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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comparatively weak

Yesterday I was quite busy preparing a presentation for my class on China's political economy. I've made it available online, although it's in Chinese. I'll translate it and post an English version sometime over the weekend.

The topic of the presentation centered on why the development of China's interior is important as a source of comprehensive national power (综合国力, CNP). As opposed to focusing on hard or soft power, Chinese scholars have combined the two with a new capability called coordinating power (协调能力). While hard power is measured in military and economic terms and soft power stemming from cultural attractiveness, coordinating power gauges a government's ability to channel resources and deal with problems. Given modern China's history, this isn't an entirely surprising addition.

Economic development of the interior is critical. From what I've read in the Chinese press and scholarly writings, China's CNP hinges on being able to bring development to the entire country, not just selected areas on the coast. In the presentation I chose Qinghai province to get a sense of its progress since economic reforms were first initiated in the 1980s. I was quite surprised to see annual income rise in tandem with a population, as the Solow economic model and empirical results show that high growth in population negatively impacts income growth (e.g. the more people you have, the smaller the slice of the pie each person gets). However Qinghai's experience goes against the grain. Turns out that the companies in operation were on the secondary and tertiary levels of the value chain, meaning higher incomes for employees.

So what do I mean by today's title? Quite simply that a segment China's academic community looks at the whole of China and other states when measuring strength. It isn't enough to have a strong military or economy, a state also needs an efficient government and domestic stability. From their 30,000 foot level, these Chinese scholars see their country as a comparatively weak country. While their assessment may be accurate today, it will most likely be dated come twenty years.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Walk, don't run

I can't help but be impressed with The Economist. We all know it's an excellent news source, but Kal certainly gets his point across very well with his latest piece. He nails it right on the head when China says there are no clear options in response to Iran's nuclear program. Why you ask?

The last thing China wants to do is support sanctions tough enough to bring down the Iranian government. After all, it was only last June when opposition protesters were shouting death to Russia and China. Beijing can work with the current regime in Tehran and doesn't want a change in management. Now some people are suggesting that China's commercial interests are dictating its position on Iran. I'm quite skeptical about economics playing significant a role, as trade in 2009 between China and Iran amounted to only $15 billion, while almost $1 trillion between the U.S. and EU combined. Those numbers alone would suggest China would be better off cooperating.

So does Beijing want Iran to have nuclear weapons? Not if it destabilizes the region. Saudi Arabia and the other countries in the region certainly don't want their Iranian neighbor to have nuclear weapons and would have little problem increasing deliveries to the West at China's expense if they felt it was to blame. The issue at hand though is China likes the status quo - it gets everything it needs from the world to focus on its domestic development. To agree to sanctions would disturb the balance China enjoys. As Kal's piece points out, there aren't any clear options for China that satisfies the West's demands and allow it to focus on development. Until such an option presents itself, the Chinese government will drag its feet.


The same bottom line can be applied to China's position on North Korea. The Chinese government would rather allow things to progress naturally rather than take any action that carries more risk than reward.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tibetan economics

No, it isn't a new form of economics. Instead it's the subject of a story on The Economist about economic development in Tibet. I think it's definitely worth a read so you can appreciate why the Chinese government wants to develop the region.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The soft side of China

In 1990 a well-known political scientist, Joseph Nye, coined the term "soft power." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, soft power is when other countries want what another country wants. In regards to China, soft power would be reflected when other countries want the same thing China wants. No need to threaten or persuade. It's similar to a person having Golden Retriever (without a wagging tail), where a Golden is up to doing anything its owner wants to do (especially playing fetch or eating).

This "soft power" is different from military or economic power (otherwise known as "hard power") in that its sources are cultural attractiveness, political ideology, and activity abroad. Put simply, if other countries like the culture and have good feelings about China, then China will have a lot of soft power. The problem is that measuring soft power is really hard. How does one quantify or qualify cultural attractiveness? The number of movies, pop songs, or Nobel prize awards? Using any of those doesn't quite do the trick, as we don't know how one more movie, pop song, or Nobel prize enhances a country's soft power.

That all said, people are making a big deal about China's "soft power." I'm really skeptical on the subject, especially when everyone agrees that the source of soft power is the attractiveness of culture to foreign audiences; it isn't something that a state can really promote. After all, when you know that a government is trying to shape your opinion, you're more likely to believe the exact opposite of what it is saying. So when I see something like CFR's article on China's soft power, I cringe. It details China's commercial diplomacy more than anything else. Sure, people in Southeast Asia and Pakistan have favorable views of China now, but Southeast Asia definitely has concerns about China in the future. Soft power, like any other type of power, comes and goes. Moreover, because soft power's primary source is culture, it takes a while (say more than a generation) to actually see any payoff. China just really started to focus on soft power in 2006. Little too early to talk about its soft power from my perspective.

In the Western world (including South Korea and Japan), there is still a lot of anxiety surrounding China's intentions. Throw Tiananmen Square and Tibet on top of China's increasing military capabilities and you have a recipe for almost continual suspicion of China. For all the talk about China's "soft power" there really isn't much to it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The U.S. is still the top dog

Foreign Policy is running an article that I think illustrates American preeminence in the international community. Looking at the list of the 40+ countries and what they want from the United States, it is hard to believe speculation that United States has suffered from a loss of stature within the international community.

My logic (and it may be flawed), is that if the United States was viewed by other states as weaker and not a useful partner (or means) in pursuit of their goals, then fewer countries would be in attendance. Moreover, one wouldn't see the diversity of "wants" when the foreign dignitaries get their time with American officials. Compare this to when foreign officials go to China, economics tends to be the overriding topic of discussion.

