Country Report: China (April 2016)

Danielle F. S. Cohen (assisted by Dong Jiaxin)

In early 2016, Chinese articles assessed Japanese relations with Myanmar, ASEAN’s South China Sea policy, and China–ASEAN relations. They considered South Korea’s new policies toward Japan and the Arctic region and analyzed the limited effectiveness of its middle power diplomacy. They also evaluated Japan’s nuclear policy and its potential civil nuclear cooperation with India. At a broader level, they considered the possibility of a new regional security architecture.

Japan-Myanmar Relations

Writing in Guoji Luntan, no. 1 (2016), Shi Aiguo argues that Japanese relations with Myanmar have strengthened over the past several years and increasingly threaten China’s regional interests. During the 1990s–2000s, Japanese influence over Myanmar weakened in the absence of official meetings, despite Japan’s longstanding interests and its attempts to maintain relations through other channels. This trend dramatically reversed after 2009, when the Obama administration’s “pragmatic engagement” with Myanmar, combined with Myanmar’s deepening economic and political reforms, created an opening for renewed Japanese engagement. Abe Shinzo’s 2012 return as Japan’s prime minister reinforced this trend.

Shi argues that Japan’s policy toward Myanmar has four key aspects. First, the Japanese government has developed cooperation mechanisms that strengthen Japan’s relations with both Myanmar and the countries of the broader Mekong River region (Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand). Second, Japan has increased its official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar, forgiven some of Myanmar’s debt, and strengthened bilateral economic cooperation. Third, it has continued to improve bilateral relations through NGOs and “public diplomacy” organizations, which formed the crucial links between Myanmar and Japan in the years of stalled official relations. Finally, Japan’s cooperation with Myanmar, particularly since Abe’s introduction of “proactive contributions to peace,” encompasses areas of great sensitivity to China, including maritime security and military affairs.

Shi asserts that Japan has seized the dual opportunity provided by the US Asia-Pacific rebalance and domestic reforms in Myanmar to launch its own “return to Myanmar,” and a “return to Southeast Asia” more generally. In his view, Japan’s policy toward the Mekong region is motivated by its desire to compete with China for influence in Southeast Asia and to check Chinese claims in the East China Sea and over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. By connecting the conflict among China, Vietnam, and the Philippines in the South China Sea to its own conflict with China in the East China Sea, Japan hopes to use ASEAN to check China’s maritime aspirations. Japan’s strengthening relationship with Myanmar supports these more expansive goals. In addition, Japan pursues stronger trade relations with Southeast Asia as part of a strategy to achieve economic growth despite a shrinking and aging domestic population. Aside from these broader strategic and economic motivations, Shi argues that Japan’s “Myanmar Lovers” have played a key role in persuading their government to pursue economic projects in Myanmar.

Shi concludes that against the backdrop of broader Sino–Japanese competition, Japan is using its relationship with both Myanmar and the greater Mekong region to achieve dominance in Southeast Asia at the expense of China. Abe’s “proactive contributions to peace” and expansion of the role of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have increased its capacity for military cooperation with Southeast Asia. Furthermore, he asserts that Japan now uses its ODA to support its security goals, such as foreign military assistance and human rights, rather than to advance more narrow economic goals like poverty alleviation. Although Shi believes that short-term Japan–Myanmar cooperation is likely to focus on unobjectionable issues like disaster relief and combating drug smuggling, he is clearly concerned that their military exchanges and the development of stronger cooperation mechanisms for managing maritime issues in the South and East China Seas will interfere with China’s regional interests. Given the importance of Myanmar for China’s energy security, border security, and regional influence, Shi argues that China should counteract Japan’s rising influence by strengthening official and non-governmental ties to Myanmar and shaping Myanmar’s political reform process.

ASEAN-China Relations

In Guoji Guancha,no. 1 (2016), Chen Xiangmiao and Ma Chao argue that ASEAN’s South China Sea policy results from a consensus-building process among the member states, each of which has its own distinct national interests, and the organizational preferences of the institution as a whole. They divide ASEAN member states into three groups: Vietnam and the Philippines, which have the most serious disputes with China over the sovereignty of the Spratly and Paracel Islands and the strongest interest in pursuing oil and gas exploration in the region; Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, with which China has direct disputes of a less serious nature, but which maintain a strong interest in regional oil and gas development; and Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, which do not have direct territorial or resource interests in the South China Sea, but want to maintain regional security and a stable environment for economic development.

