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Diplomacy
China and the USA wrestle over Taiwan

When Giants Wrestle: The End of Another Round of Tensions Between the United States and China?

by Ofir Dayan , Shahar Eilam

How are the fluctuating tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan expected to affect Israel? On January 13, William Lai, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was elected president of Taiwan. A few days earlier, for the first time in four years, the United States-China Defense Policy Coordination Talks took place in Washington, marking the end of a prolonged round of tension between the two powers, which had peaked in August 2022 when the speaker of the US House of Representatives visited Taiwan. Taiwan is a major point of friction in the already tense relations between the two powers. Managing the disagreements between them has broad implications, including for Israel. The ongoing strategic rivalry between the two superpowers—the United States and China—is the most important geostrategic factor of our time. The two countries are vying for technological dominance and control over resources, that will shape our future, and infrastructure that is critical for civilian, economic, and military purposes. The United States and China are also competing for global influence by forming partnerships and trying to influence world order, including its values, institutions, and mechanisms that regulate it. Can they shape the rules of the competition between them without spiraling into a military conflict that would have devastating global consequences? Taiwan may be the most volatile flashpoint in the complicated relationship between the two powers. For China, the “reunification” with Taiwan is one of its “core interests”—a top objective and a flagship issue in its foreign policy. Although the United States has repeatedly declared that it is committed to the “one China” policy, it is also an ally of Taiwan. The United States has warned China to refrain from making unilateral, aggressive moves vis-à-vis Taiwan, while supplying Taiwan with military resources to deter China and prevent a forceful takeover. Since assuming power in 2013, President Xi Jinping of China has repeatedly emphasized Taiwan’s unification with China as a key objective. During a meeting with President Joe Biden in November 2023, President Xi said that China “prefers” a peaceful unification, but he did not dismiss the use of force. On the eve of Taiwan’s 2024 elections, President Xi further stated that unification is “inevitable.” The tensions between the powers over Taiwan had escalated following the previous elections on the island in 2020. During this period, senior American officials visited Taiwan, and the United States and Taiwan signed weapons deals in August and September of that year, followed by a marked increase in Chinese military aircraft penetrating the island’s air defense identification zone and crossing the “midline” between the island and mainland China. China’s perception of encirclement was further heightened by the United States’ strengthening of its alliances and initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region (such as QUAD, AUKUS, and IPEF) and by the increased diplomatic pressure exerted on China, through boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics and protesting its human rights record. But even during this period, despite rising tensions, the two nations maintained ongoing communications, including the Alaska talks in March 2021—although they were notably tense—and the meeting between the presidents in November of that year. The tension peaked in April 2022, when then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to visit Taiwan. China strongly protested, and the White House even recommended Pelosi to reconsider her visit due to concerns about potential military escalation. Pelosi refused and proceeded with her visit in August, delivering a speech at the Taiwanese legislature and advocating for increased American–Taiwanese cooperation. In an article published in the United States before her visit, Pelosi wrote that “at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy . . . it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats.”   In response to Pelosi’s visit, China held a large-scale military exercise that disrupted air and maritime traffic in the region and released a white paper emphasizing “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era.” Furthermore, as a countermeasure to Pelosi’s visit, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was suspending all dialogue and cooperation with the United States, including dialogues between the military commands, the ministries of defense (DPCT), and the maritime military coordination (MMCA), and cooperation in the fields of illegal immigration, criminal legal assistance, transnational crimes, counternarcotics, and climate change. In November 2022, presidents Biden and Xi met in Bali, Indonesia, in an attempt to put the relations between the two powers back on track. After the meeting, the White House issued a statement announcing that the United States will continue to compete actively with China, but the two countries must manage their competition responsibly, without letting it escalate, while maintaining open channels of communication and continuing to cooperate on global issues such as climate change, counternarcotics, debt relief, health, and food security. Regarding Taiwan, the United States reiterated its commitment to the one China policy but strongly opposed China’s aggressive actions, which violate peace and stability in the Strait and in the entire region. The Chinese also released a statement, noting that President Xi highlighted that Taiwan is a core Chinese interest and constitutes a red line that is nonnegotiable in the relations between the two countries. It was anticipated that the year 2023 would begin on a more positive tone, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s scheduled visit to China in February. The visit was canceled when a Chinese balloon was discovered floating over US territory for a week until the US Air Force intercepted it. Although the White House at first tried to downplay the incident, with President Biden initially referring to it as a “minor breach” and said that the Chinese government was unaware of the issue. China claimed that a weather monitoring and research balloon had strayed off course. Public pressure, however, led the administration to cancel Blinken’s visit. Subsequently, the US Department of Commerce imposed restrictions on six Chinese companies linked to balloon and aviation technologies that are used by the Chinese military, requiring that they receive special approval to access American technology. In April and May, China retaliated at a relatively low bar by imposing sanctions on a US member of Congress who visited Taiwan and sentenced an American citizen living in Hong Kong to life imprisonment, for alleged espionage for the United States. These actions reflect the efforts of both China and the United States to take focused, restrained measures, to avoid escalating tensions. The absence of a strong reaction from China to the establishment of a select committee within the US House of Representatives, focused on examining the US–China strategic competition, suggests that China sought to prevent further escalation of the conflict.   Efforts to end the crisis and restore talks were renewed in May 2023 when the head of the CIA met with his Chinese “counterparts.” In June, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La conference in Singapore. Secretary of State Blinken’s anticipated visit to China took place later that month. In July, US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen traveled to China, followed by a visit of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in August. These high-level meetings concluded on a note of cautious optimism, with both sides acknowledging “progress” but not a “solution,” as the purpose of the meetings was to stabilize relations rather than to resolve the issues in dispute. In September 2023, Secretary of the Treasury Yellen and Chinese Finance Minister He Lifeng launched two new working groups on economic and financial issues. Moreover, Pentagon officials and their Chinese counterparts met and discussed the US Department of Defense’s cyber strategy, followed by a meeting of the American and Chinese presidents in San Francisco in November. The American efforts to renew the military dialogue between the two countries was initially met with refusal by China until December, when General Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his Chinese counterpart General Liu Zhenli. In early January 2024, a few days before the elections in Taiwan, the annual Defense Policy Coordination Talks between the two countries were held at the Pentagon for the first time in four years. These developments reflect China’s acute sensitivity toward the Taiwan issue and its willingness to take significant measures against perceived violations of its One China Policy, especially by the United States. Despite numerous disputes, the growing rivalry between them, the defiant measures, and the reciprocal sanctions, these events highlight that the two powers recognize the importance of keeping channels of communication open. This dialogue is crucial for pursuing shared interests, resolving disputes, and minimizing the risk of military escalation that could have far-reaching consequences for both nations as well as the global community. The ongoing tension between the United States and China over Taiwan also has implications for Israel. First, the increasing friction between the powers has accelerated the formation of two opposing camps and has limited Israel’s ability to maneuver between them. As demonstrated (again) since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, the United States is Israel’s greatest friend and its most important strategic ally. While China is an important economic partner of Israel, its policy is not that of a friend, and its oppositional stance toward Israel has the potential to cause significant damage. The United States expects its allies to stand by its side and to align more closely with its policies vis-à-vis China, especially concerning advanced technologies and critical infrastructure. Failing to meet US expectations could strain US–Israel relations. Second, a military escalation between the United States and China would also have global economic consequences, seriously disrupting supply chains of raw materials and essential goods crucial to Israel. Finally, the US administration recently linked the military aid granted to Israel to that of both Taiwan and Ukraine, framing them as three democracies under threat. While this linkage underscores the US commitment to its allies, it also creates constraints and interdependencies. The attention and resources that the United States currently allocates to Israel and to the broader challenges in the Middle East could be compromised if the United States faces serious military crises elsewhere in the world, and this could have far-reaching impacts on Israel.

Diplomacy
President Joe Biden and President Xi shaking hands

Don’t be fooled by Biden and Xi talks − China and the US are enduring rivals rather than engaged partners

