Vol 21, No 2 (2021): Intensifying U.S. — Сhina Strategic Rivalry and the Transformation of the Global Order

THEMATIC DOSSIER
In This Issue
Grachikov E.N., Korolev A.
Abstract

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Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):207-209
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U.S. - China: “Power Transition” and the Outlines of “Conflict Bipolarity”
Degterev D.A., Ramich M.S., Tsvyk A.V.
Abstract

This article focuses on the phenomenon of global rivalry between China and the United States in terms of power transition theory, which is scientifically new and relevant due to the increased attention to the so-called “Thucydides trap”, in which, as some experts claim, both states have fallen. This paper presents a different vision of the global rivalry for leadership in the shaping of a new world order, which has already taken the form of overt non-violent confrontation and manifests itself in technological and trade wars as well as scientific and cultural rivalries. Nevertheless, despite the non-violent nature of the rivalry, this process is followed by an increase in the military capabilities of states, mainly projected in the basins of the Pacific and Indian Oceans (Indo-Pacific region). The methodological basis of the paper is ‘power transition’ theory, which has been developed over the past 60 years by A.F. Organsky, J. Kugler, D. Lemke, R. Tammen and other researchers, united in the TransResearch Consortium. The authors argue that the analytical prism of this theory is more relevant to the analysis of current global rivalry than the classical neorealist balance of power approach. Through the prism of the theory the issues of rebalancing the global system of economic governance are analyzed. Also, a comparative analysis of the US-Japanese and US-Chinese trade and technological wars is carried out. Both the military and aggregate capabilities of two countries on a global scale and in the Indo-Pacific region are examined. The conclusion contains findings and comments on the impact of U.S. - China rivalry on the system of international relations.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):210-231
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Why Thucydides’ Trap Misinforms Sino-American Relations
Chan S.
Abstract

“Thucydides’ Trap” has become a familiar term in scholarly and even popular discourse on Sino-American relations. It points to the ancient rivalry between Athens and Sparta as an analogy for contemporary relations between China and the United States. This analogy warns about the increased danger of war when a rising power catches up to an established power. This essay raises concerns about (mis)application of historical analogy, selection bias, measurement problems, underspecified causal mechanisms, and so on that undermine the validity of the diagnosis and prognosis inspired by this analogy and other similar works. My objection to this genre of scholarship does not exclude the possibility that China and the U.S. can have a serious conflict. I only argue that this conflict can stem from sources other than any power shift between them or in addition to such a shift. By overlooking other plausible factors that can contribute to war occurrence, a monocausal explanation such as Thucydides’ Trap obscures rather than clarifies this phenomenon. Because it lends itself to a sensationalist, even alarmist, characterization of a rising China and a declining U.S. (when the latter in fact continues to enjoy important enduring advantages over the former), this perspective can abet views and feelings that engender self-fulfilling prophecy. Finally, as with other structural theories of interstate relations, Thucydides’ Trap and other similar formulations like power-transition theory tend to give short shrift to human agency, including people’s ability to learn from the past and therefore to escape from the mistakes of their predecessors.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):232-242
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Prelude to America’s Downfall: The Stagflation of the 1970s
Fouskas V.K.
Abstract

Since the end of the Bretton Woods system and the stagflation of the 1970s, the transatlantic core, under the leadership of the United States of America, has been trying to expand its model of free market capitalism embracing every part of the globe, while addressing its domestic overaccumulation crisis. This article follows a historical methodological perspective and draws from the concept of Uneven and Combined Development (UCD), which helps us consider the structural reasons behind the long and protracted decline of the American economic power. In this respect, according to the UCD concept, there is no global power that can enjoy the privilege for being at the top of the global capitalist system forever in a world which develops unevenly and in a combined way. Power shifts across the world and new powers come to challenge the current hegemonic power and its alliance systems. The novelty of the article is that it locates this decline in the 1970s and considers it as being consubstantial with the state economic policy of neo-liberalism and financialisation (supply-side economics). However the financialised capitalism of the transatlantic assemblage lack industrial base producing, reproducing and recycling real commodity values. Further, the article shows that this attempt to remain at the top of the global capitalist system forever has not been successful, not least because the regime which the recovery of the core had rested upon, that of neo-liberal financialisation represents a major vulnerability of the transatlantic assemblage eroding the primacy of the United States of America in it.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):243-251
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Neither a New Cold War nor a New Peloponnesian War: The Emerging Cyber-narrative Competition at the Heart of Sino-American Relations
Smith N.R., Brown R.J.
Abstract

