Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Interior development update

I have uploaded an English version of the presentation I delivered last week concerning China's interior development and comprehensive national power. You can access it here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I was randomly surfing the Moscow Times a couple of days ago and came across a story about Kyrgyzstan ceasing to exist. Now for those of you out of the loop, about a week ago Kyrgyzstan's president was forced to flee to the south and then to Belarus because of a coup. He had been put into office by a previous coup, but became corrupt and didn't follow through on his promises. Not a resounding success for democracy in the region at all.

Towards the end of the article it mentions that China may be willing to absorb the tiny nation of 5 million people. While there are some mineral resources in the offering, Beijing wouldn't want the additional responsibility. It has enough on its hands with Xinjiang, Tibet, and the central provinces that still lag behind the coastal areas by a substantial margin. One of my classmates who is familiar with Central Asian and Russian affairs dismisses the article as a Russian grab for the territory, instead saying it could go to Tajikistan.

So in the future folks, when curious about what would Beijing do, follow these steps:

1) Remove any biases (pro or con) you have about China
2) View it from the Chinese perspective
3) Think what would best fit their interests in developing (hint: it's stability)

Monday, April 26, 2010

You can breathe now

For any of you that were holding your breath in the hopes that China would approve of tough sanctions, you can breathe now. Not because China will support them though.

From a press release two weeks ago, the Chinese have made it clear (if it wasn't already), that targeted sanctions will not receive Beijing's support. Now you're probably saying "But what about the progress made at the UN?" Well, sanctions are being developed, but they will fall far short of the targeted ones on petroleum exports that Washington wants. The only thing a UN Security Council resolution will do at this point will green light the tough sanctions Obama really wants for passage by Congress. And since the U.S. already has imposed several sanctions on the nuclear wannabe, it's doubtful that they'll work. I fully expect that Iran will become a nuclear state within my lifetime.

I won't claim to be an expert on Iranian affairs, but the nuclear issue seems to be the only thing Western countries are desperate to talk to Iran about. Moreover, rights to nuclear technology present a rally around-the-flag topic that Tehran can use to remain in power. Seems to me that it might be worthwhile to try to buy off Iran as opposed to whacking it with sanctions. Some people may resent rewarding Iran for its negative behavior, but sanctioning Iran is a lot like withholding a child's allowance until they behave. Sometimes it takes corporal punishment. However, no country (with the exception of Israel) is advocating a military strike.

I'll close off with a general criticism of sanctions. In order for sanctions to be effective, the targeted country needs to know what it should do to have them terminated. If one looks at UN Security Council resolution 1737, it says that Iran must halt all R&D on nuclear technology and enrichment. Considering that Iran needs alternative sources for energy production because of the sanctions currently placed on it, this is asking A LOT. No wonder Iran is pursuing what is in its interests.

Gotta have a sense of humor

Xinhua has an article covering Obama's decision to pursue the development of a missile that can hit any target on the planet within an hour. You can see it here. Now there has been a fair amount of criticism for his decision, as seen in the Huff Post and Foreign Policy.

What made me chuckle was the picture chosen for the piece: Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize at Oslo. Regardless of one's position on the new missile, you gotta hand it to the Chinese for picking the right picture.

So what does this mean for Sino-US relations? In the greater scheme of things, very little. The Chinese military is already modernizing its forces while the US remains anxious about China's military intentions. This program, if it goes forward, will only serve the purpose of providing more evidence for those voices in China that view the US as a threat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hypocrisy, what is it good for?

This morning I was reading my e-mail and among the unread was my NY Times alert for anything related to China. I was struck by the headline for a China-related piece which reads "In Niger, China Fortifies Its Reputation as Africa's Investor".

The article lambastes China for continuing its commercial contracts in Niger after a military coup overthrew autocratic Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja. It succinctly sums up the relationship between Tandja and China when it states:

"The Chinese ambassador had instant entree to Mr. Tandja’s whitewashed presidential palace, at all hours, people close to the former government said; Chinese executives dealt directly with the presidency, bypassing ministers; and Mr. Tandja’s son Ousmane was firmly ensconced as his country’s “commercial attaché” in China, serving as a go-between."

So what coverage has the NYT given to any Western countries operating in Niger? As far as I can tell, absolutely none. Given that French and South Korean companies are continuing their operations in Niger despite the seizure of power, I would expect some outrage from the NYT, but I am disappointed. But hey, even the U.S. State Department has nothing to say on the matter.

Which leaves me even more confused over the NYT's outrage about China's behavior in Niger. To borrow from a line from Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Facts & Figures

Foreign policy has a good article on China's military. I highly recommend the last page where it mentions global aspirations. Of course, there's always the U.S. Department of Defense's report on China's military power if you're up for more. Both sources will put Kaplan's assessment of China in greater perspective.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Things to come?

I just finished digesting an op-ed piece I read in the Business Times out of Singapore. It describes how lucky China is to be at the center of geopolitics now and going forward, as its development will fundamentally change the international landscape. While I could quibble with that, instead I'll turn to the author's (Robert Kaplan) projections on how the U.S. will be impacted.

Kaplan in his piece towards the bottom mentions Taiwan as follows:

"Beijing is also preparing to envelop Taiwan not just militarily, but also economically and socially. How this comes about will be pivotal for the future of great-power politics in the region. If the US simply abandons Taiwan to Beijing, then Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and other US allies in the Pacific Ocean will begin to doubt the strength of Washington's commitments."

While I don't disagree that Beijing is trying to isolate Taiwan, it's a far stretch to say that the U.S. will simply abandon Taiwan in the future. There is still substantial support for the island-bound democracy in Congress. Furthermore, China could be very different politically if and when Taiwan becomes part of the PRC. From my own perspective, China would only attack Taiwan when it felt that its economic development was complete and it could withstand any economic blowback from conflict in the Taiwan Strait. That won't happen for at least four decades. A lot can happen between now and 2050.

Kaplan then signs off with:

"Still, the very fact of China's rising economic and military power will exacerbate US-Chinese tensions in the years ahead. To paraphrase the political scientist John Mearsheimer, the US, the hegemon of the Western Hemisphere, will try to prevent China from becoming the hegemon of much of the Eastern Hemisphere. This could be the signal drama of the age."

If that were true, then shouldn't the U.S. just attack China now? You know, follow through with preventative war? Kaplan's basically saying that China's continued development is a zero-sum game for the U.S. I don't buy that at all given the economic relationship. Americans are able to consume inexpensive goods from China in a time of economic difficulty. I do not disagree with Kaplan that China's military modernization will cause angst in Washington, but it is very premature to even project armed conflict between the U.S. and China.

Admin note: Finals are fast approaching. As such, don't expect a lot of posts this coming week. Will be back to normal after May 3rd.