Resources for Mapping China’s Participation and Contribution in Asian Regional Cooperation

Part II

Mapping Academic Scholarship on Regionalism

by Aya Adachi

For studying China’s behavioural pattern in regionalism it is useful to draw lessons from general work on comparative regionalism as well as scholarship on Asian specific regionalism. It not only allows us to place China’s regional politics into the wider academic debate but also to make statements with regards to distinct features of Chinese regionalism.

Comparative regionalism deals with issues such as, defining regions, regionalism, regionalisation and regional integration. As regions and their level of regionness (Hettne & Söderbaum 2000) are diverse, definition have been rather loose in order to accommodate flexibility when defining regions in a comparative context. While early scholarship has been narrowly centered around the EU and the European experience, scholars have since put efforts in trying to amend the bias. The scholars around the so-called new regionalism scholarship and other more recent work have re-conceptualised ontological perspectives and established a more or less consensus view on the following (Acharya 2012):

  1. Regionalism is no longer centred around the state but also includes interactions among non-state between states and within a given area.
  2. Regionalism in no longer defined in terms of formal intergovernmental organisations with a charter and its own bureaucracy
  3. Regionalization is understood different from regionalism: the former being market-driven and less political – alas not entirely apolitical.
  4. Regions are not a geographic given, but are socially constructed, made and remade through interactions.

Comparative regionalism as a discipline to actually compare one region to another suffers from difficulties of obtaining comparable data sets or establishing a research method that is applicable in all regions. Comparative regionalism has been criticized for thus far only having delivered regionally specific empirical generalizations, in which hypothesis were verified but relationship to other variables were not specified. Nevertheless, it is important to refer to the comparative regionalism scholarship to establish the link between area-specific or region-specific scholarship and academic work across all regions and to avoiding parochialism within your own academic discipline (e.g. China Studies, or East Asian Area Studies).




East Asian Regionalism
has proliferated since the 1990s. What has emerged is a complex structure of various different competing and overlapping initiatives and constellations (ASEAN, ASEAN + 3/+6, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Forum, East Asian Summit, Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, amongst others). East Asian Regionalism has been studied by numerous scholars. Much work has been dedicated to exploring external aspect of effects of globalization on regionalism (Beeson 2014/2007; Dent 2016/2008) or on Sino-Japanese rivalry and its impact on regional economic order (Park 2013; Rathus 2011; Solis, Stallings & Katada 2009). However, scholarship on East Asian Regionalism has been rather state-centered and has shied away from taking on the research agenda of new regionalism by avoiding to include non-state actors and the analytical level of domestic politics. This can be attributed to the fact that many scholars are critical of the differentiability of state and non-state in East Asia (Fawn 2009) and no attempts have been made to dissolve the binary distinction between state and non-state to include other analytical levels.

With regards to how China
positions itself regionally, it is uncertain whether China has a clear singular stance or strategy towards regionalism. With the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) being a global project, it could be argued that China does not have a strategy towards regionalism, but rather relies on various regional frameworks as a means to an end. Nevertheless, China is engaging in multiple regional cooperation projects in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and in the Asia Pacific.


Resources for Mapping China’s Participation and Contribution in Asian Regional Cooperation

by Aya Adachi

Part I
Resources for Empirical Data

The People’s Republic of China shares borders with 14 states (excluding Hongkong and Macau). As China is one of the largest country in the world and second largest in Asia, its regional association is ambiguous and political. It can be rather challenging to geographically place China within a single “region”, understood as not geographically given, but socially constructed, made and remade through interactions.[1] While the coastal areas can be unambiguously regarded as “East Asian”, the relative and cultural proximity of China’s western (Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia) and southern (Yunnan, Guangxi) parts to Central and Southeast Asia are close. It is therefore interesting to map how China positions itself regionally.

Particularly for those interested in studying the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it can be useful to use resources from other regional projects and their associated research institutions along with independent regional research institutions. A number of projects (e.g. infrastructure plans) have been initiated before the BRI has been announced and have since been incorporated into the BRI. It can therefore be valuable and more accurate to include regional cooperation that are spatially smaller in scope and have existed longer into studies of the BRI. Not only is reliable data on the BRI scarce, but it is also very challenging or nearly impossible to find data from a single source for the BRI as a whole – since the full geographic reach of the project remains open and vague. Furthermore, providing data on the BRI as a whole is complicated by the fact that it relies on independent and standardized reporting and collection of data from the associated countries. Needless to say, although these resources can be very useful for BRI cross-country-comparison analysis, they should also be used with caution as the methods of data collection may differ widely.

The following kinds of resources will be listed below:

  • regional organizations or cooperation frameworks
  • research institutions,
  • media outlets with a regional focus

Regional Organizations or Regional Cooperation Frameworks[2]

Official documents, reports, publications, information on ongoing and previous projects

Research Organizations with a Regional Focus

Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Asian Development Bank is a regional development bank established in 1966 to promote social and economic development in Asia. Regional Cooperation and Integration was promoted from the early beginning but efforts were dramatically increased since the 1990s with an official ADB Regional Cooperation Policy constituting one of the main focus areas. The annual Asian Economic Integration Report published by the ADB, is one of the most comprehensive publications on the economic development of the region. The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) publishes books, working papers, policy briefs that are helpful for the study of East Asian Regionalism.

