Tag Archives: Analysis

Q&A: China expert Susan Shirk updates her view of Sino-US relations

Asia Times top writer George Koo recently interviewed Susan L. Shirk, the author of 2007’s acclaimed “China, Fragile Superpower.” Professor Shirk is an influential expert on Chinese politics who served as deputy assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration. She was a guest speaker at a Feb. 18 forum in Palo Alto, Calif. hosted by the Committee of 100 and the Commonwealth Club to discuss “Why the UK sees China as a friend and the US doesn’t.” Shirk, who is currently a professor at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego, was invited to address the US point of view. Koo moderated and afterwards spoke with Shirk in an exclusive interview for Asia Times. Read more: http://atimes.com/2016/03/qa-china-expert-susan-shirk-updates-her-view-of-us-chinese-relations/

The Interpreter’s best of 2015: South China Sea

Throughout the Christmas-New Year break, The Interpreter will be featuring some of its best pieces from 2015. More to come between now and January 4 when The Interpreter will be back for 2016. South China Sea: Does Xi have a grand strategy?, by Linda Jakobson, 13 January. I do want to emphasise, however, that the word ‘chaos’ or ‘chaotic’ does not appear anywhere in the report. I do not view Chinese maritime security decision-making as chaotic. This brings me to an observation made by Michael McDevitt. On the basis of Xi’s willingness to make politically ‘courageous’ moves in his anti-corruption campaign, McDevitt questions my argument that Xi and other top leaders find it difficult to publicly disagree with officials or entities that announce or execute counterproductive stances associated with ‘safeguarding China’s sovereignty’. This is an important and possibly a valid point, which I have contemplated while watching one senior official after another being investigated. Nevertheless, on the basis of discussions this past September and November in Beijing about the anti-corruption drive, I came to the conclusion that there are different dynamics at play. The ‘rights consciousness’ movement (which Xi himself has spurred on) is so strong that it does at least to a degree deter Xi from going against the tide on matters involving sovereignty. Obviously, time will tell if I am mistaken. Finally, I do not claim that China’s maritime actors can behave in any way they choose. Xi’s guidelines box them in. As I have written in The Australian, it is entirely possible that Xi approves of most (or all) of the actions taken in China’s name. My point is that Xi is not deciding on myriad actions; numerous maritime actors are.   Read more: http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2015/12/31/The-Interpreters-best-of-2015-South-China-Sea.aspx

Hey, China, this is why democracies beat autocracies in a fight. (So back off the South China Sea.)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama toast during a State Dinner, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Who wins a bar fight? The person with the most friends at the bar. Who wins a war? The country that fights alongside the most allies. This simple intuition provides an overlooked explanation for an important academic controversy. Democracies win almost all of the wars they start and about two-thirds of the wars in which they are the targets. If we push the bar fight analogy a little farther, we can also understand why being a democracy, and seeking a particular type of objective, is helping the U.S. build a large coalition to prepare for potential bar fights in places like Eastern Europe, the Middle East or the South China Sea. Obama told China to slow down in the South China Sea. On his November trip the Philippines, President Obama called on China to halt the militarization of conflicts in the South China Sea, where China has been sparring with the U.S. and its allies over islands, navigation rights, and access to natural resources. Obama also announced $250 million in military aid to our allies in the region. The U.S. is working actively, and successfully, to build large coalitions to support its goals in the South China Sea and elsewhere. By contrast, adversaries like China and Russia largely stand alone in these disputes. This is counterintuitive in some ways. For many members of the U.S. coalition in Asia, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, China is the nearer neighbor and a rising trade partner. China is likely more economically important to the future of these countries than the U.S. Similarly, Ukraine and the Baltics share a border with Russia, not the United States. So why do these countries (seek to) ally with us? Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/12/15/hey-china-this-is-why-democracies-beat-autocracies-in-a-fight-so-back-off-the-south-china-sea/

John Ivison: Tension between China and Japan over islands could threaten world peace