However, my logic applies as long as the current international system remains in place. Now how long that will be is a topic of frequent debate within political science, meaning that there is no firm answer. The problem in defining a specific period of time in which another state (read China) could be the dominant power within an international system is that what we know today is more defined than ever before in history. In no time prior to post-WWII has the international community had the breadth and depth of cooperation it has today. One only needs to look at the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, and the G20 to gain a sense of the interdependency. The United States lies at the heart of each of those bodies (the G20 less so than the other 3). For China to edge the United States out of its supremacy would be no small feat and would require lots of time (50+ years). It could be even longer if the international community does not share the same values of China.

So for those of you who doubt American influence, sorry to pop your bubble of depression (or joy depending on your feelings of American supremacy). The world still revolves around the U.S.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Update on China-Taiwan FTA

Looks like Taiwan and China will be signing an FTA this June according to The Washington Post. I look forward to reading the document, as whatever wording is used to address Beijing and Taipei could possibly be used in a future peace treaty between the two parties.

Besides a warming of relations with Beijing, the FTA will also open doors to similar agreements with other countries, notably Asean members. The United States will want to ink one as well, knowing that Beijing won't protest since it signed one with Taipei first. If I was an American government official, I'd certainly want to get it done within a couple of years to maintain (if not increase) trade and hence American influence in Taiwan. Why do you ask?

Quite simply the China-Taiwan FTA will either maintain or increase Taiwan's dependency on Chinese trade, potentially providing Beijing with additional leverage over the island. The United States may not yet be ready for Taiwan to assume a closer orbit around the mainland, therefore having an FTA with Taipei would at the very least maintain the status quo.

Is that a good policy? Depends on who you ask. However the U.S. government will find it increasingly difficult over time to maintain the status quo, especially considering China's military modernization. The U.S. would be hard pressed to sell F-18s or nuclear submarines to the island, which are fast becoming the most basic armaments in the U.S. military. Economically, China is likely to maintain annual GDP growth over 8% for the next several years and could easily show favoritism to Taiwanese companies in an effort to limit America's options.

I understand that kicking the can is always the preferable policy decision when confronting lose-lose scenarios. However I can't help but wonder if U.S. Taiwan policy will soon face a rather large wall.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Singing in the Strait

While this kid can sing well, I highly doubt that the song will become Taiwan's policy towards China any time soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hu goes to Washington

Chinese President Hu Jintao will be in Washington shortly to discuss a wide range of issues with Obama. Politico has a good piece on the occasion, so I refer you all to it here as opposed to detailing it myself.

I'm looking forward to the statements issued during the time that Hu is in the U.S., as they'll provide some idea of where the PRC stands on things. What will be most interesting in my opinion is the disarmament discussions, as the PRC is rapidly increasing its nuclear arsenal (may have 700 nuclear missiles by 2020, compared to the 1,700 held by the U.S.). Moreover, Hu's comments on the issue will solidify the Chinese position on Iran's nuclear program.

Break out your Chinese green tea and stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bought in China

The Economist in this week's issue discusses what it sees as a transformation in American buying habits. If its predictions are correct, that Americans will consume less and produce more for global markets, Chinese companies will no doubt experience some ripple effects. The Economist points out that currently strong American exporters are more likely to benefit from a lower dollar and increased consumption. So what changes can one predict in regards to Sino-US trade?

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau illustrates the decline in bilateral trade that has taken place up to this point in time. The trade imbalance for 2009 was similar to that in 2006, dropping from a high of $268 billion in 2008 to $226 billion. If the U.S. buys less and the Chinese buy more (assuming the Chinese central bank allows the Yuan to appreciate in value), then the gap could shrink even more.

This partly why some American politicians are calling on the Chinese government to allow their currency to gain in value. If the Yuan grows stronger against the dollar, Chinese exports are more expensive in the U.S., while American goods in China are cheaper. However, if the Yuan's value stagnates, then the American deficit with China will only decrease as a result of lower American consumption of Chinese goods.

There are some academics who think that China will relax its hold on the RMB and allow it to gain in value. While such predictions may pan out, I'm fairly certain that the Chinese will not allow their currency to appreciate as much as American politicians and others in the international community would like. The general consensus is that the RMB is undervalued by 25%. I'll venture to say that the Chinese central bank will allow 5%-10% over the course of the next year. Again, no where near where people would like, but it's a start.

Monday, April 5, 2010

More reading

Below are some more books that I think are worth reading for those of you who would like to gain more insight about the PRC and its foreign relations.

Rising to the Challenge: China's Grand Strategy and International Security by Avery Goldstein

China's Ascent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics edited by Robert Ross and Zhu Feng (Includes chapters on how Japan, South Korea, and India each view China's development.)

Axis of Convenience: Moscow, Beijing, and the New Geopolitics by Bobo Lo

Plug for Fletcher

Just couldn't help but advertise this project at my school. Fletcher is full of talented people.

"Democracy" in China, Part III

Few people outside of China have ever read the words of Mao Zedong. From my perspective this only contributes to the ignorance surrounding the CCP's position on Western democracy and continued tensions between the West and the PRC.

As such it is only appropriate to briefly discuss Mao's position on democracy, as his thought still guides the CCP. In his speech on democracy, Mao clearly outlines why the Chinese people could not accept Western democracy. In the fourth and fifth paragraphs, he describes the Chinese people's experience with Western democracy and its ultimate failure because it excluded so many of the Chinese people. Moreover, despite such strong yearning to become modern through Western ideals, the Western powers (Europe, the U.S., Japan, and Russia), were still treating China as a backward state, demanding commercial contracts for railroads and banking. They also still clung to their spheres of influence where Chinese law had no power.

