Recently, the international community convened a special conference in Bonn to discuss their future commitment to Afghanistan. The emphasis was on transition. Western states want to hand over responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to the Afghan government, if possible, in the context of a peace deal with the Taliban.
China's rise will present both challenges and opportunities for states in the region. China's economic growth, if sustainable will help to maintain the internal security of the emerging superpower. The growth of the Chinese economy and its greater reliance on external energy and resource supplies will result in a more externally focused diplomatic and military posture. This may result in a regional arms race. China, the US and India and the constellation of states around each will form the likely balance of power over the next two decades.
The credit crunch and political paralysis in the western world has enhanced speculation about the future of China, a country which superficially seems to be doing so better than Europe or America. The headline economic growth rate in China in the three months to June 2011 was 9,5 per cent, against a figure of 0,2 per cent for Britain and 1 per cent in the US. It is little wonder that western politicians eyeball China’s trajectory enviously. Meanwhile, China’s growing economic weight has not only made it indispensible to solving global economic problems, but also seems to be translating into growing political and security influence as well. If one was needed, a reminder came recently with the launch of the country’s first aircraft carrier.
With the world exhaling a collective sigh of relief, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have agreed to a budget deal that will cut US government spending and raise the debt ceiling. An outline has been given of where cuts will come from that may pose multiple challenges for current US defence priorities around the world. Cuts would total USD$917 billion dollars over ten years in defence and non-defence spending. A congressional committee will gather to enact larger cuts totaling USD$1,5 trillion dollars over ten years. If this second round of cuts were not enacted, a set of “triggers” would automatically make large cuts.
A recent Channel 4 documentary shed a new and damning light on the conflict in Sri Lanka between government forces and the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Among the many accusations made is the use of child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers. Although this is banned under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) it seems to be tragically synonymous with many conflicts throughout the world, despite the growing body of laws prohibiting such action. At the turn of the millennium, the UN reported that 36 countries were involved in conflict which utilise child soldiers. Seventeen of those conflicts saw the sovereign state itself employing children to fight. This trend has not subsided since the report was published.
Censorship of the internet in China has received worldwide attention. Hillary Clinton likened it to a new “information curtain”. Freedom House ranks China as the fourth least-free country in its report “Freedom on the Net 2011”. Reporters Without Borders called China an “Internet Enemy”. However, another phenomenon in Chinese cyberspace has attracted the attention of academics: online Chinese nationalism, and they are particularly interested in what role, if any, it plays in the political decision-making process in China.
The six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the only major international association that has neither the US nor any US ally among its members, marked its 10th anniversary on 15 June with a lavish summit in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana with leaders from Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Mongolia attending as observers. According to many Eurasian analysts, the gathering was a "sober, introspective occasion" which charted out "a course" for the future evolution of the organisation. There are signs that it is becoming increasingly influential with its multi-tiered consultative mechanisms becoming operational. This is evident, for example, in the case of the Tashkent-based regional anti-terrorism centre which has succeeded in foiling over 500 terrorist plots.