27 April 2014


April 24, 2014

The term “subversion” — seldom mentioned in policy circles since the Cold War — has re-entered the lexicon. Echoing that earlier period of conflict, Washington and Moscow are accusing each other of fomenting subversion. The U.S. State Department detects a hidden Russian hand behind the so-called “green men” reportedly responsible for seizing government sites in eastern Ukraine. Russian state radio claims that a “long-running covert subversion” in Ukraine is part of a broader U.S. effort involving the CIA, NATO, and the “military-industrial complex” to assert “hegemony and control” over Eastern Europe.

No one is using the term with any precision. Subversion is used to describe any clandestine or covert activities aimed at regime destabilization — including disinformation, the creation and manipulation of ethnic tensions, and support for illegal armed groups. During the Cold War, the concept of subversion was equally baggy and flexible. Neither the West nor the Soviet Union admitted to engaging in subversive activities as such. Like terrorism, subversion was and remains a normative term. Nevertheless, the superpowers and their allies saw subversion as a useful part of their national security repertoire.

Undermining hostile or unfriendly regimes through front groups, riots, strikes, and infiltration were all regular if not routine parts of statecraft. To cite just one example: In 1947, Major General Sir Stewart Menzies, chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), hatched a far-ranging plan of anti-Soviet subversion that included deception, “throwing ridicule” on Russian officials, hurling stink bombs during meetings of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and creating a “general nuisance” in Soviet-controlled territory.

Nor was subversion necessarily limited to states. Insurgent and terrorist groups like the Viet Cong/National Liberation Front, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front in El Salvador used intimidation, propaganda, and economic and social control measures to physically and metaphorically separate target populationsfrom incumbent regimes.

Over time, slightly different connotations of the term emerged in the United States and Britain. For Americans, the word was applied almost exclusively to the activities of Communist countries and their operatives, friends, and supporters around the world. Subversion was seen as integral to a global communist strategy to undermine the United States, its allies, and its friends in the developing world.

The Inconvenience of HistoryObama abandons another country to its fate

APRIL 23, 2014

“Yeah, let’s talk about that.” The president wished to change the subject. At a press conference the other day he was being interrogated about Ukraine when a reporter asked a question about health care. Obama was delighted. As the excellent Peter Baker reported in The New York Times, “Mr. Obama seems intent on not letting Russia dominate his presidency.” This is not the first time the president has attempted to resist such intrusions upon his idea of how the world ought to be. He has been trying to escape the Middle East for years and “pivot” to Asia, as if the United States can ever not be almost everywhere, leading and influencing, supporting or opposing, in one fashion or another. On the eve of the president’s trip to Asia, Susan Rice remarked that “increasingly [we] see our top priorities as tied to Asia, whether it’s accessing new markets or promoting exports or protecting our security interests and promoting our core values.” What is this strange choice, this retiring either / or calculation? Only small powers think this way. Can the United States ever have “top priorities” only in one place, even if it is a place as big as Asia? Are our “security interests” not also broached by the failure of the Syrian state, or our “core values” not also invoked by its slaughter without end?

The tiresome futurism of Obama, his dogmatic views about what this ritualistically ballyhooed century will be like and what it will not be like, are only a part of what lowers his vision. The bigger problem is that the president feels inconvenienced by history. It refuses to follow his program for it. It regularly exasperates him and regularly disappoints him. It flows when he wants it to ebb and it ebbs when he wants it flow. Like Mr. Incredible, the president is flummoxed that the world won’t stay saved, or agree to be saved at all. After all, he came to save it. And so the world has only itself to blame if Obama is sick of it and going home.

Obama has concluded, according to Baker, that he “will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin,” and so he has decided that he “will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin.” Ignoring the master, of course, has the consequence of ignoring the master’s victims: the Obama administration abandons to their fates one people after another, who pay the price for the president’s impatience with large historical struggles. The Ukrainians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Czechs, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, the Baltic populations: they are all living with the jitters, and some of them on the cusp of despair, because the United States seems no longer reliable in emergencies, which it prefers to meet with meals ready to eat. No wonder that so much of our diplomacy consists in tendering reassurances. The United States now responds to oppressed and threatened peoples by making them more lonely and afraid—a sentimental objection, I know, and one that is unlikely to trouble Henry Kissinger’s epigone in the White House.

Using Social Media to Track the Activities of Western Jihadi Fighters in Syria

April 25, 2014

Author’s Note: This study proves that you can learn a lot about the activities of foreign militant groups operating in Syria and elsewhere around the world by closely monitoring social media. Facebook and Twitter feeds have now become critically important sources of intelligence information in the war on terrorism.

