School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations

Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand
Te Pokapū Take Rautaki Aotearoa

Welcome to the Centre for Strategic Studies

The Centre for Strategic Studies is the New Zealand anchor for research and public dialogue on strategic and security issues. We are proud to announce that the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, produced by the University of Pennsylvania 'Think Tanks and Civil Society Programme', ranks CSS third most effective think tank in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region. CSS has also been designated as the 35th best university-affiliated think tank worldwide and 59th in the world for foreign policy and international affairs focused think tanks.  More than 6,600 think tanks are listed in the index and thousands of international scholars, policymakers, journalists, government officials, donors and think tank executives provide peer and expert review to the rankings.

The Centre has three main streams of activity:


CSS Director, Jim Rolfe, will be presenting at the upcoming 50th Foreign Policy School at the University of Otago, from 26 to 28 June 2015.  Also speaking at the event are CSS Senior Fellows, Terence O’Brien, Beth Greener and Peter Greener; and former CSS Director, Peter Cozens.  A full list of speakers and registration details are available online at the Otago Foreign Policy School website.


Recent Activities:

13 April

Discussion on New Zealand China relationship

Centre Director Jim Rolfe and Regional Security Fellow Paul Sinclair participated in a roundtable with the Chinese Academy for International Understanding hosted by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. The roundtable examined the current state of the New Zealand China relationship and considered how it might be widened and deepened across all sectors of activity. Among issues discussed was the need to attract additional Chinese investment in New Zealand, the importance of growing Chinese language training opportunities for New Zealand students, and the opportunity to leverage off the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement to secure improvements to our own agreement with China.

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7 April 2015

Iraq: More Questions

Centre Director, Jim Rolfe, has some thoughts on unasked and unanswered questions around the Iraq deployment. His article IRAQ – THE EASY BIT IS OVER, NOW IT GETS HARD is published on


2 April 2015

‘Is India a Great Power?’ – Roundtable with Dr Manjeet Pardesi

The Centre for Strategic Studies held a roundtable with Dr Manjeet Pardesi, Lecturer, Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University, on 2 April 2015. Dr Pardesi discussed aspects of his recently published paper Is India a Great Power? Understanding Great Power Status in Contemporary International Relations (Asian Security, 11 (1), 2015).  He put forward ideas on criteria to identify whether a country has acquired great power status. The subsequent discussion covered India’s more active role in the Asia Pacific region and the concept of power in the current environment.

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24 March 2015

Recent paper by Roderic Alley published

CSS Senior Fellow, Rod Alley, has recently had his paper ‘Regimes that Obstruct: A Problem of Institutional Refurbishment Following Internal Conflict’ published in the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 2015. 


19 March 2015

Standing Up for Values? Why does NZ Commit to Conflict?

On 19 March 2015, Professor Robert Ayson gave an address at the National Library in Wellington, to discuss why New Zealand commits to conflict . The presentation: Standing Up for Values? Why does NZ Commit to Conflict? was the first in a series  entitled ‘Conflict: A Contemporary Conversation’ that examines issues related to conflict.  Robert Ayson is Professor of Strategic Studies at Victoria University where he works in association with the Centre for Strategic Studies.

Prof Robert Ayson speakinging at National Library

Photo: Mark Beatty

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12 March 2015

Dr Alexander Bukh leads discussion on Dokdo/Takeshima dispute 

The Centre for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable on 12 March with Dr Alexander Bukh, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University. Dr Bukh discussed the territorial dispute between the Republic of Korea and Japan over rocks in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) known in the ROK as Dokdo and in Japan as Takeshima. He set out the history of the dispute and the subsequent discussion covered the symbolic and strategic significance of the rocks, the impact of the dispute on the broarder Japan-ROK relationship, a comparison of this dispute with that between China and Japan over Diaoyu/Senkaku, and the likelihhood that it will remain an issue between the two countries.


10 March 2015

CSS hosts discussion with Afghanistan Ambassador

On 10 March, the Centre for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable for H.E. Nasir Andisha, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to New Zealand, resident in Australia. In a wide-ranging address and subsequent discussion, Ambassador Andisha covered a number of issues including the security transition in Afghanistan from ISAF to a much smaller coalition force with a focus on training; economic issues including the impact on Afghanistan’s economy of the departure of ISAF; the 2014 Presidential election; Afghanistan’s relations with India, Pakistan, China, and the United States; participation in regional organisations; the importance of an increase in development aid; the advances made in access to education for female students; the problem of narcotics; and the logistic difficulties of getting Afghanistan’s exports to overseas markets. Ambassador Andisha also expressed appreciation for New Zealand’s continued assistance in the training of the Afghan military.

