8 September 2014

Modi inaugurates the Asian era

S. D. Muni

In the first 100 days, the SAARC invitation and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to neighbouring capitals have greatly improved the atmospherics of the bilateral discourse and created hope for greater regional cooperation and synergy
It is hoped that Prime Minister Modi’s diplomatic efforts are streamlined to move with greater care in pushing forward the new approach of pro-active engagement with the neighbours. Photo: PTI

MODI government’s neighbourhood initiative, which started even before the government was sworn-in, in the form of invitation to SAARC heads of Government and State, has widely been acclaimed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi established personal contacts with the SAARC leaders, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and paid two official visits to Bhutan and Nepal. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj reactivated India-Nepal Joint Commission meetings after 23 years by visiting Kathmandu and paid visits to Bangladesh and Myanmar. Foreign Secretary-level talks were scheduled between India and Pakistan despite violations of ceasefire on the Line of Control and international border, ignoring Modi’s campaign position that while bombs and guns boom, we cannot talk meaningfully.

India, however, pulled back from these talks as a result of the PMO-led intervention, which insisted on Pakistan discontinuing its parleys with Kashmir’s separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders on the eve of the talks.

The SAARC invitation and the visits to neighbouring capitals greatly improved the atmospherics of the bilateral discourse and created hope for greater regional cooperation and synergy. It gave Indian leaders the feel of political terrain as well as developmental expectations from India, in the neighbouring countries through personal contacts with the diversity of local leaders. In Bangladesh, Sushma Swaraj set at rest her hosts’ anxieties on the BJP campaign rhetoric against illegal immigrants and promised that Land and Teesta Agreements would be expeditiously concluded. Modi’s eloquent addresses in Bhutan’s Parliament and Nepal’s Constituent Assembly not only sought to bridge the trust deficit with India but gave assurances that India would stand by these countries in their respective searches for security, stability and development. His use of catchy phrases like B 4 B in Bhutan i.e. Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat, and in Nepal, Youdh se Bhuddha, (from war to peace) andShastra se Shastra (from arms to scriptures/Constitution) to hail Nepal’s peace process of the Maoists joining the mainstream, promised a new Indian approach towards neighbours.

There were, however, no major breakthroughs in the neighbourhood initiative, and the withdrawal from talks with Pakistan was indeed amounted to be a breakdown. With settling of the euphoria of the visits, voices of sceptics and critics in the neighbouring countries as also within India, have started rising. The Modi government has come under strong criticism on the cancellation of talks with Pakistan. The Kashmir Assembly has even passed a resolution urging for restarting the talks and engaging Pakistan to promote bilateral ties. In Bangladesh, anxiety continues to centre on the critical pending agreements on Teesta water sharing and the Land Border. In Nepal, much-hyped Power Trade Agreement (PTA) and the Project Development Agreement (PDA) could not be signed. Modi has promised to renegotiate with Nepal, the Treaty of 1950, but there is no meaningful response from Nepal yet as to what it really wants in the revised treaty. There is no progress on a host of other issues, too, related to trade and transit, pending border demarcation and border management and rail and road link projects.

Germany’s great green gamble

September 8, 2014 

Jairam Ramesh
ReutersENERGY HOT SPOT: It is the complete decommissioning of nuclear plants in eight years coupled with an overriding emphasis on energy efficiency that gives ‘energiewende’ a unique dimension. A file picture of solar panels being installed on a building in the German town of Falkensee.

India has much to learn from Germany’s bold energy transformation

The Germans gave the word kindergarten to the world of education. They gave the term wirtschaftswunder to development economics to describe their country’s remarkable economic transformation immediately following World War II. Now, in the area of sustainable growth, another typically compound German word is inviting global attention:energiewende. This refers to the profound energy transition Germany is going through. For a country dubbed as the “sick man of Europe” at the beginning of this century, the achievement is stupendous.

Today, already something like 30 per cent of Germany’s electricity supply comes from solar and wind energy and the country is actually exporting power. The goal is to increase this contribution to 50 per cent by 2030 and a staggering 80 per cent by 2050. Smaller countries in Scandinavia have similar achievements and ambitions but Germany is completely different because it is the world’s pre-eminent industrial economy and has a population of slightly over 80 million. The scale of what Germany has accomplished over the past decade and a half is what gives it wider relevance, especially to large countries like India.

At present, Germany has around 37,000 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity. In addition, it has another 29,000 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity. What has given renewables new momentum is the decision of Chancellor Angela Merkel to completely phase out Germany’s present nuclear power generating capacity of about 12,000 megawatts by the year 2022. There has always been a strong anti-nuclear movement in Germany and this got a fresh impetus following the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011 which prompted the Chancellor’s dramatic volte-face. It was a bold decision given that when Fukushima happened, Germany was getting between a fifth and a quarter of electricity supply from its nuclear power plants. It is the complete decommissioning of all such plants in eight years coupled with an overriding emphasis on energy efficiency that gives energiewende a unique dimension. However, question marks do remain on how much coal capacity Germany will end up adding to compensate for abandoning nuclear power.

“The scale of what Germany has accomplished over the past decade and a half is what gives it wider relevance”

The primary motivation

India Outpacing China’s Oil Demand

Sep 1, 2014

India’s diesel demand has risen sharply in the last few months because of power shortages and delayed monsoon rains. Here, an assistant refuels a boat with diesel in Pondicherry, India, on Saturday, July 19, 2014. 

Bloomberg News

India’s oil demand has grown faster than China’s so far this year, highlighting slowing energy demand in the world’s most populous country and fueling expectations that India may pick up the slack over the medium-to-long term. The pace of India’s demand also reflects optimism about India’s economic growth under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

In absolute terms China is Asia’s largest oil consumer, having burned 10.76 million barrels a day of oil and accounting for 12.1% of global oil consumption in 2013, according to BPPLC.BP.LN +2.59% The second-largest oil consumer in Asia is Japan, though its oil consumption has been declining as its economy has matured. 

