IDSS-MacArthur Foundation Project
Strategic Stability in the 21st Century Asia
Since June 2012, this project undertaken by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) has sought to identify and analyse the key sources of strategic stability and instability in contemporary Asia. Funded through a grant from the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the project aimed to augment the prevailing understanding of how forces that stabilise Asia can be strengthened, and how forces that destabilise Asia (or have the potential for doing so) can be managed, and their adverse effects mitigated or contained.
The project addressed the following issues:
- Bilateral relations in Asia, particularly in response to the growth of China’s economic and military capabilities
- Interstate dynamics within the maritime domain
- The impact of new and emerging military technologies in Asia
To that end, RSIS organised a number of research workshops and commissioned a number of policy briefs, research papers, monographs, and book volumes dedicated to the systematic study of the aforesaid issues. The project involved more than sixty scholars and analysts from RSIS and our research partners based in 16 countries. Each participant contributed to one or more of the following three research clusters.
Cluster One: Major Power Relations
The rapid rise in Chinese economic and military power in the post-Cold War period has important strategic implications for the regional security environment. The cluster focused on two major themes, namely, (1) China’s diplomatic-security policy toward specific countries and regions such as India and Southeast Asia and (2) the impact of China’s strategic rise on the United States’ relations with Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Importantly, the project also addressed the ramifications of the U.S. pivot/rebalancing to Asia. The cluster undertook two studies in this regard.
Given the centrality of the United States and China to the region’s strategic stability and economic prosperity, the first study addressed (1) longstanding and emerging sources of conflict and cooperation in U.S.-China relations and (2) the roles played by regional states in shaping U.S.-China relations. The second study mapped the growth of China’s political, economic, and military capabilities and its impact on the security order in Asia over the coming decades.
The study addressed three issues:
- Impact of rising Chinese power on Beijing’s foreign policy preferences and regional behaviour
- Perceptions of Asian countries of and their reactions toward China’s growing power and behaviour
- U.S. rebalancing against rising Chinese power and behaviour
In partial support of this cluster’s research, a workshop on “Growth of China’s Power and Changing Security Dynamics in Asia” was conducted in Singapore on 22 February 2013. [Annex 1]
Cluster Two: Emerging Defence Technologies
This cluster addressed the potential impact on Asia’s security emanating from the introduction of new “critical technologies” in regional militaries and their respective force modernisations. New technologies and novel types of armaments promise to affect significantly the manner of warfighting in the region. At the same time, the uneven distribution of technologies and capabilities across Asia could unsettle regional security and stability. Consequently, it is critical to assess the relative abilities of regional militaries to access and leverage new and emerging critical technologies, their likely progress in doing so, and the impediments they may face, ultimately with an eye toward how it would affect relative gains and losses in regional military capabilities.
Issues that this cluster addressed include:
- How does one define a “militarily critical” or “militarily relevant” emerging critical technology (ECT); which kinds of ECT are most likely to have an impact on the balance of power in Asia?
- How might one measure the impact such ECT on balances of power, particularly in terms of creating comparative advantages for a nation’s military over a potential rival?
- Which factors are more likely to drive technological advance in Asia?
- How do national defence acquisition strategies and national defence industrial affect technology innovation/exploitation?
- How might the unequal distribution of such ECT affect military capabilities in Asia, and therefore balances of power; are less-technologically advanced militaries doomed to inferiority, or are there “offsetting” alternatives that a country may pursue in order to asymmetrically compete with a more technologically advanced rival?