by Michael Beckley

There were smiles for the camera, handshakes, warm words and the unveiling of a couple of agreements. But beyond the optics of the first meeting in over a year between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies, not an awful lot had changed: There was nothing to suggest a “reset” in U.S. and China relations that in recent years have been rooted in suspicion and competition. President Joe Biden hinted as much just hours after the face-to-face talks, confirming that he still considered his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, a “dictator.” Beijing hit back, with foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning telling reporters Biden’s remark was “extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation.” As a scholar of U.S.-China relations, I believe the relationship between the two countries can be best described as an “enduring rivalry” – a term used by political scientists to denote two powers that have singled each other out for intense security competition. Examples from history include India and Pakistan, France and England, and the West and the Soviet Union. Over the past two centuries, such rivals have accounted for only 1% of the world’s international relationships but 80% of its wars. History suggest these rivalries last around 40 years and end only when one side loses the ability to compete – or when the two sides ally against a common enemy. Neither scenario looks likely any time soon in regards to China and the U.S. How enduring rivalries end China “is a communist country … based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said after his meeting with Xi. That comment gets to the heart of why diplomacy alone cannot reset the U.S.-China relationship. Washington and Beijing are not rivals due to any misunderstanding that can be sorted out through talks alone. Rather, they are rivals because of the opposite reason: They understand each other only too well and have come to the conclusion that their respective world outlooks cannot be reconciled. The same is true for many of the issues that divide the two countries – they are framed as binary win-lose scenarios. Taiwan can be governed from Taipei or Beijing, but not both. Similarly, the East China and South China seas can be international waters or Chinese territory; Russia can be crippled or supported. For the United States, its Asian alliances are a force for stability; for China, they’re hostile encirclement. And both countries are right in their respective assessments. Diplomacy alone is insufficient to resolve a rivalry. At best, it can help manage it. When the US calls, who picks up? Part of this management of the U.S-China rivalry involves finding areas of agreement that can be committed to. And on Nov. 15, Biden and Xi announced deals over curbing China’s production of the deadly drug fentanyl and the restoring of high-level, military-to-military dialogue between the two countries. But the fentanyl announcement is very similar to the one Xi gave to then-President Donald Trump in 2019. The U.S. administration later accused China of reneging on the agreement. Similarly, committing to restarting high-level dialogue is one thing; following up on it is another. History is dotted with occasions when having an open line between Beijing and Washington hasn’t meant a whole lot in times of crisis. In 2001, when a U.S. surveillance aircraft collided with a Chinese jet over Hainan Island, Beijing didn’t pick up the phone. Likewise, during the Tiananmen Square massacre, then-President George H.W. Bush urgently tried to call his counterpart Deng Xiaoping but was unable to get through. Moreover, focusing on what was agreed to in talks also highlights what wasn’t – and is unlikely to ever be – agreed to without a substantial shift in power that forces one side to concede to the other. For example, China wants the U.S. to stop selling arms to Taiwan. But Washington has no intention of doing this, as it knows that this will make the disputed island more vulnerable to Beijing. Washington would like China to end its military displays of strength over the Taiwan Strait; Beijing knows doing so risks seeing Taiwan drift toward independence. American policymakers have long said what they want is China to “change” – by which it means to liberalize its system of governance. But the Chinese Communist Party knows that doing so means self-liquidation – every communist regime that has allowed space for alternative political parties has unraveled. Which is why American attempts to engage China are often met with suspicion in China. As former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin commented, engagement and containment policies have the same aim: to end China’s socialist system. For similar reasons, Xi has shunned attempts by the U.S. to bring China further into the rules-based international order. The Chinese leader saw what happened when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to integrate the Soviet Union into the Western order in the late 1980s – it only hastened the demise of the socialist entity. Instead, Xi calls for a massive military buildup, the reassertion of Chinese Communist Party control and an economic policy based on self-reliance. Actions speak louder … The encouraging words and limited agreements hammered out in the latest meeting between Xi and Biden should also not distract from the actions that continue to push the U.S. and China further apart. China’s show of force in the Taiwan Strait has been sustained for three years now and shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, Beijing’s navy continues to harass other nations in the South China Sea. Similarly, Biden has continued the U.S. path toward military alliances aimed at countering China’s threat. It recently entered a trilateral agreement between the U.S., Japan and South Korea. And that came two years after the establishment of AUKUS, a security partnership between the the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that has similar aims. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration will continue to tighten the screws on China’s economy through investment restrictions. Biden is well aware that easy flowing money from Wall Street is helping China weather choppier economic waters of late and is keen to turn off the tap. The point of diplomacy This isn’t to say that diplomacy and face-to-face talks are pointless. They do, in fact, serve a number of interests. For both men involved, there is a domestic upside. For Biden, playing nice with China projects the image of a statesman – especially at a time when, due to U.S. positions on Ukraine and the Middle East, he is facing accusations from the political left of being a “warmonger.” And encouraging Beijing to tread softly during the U.S. election year may blunt a potential line of attack from Republicans that the administration’s China policy is not working. Meanwhile, Xi is able to showcase his own diplomatic skills and present China as an alternative superpower to the U.S. and to potentially cleave the Western business community – and perhaps even major European nations – from what he would see as the U.S. anti-China coalition. Moreover, summits like the one in San Francisco signal that both the U.S. and China are jointly committed to at least keep talking, helping ensure that a rocky relationship doesn’t descend into anything more belligerent – even it that doesn’t make them any friendlier.

Diplomacy
Joe Biden at the airport in China with President Xi Jinping

Can US and China Avoid the Thucydides Trap? The Structural Limits to a US-China Reset

by Dr. Stephen Nagy

The meeting at San Francisco between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping offers a short respite in the broader strategic conflict that both states have been waging since at least 2017. The friends and trade partners of both nations now have an opportunity to employ middle power diplomacy to advocate for their interests and also the moderation of competition. In his book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, Graham Allison provided historical examples of when a status quo power met a rising power and whether and why it resulted in war. Unlike his peer John Mearsheimer, author of the Tragedy of Great Power Politics, who concludes that competition and conflict between the US and China are inevitable due to the structure of the international system, Allison’s book provides a warning to both the US and China that the decisions they make could be positively or negatively consequential, leaving room for agency to be the final arbiter of the fate of bilateral relations. The pre-APEC meeting between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping was an invitro international relations experiment testing the premises of Allison and Mearsheimer as to whether US-China strategic competition will be shaped by the agency of leaders or the structure of the system. Superficially, the 15 November 2023 meeting allowed for an agreement limiting the precursors of fentanyl coming into the United States and, importantly, reviving regular talks under what is known as the military maritime consultation agreement. These modest but important agreements followed a throng of high-level cabinet visits to Beijing and reciprocal visits by Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, that were meant to stabilise US-China relations. These agreements suggest that leaders in both countries can find diplomatic crosswalks to stabilise the relationship in functional areas. It also intimates that other window of cooperation such as climate change, anti-terrorism, transnational disease prevention, and poverty alleviation may be fertile ground for collaboration if leaders choose to move forward. While the modest takeaways from the meeting in San Francisco underscores that agency does have a role in bilateral relations, we should be realistic that they also reflect the deep structural challenges that exist between the United States and China. Moreover, they also represent the intractable nature of the structural challenges in the relationship, placing friends and allies of the United States and major trading partners of China, such as Australia, Japan, Canada, and Southeast Asian nations, with a difficult quandary: How to balance their economic prosperity and stability through a vibrant and beneficial trade relationship with China while maintaining a strong, comprehensive relationship with the United States as it deepens its strategic competition with China? In the US, there is bipartisan consensus that China represents a challenge to US leadership that needs to be dealt with comprehensively. Under the Biden administration, we have seen a systemic, sequential, and allied-first approach to competing with China. It has brought accolades from friends and allies and, predictably, criticism from China that Biden has not only adopted a continuation of policies towards China from the Trump administration, but that his policies are even more severe. The Biden administration has reinforced and reified its alliance partnerships with South Korea and Japan. It then enhanced its commitment to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and demonstrated substantial leadership in terms of pushing back against Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. More recently, the Biden administration forged a new trilateral partnership between South Korea, Japan, and the United States, under the so-called Camp David Principles. It also strengthened the quadrilateral security dialogue and its efforts to provide public goods to the Indo Pacific region. And we’ve gradually seen a more coherent AUKUS strategy that aims to create synergy between the UK, Australia, and the United States in the areas of AI research, quantum computing, hypersonic missiles, cyber, and importantly nuclear power submarines. Last, but not least, the adoption of the Chips Act, limiting the sale of sophisticated semiconductor chips to China and the associated technologies, suggests that the United States is not stepping down from its competition with China, but stepping up in the same way that the United States transformed every aspect of its governance following the 911 attacks. Similarly, there seems to be consensus in the Chinese political elite that the US and its allies are intent on containing China and attenuating its development. Xi Jinping’s 20th Workers Party Report at the 20th Party Congress highlighted the concerns China has about its external environment and advocated for strengthening the PLA to deal with separatist forces and external threats, while consolidating it political, social, economic, and ideological systems. Through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the expansion of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the advocacy of the Global Development/ Security and Civilization Initiatives, China under the leadership of Xi Jinping is aiming to transform itself, its periphery, and the international system such that all are more conducive to China’s core interests, including preserving its political system. These realities suggest that rather than fostering a reset in bilateral relations, what we are seeing is both China and the United States taking a tactical pause in their strategic competition to amass the resources they need to compete successfully in the Mearsheimer world of great power politics and the maximisation of power. In closed-door discussions on China with Japanese, South Koreans, Australians, Canadians, Southeast and South Asians, as well as Europeans, we hear similar refrains: while China represents a “systemic challenge” in the case of the Europeans and NATO, or is a “disruptive power” in the case of Canada, or as Japan writes in its 2022 National Security Strategy, “the greatest strategic challenge in ensuring the peace and security of Japan and the peace and stability of the international community,” China is also an important and largely irreplaceable economic partner and essential player in dealing with global challenges such as climate change. The question for friends and allies of the United States is how to balance the increasingly difficult and competitive relationship between China and the United States in a way that ensures that they can continue to have strong economic relationships with China while building resilience into their economies and into their economic relationship, such that the economic weaponization of supply chains and the monopolisation of resources cannot negatively affect trading partners of China. Part of these states’ responses to protect their national interests from the structural realities of Sino-U.S. strategic competition will be a middle power diplomacy that aims to shape the competitive nature of the relationship between the US and China. This will be implemented through coordinating their diplomacy and proactively lobbying, insulating, and investing in rulemaking in the realms of security, trade, and international law alongside their like-minded ally the US, but at times also in opposition to the US. This will require investing in diplomatic resources in both the US and China, in the broader Indo-Pacific region, and at the subnational level to forge strong state to state relations to effectively lobby US policy makers to inculcate the interests of allies and friends of the US in their strategic rivalry with China. Similarly, through forging stronger relations with Chinese provincial leaders though trade and investment, middle powers and stakeholders in the US-China strategic competition may be able to have their interests reflected in a moderation of China’s approach to competition with the US.

