Beyond the Chinese Monroe doctrine

But bilateralism alone will not suffice. China should remember that ASEAN — or the closely-related East Asia Summit — has the responsibility of reducing tensions and addressing threats to regional stability as a whole, and nothing challenges regional stability more at this point than the SCS dispute.

Beyond the Chinese Monroe doctrine


Author: Amitav Acharya, American University

The escalating regional tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS) have revived two crucial questions facing Asia’s strategic future: whether China is pursuing a ‘Monroe Doctrine’ over its neighbourhood, including the SCS area; and how far China’s neighbours can go in acquiescing to its rising power.

The Monroe Doctrine was first enunciated in 1823 by then-US President James Monroe as the policy of a rising US forbidding European powers to either colonise or interfere in the affairs of states in the Western Hemisphere. The essence of the Monroe Doctrine was to deny the Latin American and Caribbean region to European powers, and establish US regional hegemony.

Some see parallels between that policy and China’s rise today. The SCS is China’s backyard and, like 19th century-America, China is a rising power.

In his 2001 book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, John Mearsheimer argued: ‘A wealthy China would not be a status quo power but an aggressive state determined to achieve regional hegemony’. Chinese military modernisation appears to be headed exactly in such a direction, developing what military analysts term ‘anti-access, area denial’ capability. In March 2010, the Commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Robert Willard, warned: ‘China’s rapid and comprehensive transformation of its armed forces … challenge our freedom of action in the region,’ and ‘potentially infringe on their [US allies’] freedom of action’.

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Danger of new autocrats underestimated

The new autocrats’ priority is political control: A person prepared to acknowledge the ruling group’s supremacy and follow its directives is allowed a certain amount of autonomy to operate. “Loyalists are rewarded, enemies are punished, the neutral are neglected or casually abused,” says the report…

On Cambodia, Kurlantzick writes, “members of China’s Communist Party have advised Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party on how to use laws for libel and defamation to scare the independent media, create a network of senior officials who can control major companies, and instill loyalty in special police and bodyguard forces.”

Dec. 14, 2011

Danger of new autocrats underestimated

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth

Two years ago, I presented in this space a June 2009 posting in Foreign Policy Online titled “Authoritarianism’s New Wave,” about a “new class of autocrats” and their “most serious challenge” to the rules of law, human rights, and open expression. The piece was jointly written by Jennifer Windsor, Jeffrey Gedmin and Libby Liu, of Freedom House, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Free Asia, respectively.

The three organizations also published a report, “Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians,” on the strategies and methods of five countries — China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela — “to impede human rights and democratic development” within and beyond their borders.

The report asserted “advocates for freedom” — democrats in those countries — receive little attention and few resources from the democratic world because the systems that persecute them “are poorly understood” and that Western “policymakers do not appear to appreciate the dangers these 21st century models pose to democracy and rule of law around the world.”

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