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EU Security

The EU in Asian Security - Too Much for Beijing, Not Enough for Washington

By Axel Berkofsky

11 November 2013

Beijing complains that Europe is already ‘interfering’ too much in China’s internal affairs endorsing US-driven containment policies, while Washington wants Europe to do more. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t for Brussels policymakers in Asian security, it seems. Far from it EU policymakers counter insisting that Brussels is a ‘soft power’ making ‘soft power’ contributions to the region’s peace and stability. While not producing the same front-page newspaper coverage as e.g. US-Korean military maneuvers or the deployment of the jointly developed US-Japan missile defense system, the Union’s development aid and the expansion of trade and business ties with Asia have been promoting Asian peace and stability over decades, EU policymakers typically explain.

Too Soft, Says Washington

European ‘soft power’ only, however, is not good enough as far as Washington is concerned. “From an EU perspective it may be desirable to develop a more direct presence in the Asia Pacific to help ensure that the US remain committed to the alliance’s security interests in other regions that are traditionally perceived as more vital to European security”, the US scholars Erickson and Strange argue.

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Smog Harbin

From smog to blue sky? China’s latest plan to combat air pollution

By Julia Marie Ewert

29 October 2013

China’s latest action plan against air pollution contains many promising elements. However, clearer provisions on follow-up measures and consequences in case of non-compliance are needed. A no stick but just carrot-approach is ill-suited given the urgency of the situation. Immediate changes are required and external players such as the EU can only help with long-term transformation.

It was during the run-up to the 2008 Olympics that Beijing’s air pollution drew worldwide media attention for the first time. Since then, reports about pollution in Chinese cities have become commonplace. The most recent case was that of Harbin in the North East of China. Levels of the PM2.5 reached 500 on 21 October 2013, the highest possible level on the scale. Visibility dropped to less than 10 meters in part of the city. Schools and the airport remained closed due to the smog for three days in a row. According to the WHO’s 2005 Air Quality Guidelines, the 24-hour average of PM2.5 concentration should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

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Yudhoyono G20

Engaging Indonesia

By David Camroux

27 September 2013

The presence of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the G20 Summit in St Petersburg in early September went virtually unnoticed by the European media. That his attendance was overlooked can be explained by immediate factors, namely the overriding importance of the Syrian conflict in the discussions among leaders, and the fact that SBY (as President Yudhoyono is commonly known) is a lame-duck president with less than a year to go before the end of his two-term limit. Lacking BRIC status (for now at least), Indonesia – unlike China, India or even Brazil – barely registers on the radar screen of public awareness in Europe

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Tony Abbott

Australia under Abbott: What It Means for the Region

By Sam Bateman

10 September 2013

The incoming Abbott Government is likely to place greater emphasis on bilateral relations and be less sensitive to regional concerns than its predecessor. How will this affect Canberra’s ties with its neighbours, especially in Southeast Asia?

AFTER SIX years of centre-left government by the Australian Labor Party (ALP), Australia is under new leadership. The right-wing Liberal–National Party (LNP) Coalition led by Tony Abbott swept to power in Canberra in the just-concluded 7 September 2013 federal elections.

With broad bipartisan agreement on the fundamentals, foreign and defence policies were not major issues during the election campaign. However with the LNP in power, some differences are likely in the way in which Canberra relates to the region. This could include a greater emphasis on bilateral relations, particularly economic and trade issues, and reduced sensitivity to regional concerns, including with people smuggling and border protection.

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Syria R2P

The Syrian Crisis and the Responsibility to Protect: A Chinese Perspective

By Lucie Qian Xia

21 August 2013

On 19 July 2012, Li Baodong, the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office in Geneva stated that ‘the Syrian conflict should be resolved by Syrians themselves’. This statement represents China’s third veto against UN resolutions on Syria.

The deepening turmoil in Syria has led to calls for the international community to take action to implement the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) norm in Syria. R2P is a set of principles that first obligates individual states and then the international community to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.[1] However, R2P has not been implemented by the UN in Syria, partly due to the objection of China – and Russia. This was in contrast to the situation in Libya where China did not veto the Western inspired UN resolution establishing a no fly zone to protect civilians in Bengazi under threat of annihilation from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

China’s reaction to the Syrian crisis highlights how international norms are now interpreted by China and sheds light on the rationale underpinning China’s foreign policy behaviour.