There is much pessimism as to the current state of Sino-American relations, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020. Such pessimism has led to some scholars and commentators asserting that the Sino-American relationship is on the cusp of either a new Cold War or, even more alarmingly, something akin to the Peloponnesian War (via a “Thucydides’ Trap”) whereby the United States might take pre-emptive measures against China. This article rejects such analogizing and argues that, due to important technological advancements found at the intersection of the digital and fourth industrial revolutions, most of the real competition in the relationship is now occurring in cyberspace, especially with regards to the aim of asserting narratives of “truth”. Two key narrative battlegrounds that have raged since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic are examined: “where was the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic?” and “who has had the most successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic?”. This article shows that Sino-American competition in cyberspace over asserting their narratives of truth (related to the COVID-19 pandemic) is fierce and unhinged. Part of what is driving this competition is the challenging domestic settings politicians and officials find themselves in both China and the United States, thus, the competing narratives being asserted by both sides are predominately for domestic audiences. However, given that cyberspace connects states with foreign publics more intimately, the international aspect of this competition is also important and could result in further damage to the already fragile Sino-American relationship. Yet, whether this competition will bleed into the “real world” is far from certain and, because of this, doomsaying via historical analogies should be avoided.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):252-264
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Strategies of Sino-American Rivalry in Africa: From 2000 to COVID-19
Conteh-Morgan E.
Abstract

In this article it is argued that Sino-American rivalry in Africa is based on competing strategies utilized by each power to enhance their interests and bilateral ties on the continent, as well to try and outdo each other in image projection and overall influence expansion. These strategies of rivalry and power enhancement revolve around promoting close military ties and transactions on the continent; the framing of the continent in the language of securitization and strategic importance; and the perennial utilization of discourse or narrative that frames the other as detrimental to the interests of African states. These strategies of containing the others power preponderance or influence have expanded to include what is now referred to as vaccine diplomacy on the part of China, and during the Trump Administration the raising of loud alarm bells of China trying to dispossess Africa through what could be referred to as the “debt trap”. The consequences of these competing strategies enhance the following: authoritarianism in some key African states; increased jihadism in some regions of Africa as a reaction to the presence of the two major powers on the continent; weapons implicated in state violence and war crimes; and less money available for development as a result of resources being diverted to militarization. The ongoing pandemic will add another dimension to the US - China rivalry as both powers try to project an image of being the most concerned about Africa on as it relates to combating the virus.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):265-278
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United States - China Relations: Prospects during Xi - Biden Tenure
Kondapalli S.
Abstract

Bilateral relations between China and the United States have become strategic in nature with implications to the rest of the world. Both have been engaging and competing on a number of issues in the recent times. While both seek security and stability so as to pursue their respective national interests, they differ on the way they pursue these. While engagement has been the dominant theme in the previous administrations, since late Trump, bilateral relations exhibited tensions on a number of issues including what China considered to be its “core interests”. China’s agenda of “keeping a low profile” has been changed to “accomplish something” and it intends to “occupy the centre stage” in the long-term. The election of Joseph Biden as the President of the US coincided with the ongoing reassessments on the bilateral relations as well as coming to the fore of tensions on a number of fronts with China. The spread of COVID-19 pandemic, decline in global growth rates, disruptions in supply chains, and the growing uncertainty have only further exacerbated the US - China relations. Below is a review of the bilateral relations in the recent times by eliciting cooperative and competitive trends between China and the US. It is argued that the US - China relations are undergoing major shifts due to the tensions even as both are for ushering in strategic stability. China’s perceptions at the leadership level, media and academic levels are outlined in brief to suggest that relations with the US are exhibiting tensions on a number of issues that pose challenges and opportunities for other countries.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):279-287
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The United States - China Rivalry and the BRI
Blanchard J.F.
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The article describes the United States - China rivalry and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through a fine-grained review of primary materials such as major US policy documents and speeches by and media interviews with key American foreign policy decisionmakers, as well as the selective use of secondary materials such as think tank studies and articles in scholarly publications. It shows that the BRI has fueled the bilateral rivalry since its birth in 2013 and that the rivalry, in turn, has affected US views about the BRI. Under President Barack Obama, the US took a muted stance towards the BRI, expressing modestly cooperative sentiments regarding it. In contrast, under President Donald Trump, Washington’s posture towards the BRI dramatically changed with his administration frequently denigrating the BRI, raising it in major security and foreign policy documents, initiating competing development schemes such as the BUILD Act, and building closer cooperation with allies against China’s venture. Despite its angst about the BRI, however, the Trump administration never launched any large-scale countermeasures. This article contributes to clarifying the situation by correcting some factual errors in past analyses and updating the general understanding about the Trump administration’s response. It systematically contemplates how internal and external economic, political, and ideational factors affected the Obama and Trump administration’s responses to the BRI, demonstrating that such factors shaped or shifted US policy or bounded its form and intensity. These factors, being similar to those stressed by neoclassical realists who emphasize the role of leaders as interpreters within limits of the external environment and responders to it subject to various domestic constraints, provide a foundation which is used to speculate about the US’s probable response to the BRI under President Joseph Biden, Jr.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):288-303
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INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC RELATIONS
The U.S. and China in India’s Foreign Economic Policy: In Quest of Balance for Maintaining Strategic Autonomy
Galistcheva N.V., Nebolsina E.V.
Abstract