Asian Regional Integration Center (ARIC)
ARIC was initially founded following the Asian financial crisis as a technical assistance of the ADB to monitor recover and vulnerabilities as well as policy recommendations. ARIC keeps track of all news and publications related to regional integration and cooperation on its website. ARIC’s comprehensive database includes features, such as general economic and financial indicators of the region, daily market watch, integration indicators, as well as an overview of all bilateral and plurilateral FTAs that include at least one of ADB’s 48 regional members as signatory.

Economic Research Intitute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)
An international organization established among 16 governments at the East Asia Summit in 2007, ERIA works closely with the ASEAN Secretariat, researchers and research institutes from East Asia to contribute to allocate analytical research and policy recommendations. In addition, ERIA’s activities are aimed at capacity building in strengthening policy research capacities of less developed countries. Publications by ERIA include various formats, such as books, discussion papers, policy briefs. ERIA, together with UNCTAD, tracks all updates in matters of non-tariff measures to foster transparency in economic integration.

Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA)
ERINA is a Japanese institution that conducts research, collects and disseminates information on Northeast Asian economies. Its aim is to contribute to the formulation and development of the integrated Northeast Asia Economic Subregion, and to the advancement of an international society through this research.

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Yusof Ishak Institute
A research institute based in Singapore aimed at “the study of socio-political, security, and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. ISEAS offers a wide range of different publication formats, such as journal articles, ISEAS Perspective papers, and multiple working paper series.

Mekong Institute
Mekong Institute (MI) is an intergovernmental organization founded by the six member countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), to support implement and facilitate integrated human resource development (HRD), capacity building programs and development projects related to regional cooperation and integration. As an intergovernmental organization it is managed by GMS national and international staff and supported by international academics and subject-matter experts and consultants. MI provides databases and publications on specific thematic issues concerning the Greater Mekong region.

Reconnecting Asia
Reconnecting Asia is particularly interesting for those who are looking for an overview of BRI infrastructure projects. Reconnecting Asia is an initiative by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and maps new linkages – roads, railways, and other infrastructure – that are reshaping economic and geopolitical developments across Eurasia. The project aims to fill Asia’s infrastructure-information gap, by carefully curating all relevant data. In addition to the highly developed visualization tool that maps all planned and implemented projects Reconnecting Asia also provides analysis on recent trends. One of the most interesting analysis are the mappings of competing geoeconomic visions (including ASEAN, China, EU, India, Iran, Japan, Russia).

United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)
UNU-CRIS, based in Bruges, serves as a think tank for the UN, with particular links to the UN bodies dealing with regional integration. It works in partnership with institutes and initiatives throughout the world that are concerned with issues of integration and cooperation.

 Media outlets with a regional focus

The Diplomat
The Diplomat provides analysis and commentary on events occurring in Asia. Its expert coverage includes topics such as, geo-political trends throughout the Asia Pacific, defence and intelligence, as well as environment, human security and development. Categories are regionally divided into Central, East, South and Southeast Asia as well as Oceania. In addition, The Diplomat also has sub-categories that put a special emphasis on reporting on the ASEAN (called ASEAN Beat) and on the New Silk Road (Crossroads Asia).

East Asia Forum
A platform for analysis and research the East Asia Forum covers politics, economics, business, law, security, international relations and society relevant to public policy, centred on the Asia Pacific region. It consists of an online publication and a quarterly magazine, East Asia Forum Quarterly, which aim to provide clear and original analysis from the leading minds in the region and beyond.

Part II of Mapping China’s Participation and Contribution in Asian Regional Cooperation will recommend academic readings – books and journal articles dedicated to comparative regionalism as well as East Asia and China-specific regionalism.

[1] For a literature recommendation on definition of region, regionalisation and regionalism see part 2, resources of academic scholarship on regionalism.

[2] Only included are those in which China is an official member.

The emergence of the AIIB in the context of current multilateral development cooperation

by Thomas Otto

After becoming an important global creditor of foreign direct investment, China now also takes a leading role in multilateral development cooperation by establishing a new multilateral development bank (MDB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This step, as I will argue, is not taken by chance but is a reaction to the existing problems of MDBs’ lending activities in Asia. The establishment of the AIIB begs the question in what way China tries to transform current multilateral investment in Asia.

In this article, I will try to give a broad answer to that question by first outlining the current problems of the established MDBs’ lending activities in Asia and, secondly, describing how China reacts to these problems. Thirdly, I will give brief recommendations on how the established MDBs may adapt to and cooperate with the AIIB.

One of the most pressing problem for South and Southeast Asian economies at the moment is a yawning gap between the required investment in infrastructure to maintain the current economic growth in the region and the actual investment, first and foremost provided by the established MDBs and Japan (Ruiz-Nunez/ Wei 2015; Dollar 2016, 212). Developing countries in South and Southeast Asia require about $516 billion investment in infrastructure annually to sustain their economic growth (ibid.).

At the same time, the MDBs’ infrastructure investment is declining since the 1980s. This is to a great extend due to the shift of MDBs’ focus away from investment in heavy infrastructure to the establishment of environments favorable for investment, featuring aspects of good governance, appropriate legal frameworks, accountable bureaucracy, and democratic values (Weiss 2017, 4). The result was that the loans provided by the World Bank (and later also by the ADB and other MDBs) were tied to demanding conditions, which the recipient countries were often unable to meet. Especially the World Bank’s safeguards regarding environmental assessment and involuntary resettlement, which are often applied in projects about energy, transportation, and urban development, are particularly demanding (Dollar 2016, 205). In addition, the World Bank is known for being quite risk-averse in its decisions on which projects to fund, which means that more risky but nevertheless important projects are burdened with additional studies beforehand at the expense of the borrower. All this makes current MDBs’ provision of loans costly, slow, and cumbersome to an extend that is unfeasible for developing countries. Consequently, most governments turn away from the established MDBs and look for other sources of capital (Dollar 2016, 211).

