14 June 2014

Why 1 million Chinese migrants are building a new empire in Africa

By Howard W. French an hour ago

Howard W. French is a journalist, author, and photographer. He wrote from Africa for The Washington Post and The New York Times. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the recipient of two Overseas Press Club awards. 




An alternative path to prosperity. Reuters/Joe Penney

After days of coordinating with me over patchy cell phone connections, Hao Shengli arrived in Mozambique’s capital city of Maputo. He’d come to load up on supplies and to collect me for the long ride back to the farmland he owned in a remote southern part of the country.

When his white Toyota pickup stopped in front of my hotel, Hao was barking into his phone. He was in a hurry, and he was angry. There was a brisk handshake, followed by a lot more shouting in salty Chinese as he struggled to make himself understood by a country man from whom, I could grasp, he wanted to buy goods.

“China is a big fucking mess with all of its “fucking dialects,” Hao said to me in English after hanging up.

As I stood there, already sweating in the midmorning heat, Hao began to train his abuse on John, his tall and sinewy Mozambican driver, who had been coolly smoking a cigarette while rearranging the supplies on the Toyota’s flatbed to make room for my bags.

“You, cabeça não bom, motherfucker,” he said. The final curse came in Chinese: he’d employed three languages in one short and brutal sentence.

Having overheard me speaking Spanish to the driver and assumed it to be Portuguese, he pleaded with me to help him translate. “Could you please explain to this motherfucker where we need to go? We’ve got to get out of here. We need to be on the road.”

For more than a decade, the Chinese government has invested hugely in Africa. The foundation for this partnership was laid in1996, when President Jiang Zemin proposed the creation of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in a speech at the Organiz
ation of African Unity headquarters in Addis Ababa. Four years later, FOCAC convened triumphantly for the first time, gathering leaders from forty-four African countries in Beijing. China pledged, among other things, to double assistant to the continent,create a $5 billion African development fund,cancel outstanding debt, build new facilities to house the OAU (later replaced by the AfricanUnion), create “trade and. economic zones” around the continent, build 30 hospitals and 100 rural schools, and train 15,000 African professionals. Fitch Ratings estimated that China’s Export-Import Bank extended $67.2 billion in loans to sub-Saharan African countries between 2001 and 2010-$12.5 billion more than the World Bank.

Although there are no official figures, evidence suggests that at least a million private Chinese citizens have arrived on African soil since 2001, many entirely of their own initiative,not by way of any state plan. This “human factor”has done as much as any government actionto shape China’s image in Africa and condition its tics to the continent. By the timeI met Hao, in early 2011, merchants in Malawi,Namibia, Senegal, and Tanzania were protesting the influx of Chinese traders. In the gold-producing regions of southern Ghana, government officials were expelling Chinese wildcat miners. And in Zambia, where recent Chinese arrivals had established themselves in almost every lucrative sector of the economy, their presence had become a contentious issue in national elections.

Aswe left the capital, we passed the new national stadium, nearing completion byChinese work crews at the edge of town. Built to support the country’s bid to host the 2013 continent-wide Africa Cup of Nations, it was a showcase gift from the Chinese government,intended as a statement of generosity and solidarity. China has become an avid practitioner of this kind of prestige-project diplomacy. I asked Hao whether a $65 million stadium was the best sort of gift for Mozambique, one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

We Need a New Compromise to Break the Climate Negotiations Impasse

As one who brings students to observe and report on the United Nations negotiations on climate change and who would like to see those negotiations succeed, it is easy to be discouraged at the snail’s pace of progress. The big promised outcome of “preventing dangerous climate change,” agreed to by 195 countries in the 1992 Framework Convention (UNFCCC), has not been met by any measure 22 years later. In the end, the UNFCCC is the only global group of nations that can make binding commitments to solve this problem.
Still, another approach is clearly needed. In our paper released in Nature Climate Change this week (and first released as a Brookings policy brief), Marco Grasso and I argue that we could take four steps to break the impasse. 
A much smaller group of nations should strike a deal. We propose that the “Major Economies Forum” (MEF), which with 13 economies is responsible for 81 percent of all global carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, would be an excellent forum for such negotiation. Other smaller groups like the G-7, G-20 or even the G-2 of the United States and China could make a deal, and by doing so could inspire action by many other countries that are waiting for these two to move. 
Country emissions should be measured in a fairer way. Traditionally emissions have been measured by directly aggregating the levels of CO2 produced in a nation’s geographical area. However, when a country’s manufacturing and mining are outsourced or shipped overseas, it is too easy for some countries to show improvements while driving up the industrializing nations’ emissions. Glen Peters at the CICERO Institute in Norway has pioneered what is called “consumption-based” emissions accounting, which addresses this problem. Under this system, those who get the benefit of the product are held responsible for emissions generated all along the chain of the manufacture, transport and sale of their purchases. It turns out that this fairer accounting system helps China somewhat because they are “the workshop of the world,” and does not markedly affect the U.S. accounting. 
A deal should be based on fairly sharing whatever amount of emissions scientists believe we can still pump into the atmosphere before we trigger “dangerous climate change.” Once we have triggered such danger, we will have spent the entire “global carbon budget.” To be acceptable to developing countries, the deal struck between MEF countries must be based on the core principles of the UNFCCC agreed to back in 1992: equity, responsibility and capability. These principles can be used to divide up the global carbon budget share that the MEF countries currently use. As an example of one way to do this, we use consumption-based emissions by nations since 1990. We call these total emissions a country’s “historical responsibility” since the time that climate change became widely understood to be a problem. We use GDP per capita—a common indicator of level of wealth—as a proxy for a nation’s capability to address climate change. In other words, wealthier and higher-polluting nations are expected to do more than poorer and lower emitting ones. 
The deal struck in the small group should be brought back into the UNFCCC. We describe in the article some of the ways that having leadership from the big emitters would make other nations more likely to act. We also describe some groups of nations that should be expected to come into the plan first. For example, wealthy nations who are not members of the MEF should be expected to comply nearly immediately with the scheme; poorer nations may need assistance and substantially more time to build their capacity to monitor their emissions and calculate them by the consumption-based approach. The world’s least developed countries should be given a very long time to meet any obligations. 

This four-step approach of small group negotiations based on consumption-based accounting and fair sharing of the emissions reductions could be adapted or built upon by MEF countries or another group seeking to take a leadership role. This is what is needed most right now in the climate negotiations: leadership and cooperation by the big emitters.