India ranks third at 3.7 million barrels a day and accounted for about 4.2% of global oil consumption in 2013. 

India’s oil demand has shown steady growth through July at an average of 3%, or 101,000 barrels a day. China’s oil demand has declined at an average of 0.6%, or 62,000 barrel a day, in the same period, Barclays BARC.LN -1.95% PLC analyst Miswin Mahesh said. 

Indian oil demand growth has “organic, domestic, economic activity-linked factors still driving it,” he said. Mr. Mahesh expects the south Asian country’s oil demand to accelerate to 210,000 barrels a day next year, spurred by healthy construction activity, government-financed industrial projects and strong growth in car purchases. 

China’s oil-demand growth, on the other hand, remains uncertain, with a large portion of its imports this year going into strategic stockpiling instead of consumption. Its oil demand fell into negative territory in July and its oil imports declined for the first time this year.

“This surprise drop in crude imports further supported our view that [China's] full-year oil demand could be weaker than current market expectations,” Thomas C. Hilboldt, head of Asia Pacific oil research at HSBC Holdings PLC said last week. 

Putin mobilises nostalgia for a narrative of possible greatness, captured in the territorial influence of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

September 6, 2014 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliterative vocabulary for international relations needs a third leg. In Japan, he made a contrast between two kinds of international behaviour: vistarvad (politics of expansion) and vikasvad (politics of progress). Whether this contrast displayed deep strategic insight, sent a subtle message to China or is merely a useful distinction is an open question. But in focusing on this contrast, he arguably left out a tendency that is proving to be far more potent in world politics today: vishadvad (politics of regret and nostalgia).

Agents in world politics seldom operate on singular motives. But, at the risk of oversimplification, this can be said: the most destabilising and intractable actors in world politics today are not driven by territorial expansion in the traditional 19th-century sense, nor simply a desire for progress. The ideological impulses animating these actors are a potent mix of nostalgia, historical memory and an unresolved sense of hurt. These tendencies are often exacerbated by strains of authoritarianism, or a historical experience that does not find it easy to institutionalise a narrative of national purpose built around democracy and capitalism. And the more a state is in decline, the more the pull of vishadvad. It opens up the space for politicians manipulating a sense of self-esteem, often in dangerous ways. This politics has made a comeback with a vengeance.

A quick survey of conflicts makes this apparent. Russia President Vladimir Putin mobilises nostalgia for a narrative of possible greatness, captured in the territorial influence of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Add to this a dash of Slavic tragedy, a pinch of authoritarian ruthlessness and you have political behaviour that, in his own mind, is not about territory or progress; it is about a fantasy born of the past. The triad of China, Japan and South Korea is shaped profoundly by historical memories of the first half of the 20th century. The ideological underpinnings of China’s role in Asia are governed by a narrative of past humiliation, and a desire to restore China to its preeminent place in Asia. Japan has been a less powerful actor in Asia, in part because it has not fully come to terms with its historical legacies, the source of deep psychological tensions with both China and South Korea. While we focus on Sino-Japanese tensions, we should not underestimate Korean-Japanese tensions, exacerbated by memories of the past. Arguably, the India-Pakistan relationship can never be understood in the traditional framework of progress versus expansion; it is grounded in the politics of self-esteem.

This politics is pronounced in other parts of the world. Some of the ideological foundations of Turkish foreign policy are animated by memories, if not of the political form of the Ottoman Empire, at least of its reach and influence. And the new, most murderous kid on the block, the IS, again seems to mix a potent narrative of humiliation and a fantasy of the political form of the Caliphate. Al-Qaeda, now targeting India, builds on narratives of humiliation and a fantasy of an umma that can overcome the nation state form. Almost all the states in West Asia, from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, are going to struggle in their political transitions at some point. The forms of those states, a combination of authoritarianism and easy rents, do not allow their narratives to easily embrace vikasvad. It is not an accident that these states have variously invested in all kinds of narratives, from the most fatally fundamentalist to the bought trappings of modern culture. But none has acquired a stable political form.

Not recognising the depth of vishadvad matters. It leads those who seek to intervene to consistently make mistakes. It is almost as if two incommensurable games are going on in world politics. One set of countries, like the United States, thinks all we need to do is get the balance of force and the economic incentives right. Others are playing a psychologically different game, nourished by a politics of resentful historical memory. Unlike a politics of just territory or progress, a politics of self-esteem is not amenable to easy compromise. In the Middle East, this has produced disaster after disaster. Every intervention, while it may displace some bad characters, creates an institutional vacuum and feeds exactly that politics of self-esteem, which has the power to draw in more recruits. The US also has had this fantasy that some incentives and conditionalities would alter the behaviour of Pakistani generals towards their own democracy or the neighbourhood. The IS is a big challenge, not just for what it represents, but for the competition it can unleash for tapping into that combination of resentment and fantasy. It is being said that the IS is concentrating the minds of the states of the Middle East. The ideal solution would be the states of the Middle East coming together to crush it, rather than the West producing yet another cycle of intervention and resentment.

*** Nuclear Pakistan’s Spies Target India—and Their Own Prime Minister


Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate is using terrorist brinkmanship to threaten India and undermine Nawaz Sharif. It’s time to stop this dangerous game. 

Just when you thought the world was dangerous enough, another crisis between nuclear-weapons-armed India and Pakistan is brewing, and now al Qaeda is adding fuel to the fire by calling for jihad in the subcontinent. 

Tensions have been growing all summer long, even though, ironically, things began on a positive high note: in June, newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept into power on a landslide, invited his Pakistan counterpart, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration. 

