19 May 2014

China’s chairman is our chairman?

May 19, 2014

It was good to know that after a long hibernation the state had woken up to the acute water problem. But it did seem that to make up for this long neglect the state now wanted do it with a big bang or with one great leap forward. 

When the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto was released it was most notable for the emphasis on big projects like a hundred new urban centres and a high-speed rail network. If the money can be found, this will no doubt give the economy the big push it badly needs. Hence thinking along these lines needs to be sustained and encouraged. India needs a big push to put it on the rails again. But we must also be mindful of the long-term ecological consequences of big projects and do more rigorous cost benefit analysis. We often embark on big projects without much thought or on the prodding of institutions like the Supreme Court, which even when least knowledgeable, arrogates the right to dictate policies to the Executive. One such project is the project to link all our major rivers.

This is a Sangh Parivar favourite and I am quite sure the nation will once again set out to undertake history’s greatest civil engineering project by seeking to link all our major rivers. It will irretrievably change India. If it works, it will bring water to almost every parched inch of land and just about every parched throat in the land. On the other hand if it doesn’t work, Indian civilisation as it exists even now might then be headed the way of the Indus Valley or Mesopotamian civilisations destroyed by a vengeful nature, for interfering with nature is also a double-edged sword. If the Aswan High Dam turned the ravaging Nile into a saviour, the constant diversion of the rivers feeding Lake Baikal have turned it into a fast receding and highly polluted inland sea ranking it one of the world’s greatest ecological disasters. Even in the US, though the dams across the Colorado have turned it into a ditch by the time it enters Mexico, Nevada and California are still starved for water. I am not competent to comment on these matters and I will leave this debate for the technically competent and our perennial ecological Pooh-Bahs.

But the lack of this very debate is cause for concern. It is true that the idea of linking up our rivers has been afloat for a long time. Sir Arthur Cotton was the first to propose it in the 1800s. The late K.L. Rao, considered by many to be an outstanding irrigation engineer and a former Union minister for irrigation, revived this proposal in the late 60s by suggesting linking the Ganga and Cauvery rivers. It was followed in 1977 by the more elaborate and gargantuan concept of garland canals linking the major rivers, thought up by a former airline pilot, Captain Dinshaw Dastur. Morarji Desai was an enthusiastic supporter of this plan. The return of Indira Gandhi in 1980 sent the idea back into dormancy, where it lay all these years, till President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam revived it in his eve of the Independence Day address to the nation in 2002. It is well known that Presidents of India only read out what the Prime Ministers give them and hence the ownership title of Captain Dastur’s original idea clearly vested with Atal Behari Vajpayee and Suresh Prabhu, was its moving spirit.

That India has an acute water problem is widely known. Over 60 per cent of our cropped areas are still rain-fed, much too abjectly dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon. The high incidence of poverty in certain regions largely coincides with the source of irrigation, clearly suggesting that water for irrigation is integral to the elimination of poverty. In 1950-51, when Jawaharlal Nehru embarked on the great expansion of irrigation by building the “temples of modern India” by laying great dams across our rivers at places like Bhakra Nangal, Damodar Valley and Nagarjunasagar only 17.4 per cent or 21 million hectares of the cropped area of 133 million hectares was irrigated. That figure rose to almost 35 per cent by the late 80s and much of this was a consequence of the huge investment by government on irrigation, amounting to almost `50,000 crores. Ironically enough this also coincided with the period when water and land revenue rates began to steeply decline to touch today’s nothing level. Like in the case of power, it seems that once the activity ceased to be profitable to the state, investment too tapered off.

What India can learn from China

By Ravi Agrawal
May 15, 2014 

A Hindu holy man walks past a line of people after voting at a polling station on Monday, May 12, in Varanasi, India, during the ninth and final phase of elections. Voters will elect 543 members to the lower house of Parliament, which will then select the country's next prime minister. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is stepping down after a decade in charge. 


Ravi Agrawal: India's business culture could profit from being more like China's 
He says many in India hope winner of the election will introduce more efficiency 
While new leadership can focus on economy, it's not so easy to reshape a nation, he says 
Agrawal: For real change, the impetus has to come up from the bottom up 

Editor's note: Ravi Agrawal is CNN's New Delhi Bureau chief and was formerly senior producer of the network's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." Follow him on Twitter: @RaviAgrawalCNN

Hong Kong (CNN) -- I met an entrepreneur recently who was comparing doing business in Asia's two biggest countries. "When I'm in India," he said, "I spend the first 40 minutes of any meeting exchanging niceties. In the last five minutes, we get to business." What about China? "We do business for 40 minutes. Right at the end, we chit-chat for five."

It's only an anecdote, but the results seem to bear it out. China gets things done; India invents ways not to. China dazzles the world by hosting an impeccable Olympics; India struggles to complete basic infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games.

Perhaps that's why it's fascinating to watch the rise of India's Narendra Modi, the man many believe will be India's next Prime Minister. Modi's sales pitch is simple: he gets things done. For Indians, it's a seductive notion: Can India be like China?