Timmons Roberts is a nonresident senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings, and a leading expert on climate change and development assistance. Co-author and editor of eight books/edited volumes, and over sixty articles and book chapters, Timmons' current research focuses on climate change and international development.

Rift Deepens in Britain Over Claims of School Infiltration Plot by Islamic Extremists


By STEPHEN CASTLE

A dispute over how to combat the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism in British schools has provoked a political crisis, prompting the personal intervention of Prime Minister David Cameron, a public apology from one senior minister and the resignation of an adviser to another.

The rift followed allegations that Islamic fundamentalists had plotted to infiltrate and take over schools in Birmingham, home to a significant Muslim population. The claims are as yet unproved, but they have divided ministers on whether they should concentrate on tracking suspects thought most likely to commit acts of terrorism or wage a broader cultural battle at the community level against the spread of fundamentalist theology.

The disagreement within government underlines the sensitivity of the issue in a country in which Muslims radicalized in British cities have committed acts of terrorism, including the murder last year of a soldier, Lee Rigby, on a street in south London.

Like many European nations, Britain has debated how to assimilate minorities while maintaining freedom of religion. One issue is the extent to which schools should tolerate symbols and clothing associated with religious beliefs, such as Muslim head scarves. In British schools, much discretion remains with head teachers.



Michael Gove, the British education secretary, criticized the department of the home secretary, Theresa May, on Islamic extremism.CreditJoe Giddens/Associated Press

Last year, the Birmingham City Council received an anonymous document outlining a plan called Operation Trojan Horse, in which fundamentalist parents would raise concerns about the staff and curriculum — particularly over issues like sex education — infiltrate the governing bodies of the school and then promote a leadership sympathetic to their views. It is unclear what steps schools took in response to the document, and several government bodies are looking into the case. In all, 21 schools are being investigated over claims that male and female pupils were segregated, that sex education was banned and that, in one case, a cleric linked to Al Qaeda was praised in a school assembly.

While one leaked report from school inspectors appears to have flagged concerns, evidence of a conspiracy is scarce. According to news reports, the leaked report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, detailed several criticisms of one school, Park View, and said it had done too little to warn pupils about the dangers of extremism.



The issue spilled over into Mr. Cameron’s cabinet last week in a briefing published in The Times of London, which the prime minister’s office now acknowledges came from the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, suggesting that the department of the home secretary, Theresa May, had been too tolerant of the efforts by hard-liners to infiltrate the Birmingham schools for fear of being seen as Islamophobic.

The briefing suggested that the Home Office was not confronting extremism until it developed into terrorism, and had failed to “drain the swamp” in which it bred. It was also critical of Ms. May’s counterterrorism adviser, Charles Farr. In response, the Home Office released a letter that Ms. May had written to Mr. Gove, accusing his department of inaction when related concerns about Birmingham schools were brought to his attention in 2010.

Adding to the combustibility of the issue is a political rivalry between the ministers. Ms. May is seen as a potential successor to Mr. Cameron, should he lose next year’s general election and stand down as leader of the governing Conservative Party. Mr. Gove is regarded as a supporter of a possible rival leadership contender, George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer.

After days of semipublic sniping between Mr. Gove and Ms. May, Mr. Cameron stepped in to enforce discipline late on Saturday. After Mr. Cameron’s intervention, Mr. Gove apologized for briefing the newspaper, and one of Ms. May’s close advisers, Fiona Cunningham, resigned for orchestrating counter-briefings published in The Times of London. Mr. Cameron’s office issued a statement seeking to end the dispute, saying that “the secretary of state for education has written separately to Charles Farr and the prime minister apologizing for the original comments made to The Times newspaper.”

Bangladesh-India: Teesta Agreement- Revisited

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
Jun-2014

The Teesta is the fourth major river after the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna in the eastern region.

It originates in Sikkim and after traversing 172 Km in the hilly region, runs for 97 Km in the plains of India and 124 Km in Bangladesh.

The river waters of Teesta are critical both for the agricultural lands in North Bengal and for North West Bangladesh. In the latter case, the northwestern region is said to be a “drought prone” area and thanks to a barrage built by Bangladesh downstream in 1990, the region is said to be having the luxury of three seasonal crops in a year.

India had already built a barrage upstream at Gozaldiba. The water for the barrage downstream built by Bangladesh depends on the regulated water sent downstream from this barrage. Besides irrigation, the water received downstream is also used for flood protection and drainage facilities for about 75000 hectares of cultivable land. This is the first phase of the project completed in 1998 and more are to follow. India was not associated in planning the downstream project as it should have been, when the whole barrage and associated works were dependent on the waters let off from the Gozaldiba project.

Serious discussions on the sharing of Teesta River began only in March 2010. The 37th Ministerial level Joint River Commission meeting came to an understanding that the agreement would be signed within one year. This was possible only when a friendly government in Bangladesh that was open to deal sympathetically with Indian concerns in other areas was installed.

The main problem in the sharing of the waters in Teesta is during the lean period. The “poverty” during the dry season will have to be shared and it looks that informally India had agreed to share fifty percent during the lean period.

While both countries have been intent on sharing the waters and the proportions, no serious discussions have taken place for both countries to look together for ways to augment the water in the lean season. Suitable storage of water upstream during the flood season, recharge of ground water down stream are some of the doable methods to increase the flow during the dry season.

Based on the dependency of the population on the Teesta waters as a whole, Bangladesh expects fifty percent of the waters down stream while the West Bengal Government would agree to not more than twenty five percent of waters to be allowed to go down stream. 

It looks that fifty percent is too high and twenty five percent acceptable to West Bengal government is too low. The growing needs of Sikkim have also been ignored. It is not clear whether the State of Sikkim was ever consulted, when India informally agreed to a fifty percent sharing of waters.

If India had committed for a fifty percent, it should go ahead with this division for a short period of three to four years and the whole issue can then be re examined. It is almost certain that Bangladesh government would also cooperate in finding alternate means of additional water sources during the lean periods so that the farmers of all the three states are benefitted.

One cannot hope to get a more friendly government in Bangladesh than what India has now. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is facing tremendous challenges from extremist religious forces and she needs all the support from India for its stability. 

In the interest of good relations between the two countries and more for the stability of Bangladesh, an agreement on sharing of Teesta waters could be signed as soon as possible.

Ukraine: A military-industrial complex to die for

By Gregory J Moore 
May 2014
Central Asia

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. 

