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China’s military diplomacy in Southeast Asia

The given article highlights the context of China’s military diplomacy in Southeast Asia and its global security initiative in Southeast Asia, particularly focusing on its relations with ASEAN countries. 

What is the context?

China’s expanding military presence in Southeast Asia is primarily driven by its geopolitical competition with the United States and its regional security interests. President Xi Jinping’s ongoing reform process has propelled the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to engage in global activities and influence campaigns, with military diplomacy emerging as a crucial component of China’s foreign policy. Among its priorities, the PLA aims to establish stronger ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through its military outreach efforts.

Current Activities of the PLA:

The PLA has recently concluded the Friendship Shield 2023 bilateral military exercise with the Laotian People’s Armed Forces (LPAF), aiming to counter transnational armed criminal groups. Additionally, joint military exercises focused on anti-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and mine clearance operations have taken place with Cambodia, Singapore, and Laos.

China’s Global Security Initiative (GSI):

The GSI is a foreign policy concept proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2022. It advocates for a fresh approach to global security based on principles such as common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security. The GSI rejects the notion of a zero-sum game in security and emphasizes the need for cooperation and dialogue to address shared challenges.

The GSI has received mixed reactions from different countries. Some countries view it as a positive step towards a more cooperative and inclusive approach to global security. However, others remain skeptical, perceiving the GSI as a means for China to promote its own interests and values.

While the GSI is still in its early stages, its implementation and impact on global security remain to be seen. Nevertheless, China regards the GSI as a crucial element of its foreign policy and anticipates that it will play a significant role in shaping the future of global security.

Key Principles of the GSI:

The GSI encompasses five key principles:

  1. Upholding the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security: This principle advocates for shared responsibility among countries to address common security challenges.
  2. Adhering to the principle of indivisible security: This principle highlights that the security of one country should not come at the expense of another country’s security.
  3. Building a balanced, effective, and sustainable security architecture: This principle calls for a fair and equitable global security system capable of effectively addressing the security challenges of the 21st century.
  4. Promoting dialogue and cooperation on security issues: This principle emphasizes the necessity for countries to collaborate in resolving their differences peacefully and addressing common security challenges.
  5. Resolutely opposing hegemonism and power politics: This principle emphasizes that countries should not employ their power to intimidate or bully others, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.

The GSI has garnered praise from some countries due to its emphasis on cooperation and dialogue. However, others criticize it for being too vague and lacking concrete solutions to the security challenges of the modern era. The implementation and impact of the GSI on global security remain uncertain.

ASEAN’s Response to China’s Global Security Initiative (GSI):

ASEAN’s response to the GSI reflects divergent stances among its member countries regarding alignment with China or the United States. While some ASEAN countries cautiously embrace the GSI, others express skepticism. Confidence levels vary across countries, with Cambodia and Brunei displaying higher levels of confidence compared to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Complex Dynamics in ASEAN-China Relations:

Countries like Indonesia appreciate China’s investments in infrastructure projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative. Vietnam, despite harboring some mistrust, maintains a relatively neutral stance due to cautious bilateral relations. Myanmar, despite its skepticism, is experiencing increasing political, military, and economic influence from China.

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