Energy & Economics
Collision of shipment containers with Chinese and US flags

Drivers of U.S.-China Strategic Competition

by Stephen R. Nagy

Understanding the Chinese Perspective The relationship between the United States and China is one of the most important and mutually beneficial bilateral relationships in the world. Nonetheless, it is also complex and contentious, with both countries vying for geopolitical influence and economic dominance. This brief examines drivers of U.S.-China strategic competition from the perspective of Beijing incorporating the prism of MarxistLeninist ideology, domestic politics in the U.S., China's needed alignment with Russia, nationalism, technological advancements such as AI, the role of regional players such as ASEAN, Japan, and the E.U., and Comprehensive National Power (CNP). Understanding this analytical lens contributes to deeper comprehension of China's security anxieties and world view that may provide insight to enhance engagement, resilience, and deterrence in bilateral relations with China. Introduction The relationship between the United States and China is one of the most important and mutually beneficial bilateral relationships in the world today. To illustrate, according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), total imports and exports grew 2.5 percent year-on-year to reach US$690.6 billion in 2022, breaking the previous record of US$658.8 billion set in 2018. This increase is despite the divisions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and mutual unfavorable ratings. Nonetheless, the U.S.-China relationship is also complex and contentious, with both countries vying for geopolitical influence and economic dominance. Whether it is the rules-based Free and Open IndoPacific or the realization of Xi Jinping’s China dream, the competition for primacy between the U.S. and China will impact friends, partners, and foes of both states. Viewed from Beijing, Chinese scholars and analysts base their assessment of the trajectory of the U.S.-China strategic competition through several lens including the prism of Marxist-Leninist ideology, domestic politics in the U.S., China’s needed alignment with Russia, nationalism, technological advancements such as AI, the role of regional players such as ASEAN, Japan, and the EU, and Comprehensive National Power (CNP). Shaped by Marxist-Leninist Ideology Marxist-Leninist ideology has played a leading if not central role in shaping the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) approach to governance and foreign relations. The CCP came to power in 1949 following a successful revolution led by Mao Zedong. Mao was heavily influenced by Marxist-Leninist thought. Since then, the CCP has maintained a commitment to Marxist-Leninist ideology, although its interpretation and application have evolved over time. Today, as former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and author of The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping's China writes, Xi’s China leans left in terms of Marxist-Leninist socio-economic organization and right in terms of nationalism. Rudd’s analysis echoes President Xi’s speech on “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive in Unity to Build a Modern Socialist Country in All Respects” in his report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC. In that speech, Xi stressed that “Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology upon which our Party and our country are founded and thrive. Our experience has taught us that, at the fundamental level, we owe the success of our Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to the fact that Marxism works, particularly when it is adapted to the Chinese context and the needs of our times.” At its core, Marxist-Leninist ideology emphasizes the importance of class struggle and the need for the working class to overthrow the ruling class to achieve a classless society. In the Chinese context, this has translated into a focus on creating a socialist society and promoting the welfare of the Chinese people under the umbrella term ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. In terms of China’s relationship with the U.S., Marxist-Leninist ideology has contributed to a view of the U.S. as a capitalist and imperialist power that seeks to undermine China’s socialist system. This view is rooted in the Marxist-Leninist belief that capitalist powers are inherently expansionist and seek to dominate other countries to secure their own economic and political interests. They see the U.S. as an imperialist power seeking to maintain its hegemony over the world, while China represents a rising power challenging the established order, as written by Graham Allison in his book Thucydides’ Trap. Chinese analysts believe that the U.S. is threatened by China’s rise and is seeking to contain it through various means, including economic sanctions, military posturing, and diplomatic pressure as evidenced by the Trump administration’s trade war, its network of alliances throughout the region, the advent of minilateral cooperation such as the Quad and AUKUS, and the perceived fomenting of independent movements in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.  They argue that the U.S. is using its military alliances and partnerships with countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia to encircle China and limit its influence in the region. These perspectives ignore that the U.S. alongside with Japan and others openly supported China’s entry into the WTO, the 2008 Summer Olympics, and gave China a leadership position at the Paris Climate Accord. These initiatives demonstrated that the U.S. and other countries were willing to work with China on global issues and support its development. Destabilizing Influence of U.S. Domestic Politics While Marxist-Leninist perspectives of U.S.-China relations offer a macro-level understanding of how China views the inevitability of great power rivalry between Washington and Beijing, Chinese analysts also pay close attention to domestic politics in the U.S. and its impact on U.S.-China relations. Chinese analysts believe that the current political climate in the U.S. is highly polarized, and that these domestic political dynamics are affecting U.S. foreign policy, including its stance towards China. They see the Trump administration’s trade war with China as a reflection of this polarization, and argue that it has damaged the relationship between the two countries. They also note that the Biden administration has continued many of the same policies as the Trump administration, including maintaining tariffs on Chinese goods and pursuing a tough stance on technology transfer and intellectual property theft. The build-up to the 2024 presidential election for most will be one of intensifying securitization of relations with China. President Biden will not be in a position to show any weakness in his China policy. Equally so, the Republicans, whether it is former President Trump or an alternative GOP candidate will take an “All because of China” approach, when it comes to foreign policy, like advocating for a hard decoupling of the economies or even more provocatively, possibly migrating away or redefining the “One China” policy. Developing China-Russian Alignment Chinese analysts also view the relationship between China and Russia as an important factor in the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They see the two countries as natural partners, sharing a common interest in challenging U.S. dominance of the world. They believe that the China-Russia all-weather partnership is growing stronger and that it poses a significant challenge to U.S. interests. For Russia, Pax Sinica would offer it a much more hospitable environment than the one provided by the Pax Americana, according to the authors of The Beijing-Moscow Axis: The Foundations of an Asymmetric Alliance published by the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW). For China, a tightening of the alignment with Russia will be critical to ensuring that U.S. does not drive a wedge between China and Russia by pursuing a policy of containment against both countries, a policy that Chinese analysts view as unlikely to succeed. The invasion of Ukraine is a case in point. Despite Russia’s invasion violating the U.N. Charter and China’s Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, Beijing has taken a pro-Russian neutrality position refusing to condemn Russia. This is not an endorsement of the invasion or of Putin. It is a clear indication of the importance China places on the deepening Sino-Russian alignment and the reality that neither country can afford a geopolitical divorce. In fact, the recent paper ‘China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’ continues to echo President Xi’s Workers Report at the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, which explicitly used the expression that “no country’s security should come at the expense of another country’s security,” an explicit rejection of the U.S. and Western countries’ views that Russia has engaged in an unprovoked attack against the sovereign state of Ukraine.  Intensifying Nationalism Chinese nationalism is another important factor by which Chinese analysts understand the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They view Chinese nationalism as a natural response to the country’s history of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, including the U.S. Carefully curated since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, Zheng Wang writes in his book Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations that Beijing has placed the century of humiliation at the center of China’s national building process and a nationalist movement in which victimhood, national rejuvenation, and a perineal sense of insecurity concerning the West and particularly the U.S. is the major pillar. These narratives have been meticulously manipulated and deployed to build a national identity in which China must resist anti-China forces and those states that wish to prevent “China’s rightful rise.” Events such as the 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War, 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, or national aspirations such as the China Dream are all constructed with the purpose of infusing into Chinese citizens a nationalism linked to the CCP’s selective understanding of history. Based on these selective views of history, scholars such as Qin Pang in their co-authored article on “China’s Growing Power Makes Its Youth Hawkish?” Evidence from the Chinese Youth’s Attitudes toward the U.S. and Japan’ find that Chinese citizens view the United States as seeking to contain China’s rise and limit its influence in the region, and that this is seen by many Chinese as an affront to their national pride. Chinese analysts believe that Chinese nationalism is a powerful force that will shape the country's foreign policy for years to come, and that it will continue to be a source of tension in U.S.-China relations. For the U.S. and other like-minded states, Chinese nationalism that is based on victimhood, national rejuvenation, and a perennial sense of insecurity concerning the West will not be a platform for stabilizing and creating constructive relations, especially if this nationalism drives territorial expansion in the South and East China Seas, the Himalayan plateau or across the Taiwan straits.  Dominating AI and Other Technologies  The rapid advancement of technology, particularly in the areas of AI and 5G, is another factor that Chinese analysts believe will shape the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They see China as a leader in these areas, with the potential to surpass the United States in terms of technological innovation and economic growth. Chinese analysts argue that the U.S. is threatened by China’s technological progress and is seeking to limit its access to advanced technology, particularly in the areas of AI and 5G. They also believe that the United States is using national security concerns as a pretext for restricting Chinese access to these technologies. The U.S. Chips Act and the growing first tier semiconductor and technology firewall that is being erected around China by the U.S. in cooperation with Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and Taiwan demonstrate the centrality the U.S places on dominating these spheres of technology. The consequence for China according to analysts in and out of China is that it will no longer have access to the most sophisticated semi-conductors, semiconductor producing machines and the associated expertise to keep up in the race to be the first mover when it comes to AI and other technologies that rely on first tier semi-conductor chips. In concrete terms, this means that as the U.S. and its allies will form a chips coalition among like-minded countries resulting in their collective abilities to generate scientific breakthroughs that can be translated into military and economic advantages that will preserve U.S. dominance and the existing rules-based order. Beijing is aware of this challenge and has attempted to reduce its reliance on the U.S. and Western states through its Made in China 2025 strategy and Dual Circulation Strategy. Whether these initiatives will be sufficient to outmaneuver U.S. initiatives to dominate semi-conductors and ultimately AI and other sensitive technologies is yet to be determined. Role of ASEAN, Japan, and the EU Chinese analysts also pay close attention to the role of regional players such as ASEAN, Japan, and the EU in the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. They believe that these countries have a significant influence on the balance of power in the region and that their relationships with the United States and China are critical. Japan’s release in December 2022 of three strategy documents—the National Security Strategy (NSS), National Defense Strategy (NDS), and Defense Buildup Program aims to uphold the current rules-based order and prevent the emergence of Chinese hegemony in the IndoPacific region. Meanwhile, the new Washington Declaration between the United States and the Republic of Korea (RoK) commits to engage in deeper, cooperative decision-making on nuclear deterrence, including through enhanced dialogue and information sharing regarding growing nuclear threats to the ROK and the region. The recent meeting between U.S. President Biden and Philippine President Marcos reaffirms the United States’ ironclad alliance commitments to the Philippines, underscoring that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.- Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”. These are explicit examples of how U.S. allies, through their cooperation and partnerships with the U.S., are aiming to preserve U.S. hegemony. In short, Chinese analysts argue that the United States is seeking to use its relationships with these countries to contain China’s rise, while China is seeking to build closer relationships with its neighbors and BRI partners to expand its influence and build win-win relationships based on its Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Lastly, U.S. and ASEAN watchers in China believe that the United States is losing influence in the region, particularly with ASEAN countries, and that China is poised to fill the power vacuum owing to its extensive economic ties in the region, ties that many in Southeast Asia are dependent on for sustainable development despite reservations over the possible negative ramifications of increased Chinese economic and diplomatic influence in the region. Heft of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) Sensitive to the changing power balances and what this means for China’s ability to achieve its core national interests, China places enormous weight on Comprehensive National Power (CNP) as a key measure of a country’s overall strength and capability in all aspects of national development, including economic, military, technological, cultural, and diplomatic power as Hu Angang and Men Honghua write in their article title “The rising of modern China: Comprehensive national power and grand strategy”. The concept of CNP has been used by Chinese leaders since the 1980s to assess China’s relative strength compared to other countries, particularly the United States. In recent years, China has focused on increasing its CNP as part of its strategic competition with the U.S. Beijing aims to surpass the U.S. in terms of overall power and influence, believing that a higher CNP will enable the country to better protect its national interests, enhance its global influence, and achieve its long-term strategic goals. To increase its CNP, China has pursued a range of policies and initiatives. One of the key areas of focus has been economic development, with China becoming the world’s second-largest economy and a major player in global trade and investment. Through the Made in China 2025, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), and the Dual Circulation Model, China has also invested heavily in science and technology, with a particular emphasis on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G networks.  In addition, China has modernized its military and expanded its global military presence based on the civil-military fusion (MCF), with the goal of becoming a world-class military power by the middle of the century. China has also pursued a more assertive foreign policy, seeking to expand its influence in key regions such as Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Concurrently, China has also sought to promote its soft power, through initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to enhance connectivity and economic cooperation between China and other countries. China has also sought to promote its culture and values through the Confucius Institutes and its latest Global Civilization Initiative calling for “called for respecting the diversity of civilizations, advocating the common values of humanity, valuing the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.”  China’s focus on increasing its CNP is driven by its desire to become a major global power and to challenge the U.S.’ dominant position in the international system. While China’s rise has brought many benefits to the country and the world, it has also raised concerns among some countries, particularly the U.S., about the potential implications of China’s growing power and influence. This is especially true as we have seen a growing track record of economic coercion, grey zone tactics, and rejecting international law such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 2016 decision against its claims in the South China Sea.Conclusion Chinese analysts clearly view the relationship between the United States and China through a complex lens. They see the relationship with the United States as one of the most important in the world and believe that it will continue to shape the trajectory of global politics and economics for years to come. While there are significant challenges and tensions in the relationship between the two countries, Chinese analysts also see opportunities for cooperation and collaboration, particularly in areas such as climate change and global health.

