18 March 2015

Beijing unravelling

March 18, 2015 

David Shambaugh, a noted China expert, set off a firestorm earlier this month when he wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the “endgame of communist rule in China has begun” and that it was “unlikely to end quietly”. Shambaugh is hardly the first veteran China-watcher to suggest that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might implode or simply lose its hold on power. Lawyer-turned-writer Gordon Chang has made a cottage industry of such prognostications, while my German Marshall Fund colleague, Minxin Pei, has long pointed out the party’s inherent, and possibly fatal, flaws. Yet Shambaugh’s standing among China analysts, the high regard in which he is held in China, and his past work on the CCP’s adaptability have lent his opinions particular weight, and have generated debate and inspired fierce criticism in both the US and China.

Shambaugh’s arguments are not entirely convincing, particularly when viewed through a purely political lens. The increased political repression that is presently taking place in China under President Xi Jinping is not, in and of itself, a clear indicator of imminent collapse, though it may be indicative of the insecurities of party leaders. Factionalism has also long plagued the CCP — even under Mao Zedong’s leadership. And it should hardly be surprising that party representatives are often cynical about official dogma, as Shambaugh observes. Many of their predecessors were too, including during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.

But Shambaugh makes a more compelling case when it comes to the implications of China’s economic failure. An economic crisis threatens to fundamentally undermine the compromise that has developed between the CCP and Chinese citizens since the late 1970s: improvements in material wellbeing in exchange for unquestioned single-party rule. This compromise has been tested before, most notably during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. But what Chinese politics might look like under sustained adverse economic conditions is entirely unknown, and possibly unknowable. When coupled with the effects of Xi’s wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign, the systemic slowdown of the Chinese economy that is currently underway could undermine the People’s Republic.

Talking to the generals

March 18, 2015 

India called off former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh’s visit to Islamabad last August as it was no longer willing for Pakistan to project the Hurriyat as a “party” in the bilateral dialogue. The implication: Pakistan should not consult Hurriyat leaders before bilateral engagements or brief them afterwards. Pakistani officials did not meet Hurriyat leaders before Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month. However, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit called on Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Delhi a few days after Jaishankar’s trip and apparently briefed him on the discussions in Islamabad. It is obvious that Basit wanted to project the impression that his country’s approach to the Hurriyat had not changed.

Previous Indian governments had adopted a laissez faire attitude to Pakistan’s continuing Hurriyat provocation, which was against all international conventions on official inter-state interaction — states do not publicly engage with separatists before a dialogue. Besides, the Simla Agreement mandates that all India-Pakistan issues be resolved bilaterally. There is simply no place for a reference to the “will of the Kashmiri people”. It is to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s credit that he stood up against this. But now that Pakistan has crossed the red line again, what will he do? If this provocation is allowed to pass, Pakistani generals, who actually control the country’s India policy, will get the impression that Modi is a paper tiger, no different from the UPA leadership. On the other hand, if he adopts a firm position, he puts at risk the process begun with Jaishankar’s trip to Pakistan.

After the cancellation of Sujatha Singh’s visit, Pakistan had said that since India had called off the talks, it was for New Delhi to take steps to resume them. Modi called up Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in February to inform him of Jaishankar’s Saarc yatra. Pakistan naturally considered this as vindication of its stand — though it was careful not to rub it in. At the same time, through the visit of its army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to the border areas on the eve of Jaishankar’s trip, it sought to project that it would stand up to any Indian action along the International Border and the Line of Control. Raheel Sharif said, “let there be no doubt that any provocation along the LoC and the Working Boundary will meet a befitting response”.

Conversation stopper - The downside of mobile telephony and the internet

March 18 , 2015

In my column some weeks back, I had written about the new revolution that is upon us as a result of the transformation in communications. Mobile telephony has made Indians well connected to one another. Information on anything is available to anyone almost instantaneously through the internet. The farmer knows the ruling prices in differentmandis. Remote manipulation of household equipment is becoming common. So is the remote control over machines and equipment. Factories and offices have all the data they need at any time, without making any special effort. Organizations have eliminated a layer of middle management because enterprise resource planning analyses and presents up-to-date information to top management at any time. Manufacturing complex products can now be scattered and without the volumes that were required once. 3D printing, a technique now in its early days, enables smaller volumes and will diffuse manufacturing geographically. This could make pastoral living a reality for many. Election campaigns and raising funds for them are changing with the use of the internet. Technology is transforming lives in many ways.

There are negative aspects to this transformative process. My argument here has been bolstered by the same technology that gives me the ability to get different views on any subject instantly. Expertise is available at the touch of a computer keyboard.