Ravi Agrawal

There is no doubt that India has room to improve. Consider productivity: India's ranks 60th in the world on the World Economic Forum's ranking of countries by competitiveness (China is 29th). Or consider ease of doing business: the World Bank ranks India 134th in the world. If you want to start a business, the World Bank says India ranks 179th in the world -- in other words, go ahead and explore opportunities in 178 other countries before you settle on India. It's as good as putting a "closed" sign on the shop door.

Demographic Fault Lines in Assam: Moving Towards Population Inversion 2050


The ethnic killings in the first week of May 2014 once again exposed the demographic fault lines in Assam. 45 persons lost their lives in violence perpetrated by suspected insurgents of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD). Assam has witnessed a series of ethnic clashes between the Bodos and Bengali speaking settlers, both Hindus and Muslims earlier also. In 2012, acts of rioting and arson on ethnic lines led to death of almost 100 persons and over 400,000 persons were forced to seek shelter in refugee camps. While the affected people were largely Muslim immigrants, the conflict does not have communal overtones. Rather, it is the apprehension of the Bodo community that they may be marginalised or dispossessed of their land within their traditional homeland areas. These fears have arisen due to alteration of the demographic pattern within a culturally sensitive society which is grappling with skewed population ratios due to unchecked migration over the last six decades.

The unchecked illegal migration into the state through the 286 km long porous border with Bangladesh has resulted in ethnic clashes, paved a way for insurgencies and growth of number of insurgent groups fighting for ethnic identity. The last three decades have witnessed large scale violence which has stalled development and created divisions within a harmonious society. Such a massive inflow did not go undetected, but official apathy and the compulsion of electoral vote bank politics allowed it to continue. This was an invite to disaster as it radically altered the demographic balance in many areas. A close scrutiny of the population increase since 1951 indicates a high population growth in the state presumably due to the heavy influx of the illegal migrants.

Population (in Lakh)
Decadal Growth % (Assam)

In the last six decades of independence, the population of Assam has increased by almost four times from 80.3 lakh in 1951 to 311.7 lakh in 2011 against a national average of 3.2 times. The census report of 1991 of Bangladesh talked of a unique phenomenon of missing population, estimated at eight million[2], 6.27 million Muslims and 1.73 million Hindus who presumably had migrated to India.

Though the Parliament had passed the Immigrant (Expulsion of Assam) Act in 1950, which allowed for removal of any immigrant person in Assam, except displaced persons, whose stay was detrimental to the interest of general public of India or any scheduled tribe in Assam[3], the subsequent explosion of population was a clear indicator that no worthwhile corrective action was taken to deport illegal migrants. The promulgation of IMDT {Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal)} Act in 1983 was a clear case of vote bank politics overruling national security concerns. The Act further aggravated the issue by giving a reprieve to the migrants as the onus of proving the citizenship of the suspected illegal migrant rested on the complainant instead of the suspect as applicable under the provisions of Foreigners Act of 1946. It was the only case of any nation having two immigration laws, one for the entire country and another for Assam. The Act took away the responsibility of detection and deportation from the executive and vested the same in quasi-judicial tribunals headed by retired judges. As a result, since the promulgation of the IMDT Act, till its repeal in 2005, the tribunals could only identify and declare 12,424 as illegal migrants of which only 1481 have been deported. In comparison, in the earlier two decades between 1962 and 1984, over 300,000 illegal migrants were detected and deported[4].

Pakistan Launches Operation to Try to Clear Pakistani Taliban Fighters Out of Karachi

Operation to break Taliban concentration in Karachi

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

The News International (Karachi)
May 15, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The concentration of the Taliban-related trained terrorists in Karachi has forced the government to step up the ongoing terrorist hunting operation in the largest city of the country.

The terrorists who were hiding in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have spread due to the fear of a major operation clean-up in the tribal areas by the armed forces. Hardly, a few hardcore terrorists are present at their hideouts in the far-flung places of the tribal areas. The intelligence gathering agencies have told the government that majority of dislocated terrorists have already arrived in Karachi and they are in the process of settling down. Highly-placed sources told The News here on Wednesday evening that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to hold the high-level meeting in Karachi in the wake of intelligence reports after consulting Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on the subject.

He established contacts with the stakeholders of Karachi situation and invited them to the meeting. The sources said that a consensus had been built in the meeting that all the political parties would whole-heartedly support the freshly-shaped operation and they will exercise utmost care in handling the situation. Religious groups which are prepared to cooperate with the administration would also be contacted by the local administration, it was decided.

