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On GeopoliticsJun 24, 2020 | 19:11 GMT
An Indian fighter jet flies over a mountain range near the disputed territory of Ladakh on June 23, 2020.
A Border Clash Portends a New Indian Strategy of Less Talk, More Action Against China
Following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strong condemnation of Chinese actions at the Line of Actual (LAC) control, India is poised for a significant strategy shift in how it manages its contested border with China. The June 15 clash in the long-disputed territory of Ladakh, which marked the first time Indian troops have died at the hands of Chinese forces since 1975, has highlighted India's failure to dissuade China from attempting to permanently alter the balance of power along the border via diplomatic and confidence-building measures. This has left New Delhi more likely to pursue more confrontational options, which will undoubtedly have its risks, though India's battle-tested military may find such an escalation to its short-term advantage. 
AssessmentsJul 31, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
A garment worker prepares shirts for shipment in a factory in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 24, 2019.
Vietnam's Balance Between Great Powers May Start Skewing West
For the past two decades, Vietnam has leveraged its strategic location as the gateway to Indochina to become one of the biggest success stories in the Asia-Pacific. This position has allowed it to largely remain neutral among great power competitions over the years, which continues to serve to its benefit today as now the top export "safe haven" from the U.S.-China trade war. This, however, has come at the cost of ramping up its trade deficit with the United States, which has threatened to retaliate should Hanoi not increase its purchases of American goods and services -- a warning the U.S. trade representative reiterated on July 29, noting the "host of unfair trade barriers" that U.S. businesses face upon entering the Vietnamese market. Desperate to avoid coming under the siege of a trade salvo, Vietnam has used every opportunity to remind Washington of its value as a foil to China. Such words, however, hold only
AssessmentsJun 24, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
European leaders pose during the launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), a pact bringing together 25 EU governments to jointly fund, develop and deploy armed forces.
Europe's Finally Upping Its Defense Spending, and U.S. Companies Want in
The United States has continued to call on its European allies to increase their defense spending in recent years, expressing the need to create a stronger Western military alliance. And recently, the European Union has taken efforts to do just that by developing a new military initiative, called the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), along with a multi-billion European Defense Fund (EDF). But these programs aren't exactly what Washington had in mind. While the United States may be getting what it asked for in regards to a stronger European military force, it's also one that's specifically designed to be less reliant on U.S. defense exports -- which Washington hasn't taken so kindly to. On June 17, a top Pentagon official warned that the U.S. government could go so far as to limit European companies' access to the U.S. defense market, should the European Union continue to inhibit its involvement in programs
On GeopoliticsMay 30, 2019 | 05:30 GMT
A print depicting U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arriving in Japan in 1853.
The Contradictory Nature of U.S.-Japan Relations
U.S. President Donald Trump's Memorial Day weekend visit to Japan serves as a reminder of the complex relationship between the United States and Japan. In addition to ceremonial events, meeting the new emperor and visiting U.S. military personnel, Trump held discussions with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about trade frictions (driven by the United States' nearly $68 billion trade deficit with Japan) and regional security concerns ranging from North Korea to China to Iran. This contrast between bilateral trade competition and mutual security cooperation in many ways exemplifies the modern U.S.-Japan relationship.
AssessmentsApr 22, 2018 | 14:26 GMT
A Harvard education, and the prestige that goes with it, has made the elite U.S. university a favorite of wealthy foreign elites.
Schooling the Elite: Education as an Unconventional Tool of Political Influence
At Stratfor, we aim to provide impartial geopolitical analysis and forecasts. More often than not, this means withholding our emotions as we focus on the underlying compulsions and constraints with which global actors must grapple. In a sense, the individual performs a reduced role in the much larger game playing out on the world stage. In some affairs of state, however, individuals can drive policy. In such situations, outcomes might depend heavily on the emotional decisions of individuals, particularly when short-term interests motivate these figures. And given that people are emotional creatures who develop affinities and aversions based on their formative years, many powerful governments place great emphasis on ensuring that the ruling elites of other countries study in their countries, fighting silent battles to entice them to come as part of a far-sighted competition for influence.
AssessmentsJan 1, 2018 | 16:49 GMT
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) and his wife look on during a ceremony at the Olympic national stadium in Phnom Penh on July 17, 2017.
