for capacity over capability reflects a near-term time horizon, but further delay in more advanced technologies will carry costs at a later time. In sum, the administration’s budget request for FY 2019 prioritizes near-term readiness against limited but growing ballistic missile threats from sources such as North Korea. This choice, however, falls short of connecting missile defense efforts to the reality of renewed great power competition as articulated in the National Defense Strategy. The inadequacy of the request lies not with the top line, but rather with the capabilities and strategy that the top line fails to prioritize. The 2019 request’s modesty of ambition is manifested by low funding for more advanced programs, such as boost-phase intercept, space-based sensors, and volume kill. Should the forthcoming Missile Defense Review address some of these issues and recommend programmatic changes, their implementation may have to wait until the 2020 budget, unless a budget amendment of some kind prioritizes them for the coming fiscal year.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Budget, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Asia, North America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Whatever his other limitations, Vladimir Putin has shown he is a master in exploiting Russian nationalism and American and European sensitivities. His latest gambit—publicizing new Russian nuclear systems—several of which are still developmental, may have key components that are untested, or do not yet exist—give him political credibility in asserting Russian national strength in a Russian election year, and emphasize the one key area where Russia remains a leading global super power: its possession of nuclear weapons. The key question is whether they represent any real change in the nuclear balance, Russian and U.S. ability to pose an existential threat to the other state, and mutual assured destruction. If they do not, they are more technological status symbols or “toys” than real threats, although the proliferation of such weapons might allow smaller nuclear powers like Iran and North Korea to defeat today’s missile and air defense systems and technologies. An analysis of the actual content of his speech, the changing nuclear and conventional balance between the superpowers—the U.S., Russia, and China, the global balance of deployed nuclear weapons, the shifts taking in US and Russian balance since the Cold War, and as a result of START, the full range of new U.S. and Russian nuclear programs, and of what Putin did and did not say about Russia's new programs, provides a very different picture from the one Putin portrayed in his speech. It shows that Putin focused on the "toy factor" in emphasize technology over any real world aspects of the balance, arms control, and war fighting.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Authoritarianism, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Bonnie S. Glaser, Matthew Funaiole
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The papers in this compendium were written by the 10 members of the 2017 CSIS Taiwan-U.S. Policy Program (TUPP) delegation. TUPP provides a much-needed opportunity for future leaders to gain a better understanding of Taiwan through first-hand exposure to its politics, culture, and history. Each participant was asked to reflect on his or her in-country experience and produce a short article analyzing a policy issue related to Taiwan. These papers are a testament to the powerful impact that follows first-hand exposure to Taiwan.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Taiwan, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States, South Korea, Japan—and every other state affected by the stability and security of Northeast Asia—has a strong incentive to find a way to end North Korea's nuclear threat and its development and deployment of ICBMs. At the same time, no one can afford to forget that North Korea poses a much wider range of threats from its conventional forces and shorter-range missiles—particularly as it develops ballistic and cruise missiles with precision strike capabilities. U.S. diplomacy and strategy cannot afford to focus solely on nuclear weapons, particularly when North Korea has the option of developing biological weapons with the same lethality as nuclear weapons. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore the conventional threat that North Korea poses to South Korea—a threat that could inflict massive casualties on South Korean civilians as well as create a level of conventional war that could devastate the South Korean economy.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Political stability, Biological Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Jane Nakano, Sarah Ladislaw
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States, China, and India together constitute about 70 percent of global coal consumption and 64 percent of global coal production. Each country is an important contributor to the global coal supply and demand picture and yet each stands at a very different stage in its relationship with coal. The history of coal in the United States is predicated on a long-term decline in its share of the electricity fuel mix, but deep regional socioeconomic ties give the fuel an outsized role in national energy politics. Coal makes up 15 percent of the total U.S. energy mix and 30 percent of the electric power mix while the power sector accounts for about 90 percent of coal use in the United States. Over the years, electricity demand has flattened thanks to strong efficiency gains. Moreover, the abundance of inexpensive natural gas and rapid decline in renewable energy costs have significantly diminished the competitiveness of coal-fired power generation. Unlike in China and India, the U.S. coal fleet is in contraction as a wave of retirements is underway, with little evidence of reversal, indicating that the current downturn appears structural and not cyclical. After a recent period of decline and bankruptcy for the U.S. industry, a political movement to revitalize the coal sector has emerged from the current presidential administration. Notwithstanding the renewed political support, however, the regulatory uncertainty clouds a future pathway for a coal power resurgence. The notion of economic and energy security benefits long associated with the use of coal has effectively disappeared in one of the largest producer and consumer markets for coal in the world. China is far and away the largest coal consumer and has built coal-fired power generation capacity at an unprecedented rate over the past couple of decades. As it enters a new phase of development, China seeks to reduce the role of coal in its economy both to mitigate the environmental impacts of coal