People who refrain from violent activities will be provided due protection and will not be harmed in any manner, the sources said. The meeting that discussed law and order in the city threadbare was attended by former President Asif Zardari, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, ANP Senator Shahi Syed, MQM leader Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi, Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, DG ISI Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, Corps Commander Karachi Lt Gen Sajjad Ghani, Secretary to the Prime Minister Javaid Aslam, Chief Secretary Sindh Sajjad Saleem Hotiana, Federal Secretary Interior Shahid Khan, Federal Secretary Law Zafarullah Khan, Director General Intelligence Bureau (IB) Aftab Sultan, DG Rangers Sindh Maj. General Rizwan Akhtar, DG ISPR Maj. General Asim Saleem Bajwa, acting IG Police Sindh Ghulam Haider Jamali, CCPO Karachi Shahid Hayat, Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui and other senior officers.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told the meeting that state-of-the-art equipment was being provided to law enforcement agencies and 700,000 illegal mobile SIMS had been cancelled. He told the participants that once 3G mobile technology was in place, they will extend the crackdown against the illegal SIMS.

China’s Achilles’ Heel in the South China Sea

May 16, 2014

The recent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam were catalyzed by China’s ongoing attempts to secure territory in the South China Sea that is claimed by both Beijing and Hanoi. Such protests represent a new chapter in the longstanding Sino-Vietnamese dispute over this maritime region. While the two countries have long been at loggerheads over the sovereign status of these ocean waters, this is the first time in recent memory that nationalist demonstrations have erupted over their status.

In light of this fact it is not surprising that media reports of the riots significance have been rather breathless, even hyperbolic. For example, some have suggested that they may create a pretext for Beijing to carry out a Russian-style annexation of the region. Others have noted that China may engage in a “forced war” to teach Vietnam, and the region, a lesson. As ominous as such observations appear, they are rather far-fetched, even misguided. 

Paradoxically, the riots are more likely to lead to a de-escalation of the current Sino-Vietnamese conflict, rather than serve as an accelerant for even more confrontation.

Such a stabilizing effect stems from that fact that the riots are less indicative of Chinese strengths in Southeast Asia, and more reflective of the underlying weakness of China’s position there. While Beijing governs only the People's Republic of China, it is increasingly seen by many of its citizens as being responsible for safety and well being of overseas Chinese as well. China’s diaspora population is spread throughout Southeast Asia, including, obviously, Vietnam, yet the Chinese government is still ill equipped to provide such assistance to them. 

When this overseas Chinese population is endangered, as seems to be the case in Vietnam today, China looks weak. This was evident in 1998 when anti-Chinese rioting in Indonesia erupted and Beijing could do little to stop it. Such ineffectuality led to intense criticism within China of the leadership’s handling of the situation. The memory of that critical chorus must be echoing within the minds of the Chinese leaders now when they look at what is happening in Vietnam.

What is CICA (and Why Does China Care About It)?

What is China’s vision for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia?

May 17, 2014

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia (CICA), to be held in Shanghai next week, is being publicized by the Chinese government as the two most important symbols of China’s “host diplomacy” in 2014, placing CICA on the same level as November’s APEC summit. Given the lack of a security mechanism covering all of Asia, there are hopes CICA can become a template. Plus, importantly for China, CICA is closely intertwined with the topic of anti-terrorism, from its basic concept to the participating members.

CICA was promoted by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, at the UN General Assembly in 1992. At that time, the world situation was undergoing great changes — the collapse of the Soviet Union, drastic changes in Eastern Europe, the conclusion of the Cold War. Against this backdrop, the world was discussing the possibility of a new international order. As the leader of a newly independent country, Nazarbayev’s idea highlighted the international status of his country and at the same time fit with the theme of global peace and development.

But it was not until 10 years later, in 2002, that CICA held its first leaders’ summit. The impetus for this meeting came from the 9-11 terrorist attacks of the previous year. Thus, counter-terrorism became an important issue for CICA, and this theme has run through the subsequent meetings. The 2014 CICA summit is also inseparable from the topic. In western China, the counter-terrorism situation is increasingly grim, and terrorist attacks are more frequent than ever within China’s borders. Against this background, CICA has brought together China’s western neighbors to discuss anti-terror cooperation. The practical significance for China is obvious.

Most CICA member states are actually western Asian countries. CICA’s member states include Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan; Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Bahrain, and Turkey; Western and Southern Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, and Pakistan; and East Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. In addition, Russia and Egypt, which each have some territory in Asia, are also members.

In addition, there are nine CICA observer states, including five from South and Southeast Asia (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka). Japan, the second-largest economy in Asia, is also an observer state rather than a full member. The U.S. is an observer as well. Simply put, outside of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), CICA is the second most important platform for international cooperation that does not include the United States and its important Asian ally, Japan, as members.

CICA is a mechanism emphasizing the security situation in western Asia, , with China and Russia as its dual cores. The security of western China is partly dependent on the security situation in western and central Asia. Likewise, the security of Russia’s territory in the Caucasus region also depends on the concerted efforts of the central and western Asian countries.

China’s Instructive Syria Policy

Chinese position on the Syrian crisis shows the consistency of its foreign policy.

By Adrien Morin
May 18, 2014

The crisis in Syria erupted early in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring and worsened as the year went on. A first draft resolution to intervene in Syria was proposed by France, Germany, Portugal and the U.K., on October 4. This proposal was vetoed by Russia and China, marking the start of a long diplomatic impasse with Moscow and Beijing on one side and the Western powers on the other. China and Russia would later veto two more draft UN resolutions.