Greenbirds: Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks
Joseph A. Carter, Shiraz Maher and Peter R. Neumann
International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (London)

April 2014
Executive Summary


• Over the last 12 months a team of researchers at ICSR have created a database which contains the social media profiles of 190 Western and European foreign fighters. More than two thirds of these fighters are affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusrah or the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) – two groups that have, at one point or another, maintained formal relationships with al-Qaeda. The social media activity of these users provides a unique and unfiltered window into the minds of Western and European foreign fighters in Syria. This paper series is named after their eulogising of fallen comrades as ‘Greenbirds,’ a scriptural reference to the virtues of their perceived martyrdom.


• This is the first in a series of papers that draws on information from this database. It examines the question of how foreign fighters in Syria receive information about the conflict and who inspires them.


• The paper shows that Syria may be the first conflict in which a large number of Western fighters have been documenting their involvement in conflict in real-time, and where – in turn – social media represents an essential source of information and inspiration to them. In the minds of the foreign fighters, social media is no longer virtual: it has become an essential facet of what happens on the ground.

Middle East Studies In Review 2012-13

April 24, 2014

Middle East Studies (MES) at Marine Corps University is pleased to announce the publication of Middle East Studies In Review 2012-13 covering articles from volumes three and four of MES Insights. The articles fall within three categories: Iran, the Arab World, and Afghanistan and Pakistan. Within each category, the topics range from macro to micro. Some pieces are current and indeed forward-looking while others deal with past events that continue to have links to issues of strategic and tactical concern today. The Review also informs readers of MES activities and of selected engagements by MES staff during 2012 and 2013.

The Review is available both in print and electronically through the MES website atwww.mcu.usmc.mil under the “Middle East Studies” tab as well as on Facebook atmiddleeaststudies.mcu.

Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

 April 24, 2014 

The Architect of the Future U.S. Army

Major General Herbert Raymond McMaster might be the 21st century Army’s pre-eminent warrior-thinker. Recently tapped for his third star, H.R. is also the rarest of soldiers — one who has repeatedly bucked the system and survived to join its senior ranks.

He initially gained renown as a cavalry commander, earning a Silver Star in 1991’s Gulf War after his nine tanks wiped out more than 80 Iraqi tanks and other vehicles. His reputation grew after his 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty, boldly blasted the Joint Chiefs for their poor leadership during Vietnam.

Despite impressive command and unconventional exploits in the second Iraq war, the outspoken McMaster was passed over twice for selection for his first star. I watched senior Army generals argue over ways to end his career. But he dodged those bullets and will soon take over command of the Army’s “futures” center. After years as an outspoken critic, McMaster soon will be in the right place to help build the right Army for the nation.

Barno, a retired lieutenant general, commanded all U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.

COIN’s Funeral

April 24, 2014

by Whitney Kassel, Foreign Policy

If Iraq was, very arguably, counterinsurgency's success story, Afghanistan looks increasingly like the place COIN went to die. Half of the soldiers NATO tried to train can't read. They spent billions on roads leading nowhere, schools with no teachers, and efforts to halt a heroin trade that has hit all-time highs. And in exchange for these labors and over 3,400 fatalities, we've seen President Karzai's February prisoner release and bilateral security agreement negotiations -- which look more like NATO is being shown the door than being asked to help stave off an all but inevitable civil war. Even leaders who implemented the strategy, most notably former U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, have been singing COIN's funeral dirge.

This all begs the question of how the United States and NATO came to pursue a COIN strategy in Afghanistan. If eliminating al Qaeda was the top objective, why didn't they stick with counterterrorism, namely, targeted strikes against members of the Taliban deemed to be "irreconcilable," or U.S. Vice President Biden's infamous "CT-plus," a slightly beefed-up version that still fell short of the robust assistance to the Afghan government that characterized COIN? Why did they pursue a strategy that many believed was deeply flawed, or at least very risky? Looking at how the strategy evolved, particularly after 2008, the answer that emerges is that COIN looked like the least bad option and the best chance to create some semblance of stability under which to defeat the Taliban and, in turn, al Qaeda…

26 April 2014

Reforms in Defence Industrialisation and Procurement


For India to emerge as a major international power, or acquire a regional military edge, it must reduce its dependence on imports. Besides sophisticated systems, India is today importing even basic defence items such as assault rifles and carbines. As of now, India’s high technology industry and Research and Development (R & D) base has not developed adequately. Our capacity to spend on long gestation R & D projects too is limited. In addition to finances, the expertise to integrate systems and the availability of qualified and trained manpower falls short of the requirement to develop or indigenously manufacture complex weapon systems in the country. We therefore need a dual approach encompassing a time bound indigenisation programme with a roadmap for developing necessary R & D and manufacturing set ups for the long term and a simplified and an efficient defence purchase procedures to tide over the present equipment requirements for maintaining operational readiness of the services.