In the fifth paragraph, Mao describes that socialism will abolish classes in society, reflecting the growing disparity between the rich and poor. Now one could argue that such a disparity always existed in China, however socialist philosophy had never entered the Chinese psyche before.

In the paragraph concerning abolishing state power (towards the end), Mao is quite honest stating that anyone who opposes the socialist revolution in China will not be treated kindly. Only those considered "the people" will be treated with benevolence. Recognizing that purging political threats has been a mainstay throughout the Republic of China under Yuan Shikai and Chiang Kai-shek (who hunted the CCP), this position cannot come as a surprise.

To sum up, Mao and the modern day CCP leadership have no taste for Western democracy. Not only is it viewed as corrupt (ironic considering that no government is free of corruption), but also because "democracy" in China is associated with chaos, civil strife, and weakness. The Republic of China was never able to stand on its own two feet and govern the entire territory of China (which in and of itself is a subject of debate). As such Western calls for liberalization in Chinese politics will fall of deaf ears in Beijing for the time being.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Democracy" in China, Part II

Today I'll be talking about Chiang Kai-shek (referred to as Jiang Jieshi from time to time by Beijing). While several American administrations and elements of the American public portrayed him as a Chinese George Washington, he was more like Benito Mussolini.

Chiang Kai-shek was born to a merchant family but like most people from his class studied in Japan, in his case at a military academy for two years. Upon his return to China (which was under the administration of Yuan Shikai), Chiang became involved with various crime organizations and eventually the Nationalist Party (led by Sun Yatsen).

Eventually Chiang would assume leadership of the Republic of China after the government moved to the south. His style of government really can be compared to fascism, as he utilized secret police and believed that the people and state should be of one mission. Far from promoting democracy, he hunted down political opponents (even the Chinese Communist Party prior to the Nationalist "defeat"in 1949).

Once in Taiwan, Chiang never released his grip. He imposed martial law on the island, which remained in place until the late 1980s when his son would lift it. One of my teachers remembers studying in Taiwan during the 1970s and clearly recalls the "political commissar" stationed in the dorm.

Tune in over the weekend for Mao's thoughts on democracy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Democracy" in China, Part I

Sorry about the downtime. A little after I posted last Tuesday, I spilled soda on my laptop and promptly ruined it. Fortunately I back everything up and am now up and running again.

So what do I mean by "democracy"? More or less the form of government in the United States, otherwise known as a constitutional republic. So let's be clear that when politicians and citizens call for "democracy" in the PRC, they are really talking about instituting a republican form of government.

The first modern appearance of republican government in China was the establishment of the Republic of China. It was established in Beijing on January 1, 1912 after the last emperor of China was forced out. The Republic of China still exists, although on the island of Taiwan since 1949. Unfortunately it got off to a bad start from which it never recovered, as a general named Yuan Shikai was its first president.

Yuan began his career by serving in the Qing imperial army and rose through the ranks. He was part of the clique that brought an end to period known as the 100 days of reform, during which Emperor Guangxu tried to usher in reforms to transform the Chinese empire into a constitutional monarchy (think Great Britain). Positive sign, right?

The Chinese can't be blamed. In fact, Yuan was THE muscle in China. He had the largest and most modern army in China at the time. So despite the fact that Sun Yatsen should have been president by all accounts, the person with the largest amount of force assumed the position.

My next post will discuss Chiang Kai-shek (or Jiang Jieshi in pinyin). While I recognize that this is skipping a few years, I'm sticking the milestones in China's experiments with less authoritarian forms of government. After that, I'll delve into what Mao Zedong's thoughts were on democracy. For a good review on this material, John Spence's book "The Search for Modern China" is an excellent resource.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Heads up

Wow, has it really been the 3rd since my last post? Sorry about that. I had the pleasure of hosting my sister last week.

However, I have been thinking about what my posts will be. I am putting together a multi-post series concerning democracy in the PRC. Much has been made about it, and I've referred to it in a couple of previous posts. As such, it only makes sense to spend a little more time discussing Chinese democracy's historical roots and evolution. Expect the first post to be uploaded tomorrow on the 17th.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Growing pains

Deng Xiaoping when he was in power instructed his successors to focus on development and not take a lead in global affairs. This was sound advice at the time, as China was not nearly as developed as it is now. Deng was no doubt influenced by the foreign policy carried out by Mao during the 1960s, where Mao was making a grab for leading the global socialist movement and not making many friends because of it.

Since Deng's passing in 1997, the PRC leadership has followed Deng's advice amazingly well, hardly straying from it. However, it has led to the growing disenfranchisement within the international community, particularly in Europe and the United States. The problem is that those two powers want the PRC to play a larger role in international affairs, as seen at Copenhagen, Iran, and North Korea. However, with the exception of North Korea, the PRC has shown little interest in doing anything that would go against Deng's sage advice.

The CCP is still narrowly focused on developing China, which is not totally unreasonable. However, the PRC's rise will be greeted with continued less enthusiasm the longer it takes the CCP to develop a foreign policy that is conducive to both development and active foreign diplomacy. Will it be difficult? Absolutely, we're seeing it right now. Can the CCP pull it off? No doubt about it. It'll just take some time.

Monday, March 1, 2010

China's claims

The Economist has an excellent three minute video on China's territorial claims. It covers the expansion of China's dynasties over the centuries and delves into the modern claims. If any one dispute is of interest, let me know and I'll write something up about it.