The internet and the mobile phone have made human interchange much easier. Are they also reducing people's personal and physical interactions through meetings and letters? This diminution of social interchange is a growing feature of societies experiencing this revolution. What will it do to societies that have been based on such interactions?

Many parents are aware of the deleterious effects of these technologies, particularly on children. So apparently was Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc, who famously said that he did not permit his children to use the computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone, on which he made his fortune. Unless strictly rationed, there is a fear that children will lose the habit of personal interactions and even the capacity for play and sport.

Grace under fire

March 18, 2015

AP“In Pakistan, even under the shadow of the gun, people treat outsiders with grace and warmth.” Picture shows policemen standing guard as a health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Karachi, Pakistan.

Pakistan is a complex nation but ten days are enough to find that while politics, religion and life itself have changed, its people haven’t

It’s been a little over seven years since I was here last. As the car moves from Wagah to Lahore, I see few vehicles on the road.

“It’s the fuel crisis,” Kamran, a strapping Lahori, explains. “The Pakistan State Oil only had reserves for three days. They say it was because of [a] lack of planning.” Whatever the reason, Lahore had little fuel left. People had stopped going to offices, public transport was off the roads, and queues at a few petrol pumps stretched for miles. The CNG rickshaws were still plying, but with LPG cylinders.

Worse still is the electricity situation. In Gulberg, one of Lahore’s most affluent areas, load shedding is over 11-12 hours every day. In Karachi, it is 5-8 hours and in Larkana, 14 hours. The incessant hum of fuel-guzzling generators is one’s faithful companion in Pakistan.

Lahore looks much as it did seven years ago. The wide, tree-lined streets, the hustle and bustle of Ichra (a local bazaar), the haggling … I could have been in Sarojini Nagar, Delhi, but for the difference in the dresses and the tehjeeb. Everywhere I went, people spoke with utmost graciousness. The poorest shopkeeper, the seemingly illiterate bus driver, the fearsome security guard — I saw no one cursing, shouting or being even remotely rude. If there is eye contact, a ready smile and an asalaam waalekumcome your way. And if they figure out that you are a foreigner, you become their guest.

All-pervasive fear

No clarity on Army promotions policy after Tribunal judgment

On March 2, the AFT upheld a petition filed by 30 Army officers against the 2009 policy based on the Command Exit Model, which gave infantry and artillery more Colonels than other arms and services.

The AFT had asked Army Headquarters to consider afresh the cases of all officers affected by the 2009 policy, and ordered the Army to distribute vacancies of Colonels in a pro rata manner, i.e., the number of Colonels in each arm and service should be proportional to the strength of Lt Colonels in each arm and service, the way it was done before 2009.

The AFT judgment necessitates the holding of fresh promotion boards for all officers who have been impacted by the 2009 policy. Army Headquarters will have to issue a fresh distribution of vacancies in various arms and services, and a fresh schedule of promotion boards to implement the AFT order.

The judgment has far-reaching consequences, as the number of Brigadiers, Major Generals and Lt Generals among various arms are decided on a pro rata basis from thenumber of Colonels held by each arm. Implementation of the AFT order, which will reduce the number of Colonels from the Infantry and Artillery, can subsequently reduce the number of Brigadiers, Major Generals and Lt Generals from these arms.

The AFT order also affects the current schedule of promotion boards where thenumber of Colonels to be promoted in each arm is decided by the 2009 Command Exit Policy.

As reported by The Indian Express, the promotion board for Air Defence, Engineers, Signals, EME and ASC was scheduled to be held from March 10-14, but has not been held. No intimation of its postponement or cancellation has been received by the officers from the Military Secretary (MS) branch of Army Headquarters, which dealswith the promotions and postings of Army officers.

The lack of clarity has given rise to concerns among the affected officers that the MS branch might be planning to approach the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition (SLP) against the AFT judgment.

What India Needs to Learn from China

By Samir Nazareth
March 15, 2015

In his upcoming visit to China, PM Modi should be prepared to learn a few lessons. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to visit China before the end of May. Modi has been to China before, as chief minister of Gujarat, when he sought to attract business and learn from China’s socio-economic model. He should be aiming to do something similar this time. Besides discussions on the China-India border issues, reopening the overland Silk Road, and creating a maritime version, Modi should take time to study the Chinese model of resettlement and pollution control.

