REGIONS

Today, it is nearly impossible for any region to avoid China. China has adapted itself to have this current position in the world order. From free-market economic reforms to the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), China has worked smartly to strengthen its economic might which it currently uses to advance its geopolitical ends. 

China has started promoting its investment and trade in Eurasia to advance its geopolitical aims. In this regard, Sergei Guriev, Visiting Professor, Paris Institute of Political Science, says that the trade and investment in Eurasia is one of China’s key foreign policy initiatives. He adds that China’s investment in Eurasia is significant for the new Silk Road vision connecting China to the North African, Middle Eastern and European markets.

In this article, China’s use of economic tools to gain the geopolitical advantage in Eurasia will be discussed. In this context, China-Russia geoeconomic relationship will also be discussed.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Eurasia

Glenn Diesen (2017) writes in his book Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for Greater Eurasia that China’s Silk Road Economic Belt aims at connecting Eurasia with land-based energy and transportation infrastructure. Belt and Road Initiative was first announced in this region. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the One Belt, One Road Initiative in September 2013 during his speech in Kazakhstan. He underlined the role of Central Asia and Kazakhstan in connectivity projects of Eurasia.

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)

China is efficiently using Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) to export its goods and meet its energy needs. According to Diesen (2017) Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) is a transportation connectivity program connecting China to Central Asia. It was initiated in 2001 before the Belt and Road Initiative.  CAREC includes 11 countries; China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Kazakhstan. It aimed at facilitating 5% of all trade between East-Asia and Europe by 2017. In 2008, the first trains ran between Germany and China. However, it was by 2013 that the transportation route became competitive to maritime routes by clearly announcing set time schedules, improving travel time and reducing transportation cost. In order to make the transportation route economically viable, adequate trade volume along with infrastructural development and mechanisms is indispensable. By 2011, approximately 200 containers used to pass from the Central Asian Territory which increased to 42000 containers by 2016. Moreover, in order to meet its energy needs, China has constructed pipelines through Central Asia and it is a consumer of Turkmenistan’s majority of gas exports. In this regard, China is also developing, Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan which is world’s second-largest gas field (Deisen, 2017 p. 85).

China-Russia Geoeconomic Relationship

According to Sergei Guriev, Russia traditionally looked suspiciously at China’s growing influence in Central and Far East Asia. The Russian government did not allow investment of Chinese companies in Russia until recently and in order to keep away the same, it would expand Eurasian Economic Space and Customs Union to its neighbouring countries. Owing to western sanctions on Russia after the war in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the west isolated Russia and Russia looked towards East as a counterforce. Since then Russia has become part of Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB) and Chinese companies have been permitted to buy stakes in energy industry of Russia. Moreover, Chinese investors have also been leased a large area of land in the Far East.

In addition to this, Glenn Diesen (2017) writes that in order to connect China with Russian Pacific Coast ports, to develop Arctic Sea Route and rail and road development to Europe, Russia has become a significant transportation partner of China. Furthermore, with the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline, Russia supplies oil to China and it aims to supply gas with the power of Siberia – 1 and Siberia – 2 pipelines by 2019 (Diesen, 2017 & The Moscow Times, 2018).

In a way, western sanctions proved to be a blessing in disguise for both Russia and China. It has become a win-win situation for both the countries and that is what politics of geoeconomics is all about.

China’s geoeconomic influence and Russian apprehensions

Moscow’s biggest apprehension is China-US bipolar system disguised as a unipolar system. The Road and Belt (BRI) initiative also undermines Russian influence in Central Asia which was maintained by the transportation and energy infrastructure of USSR era until a few years ago. Moreover, with the increasingly assertive Chinese naval activities in South and the East China Sea, Russia is afraid that they could be extended to the Sea of Arctic and Okhotsk (Diesen, 2017, p. 89).

China’s geoeconomics and attitude of Russia’s Neighbours

Sergei Guriev believes that Russian neighbouring countries are welcoming Chinese involvement in the region because they are worried of “Big Brother’s” efforts to restore its geopolitical muscle. Kazakhstan is most importantly worried about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s words, “there was no Kazakh State before Nursultan Nazarbayev.” Putin has given such statements about Ukraine before the annexation of Crimea. Therefore, Russian neighbouring countries, most importantly Kazakhstan, are worried about Russia’s next moves. That is why they are interested in Chinese investment as a major economic counterweight to Russia’s dominance in the region.

China and Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the most developed ex-Soviet ‘istan,” writes Rapoza in Forbes. He further adds that Kazakhstan is effectively taking advantage of the Chinese Silk Road. With around $8 billion in 2017, China has invested around $20 billion in Kazakhstan since 2014. Rich in oil, sharing the border with China and connecting China with Europe via its rail network, Kazakhstan holds a great significance for China.