In partial support of this cluster’s research, a workshop on “The Potential Military Impact of Emerging Technologies in the Asia Pacific” was conducted in Singapore on 8 January 2013. [Annex 2]
Cluster Three: Maritime Security
The cluster explored maritime strategic connectivities along the “Indo-Pacific Arc”, from the Indian Ocean through South Asia to Japan and the Korean Peninsula. At the macro level, Asia’s strategic environment is fundamentally maritime in character. This is a function of the region’s complex coastal geography, which complicates jurisdictional claims and overlapping maritime territorial disputes. There is a general trend amongst littoral states to exert greater control over maritime territorial claims, within the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to the continental shelf beyond. While resource competition is a common factor, China and India have further sought to restrict foreign military activities within their EEZ, a position that places them at odds with ocean-going user states, especially the United States, which seek to preserve customary freedoms of navigation for navies in the “maritime commons”. Overlapping maritime claims are further fanning tensions among coastal states that are under increasing economic pressure to develop marine resources, including energy, as well as nationalist pressures to safeguard sovereignty.
Asia’s export-led economic growth model depends on an advanced level of maritime connectivity and a very high level of dependence on seaborne imports, for primary energy raw material inputs and foodstuffs. Sea lane security thus commands a strategic premium within the region. The modernisation of regional naval and paramilitary capabilities is another major dynamic reshaping the maritime security environment. The rapid quantitative and qualitative expansion of maritime forces inevitably changes the security dynamic, with the potential either to stabilise or destabilise security.
The broad aim of this cluster was to:
- Provide a broad geopolitical sweep of the wider Asian region
- Identify the region’s key maritime flashpoints
- Explore the maritime dynamic of great power relations through the existing framework of U.S.-centred bilateral security alliances, as well as emerging partnerships with newer maritime players
In partial support of this cluster’s research, a workshop on “Exploring Asia’s Evolving Maritime Security Environment” was conducted in Singapore on 21 February 2013. [Annex 3]
- Dr Tan See Seng
Deputy Director, IDSS; Head, Centre for Multilateralism Studies
- Dr Rajesh Basrur
Professor of International Relations
Coordinator, South Asia Programme, IDSS; Coordinator of M.Sc. (International Relations) Programme
- Dr Li Mingjiang
Coordinator, China Programme, IDSS
- Mr Richard A. Bitzinger
Coordinator, Military Transformations Programme, IDSS
- Ms Jane Chan Git Yin
Coordinator, Maritime Security Programme, IDSS
- Mr Kalyan M. Kemburi
Associate Research Fellow
Military Transformations Programme, IDSS
- Li Mingjiang and Kalyan Kemburi, eds., Contending for Asia: New Dynamics in US-China Relations, Routledge, June 2014
- Li Mingjiang and Kalyan Kemburi, eds, Growth of China’s Power and Changing Security Dynamics in Asia, Routledge, July 2014
- Geoffrey Till and Jane Chan, eds, South Asian Maritime Security: Connected Waters, Distinct Challenges (forthcoming)
- Geoffrey Till, ed., Exploring Asia’s Evolving Maritime Security Environment (forthcoming)
- Richard Bitzinger, ed., Emerging Critical Technologies and their Potential Impact on Asia-Pacific Security, Palgrave (forthcoming)
RSIS Policy Briefs
- Rajesh Basrur, India and China: Nuclear Rivalry in the Making?
- Vinod Kumar Bhatia, Airpower Across the Himalayas: A Military Appreciation of Chinese and Indian Air Forces
- Bhumitra Chakma, Pakistan: Whither Minimum Deterrence
- Irene Chan and Katz Daniel Hyatt, Growth of China Power and Implications for Asia in the 21st century.
- Irene Chan, Chinese Perspectives on Cooperative Security in Asia.
- Manabrata Guha, Indian Strategic-Military Transformation: Revolutionary in Nature, Evolutionary in Character.
- Andrew James, Emerging Technologies and Military Capability.
- You Ji, Deciphering Beijing’s Maritime Security Policy and Strategy in Managing Sovereignty Disputes in the China Seas.
- Jaganath Sankaran, The Tactical Reach and Requirement of the Indian Navy.
- Martin Lundmark, Acquiring and Absorbing New Military Capabilities: Technology Policy and Partnering.
- Bronson Percival, China, India and the United States: Tempered Rivalries in Asia
- Raviprasad Narayan, China and India: A Sisyphean bilateral?
Last updated on 25/07/2014