The confrontation of grand strategies and the world in transition (Part 2)

As in the first part, considering the importance of the East Asian region (۲۱st century Asia) and the new strategic environment with regard to its specific changes on the world stage and the presence of two important players, America and China, the grand strategy of America was explained. In this section, we will discuss the grand strategy of China and other influential powers and the need to explain the grand strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
15 July 2023
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Mohammad Kh.Azad

As in the first part, considering the importance of the East Asian region (21st century Asia) and the new strategic environment with regard to its specific changes on the world stage and the presence of two important players, America and China, the grand strategy of America was explained. In this section, we will discuss the grand strategy of China and other influential powers and the need to explain the grand strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

China; BRI (One Belt One Road)

Following America's grand pivot strategy (2011), two years later, in 2013, the Chinese announced their grand strategy called BRI or One Belt One Road. China's main goal was to find ways to remove and bypass the obstacles created by the Americans and breathe freely for economic growth and development and maintain China's national security. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the BRI Project as a project of the 21st century, which includes the traditional Silk Road called the 21st Silk Road Economic Belt or Century Maritime Silk Road. Regarding the new global strategic environment, he announced that China is still the largest developing country in the world and is moving towards the growth model from production to consumption and wants to reach a prosperous and moderate society by 2020, and it will be a strong, democratic, rich and harmonious society with modern societies based on a win-win relationship by 2050. China's military policy is defensive, and its military strategy is active defense. Therefore, China does not seek hegemony and territorial development and wants stable security aimed at comprehensive and joint cooperation.

In this regard, it has been emphasized regarding America that the relations between the two countries are based on the main country relations model and are based on win-win cooperation and mutual respect and not conflict and confrontation, and the Thucydides trap is out of the question, and major countries should avoid strategic miscalculations. The contemporary world is a multipolar, growing, diverse world with a globalized economy and close digital and cultural interdependence whose trends are towards stronger peace and development, and innovations and reforms are necessary. The lack of cooperation between China and the United States, considering the capacity of these two countries, which have a third of the economy, a quarter of the population, and a fifth of the world's trade, will be a disaster for the countries and the world. Therefore, the differences should be managed, and a common, comprehensive, cooperative view and stable security should be achieved so that the cooperation of the countries in the region and in the international community will bring peace and security to the Asia Pacific. In other words, the Chinese method relies on the balance of power and the strengthening of alliances and coalition building from traditional allies and new partners, not hegemony, which is transformational leadership and, as the Chinese say, benevolent leadership, especially in China, the centrality of the Communist Party and the continuity of Xi Jinping's leadership are remarkable.

The tools of China's grand strategy have been used in the economic component with the view that the international community has helped China, and in return, China wants to help the situation and improve the global economy by looking at the underlying layers of the global financial crisis, complex global and regional conditions, international trade and investment adjustments. Therefore, the establishment of extensive regional cooperation in line with the open regional cooperation approach is in the interests of the global community, and this is the new way of global management. The Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, with a capital of about 100 billion dollars, and Silk Road Funds, with 40 billion dollars, have started work. In this regard, the important topic of connectivity by creating infrastructure and networking and linking the technical standard system and the construction of the international highway along the land route, i.e., transportation, oil and gas lines, telecommunications and information, and waterways including ports, etc. The expansion of trade with commercial and investment cooperation in the form of the new BRICS Development Bank, financial institutions of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN plus China, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, and the strategic dialogues of the Persian Gulf-China Cooperation Council, etc.

In this regard, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was proposed in 2011 at the 19th ASEAN summit as one of the largest free trade agreements. This agreement covers 2.3 billion people (30% of the world's population), 30% of the world's gross domestic product ($25.8 trillion), and a quarter of global trade in goods and services ($12.7 trillion). Although this plan was proposed by ASEAN in 2012, it was emphasized and pursued by China against the United States Trans-Pacific Partnership plan, and with Trump's departure, a golden opportunity was given to China. The Chinese Prime Minister announced the signing and implementation of this agreement as the victory of free trade and multilateralism in the world. The third strand of the BRI is also based on the 2018 document called the policy of China's North Pole or the Polar or Ice Silk Road (the ice will melt in the North by the middle of the 21st century and even earlier), which provides access to Europe and North America and adds to the proximity of the positions of China and Russia. The existence of abundant resources of oil and gas and the mining of the North and joint cooperation with the Russians in the Yamal pipeline in 2017, and the increase of Chinese investment from 12 to 15 billion dollars are significant. This way has also been interpreted as the Asian Panama Canal.

Military tools in China's grand strategy, as evidenced in upstream documents and statements by high-ranking Chinese officials, the reforming and modernizing, and strengthening of the army from one war scene to war scenes in different regions of the world, from coastal defense to a combination of coastal defense and protection of the open seas, and from territorial air defense to defense and attack and creating an air-space defense force. In this regard, military cooperation with Russia is a comprehensive strategic partnership, and with the United States is a new model of military relations of major countries in the framework of defense dialogues, cooperation, and exchanges, the mechanism of trust building and risk avoidance, and crisis management.