Defence Industrial Base

India today has a fairly large Defence Industrial Base which has not been effectively directed or monitored to deliver the country’s defence needs. It has 41 Ordnance Factories (OFs), 9 Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and a network of over 50 Defence R & D Laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) employing 1,80,044 employees (81,130 in DPSUs and 98,914 in OFs). These OFs produce relatively low technical level items such as ammunition, explosives, weapons, equipment, materials and components, armoured vehicles, ordnance equipment and the like. DRDOs budget in 2013–14 was Rs 10,610.17 crore, amounting to 5.21 percent of the total defence budget[i]. The budget allocation is huge compared to Indian benchmarks, yet too little for the type and quality of work and output these organisations are expected to deliver.

Despite the existence of a large defence base in the government sector, India’s arms imports have been growing consistently over the years, giving the country the dubious distinction of being the largest arms importer in the world. The public sector performance has not enthused the Armed Forces, who happen to be the buyers of the end product. Most projects are characterised by time delays, cost escalations and poor quality control. Even the 5.56 INSAS rifle developed by DRDO after 15 painfully long years is nowhere comparable to the modern assault rifles, leading to the government to approve the import of some 66,000 assault rifles and 44,000 carbines amongst other items. The night vision devices produced by the DRDO, though with 100 per cent imported Infra-Red (IR) tubes are far bulkier and heavier than the imported ones. Even in items like clothing and bullet proof jackets, the quality of the products leave much to be desired. As for equipment like the TATRA trucks, even when the Indian private sector is quite capable of manufacturing a similar vehicle both technologically and industrially, we chose a DPSU for procurement which acted as a mere middleman in importing them at huge costs to the exchequer.

The functioning of the DPSUs, OFs and DRDO hence need a review. Considering the high quality which the Indian private sector is now capable of producing, manufacture of stores and equipment like clothing, ordnance equipment, vehicles, ammunition, explosives and communication equipment can well be left to the private sector with an eye on breeding an export market for the future. We need to dispassionately review the cost benefit ratios of continuing with some of the government establishments and close down or relocate those that can be dispensed with. Organisations which can be retained must have adequately trained manpower with the desired technological expertise. These must be headed by professionals from amongst the best available in the country rather than being handled by bureaucrats. To enhance capability, performance audit could encompass quality and efficiency of products, quality of after sales service, economic prudence and the ability to build technological capabilities and skills. Public sector units should also compete with the private sector on a level playing field and not be given any preferential treatment including in the offer of contract and other terms and conditions. 

The IAF’s Elusive Quest for a New Tactical Transporter

25 Apr , 2014

Antonov AN32

Although it is certainly important to have an indigenous aerospace production base, a monopoly (as HAL has enjoyed so far) is not conducive to efficiency. Some private sector competition might help HAL to shape up, as state-owned Air India is doing after the entry of private airlines. However, if no foreign entity is willing to enter the Indian defence market by tying up with Indian industry, the Avro replacement process needs to go ahead in any case by purchasing a suitable tactical transport aircraft off the shelf. The IAF’s requirement is urgent and cannot be delayed much longer lest safety issues begin to emerge with the ageing Avro fleet.

The Avros are by far the worst off, as they are fast approaching the half-century service mark…

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is in the throes of an exciting transformation into a strategic air force. Armed with the latest aerospace technology it will gradually be able to extend its vigilance, reach and power. Although fighter aircraft rightly dominate the process, transport aircraft are no less important, and the IAF is striving to greatly boost its airlift capability by the end of the Twelfth Plan (2017). Once again, though strategic airlifters regularly make the headlines, tactical transport aircraft are equally necessary. One of the important requirements of air power is that it should offer a range of options – tactical as well as strategic. This applies also to the transport fleet, where a balanced structure is imperative. The question therefore arises – is the IAF transport fleet balanced?

Delayed Action

The recent enhancements of the IAF’s airlift capability have come after a gap of almost 30 years. It was in the mid-1980s that the transport fleet witnessed a flurry of activity as the government at last recognised that the IAF needed to be better equipped to meet its numerous responsibilities. First, the Dakota and Packet fleets were replaced by 110 Antonov An-32 twin-turboprop medium-tactical transport aircraft, from 1984 onwards. Then, 17 four-engine Ilyushin IL-76MD jets were acquired in place of the An-12 turboprops, commencing 1985. The giant 43-tonne payload IL-76 was the IAF’s first true strategic airlifter and made a dramatic difference to its transport fleet. Finally, in 1988, Dornier Do-228 light transport aircraft were inducted to replace the Otter and Devon aircraft for communication, liaison and training duties. All these aircraft are still flying today, as is a large fleet of HS 748M Avro medium transport aircraft.

Avro HS748

The twin-turboprop Avros with a payload capacity of 5.1 tonnes were acquired from Britain’s Hawker Siddeley from 1964 onwards and later produced under licence by HAL. About 56 remain in service, employed primarily for communication and medium lift tasks. The IAF’s current predicament stems mainly from the urgent need to replace the ageing Avro fleet.