This is where China’s relatively new investment in infrastructure projects in Asia comes into play. In contrast to the World Bank’s loans, China’s investments are generally considered flexible and less bureaucratic (Dollar 2016, 206). Furthermore, China assures non-interference in domestic political affairs, which the cases of countries in Central Asia (Smith-Stegen 2015) and on the Balkan Peninsula (Mackocki 2017) exemplify. “So far, China has been reluctant to subscribe to any international standards for environmental and social safeguards. Its position is that it follows the laws and regulations of the host country” (Dollar 2016, 204).

With by far the biggest share of voting power in the AIIB’s Board of Directors (28 per cent), China can strongly influence the bank’s policies and can effectively veto major decisions (Weiss 2017, 9). Despite the AIIB’s decision-making structure being similar to those of other MDBs, the member countries located within the region have more voting power than non-regional members of the AIIB, with the latter’s voting power being capped at 25 per cent (Weiss 2017, 9). This measure is supposed to strengthen the voices of the regional recipient countries vis-á-vis those of developed lenders.

It can be expected that the AIIB will focus on providing quick and “no-strings-attached” capital, as China already does with its foreign direct investment. Even though the AIIB has incorporated environmental and social policies similar to the World Bank’s safeguards, it has not been explicit about how these policies are to be implemented (Dollar 2016, 207).

How should the World Bank, ADB, and other MDBs react to the emergence of the China-backed AIIB? First of all, the established MDBs should reassess the requirements they attach to their loans and financial services. Having very ambitious demands on important issues such as sustainability, good governance, and social security do not benefit anyone, if they result over-demanding the recipients’ capabilities and, ultimately, in failing to provide loans at all. South and Southeast Asia needs a large amount of investment to maintain its current economic development and it should be provided in a way suitable for local conditions. Therefore, it will be crucial to make it easier for the recipient states in Asia to meet those requirements by accelerating the lending process, relaxing attached conditions, and making it less bureaucratic.

Secondly, the World Bank should reconsider its reluctant attitude towards more risky infrastructure projects that could greatly benefit the region. Simply loading the burden of risk assessment on the back of the recipient country contradicts the initial motivation to assist the latter with its economic development. Especially for risky projects, the local institutions and companies need additional consultation and a multilateral bank that covers their back.

Thirdly, the MDBs should intensify their cooperation with the AIIB to ensure that certain environmental and social standards are met in Asian developmental cooperation. This way the MDBs can try to implement their social and environmental regulations and find a way back to their previous investment in Asian infrastructure.

Finally, the US and Japan, the leading powers of the established MDBs in Asia, should strongly consider joining the AIIB to influence its future policies and strategies, as Germany and France already do. If the US and Japan are indeed genuinely interested in the promotion of good governance, environmental protection, and sustainable development, promoting these goals within the soon probably most important creditor in the region might be a prudent step.

A strong demand for investment in South and Southeast Asian infrastructure combined with the established MDBs’ loans being highly unattractive for developing countries created a welcoming environment for flexible, less bureaucratic, and non-interventional capital the newly established AIIB seeks to provide. The World Bank and other multilateral development banks will have to revise their own lending conditions and to seek further cooperation with the AIIB, if they wish to keep playing an important role in Asia’s regional economic development.


Dollar, David (2016): China as a Global Investor. In Ligang Song, Ross Garnaut, Cai Fang, Lauren Johnston (Eds.): China’s New Sources of Economic Growth: Vol. 1. Reform, Resources and Climate Change: ANU Press.

Karen Smith Stegen; Julia Kuznir (2015): Outcomes and strategies in the ‘New Great Game’: China and the Caspian states emerge as winners. In Journal of Eurasian Studies 6, pp. 91–106.

Makocki, Michael (2017): China in the Balkans: The battle of principles. In ECFR. Available online at

Ruiz-Nunez, Fernanda; Wei, Zhichao (2015): Infrastructure Investment Demands in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies. World Bank, Policy Research Working Paper 7414, Washington DC.

Song, Ligang; Garnaut, Ross; Fang, Cai; Johnston, Lauren (Eds.) (2016): China’s New Sources of Economic Growth: Vol. 1. Reform, Resources and Climate Change: ANU Press.

Weiss, Martin A. (2017): Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In Congressional Research Service.


The New Silk Road and Eurasian ambitions of China (CfE on ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ contribution)

by Alexey Alexandrovich Semenov


Strengthening of China led to more proactive and assertive Chinese foreign policy aimed at increasing the global role of the country. The new Chinese diplomacy is focused on the active influence and inclusion of China in all global processes, as well as the creation of its own integration projects. The ultimate goal of Chinese leaders is to make China one of those world powers that establish the rules of the game. Xi Jinping’s foreign policy doctrine can be characterized as the attempt to rewrite the current geopolitical landscape with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as its most visible project. Additionally, BRI has directly influenced China’s Eurasian ambitions.