production and use but also to harness its domestic power consumption to drive its competitive advantage in things like solar, wind, and nuclear power generation. China has concrete targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ambitious plans, such as a nationwide emissions trading system, that can influence the pace and scope of shift in its power supply mix. Despite these government targets and the ongoing industrial structural reform that can reduce coal’s dominance in the electric power sector, the trajectory for coal use remains significantly subject to the future of state-owned enterprises and economic liberalization. In contrast to the United States and China, India is a fast-growing market for coal where economic development and universal energy access goals often override concerns about environmental pollution and climate change. India also sees enormous opportunity in renewable energy development—for the positive environmental attributes, the potential commercial opportunities, and the ability to lessen reliance on imported sources of energy like oil, gas, and coal. The Indian central and state governments have set up ambitious policies to foster a greater share of renewable energy in the electric power mix. The growth in renewable power-generation capacity shows early indications that renewables as an indigenous resource have the potential to challenge not only coal’s economic advantage but also its energy security value propositions as an indigenous resource, warranting close attention for some potentially valuable lessons for power-sector management in other developing economies where renewables increasingly beat out coal. How India will calibrate its desire to phase out coal imports despite the quantitative and qualitative issues its domestic supply has is another issue with major implications for both global coal markets and the future of its power supply mix, particularly solar and wind. Even as each market navigates a unique set of circumstances surrounding the role of coal-fired power generation, the availability of midstream infrastructure looms large as a universally important determinant of the competitiveness of coal resources, and thus the fuel hierarchy. Railways are the dominant mode for transporting coal in China and the capacity constraints continue to intensify, disadvantaging domestic resources to imports. Midstream is also a major topic in the United States, where a lack of west coast export terminals limits the U.S. ability to take advantage of continued demand growth in Asia. Low utilization rates also reflect the headwinds facing coal-fired power generation in all three countries. For example, U.S. coal-fired power generation experienced a 20 percent decrease in coal fleet utilization rates and a 12 percent decrease in the generation capacity from 2015 to 2016. Also, while China is expected to add another 200 GW of new coal-power capacity by 2020, the utilization rate of 47.5 percent for the thermal power fleet in 2016 indicates a complex nexus between capacity investment and power demand in the country, where the capacity growth does not give a solid indication of electric power output or fuel consumption. The local air pollution and climate implications of coal-fired power generation in each country also depend on the age of their fleet and capital stock turnover. The perceived future direction of coal in each country impacts the willingness of investors to upgrade or build new, more efficient plants. Whereas the ever-weakening coal-power demand in the United States is diminishing investor appetite for new coal plants with higher efficiency, lower emissions (HELE) technology, the capacity expansion in China is enabling the modernization of its fleet that includes more HELE plants. The pace and scope of modernization for India’s coal fleet, which is much younger yet remains low efficiency and high emissions today, will be an important indicator for its future emissions profile. Lastly, various noneconomic forces at play can generate a tension between the needs of a changing electricity market and the political-economic pressures of expanding coal-power capacity. The coal sector enjoys a powerful narrative on its socioeconomic benefits like jobs and tax revenues for coal-mining communities, but enabled by technology advancements, the emerging focus on values like flexibility in the power sector has elevated attributes of many alternative sources of electricity, including renewables and natural gas in the United States. Likewise, the Chinese expansion of coal capacity appears to be misaligned not only with the projected level of power demand growth but also with government efforts to expand alternative sources of electricity, thus raising the risk of stranded or severely underutilized coal plant assets.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, Coal
  • Political Geography: United States, China, India, Asia
  • Author: Zack Cooper
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The issue: China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean should not come as a surprise. China is following in the traditional path of other rising powers; it is expanding its military operations to match its interests abroad. The security implications of China’s push into the Indian Ocean region are mixed. In peacetime, these efforts will certainly expand Chinese regional influence. In wartime, however, China’s Indian Ocean presence will likely create more vulnerabilities than opportunities. China’s military forays into the Indian Ocean have triggered a series of warnings. The term “string of pearls” was first used to refer to Chinese basing access in the Indian Ocean by a 2004 report for the U.S. Department of Defense. That report suggested China’s growing regional presence could “deter the potential disruption of its energy supplies from potential threats, including the U.S. Navy, especially in the case of a conflict with Taiwan.” Other scholars have warned that Beijing seeks to “dominate” the Indian Ocean region. Others suggest that the Chinese government is simply following its expanding trading interests and seeking to secure its supply lines against disruption. Although China’s presence in the Indian Ocean may permit it to increase its regional influence, Chinese facilities and forces would be highly vulnerable in a major conflict. Thus, the security implications of China’s push into the Indian Ocean region are mixed. In peacetime, these efforts will certainly expand Chinese regional influence. In wartime, however, China’s Indian Ocean presence will likely create more vulnerabilities than opportunities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Imperialism, Military Strategy, Maritime
  • Political Geography: United States, China, India, Taiwan, Asia, Indian Ocean