It seems that one of the most important dimensions of Russia's fixation on Ukraine is one little discussed in the mainstream media. That dimension, namely the importance to Moscow of Ukraine's surprisingly well developed military industrial complex, is a key reason Russian President Vladimir Putin won't let go of Ukraine. Moreover, the bulk of Ukraine's military industrial 

complex is in Ukraine's south and east, which adds clarity to Russia's focus on those parts of Ukraine. 

Readers may remember the apocalyptic Hollywood thriller, 2012, and the Russian tycoon who owned an enormous jet loaded with exotic sports cars, boasting of the plane, "It's Russian". Well, the truth is, it wasn't Russian. It was Ukrainian. It was an Antonov AN225, the world's largest airplane. Antonov, based near Kiev, also designed and manufactures a medium-size transport plane, the AN70, a series of gliders like the AN15, a regional jet (the AN148), and a series of advanced jet engines. In fact, the Russian president's office owns two AN148-100Es. 

Ukraine is also home to Motor-Sich, a firm that designs and manufactures aircraft and helicopter engines, as well as turbine engines for pumps for gas, oil and other applications including power-generation. Basically all of Russia's military helicopters use engines made by Motor-Sich. The firm also makes the engines for Russia's Yak 160 fighter/trainer. Russian military analyst Vladimir Voronov says Russia has an ambitious plan to add 1,000 attack helicopters to its armed forces, but this would be almost impossible without Motor Sich's provision of engines. 

Looking for Ukraine


An effigy of the Kiev authorities hanging above a barricade, Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, May 11, 2014

Sloviansk—Every now and then I can hear distant explosions and bursts of gunfire. But most of the time, here in the center of Sloviansk, which since early April has become eastern Ukraine’s separatist stronghold, everything is quiet. Since the small town is chopped up by barricades and many businesses and factories have closed down, there is not much going on, so that when the wind blows you can hear it shimmer the leaves of the silver birches that line the streets. If you were looking for war here, it would be hard to find. 

Ice creams are still getting through the checkpoints around town and there is a steady stream of people buying them. As I chose a chocolate bear, Irina, aged fifty, who sells them, told me that she liked being here among people, because the worst thing in this situation was being at home, alone and anxious. 

When we come to look back on the Ukrainian conflict, it will be hard, if it moves from its current low-level state to a full-blown war, to say that such-and-such a date marked its beginning. Was it the day that some forty people died, many after being trapped in a building that then caught fire in Odessa? Was it the day that seven people or was it more than twenty or perhaps more than one hundred died in Mariupol, another Black Sea town? For people here the numbers they believe depend on whether they follow the Russian or Ukrainian press and, since both are lying and distorting slivers of truth, it is not surprising that people are being dragged down into a vortex of war. 

But while it will be hard to agree on a date, it is already easy to say what is happening in people’s heads. Six months ago everyone here just went about their normal business. They were worried about the things that everyone worries about, and here especially: low salaries, scraping by, collecting money for all the bribes one has to pay, and so on. And then something snapped. The rotting ship of the Ukrainian state sprung a leak and everything began to go down. In people’s heads a new reality has gradually begun to take shape and, in this way, everyone is being prepared for war. 

This hit me on May 9. Across the countries of the former Soviet Union this is Victory Day, the day when the dead of World War II are remembered and elderly men and women, dressed in their uniforms and bedecked with medals, are honored. In Sloviansk the ceremonies began in front of the Lenin statue in the town square. The old men and one woman stood in a line while those antigovernment leaders who seized power here on April 12 stepped forward to make speeches to about a thousand people. Given that the Ukrainian army has surrounded the town I was surprised by the emptiness of what was being said. 

Pavel Gubarev, a rebel leader who had just been released in a prisoner exchange with the Ukrainians, exclaimed: “Fascism! It is coming for us again!” Then he talked of “New Russia,” the old phrase that Vladimir Putin has revived to describe these lands, which were added to the Russian Empire by Catherine the Great. “Eternal glory!” he said, his voice rising and falling in dramatic cadences, referring to the fallen of World War II. Then as though at a religious service, or as if they were taking part in a mystical experience, the crowd began to respond in unison: “Glory! Glory! Glory!” Then Gubarev said: “Glory to the heroes and victors of the Russian Spring!” by which he meant the anti-Ukrainian revolt in the east. The crowd responded: “Glory! Glory! Glory!” 

At this point came a distraction. Five armored cars captured by the pro-Russian forces here drove down one side of the square and then appeared on the other side, but they could not do a victory lap around it, because the roads are blocked by concrete and other barricades. With rebel militiamen sitting on top they drove up as far as Irina with her ice cream, and then clumsily, in a cloud of exhaust fumes, had to back up to get out again. The salesgirls from the Eva cosmetics supermarket and others ran out to cheer on their men, kiss them, and give them cigarettes. 

So, victory in 1945 and 2014 ran seamlessly into one another. At the same time Russian television, which many people had on in the background at home or in shops, was showing live footage of the huge military parade in Moscow, and later in the day, of Putin celebrating in newly annexed Crimea. 

Now we moved off. Everyone began to walk in procession to the war memorial. Victims of this new conflict, said one man in a speech, “would be lifted to the heavens on the wings of angels.” Then, briefly, flags were dipped for a moment’s silence. They were the banner of the new self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Russian flags, Communist flags, and variations of old Russian imperial and tsarist flags. 

Then I spotted a new one that I had never seen before. It was white with a big blue snowflake in the middle. Thinking this might be the flag of a new and significant political movement, I shoved through the crowd to get to the man who was holding it. He told me that it was the flag of “Fridgers of the World” and that from Siberia to the Baltics “they are supporting us.” It took me some time to understand who the “Fridgers” are. They are people in the refrigeration business across the former Soviet Union who have an online forum to discuss issues relating to refrigerators and their maintenance. 

Walking away from children and old ladies weeping as they laid flowers at the eternal flame, I ran into sprightly Anatoliy, who is eighty-six years old, and whose chest was decorated with medals, including one featuring Stalin. He had been too young to take part in World War II, he told me, but had seen action in 1956 in, as he described it, “the war with Hungary.” He described the anti-Communist revolt there as having been organized “by the remains of the pro-fascists,” and thus it had been absolutely right to intervene. 

When I asked him about the current conflict he again talked of fascism. “We want a free Ukraine,” he said, “but the Banderas want to take control over the whole of Ukraine. We just want justice.” He was using the term taken from the name of Stepan Bandera, the wartime leader who at times collaborated with the Nazis and later fought the Red Army as it retook western Ukraine, fighting fellow Ukrainians in the Red Army, among others. 