Behind this unprecedented gesture, however, darker forces were planning a different sort of event. A squad of heavily armed terrorists attacked the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, right on the eve of the inauguration. They planned to take Indian diplomats hostage and then execute them as Modi was took office. Fortunately the Indian security guards at the consulate killed all the attackers. 

The U.S. State Department publicly blamed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the group which attacked Mumbai in 2008. LeT is very close to the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate or ISI. LeT would not have taken such a highly provocative action without at least some advance nod from the Pakistani spies in the ISI and the generals who command them. LeT’s leader, Hafeez Saeed, lives openly in Pakistan, frequently appears on television denouncing the United States, and is the darling of the ISI. 

If there is another LeT attack like the one in Mumbai or the one in Herat, it will provoke the most serious crisis in years between India and Pakistan, and the more that can be done by the United States and other to prevent such a disaster the better. But it won’t be easy. 

On Wednesday, to complicate the situation further, Al Qaeda released a new videotape of its leader Ayman Zawahiri announcing the creation of a an al Qaeda franchise in India. Zawahiri made the tape in his hideout in Pakistan, no doubt, and many Indians suspect the ISI is helping to protect him. Zawahiri has longstanding links to LeT and to Saeed. The 55-minute video is Zawahiri’s first this year and threatens jihadist attacks across India. 

The domestic politics of Pakistan are central to this drama, and to this threat. 

The United States should also consider a unilateral step if another attack occurs, threatening to place Pakistan on the State Department list of states sponsoring terrorism. 


By D Suba Chandran

Is there a coup imminent in Pakistan? Or has it already taken place behind the scenes and the military is well embedded?

Javed Hashmi, the President of the PTI who has now distanced from Imran Khan has made few important statements hinting a script authored by the Establishment on the current political crisis in Pakistan. What is this script and what is Pakistan military’s endgame in the current crisis? Does the military want the political crisis to escalate further and finally take over, justifying the inability and incompetence of the elected leadership to provide governance, and more importantly stability?

Though the ISPR statements from the military have distanced from such an intention, there is enough to suspect that the Establishment has a script, and is enacting a political play in carefully calibrated steps. There are three major actors in this script; Nawaz Sharif – the Prime Minister and the leader of the PML-N; Imran Khan – the leader of PTI; and Tahirul Qadri – the leader of PAT.

The ISPR statement dated 31 August was a crucial hinting two salient points. The release after the Corps Commanders meeting stated that “the conference reviewed with serious concern, the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives. Further use of force will only aggravate the problem. It was once again reiterated that the situation should be resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means.”

The two parties to the crisis-government led by Sharif and the protesters led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, have been following two different approaches. The government has been trying to maintain the status quo at the political level, and ensure there is no violence in the streets. The protesters, right from day one have been trying to upset the status, demanding nothing less than the resignation of an elected Prime Minister. More importantly, they were willing to use force to occupy the red zone and blast into government buildings including the office of the Prime Minister.

Clearly, there is a section trying to maintain status quo (the government in this case); and another trying to upset the equilibrium and create anarchy. By clearly telling that “the situation should be resolved politically… without recourse to violent means” the ISPR statement has affected the position of the government and strengthened that of the protesters. If there is one party that could use force constitutionally, it is the State. And the ISPR Statement clearly equates both at the same length.

Majority in Pakistan, though are not satisfied with the performance of Sharif’s government ever since it took over, they are also highly critical of Imran Khan – Tahirul Qadri interference, which is not only undemocratic, but also is a political blackmail. Javed Hashmi’s statements hint about a possible understanding between the Establishment and the two protesters.

Nawaz wins this round as army loses plot

September 5, 2014

Something quite strange has happened in Pakistan in the last couple of days. Just when it seemed that it was all over for the civilian government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, it seems to have bounced back. The all-powerful army has had to back off. This is the second time since the end of the last bout of military dictatorship in 2008 that the Pakistan army has lost the plot of getting rid of an elected civilian government - the first was the infamous Memogate in late 2012. Perhaps it is somewhat premature to claim that the civilian side of the civil military equation in Pakistan has gotten a tad more balanced in favour of the civilians, but that’s an impression that is increasingly inescapable.

Making any robust prediction about Pakistan is always fraught with risk. For months now it seemed it was curtains for Sharif. At the very least, his powers would be reduced to that of the head of a municipality. But suddenly just when it seemed that his game was up, Sharif seems to be coming out the winner. His challengers – the delusional Imran Khan and the fulminating cleric based in Canada, Tahirul Qadri, but in reality the ‘boys’ in Khaki – have been deflated and are now looking for some sort of face-saver.

It would be stretching the limits of credulity to even think that Sharif had gamed the whole scenario and played his cards deftly. With all the political and administrative goof-ups in the last few months, which fuelled this TV manufactured crisis and made it appear much larger than what it really was, what really turned the tide in Sharif’s favour was a combination of some smart and sensible thinking. For one not allowing blood to spill on the streets of Islamabad and thereby giving the ‘boys’ the justification they were looking for to step in. Second in resisting the enormous pressure that was brought on him to resign from the position of Prime Minister. To put it differently, Nawaz Sharif didn’t do what he was expected to do, i.e., crackdown on the protestors, and he did what he wasn’t expected to do, i.e., give in to the bulk of demands of the protestors which practically took the wind out of their sails and showed them up as unreasonable for continuing to agitate and demand the resignation of the Sharif brothers.