These issues have only grown in importance as New Delhi steps up its efforts to achieve economic growth. Take for example the six industrial corridors that are being planned. These are five more than the UPA government had envisaged. The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), built to facilitate movement through the six major states of India (Uttar Pradesh, the National Capital Region, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra) will cover 1483 square kilometers and will have 11 investment regions and 13 industrial areas. The official DMIC website states that around 180 million people, or 14 percent of the population, will be affected. The Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES) points out that at least 350,000 hectares will be allocated for the DMIC project. To put these corridors in place many thousands of hectares of land will need to be acquired, displacing a large population. India’s efforts at resettling those whose land has been acquired leave much to be desired.

Now the BJP government has upped the ante and plans 100 smart cities in these six corridors. The government will need to design cities that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable and that permit social equity for their residents.

Delhi Wakes Up to an Air Pollution Problem It Cannot Ignore

NEW DELHI — For years, this sprawling city on the Yamuna River had the dirtiest air in the world, but few who lived here seemed conscious of the problem or worried about its consequences.

Now, suddenly, that has begun to change. Some among New Delhi’s Indian and foreign elites have started to wear the white surgical masks so common in Beijing. The United States Embassy purchased 1,800 high-end air purifiers in recent months for staff members’ homes, with many other major embassies following suit.

Some embassies, including Norway’s, have begun telling diplomats with children to reconsider moving to the city, and officials have quietly reported a surge in diplomats choosing to curtail their tours. Indian companies have begun ordering filtration systems for their office buildings.

“My business has just taken off,” said Barun Aggarwal, director of BreatheEasy, a Delhi-based air filtration company. “It started in the diplomatic community, but it’s spread to the high-level Indian community, too.”

The increased awareness of the depth of India’s air problems even led Indian diplomats, who had long expressed little interest in climate and pollution discussions with United States officials, to suddenly ask the Americans for help in cleaning India’s air late last year, according to participants in the talks. So when President Obama left Delhi after a visit last month, he could point to a series of pollution agreements, including one to bring the United States system for measuring pollution levels to many Indian cities and another to help study ways to reduce exhaust from trucks, a major source of urban pollution.

India emerges as world's largest arms importer, yet again

March 16, 2015

India has yet again emerged as the world’s largest buyer of weapons and military equipment, accounting for some 15 per cent of all such international imports, while Russia, despite losing monopoly over the Indian defence market, continues to hold a dominant position as the largest supplier for New Delhi. 

India has yet again emerged as the world’s largest buyer of weapons and military equipment, accounting for some 15 per cent of all such international imports, while Russia, despite losing monopoly over the Indian defence market, continues to hold a dominant position as the largest supplier for New Delhi.

Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan, are the next four biggest global importers.

These trends have emerged from a report released on Monday by the Sweden-based think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The assessment was done for a five-year period (2010-2014).

Titled ‘Trends in international arms transfers’, it says India’s share in global imports has increased by 140 per cent over the previous five-year bloc, 2005–2009, indicating that New Delhi’s attempts to be self-reliant were not enough as more and more sophisticated planes, warships and radars are procured from outside

“India’s imports were three times larger than those of either of its regional rivals China and Pakistan. This contrasts with 2005–2009 when India’s imports were 23 per cent below China’s and just over double those of Pakistan,” The SIPRI report said

In the period 2010–14, which is the basis of the latest report, Russia supplied 70 per cent of India’s arms imports, the USA 12 per cent and Israel 7 per cent. Acquisitions from the US are a break with the recent past. During the period studied by SIPRI, India procured fighter jets and Mi-17-V5 helicopters from Russia; specialised transport planes, the C-130-J Super Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster from the US; UAV’s and radars from Israel.

Splinter Militant Groups Reunite with Taliban for 2015

March 16, 2015

It looks like the Pakistani Taliban are consolidating their presence across Pakistan’s tribal belt. 

The Pakistani army’s military offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and related domestic militant groups is beginning to cause a stir. Late last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that at least three militant groups in Pakistan have joined forces with the Taliban, leading to a greater consolidation of militants under the umbrella of the TTP. At the center of this consolidation is a reconciliation between Khalid Khorasani’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter group and Mullah Fazlullah — the two split over Fazlullah’s promotion to the top of the TTP last fall. Khorasani used to lead the TTP’s Mohmand wing. Another militant group, known as Tehreek-e-Lashkar-e-Islam, led by an independent warlord, Mangal Bagh, also joined the Taliban.

This broader consolidation will mean that the TTP’s central command committee will effectively have the authority to stage attacks across a larger swathe of Pakistan’s tribal belt — according to the WSJ, “Mohmand, Bajaur and Khyber regions” as well as “the bordering eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan” will be affected. The newly consolidated militants will ostensibly report to Fazlullah, the TTP’s primary leader, who is suspected to currently reside in eastern Afghanistan. Notably, this consolidation could represent a major organizational resurgence for the Pakistan Taliban following the death of senior TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike last year.

