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Asia

In terms of material military power, India does not lag far behind the traditional materially powerful states. The country ranks among the top in terms of the size of and investments in its army, air force, and navy. Furthermore, in 1998, India revealed to the world that it possessed nuclear weapons. Yet, while India has sufficient material power to be categorized as a powerful state, the country does not always think and act like a materially powerful state. For India, more material power has not been necessarily enough to ensure greater international influence. Thus far, India can be accused of ‘arming without aiming’ in its quest for greater international influence. India’s Material Powers India’s raw military power is impressive. The …

As the world’s economic and geopolitical centre of gravity shifts eastwards, a scramble for Southeast Asia is underway as the great powers seek to expand and defend their influence in this dynamic region. This renewed great power competition demands that members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) revise their approaches and rethink their relations to one another and others. Southeast Asia is a crucial node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) while the ‘Quad’ of Japan, India, Australia and the US have announced the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” initiative to balance Beijing’s growing influence. New powers have also begun to make their presence felt in Southeast Asia: South Korean President Moon Jae-in has proclaimed a “New Southern …

Without question, the much-debated, mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a brainchild of China’s President Xi Jinping. Without question, Xi Jinping has further centralised his powers and, in the process, China has turned more authoritarian. Yet, understanding this gigantic infrastructure investment initiative simply as a top-down project, directed by an almighty leadership in Beijing, is more than questionable. The BRI is open, plural and ever-changing, and, to a large degree what interpreters, Chinese or otherwise, public or private, make of it. Following the pragmatic attitude which has characterised China’s leadership since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the 1980s (‘crossing the river by feeling the stones’), Xi Jinping inaugurated the BRI when a great deal of Chinese overseas investments was already …

The iconic statue of the first American postmaster general Benjamin Franklin greets visitors to the Old Post Office Pavilion in the heart of the US capital: Washington, DC. The edifice is now home to the luxurious and controversial Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue at the mid-point between the US Capitol Building and the White House. The hotel webpage invites guests to “share tea” in the Benjamin Bar to discuss “social and economic affairs” as it was the “‘established custom’” in colonial America. It further states that “we agree with Franklin” and delight to “serve tea from China.” The page indicates that Franklin had stated “‘at least a million Americans drink tea twice a day,’” Yet, he was “unable to …

Competition is a natural by-product of major powers navigating an anarchic world. Small states face a dilemma, when caught in the middle between two rivaling major powers. Sri Lanka in particular, has captured international attention as a key battleground between Beijing and New Delhi in their tussle for influence in South Asia. Whilst some scholars argue that the island is a personification of China’s ‘debt trap diplomacy,’ others contend that China’s influence should not be exaggerated, as Chinese lending amounts to less than 15% of Sri Lanka’s total external debt.  Concerns over Sri Lanka’s sovereignty have been rife following the US $ 1.12 billion debt-to-equity swap of the Hambantota Port Agreement and the proposed lease of the Mattala International Airport …

After much speculation about the future of the Japanese Navy, it was announced in early December that the Izumo-class helicopter carriers will be converted to aircraft carriers.  This will require a substantial reconstruction of the two ships as well as the purchase of F‑35B fighter jets to comprise the carriers’ airwings. It is likely that 100 additional F-35 aircraft will be ordered to further bulk up Japanese aerial capabilities. This change is important for three reasons, firstly, Japan has not operated aircraft carriers since World War Two, secondly, they are being commissioned to contest increasing Chinese control of the northwest Pacific, and thirdly, because aircraft carriers are also under construction in the United States, Britain, China and India. We appear …

Recent years have seen a global resurgence of ethnic nationalism. Yet, political identities based on ethnicity are nothing new. In fact, ethno-nationalist desires reshaped Europe’s borders in the early 20th century with devastating consequences. Despite more than seven decades of relative peace, largely kept in place by the multilateral organizations and deepening global integration, nationalism appears to be returning to the forefront of politics once more. In Europe, politicians and political parties are tapping on anti-immigrant nationalist sentiment. For instance, Italy’s Matteo Salvini has openly advocated solutions which involve marginalizing ethnically-defined “others”. Rogers Brubaker, professor of sociology at UCLA, has coined the term “civilizationism” to describe the rhetoric used by multiple European political parties which claims that the ethno-cultural homogeneity …

Over the last months, the escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme have dominated news headlines. US President Donald Trump has called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “rocket man” in front of the United Nations, labelled him crazy and insane, and stated he was willing to halt Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by all means, while North Korea labelled Trump a “dotard.” Not everyone might like Trump’s colourful rhetoric, but his remarks strike a chord with many. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, threatens to turn Seoul into “a sea of fire” and to destroy the United States. Repeated rockets launched towards Japan seem like a preamble to a …