Fleet replacement is a hugely expensive process. Since most of the current transport aircraft were inducted over a short period, practically the entire fleet is falling due for replacement, at a cost the nation can ill afford. The IAF’s transformation plan therefore has three key components – “preserve and maintain”, “upgrade and improve” and “replace and acquire”.

Pakistani Generals Baring Knuckles

By Karamatullah K Ghori

Old habits die hard: of jaded scribes like this one who, in their misplaced exuberance, may think and jump to conclusion that one swallow makes a spring. Scribes writing about Pakistan ought to be a little more circumspect than that.

What they can’t afford to discount in the context of Pakistani Bonapartes is their apparently infinite capacity to hit back. And they did hit back with force since my last column on the civilians gaining the upper hand in Musharraf’s trial.

GHQ in Rawalpindi took exception—a robust one—to some ministers of Nawaz Sharif speaking their mind out loud on Musharraf and insisting, in so many words, that nobody should be deemed above the law and that if other generals thought of abusing the law—as Musharraf obviously did—they, too, should be ready to face the music.

Ministers are politicians, and politicians all over are in the habit of shooting their mouth, isn’t it? And what politician worth his salt would pull back from making a statement if that could make catchy headlines and land him copious exposure in the media? Professional politicians have to earn their bread, too.

But not so according to Pakistan’s military culture. The generals, who have traditionally arrogated to themselves the sole title on Pakistan’s land and ideological frontiers, feel the ministers in power must calibrate their public pronouncements in line with them, if not seek prior clearance. They took umbrage at the stinging comments of minister of defence Khwaja Asif and railways minister Saad Rafiq. Both spoke with candour to remind any Bonaparte-in-waiting that Pakistan had come out of its “Dark Ages” and its democratic aspirations were now robust enough to call any bounty hunter’s bluff.

For the sake of argument it might be said the railways minister was, perhaps, out of his depth but was the defence minister, too, in the same boat? What good will be a defence minister if he couldn’t speak on matters of his jurisdiction?

However, GHQ thought Asif was also punching above his weight. So a warning shot came the very next day of his unguarded comments from the bow of none other than Nawaz Sharif’s hand-picked Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif. Addressing a company of the Special Services Group where Musharraf had earned his spurs as a “commando” General Sharif warned his Pakistani audience that the army knew how to defend its “honour”. The chief’s bleating was echoed the following day by a hastily summoned meeting of the corps commanders, the elite of the military brass that also expressed “deep concern” at the military’s “honour” being dragged in the dirt.

Attack on Hamid Mir: Pak Media Caught in Pincer of Military, Militants & Market

The attack on one of the best known Pakistani journalists, Hamid Mir, has only reaffirmed Pakistan's reputation as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Mir, who took six bullets, barely survived the well planned ambush carried out in broad daylight on a busy road in Karachi when he was heading from the airport to his office. The attempt on his life created a veritable storm in the Pakistani media, more so after his brother alleged that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen Zaheerul Islam, was responsible for the attack.

According to reports in the Pakistani media, Mir had confided in his friends and family about the threats to his life from ISI and had even recorded his testimony on paper and in a video which was to be made public if something happened to him. Naturally, as soon as news of the attack broke, fingers started being pointed at the ISI. The military spokesman was quick to condemn the incident and deny any involvement of the ISI in the incident. But cut to the bone by the audacity and temerity of the journalists who were accusing the ISI of being behind the attack, the intelligence agency, which is a virtual state within a state, unleashed its army of plants in the media to launch a fierce counter offensive, not just against Mir (accusing him of all sorts of anti-national activity) but also the media group –Jang/Geo – that he works for. For the rival channels, this was a Godsend opportunity to pull the Jang Group down from its pedestal as the most popular and powerful media group in Pakistan.

For some months now, the ISI has been using a rival channel ARY (owned by a dubious UAE based Pakistani-origin businessman who is alleged to be hand in glove with Dawood Ibrahim and involved in all sorts of shady deals, including Hawala and gold smuggling) to target Jang, its owner and its journalists. After the Hamid Mir attack, other channels like Express (owned by the Lakhani group) have also jumped into the act. The idea is to severely damage, if not destroy, Jang’s credibility and popularity and at the same time increase their own market share at Jang’s expense. The icing on the cake will be currying favour with the real power centre in Pakistan – the Pakistan Army.

The Battle Between Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency and Popular TV News Channel Over Killings Of Journalists

April 23, 2014
Pakistan Is Asked to Shut Down News Channel
Declan Walsh and Salman Masood
New York Times

LONDON — The attempted killing of a prominent Pakistani journalist has prompted a bruising public dispute between Pakistan’s powerful army spy agency and the largest media group that has exacerbated tense relations between the country’s civilian and military leaders.