The Pakistani Taliban’s announcement comes not too long after the Islamic State declared the creation of a ‘Khorasan Shura,‘ or a council of leaders for its Afghanistan-Pakistan presence. The shura comprises several former Pakistani Taliban leaders, including Hafez Saeed Khan. While the Taliban continues to enjoy considerably more territorial influence and control within Pakistani borders than the Islamic State, competition between the two groups could escalate this year.

ISIS Is Destroying Priceless Artifacts. Here's How to Stop Them.

By Thiago Velozo and Lucas Bento
March 17, 2015

The Islamic States’ desecration of Iraq’s cultural heritage can not be allowed to continue. 

Two weeks ago, ISIS destroyed the remains of the ancient Iraqi city of Hatra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hatra is a testament to the region’s resilience, having withstood repeated foreign attacks throughout its 2,000 year history. Once a major trading center, it now rests as a symbol of what was a cosmopolitan hub populated by a mixture of peoples. Its blend of Roman and Hellenistic architecture with Arab features is a vivid reminder of the region’s rich cultural history and a flicker of hope of what it could have become.

UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, and IESEC, its Islamic counterpart, denounced the city’s destruction as a “war crime” and a “turning point in the cultural cleansing” of Iraq. Others around the world, such as the Arab League, have condemned the attacks.

But ISIS’s iconoclastic crusade is nothing new.

Last July, ISIS demolished shrines cherished by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, such as the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul and the shrine of Prophet Seth, considered to be Adam and Eve’s third son. A couple of weeks ago, the deplorable scenes of ISIS militants toppling and smashing statues and carvings in Mosul’s museum sent shock waves throughout the international community, providing insightful evidence of ISIS’s complete disregard for cultural property. A few days later, ISIS fighters bulldozed an archaeological site dating back to 900 B.C. at the city of Nimrud, an ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire.

These are not sporadic attacks; they are part of a systematic campaign to wipe out humanity’s cultural legacy.

How can the international community prevent these egregious acts of cultural violence? Despite public denouncements, no concrete action has so far been taken by any government or intergovernmental organization.

Fiza Farhan: A Pakistani Change-Maker

March 16, 2015

A young entrepreneur is empowering rural Pakistan with microfinance and energy projects 

For 28-year-old Fiza Farhan, being caught up in a 9-5 job was hardly appealing. Rather than just another cog in the corporate machine, she always wanted to make an impact on Pakistani society.

Working as the CEO and Co-Founder of a local microfinance institution, the Buksh Foundation, and the Director of Buksh Energy (an offshoot of the foundation), Farhan’s work focuses mainly on clean energy projects for the country’s rural and underprivileged areas, areas that are often overlooked by the public sector.

This year, Farhan made it to Forbes’ international list of 30 Under 30 social entrepreneurs– quite an achievement for a young Pakistani. Last year, the young entrepreneur was also selected as a “Future Energy Leader” at the World Energy Council.

“We were very different in our approach from day one,” says Farhan earnestly, “Our microfinance challenged the conventional norms of micro finance society; for example, in microfinance you’d be giving loans of a small amount which means nothing to set up an enterprise – loans are given out to anyone who has a national ID card. So the due diligence is zero. When you’re not checking the creditworthiness of the client, how can you expect the financial mechanism to be sustainable? There is bound to be a collapse. It’s very easy to give money, people will take it, but the difficult mechanism is to collect the money back. We challenged these norms; we wanted to create enterprises, not clients. It’s very nice to say; oh yes I have a 1,000 clients, but what are they doing with their lives, you know?”

For Farhan, if an individual takes a loan once without coming back for a second one, the institution is doing something right: sustainable, economic agents are being created to make big impacts on their respective communities. “I found it very funny when people in the microfinance industry used to say very proudly; oh this client is coming to us for the third time, they’re so loyal. I feel if someone’s coming to you for the third time that means you’re not alleviating his poverty. That means you’re not making him sustainable. How is that a matter of pride?”

So how does Farhan’s foundation make sure they take on good, reliable clients? An extensive interview process, the development of a credit evaluation, in addition to a thorough psychological evaluation of the client. “We call it the ‘willingness to pay analysis;’ this has led us to a default rate of less than one percent!”

