“The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: Considering Security Implications” conference is organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) to discuss the effects of China’s grand projects on security issues in the Asia Pacific.
The discussion revolved around the readiness of China for the project, the challenge of territorial disputes in the region, and other security challenges as China takes on a bigger role among other nations around the globe.
FES Philippine Representative Dr. Johannes Kadura opened the conference emphasizing the topic of security as the dynamics between ASEAN countries, US, EU and China have changed dramatically over the years.
General Emmanuel Bautista, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the active territorial disputes between China and some ASEAN countries could be a challenge for the Road project.
He shared that countries in the region may be cautious of deepening economic engagements with China especially when there are long-standing allegations of militarization by China in the West Philippine Sea. General Bautista played an active role in the successful Philippine case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.
Prof. Zhao Long from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies argues that the BRI will be a platform to prevent conflicts and disagreements in the region. Prof. Long said that China’s strategy for security has become non-traditional, securing China’s role in maintaining regional security.
The conference also tackled the role of regional blocs such as the European Union (EU) in developing an infrastructure for security in the ASEAN. Dr. Sophie Boisseau du Rocher of the Center for Asian Studies in IFRI recommended that ASEAN and EU should create a joint working group that will deal with BRI. Different parties can thresh out security policies such as law-enforcement, maritime navigation and other issues.
This FES and SIPRI conference is a three-part global forum series probing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).