The attempt to use TV screens to manufacture a revolution collapsed when people just didn’t turn out in the numbers they were expected. Worse, apart from the pulp revolutionaries in Islamabad, the rest of Pakistan simply went about its business. There was no national level upsurge in other towns and cities of Pakistan. Almost all the political parties covering the entire political spectrum backed the government, thereby denying the conspirators the political space. But what really swung things around was the disclosure by the quintessential rebel in Pakistani politics, Javed Hashmi, that Imran Khan was taking instructions and was being guided by the ‘badge-bearers’. Coming as it did from the president of Imran Khan’s party, this disclosure pretty much exposed the entire plot.

From the time Imran Khan and Qadri announced their protest marches, the shadow of the army appeared to be behind this entire exercise. Those pointing the finger at the army had so solid proof except for circumstantial evidence. But Hashmi’s revelations forced the army to scurry for cover. What also spoiled things for the army were their own agents in the media overplaying their hand through clumsy disinformation campaigns. For instance, the army was deeply embarrassed by the fake story about how the Prime Minister was ready to put in his papers after some arm twisting by the army chief. Not only did such stories put off a whole lot of people, they also exposed the army’s hand in the sordid game that was being played out in the streets of Islamabad.

The Chinese Military Is a Paper Dragon

September 5, 2014

Some think China is a near-peer competitor. Wrong.

China’s rise over the past 30 years has been nothing short of spectacular.

After decades of double-digit growth, today China is the world’s second largest economy—and possesses an increasingly sophisticated military that’s among the planet’s most powerful. Despite China bordering a number of unstable countries, its borders are secure.

That wasn’t always the case. In 2,000 years, China has suffered invasions, revolutions and humiliations from the outside world — plus its own internal rebellions. It has been brutalized, conquered and colonized.

No longer. China’s defense spending has increased tenfold in 25 years. Beijing is building a powerful blue-water navy, developing stealth fighters and carefully experimenting with peacekeeping and expeditionary operations.

China’s military buildup, along with an aggressive foreign policy, has inspired a fair amount of alarm in the West. Some American policymakers consider Beijing to be Washington’s only “near-peer competitor”—in other words, the only country with the military might to actually beat the U.S. military in certain circumstances.

But they’re wrong. Even after decades of expensive rearmament, China is a paper dragon—a version of what Mao Zedong wrongly claimed the United States was … in 1956.

China’s military budget has grown by double-digits year after year, but inflation has eaten away at the increases. China’s army, navy, air force and missile command are wracked by corruption—and their weapons are, by and large, still greatly inferior to Western equivalents.

Yes, the People’s Liberation Army is slowly becoming more technologically advanced. But that doesn’t mean Beijing can mobilize its armed forces for global missions. Unlike the world’s main expeditionary powers—the United States and the U.K., to name two—China is surrounded by potential enemies.

Russia, Japan and India are all neighbors … and historic adversaries. China’s aggressive foreign policy targeting smaller states isn’t encouraging submission but resistance, as countries such as The Philippines and Vietnam ally with the United States, Japan and India.

China’s other neighbors are weak or failed states, such as Pakistan and North Korea. Their instability—or their outright collapse—could have serious security repercussions for China, and help explain why Beijing lavishes funds on its armed forces.

Top Gun With Chinese Characteristics: Time to Clip the Wings of China’s Mavericks

September 4, 2014 

Last month’s near miss between a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane and a Chinese fighter jet in international airspace some 130 miles off the Chinese coast has been described by many pundits as evidence of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive military posture. The incident, however, isn’t necessarily indicative of an officially sanctioned Chinese policy of belligerence. Instead, the recklessness of the pilot, who reportedly barrel-rolled his 26 ton jet around the larger American plane, may be more representative of the risk-seeking behavior of relatively junior yet ego-driven commanders acting largely on their own accord. Indeed, Pentagon officials recently revealed that they believe a lone Chinese officer could be responsible for ordering several recent aggressive intercepts.

The possibility that these brazen intercepts are decisions of individual commanders rather than Beijing-directed policies doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned. Botched intercepts could quickly result in inadvertent escalation and heighten tensions between Washington and Beijing, especially if there is a repeat of an incident similar to the deadly 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter and an American reconnaissance plane. To prevent routine patrols from spiraling into conflict, both the United States and China must take steps to check and marginalize Chinese incarnations of Maverick, the brash naval aviator portrayed by Tom Cruise in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun.

While Chinese military aircraft and ships have taken a far more active role in intercepting and shadowing their American counterparts in recent years, a vast majority of these interactions are professional and entirely in accordance with international law. Just last month, for instance, a Chinese intelligence gathering ship monitored an American naval exercise in the Pacific.

Customary international law allows states to monitor ships and aircraft operating in international waters and airspace so long as the vessel of interest’s safety is not jeopardized. When intercepts endanger American military assets, they generally make it into news headlines. In 2009, for example, several Chinese government and civilian vessels harassed the USNS Impeccable, an American surveillance ship, forcing it to conduct an emergency stop to avoid a crash. More recently, a PLA Navy amphibious ship blocked the path of the USS Cowpens as it attempted to observe China’s recently commissioned aircraft carrier operating in international waters; the American cruiser was forced to take evasive maneuvers. Perhaps the most notable incident, which shares many parallels with last week’s intercept, occurred in 2001 when a Chinese J-8 fighter clipped the wing of a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft. The Chinese pilot was killed and China detained 24 American crewmembers.

In each of these cases, China accused the United States of infringing on its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a 200 nautical mile stretch off a state’s coast in which the state holds rights to marine and energy resources. While most states acknowledge the right of others to collect intelligence in the EEZ, China disagreeswith this notion and considers reconnaissance in the zone to be illegal (while not-so-quietly launching its own intelligence gathering operations in the EEZs of other regional actors).

Crashing Glider, Hidden Hotspring

James M. Acton, Catherine Dill, Jeffrey Lewis
SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 


On August 7, China conducted a test of a hypersonic weapon. Open-source information about what happened that day in a remote part of Inner Mongolia allows for a few observations.