Three years after the clashes in Syria began, and with the civil war now being supplanted in media headlines, it is worth reviewing Chinese policy. Has Beijing purposefully been more assertive toward Western powers, and the U.S. in particular?

Western Concerns

Chinese foreign policy worries the West on a number of fronts. One concern is the formation of a “united front” of China and Russia, to oppose Western goals. Certainly, China and Russia have together vetoed draft resolutions supported by the three other permanent members of the Security Council. The world has meanwhile witnessed China’s impressive rise in recent decades as well as Russia’s attempts to return to Great Power status. Perhaps an anti-Western alliance of those two actors could indeed challenge the U.S. and its allies.

In the meantime, the West finds itself frustrated by Chinese foreign policy pragmatism, or as the critics would have it, the absence of values. This is de facto incompatible with Western moral ideals, which invoke human rights or other ethical arguments. Chinese realpolitik is seen as amoral, if not immoral. Chinese policy is also not up for domestic debate – a lack of transparency and little civic engagement make sure of that.

Those who fear that Chinese foreign policy is driven by the intent of challenging (and eventually supplanting) the West would view Beijing’s support for the Syrian regime as ideological. This concern rises as China becomes more popular in the Middle East. Mostafa Kamel, a member of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, “expressed admiration for China’s position and proposition on the Syrian issue and said that Egypt is willing to strengthen communications and coordination with China on the issue.” Could the influence of Western powers in the region be weakened, for the benefit of China?

All these concerns come back to one issue: China’s new role within the international community. As a new – and still growing – power, some observers fear that China may soon have the ability to challenge and threaten the Western liberal model that has dominated international organizations since the end of the Cold War.

Vietnam has a lot to lose if its anti-Chinese riots continue

Tan Than Industries as the A Taiwanese bicycle factory burns in Di An Town, Binh Duong province, on May 14. AP Photos/Jeff Nesmith 

Riots in Vietnam—sparked by China’s move to place a massive oil rig in disputed territory in the South China Sea—are spreading. A massive under-construction Taiwanese steel mill was set alight and more than twenty people have died in violence related to the riots, most of them Chinese, Reuters reported, quoting a doctor at a hospital that treated the wounded. 

The deaths, particularly if they are Chinese citizens, intensify an already volatile situation between the two countries and escalate the potential damage for Vietnam, which relies heavily on foreign investment and tourism. Vietnam’s GDP growth of 5.4% in 2013 was boosted significantly by foreign companies, including the establishment of thousands of foreign projects and factories in recent years, as well as more than 7 million foreign tourist visits. 

Industrial output from foreign-owned industries has been rising, and made up 46% of the country’s overall industrial output in 2012, which is the most recent government data available

Chinese investors aren’t at the forefront of this trend: In the first 10 months of 2013, the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Vietnam was Japan, with $4.8 billion, followed by Singapore and South Korea. But rioting factory workers did not make much of a distinction. “We kept telling the rioters that we are Taiwanese, not Chinese, but they wouldn’t listen,” the head of a Taiwanese business association told Vietnamese television

Bell tolls for US pivot in South China Sea

By Peter Lee 

In discussing the issue of why the People's Republic of China plunked down the drilling rig HYSY981 more than 100 kilometers off the Vietnamese coast and near the China-controlled Paracels, there seems to be a certain amount of cognitive dissonance plaguing the Western commentariat. 

Apropos the HYSY981 affair, The Asia Society hosted a roundtable on its website composed of the luminaries Daniel Kliman, Ely Ratner, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, and Carl Thayer. Almost all of them ignored the elephant in the room - the US pivot to Asia. 

Only Carl Thayer, in my opinion, gets it right in discussing the third of his three possibilities for the PRC's provocation: 

The third interpretation stresses the geo-political motivations behind China's actions. The deployment of the CNOOC mega rig was a pre-planned response to President Barack Obama's recent visit to East Asia. China was angered by Obama's support for both Japan and the Philippines in their territorial disputes with Beijing. Therefore China manufactured the oil rig crisis to demonstrate to regional states that the United States was a "paper tiger" and there was a gap between Obama's rhetoric and ability to act. 

The third interpretation has plausibility. China can make its point and then withdraw the oil rig once it has completed its mission in mid-August. But this interpretation begs the question why Vietnam was the focus for this crisis and why China acted on the eve of the summit meeting of the heads of government/state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. [1] 

I would go a step further than Mr Thayer, and opine that China's South China Sea escapade is more than a one-off tantrum. It represents a "sea change" in the PRC's strategy for dealing with the pivot to Asia. 

For US-China relations, that means: No G2. That's been clear since Hillary Clinton 86'ed the concept as secretary of state. 