To seek the internal insight on China’s geoeconomic moves in the region generally and Kazakhstan particularly, this author contacted a journalist from Kazakhstan.

China is becoming more and more active in the region. Astana particularly very much welcomes the Chinese cooperation, I believe for several reasons,” comments Yerbulan Akhmetav, a journalist from Kazakhstan. Some of the reasons are obvious while others are latent. “Kazakhstan welcomes China because it wants to diversify its economy and move away from exports of natural resources. It wants to start manufacturing good with the help of China by attaching itself logistically to Chinese industries,” he adds them as obvious reasons. These reasons are economical in nature. However, latent reasons are more of political in nature. “Cooperation with China is to diversify foreign interests in Kazakhstan,” he remarks. Moreover, the rationale behind such cooperation is to secure the national interests of Kazakhstan. “The logic is to keep Russian, Chinese, American and if possible European Union investors in Kazakhstan so that they all will have something to lose if there is a political or military aggression towards Kazakhstan,” reflects Akhmetav. Sino-phobia is inevitable when people see so many Chinese walking in their streets. Akhmetav talked about the same phobia taking place in Kazakhstan. While talking other Central Asian countries, he added that it is likely that their relationship with China is motivated for similar economic and political reasons. China is one of the biggest importers of oil in the world and it is interested in the region for oil. Kazakhstan old importance for China because it is an oil-rich country which also happens to share a border with it, he concludes.

Conclusion

Geoeconomics is a positive sum game. China has become vital for Eurasia while Eurasia is crucial for China to meet its energy needs and reach out to its markets. Russia, however, is somewhat suspicious of Chinese moves in Eurasia. Despite this, it could not ignore China’s investments pouring into Russia. Russia’s neighbours being afraid of the “Big Brother’s” next moves welcomed the Chinese investments in their countries.

Muhammad Murad has been writing for different magazines and blogs since 2011. He initially started writing on social issues of Pakistan and later on, he began writing on internal and external issues related to Pakistan. Currently, he is Young Diplomats’ ambassador in Pakistan. He believes in a peaceful liberal democratic world away from war and conflict which would be possible by the power of the pen, not the gun. Muhammad is a business graduate turned  social scientist and aspires to be a writer.

China has the largest aircraft carrier building program in the world, after USA. The pace of carrier building and the development of the relevant air crafts has been without any major delays or issues till now. Will China People’s Liberation Army- Navy(PLA-N) one day challenge the US Navy in the Pacific?

 

 

Guatemala and Israel’s friendship goes back a long way. Guatemala was one of the first countries to recognize Israel as a sovereign state; Israel supported Guatemala’s first steps in the U.N. and was an ally to the Guatemalan government during the three-decade-long civil war, and specifically during a very critical moment for the Central American country in the 1970s when Jimmy Carter’s administration sentenced a military blockage. 

 

Despite the harsh violations of human rights done by the Guatemalan Armed Forces during the civil war, without Israel’s provision of weapons, Guatemala’s story today could have been very different if the communist guerrilla had taken control.

Guatemala opening an embassy in Jerusalem just one day after the U.S. is not only an act of consistency between the Israel-Guatemala diplomatic relations, but also another act from a seemingly ‘desperate to be liked by Trump’ Jimmy Morales.

Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was an idea of his, but a proposal Ambassador David Friedman had put on the table before even being selected as the Head of the Diplomatic Mission. Morales was the first Head of State following the decision back in December 2017, and Trump congratulated him personally during meetings held in early February.

Vladimir Putin was again, confirmed as the Russian government’s leader on March 18th with 77% of the ballot. After many years, it seems that Putin is the only man capable to maintain Russia’s unity and international impact on the world’s major conflicts.

The heir of Yelstin came in charge 18 years ago and never lost power since. During the past 18 years, Putin had really never been concerned about losing Russia’s leadership.  Nevertheless, the most important seems to be its future as Mr. Putin cannot legally run again for president in 2024. The already established Russian elite is starting jockeying for the next vacant position. Putin could eventually run again for president by claiming a constitutional change. His current nationalist actions to rebuild the ancient powerful and respected Russia in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria are perceived as popular among the Russians, as the country gains international respect and leadership. Despite weak economic results, Putin is still a popular president and could use that popularity to claim the constitutional change.

