The 71st UN general assembly (UNGA) session, unlike the somnolent affairs of the past, literally began with a bang. A couple of explosions and the discovery of crude bombs in New York and New Jersey, barely a week after the 15th anniversary of 9/11, revived the spectre of terrorism. The swift arrest of Ahmad Khan Rahami just two days later and his reported trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan focused attention on the region as a base of transnational terrorism.
The ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague against China’s claim on the South China Sea in a case brought before the court by the Philippines should prima facie have remained a bilateral matter between the litigants. In reality, however, it has become an exemplar of China’s role in the ongoing contest to determine the world order. China’s shrill and bellicose response during and after the ruling has only served to heighten alarm over Beijing’s intentions and behaviour among all the major powers, including India.
During German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit to China, the two countries agreed to jointly fund a disaster response centre in Afghanistan. It was just the latest sign of China’s increasingly prominent role in that country, which also includes trying to jump-start peace talks with the Taliban.
This week has seen major talks on the biggest brewing conflict in Asia. At the annual Shangri-La Dialogue of Asia-Pacific defense officials and the high-level United States-China talks in Beijing, the dispute over the South China Sea has been front and center. Beijing’s unapologetic expansionist behavior in a group of previously uninhabited islands is making waves, raising tension, and fueling a regional arms race. You might think this would be fertile ground for some old-fashioned United Nations preventative diplomacy?
The United States’ presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific is transforming from a traditional alliance network (of Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand) into a web of strengthened alliances, new partnerships and creative linkages.
Washington must manage this transformation carefully, so its alliance network maintains a deterrent function and reassures allies, but does not exacerbate USChina tensions.
President Xi Jinping first presented China’s vision for a “Silk Road Economic Belt” during a 2013 speech in Kazakhstan. The idea was to “forge closer economic ties, deepen cooperation, and expand development in the Euro-Asia region”. In early 2015, the contours of Beijing’s strategy began to emerge as China’s leadership laid out plans for this “Silk Road Economic Belt” through Central Asia, and a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” through Southeast and South Asia. China referred to both collectively as “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR).
On October 14 through 16, Richard Gowan participated in the Challenges Forum, an annual peacekeeping conference in Beijing. The Challenges Forum is a strategic and dynamic platform for dialogue among policymakers, practitioners and academics on key issues and developments in peace operations. The aim is to shape the debate by promoting awareness of emerging issues and identifying key challenges facing military, police and civilian peace operations.
The paper Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and, combined with new developments in natural gas, is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. Meanwhile, China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.