Non-Traditional Security Dilemmas on the Belt and Road

R. James Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Nontraditional security (NTS) cooperation has been seen as a ready focus for multilateral dialogue, soft- power enhancement, and positive military diplomacy in the Indo- Pacific. Some actors have responded to NTS threats by embracing various approaches including “military operations other than war” (MOOTW), as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) interventions. These responses are also testing grounds for military capacity, indicating power projection and forward deployment abilities. NTS operational capacities can become part of a spiraling security dilemma that undercuts the claimed benefits for military diplomacy and cooperative security approaches. Growing Chinese and Japanese NTS capacities are now part of a wider Indo- Pacific dynamic along the Maritime Silk Road (MSR). China’s need to provide for NTS along the Belt and Road includes the expanded use of private security companies, “paramilitary” maritime deployments, and PLA units. NTS threats, including the calibrated use of armed force, are now important components within Chinese defense and foreign policy. Japan sees these capacities as part of its wider contribution toward “proactive peace” and security through development in the Indo- Pacific region, but Tokyo is also aware of its role in boosting Japan’s soft power. NTS dilemmas intensify during acquisition of dual- use assets and when traditional security competition already exists, e.g., threat perceptions of Chinese military assertiveness. Carefully managed, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) represents an invitation for security cooperation. However, it also risks new forms of military competition and increasing securitization of developmental and environmental issues, a wellknown problem for NTS as a conceptual and operational category.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)59-86
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Indo-Pacific Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020


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