However, there is a rising elite silently growing in Russia, under Putin’s government. Six of Russia’s 85 governors are under 40 and young technocrats are installed in the Kremlin or in other ministries. This new generation of leaders was installed by Putin himself, which could be the first step of preparing his next retirement for 2024, but still keep high influence on his followers. Should that scenario occur, the lack of democratic institutions to peacefully transfer Putin’s power to a future president is a danger for the of Russia’s stability.

The West could have an important part to play in the after-Putin process. In the past, the West undermined the military might and ex-Soviet Union economic, cultural and moral appeal. The West could carry on punishing Putin for his international rights violations and unfair economic behaviors and meanwhile protecting the upcoming Russian elite. But the West lost lots of its reputation, especially with the delusion of Brexit and Donald Trump. Recently, Donald Trump touched one of Russia’s internal weaknesses by congratulating Vladimir Putin for his reelection and therefore frustrating young Russians wishing to rise for 2024.

The main cause of Putin’s constancy as president is his ability to maintain order and be respected in such a big country, with lots of different populations. The new generation, even though well trained to govern, will be faced with key challenges at the same time: fighting Russia’s corruption; keeping the unity of Russia and rebuilding a strong economy.

Lately Cuba has faced a serious, almost unbelievable change: Raul Castro, brother of more famous Fidel Castro, announced a start of the elections to the presidency of the Council of State, meaning that people could choose the second person of power after Raul himself, since he officially remains the First Secretary of Cuban Communist Party until 2021, as he claims. This position was taken up by Raul’s First Deputy in the State Council and Government, Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez, the first President of Cuba to be born after the Cuban Revolution of 1953-1959.

Undoubtedly, the newly elected Head of State is absolutely faithful to the principles of the revolution, otherwise he wouldn’t have earned Castro’s trust. Still, we can already see that his rule is about to bring changes to the habitual state structure of Cuba. In this article you will see, what tendencies have come along with the Castro family, and what are analysts’ forecasts for island’s future.

Fidel Castro’s reforms

First thing we should consider when talking about Castro’s regime is that he didn’t let the opposition act. He established a great amount of revolutionary field courts whose duty was to prosecute the opposition representatives, especially those who strongly supported Batista, the former Cuban ruler which was overthrown during the revolution. He even conducted demonstrative executions in Havana and provinces. He also closed and banned lost of casinos and brothels owned and held by American mafia.

Second thing is the agricultural revolution. Castro realized that Cuba has very fertile soil, which has much more potential than it was used for. He started a process of industrialized farming development, 40% of the lands went to the state sector, whereas all the rest went to peasants. At the same time 90% of private enterprises were nationalized.

These and many other actions prevented the US from influencing Cuba. US government realized that Cuba’s new administration is about to stay for a long time, so they attempted to exert pressure on Castro and his family by entering quotas on sugar purchase. This was just the beginning of an impending economic blockade.

At the same time Cuba’s relationships with USSR were getting stronger than ever. In 1960 they signed a loan agreement for Cuba, equivalent to 100 million US dollars. Why did the Soviet Union need it? Only to exert even more pressure on USA. They immediately started to supply military equipment to the island, ostensibly to help Cubans repulse potential attacks from the US, but in reality, with their own intentions. This sooner led to the famous Cuban Missile Crisis, being the tensest moment in the Cold War.

From the economic point of view, Castro took actions in favor of industrialization, concentrated in the hands of the State. With the help of USSR, Cuba quickly obtained all the required equipment, oil and loans, while selling sugar, nickel, tobacco and rum back to the Soviets. By the 1970s Cuba reached economic stability, increasing their GDP to 4% per year. Metallurgy and light industry developed, the unemployment rate fell to a historically low level. In 1976 a Constitution was adopted, finally fixing the communist way of State government.

What should Cubans expect from Diaz-Canel

Analysts believe that new Head of State will follow a course of moderate market reforms that Raul started. Still, despite the statement of Cuba’s new government on GDP growth of 1.5% per year, the UN economic commission for Latin American countries and in the Caribbean, the real growth was of 0.5%.

In any case, any process that is about to occur will not be a big surprise for the population, since all his actions are yet strictly controlled by Raul and his entourage. However, US couldn’t stay aside of this situation. The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 included a point where it is stated that one of the demands for the economic blockage annulment was Castro family’s abandonment of power. Three weeks ago, the US representative in the UN raised a question of restarting the US-Cuba economic relationships. However, two days later, on Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, which was ignored both by Donald Trump and Raul Castro, US Vice-President Mike Pence returned to the traditional criticism of Cuba, pointing out the violation of Human Rights in Cuba.

