Chinese President Xi Jinping has made his first visit as Head of State to India, amid expectations of unprecedented levels of Chinese funding for India’s infrastructure and continuing concern over skirmishes on the border between the two countries. India’s new nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is just back from Tokyo where he embraced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and signed increased defence and trade ties with Japan. India’s dance - between strategic defiance and economic calculus - illustrates Asia’s dilemma, with China on its mind.

In a new policy brief François Godement, Director of ECFR’s Asia and China Programme, argues that tensions in East Asia are becoming the new normal and that it is increasingly clear that trade does not guarantee peace and stability. He says Europe can no longer limit its role in Asia to commercial or “soft” power but must help maintain a stable security balance in the region.

In his paper “China on Asia’s Mind”, François Godement identifies the potential threats to stability in southeast and northeast Asia:

  • Nationalism on the rise even as economic interdependence increases, as authoritarian regimes and democratic politicians alike seek support from domestic opinion.
  • Doubts in Asia about the resolve of the United States to maintain its many security commitments create a “grey zone” of potential conflicts.
  • Uncertainty over North Korea’s eventual collapse or peaceful transformation and Seoul’s need for long-term Chinese cooperation.

Europe hums and haws, hoping that the situation does not get out of hand but doing little to stop it doing so. Yet from several perspectives, Europe is implicated whether it likes it or not.” François Godement

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