Non-Traditional Security Dilemmas on the Belt and Road

R. James Ferguson

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Non-Traditional 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 NTS threats have been responded to by embracing various approaches including ‘military operations other than war’ (MOOTW), as well as disaster relief and humanitarian interventions (HADR). These are also testing grounds for military capacity, indicating power projection and forward deployment abilities. NTS operational capacities can become part of a spiralling security dilemma that undercuts the claimed benefits for military diplomacy and cooperative security approaches. Growing Chinese and Japanese NTS-capacities and are now part of a wider Indo-Pacific dynamic along the Maritime Silk Road. China’s need to provide for non-traditional security along the Belt and Road includes the expanded use of private security companies, ‘paramilitary’ maritime deployments, and PLA units. NTS threats are now important components within Chinese defence and foreign policy, including the calibrated use of armed force. Japan sees these capacities as part of its wider contribution towards ‘proactive peace’ and security through development in the Indo-Pacific region, but is also aware of their role in boosting Japan’s soft power. Non-traditional security 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 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 well-known problem for NTS as a conceptual and operational category.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2019
EventISA Asia-Pacific Conference 2019: Asia-Pacific and World Order: Security, Economics, Identity and Beyond - Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 4 Jul 20196 Jul 2019


ConferenceISA Asia-Pacific Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleNarratives of Security in Asian Geopolitics
OtherThe International Studies Association Asia-Pacific Conference 2019 on “Asia-Pacific and World Order: Security, Economics, Identity and Beyond” was held from 4th – 6th July at Nanyang Technological University, One North Campus in Singapore and was deemed a great success in many ways. There was a truly collegial feeling with high-level dialogue and engagement between all academics and researchers. The Welcome Reception featured a host of local Singaporean dishes and a lion dance as colleagues continued their discussions through the event. We received a number of positive comments about the Exhibition Hall with a total of 15 booths made up of publishers, journals, academic institutions and think tanks; apparently a new record for a regional conference. It provided a space for informal discussions with a supply of tea, coffee and water to keep the conversations going. We had a hitch with food being unavailable on campus due to the vendor undergoing its periodic assessment, but thanks to our team of excellent volunteers, delegates were provided with a map of the nearest eateries and volunteers helped them find the way.
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