To sum up, looks like the tendency of USA’s pressure on Cuban government is far from the end. This adds additional severe conditions for Diaz-Canel’s administrations, while increasing the population’s expectations. The closest crucial moment to happen is Raul’s total resignation in 2021, again, as he claims. From that moment he will have to fulfill those expectations while being considered a totally independent leader of possibly successful independent State of Cuba. We will see where it will lead us to.

 

M.I.G. studies International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

With increased violence and instability in the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Turkish foreign policy has been a hot topic in international media and forums. Over the last two years, Turkey’s role in regional politics has come under increased scrutiny, especially in association with the activity of another resurgent power, Russia. Both Russia and Turkey, whose elites share so many similarities in perspective and their approach to the outside world, act united in their resolution to put their bilateral relations on a firm and strategically coherent foundation.

Conditions for deeper cooperation are ripe as never before. Both powers enjoy ambivalent relations with Western partners. Moreover, both Turkey and Russia have attempted to diversify their foreign relations since the end of the Cold War and move away from what they see to be a cumbersome dependence on Europe.  Against this background, the concept of ‘Eurasianism’ has long been viewed as an ideational platform that can further cement Russian-Turkish ties and can create an effective drive for a civilizational alliance capable of resisting Western pressure.

After the end of bipolar global confrontation in the early 1990s, Turkey and Russia discovered in each other prospective partners in many areas, especially trade, tourism, construction and energy projects. However, it was only with the establishment of the High-Level Cooperation Council in May 2010 that Ankara and Moscow could finally overcome their residual mutual mistrust and could approach each other regarding more strategic issues expanding upon their experience within the Eurasian political space.

Statements made by Turkish and Russian officials may serve as proof that both sides are considering expanding bilateral ties into multilateral cooperation focused on Eurasian integration projects. In November 2013, during the bilateral High-Level Cooperation Council meeting, Turkish Prime-Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed the idea of Turkey entering the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and free trade agreements with Eurasian countries as a way to rebalance its’ unsuccessful accession talks with the European Union.  Signals to this effect were later repeatedly sent even after the 2015 downing of a Russian Su-24 jet by Turkish forces. In August 2017, after having gained no progress over renewals of terms with the European Union Customs Union (EUCU), Turkish officials once again pointed at the possibility of Turkey seeking alternatives in Eurasian integration projects, such as the Eurasian Customs Union that unites the markets of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

Even though, one may speculate that many statements made by Turkish officials in their essence remain mere rhetoric, there are instances where the Turkish government has undertaken practical steps to boost closer economic ties with Eurasian countries. Since 2008, Turkey began implementing a number of projects, mainly infrastructural, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Such projects aim to lay the groundwork for the wider integration of the Turkish economy in trade projects with China and Central Asian republics, within the framework of the One Belt One Road Initiative. Meanwhile,  Moscow tends to make statements that both criticize Western political dominance while singling out Turkey as a non-Western power that would be suitable for cooperation and participation in ostensibly Russian-led initiatives.

Historic perspective

The trend to push bilateral relations into a more ideologically refined, Eurasianist framework may have a historical rationale. Both Turkey and Russia share the experience of an imperial history and the related nostalgia for past glories.  After the collapse of their perspective imperial polities, the political process of Russia and Turkey has been defined by efforts of their national elites to modernize and carry out reforms that would enable them to compete with European, and later Western powers, on equal terms. While each country followed a different trajectory, such remedial modernization projects carried out in both Russia and Turkey may have contributed to convergence between Moscow and Ankara during the 20th century, despite the fierce ideological confrontation between them.

In the 1920s, Turkey and the Soviet Union considered each other perfect partners to overcome dangerous isolation of their newly established political regimes by European powers and the United States. The psychological burden of the Treaty of Rapallo and the Treaty of Sevres later played a decisive role in Ankara’s attempts to seek the cooperation and solidarity of Moscow when its own ties with America soured. In 1984, with Cold War hostility waning, Turkey and the Soviet Union managed to forge a very sophisticated goods-for-gas agreement.  This marked a firm beginning for deeper economic cooperation.

But it is not only a common historical legacy and a similar path of modernization, but also common contemporary challenges that today push Turkey and Russia closer. The geopolitical shifts of the post-Cold War order put tremendous pressure on the security and foreign policy of both powers. With the stabilization of national economies in Russia and Turkey in the latter part of the 1990s, both endeavored to expand their footprint in their close geographical neighborhood, in regions where a historical and cultural legacy would facilitate their penetration. The 21st century activism of these new rising powers has caused some political circles to believe that the old world is waning under the rising influence of new Eurasian powers like Russia, Turkey, China and others.

