Over the last two decades, China has become more engaged internationally, including in conflict zones and fragile states of strategic interest to the United States. From civil wars in neighboring countries, such as Afghanistan and Burma, to more distant conflicts in Africa, China has a substantial influence on local, regional, and international efforts to reduce violent conflict. Meanwhile, a shifting international order and the return of competition among powerful states has raised the potential for geopolitical rivalries to exacerbate conflicts—or, with the right frameworks, serve as areas of constructive cooperation between Washington and Beijing.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in China.
Earlier this month Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his first foreign trip since the coronavirus outbreak, joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The summit was Xi’s first in-person opportunity to win support outside of China’s borders for his new Global Security Initiative (GSI), which he launched in April. While the GSI remains notional and somewhat vague, Xi is on the offensive, seeking to position his vision of a new global security architecture as an alternative to the Western-led security order. In an era of heightened strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing, Xi’s GSI campaign could amount to yet another challenge to the U.S.-China relationship and the two countries’ ability to peacefully manage differences.
Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party has taken steps to assert more influence over the international legal system and to shape the global legal environment to better serve its political and economic objectives. This report examines the potential ramifications of China’s assertive use of new legal tools for US interests and international stability, and discusses several options that the United States and its partners can pursue to bolster the rules-based order that underpins global stability and cooperation.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) resumed in-person summits last week in the wake of the COVID pandemic and at a moment of unprecedent change and challenge. Member states Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are at war over their border. So are dialogue partner states Armenia and Azerbaijan. All SCO members are dealing with the economic impact of the Russian war in Ukraine as well as climate disruptions like the floods overwhelming Pakistan. Mistrust between India and Pakistan, full members since 2017, make cooperation difficult on the SCO’s original core mission of counterterrorism. And India and China, which were building toward the “Wuhan spirit” of cooperation when India joined in 2017, are hardly on speaking terms despite recent progress toward deescalating a friction point along their disputed Line of Actual Control.
Over the last decade, China has become more engaged internationally, including in conflict zones and fragile states of strategic interest to the United States. From civil wars in neighboring countries, such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, to more distant conflicts in Africa, China is becoming an increasingly important player in regional and international efforts to mitigate conflict. In countries where China exerts a strong influence, its engagement can have a substantial impact on local and international efforts to curb violence and extremism.
Much of the research that has been conducted on the impact of China’s economic engagement with Africa has focused on their economic exchanges and security engagements in isolation of one another. But few have sought to understand the interconnections between these themes. These interconnections matter, as some Chinese firms are responsible for environmental degradation, population displacement, corruption and illegal extraction activities — all of which are factors that can drive conflict.
In today’s era of strategic competition between the United States and China, crises are more likely than ever in the Indo-Pacific region. Effective mechanisms are therefore needed to prevent such crises from escalating into armed conflict. To this end, USIP is examining crisis communication mechanisms and negotiations between China and its regional neighbors to identify common issues and themes across countries to provide lessons that can be learned and shared.