Josip Vissarionovich, he said, referring to Stalin, would never have let the country get in such a mess. He had a writing table, a couple of chairs, and a pipe. But “these presidents now surround themselves with gold. They have golden toilets and golden chairs.” He was talking about Ukraine’s leaders in general but I was surprised by his reaction when I asked him about Putin, whom many in the Russian-speaking east see as a savior. In terms of gold, he said, “our presidents pale into insignificance next to him.” 

On the sunny morning of May 9 I had seen and heard much of what you need to understand the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The simmering anger at being ripped off by the rich and politicians had melded into a narrative of fighting fascism and playing a part in a grand and glorious story of liberation and victory that was setting much of the east alight. 

Anatoliy’s face was smudged with lipstick. As a veteran he had been given flowers by children and kisses by women. I said I hoped I could be like him at his age and he said, “Your wife would kick your ass!” before briskly setting off home. 

On the edge of Sloviansk the road was blocked by Ukrainian armored cars. We stopped and got out slowly; the soldiers shouted from a distance of 150 meters that we should put our hands on the top of the car. From the trees there was more shouting. Then they yelled, “Just get out! Go! Go!” We turned and sped away, making a detour through the villages to reach the main road to Kharkiv (Kharkov in Russian), which is Ukraine’s second city. 

Here we met Sasha, a garrulous liaison officer with Ukraine’s Border Guard service. Its members look after the frontier while the army is behind and around them. We went to Hoptivka, twenty miles north of Kharkiv, to the frontier of Russia. Here Sasha showed us tank traps and a sandbag position. Then, a couple of miles away, we met soldiers who were keeping an eye on the Russian side of the border across a field. They had an armored car, which they had dug into position, and a mobile armored antiaircraft vehicle, which was under some trees. There is a big Russian base at Belgorod on the other side of the border and the Ukrainian soldiers told me that if Putin decides to invade, their position is only fifteen minutes flying time away. So, by the time Russian fighter jets are airborne, and they find out about it, it will probably be too late for them to do much. Still, the officers at this modest position appeared relaxed. They said they did not believe that Russia was going to invade and that the real threat, according to one of them, was “more from people acting inside the country.” 

Back in the historic city of Kharkiv this is certainly what pro-Ukrainians were thinking. I went to see Natalka Zubar, a civil society activist. She said that local polling showed that support for separatist forces was about 12 percent. About half of the people in town were ambivalent, but unlike in the neighboring Donetsk and Lugansk regions far more people here were actually prepared to fight a Russian invasion. As Ukrainian defenses seemed puny, I wondered if people were training and preparing to fight a partisan war after any invasion. “Yes, of course,” she said. “It’s not a secret.” Then she added, referring to the collapse of the police in parts of the east, that unless they started “to act against separatists, people will begin to do it themselves.” 

The next day, weaving past the potholes on a suburban road, I found a sports hall where some eighty men were being trained in the arts of street fighting on behalf of Ukraine against separatism. The trainers were former military officers and men with combat experience from the Maidan, Kiev’s central square, where Ukraine’s revolution played out over the winter. Groups of men were charging other groups who were defending themselves with shields. Arms and legs flailed and then they went back to their starting positions. There were no guns here. After it was over, some of the men hung around in the parking lot. They had had a tip-off that a group of their separatist enemies was about to try to seize a building in town, and if they did (which they did not in the end), this group was going to defend it. 

Would You Like an F-35 With Your Aegis?

June 2014


It’s no coincidence that the Asian nations with Aegis combat systems are also the ones buying the F-35. 

When it comes to understanding emerging military technologies, and the geopolitical implications that flow from them, few can top the analysis of Second Line of Defense.
A case in point is understanding the synergy of the Aegis combat system and the F-35 in the Asia-Pacific. For years now, Second of Line of Defense analysts have emphasized how the interaction between the F-35 and the Aegis combat system would greatly enhance U.S. and allied military power in the region. For example, in the January 2012 issue of Proceedings Magazine, Robin Laird, SLD co-founder and friend of The Diplomat, noted that the Aegis would serve as the “wingman” for F-35 pilots. As Laird explained:

Upcoming tests will support a launch/engage-on-remote concept that links the Aegis ship to remote sensor data, increasing the coverage area and responsiveness. Once this capability is fully developed, SM-3 missiles––no longer constrained by the range of Aegis radar to detect an incoming missile––can be launched sooner and therefore fly farther to defeat the threat.

Imagine this capability linked to an F-35, which can see more than 800 miles throughout a 360-degree approach. U.S. allies are excited about the linkage prospects and the joint evolution of two highly upgradable weapon systems. Combining Aegis with the F-35 means joining their sensors for wide-area coverage.

In other words, the superior ISR capabilities of the F-35 will be used to enhance the Aegis combat system’s effectiveness. That’s because data collected by F-35s would be sent back to Aegis-equipped vessels out at sea, which would use their missile and missile defense capabilities to greater effect. This capability would be especially potent in dealing with China’s land-based missile and anti-ship missile systems, especially when combined with the F-35’s electronic and cyber capabilities.

Why China Won’t Eclipse the United States


Colin Nixon/Getty 


Why China Won’t Eclipse the United States 


The World Bank has predicted that China’s economy will overtake America’s this year. Are we at the cusp of a Pax Sinica? 

The World Bank’s recent projection that China’s economy will overtake America’s in absolute terms this year has strengthened the judgment that a “power transition” is underway between the two countries. Whether or not one agrees with this forecast, China’s share of gross world product is indisputably increasing. And in a growing number of categories that affect a country’s standing in the world—such as shares of global consumption, manufacturing, foreign-exchange reserves, trade, and military expenditures—China is either No. 1 or set to be No. 1. 

But headline-grabbing metrics such as these do not capture the full complexity of “power”: economic power has many dimensions besides GDP, just as military power has many dimensions besides absolute spending. And how does one take stock of one’s alliances? Or one’s “soft power”? While most observers would agree that the gap between U.S. and Chinese “comprehensive national power” (a Chinese term and, it would appear, preoccupation) is diminishing, there is nothing approaching a consensus—among scholars or policymakers—on how it should be defined, measured, or calculated. In the new issue of Survival, the German Marshall Fund’s Dhruva Jaishankarnotes that “a crude and imprecise conception of power” remains “a crucial analytical shortcoming in the field of international relations.” 