Defense & Security
President Xi Jinping shaking hands with Vladimir Putin

The Chinese are not “tolerant”: they are preparing a global counteroffensive

by Yuri Tavrovsky

Moscow-Beijing: combat coordination is growing. Powerful cold currents from the West determine the political atmosphere of the planet. Efforts are being made to counter them with warm currents from the East. Only the synergy of actions between Russia and China prevents the the consolidated camp of hegemony from entering the "final and decisive battle" against each of these recalcitrant powers individually. We are well aware of the situation on the western front of the global Cold War. However, on the eastern front, where there is no Ukrainian-scale conflict yet, tensions are approaching critical levels. Defense-related Chinese trade publications have published some very disturbing material in recent weeks. ... To destroy the latest American nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald Ford and the battle group accompanying it from a cruiser and 5 missile frigates, 24 hypersonic missiles without nuclear warheads were enough. In a computer simulation, rocket launches were carried out from 6 different areas, including even the Gobi Desert in Northwest China. Considered unsinkable, the carrier group was completely destroyed by a series of launches of distracting and damaging missiles. The Chinese took into account the capabilities of both the standard set of anti-aircraft weapons and the latest American SM-3 anti-missiles. According to the scenario described in the Chinese-language Journal of Test and Measurement, the American armada entered the waters of the South China Sea and continued to move in a menacing course, despite warnings. Similar scenarios play out regularly near Chinese shores. Another Chinese publication spoke about the mortal danger of such actions. The South China Morning Post, published in Hong Kong in English, reported that the war between China and the United States could begin in the South China Sea. On January 5, 2021, three US Navy anti-submarine aircraft searched for Chinese submarines near the Dongsha Qundao (Pratas) archipelago. Reconnaissance aircraft, as always, dropped electronic buoys and tracked the routes of Chinese submarines that were participating in major exercises. However, one plane flew too close to China, and Chinese fighters flew in from there. The Chinese regarded the situation as a huge threat to national security. There was a possibility of an armed conflict, and the Americans, taking into account the unfolding actions of the PRC Air Force and Navy, began to prepare for the worst and even destroyed expensive buoys with top-secret equipment. The description of the conflict in the Chinese specialized magazine Shipboard Electronic Countermeasures does not give details of the confrontation. However, everything was very, very serious. No wonder the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, General Mark Milley, made a phone call to the Chinese Minister of Defense a couple of days later, assuring him that the Pentagon had no intention of provoking a real war. He even promised to inform his counterparts in Beijing in advance about the intentions of policymakers in the event of a critical situation. These two sensational publications did not appear by accident. One can only guess how many dangerous situations arise on the line of contact between the military of China and America in the Asia-Pacific basin. But, as the Chinese proverb says, “Heaven proposes, Xi Jinping disposes.” The Supreme Commander, acting at the strategic level of planning and decision-making, is responding to Washington's growing aggressiveness by demonstrating readiness for retaliatory actions on the battlefield and intensifying combat coordination with Russia. Planned for April, Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow was postponed to the end of March, and negotiations with Vladimir Putin lasted a total of 8 hours. Even not so much the published documents as the subsequent events showed qualitative changes in the partnership between Moscow and Beijing. The time has come for all-round combat coordination. It began with hours of face-to-face talks between the two supreme commanders. Soon, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu came to Moscow. After the visit of an experienced and energetic military commander, Chen Wenqing, curator of internal and external intelligence services, arrived in Moscow. Reports of his meetings with the secretary of our Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, showed the resolute attitude of the chief intelligence officer of the Celestial Empire towards the West. For its part, the Kremlin decided to reinforce the dynamics of combat coordination with a "volley of the main guns." A delegation of high-ranking officials and business leaders headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin headed to Beijing, unprecedented in size and level. The visit was prepared in a hurry and took place under the vigilant eye of the Western intelligence services. Therefore, the number and quality of signed agreements disappointed the optimists. But the bilateral meetings of officials, bankers and experts of the two countries that took place on the sidelines advanced the ongoing negotiations on strategic areas of cooperation and prepared serious deals. During the visit, influential publications noted the mutual interest of both countries in the accelerated growth of trade. Thus, the Global Times, which is close to the CCP Central Committee, noted the synergy of the two trends. Russia needs to increase the export of raw materials, especially energy. Against the backdrop of a rapid economic recovery, China needs to expand imports of the same oil and gas, agricultural products and other types of raw materials. The development of China's relations with the West repeats the history of the deterioration of Russia's relations with the West. The sanctions already imposed on China will be tightened. Access to sources of raw materials and markets will become a priority for Beijing for the foreseeable future. We should not turn a blind eye to the reaction of some Chinese experts and blogosphere activists to the arrival in Beijing of Mikhail Mishustin at the head of a thousandth army of the Russian elite. The emphasis is not even so much on the vital need for Moscow to receive income from trade with China as on the desirability of not offending the West, leaving the door open for relations with America. However, after 40 years of Chinese-American marriage of convenience, it would be naive to expect a quick change of shoes. There does not seem to be any improvement in relations between America and China, despite Biden's hints and the visit of Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao to the United States. Overcoming the pathological hatred of politicians for China, business people in Washington continue to do business even in the most adverse conditions. In 2022, bilateral trade reached an all-time high of $691 billion. At the same time, the Americans were able to sell their goods to the Chinese for less than 154 billion. The reduction or abolition of duties, which President Trump began to introduce back in 2018 and President Biden is increasing, could help improve the quality and further increase trade. They cost each American family $1,000 a year. However, the prospects for curtailing the trade war are very illusory. The White House and both houses of the US Congress are on the warpath. Any attempt to improve US-China relations ends in scandal—Pelosi's scandalous trip, the big white ball... The same fate awaits current hopes. The visit of Pelosi's heir, Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy to Taiwan is being prepared. At the G7 summit in Tokyo, there was a military coordination between NATO and Japan. China, along with Russia, is designated in the final documents as the main enemy. The bloc's regional headquarters is to be opened in Tokyo. It is impossible to get rid of historical parallels. Similarly, in 1936, Japan concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany, directed against the Soviet Union. A few months later, the emboldened Japanese began an all-out war against the Celestial Empire, capturing Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Nanjing in 1937. Only the diplomatic, military and financial assistance of the Soviet Union prevented the capitulation of the Republic of China along the lines of France. Stubbornly resisting China, in turn, prevented Tokyo from attacking the USSR at the already appointed time - August 29, 1941. Then there were two fronts - Soviet and Chinese. Now the situation is repeating itself. The Chinese were not patient. They were defending then. Now, relying on a reliable Russian rear, they launched a counteroffensive. Thanks to Beijing's 12-point peace plan for Ukraine and Xi Jinping's phone call with Zelensky, China is destroying the Yellow Threat stereotype at minimal cost in the European theater and strengthening its image as a peacemaker. There is competition with America. The first study trip to Kyiv, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Moscow of Special Representative Xi Jinping, Ambassador Li Hui, has just ended. It was preceded by trips of "heavyweights" - Chinese Vice President Han Zheng, foreign policy curator on the party line Wang Yi, Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Another area of China's global counteroffensive is to prevent the West from filling the strategic vacuum in Central Asia. That was the task of the summit of the five countries of this region and China in Xi'an, the ancient capital of several Chinese dynasties. This also meets the strategic interests of Moscow. The combat coordination of the two mighty powers of the Eurasian continent is gaining momentum and taking on new forms. How can one not recall that in March, Xi Jinping, when saying goodbye to Vladimir Putin on the steps of the Grand Kremlin Palace, said: “Now there are changes that have not happened in 100 years, and we are driving these changes.” Putin's answer was short but meaningful: "I agree."