In this regard, China's effort in the 21st century Maritime Silk Road is important against the Americans' emphasis on China's management of international waterways, which is the strong lever of the Americans with its powerful navy and where half of China's trade and oil pass. In its territorial defense, China has started to strengthen its army and has increased the military budget from 100 billion dollars to about 300 billion dollars, and so far it has acquired three aircraft carriers, and with its missile power and the construction of artificial islands and its militarization, it is trying to strengthen and protect its land. China's maritime security has been achieved by creating suitable ports and safe and effective waterways and connecting them along the BRI. In order to avoid the risk of oil and gas and the required goods and not to depend on the South China Sea, China established its oil and gas lines in East Asia with the cooperation of Myanmar, and practically by reducing the need for the South China Sea, access to the Indian Ocean was established, or in connection with the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, China-Pakistan Corridor and Gwadar Port, which is a security-economic plan, China's connection with the region is established through Pakistan, and the cost of this corridor is more than 50 billion dollars. The Port of Mongla in Bangladesh opens another chapter in the Indian Ocean for China, and its proximity to Calcutta port in India and then the location of Mongla and Gwadar ports on both sides of India is significant, as well as Hambantota port due to China's inability to pay the loan has been assigned to a Chinese company for a period of 99 years. After the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the Chinese also paid attention to Africa and the port of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa on the way to the Gulf of Aden from Bab-el-Mandeb in the Red Sea and the important route for the passage of oil and gas became important, especially since America, France, and Japan also have military bases in Djibouti. This port was opened as a Chinese military base in 2017 and has the capacity to receive aircraft carriers, but the importance of this port as a launching pad for China to the region is also significant, with the establishment of an electric railway to Ethiopia with the investment of 44 billion dollars.

Due to the good cooperation with Israel and the need to be present in the Middle East, China has won the Haifa port development project, which is the busiest port and the main base of the Israeli naval fleet. In this way, access to the Mediterranean Sea is provided, or in the design of the Polar Silk Road, in addition to creating new breathing passages for China, its geopolitical position, in addition to its geo-economy and being a neighbor to America, the Bering Strait, through Russia, and the movement of carriers and submarines can open a new front against America, and it can also reduce the dependence on the Suez and Panama Canals. The construction of airport runways and the construction of a new port near the main port of Khalifa in Abu Dhabi and the proximity to American bases, including Al Dhafra Air Base, greatly increase China's access to the Middle East. In this connection, the Americans have certainly tried to prevent China's actions with their actions because, from their point of view, China is looking for five main naval bases and ten logistics bases in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

 Other grand strategies

In the confrontation between the United States and China's grand strategy, other power centers have also proposed their grand strategy, which is briefly mentioned due to the need to know about them for the precise design of the grand strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Russia has stated its grand strategy in the form of President Putin's decree in March 2020 as a great Eurasian, European, and Pacific power in a multipolar world and a demand for a just and stable world order based on multilateralism and rejection of hegemony in international affairs. In other words, Russia's grand strategy at the regional and global level is great and unified Eurasia. The grand strategy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, approved by the leaders in 2019, considering the two important and dynamic centers of economic growth, namely the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific, for the coming decades, is the regional convergence and connections, emphasizing the centrality of ASEAN and cooperation instead of competition and enmity and efforts for development and prosperity for all and the importance of the maritime domain. In other words, by emphasizing the centrality of ASEAN while welcoming the presence of big powers in the dynamic Indo-Pacific region, it has been emphasized that East Asia is a region of economic growth and development and not a region of conflict, and great powers should avoid enmity and tension in the region.

Europe has gained an effective influence in the East Asian region at the national and Union level and is looking for a more effective role in institution building. In the global strategy of the Union in 2016 and foreign policy documents, with the increase in tension in the region, a direct connection between the prosperity of Europe and the security of Asia has been observed. In other words, the grand strategy of Europe, considering the importance of East Asia, is a comprehensive strategic economic and security partnership. Japan proposed its grand strategy under the title Free and Open Indo-Pacific in 2016. The main goal is to stabilize and improve Japan's economic status and curb China's growing power. For example, Japan presented its quality infrastructure plan with 110 billion dollars with the help of the Asian Development Bank against the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank with 100 billion dollars.

Despite the withdrawal of the United States, Japan pursued the Trans-Pacific Partnership with an alternative plan of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership against the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership Plan supported by China, and security arrangements with America were followed as the main pillar of Japan's security.

The grand strategy of India, although the government has not presented a strategy, by the Congress and based on the report of the retired general Heda in 2019, India is considered to be an emerging world power and the largest democracy in the world, which in the strategic perspective of the world, the competition of great powers and multi-polarization among the main powers of China, Russia, and the United States are increasing. India will act as a guiding actor and leader with active diplomacy in relation to the United States based on mutual respect and democratic values and the priority of the Indo-Pacific strategic framework and safe trade and investment, and ensure regional security in interaction with China. Although strategic competition with China is certain, a successful business partnership between the two countries should also be pursued. In other words, India's grand strategy is a comprehensive strategic economic and security partnership in the two important Indian and Pacific oceans.

The grand strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a middle power in the West Asian region needs to be designed and publicly announced. The Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the twenty-year vision in the 1404 horizon and the declaration of the second step of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in the direction of self-improvement, community development, and civilization and the transformation document of the 13th government and with a view to the grand strategies of other countries and especially considering the importance of East Asia in 21st century and the position of our country in West Asia, needs to explain the goals, methods, and tools in this regard. In other words, the proposed grand strategy can be combined, balanced, dynamic, and intelligent in the direction of the revival of Islamic-Iranian civilization and with the priority of unity between East and West Asia.

Mohammad Kh.Azad, senior expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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