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6th Security Seminar with China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS)

The Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) received a delegation from the China Institute for Security Policy (CIISS), led by a Vice-President, Maj. Gen. Zhu Da, visiting Geneva and Switzerland for the 6th Joint Security Seminar between the two institutions, on the week of 31 August.

The 6th Joint Security Seminar offered a new opportunity for the two institutions to exchange candid views and increase understanding on the most prominent security issues in a very friendly atmosphere. GCSP-CIISS have partnered for several years in the various fields of dialogue promotion, training and analysis.

In addition to the seminar, the delegation also paid a visit to the Head of the Security Policy at the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport in Berne, Ambassador Christian Catrina.

GCSP and CIISS discussed the evolving Asia-Pacific challenges in light of the “Asian paradox” of impressive economic development and growing potential for conflict. Against a backdrop of increasing China-U.S. competition, the participants pointed to the major security concerns, from the Korean Peninsula to Taiwan and the territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, not to mention such non-traditional threats as natural disasters, pandemics and terrorism.

Furthermore, new factors driving power shifts in the Asia-Pacific were considered, in particular the ambitious policies of Japan, India and Russia, along with more profound dynamics, namely the rise of China and the rebalancing of the U.S. Much debated questions were, on the one hand, whether China’s rise is to be perceived as an economic opportunity only, or, in parallel, as a potential security threat, and, on the other hand, whether the U.S. rebalance is a cause for stability and security or a factor for insecurity and instability in the region.

Another correlated issue, indeed the most fundamental one, is how the interaction between China and the U.S. is developing in the context of China’s rise. Whereas China says it will not challenge U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific, which means in particular that it does not want to trigger a war against the U.S. for leadership in the region, it also underlines that the U.S. must accommodate with China’s rise: what accommodation means for either side is an open question. But there is no doubt that China’s rising power makes it more sensitive to what it perceives its “legitimate interests” and how to support and defend them.

The territorial disputes in the China Seas exemplify this ambiguity between what is considered as enforcement of sovereignty rights and what is perceived as territorial expansion. Another related question is whether the U.S. intends to prevent by any means any power, in particular China, from challenging it and potentially replacing it, as the offensive realist school advocates and some Chinese experts claim as well.

Another discussion turned around the notion of status quo: are calls to support the status quo in Asia-Pacific a means to consolidate the current power balance in the region and oppose adjustments suggested by the current power shifts, or is it a way to sustain stability in the region ?

The participants also addressed the new concept of Chinese diplomacy, whereby neighbourhood has gained more importance for the Chinese leadership, as well as such notions as the protection of “legitimate interests”. Besides, participants discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula in the aftermath of renewed tensions between the two sides and against the backdrop of absence of progress on the nuclear issue.

Furthermore, participants shared contrasting views on the security situation in Europe in the context of the Russian intervention in Ukraine and the crisis between Russia and the West, on the one hand, and on the implications of this crisis for the new “strategic partnership” between Russia and China, on the other.

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