The new Chinese diplomacy begins to go far beyond the limits of traditional “tao guang yang hui” strategy (韬光养晦, literally translated as “hide brightness, nourish obscurity”, i.e. hiding one’s abilities and to biding one’s time). The principle of the new strategy is “fen fa you wei” (奋发有为, i.e. exerting yourself, striving for achievements). Beijing begins to use the whole range of diplomatic methods to implement the goals of foreign policy: from economic diplomacy and military ties to soft power and public diplomacy (Yang 2014).

The new foreign policy is focused on the active influence and inclusion of China in all global processes, as well as the creation of its own integration projects. In autumn 2013, during Xi Jinping’s visits to Indonesia and the countries of Central Asia, the Chinese leader announced the proposal of the establishment of the “One Belt, One Road” project (OBOR)[1], which consists of two main components, the oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR) and the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB).

Xi expressed the idea of creating BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) as a new form of deepening cooperation between China, the states of Central Asia, and Russia. The Chinese leader formulated a five-point action program: 1) to step up policy communication; 2) to improve road connectivity; 3) to promote unimpeded trade by removing trade barriers, reducing trade and investment cost, increasing the speed and quality of regional economic flows; 4) to enhance monetary circulation by settling trade in local currencies; 5) to increase understanding between states by the means of public diplomacy.

BRI aims to promote the connectivity of the Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, wants to establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries (National Development and Reform Commission of the PRC 2015). This will provide new markets for the PRC, as well as create a new sphere of influence for the country.

The SREB is considered as an opportunity to promote economic development in Central Asia, which will help stabilize this region. As a result, it will reduce political risks and create opportunities for deepening economic cooperation with the countries of the region.

Nevertheless, the implementation of the SREB may be a new stage in China’s economic offensive on Central Asia. China has already begun to develop soft power in this direction by expanding cooperation in the field of education with the Central Asian countries. Beijing will promote Chinese language in Central Asia to mitigate linguistic barriers and boost cooperation.

At first, Russia was wary of the Chinese project due to the growing fears that China-led integration projects in the region are gradually replacing Russian ones, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

However, on February 6, 2014, during a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Xi Jinping invited Russia to participate in the development of the SREB and the MSR. The Chinese leader neglected the tradition of his predecessors not to attend major sporting events outside the borders of China for the sake of that meeting. This was the first time when a Chinese leader visited a large-scale foreign sports event. After this meeting, Russia’s attitude towards BRI has changed dramatically. Putin pledged to support China’s Belt and Road Initiative and expressed his willingness to link the section of Eurasian Rail inside Russia with the initiatives to create greater benefits (Li 2014).

The Joint Statement on Cooperation on the Construction of the EAEU and the SREB dated May 8, 2015 marked a milestone in the history of bilateral relations between Russia and China. The strategy announced by Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin is somewhat broader in scope than merely “connecting” the EAEU and the SREB. The paragraph outlining the steps that Russia and China intend to take to promote regional cooperation can be viewed as a preliminary concept for co-development in Eurasia, taking the interests of the continental powers into account. The list covers a broad range of issues, from the joint establishment of industrial parks and cross-border economic cooperation to creating a favorable environment for small and medium-sized businesses. Conditions for further implementing the idea of the co-development of Russia, China and Central Asian countries are emerging in the Eurasian region (Lousianin, Zhao 2016).

The scale of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative allows us to say that the economic policy of the PRC has acquired a geopolitical dimension, at both regional and global levels.

However, the prospects for the implementation of the project at the current stage are still not clear. There are two main challenges for BRI in the Eurasian direction.

The first one is the political risks associated with the problems of Afghanistan and Xinjiang and international terrorism in Central Asia.

The second problem is the contradiction between China’s desire to actively cooperate with its neighbors and the apparent trend to take a tougher stance on territorial disputes with some of them, which causes serious fears in neighboring states. If Beijing continues to promote the idea of the “Silk Road”, it will have to seriously consider rethinking the approaches to these two problems.

The Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan (a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union), expressed support for the Chinese projects. It can be seen that this was done for reasons of respecting the balance of interests between Moscow and Beijing, preserving the multi-vector policy.

Moscow’s expansion of military infrastructure in the region (in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) is not a matter of concern for Beijing, because, firstly, it ensures regional security; secondly, it serves as a deterrent to the strengthening of the US influence; and thirdly, it removes accusations of Beijing’s geopolitical aspirations in the eyes of Central Asian leaders and increases China’s attractiveness as a key investor in infrastructure and economic projects in Central Asia.

However, it is possible that enlargement of China’s military and political potential will include the practice of deploying military bases and facilities in various regions of the world, including Central Asia, in order to protect its economic interests in the region.

The importance of the Eurasian direction for China has grown in the last years in many respects in connection with the Silk Road projects, which is gradually becoming the key foreign policy project of Xi Jinping.

China endeavors to seek new models of international cooperation and global governance. Chinese leaders state that the country has taken a new place in the global system and that it assumes a new level of global responsibility and areas of interests. China’s strategic goals are no longer limited to the economy. The ultimate goal of Chinese leaders is to bring China to the same level as the world powers that establish the rules of the game. President Xi’s foreign policy agenda can be characterized as the attempt to rewrite the current geopolitical landscape, and the development of BRI is an example of such a kind of ambition.