Making matters more complicated, power is different from influence (strategy would be less important if the former automatically yielded the latter). I might have more power than you, but if you wield it more effectively you might exercise more influence in certain settings. The trouble is that influence is even more complicated to gauge than power: If two countries with roughly equivalent power (the analytic difficulty of the previous paragraph having been conveniently resolved) have different vital national interests and strategic objectives, how is one to compare their influence? 

While China has a growing number of economic partners, it has few reliable allies. 

If it is hard to measure power and harder to measure influence, how will observers be able to tell if and when China has eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s superpower? Peter Harris, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, Austin, considered this question in a thoughtful essay in late April: 

[A]ssuming a peaceful power transition between China and the United States, there will be no flashpoint moment at which it becomes clear that a Pax Sinica has replaced today’s Pax Americana…It will occur at different times and at varying rates across region and issue-area…The United States may actually underpin Chinese designs for East Asia and the rest of the world for decades to come. 

Back up a bit, though: What if a power transition does not, in fact, occur between the U.S. and China? Whether violent or peaceful, power transitions of centuries past have resulted in the displacement of established powers by rising ones. But relative U.S. decline does not guarantee such an outcome. 

First, China faces enormous internal challenges. Last month’s terrorist attacks in a busy street market in Xinjiang—which killed 43 and wounded over 90—underscore the growing problem of containing violent Uighur separatism. China also plans to absorb 250 million people—roughly four-fifths of the U.S. population—into urban areas by 2025, an undertaking that will compound the resource shortages and various forms of pollution with which its cities are grappling. It is tasked with mitigating environmental destruction brought on by three and a half decades of torrid growth. While air pollution tends to capture the headlines, water pollution is arguably a more serious issue: The Financial Times notes that “half of China’s rivers are contaminated,” “three-fifths of groundwater is unsuitable for drinking,” and “nearly 20 percent of arable land [is] contaminated.” 

Pentagon Releases New Report on Developments in China’s Military

June 5, 2014

The Pentagon today released the 2014 edition of its annual unclassified report on the Chinese military, entitled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China for 2014.”


The report does not contain many startling revelations. The Chinese military continues to grow at a modest rate, and Beijinhg continues to modernize key components of its military, particularly its navy and air force. But the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which accounts for 75% of China’s military manpower, is still using tanks, APCs and artillery pieces that are 40 years out of date.



The Contest for China's Soul

Dan Blumenthal
June 2014 

Will ambition or authoritarianism rule the day in modern China? 

Within the U.S. foreign-policy community, the debate concerning China’s trajectory can be lively and enlightening. But as with any policy issue, the debate can grow stale as a result of too much or too little information or a dearth of interesting new analysis. Luckily the field is diffuse and open to anyone with new and interesting ideas. And a fresh pair of eyes can help enrich the discussion about where China is headed.

With his new book, The Age of Ambition, Chasing Fortune Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos, a New Yorker writer, has jumped in with aplomb. The author spent eight years reporting from China, and has put his keen insight and intrepid research skills to use in his exploration of the internal intellectual and spiritual infrastructure of China’s rise. He has provided a set of answers to a crucial question: how have various subcultures in China responded to the country’s explosion in wealth, power and prestige?

His thesis is simple and profound: China is a very ambitious country that has unleashed the individual ambitions of its enterprising people. But the country’s ambitions are undermined by the country’s authoritarian politics. The big question Osnos poses is whether ambition or authoritarianism will win in China.

In searching for his answer, Osnos wades into some of the most important ongoing China debates in the analytical and policy-making communities. Here are a few:

Leadership Succession, Xi Jinping and Chinese Reform

According to Osnos, the idea that the Chinese Communist Party leadership is an efficient meritocracy is fantasy. Seasoned Chinese-leadership watchers were able to predict the new leadership lineup by watching backroom deals among Party elders, powerful factions, and important families—the so-called “red aristocracy.” Those who came out on top did not do so based on merit. Nepotism, corruption and horse-trading, not leadership skills, played decisive roles in deciding who would rule China.

The new leaders are not the reformers some in the West imagine either. For example, top Communist Party official and president of the Central Party School, Liu Yunshan is a “seasoned propagandist” and Zhang Dejiang, the third-highest-ranking official of the Standing Committee of the Politburo “received his economics training in North Korea.” Indeed, so entrenched is the red aristocracy that President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan instructed his colleagues to read The Old Regime and the French Revolution, which soon became a bestseller in China. It struck a resonant chord among Chinese, with its tale of “a frustrated merchant class” and a middle class whom the regime thought it could always count on—until they helped behead the king. Wang sees parallels he is trying to head off through his anticorruption drive.

While the anticorruption drive may be about restoring the CCP’s prestige, however, it is also about Xi neutralizing political opponents and centralizing his power. The campaign does not seem to target political or economic reform as its endgame. To the contrary, Osnos notes that in an important speech to Party members, Xi castigates the fallen Soviets for not being “man enough” to stand up for the Soviet Communist Party’s ideals. Xi does not intend to make that mistake. At the same time he roots out corruption, he is pushing back hard against “ideological threats” to the party. A leaked directive, Document No. 9, called for stamping out such things as Western constitutional democracy, and the notion of “universal values”, such as human rights. Xi, Osnos concludes, is shoring up the status quo, even if that means destroying part of the party in order to save it.

Nationalism, Religion and the Great Void of China

The conventional wisdom about China goes something like this: The CCP cut a grand bargain with the Chinese people after the Tiananmen Square massacre. It is something of a “money for freedom” program: the people could get rich if they did not ask for basic freedoms (speech, voting, association). And if making money became more difficult, China would fall back on stoking the flames of an aggrieved nationalism. The CCP argued that it would right historical wrongs inflicted upon the nation by outsiders. The implication behind this thinking is that Chinese citizens could be sated with either guns or butter. But something else happened along the way—neither money, nor nationalism is satisfying the Chinese urge for the good life.

Osnos quotes Haruki Murakami, the Japanese author, on nationalism being akin to “cheap liquor…It get’s you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical….but after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.” There is a spiritual and moral void in China. People do not trust the institutions around them: the Party is corrupt and hypocritical, business is corrupt and political patronage is rampant, and the media is censored or bought off.

Meanwhile, religion is booming. Daoism, Buddhism, and folk religions are making a comeback in the poorest and most rural parts of China; Christianity is roaring along everywhere. Osnos estimates that there are as many as 60-80 million Christians, rivaling Party membership. That statistic must be terrifying to a regime that views the organizing power of Amway with suspicion.