A further force that brought Turkey and Russia together was the expansion of democratic freedoms in both countries during the 1990s, and then a decline of democratization efforts and an eventual drift toward authoritarianism in the 2010s. Today, political regimes in Turkey and Russia can best be described as hybrid regimes. They have competitive authoritarian features with ostensibly functioning democratic institutions. While the ruling party or leader exerts pressure and control on the opposition via informal channels, there has not been a slide into outright authoritarianism which would be neither internationally acceptable nor productive under conditions where national economies depend on the outside world.

Problems with democratic process, the rule of law, human rights and freedom has long been drawing criticism from Europe and the United States. The underlying logic behind Western attempts to anchor democratic rule in Turkey and Russia may be expressed by a desire to see more predictable, cooperative and ideologically friendly regimes that would further contribute to promotion of these norms and values in their adjacent regions: the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, Western attempts to secure democratic achievements of the previous years and to support civil society are regarded by ruling political elites today as a direct intrusion in domestic affairs, which represents yet another foreign policy challenge uniting Turkey and Russia.

Under these conditions, circles led in Russia by Alexander Dugin and by Doğu Perinçek in Turkey are being bestowed by the benevolence of their rulers, who are eager to talk about a common idea that would unite Russian and Turkish activism for the sake of their better and firmer resistance to the Western attempts to ostensibly subdue these nations. Roots of the Eurasian ideology go back to the early 20th century, when Russian intellectuals tried to redefine the roots of state crisis within the Russian Empire and to assess the results of the Bolshevik revolution that gave rise to the new geopolitical colossus, the Soviet Union. Eurasianists came to the conclusion that Russia represents not a nation, but a civilization that unites all local nations in the vast territories of Eurasia. In its essence this ideology was a reformulated tradition of Russian Slavic nationalism.

Today’s Eurasianism

Today (neo)-Eurasianism tends to describe the efforts of states to develop an indigenous framework of cooperation, usually as an alternative to the dominance of Western capitalism. Russian and Turkish official circles tend to credit Eurasianism as a practical ideological framework for mutual cooperation for several crucial reasons. First of all, by saying that all versions of national democracies have the right to existence, Eurasianists in essence emphasize the idea of sovereignty and vehemently reject interference into domestic affairs. Besides, Eurasianists’ focus on existing alternatives to the Western values and norms of international conduct add legitimacy to Russian and Turkish criticism of Western partners and, on a rhetorical level, improve their negotiating positions in talks over terms of future dialogue with the West.

But looking into the real world manifestation of the Eurasianist narrative reveals serious gaps. The tendency to ascribe Eurasianism as a driving force behind rapprochement seems to be a myth. Alternatively, it doesn’t seem to be a reliable driving force of bilateral ties that are loaded with hidden competition in the Central Asia, Black Sea, Caucasus and Syria. Moreover, advocates of Eurasianism in Turkey and Russia understand the term to mean different things. For Russian Eurasianists, Eurasianism entails an ideology that today is called upon to legitimize the Russian presence in its neighbourhood. Meanwhile, for Turkish Eurasianists the term tends to mean a foreign policy strategy that is focused on developing effective tools against Western pressure. Finally, Eurasian rhetoric serves the purpose of masking the transactional and situational character of bilateral relations, evidenced by the S-400 deal and cooperation in Syria.

While Russian and Turkish officials show a desire to talk about the underlying ideological foundation of the rapprochement, it is nevertheless evident that both countries are more inclined to advance ties with the Western world. The volume of trade between Turkey and the European Union in 2016 was at the level of US $145 billion, while Russian-Turkish trade hit a mark of US $21.6 billion in 2017. An unbalanced trade structure (with Russian energy exports enjoying better positions) and economic relations force Turkey and Russia talk about bilateral ties in more abstract terms by describing their relations as part of a bigger Eurasian project. Moreover, in cultural terms the population of both states feels more affiliated with Europe than with each other. Both Russia and Turkey each have a large expatriate community in European countries.

Attempts being made by Russia and Turkey to dress bilateral relations in a more rigid ideational framework are understandable. Still, Turkey and Russia can’t build the future of their relations on an anti-Western narrative. Paradoxically, it is their common movement towards the European community that may advance cooperation: historical process of entering the European civilization established better rules of diplomatic conduct while providing guarantees from breaking the law by the other side. Within this movement, each of the two powers feels more secure knowing that they share common ideas and values like the rule of law, democracy and human rights. These commonalities may further increase tolerance to inter-dependence and compromise in critical areas and help Turkey and Russia to overcome, rather than ignore their historical legacy of mistrust.