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 9 March 2015

Meeting with JP Morgan

On 9 March, Centre staff met a group from JP Morgan Chase Bank to discuss New Zealand and the region’s security and risk issues. The meeting has become an annual event, providing an opportunity to share views regarding New Zealand and the region and to discuss the ways in which both the country and the region are developing.


25-27 February 2015

China and the South Pacific

Centre Director Jim Rolfe attended a conference ‘China and the Pacific: The View from Oceania’ in Samoa 25-27 February. The conference, jointly organised by the National University of Samoa, the Sun Yat-Sen University of China and Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre focused on security, economic and social aspects of China’s relationship with the South Pacific with special emphasis on the perceptions held by actors from within the region itself. In contrast to much western and East Asian commentary about its regional role, China was seen by most conference participants as part of the solution to many regional problems rather than a part of the problem. The conference was attended by scholars, officials and analysts from across the region as well as from China, Australia and New Zealand. Dr Rolfe presented a paper ‘Regional Security and the Role of External Actors’.

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24 February 2015

EU and China as Strategic Partners

On 24 February, the Centre for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable with four visiting Chinese scholars on the subject of the 'EU and China as strategic partners'.  The Chinese panel featured Professor Shi Zhiquin, Dean and Professor of the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University; Professor Shi Jian, Jean Monnet Chair and Director of the European Studies Centre at Sichuan University; Professor Ding Chun, Jean Monnet Chair and the Director of European Studies at Fudan University; and Professor Song Xinning, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for European Studies at Renmin University. Their presentations and subsequent discussions covered various aspects of EU-China relations, relations with NATO, China’s relations with the United States, Russia and Japan, and cyber-security.

CSS hosts the ASEAN Secretary-General

On 24 February, the Centre for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable discussion with His Excellency Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN. Topics discussed included progress towards finalising the ASEAN community; ASEAN’s centrality in the regional security architecture; the South China Sea and efforts to establish a binding code of conduct; ASEAN’s relations with New Zealand, with China and with the United States; regional trade initiatives; the East Asia Summit; prospects for Timor Leste’s admission to ASEAN; and regional economic growth. The roundtable was attended by Wellington-based scholars and officials from a range of Government agencies.

ASEAN SG Roundtable at VUW

Secretary-General meets with ASEAN Award students

Following on from the roundtable, the ASEAN Secretary-General informally met with VUW ASEAN Award students at a morning tea event, hosted by Vice-Provost, Professor Roberto Rabel. Amongst the international students attending the event, were groups from Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

ASEAN Awars students with ASEAN Secretary-General at VUW 

Photo: Sophea Tieng


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 19 February 2015

CSS hosts Roundtable with Chairman of NATO's Military Committee

On 19 February the Centre for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable with General Knud Bartels, Chairman of NATO's Military Committee. Topics discussed included the situation in Ukraine and NATO's response in the form of increased exercises and naval and air patrols, the challenge presented by ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the deteriorating situation in parts of northern Africa, progress in Afghanistan and cyber defence. The roundtable was attended by Wellington-based scholars and officials from a range of government agencies.

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17 February 2015

Major Power Relations in the Asia-Pacific

On 17 February the Centre held a roundtable led by Senior Fellow, Stuart McMillan, on the relationships between China, Japan and Russia and what these could mean for the China-US relationship. Stuart traversed both the positive and negative factors in the various sets of relationships and concluded that while there is always the possibility that specific situations could lead to problems with the US-China relationship in the worst case leading to conflict, it is more likely that events will be managed so they don’t spiral out of control. Overall however, he argues that there is no overarching vision, strategy or mechanism to ensure regional peace and stability. The subsequent discussion canvassed the full range of the sets of relationships and looked more widely at regional security and the issues that affect it.


11 February 2015

European defence modernisation and its implications for Asia

The Centre for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable on 11 February 2015 with Dr Simona Soare, a scientific researcher in Romania’s Institute for Political Studies of Defence and Military History. Dr Soare spoke to the topic ‘European defence modernisation and its implications for Asia’. Her address covered the challenges facing the modernisation programme including reductions in defence spending by many European countries, substantial reductions in key military platforms, the absence of power projection capabilities, and a lack of agreement about the nature of the security challenges facing Europe. She discussed the relationship between NATO and the EU’s military structure.  Dr Soare outlined the EU’s ambitions for developing a market in Asia for defence equipment manufactured in Europe, while highlighting the challenges that would have to be overcome to for these ambitions to be realised.

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Events 2014:

Link to CSS activities 2014


Events 2013:

Link to CSS activities 2013