Osnos makes his point about the frenetic spiritual searching in China by entertainingly describing the practice of “spiritual hedging.” Chinese people may go to the Lama Temple to pray for good grades for the kids, then visit the Confucian temple midday, and end the day at the Catholic Church, just in case.

The less the Party touches religion or ideology, the more popular the Party is. People are tiring of the force-fed Confucianism, which smacks of a state religion used to justify state power. Chinese intellectuals have led an attack on the CCP’s Confucius, pointing out that the real one was able to criticize power. Osnos observes the sometimes not-so-subtle ways in which the Party responds to such criticism. A Confucius statue was erected and then removed from a sensitive area near Tiananmen Square. The Central Propaganda department banned any mention of it thereafter, leaving people to joke that he did not possess the right hukou permit for Beijing.

THE BEST OF FRENEMIES: THE DUAL STRANDS OF U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS

June 2014 
It used to be more straightforward. That was the sentiment expressed with some frequency in the aftermath of the Cold War. As we grappled with how best to define foreign and security policy interests in an era of failed states, asymmetrical warfare, and sub-national conflicts, contrasts were drawn with the days when the Iron Curtain still divided Europe. Back then, we knew who our enemies were, we knew where they were located, and we could even say with some certainty how they would choose to attack us if that moment ever came.

It was that notion, that things had once been so much less complicated, that sprang to mind as I read the speeches made by U.S. and Chinese officials at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore at the end of May. If you knew nothing about the state of Sino-U.S. relations and simply took those remarks as a guide, you would be forgiven for thinking that the United States and China considered each other enemies. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China of undertaking “destabilizing, unilateral actions” in the South China Sea and promised that the United States would not simply turn a blind eye to such behavior in the future. In response, Lieutenant General Wang Guangzhong, the deputy chief of the Chinese general staff, said Hagel’s speech was “full of words of threat and intimidation” that made “a provocative challenge against China.”

Contrast that rhetoric, however, with some basic statistics and it becomes clear that things are, once again, much more complicated. China is now America’s second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade valued at $562 billion in 2013. U.S. companies now make about $50 billion a year in new direct investments into China, while Chinese investment into the U.S. doubled in 2013 to $14 billion. On top of that, Chinese investors hold tens of billions of dollars in U.S. public and private securities.

Therein lies the paradox that will make the process of managing the U.S. – China relationship so complex for policymakers over the coming few years. While Beijing becomes more assertive in its foreign policy and U.S. allies in Asia seek reassurances that Washington will remain steadfast to its security commitments, the two countries continue to forge deeper economic ties. Great power conflict can certainly arise in spite of deep and substantial trading relationships, as the First World War demonstrated. However, if you think that security priorities will always trump economic interests, look no further than the difficulty the West is currently having in decoupling bilateral trade and investment with Russia from Vladimir Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine. National security planning increasingly involves finding ways to protect security interests without jeopardizing economic relationships.

Until now, policymakers have often been able to ignore one side or the other of this balance as the mood suited. However, recent events indicate that such a luxury may be coming to an end. China is developing greater confidence in asserting its political interests both regionally and globally, and the political and economic components of the China–U.S. bilateral relationship are increasingly intersecting.

For example, only a few days prior to the exchange of barbs between U.S. and Chinese officials in Singapore, a grand jury in Pennsylvania indicted five members of the Chinese military on charges related to alleged computer hacking and economic espionage against a number of U.S. entities. China reacted furiously to the accusations and suspended bilateral cybersecurity consultations with the United States. The Chinese government is also reported to have ordered state-owned enterprises to sever links with U.S. consulting companies, alleging that such groups were spying on behalf of the U.S. government.

Espionage no longer entails simply purloining state secrets, while retaliation is no longer limited to expelling a few diplomats. The game is now played very differently simply because there is a far greater number of actors involved in the relationship. Many major U.S.–based professional services businesses such as accounting firms, law firms, and management consultancies have large footprints in China, and Chinese clients on their books. Chinese companies are actively acquiring stakes in U.S. businesses. And many U.S. financial services companies act on behalf of Chinese businesses on their international capital raising activities. The possibility of retaliating via the economic relationship by severing such ties is almost limitless and has a much greater potential impact than a simple diplomatic response.

The situation is further compounded by the continued dominance of state-owned enterprises in China’s economy. Much effort has been made to give these companies the appearance of any other multinational enterprise. Their shares are listed on international stock exchanges, their managers often have MBAs from Western business schools, and their company strategies emphasize a focus on competitiveness and profitability.

Nevertheless, doubts remain about the extent to which these state-owned enterprises are truly independent of China’s foreign policy apparatus. Secretary Hagel’s comments about China’s provocative acts in the South China Sea were prompted, in part, by the decision of CNOOC, one of China’s large state-owned oil companies, to deploy a deep water drilling rig in disputed waters also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. There appears to be no purely commercial reason why CNOOC would have chosen that particular point in time to undertake such a provocative act. This indicates that the move had broader political objectives and belies claims by Beijing that it is reforming the state-owned sector and giving it greater political independence. That is only likely to arouse further suspicion about the true motives of state-owned enterprises in all industries and in all parts of the world. Yet we cannot escape the fact that those companies are the principal interlocutors in the China-U.S. trade relationship.

As these complexities grow, the challenge for U.S. policymakers over the coming few years will be to try and maintain the balance between protecting national security and continuing to foster an important economic relationship – assuming that such a relationship is deemed worthy of preservation. That will be no easy task. It is entirely conceivable that foreign policy decisions aimed at countering an assertive China could have material consequences for the financial performance of U.S. companies affected by those decisions and, by extension, for the U.S. economy as a whole. Equally, businesses that continue to invest in China or partner with Chinese companies can no longer operate under the assumption that trade is immune to politics and that money can be made independent of the broader political relationship between these two countries.

Twenty years ago, policymakers had to adapt the national foreign and security policy apparatus to suit an era in which the potential for great power conflict appeared to be receding into history. Now, they are faced with the new challenge of a rising China that, economically, is one of America’s largest partners but which, politically, presents state-based challenges of a magnitude not seen since the days of the Soviet Union. U.S.–Soviet trade was often no more than negligible, which helped to make the policymaking process considerably easier. Indeed, the Soviet Union’s persistent internal economic problems and desire for more open trade relationships to overcome them meant that the bilateral economic relationship offered a tool with which the U.S. could pursue strategic political objectives. That is no longer the case. For the time being, much of the tension in Sino-U.S. relations remains confined to rhetoric, but that will not last forever. Eventually, political decisions will start to have an impact on trade relations. And if they don’t already, the depth of trade relations will bind the hands of security planners. Policymakers can only pine for past simplicity for so long.