In a first, the Defense Ministry on Tuesday requested that the government invoke media regulations to shut down a major news channel — in this case Geo, Pakistan’s largest television news station. The ministry accused Geo of running a “vicious campaign” against the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI.

Acrimony had been steadily building after Hamid Mir, a television anchor and Geo’s most famous journalist, was shot multiple times by unidentified gunmen as he was being driven to a television studio in Karachi on Saturday.

Mr. Mir survived the attack and is being treated for gunshot wounds to the chest and shoulder. But as he was still receiving emergency treatment, Geo prominently broadcast heated accusations from Mr. Mir’s brother, the journalist Amir Mir, who accused the ISI of being responsible for the attack.

During extended commentary, Geo also repeatedly broadcast a photograph of the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Zahir ul-Islam, while a senior journalist employed by the station called for the general to resign.

Hamid Mir, whose pugnacious style has frequently stirred up controversy, has been a fierce critic of the military, and in February he privately told station managers that he had received a threat from ISI operatives about his work, according to the station. In November 2012, a bomb was found strapped to the underside of his car outside his home in Islamabad.

Even before the new dispute with Geo broke out, the military had been publicly bristling on several other fronts, including government concessions to the Pakistani Taliban during talks and the continuation of the treason trial of the country’s former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf.

When India had a consulate general in Lhasa

April 25, 2014

China has just turned down India's proposal for an Indian consulate in Lhasa, Tibet. Claude Arpi reveals how India once had a full-fledged consulate general office in Lhasa, which was shut down after the 1962 war.

The Nepalese newspaper The Republica recently reported: 'China has turned down India's proposal to establish its consulate general office in Lhasa, Tibet.'

The proposal was presented by Sujatha Singh, India's foreign secretary, during the 6th China-India strategic dialogue held in Beijing earlier this month.

According to The Republica, after meeting her Chinese counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Singh told reporters that 'India will now plan a decisive talk with China in this regard.'

It probably signifies that the government is ready to drop the idea of reopening the Lhasa consulate. Nepal is today the only country to have a consulate general office in Lhasa.

Why? Simply, because the idea of having an Indian consulate general irritates the Chinese; it reminds them of the days when Tibet managed its own affairs.

Otherwise, the Sino-Indian bilateral situation is rosy. Liu affirmed that China is ready to work with India to advance the partnership to a new level, while Singh explained 'All political parties in India share a common ground on advancing India-China strategic cooperative partnership.'

Xinhua added: 'He (Sujatha Singh!!!) reiterated the Indian government's view of attaching high priority to its relations with China. He (!!!) said the Indian government is working to consolidate the strategic cooperative partnership that is oriented to peace and prosperity.'

Regarding the opening of a new consulate, it appears that Delhi would be satisfied with another consulate general in Chengdu (Sichuan) or Kunming (Yunnan province) instead of Lhasa.


One of the most positive developments regarding China-U.S. relations in recent years has been how the military-to-military relationship has expanded in size, broadened in scope, and persisted without interruption despite the inevitable disputes and disagreements that always trouble such a complex relationship. In addition to the many reciprocal visits of senior military officers and the joint interactions on exercises and other projects, the last few years have seen a welcome Chinese effort to become more transparent in military capabilities and activities. Although China, like other countries, continues to withhold much information on national security grounds, we should acknowledge this positive trend.

For decades, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) highly valued military secrecy. Even after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began to interact more with foreign militaries following the Cold War, its leaders did not show much interest in developing the kinds of dialogues and confidence-building measures with the United States that the Pentagon had established with the Soviet Union and other countries. Washington always had to take the initiative in pressing for more defense diplomacy and transparency.

Several reasons probably explain Chinese unease with defense openness. When the PLA was considerably weaker than the United States and other powers, Chinese policy makers naturally feared that excessive transparency could expose vulnerabilities to potential foes. As leaders of a rising military power, PRC policy makers have been reluctant to freeze existing military balances and operating patterns that were becoming more favorable to Beijing over time. Furthermore, Chinese leaders did not want to highlight their rapidly modernizing defense capabilities for fear of provoking foreign countermeasures.

Conceptual differences have also been at work. Whereas the Pentagon pursues deterrence through certainty, the PLA seeks deterrence through uncertainty. U.S. policy makers believe that they can best deter possible foreign aggressors by demonstrating superior military capabilities and a willingness to use them. In contrast, Chinese strategists believe that concealing China’s military assets and plans helpfully complicates foreign military efforts to target or respond to them. Another difference is that U.S. analysts often see transparency as helping build mutual trust, whereas the Chinese position has been that strategic trust is a prerequisite for meaningful military dialogue and data sharing.