Currently, Buksh Energy, a renewable energy company, has provided solar lanterns to approximately 140 villages across the country. “In 2012 we wanted to do something for the underprivileged communities in Pakistan, in villages that were forgotten,” Farhan says, “The poorest of the poor communities are those where there is no infrastructure, no electricity. We then developed the ‘Lighting a Million Lives’ project; it was in collaboration with an Indian entity [TERI] which has been working on similar projects for the last 8-10 years. Taking the basic framework from them, we developed it into the Pakistani scenario.”

Officials: U.S. to keep higher troop level in Afghanistan

By Lolita C. Baldor
March 14, 2015 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is abandoning plans to cut the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by year's end, bowing to military leaders who want to keep more troops, including many into the 2016 fighting season, U.S. officials say.

While no final decision on numbers has been made, the officials said the administration is poised to slow withdrawal plans and probably will allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain well into next year.

There also are discussions about keeping a steady number of counterterrorism troops into 2015, including options under which some would remain in the country or be nearby beyond 2016.

Currently, about 2,000 U.S. troops are conducting counterterrorism missions, and military leaders have argued that they will need to continue pursuing the remnants of al-Qaida and to monitor Islamic State militants looking to recruit in Afghanistan.

Officials say President Obama probably will use a Washington visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this month as the time to announce his decision on a new withdrawal timeline.

U.S. officials familiar with the debate said it's not clear yet whether the White House will agree to a small, symbolic decrease by the end of this year or insist on a larger cut. They note that there is some stiff opposition to any change, largely from national security adviser Susan Rice.

Pakistan Announces That Its New BURRAQ Drone Has Successfully Fired a Missile at a Ground Target

Farhan Bokhari and James Hardy
March 16, 2015

Pakistan successfully fires missile from indigenous UAV

The Pakistan Army announced on 13 March that it had for the first time successfully fired a missile from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said that the successful test launch of the indigenous Barq laser-guided missile from the NESCOM Barruq UAV would “multiply the capability against terrorists”.

It is a “force multiplier in our anti-terror campaign,” said the ISPR, which also released footage of the test along with that of it being watched by General Raheel Sharif, the army’s chief of staff.

The Barruq and another unarmed UAV called the Shahpar entered service with the army and air force respectively in late November 2013. Few details on the Barq missile are available, although it is likely that it was produced by NECOM’s Air Weapons Complex (AWC).

News of the successful test follows earlier reports that Pakistan had unsuccessfully sought to buy armed UAVs from foreign sources including the United States. Pakistan’s UAV programmes have previously consisted mainly of reconnaissance platforms.

Retired Taiwan Admiral Gets 14 Month Prison Sentence for Spying for China

March 16. 2015

Retired navy brass to serve 14 months in jail for espionage

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) Retired Navy Vice Admiral Ko Cheng-sheng (柯政盛) is to serve a 14-month jail term for spying for China after the Supreme Court overturned his appeal and upheld a ruling and sentence imposed by a lower court.

The Supreme Court retained the verdict of the High Court Monday that found Ko guilty in late September last year of espionage.

As a high-ranking naval officer, Ko “disregarded national security, introducing other high-ranking military officers of the country to China, offering them an opportunity of which they could take advantage,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

"Ko has violated the highest belief that soldiers should be loyal to their country," the court said.

It also upheld a ruling on Ko’s friend, Shen Ping-kang (沈秉康), a businessman, who was found guilty of enticing Ko into spying for China. He received a sentence of 12 months in jail.

Shen invited Ko and his family to tour Australia and visit Beijing many times during the period between 1998 and 2007, during which time he introduced Ko to Chinese intelligence officials, the ruling said.

After his retirement, Ko arranged meetings between two senior Taiwanese naval officers and Chinese officials in a failed attempt to recruit them into spying for China.

China and America's Coming Battle for Southeast Asia

March 16, 2015 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has declared its intent to establish a fully integrated Community that extends across the economic, political, security and social realms by the end of 2015. Such a regional arrangement would, for the first time, provide the countries of Southeast Asia with a single regime of intergovernmental collaboration that can be used to draft, implement and refine joint policies and courses of action. That would greatly facilitate future proactive planning and aid the development of comprehensive and codified forms of supranational cooperation and governance.

The main aim of those changes is to better situate ASEAN to achieve its core goal of “centrality”—a term coined to emphasize how internal cohesion can be leveraged to both advance economic progress and manage the Association’s relations with external partners.

One external variable that’s likely to bear heavily on the trajectory of the proposed ASEAN community is the influence of an increasingly assertive People’s Republic of China (PRC). The country is now the pre-eminent power in the Asia-Pacific and its ties with the Association have grown substantially over the past 25 years. Both factors imbue Beijing with a real potential to sway the future course of ASEAN integration.

