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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded approaches to enduring geopolitical problems.

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) rapid ascension as a global power in the 21st Century has raised conceptual problems and strategic challenges for policymakers.  PRC no longer fits within traditional classifications of “rising powers” or the third world, and its foreign policy is no longer one of South-South cooperation under the broad constraints of a Western-centric liberal order. The American foreign and economic policy revisions under the Trump Administration is the most notable and significant response to this power transition, but its particular ideological and intellectual foundation may not provide the right solution for Britain, European and Asian powers. 

The “Rising China” programme critically examines these developments. Contemporary and historical China is studied as the prime mover of a rapidly changing global and regional order. Traditional realist thinking in international relations maps nations onto a power hierarchy based on aggregate national economic and military capabilities, and focuses on behavioural predictions about conflict and cooperation. However, the very nature of an ascending power with global aspirations is that it creates additional ideational dynamism and systemic risks for other strategic actors, as its identity and strategies change along with its growing influence and enhanced capabilities to shape outcomes. Harnessing China's revisionist and transformative potentials to support collective progress of our shared humanity is the single most important challenge for global governance in the coming decades.

The most pressing geo-economic issue for the next decades is how we will respond to the expansion of PRC’s economic presence in the region – currently framed and financed under the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). The primary, non-traditional security objective of Chinese investments in ports and logistics in Asia is to restructure the regional production network away from a traditional reliance on US and EU markets, towards one that “localizes” value-added manufacturing and services in Asia with the Chinese economy as the source of finance, technological and consumption drivers of regional and global growth. The sinews of this emerging global value chain (GVC) are enhanced connectivity via shipping and logistics, on which emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, 3D printing, 5G, and trans-regional energy production and trade could be applied to restructure domestic economies in Asia and the Middle East toward increasing dependence on China. The "Rising China" programme will bring an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to address the long-term geopolitical tensions and contentions arising from these new nodes of economic power and exchange, and will assess a range of national and private sector responses such as protectionism in bilateral trade and new regional free trade blocs. 

The Centre's research, outrech, and events on Rising China and Maritime Security have continued apace over the last year. One such event was the panel, "Biden, US Foreign Policy, and China-Africa Relations", which explored the significance of the new administration's African foreign policy agenda and its effects on existing and expanding Chinese influence across many parts of Africa. Our first "China Town Hall", organised with the National Committee on US-China Relations, offered a conversation about China, its relationship with the United States and implications for the UK. The discussion featured William Hurst, Deputy Director of the Centre, followed by a speech by the internationally renowned analyst and writer Fareed Zakaria. 

Alongside panels focused on the rise of China, the Centre for Geopolitics has provided discussion concerning the Indo-Pacific region as a whole, as well as Southeastern Asia. For example Hugo Bromley's podcast with James Crabtree, the incoming executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia, investigated the role of financial services in supporting the "tilt to the Indo-Pacific" outlined in the UK's Integrated Review. The Centre also hosted Professor Meredith Weiss (Professor and immediate past-Head of Department of Political Science at the State University of New York at Albany) who presented research from her new book, "The Roots of Resilience" on machine politics and the persistence of dominant parties in Malaysia and Singapore. 

Finally, the inaugural Indo-Pacific Roundtable (supported by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs) will take place on 12th and 13th December 2021, convening a select cohort of academics, think tank scholars, and civil servants from around the UK and beyond, to share thoughts on pertinent political, economic, and security issues in the region. The Roundtable will feature two panels. The first, "Post-Pandemic Economic Regionalism" focuses on comparative political economy and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected economic and political cooperation and competition in the Indo-Pacific, whilst the second, "The Indo-Security Order, examines the strategic and security challenges faced by the region from within and without.