Monday 26 Sep 2022 | 01:44 | SYDNEY
Monday 26 Sep 2022 | 01:44 | SYDNEY

Three things I have changed my mind about this year


Rory Medcalf


23 December 2010 14:02

One thing I have not changed my mind about this year is the value of constantly questioning one's own assumptions and assessments.

1. India's prospects: India's image has had a shocking year, and I am increasingly convinced that this potentially great nation will not progress far as a global power without some serious governance reform. In its handling of Kashmir, the Maoist insurgency, the Commonwealth Games and some major business deals, India's flaws have this year been grossly exposed. The threads of power and influence in New Delhi remain far from transparent, as the so-called Radia-gate scandal has revealed.

Indian democracy retains a great propensity to muddle through, but with massive challenges of energy, employment, education and mass political empowerment looming — not to mention external challenges from China and Pakistan — New Delhi's leaders will have to do a whole lot better.

2. Peace in East Asia: Those of us who have monitored Asian geopolitics for many years have long worried about the fragility of East Asian peace and prosperity. But this year it has become clear how fragile the good times really are. Conflict on the Korean Peninsula is a starker possibility than in many years. And right around China's maritime periphery, we have seen needless confrontations with risks of escalation.

It is now clear that managing the power shift in Asia as China rises is going to be a constant test of diplomacy. The Lowy Institute's Power and Choice publication was unpleasantly prescient.

3. The limits of security engagement with China: I have long been an advocate of engaging with the PLA in activities like disaster relief and counter-piracy. I still am. But my assessments have been somewhat altered by this year's tensions in East Asia, and the confusing dynamics behind them.

Were incidents like the PLA Navy's helicopter buzzing of a Japanese warship the result of accident, deliberate Chinese policy, PLA-wide or fleet-wide adventurism, or the rogue behaviour of an individual officer' China and other navies do not even have regular channels of communication to try to find out. In Washington, such episodes have left the China engagement lobby nursing a quiet sense of betrayal and embarrassment. I now fear that we are already seeing the limits of partnership with the PLA, and the choice is proving to be China's.

On those cheery notes, I wish Interpreter readers a peaceful and hope-filled 2011.

Photo by Flickr user Joe_Andrews.