In economic terms, the PRC’s overall impact is likely to be largely positive. Since the signing of a strategic partnership agreement in 2003, bilateral fiscal and commerce relations have boomed and over the past decade the two-way flow of goods and services has increased more than six-fold—topping $400 million in 2013. The growth and prosperity of ASEAN and China will be highly contingent on further expanding that mutually beneficial economic partnership, something the two sides no doubt fully appreciate.

Japan-China Maritime Crisis Management Talks Are On the Horizon

March 16, 2015

Chinese and Japanese officials will meet in Singapore in May to further discuss a maritime crisis management mechanism. 

This month, Japan and China resumed their high-level security dialogue after a hiatus of about four years — a period of time in which tensions over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea skyrocketed following Japan’s decision to nationalize them in 2012.

Representatives from the China, Japan, and South Korea were in Seoul to discuss regional issues last week. Soon, the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister,Liu Jianchao, will travel to Tokyo to meet his counterpart for security talks.

Meanwhile, the Japan Times reports that senior officials from Japan and China are planning on meeting in Singapore in May to continue talks on a bilateral maritime crisis management mechanism, a device that would allow Tokyo and Beijing to prevent any miscalculations in the East China Sea.

May’s talks will continue an important process of slow and steady rapprochement that began in November 2014 with the Japan-China “four point consensus” document.

Officials on both sides are eager to finalize a consultative maritime crisis management hotline — a crucial step toward stabilizing the air and water over and around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

While the political issues relating to the actual sovereignty dispute at hand are no closer to being addressed in a bilateral forum (Japan still acknowledges no dispute), the consultative mechanism would increase confidence on both sides of this major bilateral relationship.

As The Diplomat noted earlier this month, one Chinese general has indicated that the current state of China-Japan talks on this issue is promising, with all “the basic technical conditions” in place.

Former Chinese General's Death Means No Military Show Trial - For Now

March 16, 2015

Former PLA general Xu Caihou has passed away, ending the legal case against him. 

Xu Caihou, formerly a general in the PLA and the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, passed away on Sunday, according to Xinhua. Xu, 72, was the top-ranked military official to be placed under investigation for corruption under Xi Jinping’s campaign, which seems to be gathering steam within the military.

Xu, who was officially ousted from the Chinese Communist Party in June 2014, after months’ worth of speculation that he was the subject an anti-graft investigation. However, because Xu was known to have terminal bladder cancer (the condition that led to his death on March 15), some sources wondered whether this effective “death penalty” would be punishment enough for the CCP. In the end, however, Xu’s illness did not allow him to escape.

In October 2014, military prosecutors announced that they had completed their investigation and would be formally putting Xu on trial. That would have been a major step forward for the appearance (if not the substance) of the “rule of law” within the PLA. As Susan Finder noted in a recent piece for The Diplomat, the PLA has its own separate legal apparatus. Pursuing legal reforms and the “rule of law” within the PLA will be even more difficult than the uphill battle to do so in China’s civilian legal sphere.

The other major “tiger” to be caught in Xi’s anti-corruption drive, former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, is set for an open trial, according to Zhou Qiang, the president of the Supreme People’s Court. China experimented with the model of carefully-controlled but extensive media coverage in the trial of Bo Xilai, the former Party chief of Chongqing who fell amidst a soap opera-esque tale of murder, adultery, and bribery. Zhou’s coming trial will likely follow a similar model. As Reuters notes, however, Zhou stands accused of leaking state secret, so at least that portion of this trial is likely to kept under wraps in the name of national security.

China Topples Germany in Arms Exports

March 16, 2015

Two thirds of Chinese arms exports went to just three countries. 

According to new data on international arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China was the third largest supplier of arms between 2010 to 2014. During that period, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 percent, however overall volume was still significantly behind the United States of America and Russia.

“China’s share of global arms exports increased from 3 to 5 per cent. China became the third largest supplier in 2010–14, slightly ahead of Germany and France. China supplied major arms to 35 states in 2010–14,” accordingto the fact sheet of the Stockholm-based think tank. The five biggest exporters in 2010–14 were the USA, Russia, China, Germany and France.

Interestingly, the SIPRI publication notes that more than 68 percent of Chinese exports went to just three countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Yet, the People’s Republic of China was also active in other parts of Asia such as Indonesia, with which Beijing signed a deal for the supply of hundreds of medium range C-705 anti-ship missiles.

Other major Chinese customers include 18 African states. For example, the Nigerian military allegedly received a number of CH-3 UCAVs – unmanned combat aerial vehicles – for the country’s fight against Boko Haram rebels. Algeria and the PRC signed a contract for the construction of three C-28 A corvettes, the first of which was launched in Shanghai in August 2014.