Little more than symbolic lip service to the "new great power" relationship founded on the comforting myth of the World War II victors' dispensation with the heirs to Franklin D Roosevelt and Chiang Kai-shek calling the Asian shots, a fantasy which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working assiduously to undermine and supersede. 

And, most importantly, from the Chinese point of view, no pivot. 

In other words, the PRC intends to ignore the idea that its actions in its near-beyond are to be deterred by the alarm and opposition of the US and the Asian democracies, thereby challenging the basic assumption of the pivot: that China's defiance of the pivot triggers a virtuous cycle of escalation and anxiety, causing smaller Asian countries to cleave to the United States more closely, thereby enhancing US influence and inhibiting the PRC's freedom of motion. 

How the FBI Broke a Chinese Spy Network Stealing American High-Tech Secrets

How the F.B.I. Cracked a Chinese Spy Ring

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
The New Yorker
May 16, 2014

In the magazine earlier this month, I wrote about Greg Chung, a Chinese-American engineer at Boeing who worked on NASA’s space-shuttle program. In 2009, Chung became the first American to be convicted in a jury trial on charges of economic espionage, for passing unclassified technical documents to China.

While reporting the story, I learned a great deal about an earlier investigation involving another Chinese-American engineer, named Chi Mak, who led F.B.I. agents to Greg Chung. The Mak case, which began in 2004, was among the F.B.I.’s biggest counterintelligence investigations, involving intense surveillance that went on for more than a year.

The stakes were high: at that time, the F.B.I. did not have a stellar record investigating Chinese espionage. Three years earlier, the government had been publicly humiliated by its failed attempt to prosecute the Chinese-American scientist Wen Ho Lee on charges of passing nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos National Laboratory to China, in a case that came to be seen by some observers as an example of racial prejudice. The investigation of Chi Mak—followed by the successful investigation and prosecution of Greg Chung—turned out to be a milestone in the F.B.I.’s efforts against Chinese espionage, and demonstrated that Chinese spies had indeed been stealing U.S. technological secrets.

While Chung volunteered his services to China out of what seemed to be love for his motherland, the F.B.I. believed that Mak was a trained operative who had been planted in the U.S. by Chinese intelligence. Beginning in 1988, Mak had worked at Power Paragon, a defense company in Anaheim, California, that developed power systems for the U.S. Navy. The F.B.I. suspected that Mak, who immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in the late nineteen-seventies, had been passing sensitive military technology to China for years.

The investigation began when the F.B.I. was tipped off to a potential espionage threat at Power Paragon. The case was assigned to a special agent named James Gaylord; since the technologies at risk involved the Navy, Gaylord and his F.B.I. colleagues were joined by agents from the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. Mak was put under extensive surveillance: the investigators installed a hidden camera outside his home, in Downey, California, to monitor his comings and goings, and surveillance teams followed him wherever he went. All of his phone calls were recorded.

A short and energetic sixty-four-year-old with a quick smile, Mak was a model employee at Power Paragon. Other workers at the company often turned to him for help in solving problems, and Mak provided it with the enthusiasm of a man who appeared to live for engineering. His assimilation into American life was limited to the workplace: he and his wife, Rebecca, led a quiet life, never socializing with neighbors. Rebecca was a sullen, stern woman whose proficiency in English had remained poor during her two and a half decades in the United States. She never went anywhere without Mak, except to take a walk around the neighborhood in the morning.

Sitting around the house—secret audio recordings would later show—the two often talked about Chinese politics, remarking that Mao, like Stalin, was misunderstood by history. The influence of Maoist ideology was, perhaps, evident in the Maks’ extreme frugality: they ate their meals off of newspapers, which they would roll up and toss in the garbage. Every Saturday morning, after a game of tennis, they drove to a gas station and washed their car using the mops and towels there. From the gas station, the Maks drove to a hardware store and disappeared into the lumber section for ten minutes, never buying anything. For weeks, the agents following them wondered if the Maks were making a dead drop, but it turned out that the lumber section offered free coffee at that hour.

The Internet and China-US Relations

By providing an alternative to mainstream media, the internet can increase mutual understanding.

May 17, 2014
Although today China-U.S. relations are not bad, the relationship remains very complicated. There are many factors affecting China-U.S. relations, some of which are very serious. This is why President Xi Jinping proposed the establishment of a “new model of major country relationship” …

This is a government level-affair. But regardless of how governments interact, it will not prevent civil organizations and writers from using whatever platforms they can to promote people-to-people exchanges and increase mutual understanding between the two peoples. This is the most important kind of “public diplomacy,” and in the long term, it may be the most meaningful. In the era of globalization, open societies and open information, it is public knowledge and opinion that ultimately decides the direction of the bilateral relationship.

Over the past ten years, I have witnessed the ups and downs of China-U.S. relationship… The “married couple” of China and the United States began to stumble, especially after 2008. The U.S. media was blunt in criticizing China, and the Chinese official media also began to highly publicize the conspiracies and evil deeds of America. As a result, some young people who couldn’t even find the U.S. on a map grew passionately angry towards the U.S. You would think the forced demolition of their homes, their low salaries, and even Chinese government corruption was all part of a CIA conspiracy. Some people were even dying to sail to the U.S., occupy Washington D.C., and attack the White House.