One step closer

Reuters India is reporting that the KMT has successfully prevented the potential free trade agreement with the PRC from being put to a public vote. The Taiwan opposition party (known as the Democratic Progressive Party, DPP for short), was trying to get the Taiwan public to vote on it in hopes of getting it killed. Based from what I've said on the importance on such an agreement, why would the DPP want that?

The DPP is increasingly becoming the party associated with Taiwan independence. Consequently, any agreement with the mainland is viewed by the party as surrendering Taiwanese sovereignty. From my perspective this is an instance of where blind ideology could lead to disaster. If the DPP were able to get the agreement put to a public vote and it was voted down, then Taiwan would suffer severely on the economic front. Such an event would have dramatic consequences for the island, as its economic prosperity is what partly allows it to maintain its current status (read not under Beijing's control). The KMT recognizes the basic fact that Taiwan's economic prosperity is key to its national security. As such, signing an FTA with the PRC not jeopardize Taiwan's status, it will protect it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Overview of the PLA

Foreign Policy has an article on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and addresses several concerns people may have about it. I think it is an excellent article and that everyone should read it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

China resource

I was reading the Huff Post when I came across a Eric Anderson. I highly recommend his posts as they're quite good. Moreover, he's what one could consider an expert on Sino-U.S. relations.

Balancing act

As a result of U.S. arms sales to China, the PRC government announced that it would sanction those American companies that participated. Like many others, I was curious to see how this would play out.

Turns out that two weeks ago (when I was sick), China announced that it was going to buy 20 passenger planes from Airbus, the major European aircraft manufacturer. Now on the surface this may seem like a snub to Boeing, but in all actuality it doesn't mean much.

According to Boeing, increase air travel in China will require Chinese airlines to take delivery of 3,800 additional passenger planes by 2028. Airbus is estimating that China will require 3,200 additional aircraft to meet the demand. (The difference between the two is that Boeing assumes Chinese airlines will use smaller aircraft like the 737, while Airbus is betting on larger aircraft equivalent to the 767.) Either way, Chinese airlines will need a lot of planes in the next 18 years.

Precisely because of this huge demand for aircraft, the Chinese airlines nor the Chinese government can play favorites. If the Chinese government were to completely expel Boeing from the Chinese market for passenger aircraft, it would have no choice but to deal with Airbus (which could raise its prices as a result of its major competitor being locked out). That would not be good for Chinese airlines. Not to mention that by hurting Boeing, it hurts the Chinese manufacturers Boeing subcontracts to for the production of aircraft parts.

So far it looks like the sanctions the Chinese government was talking about amount to very little. This could change in the future as Chinese aircraft manufacturers increase in capability and quality, but I expect that not to happen for at least another ten years. While on the surface it looks like China has a lot of weight, this is an example of how little it can do despite its rhetoric.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More on China's climate change position

Here's a link to an article from The Economist that covered the fallout from Copenhagen. I don't think it would be a stretch to say that the Chinese government doesn't want to be pinned because their top priority is job creation through economic growth and development. Focusing on preventing climate change would place additional costs on Chinese businesses through regulations, which would result in businesses having less cash to expand their operations (including hiring more people).

The PRC's perspective isn't without merit. The Bush administration during its 8 years in office constantly put economic growth ahead of the environment, citing it as a reason not to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, it seems a little hypocritical of the developed countries telling a developing country that it has be more concerned about climate change when those same nations have been adding to the rising CO2 emissions since the early 20th century.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

China's take on climate change

President Hu Jintao recently called for a 40-45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Although this is voluntary, it's a good thing for combating climate change, even if it falls short of what some in the international community would like.

There's good reason for China wanting to lower its CO2 emissions and pollution in general. According to a World Bank report, air pollution in the PRC carries a cost of 1.2% of GDP, and if you include water pollution the total cost jumps to 3.8% of GDP. This is a large sum of money and would only increase if measures aren't enacted to decrease pollution.

I recall reading some years ago that part of the problem in China's environmental management is that its version of the Environmental Protection Agency holds the same rank as provincial governments. If this is still the case (still looking into it), then China's state agency responsible for enforcing environmental regulations cannot force provinces to comply given their equal status. Moreover, provincial leaders have little incentive to reduce pollution when there is no guarantee that their colleagues in other areas will do the same, presenting a classic free-rider problem.

It should be interesting to see if Hu's call for voluntary action is successful. I highly doubt that it will be without government incentives, as businesses are loathe to do anything that would increase costs in business operations. The free market as it is practiced in China provides little incentive to consider long-term economic sustainability. But then again, which economy does?

Monday, February 22, 2010

More sales in the pipeline?

As recently reported, the United States sold arms worth $6.3 billion to Taiwan, the first since the early 1990s when Bush Sr. was in office. However, it seems that there could be another sale in the works if Congress has its way.

Defense News is reporting that Congress may be positioning itself to sell Taiwan additional weapons, specifically F-16 C/Ds that were left out of the recent sale. It's no secret that the bulk of the ROC air force is old and requires spare parts. While I wouldn't be surprised if the "defense industry analyst" was a Lockheed Martin employee (who makes the F-16 aircraft), they raise a fair point that the production line can only be maintained for so long. If it were to close without F-16 C/Ds sold to Taiwan, and if the U.S. wanted to replace ROC aircraft at some point in the future, then it would only be able to sell Taiwan the F-18 manufactured by Boeing.

