FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - When discussing national security is not uncommon to examine India in comparison to China as a rising power in the Indo-Pacific. In the second Cultural and Area Studies panel of the 2023 academic year and 11th of 2022-2023, the impact of India as a rising power, the history of the U.S. and China’s counter strategic stances and basic blockades to a U.S.-China relationship were examined by a panel of experts in each area during the event held Nov. 2.
The panel included Mr. Michael Kugelman, Director of the South Asia Institute, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Dr. Megan Greene, Professor of modern Chinese history, Department of History, the University of Kansas; and Mr. Terry Mobley, Diplomacy Chair, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, a career foreign service officer, U.S. Department of State.
Trifold of advantages of India to national security
Kugelman discussed India’s role in the China-U.S. relations from three perspectives; history, geography, and strategy.
In the late 1950’s the U.S. was quite interested in having India as a partner to counter China, but this idea was altered with the changing of administration in the 1970s.
This change was followed by an ebb of pursuit of U.S.-India partnership for nearly 20 years. With the emergence of China competition, the views of India for national security have shifted.
“In the last decade, especially in the last several years, India is being seen as partner in efforts to counter China,” Kugelman explained.
China continues to push westward to expand its presence in south Asia.
China’s recent aggressive territorial claims to areas equally important to the U.S. and India such as the south China Sea and Taiwan Straight have encouraged the U.S. and India to again amplify their partnership, Kugelman explained.
“For many years India has been concerned with what it describes as a ‘String of Pearls’ and ‘Encirclement’ strategy on behalf of China to deepen influence in India’s backyard,” Kugelman said. “India has grown increasingly concerned in more recent years as China has been doing that even more intensely. BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] being one of the main vehicles in which it has done that.”
Kugelman introduced the question if space should be a frontier of concern in the future when it comes to the U.S.-India-China triangle, with a recent lunar landing by India.
Strategically, India has been seen as the best bet to countering China in south Asia due to its size and location, among other areas such as military and population size, he explained.
“U.S.-India relations have been growing exponentially since the early 1990s and trade cooperation has been one of the reasons for that,” Kugelman said. “U.S.-India trade cooperation proceeds along a track that is completely separate from China that doesn’t relate to China competition that much.”
There are challenges for the U.S. India policies due to certain factors such as bureaucracy slowing down or stopping initiatives between the two countries; India’s continued connection to Russia for various goods; and India’s stance on the U.S. alliance system.
“India has vowed to never join the U.S. alliance system because of its policy of strategic autonomy,” Kugelman said.
China-U.S.-Taiwan Relationship: then and now
As early as 1945, the Chinese absorption and then rapidly afterward control over Taiwan began, Greene explained.
Due to the continued control of the Republic of China over Taiwan, in the 1900s and 2000s, Taiwan began to call for separation from China as a whole.
The late 1970s saw the creation of the Taiwan Relations Act by the U.S., vowing the need to ‘maintain capacity’ to defend Taiwan, after the nation was de-recognized within the United Nations.
Prior to this the U.S. invested heavily in Taiwan’s economic growth particularly in the areas of fiscal, advising, and technological support, Greene explained.
“These efforts on the part of both the U.S. and Taiwan have led to the emergence of Taiwan as a high-tech hub in certain areas, with a good example of that is semiconductors,” she said. “In 2023, Taiwan produces more than 60% of all semiconductors and over 90% of the most advanced semiconductors produced worldwide, which is a strategic concern.”
“Although Taiwan was governed for 40 years under martial law, in 1987 martial Law was lifted. It was lifted partly as a strategy to gain support outside of Taiwan,” Greene said.
Since then, Taiwan continues to hold elections that have garnered rotating representation of the parties within elected leaders.
“The democratization was at some level a strategy to solicit continued U.S. support,” Greene said. “It also satisfied the demands on the part of Taiwan’s people to determining their own futures. And it certainly succeeded in doing the later.”
Five Key Issues in China-U.S. Relationship
Taiwan continues to be a central priority to the China-U.S. relationship.
An upcoming election could see a leader in power who is motivated for independence, which would be contrary to China’s thoughts on the nation, Mobley explained.
South China Sea is another area of focus, Mobley said, pointing out the Chinese Nine Dash Line.
A significant trade route for more than 10% of U.S. trades plus competing interests of territories and area create choppy geopolitical waters for this region.
“Maritime domain awareness is something the U.S. has been pushing with south Asian countries for some time now,” Mobley said.
The Senkaku or DiaoYu Islands, are used as a way to push nationalism by China, he explained, making incidents around the area volatile, much like events of similar nature around Taiwan, with the U.S. taking a neutral stance on the area’s sovereignty.
Rare earth elements are critical to several different applications to include defense.
“As of the end of 2022, China accounted for 63% of the world’s rare earth mining, 85% of rare earth processing, and 92% of rare earth magnet production,” Mobley said. “Not just the U.S. but the entire world is heavily, heavily dependent on China for rare earth elements.”
Furthermore, nearly 20% of pharmaceutical ingredients are imported from China, with 40% of global antibiotic production also falling to China.
The discussion continued with questions regarding the effect the Belt and Road Initiative has on the U.S. and China relationship, conversations about what India-U.S. cooperation may look like in space and the potential use of Myanmar by China to bypass the South China Sea trade route tension.
This panel is part of a seminar series discussing issues of operational and strategic importance to the U.S., which CASO in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency and other partners conduct every two to three months, which is also live streamed on CGSC's Facebook page.
Audience reach is across Army schools, Centers of Excellence, Regionally Aligned Forces, Security Forces Assistance Brigades, in addition to deployed or deploying units, Joint, Interagency, Multinational, partners and beyond.
The video recording of this panel with related information can be accesses and viewed on CASO website, the CGSC Facebook or YouTube Playlist channel along with any past CASO discussions:
CASO website: https://armyuniversity.edu/cgsc/caso/caso.aspx
CASO Playlist YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkGvnfy3IadNRMPT-sNHpAsz8a3npWBH8.