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Hope and Trials in Myanmar - Comment

By Wendy Sein

6 August 2013

This is a comment on Katinka Barysch's piece "Hope and Trials in Myanmar", first published by the Centre for European Reform here.

Having just made her first visit to Myanmar Katinka Barysch has made some thoughtful insights into the problems facing my country. At the same time some of the judgements seem to fall into the trap of viewing Mynamar’s problems from a purely Western perspective.

Having lived in Yangon for more than a decade I am well aware of Myanmar’s myriad problems but I think it also fair to point out the progress made in bringing about meaningful reforms in a relatively short period of time. And given the isolation that Myanmar experienced for many years it will inevitably take some time to move towards even the median standards of ASEAN. As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said ‘there is perhaps too much hope.’ She has rightly emphasised the need for patience.

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China and its neighbours

A review of China's relations with its neighbours

By Shiqi Cheng

29 July 2013

Since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1979, China has been emerging from its “century of humiliation” and is receiving more and more attention from the West. While the “China threat theory” is quite popular in Western society, many Chinese people criticize China's foreign diplomacy for not being “tough” enough, especially with neighbours such as Japan that caused much misery to China in the 20th century. But from the Chinese government's perspective, the fundamental purpose of diplomacy is to safeguard the national interests no matter whether by “hard” or by “soft” means. Partly because of its rise, China has had many conflicts recently with several of its 14 direct neighbours.

This paper briefly discusses the Chinese ideology from a historical perspective, as it offers guidance for people to understand China's behaviour today. It then examines China's geopolitical situation and its relations with its neighbours. It notes that China's focus has shifted from the land to the sea. It also argues that the Chinese leadership is determined that China should resume its ‘rightful’ place in history.

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China's Economic Slowdown

Managing China's Economic Slowdown: A Good Score So Far

By John Farnell

25 July 2013

Newspapers have been full of alarming headlines in the past month, as signs of China’s slow-down in economic growth have become clearer. Growth in the second quarter was 7.5 per cent, just on this year’s official target but slightly less than in the previous quarter, and other economic indicators look worrying: manufacturing output growth declined between May and June, exports fell in June for the first time in over a year, and Chinese business confidence is at its lowest point for a year. China’s Minister of Finance, Lou Jiwei, even hinted in early July that this year’s economic growth target might not be met, which has not happened in China since the Asian banking crisis in the late 1990’s; Premier Li Keqiang stepped in this week to reaffirm the target would after all be met.

As the prospects for the world economy depend so much on China, the forensic attention given to Chinese statistics is not surprising. The Chinese market has been the outstanding stimulus to worldwide economic activity for the past decade.

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RCEP: Challenges and Opportunities for India

By Rahul Mishra

24 July 2013

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership envisions a giant free trade area encompassing the major Asian economies. India stands to benefit, but must move forward positively in both its domestic organisation and external negotiations to optimise its gains.


ASEAN HAS been encouraged by the progress of its bilateral FTAs with the ‘Plus Six’ members, to take steps to make the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a reality by 2015. First mooted during the 2011 ASEAN Summit in Indonesia, the RCEP negotiation process was formally launched during the 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

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Asian Century

As Asia Rises, New Challenges Emerge

By Barry Desker

10 July 2013

The rise of Asia could lull Asians into a bout of triumphalism. The coming Asian Century will not be a bed of roses as new challenges are emerging even as the region makes its presence felt in a changing global order.


A MAJOR weakness in many analyses of global trends is the tendency to assume that developments in societies we are familiar with will be replicated elsewhere. We tend to be optimistic and focus on the good news in reaching conclusions about the fate of other societies. Living in Singapore, we get caught up in the hype on the rise of Asia and the shift in power from West to East. What is forgotten is that Asia’s rise has occurred in an era of peace and relative political stability.

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