In South America, Beijing signed a deal for armored vehicles and transport and trainer aircraft with Venezuela, the fact sheet notes.

Of the top then largest importers of major weapons during the five year period 2010–14, five are in Asia: India (15 per cent of global arms imports), China (5 percent), Pakistan (4 percent), South Korea (3 percent) and Singapore (3 percent).

Will Robots Cause Mass Unemployment in China?


The graph below, based on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, showsmanufacturing employment in the United States as a fraction of all employment. As you can see, the line heads download in an almost perfectly straight line beginning in the mid-1950s. Notice that the line doesn’t become steeper as globalization takes hold after the passage of NAFTA in 1994 or the rise of China over the past decade or so. The line just slopes consistently downward.

This is primarily the result of technology, and in particular, automation. Manufacturing in the U.S. has become dramatically more productive and requires fewer workers. If we were to graph manufacturing output (rather than jobs), the line would slope upward, not download. The value of U.S. manufacturing production is now far greater than it was in industrial era of the 1950s, even after adjusting for inflation. We just make all that stuff with a lot fewer people.

China now world's 3rd largest arms exporter

China has risen to replace Germany as the third largest exporter of major weapons in the world between 2010-2014, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Ranked 9th in the period between 2009-2014, the volume of China's exports surged by 143 percent (by far the biggest increase by any of the top 10 exporters); while its share of the global arms export market rose from 3 to 5 percent. China sold arms to 35 states in this period, 18 of them being African nations.

The main recipients of Chinese weapons were Pakistan (41 percent), Bangladesh (16 percent) and Myanmar (12 percent)—which may have included the bombs that killed four Chinese civilians when air force fighters near the border strayed into Yunnan province last week.

The United States and Russia remained the top two exporters of arms globally, accounting for a combined 58 percent of the international arms export market. The volume of international arms transfers was reported to have risen by 16 percent on the previous five year period.

China was also ranked the third highest importer of arms globally, accounting for 5 percent of international arms imports, with the majority (61 percent) coming from Russia.

Is China the Biggest Thief in Cyberspace?

March 16, 2015

According to some former U.S. officials, the answer is yes; however some experts harbor doubts. 

Last week, Mike McConnell, who served as director of national intelligence under U.S. President George W. Bush, and who is now a high-ranking advisor to Booz Allen Hamilton, delivered a dire assessment on the state of the U.S. private sector’s cyber defenses vis-à-visChinese cyber espionage activities.

“The Chinese have penetrated every major corporation of any consequence in the United States and taken information. We’ve never, ever not found Chinese malware,” he said during a speech at the University of Missouri, according to CNN. He also explained that throughout his last year of serving in the Bush administration, China employed 100,000 hackers whose singular purpose was to infiltrate computers and networks.

McConnell, who also was director of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the 1990s, has been known as a hardliner when it comes to the competition of the United States and China in cyberspace, openly calling the latter’s behavior “cyber thievery.”

McConnell’s statement is similar to a remark made by former U.S. official Richard Clarke, author of the bookCyber War, in March 2012: “Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China. My greatest fear is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. “

More recently, in October 2014, FBI director James Comey joined the chorus of worried American policymakersby stating that “there are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.”

Yet are these allegations accurate? And if so, does it really constitute the largest illicit transfer of wealth in human history, as some prominent Americans have labeled it? In short, I think the assertion that China is the biggest (yet not the most sophisticated) perpetrator of cyber espionage worldwide is beyond a doubt at this stage.

However, it is much more questionable whether China has hacked into every single large U.S. corporation and, more importantly, whether it actively converts the data it extracts to benefit its civil sector companies.

My colleague at the EastWest Institute, Greg Austin, has his doubts. In a short analysis of China’s cyber espionage priorities, he argues that Beijing does not attach high importance to “the analysis of its intelligence product on non-military foreign intellectual property rights with a view to passing it out to Chinese corporations to make a profit.”

US Claims Victory in Debate Over Chinese Terror Law

March 17, 2015

A White House official claims China has tabled a controversial anti-terrorism law. 

A senior White House official cited by Reuters said that China has decided to shelve a new anti-terrorism law that would have required technology companies to hand over sensitive information.

As my colleague Ankit reported earlier, China’s draft anti-terrorism law would have required Western firms – most notably technological companies, but also financial institutions and even manufacturers – to give Beijing unprecedented access to sensitive data. For tech firms, that would mean allowing China access to encryption keys and installing “backdoors” that would provide Chinese regulators with access to software.