By a lake in an Inner Mongolian desert, about 200 km south-east of Ordos—the oft-described ghost city that hosted the Miss World contest in 2012—lies a Chinese resort called the Bulong Hu Hot Springs Resort (布龙湖温泉度假区). On August 7, at about 11am, tourists in the resort were presumably doing what tourists at a lake-side spa do. Maybe a young couple from Beijing was soaking in the hot springs, enjoying a luxurious end to a hot and dusty trek around Inner Mongolia. Perhaps a retiree from Ordos, bored of watching Miss World highlights on Good Morning Ordos, was enjoying the relative excitement of fishing on the lake. Maybe a shepherd was grazing his sheep in the cultivated land just outside the resort. What we can safely assume is that none of them knew what was, almost literally, about to hit them. 

The noise—a thundering crash—must have been the first terrifying indication of what had happened. Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate about what they saw because some of them photographed it: huge clouds of red smoke billowing up from the desert. Someone even got near enough to the crash site to take photos of it. Even to his or her (presumably) untrained eye, it must have been clear that the debris littering the area was from some sort of a rocket.

These cell phone images appeared online almost immediately. However, they seem to have been suppressed and quickly vanished from the Chinese websites where they first appeared. But this is the internet, so nothing can be deleted. 

Almost immediately, Chinese internet sources connected the rocket with a test of what the Pentagon calls the WU-14—a hypersonic glider, launched by a rocket, that China is known to have tested at least once before, in January 2014. (Technically, the term “WU-14” probably refers to the whole package of booster and glider, but it’s become the glider’s de-facto name). 

Bill Gertz, of the Washington Free Beacon, picked up on these rumors and on, August 19, published a somewhat alarmist article, which appears to have been largely based on Chinese internet sources—although he also reported that two anonymous U.S. officials had confirmed that the test did involve the WU-14. Three days later, the South China Morning Post reported that the test was a failure. Chinese internet sources had said the same thing but Gertz did not, implying that such debris was to be expected. 

Urbanization and Demographics Could Skew China's Economic Rebalancing



China's urban population may grow by as many as 230 million people in the next 15 years. But most growth will take place not in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing but in the myriad small- and medium-sized satellite cities around them. And as residents flock to these cities, China's working-age population will begin to decline, and its elderly population will grow dramatically.

Together, these processes will underpin major changes not only in China's overall economic structure, but also in the financial, fiscal and political relationship between central and local government. The added burdens facing small- and medium-sized cities, especially those located deep inside China that are sequestered from mainstream global trade, will be substantial and perhaps socially and politically destabilizing. 


In July, the Chinese government announced that a revision to the one-child policy had been implemented throughout the country's provinces and regions. The announcement of the revision, which allows couples in which either partner is an only child to have up to two children, heralded the end of the controversial policy. More relaxed family planning measures have long been in place for rural and ethnic minority communities, and most urban Chinese of childbearing age now were the only children in their families, so the revision dramatically narrows the portion of China's population to which the original one-child policy still applies.

The purpose of the one-child policy -- limiting the population shaping demographic trends -- was superseded many years ago by the far more fundamental forces of industrialization and urbanization. Two decades ago, China's fertility rate fell below 2.1, the generally accepted population replacement rate. Since then, it has dropped to roughly 1.5 or, by some measures, as low as 1.4. These are comparable to fertility rates in Russia and Italy but well below those of the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and many other more advanced economies.

It is a coincidence, but a symbolically loaded one, that China's fertility rate fell below the population replacement rate in the same year that the Chinese government enacted new fiscal policies and other measures that would necessitate and drive the housing construction booms of the 1990s, early 2000s and post-global financial crisis era. The almost continuous two-decade property boom cycle underpinned rapid growth in the portion of China's population living in cities -- from less than 30 percent in the early 1990s to the current 54 percent. In doing so, it introduced hundreds of millions more Chinese to urban life, with all its associated costs. Far more than the one-child policy, these costs have shaped family planning practices in China in recent years, as have rising education levels and the transition from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and construction.

Chinese Jihadi Militant Captured Fighting With ISIS in Iraq

Iraqis Identify Prisoner as Chinese Islamist Fighter

Eduard Wong
New York Times
September 4, 2014

BEIJING — The Iraqi Defense Ministry has posted on its Facebook page photographs that it says show a captured Chinese man who was fighting on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni jihadist group.

Iraqi officials have not released further details, but the photographs, if confirmed, would be the first visual evidence of a Chinese citizen fighting with ISIS, which has members from around the world, including the United States. Both the leader of ISIS and a Chinese diplomat said this summer that Chinese fighters had joined ISIS.

The first of the Defense Ministry’s photographs, posted on Monday, shows an Iraqi soldier holding up a muscular, Asian-looking man with a severely bruised and bloodied face. The man is wearing an olive-green camouflage T-shirt, pants, black gloves and an armband with white Arabic lettering on a black background.

A second photograph shows the man curled on rocks on the ground, with cuts and scrapes visible on his stomach and left elbow.

Arabic text accompanying the photographs says “Chinese Da’ash,” using what is roughly an Arabic acronym for ISIS, which prefers to call itself the Islamic State.

OPEN Graphic

As of Thursday afternoon, the pictures had been shared more than 1,200 times and “liked” more than 9,500 times. The Iraqi Defense Ministry did not say what evidence it had that the fighter was Chinese.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.

Chinese officials have in the past expressed concerns about citizens’ venturing abroad to join ISIS or other jihadist groups in the Middle East, or of their being influenced by such groups to carry out attacks within China.

Wu Sike, who until Wednesday was China’s special envoy to the Middle East, said at a news conference in late July that about 100 Chinese fighters were being trained or were fighting in the Middle East. Mr. Wu said that number was based on reports by foreign news organizations. Most of the fighters were ethnic Uighurs, he said, referring to a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim people who live in Xinjiang, a region in western China.