 

David İmoisi, originally from Nigeria, is currently studying international relations at Yakin Dogu Universitesi in Cyprus. His interests revolve around international politics and diplomacy.

Glen Diesen (2017) defines geoeconomics as the economics of geopolitics in his book Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia. He further adds that with more destructive weapons and growing economic interdependence in a globalized world, the power derives progressively from control over financial institutions, transportation corridors and strategic markets rather than territory. Moreover, in their book War by Other Means Jennifer M. Harris and Robert Blackwill (2016) define geoeconomics as “the use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests, and to produce beneficial geopolitical results and effects of other nations’ economic actions on country’s geopolitical goals.” Thus, one can define geoeconomics as an economic instrument or set of instruments to achieve geopolitical ends.

China effectively uses the geoeconomic instruments to achieve its geopolitical aims in the twenty-first century.

China’s Economic Might in a Glimpse:

A specialist in Asian Trade and Finance, Wayne M. Morrison, argues that before the Chinese economic reforms of 1979, the Chinese economy was isolated from the other economies of the world besides keeping its economy centrally-controlled, poor, inefficient and stagnant. The economic reforms resultantly brought in foreign investment and trade into China. China, since then, has witnessed one of the fastest growing GDP growth rates in the world. China’s economy saw almost a double-digit GDP growth rate on an average in last three decades. According to the Trading Economics Website, China’s GDP growth rate from 1989-2017 on an average was nearly 9.66% which is slightly lesser than the two-digit growth rate that China maintained from 1989-2014 on an average. Besides this, China is not only the largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity but also the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves, largest manufacturer and merchandise trader. In 2017, China’s exports were $2.3 trillion.

Changing China Story:

According to Mark Leonard, ECFR Director, “If the big China story of the past few decades was about growth, exports and investments, the story of the next decade will be about the creation of a Chinese economic and political order.” He, furthermore, argues that despite its slow growth rate in the past few years, China has become part of the fabric of economic life of most countries around the world. Rather than overthrowing existing institutions as many had feared, China is utilizing its economic might to develop a series of relationships which connect world in a more China-Centric world order, Leonard adds. Moreover, Leonard says that the new world order (economic and political order) is designed differently from the Western-led multilateral institutions because China prefers to craft a series of bilateral and multilateral relationships with different states and also with regional forums or organizations.

China’s Geo-economic muscle in the 21st Century:

Jennifer M. Harris and Robert Blackwill (2016) in their book War by Other Means state that there are at least seven economic tools apposite to the geopolitical application: trade, investments, sanctions, cyber, aid, financial and monetary policy, and national policies governing energy and commodities.

China effectively uses all these tools to meet its geopolitical ends. However, Wu Xinbo (2016), Executive Dean, Fudan University China, argues that China’s geoeconomic power particularly lies in five areas.

1. Trade

China, owing to its large exports and the largest domestic market, uses Trade as a geo-economic tool commendably. From Asia-Pacific to Africa and from Europe to Latin America China maintains trade relations with over a 100 countries. Xinbo (2016) in this regard claims that China is the largest trading partner of over a 130 states.

  1. Investment Policy

China became an active provider of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) after the global financial Crisis of 2008. Behind only from US and Japan, China became the third largest investor country from 2012 to 2014 (Xinbo, 2016). However, according to World Investment Report 2017, China has become the second largest investor country in the world, leaving Japan behind. It is, furthermore, estimated that China is going to take over US in this regard by 2020. China’s investments are focused on infrastructure and energy mostly. These investments contribute to China’s geoeconomic power in the twenty-first century.

  1. Financial Institutions

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB) are established recently. AIIB aims at providing financial support to the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) Initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping which he announced in 2013 in Astana, Kazakhstan. NDB is BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bank which aims at providing financial assistance to infrastructure projects in BRICS countries (Xinbo, 2016). Xinbo (2016) adds that China holds over 30% of shares in AIIB and 41% of shares in NDB which give China more leverage in operations and making of rules of both the institutions. China’s economic power will enhance as states start taking assistance from these institutions.

Moreover, some argue that main objective behind AIIB is to compete with and eventually replace Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Bretton Woods Institutions in Asia-Pacific. However, it would be premature to compare and contrast between these at this stage.

  1. Internationalization of Renminbi (RMB)

China started the policy of internationalizing of Renminbi from 2009. Internationalization of Renminbi includes its use in international investment and trade and also its inclusion in the reserves assets held by central banks in other countries (Xinbo, 2016). In 2015, Yuan (Renminbi) received the status of a reserve currency from IMF. Renminbi was added to IMF’s Special Drawing Rights basket in 2016. Yuan (Renminbi) is included in the Special Drawing Rights basket of IMF along with Euro, US dollar, British Pound and Japanese Yen.