The Obama administration reacted swiftly to make their displeasure known. President Barack Obama himself spoke with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to directly express his concerns. “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States,” Obama told Reuters. Other administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman made their concerns clear as well.

Publicly, China has simply dismissed those criticisms. Fu Ying, the spokesperson for the National People’s Congress, said the law had already been tweaked after “hot discussions among legislators.” Fu said the law had been “improved” by the addition of “strict condition and limits” on what data regulators can demand from tech firms and when they can demand it.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying highlighted these changes in her remarks at a March 5 press conference, saying that the “relevant measures… are in line with the principles of the administrative law and common practices of the world, and will by no means undermine the legitimate interests of Internet operators.” Hua added pointedly that China’s anti-terrorism law is a domestic affair: “We are under no obligation to consult with other countries, and other countries have no right to ask China to do so.”

But Reuters reports that China has decided behind the scenes to table the controversial law, at least for now. “They have decided to suspend the third reading of that particular law, which has sort of put that on hiatus for the moment,” White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said during a discussion at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on March 12.

From 'Made in China' to 'Made in Africa'?

March 17, 2015

China’s relationship with Africa continues to be a source of fascination and more than a little debate. However, oftentimes the complex economic relationship between China and Africa is viewed in isolation, rather than as a part of global economic trends. To delve more deeply into the puzzle of China-Africa economic relations, The Diplomat interviewed Dr. Tang Xiaoyang, a resident scholar at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and an associate professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University who specializes in China-Africa relations. Dr. Tang is also the author of the Chinese-language book China-Africa Economic Diplomacy and What It Reveals About the Global Supply Chain.

The Diplomat: Critics often accuse China of economically exploiting African countries, particularly by extracting their natural resources. In your book, you offer a different take. How would you refute accusations of “neocolonialism” often leveled at China?

Tang Xiaoyang: The accusation is based on the assumption that China is only interested in exploiting Africa’s natural resources and does not contribute to Africa’s socio-economic development. My book used data and first-hand research findings to reveal that Chinese engagements with Africa cover a broad spectrum, from aid and infrastructure construction to investments in agriculture and manufacturing. Actually in the extractive sector, China’s influence is much smaller than what people assumed, because it’s mainly a trading relationship. It’s rather in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors that we can see China’s huge impacts. Therefore Chinese engagements in Africa have been indeed facilitating the continent’s socio-economic modernization.

30 years ago China itself was in a similar position like Africa today, dependent on exporting natural resources and receiving foreign investment. But the interaction with external world proved helpful for China’s own development. We can see that this kind of development experience has been transferred to Africa through Sino-African interaction, e.g. special economic zones, resources for infrastructure loans. Thus China’s impacts on Africa are positive in general.

As China pursues its own economic restructuring at home, what changes might be in store for the China-Africa economic relationship?

ISIS Overruns HQ of Iraqi Army Brigade Northwest of Baghdad

Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss
March 16, 2015

The Islamic State overran the headquarters of an Iraqi Army brigade stationed in the Thar Thar area northwest of Baghdad late last week. Scores of Iraqi soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured, according to reports from Iraq and images released by the jihadist group.

The Islamic State released photos showing its attack on the Iraqi Army’s Brigade 26 headquarters in the Thar Thar area, which is also north of Fallujah. The photos bear the title of Wilayat Shamal Baghdad (North Baghdad), the jihadist group’s declared administrative division which includes areas immediately north of Baghdad and as far north as Samarra in Salahadin province. The release of photos from Wilayat Shamal Baghdad and not Wilayat Anbar more than likely represents operational overlap.

The photographs, which were publicized on March 13, show Islamic State fighters entering the headquarters of Brigade 26. Several photos display severely damaged or burning Humvees, while a number of other vehicles appear to have been abandoned by Iraqi Army personnel. The last photo in the set shows what appears to be more than a dozen Iraqi soldiers taken captive by the jihadist group.

According to Al Jazeera, the Islamic State launched four attacks on the headquarters which left at least 30 Iraqi Army personnel dead and forty wounded.

Thar Thar is a strategic area for both the Iraqi military and the Islamic State. Control of the region allows the Islamic State to move forces and supplies between eastern Anbar province and southern Salahaddin province. Additionally, the jihadist group has used the Thar Thar area to launch attacks against against Iraqi Security Forces and Shiite militias as they travel between Baghdad and Samarra, as well as the towns of Taji, Shabab, Dujail, Ishaqi, and Balad. The road between Baghdad and Samarra has been a battleground in the past, and the Iraqi military and Iranian-back militias currently claim to control it.