David J. Chmiel is the managing director of Global Torchlight, an international political and security risk consultancy. He previously practiced for ten years as a corporate lawyer in the London and Chicago offices of a major international law firm. The opinions expressed herein are his own. He can be followed on Twitter @LONDJC

Logistics: And The Chinese Replenishment Ships Just Keep Coming


June 12, 2014: In June 2014 China launched its fifth Type 903 replenishment ship. In 2013 the third and fourth Type 903 ships entered service. This is an obvious acceleration in the building of these ships. The first two of these 23,000 tons tanker/cargo ships appeared in 2004. By 2008 these ships were regularly at sea supporting the task forces (each with at least two warships, plus the Type 903) sent to the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia for six month tours. The replenishment ship did just that, supplying fuel, water, food, and other supplies as needed. The replenishment ship would go to local ports to restock its depleted stores of fuel, water, food, and other necessities. China needs more Type 903s to support the growing number of long distance training operations into the Western Pacific and the government has apparently responded with orders to build more of them, perhaps a lot more. 

The Type 903 is similar to the twelve American T-AKE replenishment ships in service. These 40,000 ton ships service a much larger fleet than the five (so far) Type 903s and are part of a larger replenishment fleet required by American warships operating worldwide. 

Meanwhile China has, over the last two decades, trained more and more of its sailors to resupply ships at sea. It’s now common to see a Chinese supply ship in the Western Pacific refueling two warships at once. This is a tricky maneuver and the Chinese did not learn to do it overnight. They have been doing this more and more over the last decade, first refueling one ship at a time with the receiving ship behind the supply ship and then the trickier side-by-side method. This enables skilled supply ship crews to refuel two ships at once. 

China got a sharp reminder of how essential the replenishment ships are in April 2014 when they joined the international military effort to find missing flight MH370. China discovered it did not have enough Type 903s and without access to foreign ports for resupply the Chinese Navy could not sustain large numbers of ships far from China. Chinese naval planners have long warned of this and the political leaders are now paying more attention. That has resulted in more supply ships being built for the navy. China sent two dozen warships and support vessels into the southern Indian Ocean in April and it was obvious that without access to nearby Australian ports the Chinese ships would not have been able to remain in the area for long. 

The classic solution to this problem is a large fleet of support (“sustainment”) ships to constantly deliver food, fuel and other supplies to ships at sea. China is rapidly building such ships, but not enough of them to maintain a large force for an extended period. China is unlikely to obtain the overseas ports it needs to support its current expansion plans because Chinese expansion plans have angered nearly all the nations in area. China does have a few allies, like Pakistan, Cambodia and Burma. This would not be enough if it came to outright hostilities and some of these friendly ports blocked by neighboring countries that are at odds with China. 

This logistical weakness is no secret but the Chinese have long played it down. After the April MH370 operation it became a much more visible issue. Chinese naval threats are now a bit less intimidating, until there are reports that China is building more sustainment ships than it already is. That is apparently happening. 

This is all part of a Chinese navy effort to enable its most modern ships to carry out long duration operations. In addition to the ships sent to Somalia, the Chinese have been sending flotillas (containing landing ships, destroyers, and frigates) on 10-20 day cruises into the East China Sea and beyond. The MH370 search off west Australia was the largest Chinese fleet deployment in modern times. 

The Chinese have been working hard on how to use their new classes of supply ships. These are built to efficiently supply ships at sea. In addition to learning how to transfer these supplies at sea the crews have also learned how to keep all the needed supplies in good shape and stocked in the required quantities. This requires the procurement officers learning how to arrange resupply at local ports in a timely basis. This was particularly important off Somalia, where warships often had to speed up (burning a lot of fuel in the process) or use their helicopters to deal with the pirates. 

Modern at-sea replenishment methods were developed out of necessity by the United States during World War II because of a lack of sufficient forward bases in the vast Pacific. The resulting service squadrons (Servrons) became a permanent fixture in the U.S. Navy after the war. Ships frequently stay at sea for up to six months at a time, being resupplied at sea by a Servron. New technologies were developed to support the effective use of the seagoing supply service. Few other navies have been able to match this capability, mainly because of the expense of the Servron ships and the training required to do at sea replenishment. China is buying into this capability, which makes their fleet more effective because warships can remain at sea for longer periods.

Murphy's Law: China Is Divided Into More Than Three Parts


June 10, 2014: A recent American scientific research project revealed what many China experts have long known; China is a big place with lots of different cultures. The big divide is between the “wheat eaters” north of the Yangtze River and the “rice eaters” to the south. The fundamental (and now documented) conclusion is nothing new; the northerners and southerners. The southerners are collectivist and reflective while the northerners are more individualistic and analytical. In short the southerners fit the Western stereotype for all East Asians while the northerners are more “Western” in their attitudes. 

All of this is due to geography, external influences and diet. It began with the original Han (ethnic Chinese) whose civilization first appeared north of the Yangtze River. Up there the main grain crops were wheat, barley and the like. Rice is a much more productive crop (in terms of calories produced per unit of land) but is more labor intensive and require a higher degree of organization and discipline. It also requires more water which is why the drier north (north of the Yangtze River) remained reliant on non-rice grains. It took centuries to perfect rice cultivation, which is a more complex process than for other grains. It is also more dangerous because the farmers are exposed to a lot of water-borne diseases. It took centuries of trial and error but when it was all done (nearly 10,000 years ago) Chinese agriculture had become the most productive in the world. This led to China having, ever since, the largest population and the longest continuous empire. 

There were other factors at work. The northerners are less numerous than those rice eaters down south and also had to deal with centuries of “Northern Barbarians”. The worst of these were the Huns (who later ravaged the Roman Empire), the Mongols and the Manchus. The last two managed to conquer most of China but were eventually absorbed by the more numerous, better educated and persistent Han. In the south life was easier and the more militaristic and analytical northerners were resented, but feared and often obeyed. The emperor was usually from the north and lived up there. But as southerners loved to the say; “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away.” 