The Chinese government often says Uighur terrorists are to blame for a surge in violence in Xinjiang, while foreign scholars and terrorism analysts say the government appears to be exaggerating its reports of terrorist activities. Beijing has not released much evidence or details of what it has labeled terrorist cells and operations in the region.

The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, mentioned Chinese fighters in a speech this summer at the start of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. In the nearly 20-minute speech, released online July 1, Mr. Baghdadi listed 12 nationalities of fighters in ISIS, one of them being Chinese, according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group, an organization in Maryland that tracks jihadist messages.


Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. 

Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now. After all, there’s Ferguson (the How the rest of the world sees Ferguson was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list. Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S. Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.” We have the look of a superpower down on our luck.

What Americans have needed is a little pick-me-up to make us feel better, to make us, in fact, feel distinctly good. Certainly, what official Washington has needed in tough times is a bona fide enemy so darn evil, so brutal, so barbaric, so inhuman that, by contrast, we might know just how exceptional, how truly necessary to this planet we really are. 

In the nick of time, riding to the rescue comes something new under the sun: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), recently renamed Islamic State (IS). It’s a group so extreme that even al-Qaeda rejected it, so brutal that it’s brought back crucifixion, beheading, waterboarding, and amputation, so fanatical that it’s ready to persecute any religious group within range of its weapons, so grimly beyond morality that it’s made the beheading of an innocent American a global propaganda phenomenon. If you’ve got a label that’s really, really bad like genocide or ethnic cleansing, you can probably apply it to ISIS's actions. 

It has also proven so effective that its relatively modest band of warrior jihadis has routed the Syrian and Iraqi armies, as well as the Kurdish pesh merga militia, taking control of a territory larger than Great Britain in the heart of the Middle East. Today, it rules over at least four million people, controls its own functioning oil fields and refineries (and so their revenues as well as infusions of money from looted banks, kidnapping ransoms, and Gulf state patrons). Despite opposition, it still seems to be expanding and claims it has established a caliphate. 

A Force So Evil You’ve Got to Do Something 
Facing such pure evil, you may feel a chill of fear, even if you’re a top military or national security official, but in a way you’ve gotta feel good, too. It’s not everyday that you have an enemy your president can term a “cancer”; that your secretary of state can call the “face” of “ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, and valueless evil” which “must be destroyed”; that your secretary of defense can denounce as “barbaric” and lacking a “standard of decency, of responsible human behavior... an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else”; that your chairman of the joint chiefs of staff can describe as “an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated”; and that a retired general and former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan can brand a “scourge... beyond the pale of humanity [that]... must be eradicated.” 

Talk about a feel-good feel-bad situation for the leadership of a superpower that’s seen better days! Such threatening evil calls for only one thing, of course: for the United States to step in. It calls for the Obama administration to dispatch the bombers and drones in a slowly expanding air war in Iraq and, sooner or later, possibly Syria. It falls on Washington’s shoulders to organize a new “coalition of the willing” from among various backers and opponents of the Assad regime in Syria, from among those who have armed and funded the extremist rebels in that country, from the ethnic/religious factions in the former Iraq, and from various NATO countries. It calls for Washington to transform Iraq’s leadership (a process no longer termed “regime change”) and elevate a new man capable of reuniting the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, now at each other’s throats, into one nation capable of turning back the extremist tide. If not American “boots on the ground,” it calls for proxy ones of various sorts that the U.S. military will naturally have a hand in training, arming, funding, and advising. Facing such evil, what other options could there be? 

If all of this sounds strangely familiar, it should. Minus a couple of invasions, the steps being considered or already in effect to deal with “the threat of ISIS” are a reasonable summary of the last 13 years of what was once called the Global War on Terror and now has no name at all. New as ISIS may be, a little history is in order, since that group is, at least in part, America’s legacy in the Middle East. 

Give Osama bin Laden some credit. After all, he helped set us on the path to ISIS. He and his ragged band had no way of creating the caliphate they dreamed of or much of anything else. But he did grasp that goading Washington into something that looked like a crusader’s war with the Muslim world might be an effective way of heading in that direction. 

In other words, before Washington brings its military power fully to bear on the new "caliphate," a modest review of the post-9/11 years might be appropriate. Let’s start at the moment when those towers in New York had just come down, thanks to a small group of mostly Saudi hijackers, and almost 3,000 people were dead in the rubble. At that time, it wasn’t hard to convince Americans that there could be nothing worse, in terms of pure evil, than Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. 

Establishing an American Caliphate 
Facing such unmatchable evil, the United States officially went to war as it might have against an enemy military power. Under the rubric of the Global War on Terror, the Bush administration launched the unmatchable power of the U.S. military and its paramilitarized intelligence agencies against... well, what? Despite those dramatic videos of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, that organization had no military force worth the name, and despite what you’ve seen on “Homeland,” no sleeper cells in the U.S. either; nor did it have the ability to mount follow-up operations any time soon. 

In other words, while the Bush administration talked about “draining the swamp” of terror groups in up to 60 countries, the U.S. military was dispatched against what were essentially will-o’-the-wisps, largely representing Washington’s own conjured fears and fantasies. It was, that is, initially sent against bands of largely inconsequential Islamic extremists, scattered in tiny numbers in the tribal backlands of Afghanistan or Pakistan and, of course, the rudimentary armies of the Taliban. 

It was, to use a word that George W. Bush let slip only once, something like a "crusade," something close to a religious war, if not against Islam itself—American officials piously and repeatedly made that clear—then against the idea of a Muslim enemy, as well as against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and later Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. In each case, Washington mustered a coalition of the willing, ranging from Arab and South or Central Asian states to European ones, sent in air power followed twice by full-scale invasions and occupations, mustered local politicians of our choice in major “nation-building” operations amid much self-promotional talk about democracy, and built up vast new military and security apparatuses, supplying them with billions of dollars in training and arms. 