While Beijing would protest the sale of fighter aircraft to Taiwan regardless of the model, the Chinese leadership would no doubt prefer F-16 C/Ds be sold as opposed to the more advanced F-18. The question is how many aircraft would be sold? Taiwan has requested 66 F-16 C/Ds since 2006, so if Congress gets it way, that amount could be sold. However, does the Obama administration want to take the risk of selling additional weapons to Taiwan at expense of Sino-U.S. relations? That I am not sure about. It could go either way, as Obama may want to stand up to China or use it as a chance to cultivate trust with the PRC. What do you think?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms

No, I haven't sacrificed my studies at Fletcher for a career in meteorology, nor am I trying to predict any weather. The title instead is my expectation of Sino-U.S. relations for the next few years.

The New York Times is running a story about the differences in priorities between China and the United States. I think they hit the nail on the head about why the United States and China can't seem to agree on anything, and made a plausible argument for why China will come around and do things the American way (China doesn't want to be seen as the bad guy in the global community).

However, the piece itself is short on why the Chinese government maintains its current position on the variety of topics raised (Renminbi valuation, Iran, and American job creation). As I see it, China can't change its policies on these issues because of domestic concerns. If China were to allow its currency to appreciate (read increase) in value, then its exports would become more expensive, something that companies and consumers don't like. On Iran, China enjoys a strong position serving as the only major economic power investing in the country. As a result of the sanctions and growing Russian dissatisfaction, Iran increasingly relies on China for investment. Moreover, China benefits from the natural and energy resources it is able to extract from the country. China would love to see job creation in the States to increase demands for its exports, but it won't sacrifice Chinese jobs to make it happen.

The article mentions China's sovereignty concerns for not cooperating, but I think this misses the point. The Chinese government may very well use the sovereignty excuse for not cooperating, but really it's because the changes required of it would harm the Chinese economy and by extension domestic society. Going forward I think we can expect to see more of these instances, where deriving mutual benefit will be more difficult. However, just because something is difficult does not mean it isn't worth pursuing. After all, you don't let cloudy skies prevent you from getting things done. Neither should the American or Chinese governments.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad timing

Today President Obama met with the Dalai Lama which will no doubt provoke a response from the Chinese government tomorrow. It was interesting reading about the meeting in the news, especially this article. What really struck me was how far Obama is distancing his administration from Tibetan independence and human rights. A little off topic for the blog, but it certainly seems that the president has toned down his optimism after a year in office.

I've discussed Tibet and how it relates to the PRC's concerns about sovereignty and legitimacy to rule, so I won't go there. Instead, I think there are a few points to be made about the recent (read 20th century) events concerning Tibet.
  • A Chinese government never governed Tibet until 1950 when PLA forces entered the territory.
  • Tibet during the early 20th century requested assistance from Britain, India, and the U.S. to maintain its independence in the 1940s, but got nothing.
  • When PLA forces entered Tibet, no nation came to Tibet's defense, even when there was a large uprising in 1958.
With those points taken into consideration, it makes sense that Obama would distance himself from Tibetan independence and make it clear that Tibet is part of the PRC. If the U.S. was really concerned about Tibet, it would have done something about the issue long ago.

I also can't help but feel a little sorry for the PRC. Yes, PLA forces seized control of the territory by force, but let us not forget that the U.S. did the same thing when expanding from 13 states on the east coast to the west by almost exterminating the Native Americans. Unfortunately for the PRC, no previous Chinese government sent in troops to lay claim in the 18th or 19th centuries. If they had, Tibet wouldn't be an issue today. Apparently timing is key not only for jokes and investments, but also seizing territory.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What's in a name?

Juliet said something to the effect when she found out that Romeo was the son of her father's enemy, inferring that names don't matter. However, she couldn't be further from the truth. For names DO matter, and it's important to understand why.

Take "China" for example. Now most people use it to refer to the People's Republic of China. However, one could also be referring to the Republic of China depending on when they grew up, because "China" was known to be short for the ROC. Moreover, the term itself infers a stable, unchanging country that simply isn't the case. Lastly, the term denotes a homogeneous state, which is not the case when referring to "China." You only need to look at the Uighurs, Tibetans, and Mongols to realize that "China" more or less is a story of the Han people.

The establishment of the People's Republic of China was a huge event for the world. The Chinese Communist Party founded a modern state with a large amount of emotional baggage. They saw "China's" past as one of humiliation under the Qing dynasty, giving into the demands of Western powers and Japan, and as such sought to lead a different "China," one that was strong and capable of being independent. Calling the PRC "China" glosses over the monumental shift that occurred when the CCP established the state.

Lately I've been in the habit of making the mental distinction between "China" and the PRC. I asked one of my professors why this is happening, and he said it's because I'm making the key distinction that exists between China and the PRC. The question is, how many other people recognize the difference?

On a personal note, sorry for absence in entries. I came down with a severe cold last Tuesday and am just now starting to feel like my normal self. You can rest assured the entries will continue on a more regular basis.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sino-US Relationship

Foreign Policy is running an article about the Sino-US relationship, notably where there are disagreements and the likelihood of them being resolved. I think they did an excellent job listing them and providing explanations.

However, I disagree with them on their last point: that more American trade with China will make it a freer society, therefore Google should stay. Truth be told, I'm in disbelief that such a publication would actually say that (even scarier if they believe it). Increased economic engagement with China will not open their society. If we look back to the reforms first initiated by Deng Xiaoping, he purposely withdrew government and party from the daily lives of the Chinese people because of the mistakes made by Mao during the Cultural Revolution and figured out that the key to a stronger China lay in modernization through economic development driven by demand, not the government. Moreover, as a victim of the persecution under Mao's China, Deng had strong motivations for making sure it never happened again. Economic trade has not liberalized China - the CCP has made the decision to let the market function (to an extent) and is allowing its citizenry to become wealthier. As such, any increased freedom for the Chinese will come as a result of a conscious decision by the CCP or revolution, not economic engagement.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lessons from Charlie Brown

The relationship between China and the Dalai Lama reminds me of Lucy and Charlie Brown from the Peanuts comic. For those of you unfamiliar with the comic and its stories, in one running gag Lucy holds an American football and tricks Charlie Brown into kicking it several times, only to pull the ball away and having poor Charlie fall on his back.

