China’s Sharp Power

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 8, August 2022

A series of paintings of communist leaders lined up along a Hong Kong road, 2016. Source: Flickr.

Roman Štěpař
Charles University

If we understand geopolitics as a “representation of space”, then the Indo-Pacific region can be seen as an emerging geopolitical hotbed in which major powers struggle not only for control but also for discourse of values and worldviews. In this particular geopolitical competition of values and mindsets, a sharp power is gradually gaining prominence, and in the Indo-Pacific region, China is at the center of the action.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the lessons of Gorbachev’s “failure” were passed on to Chinese citizens. They denounced Moscow’s ideological neglect for this catastrophe and warned that it was possible that it would happen in China as well. Chinese foreign policy has as a result been transformed. After 40 years of remarkable rise, China has now clearly demonstrated its desire to lead the world by reasserting itself in a position that its leaders consider “historically correct.”

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Chinese Lawfare in the South China Sea

A Threat to Global Interdependence and Regional Stability

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 7, July 2022

Map of the South China Sea, with 9-dotted line highlighted in green. Source: CIA.

Priscilla Tacujan, Ph.D.
U.S. Department of Defense

China’s expansionism in the South China Sea (SCS) is underway, despite opposition from small littoral states and regional powers in the area. China is seeking to change the legal order governing maritime conduct by engaging in “lawfare”[1] and infrastructure-building on disputed waters as part of its maritime strategy. Lawfare enables Beijing to undermine established elements of international law and delegitimize neighboring states’ maritime claims. Claimant countries and the U.S. have argued for the importance of a rules-based approach that offers clear and uniform rules for maritime conduct. However, in the absence of enforcement mechanisms, China will likely continue to undermine international law, prevent littoral states from advancing their maritime claims, and threaten regional stability and global interdependence.  Assessing and improving countermeasures currently in place, including enforcement mechanisms, existing maritime coalitions with regional allies and the U.S., and freedom of navigation (FON) operations may deter Chinese aggression and prevent the escalation of maritime conflicts in the SCS.

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The Old World Order Endures

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2022

President Joe Biden addresses the nation in the Roosevelt Room, 2022. Source: CNN.

William R. Hawkins
President of the Hamilton Center for National Strategy

President Joe Biden has been using the term “inflection point” in his speeches. At the U.S. Naval Academy on May 27 he said, “Class of 2022, you are graduating at an inflection point not only in American history but in world history. And I mean it. The challenge we face and the choices we make are more consequential than ever. Things are changing so rapidly that the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of this century, because they’re going to shape what our world looks like and the values that will guide it not just for the immediate future, but for generations to come.” Yet, he didn’t lay out what those changes would be. He moved directly to a discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “A direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into.” He then told them “You’ll learn to crew the most advanced ships in the world, train the most elite combat units, conduct undetected submarine missions, fly the most advanced fighter planes. But the most powerful tool that you’ll wield is our unmatched network of global alliances and the strength of our partnerships.”

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Implications of China’s Pacific Dream for the United States, Australia, and Allies

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2022

Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and Solomons Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele, 2019. Source: cnsphoto

Yan C. Bennett
Princeton University

John Garrick
Charles Darwin University

It is apparent that Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream now includes the Pacific Ocean where his Foreign Minister Wang Yi has undertaken a Pacific Islands tour of broad scope and ambition. While  China’s economy is stagnating, it nevertheless continues to drive for increasing its world power as Minister Wang aims to finalise the China-Solomons Security agreement and has hosted a Pacific Island Foreign Ministers meeting whilst in Fiji. Wang’s proposals have prompted strong responses from the United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific, in particular Australia and New Zealand.

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Nixon and Kissinger Talk China: Satire

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2022

Former President Nixon and Henry Kissinger engrossed in conversation, 1972. Source: Wikimedia.

Tony Zielinski
Attorney at Law

Editor’s note: This satire is meant for purposes of humor and should not be interpreted as historically accurate. 

Henry Kissinger: Mr. President, I suggest we open up formal relations with Communist China and they will be our allies against the Soviet Union.

President Nixon: Do you feel we can trust their leader, Mao Tse Tung?

Henry Kissinger: Mao Tse Tung is the greatest mass murderer in history. He is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.  He is a ruthless unscrupulous tyrant. So my answer is a most resounding yes.

President Nixon: Yes…I think I understand and can work with someone like that.

Henry Kissinger: A big challenge will be how we deal with Democratic and free Taiwan. They have been great friends and allies.  Communist China regards them as a renegade state and China will not rest until they conquer Taiwan and take away their freedoms. China will subjugate them to unspeakable brutality because they dared to have freedom of speech, freedom of press, and the right to vote for their elected representatives. Mao will never forgive them.

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