Diplomacy
Joe Biden holding hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Biden’s ‘de-risk’ from China policy has a few flaws

by Nathaniel Sher

In order to ‘walk, chew gum, and play chess’ at the same time, the US will have to both invest at home and sign more trade deals. A speech late last month by Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, on “Renewing American Economic Leadership” clarified that the administration wants to build resilience to “de-risk” from China. But dealing with Beijing will require more than investing at home. Washington also needs to re-engage in negotiations with China to manage difficulties in the bilateral relationship. And to better compete, the United States should get back into the business of signing trade deals. As Trade Representative Katherine Tai quipped during her 2021 confirmation hearing, the United States can “walk, chew gum, and play chess” at the same time. The Biden administration should not only invest in domestic resilience, but also participate in new trade agreements and negotiate directly with Beijing. Over the past two years, China joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), began acceding to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), and applied to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). China’s integration into these new frameworks will create efficiencies in its own economy, while binding Beijing closer to the rest of Asia. Meanwhile, the United States does not expect to see the first “real outcomes” from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) until the end of 2023, more than one year after its announcement. IPEF, moreover, lacks the market-access agreements characteristic of other, more substantive economic agreements. It is not surprising, then, that the 2023 Lowy Institute Asia Power Index ranks China 100 out of 100 on its “economic diplomacy” index, while the United States receives a ranking of only 34.6. The 2023 State of Southeast Asia survey similarly shows that only 21.9 percent of respondents view the United States as a leader in championing free trade, down from 30.1 percent in 2022. To be fair, Beijing has significant ground to cover before its markets become as free and as open as those in the United States. What many trade partners care about, however, is not where China and the United States have been, but where they are going. To many, it appears as if Washington is turning inward while Beijing continues to open its markets. This leads to the second error in Jake Sullivan’s “new consensus” on international economic policy. He expresses fatalism about China’s economic trajectory without giving credence to the possibility that China may change, or that the United States can play a role in influencing Beijing’s behavior. Sullivan explains, when “President Biden came into office, we had to contend with the reality that a large non-market economy had been integrated into the international economic order in a way that posed considerable challenges.” In response, Sullivan focuses on building domestic “resilience” and “capacity” to reduce America’s dependence on China. Washington appears to have given up on addressing the non-market practices contributing to U.S. dependence on China in the first place, including state subsidies and dumping. The administration also seems to have forgotten that access to low-priced imports is an important factor in the competitiveness of U.S. firms and the standard of living of American consumers. Fatalism about China’s trajectory tracks with the Biden administration’s overall Indo-Pacific Strategy, which does not seek to “change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates.” Fortunately, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has bucked the trend by stating that she hopes to “engage” with Beijing “in an important and substantive dialogue on economic issues.” Not trying to influence Beijing, on the other hand, would give up an essential element of any effective China policy. Of course, prior negotiations were by no means unqualified successes. The Trump administration’s “phase one” trade deal largely failed to change Beijing’s behavior, in part, because the bilateral purchase agreements effectively, as Yukon Huang and Jeremy Smith of the Carnegie  Endowment for International Peace put it, “prescribed state-managed trade over market forces.” Other negotiations, however, have seen more success. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was able to persuade Beijing to revalue its currency by more than 20 percent in the late 2000s, helping to level the trade relationship. China’s WTO accession negotiations also moved the needle on the country’s economic policy. While Beijing failed to carry out many of its WTO commitments, China did reform key aspects of its economy and, notably, slashed its average tariff level from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.8 percent over the next decade. U.S. policymakers should learn the lessons of past negotiations rather than standing by as U.S.-China economic relations deteriorate further. One way to pressure Beijing to continue along the path of reform and opening up would be to carry out negotiations in concert with U.S. friends and allies. The Trump administration gave up significant leverage by dealing with Beijing bilaterally, outside the parameters of the international trade system. Plurilateral negotiations with U.S. partners — many of whom share U.S. grievances — may be more effective at convincing China to change course. The consequences of not having an effective economic dialogue with Beijing will become more apparent over time. Despite Washington’s wishes, China is simply not going away. Beijing will continue to join new trade agreements and integrate itself deeper into the global economy, even as the United States focuses on building resilience at home.

Diplomacy
Chinese president Xi Jinping on the phone screen and Volodymyr Zelensky the president of Ukraine

Beijing’s Kyiv outreach is about acquiring a global role for itself

by Harsh V. Pant

It aims to signal its diplomatic ascendance and challenge Washington as the big shaper of outcomes. Late last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping finally made that much hoped-for call to Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelensky and informed the world that his nation “always stood on the side of peace.” This was the first outreach by Beijing to Ukraine since  the latter’s invasion by Russia last February, and Zelensky was keen on this engagement, especially after Xi’s visit to Moscow in March. Ukraine views China as an important interlocutor that can engage with Russia and seems to have been encouraged by the “long and meaningful” phone call between the two leaders that in its view would “give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.” Last week, Ukraine’s finance minister also suggested that Kyiv should use its bilateral relationship with China as leverage to bring an end to Russia’s full-scale invasion, though he refused to consider China as a friend. The Chinese President has been reported as saying that China, “as a responsible majority country,” would “neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit.” But there was no suggestion that Beijing would be doing anything meaningful going forward. The call and associated choreography had more to do with positioning China as a global power that is willing to engage in resolving problems, as opposed to the US that is creating more trouble by continuing to support Ukraine and prolonging the war. China has already laid out its cards on the table when it comes to the Ukraine crisis. It had released a 12-point position paper on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis earlier this February. In an attempt to present itself as a neutral peace broker, Beijing has enunciated a few standard principles, including respect for the sovereignty of all countries, resumption of peace talks, keeping industrial and supply chains stable and opposition to unilateral sanctions  as well as the use of nuclear weapons. Taking this forward, China has decided to send special representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties in an attempt at peace-making. But beyond these principles, China’s credentials are hardly supportive of a larger role as a peace-maker, as it has long refused to view its ties with Ukraine and Russia at the same level. Russia has shown no inclination to step back from its aggression and Ukraine is seemingly preparing to launch a large-scale counter-offensive against Russian forces in a bid to retake territory in the east and south for which it has been preparing for months now. While Moscow has given no indication of backing down, perhaps assuming that it has time on its side and waiting for the Western consensus on backing Ukraine to collapse, Ukrainian forces feel that the weaponry delivered by the West over the past few months is likely to give them the momentum needed to shape battlefield realities in their favour. China is also unlikely to be viewed as an honest broker, given its ties with Russia that are increasingly becoming tighter. And despite repeated statements that the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all  countries must be effectively upheld,” Beijing has not only refused to acknowledge Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, but has continued to privilege its partnership with Moscow. Though Xi’s visit to Moscow in March did not result in any concrete help to Russia, it did signal to the West that  the China-Russia entente can shape the global balance of power in ways that can be deleterious to Western interests. More than anything else, Chinese posturing in the Ukraine conflict is aimed at the West. In its position paper, Beijing talks about the need to abandon a “Cold War mentality” and argues that “the legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and addressed properly,” making it clear that it largely agrees with Moscow’s perspective that it was the West that created the conditions for this war with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato). China has also been critical of Western sanctions on Russia, arguing that “relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ against other countries, so as to do their share in de-escalating the Ukraine crisis.” Both of these issues are germane for the long-term trajectory of China’s role on the global stage amid deepening tensions with the US. For China, clearly, this crisis is more about itself than it is about Russia. As China comes out of its covid- induced isolation, it would like to have a stable international environment for a sustained economic recovery. But it is also using an opportunity to emerge as a key global interlocutor by venturing into diplomatic arenas it has been shy of in the past, taking advantage of the West’s recent inward orientation. This effort was exemplified by its attempt to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia together in the highly volatile Middle East. China’s attempt at emerging as a global peace-maker is about presenting a diplomatic challenge to the US on the global stage. Beijing may not have much of an impact on the eventual outcome of the Ukraine crisis, but it is signalling that it is no longer shy of showcasing its growing diplomatic heft.

Diplomacy
President Xi Jinping with Vladimir Putin

Putin-Xi Summit Reinforces Anti-U.S. Partnership

by Thomas Graham

The meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Moscow helped both give the impression of a united front, but underlying tensions were also discernible. What did the summit achieve for each side?With the pomp of a state visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping shined a spotlight on their ­growing strategic alignment, which is aimed at upending the U.S.-led, rules-based international order in favor of a multipolar world. Long on symbolism, short on concrete substance, the summit nevertheless served both leaders’ purposes. Putin welcomed the demonstration that Russia was not, and could not be, isolated on the world stage, as it deepened relations with one of the world’s two superpowers. By showcasing burgeoning commercial ties and unveiling plans to expand them, Putin conveyed confidence that Russia can remain resilient in the face of harsh Western sanctions.      Meanwhile, Xi’s decision to make Moscow his first foreign visit of his third term as president underscored his strong commitment to Russia and to Putin personally. He used the summit to underscore China’s determination to pursue its national interests in defiance of mounting U.S. economic and diplomatic pressure—making the point that China will not abandon its strategic partner in pushing back against U.S. pretensions to global leadership. That was a crucial message for his increasingly nationalistic domestic audience, as well as for the Global South, where the U.S.-led liberal order is under stress. At the same time, Xi subtly let it be known that China is the dominant partner. Putin had little choice but to accept Xi’s proposal that Russia use the yuan, not the ruble, in trade with the Global South to diminish the role of the U.S. dollar in world trade. Xi also gratuitously endorsed Putin for reelection in 2024, even though the Russian president has not declared his intention to run. And at the joint press availability at the end of the summit, Xi was much more restrained in his description of bilateral relations than was Putin, who was eager to lay out all the areas in which the two countries would enhance cooperation in the years ahead. That left the clear impression that Russia needed China much more than China needed Russia.What does the summit mean for the war in Ukraine?Nothing at the summit suggested that the underlying dynamic in the war was about to change. As expected, Beijing continued to provide Moscow with strong diplomatic support, echoing the latter’s narrative blaming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the conflict. Despite Washington’s fears, however, Xi gave no indication that China was ready to provide lethal military aid that might radically improve Russia’s chances on the battlefield. Putin noted that China’s recently released 12-point peace plan could serve as a basis for negotiations, but neither he nor Xi suggested any practical steps that might give substance to what is largely a list of bromides about respecting sovereignty, avoiding escalation, and seeking a diplomatic solution. The reality is that China benefits from the military stalemate. Russia’s aggression distracts U.S. attention and resources from the Indo-Pacific region, while Western sanctions compel Russia to turn to China as an economic lifeline. China exploits Russia’s predicament to gain access to critical natural resources, especially oil and gas, at discounted prices.  In line with this calculus, Xi provided Putin with sufficient moral and material support so that he could continue the fight, but much less than needed to give Russia the advantage. At the same time, the Chinese continued to drive hard commercial bargains. Notably, no deal was announced to build a second Power of Siberia gas pipeline, which Putin has described as “the deal of the century.” Rather, it was simply noted that further details needed to be negotiated, as China explores alternatives.What does it reveal about the underlying tensions between China and Russia?Except for a brief period after the Communist takeover of China in 1949, China and Russia have been rivals, not partners. Until the end of the Cold War, Russia was by far the superior power.   The dynamic changed dramatically after 1991. Then, the two countries’ economies were roughly the same size. Now, China’s economy is ten times larger, and the gap continues to widen.  Moreover, China now casts a much larger shadow on the global stage: it has overtaken Russia in the development of advanced technology and its conventional military is comparable to Russia’s, even as it is moving toward nuclear parity with both Russia and the United States. What once could have been seen as a roughly equal partnership has evolved to the point where Russia is decidedly the junior partner. Despite the rhetoric of comprehensive partnership and avowals from Putin and Xi that relations have never been better, this asymmetry in power and ambition is in itself a source of friction, in addition to the civilizational clashes, racial prejudices, territorial grievances, and geopolitical competition that have strained relations in the past. But these sources of tension are currently far outweighed by the shared challenge from the United States. Washington’s current policy of dual containment only reinforces their strategic alignment and pushes the tensions further into the background.