Nevertheless China, with four times the population of the United States has lots of very distinct cultures. Many conform to the general “wheat eater” or “rice eater” stereotypes but are nonetheless obviously distinct. Moreover, if China is threatened all these factions will unite (or at least try to). While there is a pride among Han, no matter where they live, in the accomplishments of China and the Han people (who are 20 percent of the earth’s population) the Han can also be quite fractious if there is no external threat. And for much of Chinese history there was no major external threat. That meant Chinese history is full of civil wars, massive rebellions and a lot of Han simply not getting along with each other. 

The lesson for the West is that while the Chinese may appear monolithic they are anything but. There are many who very much agree with the Western thinking that has given the West an economic, political, scientific and military edge for the last five centuries. But now the Han have noticed that they have among themselves many people who can think and operate like the Westerners and are increasingly turning to these Western thinkers for leadership and a way out from under Western domination.

BEIJING APPLYING ’3 WARFARES’ TO SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTES

June 2014 
WantChinaTimes.com
Knowing China through
Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Beijing applying ’3 warfares’ to South China Sea disputes: academic

China is expanding its “three warfares” policy in dealing with Taiwan to its territorial disputes in the South China Sea, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.

Richard Hu, deputy executive director of the Center for Security Studies at Taipei’s National Chengchi University, told the paper that the People’s Liberation Army first officially coined the political warfare concept of the “three warfares” back in 2003, being public opinion warfare, psychological warfare and legal warfare.

The three warfares strategy has long been adopted by Beijing for cross-strait affairs, but now the battlefield has shifted from the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea, Hu said.

According to Hu, China has already begun adopting the strategy against the Philippines, which filed a 4,000-page arbitration case at The Hague under the United Nations Law of the Sea against Beijing’s territorial claims to the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

On June 3, Manila requested that Beijing submit a response to the complaint by Dec. 15, but China has already stated that it will not participate in the arbitration, which Hu believes is a sign of the three warfares at work.

Even though China has refused to accept the case or participate in the arbitration, Hu said, it will acknowledge and grasp international discourse by utilizing academic research or documents to provide solid evidence to support its case through unofficial channels while also making strong statements in the international arena to influence public opinion.

In order to succeed, however, China still needs to seek assistance from Taiwan, Hu said. China had tens of thousands of historical files documenting its territorial claims in the South China Sea, but they were split with Taiwan during the civil war, Hu said. The Taiwanese government still has in its possession thousands of documents on the claims in its Ministry of the Interior, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of National Defense and research departments, all of which are invaluable to Beijing, he added.

The territory and natural resources linked to these claims affect sovereignty and national interests on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but how they cooperate to use the documentary evidence to their collective advantage will be a test of intelligence for both governments, Hu said.

Six countries — Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim in whole or part to the South China Sea and its island chains and shoals.

The Costs of Victory Without Honor for China

June 2014


What is China giving up with its current strategy in the South and East China Seas? 

In 2012, China began administering the Scarborough Shoal, challenging the Philippines’ claim to the area. In 2013, China imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed waters in the East China Sea. In 2014, China asserted its claim to the Paracel Islands by stationing an oil rig a few miles off their shores, in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).


As a result of these and other actions, China is now widely perceived as a regional bully. Instead of using any sort of positive legal reasoning (or, occasionally, using heterodox reasoning) to justify its territorial claims, Chinese state representatives tautologically reference historical documents and precedents as the proof of the righteousness of their claims — everything else becomes a “rumor” or a “myth.” We saw this exhibited most recently with the rhetoric of Chinese representatives, from both the PLA and the National People’s Congress, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. When it comes to enforcing claims, assertive tactics seem to be working for China, but, as my colleague Shannon wrote earlier today on our China Power blog, those same tactics earn China few friends in the region.

The only thing better than winning in international politics is winning with honor, prestige and influence; despite current trends, it is not too late for China to salvage some positive reputational capital out of its handling of its disputes in the East and South China Sea. There are good reasons for China to do so as well. As Xi Jinping exhibited at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) recently, China has ambitions for normative leadership in Asia. Shortly after CICA, the Shangri-La Dialogue exposed the massive rift between China and other Asian nations when it comes to values. In short, China and the rest of the Asian rimland have a very different read on the security status quo and on who they believe should lead it in the future.

China can take steps to bring about its vision of the future Asian order. One example that Shannon briefly mentioned is that China could take steps to resolve its disputes diplomatically with Brunei and Malaysia in the South China Sea. While these countries do have territorial disputes with China, neither treats Beijing as an urgent threat as the Philippines and Vietnam do. Since China took the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, its actions in its near seas demonstrate a conviction that it believes that it cannot gain the acquiescence of Southeast Asian countries or Japan to its territorial claims without explicitly administering these areas. Should China engage in productive diplomacy — even without winning an immediately favorable resolution — it could lessen the extent to which it is perceived as a threat across the region.

While normative influence isn’t explicitly or necessarily a consequence of soft power, it certainly cannot be won through coercion. American hegemony came about after victory but only because the United States was able to align itself with the values of those powers across the Atlantic that came to become major partners in the aftermath of the Second World War. Granted, the existence of the Soviet Union did offer a formidable alternative to America’s normative vision. In the end, the contemporary liberal international order was forged with significant American influence. If China wants to lead the way towards an “Asia for Asians,” with limited U.S. influence, it must invest in cordial multilateralism. The ease with which Chinese delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue, for instance, openly accused Vietnam and the Philippines of mendacity reflects a lack of interest in pursuing the Chinese interest with reason and restraint. It is possible for China to pursue her interests without the sort of brazen provocations that have now become the norm.

If current trends continue in East Asia’s inner seas, China will find itself a victor but only trivially so. It may succeed in bringing about a state of affairs in the next decade where it has successfully enforced its nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea through years of slow-but-sure “salami slicing” only to find itself encircled by some sort of informal or formal Asian entente determined to safeguard what remains of the millennial international order. China’s current behavior is slowly turning its claims of encirclement into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I should add that I fully suspect that China’s leaders are aware of this. They have likely conducted a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the benefits of assertive policing of disputed waters as greater than the normative costs of this policy.

China has more control over security outcomes in the Asia-Pacific than its current behavior would suggest. The sooner China’s leaders recognize this and pursue their national interest in a less acerbic manner, the more likely they will be to enjoy the sort of Asia that Xi Jinping outlined at CICA. This imperative will only grow with time as China’s relative economic clout shrinks relative to the rest of Asia. It isn’t too late for Beijing to win with honor in Asia.