But the media tides quickly changed again. The “married couple” weren’t arguing anymore. I’m not sure whether they’re sleeping in the same bed, but they’re sitting on the same bench and starting to dream — both the “Chinese Dream” and the “American Dream.” The “married couple” of the U.S. and China had made peace, but the media could not be idle. In a strange coincidence, another evil neighbor turned up at just the right time. This time, it was Japan. The official media got riled up again, and accused the United States of supporting Japan… The United States was attacked just for existing. It got so bad that the sushi lovers didn’t even dare to go to Chinese-owned Japanese restaurants, for fear of being called a traitor.

Discerning people can easily see that the media, which always speaks with one voice, failed to report impartially on the mistakes and ulterior motives of politicians. The media also failed to publish different viewpoints. Truthfully, the media’s role was harmful. The rise of the internet made up for this deficiency. Although China has no independent non-profit organizations engaged in “public diplomacy,” we have “non-paid” writers to provide some positive energy for foreign relations. Over the past decade, I have mostly focused on China’s domestic political reform and democratization process, but I’ve also written hundreds of thousands of words about international relations.

Winter Skies, Frozen Seas and Northern Shores I: China

By: Mario Zorro

Part 1: On the Frozen Seas of the North, a Red Dragon’s flight is worthwhile to note

Thanks to climate change in recent decades, the once always frozen waters of the Arctic are now being increasingly open to international navigation, and it seems that these new routes are not the only treasures that the ice was keeping with valuable resources among the treasures discovered beneath the melting ice. And like any treasure it has grabbed the attention of many. But this time it is not just those that have some territories or are neighbouring the region who are showing an interest in these new resources; China has been increasingly showing its interest in the area.

An analysis of the events, geopolitical interests and policies taken by every state with interests in the area will be made in a series of essays published over the coming weeks in order to provide the reader with a good insight into what is going on in the Arctic and the implications of the interests of the so called “Eight Arctic Countries”[1], as well as of an “outsider” state such as China.

It is about the latter on which this time the focus will be placed, especially because of the Chinese’ “strange” pretensions in the area as well as the very nature of the Rising Power that China has; a nature that might be causing or aiding the Chinese aims, that can also bring conflicts and tensions in the Arctic as well.

Rainwater (2012) points out that China’s fast-paced economic development is forcing the country to look for resources elsewhere in order to keep its momentum as well as to secure its governmental regime by avoiding social unrest through tackling shortages of any good. This is reinforced by the fact that China has limited resources on its own territory thus giving the country no other choice. This means that China depends on those resources abroad and a strategic control and protection of them is a mandatory issue.

Oil is one of those strategic resources on which China depends and the policy implications for the country are not insignificant. Rainwater (2012) reminds us that the access and supply of oil for China depends on a very perilous route from the source to the destination due to a number of factors such as the instability of the Middle East; the naval competence with India, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia; the “Malacca Strait Dilemma”; and the problem of piracy at the Somalian coasts and the same Malacca Strait. All of these factors have made China develop a strong naval force to provide a protection to that vital Sea Line of Communication and the resources that travel that route to China.

But on the same track of resource access and protection (including the utilization of safer routes), Rainwater (2012) points out that the Arctic is becoming another alternative for China, an alternative that would imply an increased presence of PLAN warships in the newly opened Sea Lines of Communication at the Arctic, also increasing the potential of clashes as has happened in the Indian Ocean, the West Pacific and the South China Sea. The resources and the new shipping lines are a very tempting option for a thirsty China, and for the sake of that thirst, China, according to Rainwater (2012), has conducted at least 4 expeditions beyond the Arctic Circle and has established in 2004 a research station in one of the Svalbard Archipelago Island — in Norwegian territory — with the task of monitoring the Arctic climate dynamics and assessing its impact on China’s environment. More expeditions are planned along with new icebreakers, bulk carriers, tankers and airplanes capable of dealing with the Arctic’s maritime and aerial conditions[2].

NATO’s Pivot to Russia Cold War 2.0 at Sea?

This post was provided by Felix Seidler, a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany, and owner of the site Seidler’s Security Policy. This post was originally posted on the CIMSEC Blog.

All Opportunities Gone

After the Cold War, NATO was never threatening Russia, but rather sent dozens of cooperation offers to Moscow. Moreover, if Russia would sincerely have seeked NATO membership, Putin would fly to NATO’s September Summit. However, in NATO, Russia would never have been eye-on-eye with the US, but rather would have found itself on a level with Germany, France and the UK. Thus, Russia would never have found the global prestige and geopolitical influence it was looking for. That is the real reason why Russia never joined the Alliance. Since 1991, there were many opportunities for naval cooperation between NATO and Russia.