TOKYO – Shinjuku station at rush hour is like a highly organized ant colony, as 3.6-million commuters converge on the world’s busiest transport hub every day. Yet harmony, rather than chaos, reigns in a society that remains a remarkable consensus of politeness, co-operation and affinity. A train that arrives two minutes late is greeted by rail workers bowing from the waist to express their regret. Last week, however, a small explosion at Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, a controversial war memorial where senior political and military war criminals are buried, offers a reminder that Japanese society is more fractured than it might first appear. No one was injured in the blast, which remains subject to investigation. But the Yasukuni shrine has been a lightning rod for accusations that Japan is embracing its military past ever since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited two years ago. Recent moves by his government to re-interpret the constitution have further aroused fears of a rising nationalism and a return to Japan’s “old path.” In August, 120,000 people protested a new security policy – “proactive pacifism” – that gives Japan the right to send its forces overseas for the first time since the Second World War. And the normally sedate Diet witnessed a brawl between politicians arguing over the legislation. It may be the Yasukuni bombing is another example of the backlash against the Abe agenda. Read more: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/conflict-is-inevitable-tension-between-china-and-japan-over-islands-could-threaten-world-peace

How America and China Have Different Visions of International Order

This May, China’s Ministry of Defense published a white paper, “China’s Military Strategy,” only a few months after the United States’ most recent National Security Strategy (NSS) was released.  It is revealing to compare the two documents, both to see how each nation envisions the other in a strategic context, and because it adds to our understanding of both countries’ self-conceptions. The United States’ NSS focuses on a panoply of functional threats to national security—proliferation, climate change, terrorism—before moving on to discuss strengthening America’s economy and promoting state-building and human development in troubled countries.  Only the final section of the document discusses the question of “order,” including the “rebalance” of American attention to Asia. The Chinese Ministry of Defense paper, on the other hand, begins with the claim that although the international system is generally calm and on a peaceful trajectory, Chinese security is adversely affected by “new threats from hegemonism, power politics, and neo-interventionism.”  It goes on to describe the “rebalance” and the meddling of external countries in the South China Sea as having negative impacts on China’s security. The meddlesome, neo-interventionist hegemon is, of course, the United States. That the U.S. is front and center as a security threat in the Chinese strategy while China is buried at the back of the U.S. document is in itself worth contemplating. A more obvious disparity is the language with which the two documents describe the phenomenon of deep U.S. engagement in the region. The NSS, for example, describes the U.S. in rather different language. In his preface to the document, President Obama argues that “strong and sustained American leadership is essential to a rules-based international order that promotes global security and prosperity as well as the dignity and human rights of all peoples.”  The document’s section on the “rebalance” discusses both the deepening and broadening of economic and security ties to Asian nations.   Read more: http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/how-america-and-china-have-different-visions-of-international-order/

Chinese-Filipino Community’s Dilemma: The Philippines, China, and the South China Sea Disputes

Nationalism and nationhood in post-colonial, cosmopolitan countries like the Philippines aren’t about ethnicity, but, as eminent Sociologist Benedict Anderson suggest, they are instead anchored by an “imagined community” that is bound by shared dreams, sufferings, and experiences. Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, pitting a powerful China against a beleaguered Philippines, the sizable and well-integrated Chinese community in the Philippines is feeling the heat. Recently, one of the Philippines’ most celebrated writers elicited highly negative reactions among certain circles, particularly the Filipino-Chinese community, by implicitly questioning their loyalty to the Philippines, specifically in an event of war with China. The last thing the Philippines needs at this point is divisive talk and internal divisions. The Filipino-Chinese community serves as a backbone of the country’s economy, with many among them rising to positions of great prominence — whether in business or politics or entertainment — in the Southeast Asian nation. Critical Junctures In their best-selling book, Why Nations Fail, economists James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoğlu discuss the double-edged nature of what they call critical junctures: Seismic events, which shake up the foundations of the status quo. Sometimes, crises create the right kind of exogenous pressure to disrupt a dysfunctional equilibrium, forcing positive change and encouraging innovative adaptation by troubled societies. In other cases, crises lead to further divisions and, ultimately, the collapse of an entire civilization. In Collapse, Evolutionary Biologist Jared Diamond dramatically chronicles the extinction of certain civilizations due to their inability to adapt to changes in their environment.   Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-javad-heydarian/chinese-filipino-communit_b_7669304.html