This comic can easily be applied to China and the Dalai Lama. They've had several dialogues about the status of Tibet, only to have Beijing refuse any change to the status quo. So to drive home the point, China is Lucy, the Dalai Lama is Charlie Brown, and the football is Tibetan autonomy. In the latest development, China has refused to consider greater autonomy (or real autonomy depending on your viewpoint) for Tibet, something that shouldn't have come as a shock to anyone. The international community can pressure China to holding more meetings with the Dalai Lama's representatives, but nothing will come of it - the Chinese government will always cling to its hold on Tibet (much like Lucy and the football).

It makes sense actually. If Beijing were to grant greater autonomy to Tibet, Xinjiang would most likely demand it, along with some powerful provinces of China proper. Consequently any shift by the Chinese government on Tibet could result in a weakening of the central government's control over other parts of the country, something that the CCP wants to avoid at all costs. The Chinese have long memories and it was only 100 years ago that they were on the cusp of warlordism. As such the international community should not expect any shift on the CCP's position on Tibet or any other part of China.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Much ado about nothing something

The American press, along with the BBC, are making a big deal about the recent sales of US arms to Taiwan. Granted it's newsworthy, however, this sale has been in the pipeline since the Bush administration and Chen Shui-bian was president (who is now in jail). Bush delayed doing anything about it because of Chen's push for Taiwan independence and local Taiwanese opposition (read the KMT or Nationalist Party) withheld approval to the purchase. China's response is par for the course and will result in the same old freeze on military-to-military exchanges. Now would be a good time to yawn.

Update (5:22PM)

Looks like China is putting a new spin on the arms sales. Apparently they're going to punish the American companies who are producing the arms being sold to Taiwan. No further details are being provided on the new punishment, but contracts could be modified or canceled. It seems the company that has the most to lose is United Technologies, as they have quite a bit of commercial (read non-military) business in China and are building the Black Hawk helicopters. Boeing probably won't be impacted too much, as they're only delivering a few Harpoon missiles. Should be interesting to see what happens.

Part of me wonders how much of this is for show and how much is real. Beijing has to realize that Taiwan being within the orbit of the U.S. is not the worst scenario (it could declare independence). Granted American involvement in the Taiwan issue has some overtones of imperial intervention, but it's far less than what the British, Russians, or Japanese did to China in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Moreover, American involvement restrains Taiwan from doing anything that would force China's hand in attacking the island (independence or developing nuclear weapons). Not saying American intervention is right or wrong, but things could be far worse.

Left out in the cold

With the China-Asean FTA Taiwan is in a bind. The goods it sells to China will be 5-15% more expensive now compared to the Asean members and could result in a significant decline in trade if no solution is found. To put it in perspective, Taiwan enjoys a $67 billion trade surplus with China and its exports to the Chinese market constitute 26% of their total. Let me repeat that. 26% of Taiwan's exports go to China.

What options does Taiwan have to counter the China-Asean FTA? Taiwanese companies could lower their prices accordingly, but that is something they probably don't want to do. The other option is for China and Taiwan to sign an FTA of their own (which could happen this year). Not only would this level the playing field for Taiwan in the Chinese market, but it could also open the door for quasi-FTAs with the Asean members themselves. Beijing has quite a few reasons for implementing an FTA with Taiwan, two major ones being that 1) Taiwanese companies employ lots of Chinese workers and 2) failure to establish one could be a PR disaster for China in Taiwan.

I've made the entire grand strategy available so you can flip through it. The assignment was to write it from the perspective of the government in power, with the expectation that it would be an internal document not seen by the public. I included bits of humor and I think you'll be able to spot them. Please be honest and not claim it as your own work. Use of the bibliography is fine obviously.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Economist weighs in on Japan and China

It feels good when a highly reputable newspaper such as The Economist is in sync with your opinion (or is it the other way around?). As I mentioned earlier this week in Land of Waning Influence?, relations between Beijing and Tokyo may be warming, however, there are still lots of issues that could quickly change the dynamic. In this story Banyan touched on all the points I raised and more or less confirmed what I discussed. Is this blatant self-praise? Absolutely. I'll try to keep it down in the future.

A Chinese-led Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere?

As promised I've done some research on the China-Asean Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that came into effect on January 1, 2010. As it turns out, there are several reasons why it hasn't received much press.

The Financial Times has an excellent overview of the FTA and its implications for the nations that are party to it. Long story short, it'll lower tariffs in all the countries. The FT highlights some winners of the agreement, notably Indonesia and Vietnam who are large exporters of commodities to China. Essentially their goods will be taxed less when shipped to the PRC which means more business for those industries. However, The Economist accurately points out that tariffs between the Asean states and China have been on a declining trend for the past several years, making the FTA even less spectacular.

This is all well and good for China and the Asean members, however, I don't see it impacting trade with the E.U. or the U.S. all that much. Fact of that matter is that western countries are increasing the tariffs levied on Chinese imports as a result of China's currency manipulation and subsidies to various industries.

So the bottom line for my friend Asia is that the FTA received little attention for the following reasons: 1) tariffs have been on the decline prior to the FTA 2) it's only between a select few states and 3) it doesn't impact the major economies in Europe or the United States.