Cambodia's Strongman Builds Political Muscle
After over three decades in power, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is pulling out all the stops to stay there. On Dec. 26, the longtime leader vowed to keep his post for another decade, an ambition that may not be as far-fetched as it seems. The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) currently controls the country's military, heavily influences the courts and maintains a robust patronage network. Moreover, the party has recently begun to prune its biggest rival from the political system, effectively resulting in a one-party state. As Cambodia prepares to hold nationwide elections in July, the ruling party appears to be on track to extend its enduring reign. But the CPP's ongoing struggle against its opponents over the past few years is symptomatic of the deeper demographic and economic challenges that will continue to dog the embattled party for years to come.
On GeopoliticsOct 31, 2017 | 08:30 GMT
The geopolitical circumstances that long struck theorists in and outside China as a hindrance are now proving to be an opportunity for the Middle Kingdom.
China Takes an Expansionist View of Geopolitics
Former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski managed to capture thousands of years of Chinese history in under 10 words. In his seminal work, The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski characterized China's geopolitics through the ages as "cycles of reunifications and expansions, followed by decay and fragmentations." The assessment gets at the heart of the the country's recurring struggle to unify an insurmountably vast landmass under a centralized authority -- a struggle that continues to this day. Nearly 70 years after its most recent unification, following more than two centuries of decay and five decades of fragmentation, China is now on the verge of another period of expansion. And as its influence on the global stage increases, China will have to adapt to a new view of geopolitics.
AssessmentsJun 16, 2017 | 21:46 GMT
For Djibouti, It's All About Location
For Djibouti, It's All About Location
The tiny East African country of Djibouti has learned how to make money off its location. On June 27, Djibouti will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its independence, and it has experienced profound change since it was called first French Somalia, then the French Territory of Afars and the Issas. After its independence from France, Djibouti grappled with internal ethnic cleavages and a volatile region. But the secret to Djibouti's continued global importance and its success in recent decades lies in its strategic position on the Bab el-Mandeb strait and its status as the lone entry and exit point for its dynamic neighbor, Ethiopia.
AssessmentsMay 18, 2017 | 23:18 GMT
To sustain their economic growth, the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must build infrastructure to bridge their divides -- a need that fits neatly with China's ambitions in the region through the Belt and Road Initiative.
Southeast Asia: A Notch in China's Belt and Road Initiative
Southeast Asia is the pivot of China's sprawling 65-nation Belt and Road Initiative. The region's growing markets, numerous manufacturing hubs and abundant natural resources offer Beijing a wealth of economic opportunities. But its greater value to China is rooted in geopolitics. As the country's economy has exploded in recent decades, it has come to rely on external trade routes. Today, one of Beijing's top priorities is protecting these routes from foreign interdiction, especially in the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca. The chief goal behind China's Belt and Road Initiative is twofold: To establish secure sea routes from its coast to the Mediterranean Sea and to create alternative supply routes overland to ensure its continued access to foreign markets in the event of a maritime cutoff. Southeast Asia serves each of these ends. China's success in achieving its objectives in Southeast Asia, however, will depend in large part on the
On GeopoliticsNov 15, 2016 | 08:00 GMT
Geopolitics Foreign Policy President Donald Trump
A Simple Tool for Understanding the Trump Presidency
We hear all the time about how the world "should" work. Self-proclaimed liberals and conservatives, Keynesians and Reaganites, humanists and hawks, globalists and nationalists have crammed the airwaves and filled our Twitter feeds with policy prescriptions, promoting their worldview while scorning others'. But after the emotionally charged year this has been, I suspect many people are growing weary of big theories and cursory character assassinations. Instead, it may be time to replace the pedantry with something more fundamental -- and less divisive -- in which to ground our thoughts and make sense of the world. Rather than focusing on what should happen, perhaps we would do better to turn our attention to what will happen. And in this, geopolitics can come in handy. It is a deceptively simple tool, one that won't bury you in academic pretension or require a fancy algorithm to model. But its simplicity doesn't make it any
ReflectionsOct 14, 2016 | 00:45 GMT
Thailand Embarks on a New Era
Thailand Embarks on a New Era
Thailand is entering a new chapter in its history. The country's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej died Thursday after a long battle with illness, ending his 70-year reign as the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty and opening a new era of profound uncertainty for Thailand. During his time on the throne, King Bhumibol witnessed the development of modern-day Thailand and the emergence of Southeast Asia from the tumult of the Cold War. He wielded power sparingly, focusing primarily on preserving the delicate balance of power among the monarchy, the military and the political classes. In doing so, the king managed to maintain his popularity and sway -- and that of the Chakri dynasty -- in his country, even as royal families across the globe saw their own influence wane. It would be difficult to overestimate the place King Bhumibol holds in the modern Thai psyche.
