Middle East

China's President Xi Jinping and Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev pose for a picture during their meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 15 September 2022. (Press service of the President of Uzbekistan/Handout via Reuters)

Can China be both economic and security guarantor in Central Asia?

Central Asia is a linchpin between Eurasia and Southeast Asia and a strategic node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping notably visited Central Asia in his first foreign visit in over two years. But while China’s economic engagement is welcome in the region, it is currently not a confident security provider. Could things change in the near future?
People walk along a street equipped with mist sprayers as they face the very hot desert weather, during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, on 7 July 2022. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

Will China become an ‘empire by invitation’ in the Middle East?

China's influence in the Middle East region is growing, not only due to its economic might but also because of its active development of dialogue platforms. In that context, Middle East countries may expect China to play a mediator role in regional security and political issues. Will China rise to the challenge?
Police stand guard near the parliament building in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 17 May 2022. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)

Families that rule: Thoughts about Asia's political landscape

The political environment in Asia has been marked with upheavals and instability. While each country has their own system of democratic elections in the modern sense, they appear to share a number of common themes that resembles the backward political practices of 19th century Europe. Academic Chen Liujun assesses the regional developments.
In this photo taken on 18 February 2022, a Taliban fighter stands guard at the entrance gate of the Afghan-Iran border crossing bridge in Zaranj, Afghanistan. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)

Afghanistan's role in changing the power balance in Eurasia

Afghanistan has proved to be a quagmire, whether for the British, Russians or Americans. While it seems that the US exit leaves a power vacuum eagerly filled by regional challengers, Afghanistan’s unique set of attributes seems to be running strategic stakeholders ragged. In the event, the Afghan exception could offer lessons for constraining rivals in other spheres such as the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Jiangsu, 10 January 2022. (Xinhua)

Chinese academic: Beijing does not want China to replace the US in the Middle East

While it is a fact that China and countries in the Middle East region enjoy closer ties, China is still far behind the US in terms of its regional influence. At the same time, the countries are also more attracted to the US and European powerhouses than China. Thus, it would be unwise to overthink the recent slew of visits to Beijing by foreign ministers of countries in the Middle East region.
People walk on the pedestrian bridge at the Bluewaters Island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 8 December 2021. (Satish Kumar/Reuters)

US-China competition in the UAE: A tussle in the desert

Unlike the Soviet Union, China has an arsenal of economic tools at its disposal in wooing US allies. This is plainly seen in the UAE-China relationship, in which bilateral trade in 2021 was more than double that of UAE-US trade for the same period. Security and defence ties are also strengthening. As dictated by the laws of the free market, the one who offers the best deal wins. As such, the US will have to do better than just rely on coercive tactics.
Taiwan Armed Forces soldiers crew a CM-11 Brave Tiger main battle tank during a military combat live-fire exercise in Hsinchu, Taiwan, on 21 December 2021. (I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg)

If China strikes Taiwan, can it bear the punishment from the US and its allies? 

Cross-strait relations look set to remain tense, with mainland China increasing its military might and the US continuing to provide support to Taiwan, says Cambodian commentator Sokvy Rim. But despite the rhetoric, the mainland will be cautious. Even if Beijing can launch a first strike, the US and its allies will give a formidable response, not forgetting that they are in a position to choke off China’s energy supply route through the Indian Ocean and Strait of Malacca.
Paramilitary police officers keep watch as people climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China, 1 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: China, ASEAN and the new Maritime Silk Road

Professor Wang Gungwu was a keynote speaker at the webinar titled “The New Maritime Silk Road: China and ASEAN” organised by the Academy of Professors Malaysia. He reminds us that a sense of region was never a given for Southeast Asia; trade tied different peoples from land and sea together but it was really the former imperial masters and the US who made the region “real”. Western powers have remained interested in Southeast Asia through the years, as they had created the Southeast Asia concept and even ASEAN. On the other hand, China was never very much interested in the seas or countries to its south; this was until it realised during the Cold War that Southeast Asia and ASEAN had agency and could help China balance its needs in the maritime sphere amid the US's persistent dominance. The Belt and Road Initiative reflects China’s worldview and the way it is maintaining its global networks to survive and thrive in a new era. This is an edited transcript of Professor Wang’s speech.
In this photo taken on 6 August 2021, police officers walk beside the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, as it was known before 1945 and now called the Atomic Bomb Dome, as the city marks the 76th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

The real reason why Japan is following the US’s lead

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces Japan’s long-held foreign policy stance of “following the US’s lead”. Circumstances of history led to this default pattern, even though Japan did try to break out of this straitjacket. Domestic opposition aside, under the US's watchful eye, Japan has not been able to possess nuclear weaponry or have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But with the changing situation of a rising China, might Japan move closer to getting what it has always wanted?