The paper investigates trade and investment relations between India and its two major trading partners, viz. the U.S. and China in the 2000-2010s. On the basis of mixed method research with equal use of quantitative and qualitative, as well as historical and statistical methods, the authors estimate the possibilities for expanding interstate interactions and the difficulties the countries might face. By comparing the scale and particulars of the product structure of Indo-American and Indo-Chinese trade, the authors reveal that intra-industry trade between India and the United States is at a fairly high level, which, in turn, is not typical for the trade between India and China, which is mostly inter-industry due to the sluggish cooperation of Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs. The authors assess the intensity of the Indo-American and Indo-Chinese bilateral trade between 2000-2018 by means of indices of intensity of India’s exports and imports to / from the USA and China, as well as indices of intensity of exports and imports of its partners to / from India. The obtained results outline the upward trend of the share of Indian exports to the U.S. relative to other countries, which indicates that India is successfully conquering the U.S. market, and Indian goods are becoming increasingly competitive. Meanwhile, the volume of Indian-Chinese trade remains on a much lower level than it could be expected with the current share of India in the world trade. In the meantime, neither for the United States nor for China, India is a dominant partner. The article also investigates major obstacles hindering the development of both Indo-American and Indo-Chinese bilateral relations. The obtained results enable the authors to predict that in the short- and mid-term economic cooperation between India and its leading partners is likely to strengthen, with India keeping striving for standing neuter while building the two most crucial vectors of its foreign economic policy.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):304-324
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Ecological Dimension in China’s Foreign Policy Strategy
Boyarkina A.V.
Abstract

Against the backdrop of worsening ecological and climatic threats, which have taken on a truly global scale, states are rethinking their environmental protection approaches to address the growing environmental crisis. The intensive use of natural resources, characteristic of the traditional model of economic growth, no longer corresponds to the “spirit” of the modern environmental agenda. Instead, a new model of eco-culture is being postulated, suggesting a reasonable balance of economic, environmental and social development needs. The relationship between economic development and environmental protection challenges states, including those of the developing world, to switch to clean renewable energy sources, nuclear power plants, and the construction of environmentally friendly housing. As the new “driver” of globalization, China, facing the aggravation of environmental problems, fully understands the timeliness and importance of their solution like no one else. The article analyzes the environmental agenda in China’s modern foreign policy using system analysis and the structural-functional method. The complication of the environmental situation in the PRC forces the country’s leadership to take active measures to combat climate change. Beijing is introducing “eco-culture” into its national development strategy, pursuing a course of building an “ecological civilization” based on respect and protection of nature. The concept of Xi Jinping’s “Community of One Destiny for Mankind” is crucial in the conceptualization of the environmental dimension. An important role is given to the concepts of “ecological civilization” and “two mountains”. With reference to neo-Marxism, the study uses a morphological analysis of the ideology of M. Frieden, according to which the above theories can be classified as nuclear in the general course of socialism with Chinese characteristics. China continues to have a complex and alarming situation with atmospheric pollution. According to the author’s deep conviction, within the framework of the general vector of ensuring the country’s prosperity, the PRC leadership is closely engaged in solving environmental problems, which is understood and supported by the world community. The practical implementation of the environmental agenda is mostly characteristic of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy strategy.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):325-337
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PEACE AND SECURITY
The U.S. Factor in Sino-Israeli and Indian-Israeli Relations
Mikaelian A.A., Morozov V.M.
Abstract

The article analyses the US influence on Israeli policy towards both China and India. The United States has had and still has a significant influence on the dynamics of Israeli-Chinese and Israeli-Indian relations. The relevance of the issue stems from the growing importance of China and India in the world affairs amid rising tensions between the US and China that are spilling into a trade war. The article aims to explore the US influence on Israel’s policy in Asia. It examines the way how the Israeli leadership has adapted to Washington’s influence while promoting its strategic cooperation with China and India. The study comprises historical method, comparative analysis and historical-systematic analysis. The author comes to the following conclusions. First, Washington’s influence on Sino-Israeli relations has gone through five development stages: the first stage (1971-1989): implicit US support for the development of Sino-Israeli relations; the second stage (1990-1998): American criticism of military and technical cooperation between Israel and China; the third stage (1999-2005): Washington’s shift from criticism to pressure policy in order to prevent the Israeli leadership from military cooperation with China; the fourth stage (2006-2016): Israel’s acceptance of US demands and refusal to supply arms to Beijing (with Tel Aviv focusing on the development of trade and economic relations with China); the fifth stage (2017 - present): U.S. criticism of Israeli-Chinese economic cooperation amid worsening contacts between Beijing and Washington. The Israeli government is trying to meet Washington’s demands as well as preserve its strategic economic relations with Beijing. Second, the US factor, on the contrary, contributed to normalization of Indian-Israeli relations, having a positive impact on the development of trade, economic and military cooperation between Tel Aviv and New Delhi. Third, the US actions can be explained by an attempt to preserve its national interests. At the same time, the author stresses that the US influence on Israel’s policy in Asia complies with Washington’s regional priorities set forth in the 2017 US National Security Strategy.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):338-349
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Comparative Analysis of American NGOs in China and Chinese NGOs in the U.S.
Kharkevich M.V., Pisarev I.I., Cheresov V.S., Novogradskaya M.O.
Abstract