The Chinese position on the Ukraine crisis and the Russian intervention in Crimea has been described as being of “studied ambiguity”, and one of the objectives of this policy was to balance interests in both Russia and Ukraine. The discussion on Chinese interests in Ukraine has largely centered on military cooperation and shipbuilding, obscuring Ukraine’s developing connection to China’s food security strategy.

China late last year concluded a deal to farm three million hectares of arable Ukrainian land over the span of half a century. Under the initial agreement worth $1.7 billion with KSG Agro, Ukraine’s leading agricultural company, 100,000 hectares were slated to be leased to Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (XPCC), a Chinese quasi-military organization, also known as Bingtuan. The leased farmland in Dnipropetrovsk region of eastern Ukraine was to be cultivated principally for crops and raising pigs and the output sold to two Chinese state-owned grain conglomerates at preferential prices. Eventually the project size was expected to increase to three million hectares, 50 percent more than China’s own agricultural land – becoming China’s largest overseas project involving farmland.

Food Security

According to the 2013 FAO report on food insecurity in the world, in 2011–13 a total of 842 million people or around one in eight people in the world are estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger, regularly not getting enough food to conduct an active life. Food security is a complex condition, with dimensions relating to availability, access, utilization and stability. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is home to 22 percent of the world’s population, but has only 9 percent of its total arable land. In 2009 China possessed just 2 million hectares of farmland. In 2011-13, the number of undernourished people in China stood at 158 million.

The situation has been aggravated by rapid industrialization and population growth, resulting in rising demand for farmlands which are not available within the country. A recent report declared nearly one-fifth of the nation’s soil, including 19.4 percent of its crop-growing areas, as polluted. China faces increasing pressure to enhance its domestic food production as it consumes one-fifth of all global food supplies.

Although China’s domestic grain output had grown for 10 straight years, demand for imported grain had also grown. It imported nearly 14 million tonnes of cereal and cereal flours last year, an increase of more than 150 percent from 2011. With a target to become 90 percent self-sufficient in food production, the Ukraine farming project was an important part of China’s food security programme and strategy of outsourcing the production of food to farms overseas.

China’s Military Urges Increased Secrecy

A new official report cited by state media urges the PLA to more closely guard its military secrets. 
April 25, 2014

From U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s tour of the Liaoning aircraft carrier earlier this month to therecent release of two music videos featuring footage ofLiaoning’s crew in training, we’ve been seeing a lot of what might be termed “military transparency with Chinese characteristics.” Lest anyone get too optimistic, however, those initiatives were followed up this week by an article in the People’s Liberation Army Dailyextolling the virtues of secrecy. Xinhua also carried excerpts of the article in English translation, with the headline “China’s military requires tightened secrecy.”

The article quoted from a document entitled “Suggestions Regarding the Work of Protecting Secrets Under New Trends,” which PLA Daily said had been issued by China’s Central Military Commission at the order of Xi Jinping. The report named military secrecy as a key requirement to fulfilling Xi Jinping’s exhortation that China’s military should be capable of winning a war. Chinese military personnel must “clearly recognize the severe and complicated situation facing the protection of secrets, always remain sober-minded, persist in strengthening knowledge of enemies and awareness of duty, and spare no effort to fight the battle of maintaining secrecy,” the report urged.

The report, or at least the version carried in Chinese media, did not contain any specific details on how China would strengthen its military secrecy — such plans would naturally be themselves considered military secrets. The document did generally refer to a need to strengthen the protection of documents and other classified information as well as increasing security for computer networks and mobile communications.

While the report did not mention any specific countries, it’s likely that at least part of the impetus for it comes from revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency’s widespread cyber espionage programs, including substantial hacking into Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. Following that revelation, China’s military announced they planned to increase cybersecurity, and the report cited by PLA Daily may be part of that campaign.

Regardless of the cause, the new document provides an interesting juxtaposition for China’s recent attempts at transparency. Even while providing some degree of access to PR showpieces like the Liaoning, China’s military is apparently working even harder to protect the information that actually matters — military secrets that will affect China’s ability to fight and win a war.

Official information on China’s military has always been hard to come by. For example, despite numerous rumors in Chinese media, China’s Ministry of Defense has yet to confirm if China is constructing a second aircraft carrier. Such information may be even more tightly guarded in the future as China alters it methods for ensuring military secrecy. As Dingding Chen wrote earlier for The Diplomat’s Flashpoints blog, there are compelling strategic reasons for China to curtail its military transparency. The new report from the Central Military Commission suggests that China’s military brass agree

Taiwan to Simulate Chinese Aircraft Carrier Assault

Taiwan’s annual computer-aided war games will simulate a PLA assault led by its carrier, the Liaoning. 

April 25, 2014

Taiwan will simulate an attack against China’s sole aircraft carrier during annual war games scheduled for next month.