As an organization, ASEAN seeks to build consensus among its member states. Common interests include preserving regional peace and stability and maintaining close economic ties to China in order to support regional development. At the same time, ASEAN also prioritizes the development of a unified, cohesive South China Sea policy and seeks to balance the regional influence of great powers (mainly China and the United States), while preserving its central, authoritative position. Through a series of important documents dating back to the 1992 Manila Declaration, ASEAN has maintained a commitment to restraint and peaceful resolution of regional disputes in accordance with international law, but has also “fine-tuned” its statements to reflect concerns about threatening behavior, maritime security, and freedom of navigation and over flight in the South China Sea.

Chen and Ma assert that the interests of Vietnam and the Philippines, as mediated by the institutional commitment to the “ASEAN Way,” have the most influence over ASEAN’s policy. A second factor is the influence of the United States and Japan (although the focus is clearly on the United States): Chen and Ma argue that by providing military equipment and political and diplomatic support, these “extra-regional” states increase regional tensions. Despite ASEAN’s official policy of balancing great powers, they believe that it is using US military assistance to check China’s rise. Nevertheless, they identify substantial variation in the enthusiasm of ASEAN member states for US involvement. Finally, China’s conflicts with Vietnam and the Philippines lend credence to “China Threat Theory” and inspire ASEAN member countries to unify against China and promote a “Code of Conduct” to restrain Chinese behavior. ASEAN tends to interpret Chinese policy as an expansion of naval superiority and a bid for regional supremacy; Chen and Ma assert that China’s policy is actually driven by protection of its sovereign rights and maritime exploration (although they later state that China seeks naval supremacy versus the West).

According to Chen and Ma, ASEAN’s South China Sea policy is increasingly problematic for China. The policy offers important institutional support for countries like Vietnam and the Philippines in their individual disputes with China, while helping US efforts to “rebalance” and check China’s regional influence. Continued conflict in the South China Sea may weaken ASEAN’s confidence that China seeks to maintain regional peace and security and may increase the possibility that ASEAN becomes a US-directed “NATO” in Southeast Asia.

Above all else, Chen and Ma argue that China must disengage ASEAN from the South China Sea disputes. In their view, ASEAN’s unified position, encouraged by the United States, exacerbates the underlying conflicts and encourages intervention by extra-regional great powers. Consequently, China must reframe the disputes and negotiations as bilateral processes. China’s ability to limit ASEAN involvement in the South China Sea will depend on whether China can assuage ASEAN member countries’ concerns about regional conflict.

Writing in Guoji Wenti Yanjiu,no. 1 (2016), Xu Bu and Yang Fan offer an optimistic overview of ASEAN–China relations. Since the ASEAN–China dialogue launched in 1991, relations have improved substantially. China and ASEAN have developed robust dialogue mechanisms that enable strategic planning, increase security cooperation and mutual trust (particularly regarding non-traditional security issues), and allow them to effectively manage their differences in the South China Sea. Notably, Xu and Yang speak glowingly of the impact of ASEAN–China cooperation on the development of a “Code of Conduct” for the South China Sea, a view that might generate some skepticism. In economic relations, China and ASEAN have benefited from stronger strategic linkages, the upgrading of the 2010 ASEAN–China free trade agreement (FTA) with the 2015 Protocols, and annual trade exhibitions. In the realm of social and cultural cooperation, there has been an increase in cultural exchange activities, more education cooperation, a greater diversity of person-to-person exchanges, and a shared commitment to green development.

As the ASEAN–China dialogue celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, Xu and Yang are optimistic about the prospects for further deepening the relationship. They note China’s support for ASEAN’s regional autonomy in the face of foreign interference and ASEAN’s support for China’s sovereignty (disputes in the South China Sea not withstanding). They stress the mutual benefits of China’s “One Belt, One Road” policy and its initiative to increase international production capacity. They are also hopeful about the future of the ASEAN Community and the ASEAN–China FTA, and enthusiastic about opportunities to improve people-to-people connections.