Looking back, it’s hard not to think of all of this as a kind of American jihadism, as well as an attempt to establish what might have been considered an American caliphate in the region (though Washington had far kinder descriptive terms for it). In the process, the U.S. effectively dismantled and destroyed state power in each of the three main countries in which it intervened, while ensuring the destabilization of neighboring countries and finally the region itself. 

In that largely Muslim part of the world, the U.S. left a grim record that we in this country generally tend to discount or forget when we decry the barbarism of others. We are now focused in horror on ISIS’s video of the murder of journalist James Foley, a propaganda document clearly designed to drive Washington over the edge and into more active opposition to that group. 

We, however, ignore the virtual library of videos and other imagery the U.S. generated, images widely viewed (or heard about and discussed) with no less horror in the Muslim world than ISIS’s imagery is in ours. As a start, there were the infamous “screen saver” images straight out of the Marquis de Sade from Abu Ghraib prison. There, Americans tortured and abused Iraqi prisoners, while creating their own iconic version of crucifixion imagery. Then there were the videos that no one (other than insiders) saw, but that everyone heard about. These, the CIA took of the repeated torture and abuse of al-Qaeda suspects in its “black sites.” In 2005, they were destroyed by an official of that agency, lest they be screened in an American court someday. There was also the Apache helicopter video released by WikiLeaks in which American pilots gunned down Iraqi civilians on the streets of Baghdad (including two Reuters correspondents), while on the sound track the crew are heard wisecracking. There was the video of U.S. troops urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. There were the trophy photos of body parts brought home by U.S. soldiers. There were the snuff films of the victims of Washington’s drone assassination campaigns in the tribal backlands of the planet (or “bug splat,” as the drone pilots came to call the dead from those attacks) and similar footage from helicopter gunships. There was the bin Laden snuff film video from the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, of which President Obama reportedly watched a live feed. And that’s only to begin to account for some of the imagery produced by the U.S. since September 2001 from its various adventures in the Greater Middle East. 

All in all, the invasions, the occupations, the drone campaigns in several lands, the deaths that ran into the hundreds of thousands, the uprooting of millions of people sent into external or internal exile, the expending of trillions of dollars added up to a bin Laden dreamscape. They would prove jihadist recruitment tools par excellence. 

When the U.S. was done, when it had set off the process that led to insurgencies, civil wars, the growth of extremist militias, and the collapse of state structures, it had also guaranteed the rise of something new on Planet Earth: ISIS—as well as of other extremist outfits ranging from the Pakistani Taliban, now challenging the state in certain areas of that country, to Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. 

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy—and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington's weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country. 

The Escalation Follies 
When you think about it, from the moment the first bombs began falling on Afghanistan in October 2001 to the present, not a single U.S. military intervention has had anything like its intended effect. Each one has, in time, proven a disaster in its own special way, providing breeding grounds for extremism and producing yet another set of recruitment posters for yet another set of jihadist movements. Looked at in a clear-eyed way, this is what any American military intervention seems to offer such extremist outfits— and ISIS knows it. 
Don’t consider its taunting video of James Foley's execution the irrational act of madmen blindly calling down the destructive force of the planet’s last superpower on themselves. Quite the opposite. Behind it lay rational calculation. ISIS’s leaders surely understood that American air power would hurt them, but they knew as well that, as in an Asian martial art in which the force of an assailant is used against him, Washington’s full-scale involvement would also infuse their movement with greater power. (This was Osama bin Laden’s most original insight.) 

It would give ISIS the ultimate enemy, which means the ultimate street cred in its world. It would bring with it the memories of all those past interventions, all those snuff videos and horrifying images. It would help inflame and so attract more members and fighters. It would give the ultimate raison d'être to a minority religious movement that might otherwise prove less than cohesive and, in the long run, quite vulnerable. It would give that movement global bragging rights into the distant future. 

ISIS’s urge was undoubtedly to bait the Obama administration into a significant intervention. And in that, it may prove successful. We are now, after all, watching a familiar version of the escalation follies at work in Washington. Obama and his top officials are clearly on the up escalator. In the Oval Office is a visibly reluctant president, who undoubtedly desires neither to intervene in a major way in Iraq (from which he proudly withdrew American troops in 2011 with their “heads held high”), nor in Syria (a place where he avoided sending in the bombers and missiles back in 2013). 

Unlike the previous president and his top officials, who were all confidence and overarching plans for creating a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East, this one and his foreign policy team came into office intent on managing an inherited global situation. President Obama’s only plan, such as it was, was to get out of the Iraq War (along lines already established by the Bush administration). It was perhaps a telltale sign then that, in order to do so, he felt he had to “surge” American troops into Afghanistan. Five and a half years later, he and his key officials still seem essentially plan-less, a set of now-desperate managers engaged in a seat-of-the-pants struggle over a destabilizing Greater Middle East (and increasingly Africa and the borderlands of Europe as well). 

Five and a half years later, the president is once again under pressure and being criticized by assorted neocons, McCainites, and this time, it seems, the military high command evidently eager to be set loose yet one more time to take out barbarism globally—that is, to up the ante on a losing hand. As in 2009, so today, he’s slowly but surely giving ground. By now, the process of “mission creep”—a term strongly rejected by the Obama administration—is well underway. 

