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.
It was a visit worthy of a plethora of superlatives. The arrival of China’s President Xi Jinping in Athens (November 10-12) was termed a “vote of confidence” for Greece. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis underlined that Greece and China are bound together by their cultural heritages, linking ancient civilizations of the West and East. President Xi described China’s multi-decade anchor investment in the Port of Piraeus as the “biggest project of the One Belt, One Road Initiative” (OBOR, the official Chinese term for the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI)).
While Balkans-China relations have deepened in a number of policy areas over the last decade, two particular forms of interaction have been most visible and talked about: a) cooperation on large-scale infrastructure projects undertaken by the Balkan governments, funded via Chinese loans, implemented by contracting Chinese state-owned enterprises (with the notable exception of the Pjelešac Bridge in Croatia, which is financed primarily by EU funds); and b) Chinese greenfield and brownfield investments in other infrastructure assets as well as manufacturing capacities in the
The more you discuss with China, the better you will understand each other. The more you cooperate with China, the more incentives Beijing will have to pursue a liberal reform agenda. So went the underlying logic of “constructive engagement”, an unofficial approach taken by the EU vis-à-vis China for the most part of the last two decades.
As the first-ever Russia-Africa summit made headlines around the world in the past few weeks, the comparison between the Russian and the Chinese approach to Africa was recurrent. It originated in the fact that both China and Russia are not Western countries, both have seemingly ‘returned’ to Africa in the 21st century for economic and political reasons, both advocate a non-interference approach in the internal affairs of other countries and both are perceived as great powers in international relations.
During his state visit to Russia in June 2019, Chinese leader Xi Jinping together with president Vladimir Putin oversaw several signings of investment cooperation agreements between Chinese and Russian companies. These documents promised over a billion dollars worth of Chinese foreign direct investments (FDI) in Russia in the years to come.
“The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well”, proclaimed former US National Security advisor John Bolton in April 2019, re-invoking an old vestige of American foreign policy dating back to 1823. A time when an infant United States was attempting to affirm its sphere of influence south of the Rio Grande, declaring that any interference in the region from European powers would be recognised as an unfriendly act against Washington.
The Fourth Plenary Session of the Communist Party of China (CPC) — better known as the ‘Fourth Plenum’ — is one of the most anticipated events in China’s political life. Yet, it is also one of the most secretive. Traditionally, the Fourth Plenum has been dealing with Party governance and the socialist system. In the past, fourth plenums have made history. At least, for China.