Diplomacy
Flag of Japan between flags of US and China

Japan’s policy amidst growing US-China rivalry

by Kristina Voda

AnnotationThe article is devoted to the analysis of Japan’s policy amidst growing competition between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific region. It assesses the Japan’s place in US strategy to contain China in the economic and political spheres. Particular attention is paid to the events that took place in 2021, the first year of the Biden administration in the US.  The Biden administration, which came to the White House on January 20, 2021, immediately announced a course of rivalry with China. In his very first foreign policy speech, the 46th President of the United States called the PRC the most serious rival of the United States, declared his desire to rebuff "the growing ambitions of authoritarian China, challenging American leadership". The U.S. Interim National Security Strategy Guide, published in March 2021, called China “the only competitor with the potential to combine its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system”. The Biden administration's course of confronting Beijing also included countering Chinese illegal trade practices, cybercrime, and countering Beijing's so-called coercive economic measures that undermine the competitive advantage of the American economy. At the same time, Joe Biden, unlike his predecessor D. Trump, who pursued a policy in the spirit of “America first”, promised to rely on allies and partners in the implementation of his international policy. The Interim Strategic National Security Guide of the United States called the American allies “the most important strategic resource”, allowing them to act as a united front against global and regional rivals, including China. The United States promised to reaffirm and strengthen its commitment to alliances in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region, and to encourage allies to develop their military and political capabilities to counter common current and future threats. Japan, the most important military and political ally of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region (ITR), supported Joe Biden's course of rivalry with China on a wide range of issues. At the same time, the growing competition between Washington and Beijing is challenging Tokyo's national interests, forcing it to revise the key parameters of its economic and foreign policy strategy and adapt it to changing international political conditions.Military-political sphereIn 2021, Japan began coordinating its PRC strategy with the new American administration. On March 16, Tokyo hosted the first meeting of the new heads of the US Foreign and Defense Departments — A. Blinken and L. Austin — with their Japanese counterparts, which took place in the 2+2 format. Following the meeting, the parties stated that China's activities in the political, economic, military and technological spheres pose a challenge to the Japan-US alliance and the entire world community when they do not comply with the existing international order. The ministers announced their determination to resist Beijing's actions if they put pressure on regional players or destabilize the situation, which undermines the "rules-based" international system. During Biden's first Japan-US summit in Washington on April 16, 2021, the parties expressed concern about China's behavior that violates international order, including the use of economic and other forms of coercion. In addition, J. Biden and Y. Suga spoke out against China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, and also expressed concern about the human rights situation in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. For the first time in 52 years (since 1969), the leaders of Japan and the United States mentioned the "Taiwan issue" in a joint statement: they declared the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and expressed concern about the current situation around Taiwan. A desire was declared to develop cooperation between Washington and Tokyo on the basis of universal values and common principles. The parties also stressed the need for deterrence to maintain peace and stability in the region. At the same time, J. Biden and Y. Suga noted that it is important to have a frank dialogue with Beijing, directly express their concerns and work with it on topics of interest. The United States remains Japan's most important military and political partner, guaranteeing the security of the Japanese state from outside attacks. According to official Japanese government documents, the most serious security threat to Japan is the lack of transparency in the increase in the combat capability of the Chinese military. In addition, China's attempts to change the status quo in the East China and South China Seas pose a threat to Japan. There is particular concern about China's activity around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which threatens Japan's sovereignty over the islands. In addition, the development of the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs is considered a security threat to Japan. Tokyo is concerned about the significant progress made by Pyongyang in the development of a new type of ballistic missile. On these most sensitive issues, Tokyo is seeking guarantees from Washington to ensure its security. The growing confrontation between the US and China in the international military-political sphere poses new challenges to the alliance between Japan and the US. In the 2010s - early 2020s. with the active assistance of the Japanese government, military cooperation between Tokyo and Washington has expanded markedly. The change in the interpretation of the Constitution by the government of S. Abe in 2013 allowed Japan to apply the right to collective self-defense in limited cases. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces gained the ability to come to the aid of their allies in joint operations outside the Japanese islands. As a result, the scope of the Japanese-American alliance has expanded virtually to the whole world. The creation in 2015 of the Coordinating Mechanism between the armed forces of the two countries is aimed at strengthening cooperation between Tokyo and Washington in the military sphere. It was used to monitor the situation on the Korean Peninsula during the escalation of tensions in 2017. In addition, Japan increased the volume of purchases of American weapons, including F-35 aircraft, SM3 ballistic missile interceptors, RQ-4 Global Hawk long-range unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, Osprey convertiplanes, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye AWACS aircraft, etc. Tokyo's more active involvement in the confrontation between Washington and Beijing is supported by some American political experts. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of publications substantiating the important role of Japan in the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. It is noted that during the years of D. Trump's presidency, the United States refused to participate in a number of global and regional multilateral initiatives, undermining its credibility as the leader of the liberal international order. At the same time, it was Japan that assumed the role of a conductor and defender of liberal values in the IPR. As S. Smith, senior fellow at the American Council on Foreign Affairs, notes, along with maintaining an unshakable commitment to an alliance with the United States, Japan has acquired a more prominent role in international coalitions in the ITR in recent years. This is evidenced by its participation in naval exercises with the United States, Australia, India, and others. Further involvement of Japan in the US-Chinese confrontation on the side of the United States will require Tokyo to build up its military potential and increase its defense budget, strengthen coordination between its three types of armed forces, between the armed forces of the United States and Japan, as well as the unification of their commands. Such changes in Japan's military sphere will require further modifications of its defense legislation, including a revision of the restrictions imposed by the anti-war Article 9 of the Constitution. Although part of the political elite, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and former Prime Ministers S. Abe and Y. Suga, advocates the need to revise the Constitution and further expand Japan's military capabilities, about half of the public still does not support this course and adheres to pacifist views. In the short term, radical changes in Japan are unlikely, which will impose restrictions on Japanese-American cooperation in the military sphere. As for relations between Japan and China, during the period of D. Trump's administration in the United States, there was limited convergence on economic and political issues between Tokyo and Beijing in 2017-2019. The visit of Prime Minister S. Abe to Beijing in 2018 gave an impetus to the expansion of economic interaction between the two largest Asian economies. China and Japan signed 52 agreements totaling about $18 billion, announced plans to cooperate in third countries in the field of infrastructure construction, agreed to cooperate in the field of innovation development and intellectual property protection, renewed a $30.4 billion currency swap agreement, expressed the need to jointly develop free trade regimes in the region. Tokyo and Beijing have taken steps towards each other in the field of regulating tension in the East China Sea. The parties reaffirmed their long-standing intention to turn the East China Sea into a "sea of peace, cooperation and friendship" and agreed to prevent the emergence of dangerous situations at sea and in the air. On December 28, 2021, Japan and China again announced their intention to open a “hot line” between military departments to monitor the situation in the East China Sea around the Senkaku Islands, the sovereignty over which is disputed by Beijing. In the military-political sphere, serious contradictions remain between Japan and the PRC, including the territorial dispute, the problem of historical memory, as well as competition for influence in the IPR. At the same time, Tokyo maintains channels of communication with Beijing and its own agenda of bilateral relations. According to R. Sahashi, a Tokyo University researcher, Japan's task in its relations with China since establishing diplomatic relations in the 1970s has been to involve China in the international political order through the development of bilateral economic relations while maintaining its alliance with the United States. Japan's response to the current