Despite their generally rosy view, Xu and Yang note several areas of potential difficulty. First, the challenges of the ASEAN integration process may have negative repercussions for ASEAN–China relations. Second, the implications for the ASEAN–China FTA and the ASEAN Economic Community as two parallel efforts at regional trade liberalization, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (which includes the United States, but not China) and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (which includes China, but not the United States), are unclear. Third, Xu and Yang are concerned about foreign involvement in regional political and security affairs, particularly the US “rebalance to Asia” and the challenge great powers pose to ASEAN’s regional leadership. They are especially worried that ASEAN is playing off various countries against each other. Finally, they sound a familiar note on the South China Sea, arguing that a small number of Southeast Asian states have exacerbated regional tensions by inviting great powers (namely the United States) to support their positions, and advocate the resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through direct, bilateral negotiations.

Xu and Yang conclude by offering five policy recommendations. First, they emphasize the continued development of mutual trust and political and security cooperation. Second, they urge the strengthening of shared development goals. China should link its Twenty-first Century Maritime Silk Road initiative to existing development strategies within Southeast Asia, and should promote the “2+7” framework, which focuses on deepening mutual strategic trust and economic development between ASEAN and China in seven key issue areas. Third, they urge the development of production capacity. Fourth, they promote the development of the sub-regional Lancang–Mekong River cooperation mechanism among China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam as a supplement to China’s relations with ASEAN. Finally, they advocate increased person-to-person exchanges, especially in 2016, the “ASEAN–China Educational Exchange Year.”

South Korea Foreign Policy

In Xiandai Guoji Guanxi,no. 1 (2016), Shi Yuanhua and Zhang Chi describe the recent transformation in South Korean policy toward Japan. After Abe regained the prime minister’s seat and Park Geun-hye was elected president, perennial problems like the territorial dispute over the Dokdo/Takeshima islands, Japan’s understanding of its wartime behavior, and “comfort women” brought bilateral relations to a new low. The two states cancelled bilateral talks and their trilateral talks with China, and bilateral trade fell dramatically amid harsh media squabbles. In the early years of her administration, Park followed a policy of “principled diplomacy,” arguing that Japan must correctly understand its wartime record in order for bilateral relations to improve. In 2015, however, she realized the futility of such an approach given the ascendance of Japan’s right wing, and, with US encouragement, used the fiftieth anniversary of the normalization of relations to adjust her approach. Shi and Zhang attribute the improvement in bilateral relations entirely to Park’s pragmatic management of an intransigent Japanese administration.

Park’s new “two-track” foreign policy separates problems of historical understanding from other issue areas on which the two countries can more easily cooperate. The new strategy also distinguishes between the Abe cabinet and the Japanese people, and emphasizes the common ground between the two countries’ publics. The two-track approach emphasizes economic and cultural cooperation, while taking a more cautious approach to security issues. At the same time, the Park administration has taken concrete steps to improve bilateral relations by resuming bilateral talks and high-level government exchanges, and by encouraging non-government exchanges. Park has softened her language on Japan’s proper treatment of history and now emphasizes the two countries’ shared vision of the future. Shi and Zhang caution, however, that the prospects for improved Japanese–South Korean relations are limited by whether Abe will be willing to take a moderate line on history, continued negative sentiment among the South Korean people, and South Korea’s unwillingness to provoke China by engaging in military cooperation with Japan.

Shi and Zhang argue that the most obvious impact of improved relations has been on the two countries themselves. Public sentiments have grown more positive, economic cooperation is rebounding, and the two countries’ international images have benefited. The resumption of the bilateral dialogue makes possible a future agreement on the problem of “comfort women” (their article was written on the eve of that very agreement). Meanwhile, improved bilateral relations also help to ease the tense environment in East Asia and allow for more stable trilateral relations among South Korea, Japan, and China. The authors believe these developments have positive implications for the future of Sino–Japanese relations, and may encourage Japan to pursue more regional economic integration. However, improved bilateral relations also strengthen the US alliance system and its “Asia-Pacific rebalance,” and therefore have potentially negative implications for China. The authors caution that China should be alert to any effort to use improved alliance relations to contain China. Nevertheless, they conclude on a note of optimism, arguing that China should use improved South Korean–Japanese relations as an opportunity to promote trilateral cooperation and China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, and to advance a shared vision of a more peaceful Northeast Asia.

In Guoji Luntan, no. 2 (2016), Xiao Yang analyzes South Korea’s emerging Arctic policy. South Korea released its first Arctic strategy paper, A Master Plan for Arctic Policy, in October 2013. The Arctic Policy Execution Plan, released in 2015, provides more concrete instructions for implementing the policy. Xiao argues that South Korea’s interest in the Arctic evolved from its long-standing emphasis on industrialization and its more recent emergence as a leader in global science and technology research.