It started slowly with the collapse of the U.S.-trained and U.S.-supplied Iraqi army in Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities in the face of attacks by ISIS. In mid-June, the aircraft carrier USS H.W. Bush with more than 100 planes was dispatched to the Persian Gulf and the president sent in hundreds of troops, including Special Forces advisers (though officially no “boots" were to be "on the ground”). He also agreed to drone and other air surveillance of the regions ISIS had taken, clearly preparation for future bombing campaigns. All of this was happening before the fate of the Yazidis—a small religious sect whose communities in northern Iraq were brutally destroyed by ISIS fighters—officially triggered the commencement of a limited bombing campaign suitable to a “humanitarian crisis.” 

When ISIS, bolstered by U.S. heavy weaponry captured from the Iraqi military, began to crush the Kurdish pesh merga militia, threatening the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq and taking the enormous Mosul Dam, the bombing widened. More troops and advisers were sent in, and weaponry began to flow to the Kurds, with promises of all of the above further south once a new unity government was formed in Baghdad. The president explained this bombing expansion by citing the threat of ISIS blowing up the Mosul Dam and flooding downriver communities, thus supposedly endangering the U.S. Embassy in distant Baghdad. (This was a lame cover story because ISIS would have had to flood parts of its own “caliphate” in the process.) 

The beheading video then provided the pretext for the possible bombing of Syria to be put on the agenda. And once again a reluctant president, slowly giving way, has authorized drone surveillance flights over parts of Syria in preparation for possible bombing strikes that may not be long in coming. 
The Incrementalism of the Reluctant 

Consider this the incrementalism of the reluctant under the usual pressures of a militarized Washington eager to let loose the dogs of war. One place all of this is heading is into a morass of bizarre contradictions involving Syrian politics. Any bombing of that country will necessarily involve implicit, if not explicit, support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, as well as for the barely existing “moderate” rebels who oppose his regime and to whom Washington may now ship more arms. This, in turn, could mean indirectly delivering yet more weaponry to ISIS. Add everything up and at the moment Washington seems to be on the path that ISIS has laid out for it. 

Americans prefer to believe that all problems have solutions. There may, however, be no obvious or at least immediate solution when it comes to ISIS, an organization based on exclusivity and divisiveness in a region that couldn’t be more divided. On the other hand, as a minority movement that has already alienated so many in the region, left to itself it might with time simply burn out or implode. We don’t know. We can’t know. But we do have reasonable evidence from the past 13 years of what an escalating American military intervention is likely to do: not whatever it is that Washington wants it to do. 

And keep one thing in mind: if the U.S. were truly capable of destroying or crushing ISIS, as our secretary of state and others are urging, that might prove to be anything but a boon. After all, it was easy enough to think, as Americans did after 9/11, that al-Qaeda was the worst the world of Islamic extremism had to offer. Osama bin Laden's killing was presented to us as an ultimate triumph over Islamic terror. But ISIS lives and breathes and grows, and across the Greater Middle East Islamic extremist organizations are gaining membership and traction in ways that should illuminate just what the war on terror has really delivered. The fact that we can’t now imagine what might be worse than ISIS means nothing, given that no one in our world could imagine ISIS before it sprang into being. 
The American record in these last 13 years is a shameful one. Do it again should not be an option. 

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com, where this piece first appeared. His latest book, to be published in October, is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single Superpower World (Haymarket Books). Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

What dispute? India and China ignore land squabble


http://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/What-dispute-India-and-China-ignore-land-squabble-5723192.php 1/4

NEW DELHI (AP) — For more than 50 years, it has pitted India against China — a smoldering
dispute over who should control a swath of land larger than Austria. Two militaries have
skirmished. A brief, bloody war has been fought. And today, thousands of soldiers from both
countries sit deployed along their shared frontier, doing little but watching each other.

But as Beijing confronts countries across the South China and East China seas, displaying its
diplomatic and strategic strength in a series of increasingly dangerous territorial disputes, the
India-China standoff results in almost nothing beyond regular diplomatic talks and professions of international friendship.

Because the last thing the world's two most populous countries want right now is war with each
other. Not when things are going so well.

"The territorial issues and the sovereignty issues have not gone away," said Sujit Dutta, a China scholar at New Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University. "But the Chinese are not pushing further (into the disputed regions) and neither are the Indians."

"Today, India and China have a new context for their relationship," he said.

That context comes down to two key components: An understanding that the disputed land has
lost its strategic luster. And money.

Just a couple decades ago, India and China were dismissed as nations hobbled by widespread poverty and hopelessly lagging behind the West. Today, China has the world's second-largest economy, an immense, well-equipped military, an increasingly educated population and a vision for itself as one of the leading nations on earth. India, while economically far behind China, has become a global center for information technology and sees itself as a major player in Asia and elsewhere.

If both countries still struggle with widespread internal troubles — poverty, corruption, ethnic divisions, growing class divisions — the rest of the world can no longer write them off. When it comes to turf wars, Beijing today is largely focused on expanding its maritime influence in East Asia and Southeast Asia, with its vast untapped mineral reserves and importance to global trade.

So in the East China Sea, China created an air defense perimeter to back up its claims to a speckling of uninhabited islands also claimed by Japan. In the South China Sea, Beijing  temporarily moved an oil rig into waters also claimed by Vietnam, setting off a series of naval confrontations.

At first glance, the Himalayan border that India and China share seems ideal for similar clashes. China says the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an immense territory of nearly 84,000 square kilometers (more than 32,000 square miles), is part of China. India, meanwhile, insists China is illegally occupying the region of Aksai Chin, a rocky and largely empty 37,000-square-kilometer (14,000-square-mile) region far to the east.

The two fought a monthlong border war in 1962 that left some 2,000 soldiers dead following a 
surprise Chinese attack that still embarrasses India, and skirmishes along the frontier continued into the 1970s. While border squabbling occurs every year or so, often when Chinese soldiers are reported spotted in Indian territory, there have been few serious showdowns since the late 1980s.