Blackwill, Robert D.; Campbell, Kurt M. (2016): Xi Jinping on the Global Stage: Chinese Foreign Policy Under a Powerful but Exposed Leader. Council on Foreign Relations’ Special Report № 74. URL:, access date 15.05.2017;

Denisov, Igor (2015): Игорь Денисов: Эволюция внешней политики Китая при Си Цзиньпине (The evolution of China’s foreign policy under Xi Jinping). Международная жизнь (International Affairs), No. 5. URL:, access date 15.06.2017;

Li, Ziguo (2014): Meetings between Xi and Putin boost China-Russia ties. China Network Television, 11 May. URL:, access date 15.05.2017;

Lousianin, Sergei; Zhao Huasheng (eds) (2015): Russian-Chinese Dialogue: The 2016 model. Russian Foreign Affairs Council, Report No. 25. URL:, access date 15.05.2017;

National Development and Reform Commission of the PRC (2015): Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. URL:, access date 15.05.2017;

Yang, Jiemian (2014): 杨洁勉:站在新起点的中国外交战略调整 (Strategic adjustment of Chinese foreign policy at a new starting point). 国际展望 (International Outlook), No. 1. URL: 杨洁勉.pdf, access date 15.05.2017.

[1] editor’s note: recently renamed to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)



Regional Peace in South Asia is the basic necessity for the success of China’s BRI initiative (CfE on “Belt and Road Initiative” contribution)

by Souvik Lal Chakraborty

Disclaimer: This analysis was written a few weeks ago and does not include the most recent developments in South Asia’s and especially India’s relationship to China.                                                                       


China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative has tremendous potential to change the current world order and the economic scenario of the South Asian region. There are many procedural and managerial issues, which still need to be sorted out to implement this grand initiative. The aim of this article is to point out a few important issues in the South Asian geo-politics, which can play a major role in the success of BRI. To make the economic leverage of BRI a reality, China needs to assure peace and stability  the South Asian region because without trust at all levels this initiative will remain unsuccessful.


Regional Peace in South Asia is the basic necessity for the success of China’s BRI initiative

China’s multi-trillion dollar dream project ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) surely has the potential to change the economic scenario of China and the whole of the South Asian region. But without regional security and peace in South Asia, the success of this initiative is highly questionable.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was one of the flagship initiatives, which was undertaken as a part of the BRI initiative. This 46$ Billion investment connects Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in Balochistan province with China’s Xinjiang province. The main problem with this project is that, CPEC runs through Balochistan and Kashmir in the Pakistani region (which the Indians call Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or PoK and claim as their own territory), a highly disputed area between the two nuclear-powered arch rivals, India and Pakistan. The Government of India showed serious objection to this project when it was launched in 2015 but both the Chinese and the Pakistani administration did not pay much attention to India’s concerns and carried on with their development initiative. Indian administration still hasn’t changed their stance on this issue and remains skeptical about China’s intention and motives behind the BRI initiative. Just before China organized its Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in May 2017, India expressed its opinion that it cannot accept a project which hurts its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The heads of government or dignitaries of twenty-nine countries attended BRF, including Russia, U.S.A, and major European countries along with all the neighbours of India other than Bhutan. But India boycotted this forum and issued a statement just before the start of this forum, which addressed their concern on this initiative.

During the BRF inauguration in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping, made a statement that all countries should respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of other nations. It is very evident that he was indicating to India’s concern over CPEC, which runs through Kashmir in the Pakistani side. Pakistan has remained an all-weather ally of China over the past few decades. This relationship has evolved in the past few years because both these nations have outstanding issues with India. On regard to CPEC, China needs to play its diplomatic cards very carefully. China would surely want India to be a part of this initiative due to the sheer size of India’s growing economy and its market. The recent series of events make it very clear that even the Chinese administrators are capricious in dealing with this issue. India’s leading daily newspaper, Times of India reported on May 9, 2017 that the Chinese Ambassador to New Delhi, Luo Zhaohui, commented that China can consider changing the name of CPEC, if India is willing to participate in this initiative. But this comment triggered anger on the Pakistani side and they asked for an explanation from the Chinese Counsel General in Pakistan. After this incident, Chinese authorities silently deleted the comment of the Chinese Ambassador to rename CPEC from their Embassy’s website.

A few months back, Chinese authorities made it clear that the Kashmir-related dispute of India and Pakistan should be solved between the two countries bilaterally and that they are not going to interfere in this dispute. But when China decided to take the CPEC’s development projects through the disputed area of Kashmir on the Pakistani side, China automatically made itself a party to the dispute directly or indirectly. Indian diplomacy has repeatedly made it clear that they are not going to accept any kind of third party interference in this dispute and it should be resolved between the two countries in a peaceful atmosphere. Therefore China needs to handle this issue very carefully for the successful implementation of the BRI project and to make India a party to it, for its own economic leverage.

The world community will also look forward to China’s process of dealing with Pakistan’s reputation of human rights violation in the Balochistan province where people have repeatedly protested against the CPEC and where the Pakistani administration has suppressed their voices with brutal force. Chinese security forces are increasing their presence in Pakistan to protect the CPEC infrastructure in Gwadar port and in other adjoining areas. This has also raised suspicion for some scholars. Is this another manifestation of ‘neo-colonization’? Common people in India along with the government are also skeptical about the real Chinese intention. China has repeatedly tried to encircle India from all sides by increasing its sphere of influence in India’s neighbouring countries. BRI will also involve maritime connections following the ancient Silk Route model. Therefore it appears to be highly possible that China, in a few years’ time, will try to enforce its soft power to dock its naval vessels in and around India in the signatory states of BRI by just citing security reasons or for the sake of giving a safe passage for the transfer of goods. This is also a major security concern for India.