intensification of confrontation between the United States and China has been to increase cooperation with the United States in the military-political sphere and in the field of economic security, as well as the development of interaction with countries that share views with Tokyo on a preferred international order while maintaining diplomatic relations with China. Japan's long-term interest lies in the creation in the IPR of certain institutions in the field of economy, politics and security, which should lead to the formation of an order based on universal values.Trade and economic sphereIn 2021, the policy of the Joe Biden administration in the trade and economic sphere in the Indo-Pacific region was in the process of formation. Many of D. Trump's measures, primarily in relation to China, have retained their effect. A number of new initiatives were proposed to restore the US position in the IPR, lost during the years of the previous administration. With respect to the PRC, Washington upheld the tariffs imposed by Trump on imports of Chinese products worth about $370 billion (on 75% of exports of Chinese manufacturers to the United States). In addition, sanctions remain against high-tech Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei. In response to US restrictive measures, China imposed 25% tariffs on $110 billion of US imports in 2018. The trade dispute between the United States and China, the active phase of which fell on 2018-2019, led to the signing by the parties on January 16, 2020 of the so-called first phase of the trade agreement. It assumed an increase in Beijing's purchases of American products in 2020-2021. by $200 billion compared to 2017. It also committed China to make progress in enforcing intellectual property rights, remove non-tariff barriers to agricultural imports, and liberalize its financial services sector. The Biden administration continued to insist that China fulfill the terms of the first phase of the bilateral agreement. In October 2021, the new US Trade Representative K. Tai announced her intention to continue consultations with the Chinese side on trade and economic issues, as well as to raise issues such as subsidizing by the PRC government of certain sectors of the economy and special measures to support state-owned enterprises, which Washington is considering in as Beijing's "non-market trading practices". The trade dispute between the United States and China has led to a slowdown in the global economy and world trade, a decline in business confidence and increased uncertainty about future developments. Japan's trade volume in 2019 also decreased by 5% compared to 2018. Japanese exports to China fell by 7%, imports decreased by 3%. China remains Japan's largest trading partner: China's share in Japanese trade in 2018-2019 was 22%, and at the end of 2020 it increased to 24%, while the share of the USA was at the level of 15%. The trade dispute between Washington and Beijing had a negative impact on the economic performance of Japanese multinational corporations (TNCs) with Chinese subsidiaries. Since the US imposed tariffs on Chinese products in 2018, there has been a decline in sales from Chinese affiliates of Japanese TNCs trading with North American countries. Declines in the value of shares on the exchange (Nikkei 225 Index) were recorded for Japanese TNCs, whose operations are related to trade between the US and China. The share price of TNCs, whose Chinese subsidiaries had a higher share of imports from Japan, fell most noticeably. This is because, as sales to the US fell, the volume and value of imports from Japan also fell, resulting in a decline in the share price. To avoid an increase in the negative effect of the trade war, some Japanese corporations were forced to transfer production. So, Mitsubishi Electric in 2018-2019 moved part of the production of semiconductors and equipment for customers from the United States to Japan. Other companies have increased the capacity of their plants in North America and Southeast Asia. Electric motor maker Nidec Corporation moved production to Mexico in October 2018, Ricoh moved printer production to Thailand, and Sharp moved some laptop production from China to Vietnam. Washington’s course to confront Beijing in the economic and technological spheres in 2021 was supplemented by an initiative aimed at reducing the dependence of the US economy on high-tech products made in China and reformatting existing supply chains with the possible exclusion of China from them. In February 2021, Washington announced its intention to encourage the transfer of production of critical products from China to the United States and allied countries, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and India. At the same time, special attention in the United States is paid to the production of semiconductors, an industry that is one of the key drivers of global economic growth. The semiconductor shortage in 2021 exposed the vulnerability of existing supply chains and undermined the global production of cars, computers and electronics. On June 8, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Innovation and Competition Act, which provides $250 billion for the development of the semiconductor, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence industries. 52 billion of them is planned to be directed to expanding the production of semiconductors in the United States. The purpose of this bill is to increase the competitiveness of the United States in the technological competition with China, where as part of the "Made in China 2025" strategy, the amount of state support for semiconductor-producing companies is stated to be 1.4 trillion dollars. The Japanese government is also taking steps to reduce dependence on China. According to Japanese expert A. Furuse, Tokyo realized the need to diversify its supply chains as early as 2010 after the escalation of tensions around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea caused interruptions in the supply of rare earth metals to Japan from China. Today, when the whole world is facing supply disruptions, the importance of cooperation between allies and partners in high-tech industries is increasing. Partner countries will be able to reduce the risks of dependence on China, share the financial burden on research and development, and take their industrial cooperation to a new level. On June 4, 2021, the Government of Japan released the "Semiconductor and Digital Industries Strategy" covering activities in three sectors: semiconductors, digital infrastructure, and digital industry. It states that ensuring the security of production and supply of semiconductors is an issue directly related to economic security in the face of technological competition between the United States and China. To this end, Japan will promote joint development with advanced foreign manufacturers. Another document released by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on June 29, 2021 said that with the rivalry between the US and China intensifying, Japan should diversify its suppliers and cooperate with the US and other countries to protect supply chains. It also emphasizes the need to take measures to prevent the leakage of sensitive technologies from Japan. Another important issue is the prospects for the participation of the US and China in multilateral trade formats in the ITR. Now China's share of international trade in the region far exceeds that of the United States. On November 15, 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed and entered into force on January 1, 2022 for ten countries (Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam). In the absence of India, which pulled out of negotiations in early 2020, China is taking the lead in this world's largest free trade zone, covering 30% of the world's population. After the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2017, the remaining 11 countries participating in the negotiations entered into a new agreement called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Japan, after the withdrawal of the United States, took the place of the leader of the association and thereby guaranteed itself participation in the formation of rules and norms for conducting trade and economic activities in the region. In September 2021, China applied to join the CPTPP. Although many are skeptical about the prospects of China's participation in the CPTPP, China's share in the trade of all its members already exceeds that of the United States. The accession of the United States to the CPTPP in the near future is also unlikely, primarily for domestic political reasons. Nevertheless, in 2021, the Biden administration made an attempt to return to the discussion of trade and economic issues in the IPR on a multilateral basis. Speaking at the East Asia Summit (EAS) on October 27, 2021, which was held online, Biden announced the initiative to create the Indo-Pacific economic framework. According to him, its activities will be aimed at facilitating trade procedures, setting standards for the digital economy and technologies, strengthening the sustainability of supply chains, decarbonization and development of clean energy, infrastructure development, improving labor standards, and so on. But this initiative, unlike multilateral free trade agreements, will not be binding, it does not include trade and investment liberalization goals, and it does not guarantee preferences in the attractive US market. These circumstances will reduce the value of the American proposal for the IPR countries in comparison with the already existing multilateral formats. Washington's unwillingness to participate in free trade agreements in the IPR reduces the involvement and influence of the United States in the rules and norms of trade and economic activity being developed here. In turn, Beijing, the leading trading partner of most regional economies, during the 2010s put in significant efforts in creating its own international institutions designed to strengthen the influence of the PRC on international economic relations and at the same time increase independence from external rules and norms. Under these conditions, Japan sees its task as the formation of a multifaceted trade and economic system with unified rules and norms in the ITR, which will be able to not only balance China's growing influence but also create a liberal economic order that both China and the United States will be forced to reckon with. Thus, Japan hopes that its multilateral trade policy will be able to limit the unilateral actions of Beijing and Washington and reduce the potential negative effects of the trade war between China and the United States on the national and global economy.