Don’t go wobbly on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea

In a recent East Asia Forum article, Sam Bateman criticised a decision by the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to develop military plans for more assertive freedom of navigation (FON) operations in the South China Sea (SCS). Specifically, Bateman asserts that ‘there are significant legal, operational and political risks involved with these operations’. While there may be risks associated with conducting FON operations in proximity of China’s man-made islands in the SCS, much of what Bateman states in support of his position is misplaced. First, Bateman alleges that the US is only concerned with China’s reclamation work in the SCS, which could give the impression that the US has abandoned its position of neutrality in the sovereignty disputes themselves. But, despite China’s assertive behaviour in the SCS over the past 40 years, starting with the 1974 invasion of the Paracels and culminating with its current reclamation activities encompassing more than 2000 acres (800 hectares), the US has maintained its neutrality regarding the sovereignty disputes. At both the US Pacific Command change of command ceremony and the Shangri-La Dialogue in late May, Carter stressed that ‘there should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants’. Second, Bateman questions the legality of FON operations in the territorial sea, stating that ‘diverting from the normal passage route between points A and B just to demonstrate a right of passage’ does not constitute innocent passage. Bateman cites the provisions from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that innocent passage should be ‘continuous and expeditious’ and should not involve ‘any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State’. Read more: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/06/25/dont-go-wobbly-on-freedom-of-navigation-in-the-south-china-sea/

Why China is far from ready to meet the U.S. on a global battlefront

June 23 (Reuters) – Both of these statements are true:   1) China possesses a rapidly improving military that, in certain local or regional engagements, could match – and even defeat – U.S. forces in battle. 2) In military terms, China is a paper dragon that, despite its apparent strength, is powerless to intervene in world events far from its shores. Seeing the distinction between these two ideas is the key to understanding China’s strategic aims, its military means and the threat, if any, that the country poses to its neighbors, the United States and the existing world order. Beijing’s goals include “securing China’s status as a great power and, ultimately, reacquiring regional preeminence,” according to the 2015 edition of the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military power. China is not a global military power. In fact, right now it doesn’t even want to be one. But that doesn’t mean the world’s most populous country doesn’t pose a threat to the planet’s wealthiest and most powerful one. Yes, the United States and China are at odds, mostly as a result of China’s expanding definition of what comprises its territory in the western Pacific, and how that expansion threatens U.S. allies and the postwar economic order Washington was instrumental in creating. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3136580/Why-China-far-ready-meet-U-S-global-battlefront.html#ixzz3dwbYru7y

China is a threat: US scholar

The three scholars mentioned in the article are Dr. Mr. Denny Roy, a senior expert on governance and security from the East-West Center (USA), Prof. Sherry P. Broder, a lecturer at the William S. Richardson Law School, University of Hawaii (USA) and Dr. Li Guoqiang, a researcher in the field of philosophy and social sciences from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Sharing the same view that China has been developing very strongly and this country now has great influence on global trade, the Chinese and American scholars’ perspective is different on the orientation and the way of development, as well as the attitude of China to the world in the process of economic development. Referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which was signed by China and ASEAN countries in 2002, Mr. Li Guoqiang said that during the process of discussion and implementation, the concerned parties should try to reach common awareness and should not impose their will on others. However, two American scholars pointed out the actions that go against the good words of China. Prof. Sherry P. Broder said that in the past few years, China has been involved in serious standoffs with its neighbors. She listed various events such as China’s dispute with the Philippine Coast Guard at the Scarborough Shoal began in 2012. In November 2013, China unexpectedly declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over a large portion of the East China Sea that overlaps portions of the South Korean and Japanese ADIZs. In 2014, China sent the HD-981 oil rig in waters disputed with Vietnam near the Paracel Islands.   Read more: http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/marine-sovereignty/132838/china-is-a-threat–us-scholar.html

China’s “historical evidence” worthless to international law

China may show ‘evidence’ that Chinese sailors used to be present in the East Sea (South China Sea in international name), but according to international law, that does not prove its ownership. In the perspective of China, the country with many plans to turn the East Sea into its own pond, Mr. Li Guoqiang, a senior expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said that to face the new developments in the East Sea, all parties need to try harder. There is both the risk of conflict and opportunity for cooperation. When the parties cannot reach agreement on the issue of territorial sovereignty, why do they not prioritize cooperation and development and through collaboration and development to enhance reliability, eliminate hindrances and disagreement? As a senior expert on administration and security from the East-West Center (USA), Mr. Denny Roy, commented: “It is safe to assume that Beijing carefully considers the potential impact of all Chinese moves on regional tensions and on China’s relations with other countries in the region.  What is important is that Beijing seems less concerned about appearing aggressive, and more determined to force other countries to accept Chinese preferences.” Read more: http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/marine-sovereignty/132193/china-s–historical-evidence–worthless-to-international-law.html