April 27, 2023

Rewatch: Historical Legacy or Geopolitical Ambitions?

On 24 April, the International Centre for Defence and Security was delighted to host a webinar on China’s and Russia’s aggressive foreign policy “Historical Legacy or Geopolitical Ambitions?” moderated by research fellow Frank Jüris.

Europe is living through the biggest security crisis of this century, of which Estonia – amongst other Central and Eastern European countries – has been warning its allies and neighbours for decades. On the other side of the world, Taiwan is similarly and painfully aware of the threats posed by increasingly aggressive and assertive China under strongman Xi Jinping.

Today’s event was the first one in a series of webinars meant to facilitate knowledge exchange among the most prominent experts in their field from Estonia, Taiwan, and the US.

Opening the panel was James Sherr OBE, a senior research fellow at the ICDS, who accentuated the three dimensions – historical, geopolitical, and internal – of Russia’s line of thinking that eventually led the Kremlin to wage the war of aggression against Ukraine.

He was then followed by Dr Che-Chuan Lee, a research fellow in the Division of National Security Research, Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) in Taipei. Dr Lee explained the evolution in China’s approach to Taiwan – in terms of policy and diplomacy, the so-called grey-zone tactics and disinformation, economic integration and coercion, as well as, of course, the military aspect. All of it taken together has already changed the status quo in the region and potentially even globally.

Next to speak was Russell Hsiao, the executive director of Global Taiwan Institute, a senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and an adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. Starting with the baseline of the American government’s assessment, he continued with an overview of the Chinese influence operations abroad and in the US, in particular. Mr Hsiao explained how China combines psychological warfare with public opinion and legal warfare to achieve its goal of expending support at national, state, and local levels, as well as among the business community, in a target country.

The panel discussion was enriched by questions from the audience that allowed comparing and contrasting strategic narratives, hybrid tactics, and patterns in Chinese and Russian behaviour. The professional exchange resulted with a conclusion shared by the experts: to avoid another failure of deterrence, conventional measures must be reinforced with other, innovative methods.


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