Defense & Security
Sukhbaatar, the parliament building of the government of Mongolia in Ulan Bator

Renewed Geopolitical Rivalries: Challenges and Options for Mongolia

by Mendee Jargalsaikhan

IntroductionDuring a break in the COVID-19 pandemic, the foreign ministers of China, Russia, Japan and the United States boosted Mongolia into international headlines. Returning from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Moscow, for instance, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stopped in Ulaanbaatar (15–16 September) with a message: Do not take sides with China’s competitors if Mongolia wants to rely on the Chinese economic powerhouse. Within the week, Mongolian Foreign Minister Enkhtaivan Nyamtseren was invited by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet on short notice. Even though the ministers jointly announced the finalization of a treaty on the permanent comprehensive strategic partnership, the Kremlin showed its will to lead trilateral economic projects (such as a gas pipeline) with China and impose the Eurasian Economic Union agenda on Mongolia. Then on 29 September, the United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the inclusion of Mongolia in his trip to visit allies in East Asia—Japan and the Republic of Korea.2 Although the trip was ultimately cancelled due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among White House officials, Pompeo talked by telephone with President Battulga Khaltmaa and highlighted their shared commitment to democracy and regional security. A few days later, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, considered a key insider of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s geopolitics, flew to Ulaanbaatar. In addition to updating the strategic partnership plan until 2022, the Japanese Foreign Minister’s interests centred on Mongolia’s inclusion in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. Mongolia has declared strategic partnerships with each of these great powers and is thus entering a complicated geopolitical setting. It is not entirely new. A similar scene occurred in the summer of 1991. Chinese President Yang Shangkun, Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and the United States Secretary of State James Baker each visited Mongolia within a month’s time. China wanted agreement to non-interference in its internal affairs, whereas Japan and the United States imposed non-reversal conditionality on Mongolia’s democratic transition to receive much-needed economic assistance. The primary difference then was the absence of Russia. This policy paper discusses the renewed geopolitical rivalries of the great powers, explains Mongolia’s challenges to manoeuvring in this tough geopolitical terrain and then proposes pursuit of a pragmatic, neutral foreign policy option similar to Finland’s strategic concessions to its neighbouring great power, the Soviet Union.Renewed geopolitical rivalriesThe great power competition also is nothing new. Even after the Cold War, China, Japan, Russia and the United States were watching each other suspiciously while avoiding unnecessary tension. In the 1990s, policymakers and academics in Japan, Russia, and the United States debated over the China threat and the consequences of China’s economic rise. Russian leaders, such as Foreign Minister and later Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and President Vladimir Putin, sought ways to balance with the United States and to integrate into the European economic and security framework. It was not a surprise when Putin hinted at Russia’s inclusion in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) because the country was already supporting American military operations in Afghanistan. Similarly, in 2000, the United States Congress mandated its Defense Department to report annually on China’s security strategy and military development. China and Japan had similar outlooks. China was wary of the United States, whereas Japan remained vigilant of both China and Russia. In the mid-2000s, all these countries reassessed their long-term geopolitical and economic objectives as the geopolitical setting began to shift. With similar geopolitical concerns about American strategies, China and Russia advanced their partnership by conducting an annual joint military exercise (Peace Mission, beginning in 2005) and even demanded the withdrawal of American forces from Central Asia. When the United States proposed another round of NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and Georgia and new missile defence systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, Russia quickly reacted. This resulted in a brief military conflict with Georgia in 2008. Following the breakdown with Europe, Russia began pursuing policies to reassert its influence in former Soviet republics through the Eurasian Economic Union as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization. China and Russia jointly strengthened the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and created a new bloc with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (BRICS) for collaborating on major geopolitical issues. From 2012, the great power rivalries intensified. Chinese President Xi Jinping renounced the “hide and bide” principle of Deng Xiaoping by pledging that China would take an active role in global politics. A year later, China unveiled a new grand strategy, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to invest in infrastructure that increases global connectivity. Chinese leaders explained that the BRI is a “win–win” developmental initiative. The ambitions and ambiguity of the BRI, however, immediately raised geopolitical concern from all the great powers, as if China was about to reshape the global and regional order for its geopolitical advantage. For example, building on its earlier strategy (Pivot to East Asia), the United States launched a series of measures to contain China. It endorsed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s quadrilateral security dialogue (for the alliance of Japan, India, Australia and the United States) and strengthened ties with India, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, all of whom are cautious of China’s economic and military powers. Meanwhile, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and intervened in Eastern Ukraine, based on its geopolitical concerns for Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO. Then, in 2015, Russia deployed its military to Syria to check the United States’ interventions while declaring its strategic partnership with China. In response, the United States cited China and Russia as the biggest threats in its National Defense Strategy (2018), which is the country’s long-term strategic defense document.6 The American Defense Department released its Indo–Pacific Strategy Report, and the State Department defined its Free and Open Indo–Pacific vision. Both documents prioritized containing China’s growing economic and military power in the Indo–Pacific region. In addition to sanctions against China and Russia, the United States pressured its allies to ban Chinese telecommunication companies from participating in the development of the 5G network. In contrast, Russia welcomed the Chinese telecommunication giant—Huawei—to develop its 5G network and pledged to develop Chinese missile defence capabilities. This new round of great power rivalries is changing the geopolitical setting for a small State like Mongolia.Challenges for MongoliaThe primary challenge for Mongolia is to maintain its sovereignty. For centuries, geography has dictated the country’s fate as a classic buffer State between two expansionist and rival great powers—China and Russia. While serving the Kremlin’s geopolitical interests from 1921 to 1986, Mongolia gained United Nations membership and its independence from China. During this period, Mongolia remained under close control of the Kremlin and became a militarized buffer State whenever Russian geopolitical interests were threatened. The Kremlin deployed its military three times: in 1921, 1936 and 1960. Following the Sino– Soviet rapprochement and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia normalized its relations with China and developed new ties with the United States and its allies. In the 1990s, Mongolia did not experience any geopolitical pressure from the great powers and firmly declared a series of neutrality policies. At the time, Mongolia’s two neighbours were preoccupied with maintaining their domestic matters and also coping with security concerns elsewhere. The United States and Japan focused on Mongolia’s political and economic transition while explicitly avoiding developing security ties. In that period, Mongolia adopted a series of neutrality policies: the constitutional prohibition on foreign military transition and basing, a non-aligned foreign policy stance, declaration of a nuclear weapon-free zone and bilateral treaties with all the great powers, with a “against no third party” principle. In this favourable geopolitical context, Mongolia increased Its engagement with international and regional organizations and sought ways to attract the interests of so-called “third neighbours”. The most important endeavour was its military deployment in support of American operations in Iraq, when China and Russia were strongly opposing the United States war in Iraq. Then, Mongolia deployed its military to Kosovo and Afghanistan. This military contribution resulted in close political and defence ties with the United States and NATO members as of 2003. The other endeavour was the conclusion of an investment agreement with Anglo–Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and Canadian Ivanhoe Mines to develop the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold deposit. These endeavours triggered reactions from China and Russia. China’s security experts cautioned Mongolia’s inclusion in the American “strategic encirclement” of China, whereas Russia was wary of losing its geopolitical privileges in Mongolia to NATO members. China and Russia jointly pressured Mongolia to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As a result, Mongolia became an observer in 2005. Since then, Russia has taken assertive action to secure its geopolitical and geo-economic interests in critical areas such as railway construction, the energy sector and uranium mining. To be clear, neither China nor Russia attempted in this period to influence Mongolia’s domestic politics, especially its elections. Now all these great powers want to include Mongolia in their competing geopolitical visions. China declared a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014 and included Mongolia as one of six economic corridors of the BRI. Beijing leaders hope that Mongolia will join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to fulfil its regionalization strategy of Central Asia. They also want Mongolia to commit to non-intervention in its internal affairs, especially in matters related to Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Inner Mongolia, in return for economic assistance and market access. In 2019, Russia quickly upgraded its strategic partnership with conclusion of a permanent treaty, which imposed Mongolia’s adherence to the Russian geopolitical agenda. Specifically, the treaty prioritizes bilateral consultations, renews defence technical cooperation and requires Mongolia’s adherence to the 1,520 mm (Russian standard railway gauge) for the railway extension. As hinted by some Russian officials, the Kremlin even dreams of Mongolia’s inclusion in the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, considering how Mongolia is traditionally wary of Chinese expansion. The United States and Japan have included Mongolia in their Free and Open Indo–Pacific strategy because Mongolia shares similar values (democracy, human rights) and security concerns regarding China and Russia. Interestingly, the American Pentagon’s Indo–Pacific Strategy (June 2019) identified Mongolia as a “reliable, capable and natural partner of the United States,” while designating Mongolia’s two neighbours as the biggest security threats: China as a revisionist power and Russia a revitalized Malign Actor. The American State Department’s Free and Open Indo–Pacific visionary document highlights Mongolia as one of the beneficiaries and supporters of its strategy. Japan also included Mongolia in its Partnership for Quality Infrastructure (PQI), a developmental assistance alternative to China’s BRI, and designated a new international airport and railway flyover (Sun Bridge) in Ulaanbaatar as PQI projects. Like many small States, Mongolia’s challenge is determining how to manoeuvre in this round of great power competitions without compromising its sovereignty and undermining its institutions of democratic governance.Options for MongoliaIdeally, the best option for Mongolia is to maintain friendly ties with all the great powers and to benefit economically as it sits at the merging point of different geopolitical strategies. In fact, this has been the case to a certain degree. Mongolia’s nuclear weapon-free zone status has been endorsed by all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The country’s peacekeeping efforts, whether military deployments or hosting training events, have been supported by all the involved great powers. Both China and Japan have aided in road development, such as with the Chinese-built Moon Bridge (BRI funding) and the Japanese Sun Bridge (PQI project) in the capital city. At the moment, China and the United States are assisting to improve the capital city’s water supply and infrastructure. Hopefully, China and Russia will construct a natural gas pipeline through Mongolia, which would increase trilateral economic cooperation. Current trends, however, force a consideration of the likelihood of consequences in the worst- and best-case scenarios. The most likely worst-case scenario has China alone or together with Russia entering into conflict with the United States. This circumstance would force Mongolia to limit its relations with the United States and even to stand with its neighbours against the United States and its allies. The other worst-case scenario, which is less likely at the moment, is the emergence of Sino–Russian geopolitical tension. This would create the direst situation, in which Mongolia could easily fall into the control of either neighbour or become a battleground. The best-case scenarios are also possible and would create a favourable overarching setting for Mongolia to manoeuvre and maintain its sovereignty. The best-case scenarios have all the great powers seeking strategic stability because they are intertwined with domestic challenges or geopolitically distracted elsewhere. In all these scenarios, the primary objective for Mongolian leaders would remain the same—to maintain sovereignty and independence. However, Mongolia’s options to maintain its sovereignty are limited. First, it is a regionless country. Therefore, it cannot rely on any regional security alliance, such as NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The only close alliance is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but Mongolia is wary of jeopardizing its sovereignty if it joins. Second, it is impossible for leaders in Ulaanbaatar to gain security guarantees from one or several of the great powers, with the possible exception of Russia. Leaders in Washington and Tokyo are not likely to make any such deal as with the Philippines or Taiwan. Mongolia is too cautious of losing its sovereignty to Russia and provoking China by renewing the mutual defence clause with Russia. Lastly, Mongolia is too economically poor to build its defence capabilities in a way that is similar to Singapore, Switzerland and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Therefore, the most suitable option would be to make strategic concessions to the great powers following the example of the Finnish experience during the Cold War. This option requires that Mongolia avoid joining in the security alliance of any great power, just as Finland avoided joining NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In this sense, Mongolia should not attempt to upgrade its current level of confidence-building security defence relations with members of NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and, potentially, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (if it turns into a regional security organization). In regard to the Free and Open Indo– Pacific, Mongolia should limit its security cooperation to specific areas: peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and defence diplomacy. This type of neutrality policy would also require Mongolia to abstain from taking any stance on controversial matters related to its neighbours and their geopolitical competitors. Such avoidance would help Mongolia to promote itself as a neutral place for all great powers to negotiate, such as the Finnish model of the Helsinki process. At the same time, Mongolia should strengthen its democratic governance: the parliamentary system, civil society and the rule of law. Democratic governance would distinguish Mongolia’s identity within the authoritarian great powers and ensure self-rule free from those great powers. One of the downsides of this type of neutral, pragmatic strategy, however, is its limit on participation in foreign policy decision-making processes. This requires that only professional diplomats handle foreign policy matters while encouraging informed public discourse. In return for this neutral policy, Mongolia would expect the great powers to respect its sovereignty and restrain any actions to influence its policies.ConclusionWhen the foreign ministers of the great powers gave some attention to Mongolia in the fall of 2020, Mongolia reacted with proactive diplomacy amid the pandemic. On 29 February, Mongolian President Battulga became the first foreign dignitary to visit China during the pandemic and extended a gift of 30,000 sheep as a goodwill gesture. On 21 June, the Mongolian airline, MIAT, conducted a long-awaited flight to North America and delivered more than US$1 million worth of assistance and 60,000 personal protective equipment to the United States. On June 24th, despite Russia having the second highest number of coronavirus cases, the Mongolian military marched in the Victory Day Parade, marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Second World War, in which Mongolia stood as a close ally. As with the proactive diplomacy, the renewed geopolitical tensions among the great powers will require unity, patience and deft diplomacy from Mongolian leaders to steer through the rough sea.