Keeping in mind the Chinese perspective, it is understandable that the complex and problematic situation in the South Asian region is rather difficult to handle. India and Pakistan have been hostile neighbours from 1947 onwards. China has also some border issues with India which are still not resolved. And the recent standoff between the two armies in Doklam, Bhutan is a new addition in the list of global conflict zones in world politics. According to some school of scholars, the recent standoff in Doklam is an indirect way of increasing psychological pressure on India and Bhutan to be a part of the BRI initiative.

China surely needs to think about its diplomatic stance to deal with India if they want India on board of the BRI initiative. On the one hand Chinese leaders are using soft power to convince India about its involvement in BRI through various platforms and on the other hand the government is indirectly using its news daily Global Times (which is known to be the mouth piece of the Chinese government) in criticizing India’s domestic policies and its policies towards China on a regular basis. This is contradictory.

So, to conclude this article it can be said that the ball is on China’s court when it comes to dealing with the outstanding issues of the South Asian region. China needs to stop thinking of its own economic interests only. China is verbally saying that it respects the sovereignty of other nations but needs to showcase this through concrete actions. It is still not clear what will be the exact management and investment model of BRI but the global powers will surely keep a close watch on China with regards to how it deals with the two hostile nuclear-powered South Asian neighbours, India and Pakistan. Recently Iran and Afghanistan have also warned Pakistan to stop using their soil for “breeding terrorists”, which is destabilizing the peace of the whole region. China needs to address these issues with its ally, Pakistan. Ultimately the success of BRI will depend upon the regional peace in South Asia. There should be an atmosphere of trust at all levels in order to make this kind of grand initiative successful. And China needs to play a much more constructive role in this regard, to make BRI a reality through which not only China will prosper but all the nations involved with it.



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Times of India. (2017, May 9). Times of India Website. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from Times of India Website:

Territorial Dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu Island be-tween Japan and China and its Representation of Difficulties of Applicability of International Law

Territorial Dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu Island between Japan and China and its Representation of Difficulties of Applicability of International Law

Written by

Ritika Singh


International law is a rather young phenomenon – especially if we think of how old and historically complicated nations and relations between them have been, and remain to be. In this paper, I dissect the seemingly intractable Sino-Japanese conflict over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. I trace the historical origin and competing claims of both Japan and China over the islands, and map out the inability of international law, as we know it, to resolve it. I conclude with some recommendations on how international law can aspire to overcome its own inadequacies.

Read the fifth Mapping China Working Paper of 2017 here: Working Paper Series 2017 5

CfP „Regional Integration and Disintegration“ contribution: China’s Approach to Multilateralism – The Case of the AIIB

China’s Approach to Multilateralism – The Case of the AIIB

Written by

Elisabeth Waldmann


China’s current ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative and the related establishment of a new multilateral development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), lead to the assumption of a new trend within China’s approach to multilateralism. While in the past China was a rule taker in multilateral processes, it appears that through these new developments and in particular through the China-led AIIB, it has increasingly turned to a rule maker in the multilateral sphere. Considering China’s role in its regional integration policy, this change towards a regional multilateralism under Chinese dominance is crucial because it also might have significant impacts on future developments of Asian regionalism. This paper presents an analysis of the current change in China’s approach to multilateralism by examining the case of the AIIB. The preliminary results of the research show that in some cases the AIIB enables China to expand its influence and power regionally as well as globally. However, it has also been found that external channels are influencing and even restricting China’s dominance in the AIIB.


Read the fourth Mapping China Working Paper of 2017 here: Working Paper Series 2017 4


Street in Beijing

Integration and Disintegration in Asia: Mapping Domestic and Regional Challenges for China “Chinas Strategie im Südchinesischen Meer”


Christian Flath


Vor dem Hintergrund stetig wachsender Spannungen im Südchinesischen Meer analysiert die vorliegende Arbeit Chinas Strategie in der umstrittenen Region. Dabei argumentiert der Autor, dass chinesisches Handeln von drei zentralen und komplementären Strategien geprägt ist, genauer einer Taktik der „strategischen Verzögerung“, der Idee von „Zuckerbrot und Peitsche“ und der Maxime „Divide et Impera“. Eine Analyse dieser Strategien kann dazu beitragen, das Verhalten Chinas zu verstehen und korrekt einzuordnen.


Lies das zweite Mapping China Working Paper 2017 hier: Working Paper Series 2017 2

CfP “Regional Integration and Disintegration” contribution: China in Afghanistan

von Karin Chau


Das 2013 angekündigte Seidenstraßenprojekt der chinesischen Regierung „One Belt, One Road“ (OBOR) verspricht neue wirtschaftliche Wachstumsimpulse für die über 60 betroffenen Länder. Besonders für Zentralasien und Afghanistan bietet OBOR die Möglichkeit, Anschluss an Wirtschaftsmächte zu bekommen und in die Wertschöpfungsketten zwischen Europa und Asien integriert zu werden.