This article analyzes the activities of American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China and Chinese NGOs in the United States in the context of global competition between the United States and China for the leadership in the future model of the world order. In International Relations theory, especially in its theoretical paradigm of realism, the consideration of states as actors in international relations dominates scholarship. However, in recent decades it has become apparent that researchers have a significant interest in non-state actors, such as interest groups and NGOs, and their impact on international relations. NGOs in China and the United States have different historical backgrounds, environments, and government institutions in different ways. Still, but in terms of comparative analysis they represent comparable categories. The analysis offered in this study shows that, firstly, despite the strict regulation of the activities of NGOs in place in China, American NGOs have more opportunities to work in this environment than Chinese NGOs do in the United States, where the situation for their activities is apparently more favorable. Secondly, despite the advantages that partnerships provide, neither American nor Chinese NGOs form partnership networks and therefore, lose momentum for their own development. Thirdly, although the conditions for their activities differ in both countries, American and Chinese NGOs have equal opportunities to pursue their goals. Finally, American NGOs in China are less dependent on their government than Chinese NGOs in the United States are on the Chinese government. The study is comparative and takes as its units of analysis Chinese NGOs in the United States and American NGOs in China. Developments in the field of interest group politics serve as the theoretical framework for this research. The investigation uses methods of comparative quantitative analysis and social network analysis, while the interdisciplinary nature of the methods allow them to take advantage of the analytical capabilities of Comparative Political Science, Interest Group Politics, and International Relations.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):350-371
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Implementation of SDG 16: Russia’s Role and Actions
Ignatov A.A.
Abstract

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ is one of 17 SDGs identified by the UN in 2015. The SDGs that supersede the Millennium Development Goals imply continuous multilateral actions to ensure their full and timely implementation. Analysis of the available literature shows that insufficient attention is paid to the international component of SDG implementation. An insufficient examination of Russia’s participation in international initiatives to implement the SDGs, and SDG 16 in particular, is also noted. This article intends to fill in this gap by presenting the results of an analysis of Russia’s activities in the international arena, contributing to the implementation of SDG 16. Russia today is one of the key actors in international politics. Russia’s activities in the international arena, including its participation in multilateral programs of assistance to countries and regions experiencing difficulties in resolving internal conflicts, contribute to the implementation of SDG 16. However, this aspect is not covered in Russia’s Voluntary National Review for the High-Level Political Forum, nor in available research. The author examines the features of a modern approach to studying the international aspect of the SDG’s implementation. Furthermore, the author analyzes Russia’s activities on the international arena contributing to SDG 16 implementation. The article concludes with the author’s observations regarding appropriate steps to increase Russia’s contribution to SDG 16 implementation.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):372-387
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REVIEWS
Book review: Fouskas, V.K., Roy-Mukherjee, S., Huang, Q., & Udeogu, E. (2021). China & the USA: Globalisation and the Decline of America’s Supremacy. London, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 102 p.
Salitskii A.I.
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Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):388-391
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Book review: Blanchard, J.-M.F. (Eds.). (2021). China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative, Africa, and the Middle East. Feats, Freezes, and Failures. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 291 p.
Zabella A.A.
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Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):392-394
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Book review: Frankel, F.R. (2020). When Nehru Looked East: Origins of India - US Suspicion and India - China Rivalry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 339 p.
Barsegian A.A., Butorov A.S.
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Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):395-397
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Book review: Shiraev, E., & Khudoley, K. (2019). Russian Foreign Policy. London: Red Globe Press, 297 p.
Kurylev K.P., Enokyan A.V.
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Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):398-401
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Book review: Zvyagelskaya, I.D. (Eds.). (2020). The Middle East: Politics and Identity. Moscow: Aspekt Press publ., 336 p. (In Russian)
Belov V.I., Savicheva E.M.
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Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2021;21(2):402-405
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