War in East Asia? – University of Copenhagen

ADI Conference 2018 > Panels > War in East Asia?

10th Annual International ADI Conference
Asian Dynamics Initiative, University of Copenhagen
18-20 June 2018    


War in East Asia? The Role of China and the United States

Conveners: Bertel Heurlin, Dept. of Political Science, University of Copenhagen and Ji You, Professor at the Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Macau

The concept East Asian Peace has been generally accepted as a phenomenon since the cold war. The last few years have, however, exhibited a region where war preparation is openly demonstrated. China is now aiming at a world class military. Most of China’s neighbours especially the two Koreas and Japan are strengthening their armed forces. The United States are still conducting their Freedom of Navigation Operations in the seas around China. China and the US are heavy competitors in Asia. Will the East Asian Peace survive or will we see war – and if so what kind of war?

The panel will aim at examining on the one hand diverging strategic interests and intentions for waging war and on the other hand the fundamental constraining forces pointing toward war avoidance, in other words maintaining the East Asian Peace among the East Asian countries, including the US which due to its influence could be considered an Asian/Pacific country. The core of the region’s strategic position consists of two countries: China as the regional power and the US as the global power. What are their roles in maintaining peace – i.e. avoiding nuclear as well as conventional and non-conventional war – in relation to their strategies and capabilities?

20 June 2018
Panel session: War in East Asia? The role of China and the United states

Room: 35.3.20
13:45-15:45 Xiangfeng Yang, Yonsei University
To Lead or to Heed? China’s Awkward Position on the Korean Peninsula
Biswajit Mohapatra, North-Eastern Hill University
China and the Emerging Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific
Bertel Heurlin, University of Copenhagen
Capabilities and Intentions. The American and Chinese Military compared
You Ji, University of Macau
In the Shadow of Armed Confrontation: Security Challenges to China in 2017/2018


Xiangfeng Yang, PhD, Yonsei University
To Lead or to Heed? China’s Awkward Position on the Korean Peninsula

In tackling the deteriorating North Korean crisis, President Trump has been banking on his trademark flattery and war talk to push President Xi Jinping to rein in Kim Jong Un. Expecting Beijing to “solve” the problem is unrealistic, however. Much as Chinese thinking on North Korea, as reflected in policy positions and domestic debates, has been marred by inconsistencies and over-caution, it is now further complicated by the intensifying geopolitical competition with the United States that also embroils South Korea. Beijing is now strenuously walking a fine line between pressing Pyongyang without breaking it and mollifying Washington while watching its back, particularly on Taiwan and the South China Sea. All things considered, a better course of action for the Trump administration is to adopt the deterrence strategy while using its leverage to obtain Beijing’s cooperation and assistance in the influence operations aimed at weakening the North Korean regime from the inside. 

Biswajit Mohapatra,
PhD, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, Meghalaya           
China and the Emerging Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific

It is being said that the US military presence over the last seventy years, the Asia Pacific region ,spread over the Indian Ocean, through the South and East China Seas, and out to the Pacific Ocean,  has  been primarily responsible  for the absence of any military conflict and has been able to maintain its regional peace, stability, and security. This fact has also ensured huge prosperity and economic growth across the region benefitting the countries across due to the unhindered flow of resources and trade across the Oceanic route. The sea lanes of Asia-Pacific, as such has been of great strategic importance for global trade, as not only eight of the world’s ten busiest container ports are located in the region, and also about   30 percent of the world’s maritime trade passes through the South China Sea every year, including approximately ship-borne trade worth $1.2 trillion for the United States. However in the recent past, when one analyzes the maritime security environment, one gets to see that the much claimed security environment is now in a flux due to rapid economic and military modernization and growing resource demands being made by China and its assertiveness to expand its maritime presence in the region through its sovereign claims over South China Sea, which has in a way invited strong objection by the other regional claimants like Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Such ventures are fraught with great security risks and instability as the East and South China Seas, in the past, have been the reasons for escalating territorial disputes between China and its neighbours, including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Any rising of tension, is said to have the potential for long drawn armed conflict, which will only make the prosperous countries economically poor and also destabilize the existing security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Further though the strategic community feels that China’s emergence as a regional power certainly poses a daunting challenge for the Asia Pacific maritime order, the Chinese claim that the case of a Chinese military threat to the security of the region is a mistake as China's policy in the region is for its own development and modernization. Despite such claims, China's rise and increasing assertiveness needs to be analyzed as any such move may continue to strain the existing security architecture and complicate it much further, should the US withdraw due to its declining military and economic stature in the world today. Since the regional security has been largely based upon the network of bilateral security alliances led by the United States, and there is the imminent rise of China as a regional military power, my paper is aimed at  finding out whether the region indeed  is likely to face a wide spectrum of threats  due to conflicting claims over South China Sea and if  some kind of  a multilayered security architecture can be evolved for the long term security of the region in keeping with Asia Pacific region's diversity and the distinctively Asian way of resolving the disputes  amongst themselves.

Bertel Heurlin,
Professor, University of Copenhagen
Capabilities and Intentions. The American and Chinese Military compared

The United States is currently releasing one official assessment after the other relating to vital parts of its security and defence policy.  After a year of internal negotiations the Trump administration published a series of white papers on how the United States assesses its position in world politics. After the national security strategy Pentagon published its defense policy followed by the Nuclear posture review. Around the same time the National Intelligence Agency released its threat analysis. Trump delivered his State of the Union in January. The common message could be summarized in this way:  China is generally assessed as a competitor, militarily seen as an opponent.

China released its military strategy in 2015, and since it has set off a fundamental transformation of PLA in connection with some very demonstrative and expressive displays of its military forces and capabilities be it via exercises or impressive parades, all illustrating a military force ready to fight and win wars.

But how to compare the two mighty militaries based on qualitative and quantitative measurement of military capabilities and intentions? After a brief overview of current scholarly and professional comparisons  the main content of the paper encompasses an attempt to present a rather brief and reliable comparison trying  in the end to combine capabilities and intentions. The analysis includes a rather simple way of measuring capabilities- using professor Ken Waltz neorealist model- and of assessing intentions  – using concepts from threat theories applied on the current official strategies.

You Ji, Professor Department of Government, University of Macau
In the Shadow of Armed Confrontation: Security Challenges to China in 2017/2018