This is the third of a three-part series on Thailand’s slide toward authoritarian rule. The first article discussed the domestic effects of Thailand’s faltering democracy. The second article discussed the regional effects. This final article discusses the broader implications for the U.S.-China rivalry in Southeast Asia. Thailand’s democratic crisis has complicated its relationship with the U.S., pushing Bangkok closer to Beijing. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s dubious legitimacy and Thailand’s progressive slide toward a military regime have left the U.S. undecided on how to proceed. Washington has not openly condemned Bangkok, but neither has it offered the political support that the […]

India has recently seen a succession of visits by the top leaders of the permanent Security Council members. The British prime minister was in India in late July, and the American president came calling in early November. Visits by the French president and the Chinese premier followed earlier this month. In contrast to the high-profile U.S. visit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev flew into India almost unnoticed on Dec. 21. Although the Soviet Union was India’s staunchest ally during the Cold War, India has drifted away from post-Cold War Russia. This stands in stark contrast to India’s ties with the U.S., […]

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In contrast to the U.S. and China, with whom India’s bilateral relations have long been hobbled by mistrust or misunderstanding, Russia has proven to be a relatively dependable and accomodating strategic partner for New Delhi. So I was a bit surprised to see, in the context of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to India, that total bilateral trade between the two countries is just $10 billion. Compare that to the $60 billion in bilateral trade between India and China, and it’s positively underwhelming, especially given the potential of the India-Russia relationship. Curiously, that seems to be the overarching theme of […]

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited New Delhi last week for the first time in almost five years, accompanied by more than 300 Chinese business leaders. The composition of Wen’s delegation made clear that the Chinese were eager to return to the formula successfully pursued by Chinese and Indian officials during the past two decades: keeping their issues of divergence — primarily strategic issues such as their boundary disputes, PRC ties with Pakistan, and the Sino-Indian military rivalry — in the background, while focusing their talks on areas of greater potential convergence, such as expanding mutual trade and investment opportunities. Although […]

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After nine years of war in Afghanistan and seven more in Iraq, Americans are understandably weary of military interventions designed to remake or rebuild failed or fragile states. Nevertheless, many countries are still falling apart, or worse, falling into the hands of fundamentalists, terrorists, and other militants who disregard popular will and care little for human suffering. As a result, such nation-building interventions will remain necessary for the foreseeable future, as the U.S. involvement in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan demonstrates. So instead of renouncing these missions, the U.S. must better define why and how it will carry them out, to […]

After a year of turmoil in Sino-Indian relations, India hosted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last week with a degree of fanfare. Wen’s visit came at a time of newfound assertiveness in India’s China policy. Having tried to brush significant divergences with Beijing under the carpet for years, New Delhi policymakers have been forced to acknowledge — if grudgingly so — that the relationship with China has become increasingly contentious. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggested just a few weeks ago that “China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality. . […]

In a column two weeks ago, I described the outlines of a proposed grand-strategic bargain between China and the United States. Basically, the “term sheet” that I helped draw up proposed various bilateral compromises over the security issues — Taiwan, North Korea, Iran and the South China Sea, among others — that keep the relationship clouded by profound strategic mistrust. The resulting climate of confidence would encourage Beijing to invest some of the trillions of dollars it holds more directly into our economy, instead of simply using them to facilitate our skyrocketing public debt. Since the column appeared, I and […]

Last week, China reported that over the past year, consumer prices had risen 5.1 percent. While prices have been creeping up in China for months now, the report grabbed international attention, and for good reason. As the world’s factory and its second-largest economy, China’s inflation rate has serious consequences for the global economy and domestic stability. To some extent, inflation in China is a delayed result of the $586 billion stimulus package Beijing announced in 2008. Following the initial onset of the global financial crisis, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) embraced a period of loose monetary policy as a […]

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Ukrainian Parliament came crashing to a halt when a fast but furious brawl broke out between members of the opposition and deputies from the ruling party. Fists began flying when opposition members blocked the parliament chamber, demanding abuse charges against their leader, Yulia Timoshenko, be dropped. Four politicians required medical attention for injuries sustained in the fight.

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There are two ways of reading the publicly released summary of the Obama administration’s Afghanistan Strategic Review. The first, admittedly my initial reaction, is as a politically driven document designed to gloss over the reality of the war in order to reconcile the administration’s promise to begin a drawdown in July 2011 with the need for a continued military commitment to sustain any gains that have been made in the past year. The second, admittedly my subsequent reaction, is as a reality-driven document that reflects the mixed and sometimes contradictory outcomes since the administration’s last policy review, and that correctly […]

The publicly released overview document summarizing President Barack Obama’s review of U.S. strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan touts a number of successes over the last year but concludes that “the challenge remains to make our gains durable and sustainable.” In language very similar to the assessments made for Iraq after the “surge” had begun there in 2007, the report points to positive trends but warns that “these gains remain fragile and reversible.” Over the last few weeks, administration officials had already signaled that there will be no change to U.S. strategy in the immediate future. And while Obama remains committed […]

Peru is again on pace to end the year as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, due in no small measure to its ambitious strategy of economic diversification. In 2010, it finalized four new free-trade agreements (FTAs) — three with Asian partners — and launched the test phase of a joint stock exchange, Mercados Integrados Latinoamericanos (Integrated Latin American Markets, or MILA), with Colombia and Chile. Peru’s global and regional trade diplomacy has resulted in more domestic investment and a larger network of export markets for Peruvian goods. Peru’s open-market policies can also be partially credited with the country’s rapid […]

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the latest head of state to visit India at a time when the latter is looking to award lucrative contracts in energy, infrastructure, security and other areas. As with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit last month, Sarkozy sought to develop positive atmospherics by making the “right noises” on issues New Delhi holds dear, such as permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council and entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as terrorism emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The visit also saw forward movement on a number of bilateral deals valued at around $20 billion. […]

Concern about China’s emerging economic and military capabilities now drives the U.S. strategic debate. The development of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) by the PRC has even led some to argue that the balance of power in the Western Pacific has now shifted in China’s direction. At the very least, ASBMs give China another tool with which to threaten U.S. naval predominance in Asia. In response to the perceived growth of Chinese military power, analysts at the Center for New American Security and elsewhere have suggested (.pdf) closer alignment with Japan and India, two of China’s regional rivals. On the surface, […]

This is the second of a three-part series on Thailand’s slide toward authoritarian rule. The first article discussed the domestic effects of Thailand’s faltering democracy. This second article discusses the regional effects. A third article, to appear next week, will discuss the broader implications for the U.S.-China rivalry in Southeast Asia. The ripple effects of Thailand’s withering democracy are being felt across Southeast Asia, a highly dynamic region that has never fully embraced democracy. On one level, Thailand’s slide towards authoritarianism has deprived the key regional organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of its most-progressive leader. Until the […]

When he joined Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Nov. 23, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reassuringly said that, “China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and support the renaissance of Russia as a great power.” Moscow policymakers, armed with nuclear weapons, probably have little fear of a war with China, but they can rightly be concerned about becoming a raw-material appendage to the growing Chinese economic giant. Since Russia and China have settled their joint border and are not engaged in direct military competition with each other, the focus of the Russian-Chinese relationship in recent […]

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