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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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China North Korea

China's North Korea Policy - Backtracking from Sunnylands?

By Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt

8 July 2013

In recent months, China has affected a sterner disposition toward North Korea, reflecting growing frustration with its errant neighbor. But despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stronger rhetoric on denuclearization during his summit discussions with US President Barack Obama at Sunnylands, Beijing’s policy is still based upon the strategic priorities of, in descending order, “no war, no instability, no nukes” (不战、不乱、无核). As soon as Xi made his statement, Chinese experts began to backpedal.[1] Chinese government analysts insist that Beijing has not changed its priorities with regard to North Korea and are surprised that outsiders believe otherwise.

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South China Sea Claims

South China Sea Background Note

By Fraser Cameron

4 July 2013

The South China Sea channels a third of the world’s shipping and is rich with islands, fisheries, oil and gas deposits. It is also one the most disputed areas in Southeast Asia and has the most potential for armed conflict. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have made overlapping territorial claims to these waters, as well as to some of the islands and rocky outcrops in them such as the Paracels and the Spratly Islands. Small naval confrontations and skirmishes between official vessels and fishing boats of various countries have become commonplace. 

Maritime tensions stem from several, linked disputes that are cumulative in their effect. The principal driver is the quest of all countries for natural resources to fuel economic growth, in this case oil, natural gas, minerals, and fish. To secure those resources the countries concerned claim various rocks and islands in the East and South China Seas, and the broadest exclusive rights to exploit fish in the sea and hydrocarbons and minerals in the seabed.

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The Haze and ASEAN: Environmental Politics, Diplomacy and Stability

By Yang Razali Kassim

2 July 2013

The haze problem that was threatening to worsen into a new regional crisis appears to have been somewhat defused for now. If diplomacy fails to overcome environmental politics in the longer run, will the region lose faith in its largest member Indonesia?


IF PRESIDENT Yudhoyono’s unilateral apology to Singapore and Malaysia over the haze last week came as a surprise, the domestic criticisms he provoked for doing so were equally unexpected. It was threatening to become yet another regional crisis.

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Julia's Jihad

Book Review: Julia's Jihad

By Roy Simson

1 July 2013

When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to power in 2004, the general consensus was that he was the best thing to happen to Indonesia since the fall of Soeharto.

Today, it is hard to find anyone with much praise for SBY. Many Indonesians are yearning for a “strong-man” president and believe that ex-general Prabowo Subianto, whose troops oversaw the abduction, torture and “disappearance” of pro-democracy activists, is the best man for the job.

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Myanmar inter-religious violence

Inter-Religious Violence in Myanmar: A Security Threat to Southeast Asia

By Eliane Coates

27 June 2013

Continuing inter-religious violence in Myanmar is spilling over into neighbouring countries as seen in recent attacks between groups within the Myanmar migrant community in Kuala Lumpur. If left unchecked, such spillovers will pose a threat to Southeast Asian security and stability.


RENEWED VIOLENCE between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar appears to be spreading regionally. Since May 2013, at least eight people have died in a series of retaliatory attacks by Muslims from Myanmar against Myanmar Buddhists in Kuala Lumpur which has a community of Myanmar refugees and illegal workers.

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Transatlantic Trade Partnership

Questioning the Transatlantic Trade Partnership

By Pierre Defraigne

18 June 2013

On the 14th of June, the EU Council of Ministers will likely issue a mandate to the
Commission for the negotiation of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
with the US. The TTIP comes at the end of a succession of bilateral free-trade deals
concluded between the EU and emerging economies yet its features and implications are quite
different to former such agreements. On these grounds there is undoubtedly a need for an in-depth political debate on the issue.

The TTIP: a destabilising deal

It is important to acknowledge the distinction between the TTIP and previous bilateral trade
agreements. Firstly, there is a power asymmetry between the US and the EU. The partnership
is between a large, fully-fledged and united player on the one hand, and a player of
comparable size, but still nursing an incomplete single market, an unbalanced euro zone and a
nascent foreign policy falling short of a common defence system on the other.

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