  1. Infrastructure alliances under Road and Belt Initiative (BRI)

Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will connect China with the world from Asia-Pacific to Europe and from Latin America to Africa. Currently, there are 65 countries part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. China is building infrastructure, pipelines and helping countries to get rid of their energy woes.

Besides these instruments, China also uses Cyber as an effective geoeconomic tool to achieve its geopolitical ends.

Cyber as a Geo-economic Instrument for China

Jennifer M. Harris and Robert Blackwill (2016) in their book War by Other Means state that although it is quite uncertain to gauge the magnitude and nature of cyber-attacks yet there is a good reason to consider cyber as the most powerful and the newest instrument of geoeconomics. They further argue that most of the IP addresses of the cyber-attacks can be traced inside China and Russia. They quote a private study and state that in any given day, cyberattacks account for nearly 15% but this figure plunged to 6.5% on October 1, 2011, when many workers in China took leave owing to China’s National Day. Furthermore, with regards to China’s use of cyber, Farid Zakaria opines in his article published in The Washington Post on April 5, 2018, “Look at the Chinese economy today. It has managed to block or curb the world’s most advanced and successful technology companies, from Google to Facebook to Amazon. Foreign banks often have to operate with local partners who add zero value — essentially a tax on foreign companies.” He adds that during these attacks intellectual property and secrets of American companies are shared with their Chinese competitors. Thus, cyber proves to be an effective and the most powerful geoeconomic tools in this era of social media and technology. However, understanding of Cyber as a geoeconomic tool needs thorough understanding which is beyond the scope of this article.

In addition to this, Financial and Economic Sanctions is also a geoeconomic instrument but China does not believe in it or at least does not use it overtly. However, China equivocally insinuates that it can use it against countries which support Taiwan’s independence claim and maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Conclusion

China’s economic might has enabled it to gain geoeconomic power in the 21st century. Unlike US and other powers of the past, China is using its muscles differently. It is reaching out to its purse instead of a gun to achieve its geopolitical ends as authors of War by Other Means put it. In this regard, China uses several geoeconomic instruments from trade and investments policy to cyber-attacks effectively which are on their way to shape China-centric world order.

Muhammad Murad has been writing for different magazines and blogs since 2011. He initially started writing on social issues of Pakistan and later on, he began writing on internal and external issues related to Pakistan. Currently, he is Young Diplomats’ ambassador in Pakistan. He believes in a peaceful liberal democratic world away from war and conflict which would be possible by the power of the pen, not the gun. Muhammad is a business graduate turned  social scientist and aspires to be a writer.

This week’s edition of Explaining Brazil will discuss a highly charged issue that transcends our borders: the Venezuela crisis.

Approximately 70,000 Venezuelans had crossed into Brazil by February this year, amid rumors that Brazil might close its border (something that the government has vehemently denied). Boa Vista, whose population is now 10 percent Venezuelan, is struggling to provide adequate shelter, employment, and healthcare services. And Brazil’s central government seems unsure of what to do, flip-flopping between moving all Venezuelan migrants to one location or dispersing them throughout the country.

For this episode, we’re hosting Rosario Hernandez, a political analyst from Venezuela and member of the Young Diplomats. She discusses just how bad things are – and what the future may hold for her country.

The podcast is available on SoundCloud and on Apple Podcasts.

On this podcast:

Gustavo Ribeiro has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de São Paulo, Médiapart and Radio France Internationale. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Abril Prize for outstanding political journalism. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Ciara Long is a journalist based in Rio de Janeiro and a contributing writer for The Brazilian Report. Her work has been featured in PRI, CBC News, and World Politics Review, among others.

Rosario Hernandez is a political analyst from Venezuela and a member of Young Diplomats. She grew up with the challenges of the 21st century. She studied journalism, holds an M.A in Political Science, and a diploma in Political Marketing. She specializes in the changing political landscapes of South America and the Middle East.

This podcast was edited by Peter Clare, University College London (Diploma in sub-titling, translating). Peter has radio work experience with the BBC, the University of Brasilia and the University of Campinas.

 

This article is part of a series launched by our partner, The Brazilian Report and was originally published here.

In the light of strengthening the spirit of communication between nations and support of human values; the young Chadian player Idriss Dougaye (12 years old), and the junior Chadian reporter Hamza Assef (12 years old) were chosen from Chad’s “Farcha Milezi” academy in order to participate and represent Chad in the International Children’s Forum, to which the Russian company Gazprom annually invites hundreds of young players from top African, Asian, European and South American football clubs.