I'll probably put something up later today about how the FTA impacts Taiwan and how I think the Ma government should respond. I wrote a paper last semester about Taiwan's grand strategy and this FTA provided the bulk of of my discussion on Taiwan's economic priorities. Stay tuned!

2010 Census

Every morning I make the attempt to read as much news as I can. While reading one of my favorite news sources, I stumbled across a link to the U.S. census, which is very slick. How is it related to the blog you ask? It's in Chinese! The other thing that impresses me about it is that one can select from a long list of other languages; truly a reflection of the diversity of the United States.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Busy busy busy

Things are a little busy on my end as next week I'm presenting a paper at Columbia University's graduate student conference on East Asia. Putting the final touches on my presentation and practicing quite a bit so everything goes smoothly.

My research question was whether American arms sales to Taiwan restrain them from developing nuclear weapons. It was a lot of fun researching the issue as I had little knowledge about Taiwan's nuclear weapons program (or civilian for that matter). Turns out the PRC developing nukes was a major motivation for the Nationalists to pursue a nuclear deterrent (along with warming Sino-US relations in the 1970s).

It highlights a major problem in the Sino-US relationship: the arms sales themselves. Beijing considers the island a renegade province and deeply resents American involvement in the matter. However, the United States for decades has acknowledged China's position on Taiwan (not the same as agreeing with it though), yet continues to sell weapons to the ROC all the while saying that the matter of reconciliation/unification is between Beijing and Taipei. Yet as history has shown, if the United States gets too friendly with Beijing, Taiwan gets nervous and resumes its nuclear weapon program. Although at this point in time I wonder how warm relations between China and the US could get considering their current disputes over trade, climate change, and China's growing influence in general.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Socialism and Marxism aren't dead

I had fallen behind my reading of the People's Daily and stumbled across this article the other day. For those of you who can't read Chinese, the headline roughly translates to "The World's Clear Hope: China unable to do what Western democracy does."

This type of article is a poignant reminder that as far the CCP is concerned, socialism is alive and well in China. Moreover, they aren't going to adopt western democracy anytime soon. At the end of the article the last paragraph basically says that democracy isn't suited for China because it is so far removed from traditional Chinese culture and because it can't solve China's problems. My response: Marxism was a western philosophy you (China) were able to take and mold into a suitable form, so you could do that for democracy, if you wanted to. Let's not forget that Mao essentially re-wrote Marxism as a result of his experience during the Long March. And after he remolded Marxism for China's purposes, it, uh, solved your problems (but created others).

The story though has a certain ring of truth to it, which is why I like the article despite its ideological overtures. There are definitely elements in the West who would prefer that China under Marxist/Maoist guidance fall on its face and instead succeed with democracy because it would make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside (yes, including you too Mr. Fukuyama). However, reasonable people would prefer a stable China for several reasons, mainly because we benefit from China's economic reforms. A destabilized China as a result of civil war or disorderly transition of power would drive the markets down a lot, possibly creating another Great Recession or Depression depending on its duration and impact on exports. Either way, it wouldn't be pretty.

My final thought is that a democratic China may not be any better than the China we have now. Any Chinese government would pursue its interests just like any country. The idea that a democratic China would resolve all its problems with the West is ridiculous. The U.S. and E.U. are fighting over bananas in a trade war and can't come to agreement about Iraq and Afghanistan, despite having democratic ideals in common. Would human rights in China be better? Quite possibly, but the West is short on credibility for concern on human rights after failing to address Rwanda in the mid '90s and the current situation Sudan. But please, let's stop wishing that China were democratic and instead focus on resolving the problems and misunderstandings that exist between us. Wishful thinking is pointless.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An eye into the past

It appears that more documents have been made available to the Chinese public concerning the Cultural Revolution (its full title is the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (无产阶级文化大革命) and took place from 1966 to 1976, with varying degrees of intensity). From my perspective, this is one of the greatest tragedies in Chinese history. During this period Chinese society was flipped upside down, resulting in the persecution of thousands of people who were thrown into labor camps, while at the same time making a mockery of the education system in China. My Chinese friends who have lived through it shared some stories about their experiences a few years ago and I'm still moved by the human suffering. I highly recommend those of you interested read up on it - it helps explain China's course today.

Back to the story at hand though. Will this action shed new light on the lost decade? Probably not. There are hundreds of millions of Chinese people who have their own stories to tell and would do far more in revealing unknown bits of information. However, without making it a bigger deal than it is, the Chinese government's decision to make them available is a good sign and should be welcomed, despite their limited availability.

This action highlights something that I feel is appropriate for China as a nation to conduct at this point in time: a public exploration of the Cultural Revolution. There is no shame in saying that mistakes were made and apologies be issued. So much suffering was inflicted that almost everyone has something to apologize for. Moreover, it would allow the Chinese government to start afresh, saying "This is what we've done in the past. We're sorry. Let's develop our nation together." Everyone deserves a second or third chance, and the Chinese government is no exception.

What's the big Dalai?

Apparently there is going to be another round of discussions between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's reps. As par the course, The Economist does a superb job of explaining why they won't amount to much. For those of you who could use a refresher on Tibet and China, the U.S. Congressional Research Service has a handy report.

I always chuckle inside whenever topics concerning China's borders come up, mainly because there are cultural forces at work. The West has been big on drawing lines in the sand (or dirt or stone) to establish administrative regions and the borders of empires and states. In imperial China things worked a little differently, where nearby rulers of various civilizations (Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongols, and loads more) would travel to the capital and recognize the Chinese emperor as the big cheese. Then trade would commence (along with some parties). Imperial China cared more about spheres of influence than direct administration because all the other nearby rulers accepted China's superiority. As such, they had no need for drawing hard borders. Then the Europeans come along with their maps and love of drawing lines. Not a good recipe for agreement. Fast forward to present day and we are having the same argument.

