The Middle East is a fundamentally unstable area of the world. Threats to regional stability have regularly emerged both from disputes between governments and from internal forces within countries. This is likely to continue for decades to come. Looking ahead, however, the region’s stability will be increasingly threatened by relatively new, largely external dynamics. The most important of these will be the interplay of three ongoing and unfinished transitions: the rise of Chinese regional influence, the prospect of US regional retrenchment, and the changing global strategic approach of
The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) has its strategic location between three important seas—the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, which are of vital importance for China’s trade and oil routes. China’s long, traditional cooperation with the MENA region focuses on energy, but is politically based on foreign policies and principles similar to those pertaining to other countries.
China’s future role on the global stage hinges upon a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. Beijing’s meteoric rise in economic terms has been coupled by increasing military expenditures and a more assertive foreign policy stance. But the country is also facing a potential backlash, exemplified by protests in Hong Kong, while it remains to be seen whether (and how) the governance of the coronavirus outbreak will affect China's image abroad.
It has been nearly two decades since a Chinese head of state visited its southernly neighbour. The last time a Chinese head of state set foot in Myanmar, the country was still under full military rule and the capital was still Yangon. China was yet to be admitted as a WTO member and the champion of globalisation was still hiding its strength and biding its time.
On 14th January, the 15th round of the ‘China-Japan Strategic Dialogue’ was held in Xi’an, the ‘Terracotta Army’ city of China’s Shaanxi province. The mechanism is one of the few communication channels that remain active between the two countries: in addition to this Dialogue and regular diplomatic exchanges, the ‘China-Japan High-Level Economic Dialogue’, the ‘China-Japan Security Dialogue’ and the ‘China-Japan High-Level Political Dialogue’ make up for the entire system of bilateral consultations between Beijing and Tokyo.
Not just a new president and a new parliament: Taiwan’s elections will be heavily influenced by the country’s relationship with Beijing, its increasingly meddlesome neighbour.
South East Asia is set to be a key driver of global economic growth in the coming decades, with Indonesia alone projected to be the world’s fourth biggest economy by 2050. Vietnam and the Philippines, each with approximately 100 million people and fast-growing economies, will likely emerge as middle powers themselves. While Thailand and Malaysia have begun to age and are battling to avoid middle-income traps, they are already large, globalized economies.
A traditional stronghold for the US ‘pivot to Asia’, South East Asia has recently been on the receiving end of China’s courtship display. The conflicting messages conveyed by the US and China have also been aggravating the electoral challenges that many South East Asian states are currently facing. In particular, general elections in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand have offered new evidence of the type of political transition that the region is en route to complete.
Following President Xi’s visits to Kazakhstan and to South East Asia in 2013, China unveiled its grand Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with two main components, namely the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB), a network of transporation starting from China, encompassing several Euroasian countries on its way, ending in Europe; and “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (MSR) connecting China and Europe via South-East Asia, South Asia and Africa.