The young Chadian star will be accompanied by the emerging journalist Assef for the final events of the program, which will take place in the Russian capital Moscow, from June 8 to June 15. These include the International Friendship Camp for three days, the International Football Tournament for Friendship and the Children’s Forum. The two Chadian children will participate in the program as ambassadors of their country to support the basic human values: friendship, equality, justice, health, peace, dedication, victory and honor promoted by the program.

Children participating in the Forum not only meet and communicate with their peers from other countries, as well as famous football players and public figures, but also become young ambassadors to promote universal values by themselves among their age-mates.

The Football for Friendship program’s mission is to developing children’s football; promoting youth sports and a healthy lifestyle; promoting friendship among children from different countries, fostering tolerance and respect toward other cultures and ethnicities.

The program was first launched in 2013 with the aim of improving the skills of young football and promoting healthy lifestyles, as well as promoting peace, openness and friendship among children from around the globe.

This year’s program has seen the launch of the sixth season, which had been held from February 15 to June 15, 2018, with the participation of a large number of countries and regions to reach 211 countries and regions from all over the world.

Football for Friendship is supported by such renowned footballers as Vitor Baia, Didier Drogba, Anatoly Tymoshchuk, Luis Neto, and Ralf Faehrmann, as well as football associations and federations in many countries.

The program is supported by FIFA, UEFA, the European Football Association, the Olympic Committee, the Paralympics, football associations and children’s institutions, as well as hundreds of prominent athletes and thousands of journalists from all over the world over the past years.

It is also worth mentioning that the previous events were held in London, Lisbon, Berlin, Milan and St. Peter’s. The number of people who know about the program is about 3700 participants and one billion people worldwide. Over the past years; the program has expanded from 8 to 211 countries and regions.

Modern diplomatic practice as we know it today has evolved from a generous history of traditions, protocols and narratives. While the United States (US) president Donald Trump is a new face in the diplomatic community, he has already built a reputation for being largely unpredictable thus the twist in the possibility of formal diplomatic roundtable discussions between these countries happening is feasible in the near future.

While the winter Olympic games in Pyeonchang, South Korea may have provided a soft takeoff for the possibility of the talks holding following high level delegation from both North Korea (DPRK) in person of Kim’s sister Kim Yo-Jong and the United States vice president Mike Pence both in official capacity; Kim Jon Un unnaounced and hurried trip to China who is DPRK’s biggest market show a sign at these crucial moment that China wants a fair share of the ‘deal’ and will use its economic, geographical, and strategic influence over DPRK to influence negotiation and inturn give China upgraded shots at negotiations for concessions from the US or to merely score a mark for being sidelined in the early process.

Unlike China that has a relative offer to the US, DPRK is at a disadvantage on the table with the US except for longstanding threats of a “mutually assured destruction” thus making the game (negotiation) adopt a zero-sum approach. More so, hurried attempts by long time US diplomatic foe Russia’s attempt to influence the talks are emerging following DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s visit to Moscow  this April and an acceptance of a reciprocal visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days all in a bid to ensure their interests are protected in these conversations

As conversations between the US and DPRK started becoming official and passing through the State Department and DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs despite being sworn enemies at all fronts in decades past, these two countries have actually kept in constant touch through back channels which involved both states secret service officials (Central Intelligence Unit for the US and General Reconnaissance Bureau for the DPRK) and the “New York Channel” which involve using permanent representatives of both countries to the UN. The channels have been effective in negotiating issues like hostage release, prisoners swap, extradition etc. especially when these acts are state funded most notably the 1968 USS Pueblo seizure by DPRK on its territorial waters. More to this is the recent revelationof new CIA chief Pompeo secretly meeting with Kim Jong Un.

As official channels open for talks, it will be about a location with historic and futuristic characteristics of neutrality and favourability for both sides with Sweden, Mongolia and Switzerland making proposals to host. While not much is known of Mongolia’s relevance to the talks, and Kim being partially raised in Switzerland, Sweden may emerge the stand alone contender due to its long standing ties to DPRK and its role of conducting consular responsibilities for US citizens in DPRK.

In summary, the use of back channels such as these is almost as old as diplomacy itself but becoming more prominent in our era of constant rivalry; despite admitably having its own forthcomings, historical agreements have been made and crises prevented through these channels. For the US – DPRK talks, the dialogue would certainly involved the “New York Channel” most notably through US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun and Pak Song Il, a senior DPRK diplomat at the United Nations.

Daniel Nwaeze – University of Lagos, Nigeria