Von besonderem strategischen Interesse für die Volksrepublik ist Afghanistan. Geopolitisch gesehen sieht China in Afghanistan einen schwierigen Nachbarn, denn das Land ist durch den anhaltenden Krieg gegen die Taliban geschwächt und darüber hinaus zentraler Ort für einige radikale Islamistenbewegungen, die potenziell Einfluss auf die uighurischen Unabhängigkeitsbestrebungen in Xinjiang haben könnten. Das vorliegende Papier untersucht Chinas Gesamtstrategie im Zuge der Umsetzung von OBOR und die sicherheitspolitischen Aspekte der Sino-Afghanischen Beziehungen.



The Nine Dash Line and UNCLOS: Why China’s Strategists and International Law Don’t Get Along

by Andreas Kechagias

Last week, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) announced its decisions in respect to a number of maritime disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS). In doing so, it marched head-first into the middle of one of the globe’s most sensitive geopolitical regions. While explicitly stating that the PCA’s authority does not extend to issues involving national sovereignty or the conduct of military activities, by refuting all Chinese claims to “historic rights” within the so-called Nine Dash Line, the 501-page decision[1] has profound implications for the delicately balanced, uneasy coexistence of the United States and China in the East Pacific, and could catalyse an escalation of tensions in the region.

Deterrence 101

For the benefit of those approaching the case from a legal rather than geopolitical perspective, and before delving into the specifics of China-US relations in the SCS, it is worth taking a step back to discuss, in general terms, the role of military contingency planning and conventional deterrence in the contemporary relations between major powers (We are treating nuclear deterrence as separate and setting it aside for now, we will return to it presently).

The primary function of defensive military capabilities is not to defend against attack. Rather, the existence of adequate defences is designed to affect the risk-reward calculus of potential adversaries, deterring an attack from materialising in the first place. It is the role of a country’s strategic planners to assume that conflicts of interest will inevitably arise between states, and that if vulnerabilities exist in the country’s defences, the threat, if not the actual use, of military force will be used as leverage against it. To not take all appropriate action to identify and address such vulnerabilities is at best a dereliction of duty, and at worse can be thought to embolden unscrupulous actors, by reducing the risks of belligerent, aggressive behavior.[2]

At the same time, a careful balance must be struck, as unconstrained military build-up can set off what is commonly referred to as a “security dilemma” dynamic.[3] Increases in military capabilities perceived as being in excess of what’s required to guarantee one’s defensive interests can lead others to counterbalance by investing more in their own military. The resulting downward spiral is marked by wasteful arms racing, loss of trust and increased risk of escalating tensions leading to conflict.

Matters become significantly more complex when discussing interactions between major powers. For one, the geographic scope is greatly expanded as a function of two parallel processes. Internally, major powers define their interests more broadly, as both their influence and dependence on the outside world become deeper. At the same time, they typically accrue numerous external commitments, such as overseas military bases or mutual defence alliances with smaller states. With greater need to project power beyond their borders, it becomes harder for third parties to differentiate between offensive and defensive intent and posture.

Second, there is the issue of nuclear weapons. All countries currently in possession of sizeable nuclear arsenals have a guaranteed second-strike capability.[4] Because of this, extreme care is taken by planners to avoid scenarios in which a possible confrontation between nuclear-armed states could quickly devolve into a choice between defeat or nuclear escalation. In short, successful conventional deterrence between great powers today should mean they and their allies are well-defended enough for nuclear weapons to never become part of the equation.

 The South China Sea and A2AD

Let’s now return to the SCS. As China’s prodigious economic growth continues to provides it with the resources, self-confidence and ambition to play a more central role in international affairs, Chinese strategists are tasked with addressing China’s geographic vulnerability to an attack from the Pacific. In a lesson painfully learned during the Opium Wars which set off the “Century of Humiliation”, China found that the concentration of national economic activity to the country’s east, spread across the numerous large cities dotting its long coastline and reliant on water-borne trade, left the country woefully exposed to Britain’s naval superiority and “gunboat diplomacy”.

In a contemporary context, this only looms larger in the minds of Beijing’s leaders. Not only major urban centres remain vulnerable to direct attack from the sea, but the Chinese economy is more dependent than ever on the uninterrupted flow of maritime trade. More than 90% of the goods exported by China, valued at about 20% of national GDP, pass through ports such as Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou, while as much as 80% of its oil imports and 30% of its natural gas imports have to pass through the Straits of Malacca and the SCS before reaching the mainland.[5] Any disruption of these trade flows, for instance due to a blockade by a superior naval force, holds the potential to send shockwaves through the Chinese economy, leaving Beijing with a choice between acquiescing to military blackmail, or threatening nuclear escalation.

China has chosen to satisfy its deterrence requirements through the pursuit of an Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) strategy. A2AD, in simple terms, involves the creation of a defensive perimeter, robust enough to keep even an opponent of superior capabilities at bay, or at least render them unable to operate within this perimeter without significant costs. Investments in the development of new weapon technologies, such as the infamous DF-21D “Aircraft Carrier-Killer” ballistic missile, [6] and the creation of a network of airfields and military bases, including on artificial islands raised explicitly for that purpose, are all part of the effort to establish this A2AD perimeter across the First Island Chain, with the Nine Dash Line serving as its southern border.


It should be made clear at this point that the characterisation of A2AD as a purely defensive doctrine is me affording China the benefit of the doubt, and is certainly not an opinion shared by everyone, particularly within the United States. Their concerns are not unfounded. The same A2AD capabilities that protect China against coercion could just as easily be utilised to disrupt non-Chinese maritime trade flowing through the SCS. Amounting to 5.3 trillion dollars yearly, or a full third of the world’s total, the potential repercussions of a disruption for the global economy have led the White House to declare in 2010 freedom of maritime navigation within the SCS as a “US national interest”.[7] Furthermore, the A2AD perimeter defined by China surrounds, or borders, a number of countries who have long relied on the United States to guarantee their security, and are less than thrilled by the prospect of losing this aegis of protection.