Xiao identifies six key motivations for South Korea’s interest in the Arctic. First, economic success has encouraged its great power aspirations. Second, South Korea has economic motives: it wants to take advantage of the shipping lanes and natural resources that have become more accessible as a result of global warming. Third, its involvement in scientific research projects allows it to gather information that is useful for other purposes. Fourth, national leaders emphasize Arctic policy because of the strategic value of the Arctic region. By staking out an active role in the Arctic and its governing institutions, they believe that South Korea can gain influence relative to great powers like China and Japan that have been less quick to seize the opportunity. Fifth, South Korea’s dependence on foreign trade and its world-renowned shipbuilding industry mean that it stands to benefit more from the development of Arctic shipping lanes than China or Japan, though Xiao argues that it will never be able to match their political and economic capabilities. Finally, Arctic countries have a positive impression of South Korea and view it as a useful partner.

Prior to 2008, South Korea’s involvement in the Arctic was mostly limited to joint scientific research. Since then, South Korea has actively sought to develop its partnerships with Arctic countries. The government has established three key political objectives: to participate actively in the Arctic Council and gain the trust of its members; to pursue cooperative scientific research; and to establish a system for collecting and analyzing information about the Arctic. Despite the emphasis the government places on its Arctic strategy, responsibility for its implementation is still spread across half a dozen ministries and research institutes, and bureaucratic management problems are likely.

Xiao argues that South Korea has adopted a multi-part strategy to expand its influence in the Arctic. It seeks an active role in relevant institutions, such as the Arctic Council, which gives it discursive power over the management of Arctic affairs. It promotes the utility of its technology-intensive manufacturing sector for Arctic research. It is establishing its harbors as key transit points on the Arctic shipping channel that links Europe to Asia. South Korea also pursues cooperation with Arctic countries in the industries in which it excels, including shipping, resource exploration, shipbuilding, and fisheries. Finally, it continues to contribute to scientific research in the Arctic. Xiao is intrigued by South Korea’s interest in the Arctic, but not particularly alarmed. The article concludes that between its limited resources and the Arctic countries’ limited willingness to accommodate foreign powers, its work is cut out for it.

In Taipingyang Xuebao, no. 2 (2016), Ling Shengli explores the limitations of South Korea’s middle power diplomacy. Like other middle powers, South Korea seeks to improve its international status and strengthen its international image through multilateral diplomacy. At the same time, its middle power diplomacy has more unique motivations. In particular, South Korea wants to assert its independence from the United States and gain international support for its position on the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

To advance its middle power diplomacy, South Korea draws on a wide array of tangible and intangible resources. Its economic strength, world-famous shipbuilding and electronics industries, and flagship brands provide it with tangible resources. At the same time, it has built its international reputation through active membership in international organizations and through its cultural influence. Its efforts to implement middle power diplomacy build on these strengths. South Korea seeks to set the international agenda by offering proposals that advance its interests. It also gains influence through its international financial contributions, such as its increasing levels of ODA, and by hosting important international meetings and cultural events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup (co-hosted with Japan). By engaging in cultural diplomacy, it gains soft power and international renown.

Despite South Korea’s vigorous efforts, Ling argues that the success of its middle power diplomacy is mixed. On the one hand, South Korea is implementing this approach at a favorable point in time, when the transformation of the international system has created more space for middle powers to influence world affairs. At a regional level, South Korea is able to balance among competing great powers and raise its international profile. Its rich domestic and international resources create a strong foundation for its middle power diplomacy. Nevertheless, Ling argues that this diplomatic approach faces serious limitations. Despite South Korea’s efforts to gain room to maneuver, the US–Korea alliance still imposes major constraints on South Korea’s diplomatic behavior. Global great power politics limit South Korea’s international role to “coordinator,” rather than “leader.” Furthermore, the domestic presidential election cycle disrupts the continuity of South Korea’s diplomacy. Ling argues that South Korea succeeds in offering international proposals, but often lacks the resources and capabilities to see them through. Based on the mixed records of the previous two administrations, Ling concludes that South Korea is aiming too high, and that the current Park administration is unlikely to overcome the structural constraints that limit the success of South Korea’s middle power diplomacy. Nevertheless, he argues that it is in China’s best interests to support South Korea’s middle power diplomacy as part of an effort to improve regional cooperation and decrease the influence of the US–South Korea alliance.