I find it ironic that China, under a supposedly communist government, is laying claims to Tibet when it was an imperial power (although one could make the strong argument they're claiming what the Republic of China claims). One would like to think that the new China (read PRC) would practice what it preaches about socialism and anti-imperialism, but let's not kid ourselves. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Land of waning influence?

The New York Times ran a story a couple of days ago about Japan's warming relations with China. At the beginning it does a good job going to extremes, all but saying that Japan is going to nix its alliance with the U.S. in the short-term. However, at the end it redeems itself by accurately pointing out that despite the recent improvements in Sino-Japanese relations, there are still major differences between China and Japan (read Kim's paradise in North Korea).

I think that the end of the article is more realistic and the main point to walk away with. Japan and China are not going to be BFFs any time soon, as there are still deeply rooted memories of Japan's invasion of China and the atrocities its military committed. Also, they still have outstanding border disputes.

Closer ties between China and Japan are a good thing. The last thing the U.S. needs is an anxious Japan worried about China and effecting a change in Article 9 of their constitution. If that were to happen, China would no doubt ramp up its already ambitious military modernization. China benefits from continued U.S. security cooperation with Japan as it prevents such events from transpiring. Of course, this is applicable to the now. If in the future Chinese interests would be better served by a downgrading of U.S.-Japanese relations, Beijing could sweeten the pot for Japan. Although whether Tokyo would respond favorably depends on China's actions, Washington's treatment of Japan going forward, and if Sino-U.S. ties are tenuous.

Reading list

I've read a lot of books on China (more than 25 and counting). As such I think it would be worthwhile to provide a reading list of sorts for those of you who would like to learn more about it and its relationship with the U.S. I've put them in descending order, from easy reading at the top down to the hardcore at the bottom. Feel free to throw out your recommendations.

Understanding China by John Bryan Starr
China: A New History by John Fairbanks (THE book on Chinese history)
Integrating China Into the Global Economy by Nicholas Lardy
The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress by Andrew Nathan & Robert Ross
The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence
America's Response to China by Warren Cohen
Mao's China and the Cold War by Chen Jian
Ten Episodes in China's Diplomacy by Qian Qichen (Qian is a former Chinese foreign minister. This book is useful in that it provides insight into the official Chinese government's line of thinking on foreign policy.)
China's Unfinished Economic Revolution by Nicholas Lardy (dated info but a good read)
Governing China: From Revolution to Reform by Kenneth Lieberthal (a textbook really, but good for understanding China's governmental organization)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Google vs. China

I know this old news by today's standard, however I think this story warrants a post.

Essentially Google is threatening to close up shop in China because some GMail accounts were hacked, specifically those of some Chinese activists. This has been a boon for people who already have a bone to pick with China (read anyone who has lost a job as a result of Chinese, American politicians looking to score some points, and those with legitimate human rights concerns). However, I think most of the discussion has focused less on why the Chinese government censors the Internet in the first place.

Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution provides the right of freedom to speech and article 40 provides the freedom and privacy of correspondence to Chinese citizens. However, article 40's caveat is that when it comes to state security, all bets are off. How is state security in China defined? Simply put, broadly. Any mention of independence for Tibet or Taiwan is anathema to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as their legitimacy for being in charge is based largely on the fact that they brought an end to the warlordism that existed during the early years of the Republic of China (that now lives on Taiwan). I find this eerily reminiscent when a new dynasty would claim that it had inherited the "mandate of heaven" and was therefore fit to rule. At some point I'll have to do a post on why the CCP isn't that much different from the imperial system that existed until 1911.

Essentially, the Chinese government believes the best way to avoid chaos is to prevent any signs of disunity. Such disunity is embraced by the West, especially in Italy where every province would form its own country if it could. The West prides itself on individual success and identity, traits that go against socialism where society itself as a single unit is held sacred. Consequently censoring the Internet is a way of ensuring that Chinese society remains intact. What about their free market reforms you ask? Well, that's not really capitalism; it's socialism with Chinese characteristics.

As for the topic at hand, I'm not sure where this dispute between Google and China will lead. Google hasn't had much success against Baidu, a homegrown Chinese search engine. Google may figure that China isn't worth the expense and head home. On the other hand, they may be trying to get a better deal for their other ventures such as their new cell phone. What I think is apparent is that Google's line of standing up for the rights of its customers is wonk and has more to do with business concerns. As my father told me growing up, "Let the numbers do the talking." Google is no doubt looking at its numbers.



The United States established contact with imperial China in the late 1700s through merchant sailors. Later in the 20th century it would establish relations with two governments of China, the Republic of China (which is alive and well on Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China, simply known as China today.

So why the blog's name? Simply put the United States has historically known "China" as a relatively weak country since it was founded in 1776. However, with China's growing influence the United States is forced to factor in its response or position on any policy issue. Essentially, China's development is requiring a fundamental shift in how the United States perceives and reacts to the growing power. Therefore, I argue that the United States is getting to meet the real China for the first time.

This blog is an attempt to understand the dynamics at play in the Sino-US relationship, examining both the short and long-term. I'll mix in a lot of history, for only by looking at and understanding the past can one appreciate the current situation.

As I post news articles and my thoughts, feel free to add your comments. If by chance you disagree with my opinion, say so and include a link to a source that was used to base your opinion on. That way I can understand where you're coming from and learn something new.