According to a report in the China Post, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Tuesday that annual computer war games will simulate Taiwan’s response to an all-out invasion of the island by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2015. The report said that this will include simulating attacks against China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which Taipei apparently expects would be utilized by the PLA were it to invade Taiwan next year.

China Post went on to say that Taiwan’s military would also be simulating various responses to some of the other most recent additions to the PLA’s arsenal, without specifically naming any weapon systems besides the aircraft carrier. Other reports have suggested that Taiwan’s simulated response will include the use of weapon systems that Taiwan recently acquired from the United States, including the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter and the P-3C anti-submarine aircraft. In addition, the drill will include the use of Taiwan’s recent, domestically produced Thunderbolt-2000 artillery multiple-launch rocket system.

No reports suggested that Taiwan’s military would simulate using any of its new so-called “carrier killers,”although the lead ship of the class is expected to be deployed early next year.

The computerized war games are scheduled to take place May 19 through May 23. They will be part of the Han Kuang 30 military exercise, Taiwan’s most important annual military drill which features all of the different services of the military. Senior retired U.S. military officials often travel to Taiwan to observe the proceedings.

The Han Kuang military drills are divided into two parts: one consisting of live-fire drills and the other of computer simulations. The China Post report notes that the live-fire portion of the drills are usually held in April, followed by the computer-aided war games in July. This year the live-fire drills have been pushed back to September while the computer simulated portion of the war games have been moved up a month.

Be Afraid: China Can't Control North Korea

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
April 25, 2014

This month in Beijing, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asked China’s leader Xi Jinping to do more to disarm North Korea [3]. In February, Secretary of State John Kerry, when he was in the Chinese capital, goaded his counterparts on the same topic [4]. President Obama, while meeting Xi in The Hague during the Nuclear Security Summit in March, discussed the denuclearization of the North [5].

The Chinese are getting a little peeved by all this recent attention. Beijing’s ambassador to the United States in the middle of this month was unhappy about Washington leaning on his country. “You are giving us a mission impossible [6],” Cui Tiankai said to an audience in the American capital.

A decade ago, China chose not to use its considerable influence on the North. Now, from all appearances, it doesn’t have much of it. That’s probably why Ambassador Cui complains about receiving impossible missions from Americans.

Cui certainly remembers what happened in December. Then, Kim Jong-un, the young North Korean ruler, had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, executed [7]. China not only lost its most influential contact in Pyongyang when Jang died in a hail of large-caliber rounds, but it also found itself demonized by the regime as it explained the harsh sentence.

In detailing Jang’s crimes, the official Korean Central News Agency on December 13 made two references to the People’s Republic of China [8]: his selling of “coal and other precious underground resources at random” and his “selling off the land of the Rason economic and trade zone to a foreign country for a period of five decades.” And the charge of Jang being “bribed by enemies” is undoubtedly a reference to the Chinese as well.

Chinese officials genuinely appeared surprised by Jang’s purge and execution, and that is an indication of how much access and influence they have lost in Pyongyang in recent years. When Kim Il-sung and Mao Zedong both ruled, the two states professed to be—and often were—lips-and-teeth close. Then, both leaders were communist, Confucian, Chinese-speaking, and chubby. No wonder diplomacy was conducted on a leader-to-leader basis.

Subsequent generations of rulers on both sides of the border have drifted apart, however, and the execution of Jang signals a rupture. Kim Jong-un had given Jang Song Thaek nearly free rein to handle relations with Beijing. This almost-complete delegation meant that in late 2013, Kim essentially cut himself off from his biggest benefactor when he killed his uncle.

Chinese Dominance Isn't Certain

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
April 25, 2014

FEARS OF CHINA’S RISE ARE GROWING. Only a decade ago, most experts insisted that the Chinese Communist Party’s overseas ambitions were limited to Taiwan. Now that Beijing has begun to adopt a more assertive posture abroad, the conventional wisdom has changed from dismissing the China threat to accepting it fatalistically. But must Washington and its Asian allies defer to Chinese expansionism? Can we really have jumped from one world to another so quickly?

Not a chance. Two new books provide a corrective to the lately fashionable gloom-and-doom analysis. Each is by a crack journalist. The first, Geoff Dyer’s The Contest of the Century, addresses the U.S.-Chinese relationship through the prism of China’s military, political, diplomatic and economic development. The second, Robert Kaplan’s Asia’s Cauldron, focuses on the competition between China and the states around the South China Sea—the central route for shipping between the Middle East and East Asia, and the site of disputed claims to resource-rich maritime territory.