In Partnership for Peace (since 1994) and the NATO-Russia Council (since 2002), the Alliance reached out to Moscow, aiming to work closer together at sea. Positively, some of these opportunities turned into reality. NATO and Russia were working together in the Mediterranean in Operation Active Endeavour to combat terrorism and in the Indian Ocean to combat piracy. Moreover, the planned, but cancelled joint naval mission to protect the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons has shown the potential for increased cooperation. However, with the annexation of the Crimea, these opportunities ceased to exist.
Step up Black Sea Presence

Ukraine has no significant navy anymore. Instead, Ukraine’s warships were taken over by Russia, which makes Moscow’s navy, by numbers, larger than the US Navy. However, due to the warships’ poor quality, this increase in naval power does not present a game changer. Surely, a plus for Putin’s navy is that Sevastopol will remain a Russian naval base for decades.

Black Sea (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

After Sevastopol is lost, Ukraine’s only significant port left is Odessa. NATO’s response should be to support Ukraine in keeping at least a small navy. Moreover, NATO should give a guarantee that, in case of further Russian aggression, Ukrainian ships can find shelter in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey or Greece. In addition, SNMGs and SNMCMGs should pay regular visits to Odessa; on the one hand for partnership with Ukraine and on the other hand as show of force to Russia. Trips to Georgia should go along.

NATO Chief Warns That Russian Military Getting Bigger and Better

Aging Russian military scales up rearmament

Conor Dillon and Mikhail Bushuev
Deutsche Welle
May 17, 2014

NATO’s secretary general has once again warned of Russia’s military capacities. A look at the country’s armed forces shows modernizing equipment, more flexible soldiers and nuclear parity.

"Russian defense spending has grown by more than 10 percent in real terms each year over the past five years," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a security conference in Bratislava, Slovakia on Thursday (15.05.2014).

Rasmussen then bleakly contrasted Moscow’s upward investments with declining equivalents in several European NATO countries, each of which cut spending by roughly 20 percent during that same period.

The comments by the secretary general were the strongest yet in a string of warnings on Russia’s military capacity after the country annexed Crimea in March and stationed troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.

Rasmussen will remain NATO’s secretary general until the end of September

One day later, Rasmussen raised the rhetoric a notch while speaking in Bucharest, Romania.

"After what we have seen in Ukraine, no one can trust Russia’s so-called guarantees on other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

The statements came during a week in which the French government confirmed it will follow through on plans to deliver two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia, a decision the US state department’s spokesperson called “unhelpful.”

Catching up…

Those ships, however, are still officially intended for Vladivostok in eastern Russia, says Nick de Larrinaga at the London-based IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly magazine.

Russian journalist Alexander Golts, who has been writing on the Russian armed forces for 15 years, told DW that the figures mentioned by NATO’s secretary general are “roughly correct,” though “they sum up all spending with respect to defense, and all 12 security agencies.”

Both experts agree that Russia is playing catch-up.

ukraine new face of warfare

For weeks, the Ukrainian military has been embroiled in a no-win conflict with armed pro-Russian separatists.

But on May 15 in the contested city of Mariupol, something very interesting happened. Thousands of unarmed steelworkers took to the streets against the separatists.

The separatists, who had just recently been out in the open, disappeared as quickly as they arrived. Teams of workers from Metinvest—one of Ukraine’s largest mining and steel holding companies—along with local police began patrolling roads and dismantling separatist barricades.

“Faced with waves of steelworkers joined by the police, the pro-Russian protesters melted away, along with signs of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and its representatives,” the New York Times reported.

While it’s too early to tell whether the emergence of the laborers as an organized force will pull eastern Ukraine from the brink, their initial success in Mariupol is in stark contrast to the military’s poor record in recent weeks.

The company plans to expand the operation—known as Volunteer People’s Patrols—to other troubled cities in eastern Ukraine. If successful, it’ll be an example of a private company successfully entering an armed conflict and winning, all without firing a shot.

It’s also a bit worrying. The patrols are employees of a company owned by one of Ukraine’s wealthiest oligarchs. At the same time, he might also be the person who can keep the country together and beat back Russia’s new—and more discreet—way of war.

Rinat Akhmetov, Ukrainian oligarch, on right. Anastasiya Fedorenko/Wikipedia photo

Privatized conflict

The person at the center of all of this is Rinat Akhmetov. A billionaire industrialist and oligarch, Akhmetov’s holding company System Capital Management is one of Ukraine’s largest businesses.

Together, SCE owns DTEK, which holds considerable coal assets, and Metinvest, which invests in steel and mining. Both DTEK and Metivest employ hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Ukraine. Akhmetov also has expensive tastes. He owns his own soccer team—Shakhtar Donetsk—and one of London’s most expensive condos.

The French Military Shakes Things Up in Africa More hunting terrorists, less peacekeeping

The French military is in the process of changing how if fights in Africa. France now wants to focus more on fighting terrorism rather than traditional peacekeeping missions.