 Those concerns centre around the credibility of US guarantees of defence. In 1996, during a period of increased tensions between Taipei and Beijing, Chinese missile tests off the coast of Taiwan were scheduled to coincide with presidential elections on the island, in what many[8] saw as a brazen attempt to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate away from voting for the incumbent Lee Teng-hu, who was deeply unpopular in Beijing. Those tactics proved unsuccessful, in no small part because the Clinton administration ordered two – out of the US’s total of ten – aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBGs) to the region, as a demonstration of American commitment to Taiwan’s defence. Were something similar to happen today, it is less certain that the White House would be willing to place a CVBG, comprised of roughly 7500 personnel and 10 billion dollars of military hardware, at risk on behalf of an ally against China’s improved A2AD capabilities, many of which (such as the aforementioned DF-21D missile) were developed as a direct response to the 1996 incident.[9]

Implications of the Philippines v. China Judgement

Enter the PCA. The ruling, rendered under the authority of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), covers a swath of issues, from fishing and resource extraction rights to duties of environmental preservation. While having to rule on the legal standing of many of the Spratlys under the definitions set by UNCLOS, the PCA stated explicitly that it did not intent to adjudicate competing sovereignty claims involving land features, or to settle competing maritime border claims, with the first falling outside the purview of UNCLOS, and China having opted out of the provisions allowing for the second.

 Nevertheless, the decision refuting China’s claims of “historic rights” to the waters of the SCS, in essence strikes down the Nine Dash Line as illegal, and establishes as legal fact that most of the SCS constitutes international waters, where no restrictions or interference should exist on freedom of navigation. Coupled with two other aspects of the ruling – the determination that neither Scarborough Shoal nor any of the Spratly (Nánshā 南沙)islands give rise to exclusive territorial waters beyond the minimum 12 miles, and the reaffirmation that under UNCLOS artificial islands cannot give rise to any claim of territorial waters – it eliminates any possibility of China continuing to pursue the construction of its A2AD perimeter without finding itself in violation of international law.

China has already declared its intent to completely disregard the ruling, a rare outright dismissal of the current international multilateral order typically avoided by Beijing. Given the tremendous significance – political, strategic, but also historical – bestowed to the attainment of credible deterrent capabilities against attacks from the sea, this hardline position appears unlikely to change, and increasingly harsh responses to future challenges to the legitimacy of the Nine Dash Line should be expected. The immediate demonstration of defiance against the ruling, likely to materialise within the next few weeks, will provide indications on how hard China is willing to push back. Potential responses could include the declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the SCS (as was done for the East China Sea in 2013,[10]  or intensification of its land reclamation efforts on one or more disputed reefs.

The United States has stated on a number of occasions that it considers the result of the arbitration as legally binding for all parties. Furthermore, since October 2015, it has begun conducting three freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea, sending warships to waters within 12 nautical miles of islands and rocks claimed by China, the Philippines and others without prior notification, to challenge what it sees as excessive maritime claims.[11] Immediately following the PCA’s ruling, France declared its intentions to join in those efforts,[12] demonstrating the potential of the ruling to greatly escalate tensions in the region, transforming its enforcement into a litmus test for the legitimacy of UNCLOS and the current international legal order as a whole.

A compromise acceptable to all sides remains distant, and the role the arbitration judgement will end up playing in its achievement won’t be known for some time. But as a new balance is being sought in the Asia Pacific, there are reasons for cautious optimism. While a lasting solution remains distant and tensions will inevitably flare up on occasion, both sides seem to fully appreciate the peril of their circumstances and actively work to avoid provoking confrontation. Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama have both in recent years made reference to the “Thucydides Trap” – the 25-centuries-old notion that during shifts in the balance of power, the combination of growing entitlement by the rising power with the insecurities of the declining power, inevitably lead to war between them[13] – and have declared their commitment that China and the United States will not fall prey to such historically predestined patterns.

[1] Available in full at, for the official press release summarising the ruling see .

[2] The literature on Deterrence Theory is extensive and multifaceted, but anyone looking to explore the subject can do no better than The Psychology of Deterrence by Jervis, Lebow and Stein as a starting point.

[3] Charles Glaser’s Rational Theory of International Politics: The Logic of Competition and Cooperation provides a fascinating overview of the variations between types of security dilemmas and their effect on the behaviour of states.

[4] For an overview of the logic of mutually assured destruction see this paper by Henry Sokolski of the Strategic Studies Institute ( Alternatively, watch Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The author humbly recommends the second option.

[5] Data from the World Bank online database (

[6] The missile’s existence first became public in 2010 (



[9] According to Andrew Erickson, a specialist on the Chinese military at the U.S. Naval War College who has written a book on the subject (For more see

[10] After the Chinese declaration of ADIZ over the East China Sea, the United States responded by flying two B-52 bombers over the area (

[11] Importantly, FONOPs were designed to assert the “right of innocent passage” and deliberately as not to challenge claims of sovereignty. For more on the subject, see

[12] For more on the potential role and motivation of the French involvement in the SCS, see

[13]For more on the Thucydides Trap, see