AssessmentsMay 4, 2016 | 09:31 GMT
China and Japan Compete for Southeast Asia's Railways
China and Japan Compete for Southeast Asia's Railways
China and Japan's competition for commercial influence in Southeast Asia is heating up, and this time their rivalry has centered on the Malay Peninsula. In the coming months, Singapore and Malaysia are expected to move forward on a joint high-speed rail project that will connect five cities between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The 350-kilometer (about 217-mile) line is a key part of the geographically fragmented region's broader integration goals and, like other a number of other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia, a priority for both Tokyo and Beijing. China is hoping to use its vast capital reserves, high risk tolerance and strategic investments in the region to turn the project into part of a 1,700-kilometer, pan-Asian rail network connecting Singapore to Kunming, China. But Japan has its own plans for the railway's future. Tokyo is seeking to leverage its superior rail technologies, substantial foreign aid packages and deep commercial ties with
AssessmentsApr 11, 2016 | 09:15 GMT
A son waits while his father fishes in their family's rice field outside the Laotian capital Vientiane, near the Mekong River, on March 27, 2010. Severe droughts have depleted the river waters to historic lows, leaving rice fields dry and unproductive.
The Political Ebb and Flow of the Mekong River
The Mekong River of mainland Southeast Asia provides water in six different countries for agriculture, trade and millions of people. But the Mekong region is in a severe drought, in part because of El Nino weather patterns. As stress on diminishing water resources increases, it will be difficult for Southeast Asia, already geographically and ethnically fractured, to foster cooperation. Yet the drought also carries opportunity for the overarching competitions in the region. Beijing is moving overland, expanding its economic trade routes and supply lines. The Mekong River is one aspect of this broader strategy. And amid a drought, China could use its influence over the control and release of water to gain concessions in other regional battles.
AssessmentsFeb 17, 2016 | 09:30 GMT
In Cambodia, Geopolitics Weakens a Strongman
On the periphery of China and India and at the nexus of major world trade routes, Southeast Asian states have always had to adapt to the movements of stronger regional and global powers. None are more abjectly dependent on the fortunes of geopolitical change than the oft-forgotten western province of what was once colonial French Indochina -- Cambodia. Since its inception, the country has been wracked by internal conflict and jostled by competition among its more powerful neighbors: Thailand, Vietnam and China.Now the regional order is being challenged once again.
AssessmentsFeb 14, 2016 | 14:04 GMT
Fall of Singapore
The Beginning of the End of the British Empire
On Jan. 31, 1942, Allied engineers blew a hole in the causeway linking the island city of Singapore to the Malay Peninsula, hoping to slow the advance of Japanese Imperial troops down the coastline. The blast resounded throughout the city. As the story goes, 19-year-old university student and future prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew was walking across campus at that moment. When his British headmaster, passing by, asked what the sound was, Lee responded, "That is the end of the British Empire." Japanese troops landed on the beaches eight days later, and Singapore was hopelessly surrounded. On Feb. 15, British forces were forced to surrender. Before the astonishing defeat, the loss of Singapore was unthinkable for Britain. Winston Churchill had called Singapore the "Gibraltar of the East," an impregnable fortress at the heart of the empire. Japan's surprise victory shook that empire and marked the start of an epochal
AssessmentsDec 22, 2015 | 09:15 GMT
How Thailand Hopes to Capitalize on Its Neighbors' Success
To leverage its waning preeminent position on mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand is trying to push outward to harness the growth of other Southeast Asian countries for its own benefit. Still, the pace of progress in the Dawei special economic zone with Myanmar -- and in Thailand's other zones in the region -- will be subject to numerous global and domestic conditions.
AssessmentsJun 24, 2015 | 09:15 GMT
A Chinese engineer supervises workers building a bridge over a river near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
The Grand Design of China's New Trade Routes
The strategy behind the Belt and Road Initiative is to diversify transit lines, thereby mitigating China's vulnerability to external economic disruption and reinvigorating China's slowing economy. China's ideal would be to link its inland cities to global markets with a diversified network of transit routes and energy pipelines, many of which would take inland routes and serve as alternatives to existing sea-lanes. The name of the initiative, "One Belt and One Road," is slightly misleading; this will not be a single overland road coupled with a single maritime route. The initiative envisions six corridors across Eurasia, many of which will mix land and maritime components.
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