France is sending some 3,000 soldiers to the region on a “long-term” basis. French minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the changes after meeting with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

However, the Ministère de la Défense is really just reshuffling troops already on the continent. The country has no plans to dramatically increase the total number of troops deployed and the African nations hosting them have already agreed to the new plans.

Paris is worried about Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other militant and criminal groups in the Sahel—the semi-desert region separating North Africa from the sub-Saharan portion of the continent. Terrorists could possibly launch strikes in Europe from these historically “ungoverned spaces.”

French and U.S. soldiers training together. U.S. Marine Corps photo

Preparing for a long fight

The reorganization in Africa is specifically designed to handle this new threat scenario. And France is settling in for the long-haul if Le Drian’s comments are any indication.

Starting in 2015, French soldiers in Côte d’Ivoire will concentrate on providing logistical support and act as a reserve to other French forces in the region. The base in the country’s capital Abidjan already played this role in 2012 when France intervened in Mali.

A substantial force will also remain in Mali. However, the 1,000 man “frontline division” is another step down from 1,400 soldiers currently there and is much smaller than France’s initial 5,000-strong force.

Some of the troops leaving that West African nation are relocating to Chad. The Central African nation is set to host more than 1,200 French personnel.

France plans to establish a headquarters for African operations in the country’s capital Ndjamena. French Rafale and Mirage fighter jets are also based there along with aerial tankers.

Paris is also sending smaller detachments to other countries. More Reaper and Harfang surveillance drones are going to Niger and and French special forces are setting up shop in Burkina Faso.

Iranian Reality Check

MAY 15, 2014 

WASHINGTON — Unreasonable optimism surrounds talks between Iran and major powers that resumed this week with the aim of moving beyond an interim deal to a long-term accord that ensures a limited Iranian nuclear program that can only be put to civilian use.

An agreement would be the best outcome by far. The other options are a continuation of the relentless build-up of Iranian nuclear capacity seen over the past decade or war. As Jessica Mathews put it in The New York Review of Books, “The price of an agreement will be accepting a thoroughly monitored, appropriately sized enrichment program in Iran that does not rise over 5 percent. The alternatives are war or a nuclear-armed Iran.”

That choice may sound like a no-brainer. The perfect must not be the enemy of the good. But the distance between the parties is huge.

Some of the problems are political. Israel is holding out for complete dismantlement, a nonstarter that has many backers in Congress. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has given his negotiators latitude to explore a deal but remains ambivalent (at best) about the concessions needed and convinced that regime change is America’s intent. Powerful political factions in both the United States and Iran would be delighted to see everything unravel even if they have nothing constructive to put in its place.

The biggest obstacles are concrete and technical. They involve the basic issues of what size nuclear program is plausibly consistent with civilian use only; how to ensure the barrier between such a program and militarization is rock-solid; how to achieve complete transparency and relentless verification beyond anything seen in other non-nuclear-armed states that enrich uranium; and what to do about a question scarcely addressed in the interim accord: Iran’s missile development and its purpose.

What this means in practice is that the United States and its partners cannot accept an Iranian enrichment facility buried in a mountain, which is what Fordow is. But convincing Khamenei to close Fordow while force remains a threat will be problematic.

Iran now has some 19,000 centrifuges, of which 10,000 are spinning. It wants to increase that number on the far-fetched grounds that it cannot rely on Russia to supply fuel for its one nuclear power plant. To the contrary, the major powers will insist that the quantity of centrifuges be cut to a fraction of the current number, probably no more than 4,000.

The same sharp division exists over Iran’s stockpiles. It has over 7,600 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (supposedly for reactor fuel but usable for further enrichment). It wants to increase the stockpile. The United States and its partners want to slash it, either by immediate conversion into fuel rods or removal to another location.

Obama’s NSA Reforms Faling Short of What Cyber Experts Want

Obama’s NSA spying reforms fail to satisfy cyber experts

May 16, 2014

White House Special Assistant to the President and the Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel answers a question during the third day of Reuters CyberSecurity Summit in Washington, May 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - Obama administration actions to change some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices after the leaks of classified documents by contractor Edward Snowden are falling short of what many private cyber experts want.

Top government experts told the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit this week they would be more transparent about spying activity. Non-government guests, however, said the administration was not doing enough to advance Internet security.

For instance, last December a White House review commission called for a drastic reduction in the NSA’s practice of keeping secret the software vulnerabilities it learns about and then exploiting them for spying purposes.

White House cybersecurity advisor Michael Daniel said at the conference that he would chair the interagency group charged with weighing each newly discovered software flaw and deciding whether to keep it secret or warn the software maker about it.

"The policy has been in place for a number of years, but it was not as active as we decided that it should be," Daniel said. Now, he said, "there is a process, there is rigor in that process, and the bias is very heavily tilted toward disclosure."

Commission member Peter Swire told the summit he was pleased by the formal process for debating vulnerability use, but others said there were too many loopholes.

In an April 28 White House blog post, Daniel wrote that the factors the interagency group would consider included the likelihood that the vulnerability would be discovered by others and how pressing was the need for intelligence.