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Past Event

Private discussion on New Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Japanese and Indian Views

It is a challenge to influence China’s attitude and affect change while keeping it engaged within the international system.

Brookings India hosted a private roundtable discussion on New Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Japanese and Indian Views, featuring Ambassador Shingo Yamagami, Director-General of the Japan Institute of International Affairs. A career diplomat, Mr. Yamagami was previously Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The discussion was moderated by Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow for Foreign Policy at Brookings India.

The discussion included an overview of some of the strategic developments in the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and East China Sea, an open conversation on some of the implications for India and Japan, and a sharing of views on possible areas of convergence and cooperation between the two countries.

In the past few years we have seen an escalation of tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea with tensions ratcheting between China and countries such as Japan, Vietnam, and Philippines. In the South China Sea, the maritime prowess of the smaller countries has been dwarfed by Chinese incursions. The challenge is to influence China’s attitude and affect change while keeping it engaged within the international system. Unlike Soviet Russia during the Cold War, China is economically intertwined with countries big and small, including the Japan, U.S., Australia, India etc. and therefore cannot be isolated.  Actions by individual countries are unlikely to have any effect on Chinese attitudes. Only a coalition of like-minded countries with a common, coherent approach can hope to affect a change. The verdict of the arbitration between the Philippines and China to be released by the Permanent Court on July 12 will be critical in determining countries’ responses to Chinese claims. Ideally countries should be working together on a common reaction to the verdict.

Countries’ reticence on China stems from several issues with the Chinese leadership. Opacity in decision-making by the Chinese hampers trust and makes it difficult to engage on policy issues. China is often seen behaving in ways that do not correspond to the status quo, whether it is with regards to India or the South China Sea. China has also not been respectful of international norms as in the case of South China Sea and its proliferation record with Pakistan. The economic imbalance between China and the rest of the world, and the hostile trade environment in terms of dumping of goods, countervailing duties has also been a concern. Therefore, a more transparent and status quo- friendly China that respects international norms and rules would be in everybody’s interests. To this end, it is important for the Chinese leadership to understand that world powers are not trying to reverse or contain China’s rise but want it to abide by the international rules and norms. This can only be achieved by all countries articulating their positions in one voice and taking a common stand on issues of importance.

Like other products of the Brookings Institution India Center, this report is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues. The views are those of the author.

Event Announcement

Brookings India is hosting a private discussion on developments and competition in the Indo-Pacific. The discussion will feature Ambassador Shingo Yamagami, Director-General of the Japan Institute of International Affairs. A career diplomat, Mr. Yamagami was previously Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The discussion will feature an overview of some of the strategic developments in the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and East China Sea, an open conversation on some of the implications for India and Japan, and a sharing of views on possible areas of convergence and cooperation between the two countries.

Moderator: Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings India

Discussant: Shingo Yamagami, Director-General, The Japan Institute of International Affairs

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