Japanese Foreign Policy

In their recent article in Waijiao Pinglun,no. 2 (2016), Yin Xiaoliang and Wen Qianxiao argue that careful examination of the historical process by which Japan entered the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) reveals its true nuclear preferences. In their view, Japan decided to join the NPT for instrumental reasons, rather than a normative commitment to the principles of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and has never abandoned its desire to possess nuclear weapons. They caution that Japan possesses both the technical capabilities and the political will to become a nuclear power and is waiting only for a political opportunity to take the final steps.

Yin and Wen argue that Japan’s decision to enter the NPT was characterized by both an “external” logic of “passive choice” and by an “internal” logic of “free choice,” which coexisted despite their apparent contradiction. At the international level, the United States imposed pressure on Japan to join the NPT through their alliance. Nevertheless, Japan was not completely passive; it stalled ratification and bargained with the United States to maximize its strategic objectives. At the domestic level, Japan pursued an instrumental strategy to achieve its multi-faceted objectives. Japanese officials saw nuclear weapons as a way to ensure national security and debated whether reliance on the US–Japan alliance would provide sufficient protection. At the same time, by joining the NPT, Japan could gain access to nuclear material and technology, establish a good international image, and avoid irritating the United States, which was leading the NPT efforts.

Yin and Wen contend that Japan pursued a “first sign, then ratify” policy to maximize these objectives. By signing the NPT in 1970 (two years after the treaty opened for signature), Japan eased pressure from the United States, ensured access to nuclear fuel and technology, and alleviated domestic pressure from anti-nuclear segments of the population. At the same time, delaying ratification until 1976 allowed Japan to seek the right to self-inspection of its peaceful nuclear capabilities and to pursue stronger security guarantees from the United States. (The critique of Japan’s failure to immediately sign and ratify the NPT as indicating a lack of true commitment to NPT principles that continues to the present raises the question of how the authors assess China’s decision not to accede to the NPT until 1992.)

Yin and Wen argue that by ratifying the NPT, Japan gave itself the space to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear technology that might one day have military applications. Today, three allegedly contradictory Japanese positions coexist: Japan’s public opposition to nuclear weapons, its open reliance on the US nuclear umbrella, and its quiet deliberations on whether to pursue an independent nuclear capability. Yin and Wen repeatedly argue that Japan, as the only country to have experienced a nuclear attack, should wholeheartedly embrace nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and accuse it of hypocrisy for simultaneously accepting US nuclear protection. In doing so, they fail to consider that adopting this strategy might be a rational hedging position by a country well aware of the danger of nuclear weapons in a world in which they continue to exist. Similarly, Yin and Wen are dismissive of the possibility that the nuclear weapons held by China and North Korea might create real security threats for the Japanese, arguing instead that right-wing elements in Japan portray these two countries as “imagined enemies” in order to promote Japan’s possession of an independent nuclear capability. They conclude, controversially, that Japan will soon develop nuclear weapons.

In Taipingyang Xuebao, no. 3 (2016), Li Xiaojun assesses Japanese–Indian civil nuclear cooperation. After receiving an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that allowed it to reengage in civil nuclear commerce and reaching a historic agreement with the United States in 2008, India began to pursue bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements. Negotiations with Japan began in 2010. Li argues that four factors motivate Japanese–Indian nuclear energy cooperation. First, bilateral relations have improved since the end of the Cold War and are reinforced by the two countries’ shared values. Second, the United States sees India as an important regional ally and supports a potential Japan–India nuclear agreement. Though initially neutral on the US–India agreement, Japan soon fell in line and supported the NSG exemption. Third, India has an enormous demand for advanced nuclear technology. Japan is one of the world’s leaders in nuclear technologies and Japanese firms hold monopolies on several key nuclear reactor parts. The Abe administration hopes that exports of nuclear technology to India will alleviate Japan’s economic woes. Finally, Japan and India, along with the United States, seek to contain China. Li argues that Japan’s fear of China’s rise and its pursuit of “value-oriented diplomacy” (which emphasizes the pursuit of “universal values” like democracy and human rights) have overridden its wariness about nuclear cooperation with India.