Certainly the fresh attention to China’s aspirations is a good thing. As late as 2006 the defense correspondent Fred Kaplan (no relation to Robert) was belittling the Pentagon’s attention to Chinese military modernization in its annual congressionally mandated report on the subject. In an article called “The China Syndrome,” Kaplan wrote:

“At present,” the report states, “China’s concept for sea-denial appears limited to sea-control in water surrounding Taiwan and its immediate periphery. If China were to shift to a broader ‘sea-control’ strategy”—in other words, if it were seeking a military presence farther away from its shores—“the principal indicators would include development of an aircraft carrier, development of robust, deep-water anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, development of a true area anti-aircraft warfare capability, acquisition of large numbers of nuclear attack submarines,” etc., etc. The point is: The Chinese aren’t doing—they’re not even close to doing—any of those things [Kaplan’s italics].

Obama’s Trip to Asia: A View From China

Obama’s Trip to Asia: A View From China
April 22, 2014 


Heightened tensions in the Asia-Pacific, coupled with China’s adjustment of its regional security policy, has meant that the results of the U.S. rebalance to Asia are not as good now as they were two years ago.

U.S. President Barack Obama is kicking off a weeklong trip to Asia on April 23. Sun Xuefeng, an associate professor and deputy dean at Tsinghua University, offers a perspective on U.S. aims with the trip and stability in the region.

The Philippines and Malaysia both have territorial disputes with China, with the Philippines taking a strong stance and Malaysia a mild one. China established an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea in 2013, which made the United States feel it had failed to gain the upper hand when engaging China. By visiting the Philippines, Obama is highlighting his support for the country in the territorial dispute. Malaysia has sought U.S. help, and Obama is responding actively with his visit. 

Japan and South Korea are both U.S. allies, but their attitudes toward China’s rise differ—Japan takes a tough stance while South Korea’s approach is mild.

With this visit, the U.S. administration wants to demonstrate its support for Japan, highlighting its security commitment to its ally and its dominant role in Asia. And it would like to ensure that Japan’s approach is in line with the U.S. plan to rebalance toward Asia. Washington should also take steps to ensure that the Diaoyudao Islands (or Senkaku Islands, in Japanese) crisis does not escalate. If the relationship between Japan and China were to spiral out of control, the United States would be significantly affected and Washington’s role in East Asia would be greatly undermined.

Obama has two primary reasons for visiting South Korea. First, he will urge Seoul to smooth out its relationship with Japan. Washington is staging a comeback to the Asia-Pacific region, so it will try to alleviate disputes among its allies. Second, the United States is seeking to shore up its relationship with Seoul at a time when South Korea and China are getting closer. This closeness was on display when South Korea returned to China the remains of Chinese volunteer soldiers who died in the Korean War.

Is the U.S. strategy to rebalance toward Asia working? Is it here to stay? When the approach was introduced, Chinese scholars debated whether Obama proposed the strategy to win the presidential election and whether it was long term. It now seems that the shift toward the Asia-Pacific will be a long-term strategy.

Chinese Military Going Through Major Expansion; China Will Have 3 Aircraft Carriers In 10 Years

April 24, 2014
China Splurging on Military as US Pulls Back
Associated Press

QINGDAO, China — China’s navy commissioned 17 new warships last year, the most of any nation. In a little more than a decade, it’s expected to have three aircraft carriers, giving it more clout than ever in a region of contested seas and festering territorial disputes.

Those numbers testify to huge increases in defense spending that have endowed China with the largest military budget behind the United States and fueled an increasingly large and sophisticated defense industry. While Beijing still lags far behind the U.S. in both funding and technology, its spending boom is attracting new scrutiny at a time of severe cuts in U.S. defense budgets that have some questioning Washington’s commitments to its Asian allies, including some who have lingering disputes with China.

Beijing’s newfound military clout is one of many issues confronting President Barack Obama as he visits the region this week. Washington is faced with the daunting task of fulfilling its treaty obligations to allies such as Japan and the Philippines, while also maintaining cordial relation with key economic partner and rising regional power China.

China’s boosted defense spending this year grew 12.2 percent to $132 billion, continuing more than two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit percentage increases that have afforded Beijing the means to potentially alter the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific. Outside observers put China’s actual defense spending significantly higher, although estimates vary widely.

Increases in spending signal “strength and resolve to China’s neighbors,” requiring other countries to pay close attention to where Beijing is assigning its resources, said China defense expert Abraham Denmark, vice president for political and security affairs at the U.S-based National Bureau of Asian Research.

At the same time, the U.S. military is seeking to redirect resources to the Asia-Pacific as it draws down its defense commitment in Afghanistan, although officers warn that budget cuts could potentially threaten plans to base 60 percent of U.S. naval assets to the region. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert recently warned that U.S. capabilities to project power “would not stay ahead” of those of potential adversaries, given the fiscal restraints.

Meanwhile, China’s navy is rapidly developing into a force to contend with the U.S., long the dominant military player in the Asia-Pacific region.