Li cautions that Japanese cooperation with India could weaken the international non-proliferation regime by setting a precedent for the export of nuclear technology to a country that merely “promises” not to test nuclear weapons, and argues that these sales would inevitably strengthen both India’s civil and military capabilities. This is a criticism that could be leveled at any of the countries that have reached civil nuclear agreements with India, although an agreement with Japan would arguably have greater impact given the outsized importance of Japanese firms in the nuclear technology marketplace. Li also argues that Japanese–Indian cooperation would rehabilitate the image of nuclear energy in Japan. Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster amid safety concerns and intense public opposition, but began to gradually restart reactors in 2015 to meet energy demand.

Li concludes that a Japanese–Indian agreement is highly likely. While Japan has vacillated between its hunger for access to Indian export markets and its principled opposition to nuclear exports to a NPT non-signatory, Li argues that economic interests are winning. As a “late-comer” to the Indian market, Japan feels a sense of urgency. Furthermore, Japanese public opposition to an agreement is gradually decreasing. Finally, France and the United States support a Japan–India agreement, in part because key French and US companies will be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations to build nuclear reactors in India if they cannot source parts from Japanese companies. In December 2015, apparently after the article was completed, Japan and India signed a memorandum on civil nuclear cooperation, in which they promised to sign an agreement after they finish negotiating “technical details.” A key sticking point remains Japan’s reluctance to sign an agreement that does not stipulate that future Indian nuclear weapons tests would terminate the trade agreement.

The Asia-Pacific Region

Writing in Anquan Zhanlüe, no. 1 (2016),Wang Jisi argues that an Asia-Pacific regional security architecture is necessary, but no state is likely to take the initiative to create one in the near term. A regional security architecture would help to achieve six objectives. First, by creating a single, inclusive forum, it would integrate the multitude of existing regional security mechanisms, which include the US-centered alliance system, the ASEAN-based dialogue mechanism, and bilateral and multilateral dialogue mechanisms. Second, it would provide long-term stability to Sino–US relations and neighbor relations. Third, it would ease regional concerns about the “China threat” and weaken the US-centered alliance system. Fourth, it would support China’s “One Belt, One Road” policy. Fifth, it would give China an opportunity to influence the international principles by which Asia-Pacific security affairs are governed by allowing China to embed the principles of “sovereign equality” and “non-interference” in regional security arrangements and providing it with discursive power over non-traditional security issues. Finally, it would help to shape domestic and foreign understanding of China’s new national security and international cooperation approaches.

Wang identifies several existing approaches to regional security. In recent years, China has promoted the idea of a “community of common destiny” to describe its relations with its neighbors. This compliments the “new security concept,” now nearly two decades old, which holds that relations should be based on mutual trust and cooperation. Other visions of how to achieve security include “collective security,” championed by the United States, and “cooperative security,” which has gained widespread regional acceptance. Wang describes a dizzying array of existing security mechanisms, which are sometimes redundant, but still inadequate.

Wang contends that the North Korean nuclear issue and tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Sino–Japanese disputes in the East China Sea, and the South China Sea dispute are the most pressing security problems facing the region. He focuses in particular on three layers of the South China Sea issue: territorial disputes, the broader geopolitical game, and maritime resource development. Wang argues that the key to long-term regional peace and stability lies in Sino–US cooperation; presumably the proposed security architecture would reinforce this cooperation.

After surveying the attitudes of various actors toward building a regional security architecture, Wang concludes that none of them are likely to take the initiative. Despite the US “Asia-Pacific rebalance,” Wang correctly notes that the United States is distracted by other pressing international issues and the domestic election, and that its enthusiasm for building a regional security architecture will depend on the results of the presidential election.

Wang concludes that despite the “urgency” and “necessity” of creating a regional security architecture, no state but China is likely to take the lead in the near-term. Given continuing concerns about China’s strategic intentions, he cautions that it is not an appropriate time for China to push for a security architecture either. Instead, China should clarify its strategic approach and consider a range of options to encourage the eventual creation of a regional security architecture, such as holding bilateral and multilateral conferences, establishing a dialogue through existing regional mechanisms, pursuing non-binding resolutions among regional heads of state, and gradually attempting to create an institutionalized structure over the long term.

#Arctic policy #ASEAN-Chinan relations #Japan-Myanmar relations #Maritime security #NPT #South China Sea