India’s Carrier Ambitions

India announced it would begin building a homegrown aircraft carrier. Given the porous state of India’s defense procurement system, I’ll believe it when I see it. The rule of thumb with carriers is that having one means having none, due to the downtime during scheduled drydocks. India already has one, which means they need a second one to shore up their invesment. This could just be a negotiating ploy in its ongoing dispute with Russian over a refitted Russian carrier. If not, look for China, which has been making noises about building a carrier for some time, to respond in […]

The Crisis Spreads to Eastern Europe

The contagion from the financial crisis has spread to Eastern Europe. Growth in the region is off, credit has dried up, and falling currencyexchange rates risk setting off a repeat performance of the Asiancontagion. The Latvian government already a victim of the fallout, and the European banking system is exposed through lavish loans made during the boom years. The IMF has stepped into the gap, but it is clearly and increasingly underfunded, leading to packages that are insufficient to stem the bleeding. A weekend summit of E.U. leaders called for recapitalizing the Fund, with the goal of doubling its current […]

Cutting Western Aid to Africa

I’m probably wading blindly into a charged debate here, but Dambisa Moyo makes a compelling case against Western aid to Africa. When I was backpacking around Ecuador on a shoe-string budget fifteen years ago, I had the good fortune to meet a network of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who put me up and showed me around their projects. A few years later, I was able to repeat the experience with a more respectable budget that allowed me to actually rent a room from a group of Belgian development workers. It was pretty obvious both times that the major beneficiaries of […]

Russia-China Incident at Sea

The difference between foreign policy and foreign affairs is thedifference between what you hope will happen and what actually does.Last week I’d been all set to flag the $25 billion energy deal Russia and China just signed that injects much-needed Chinese cash (in the form of loans) intoRussia’s energy sector while guaranteeing much-needed Russian oilsupplies for the Chinese economy. This week the two countries arefacing the kind of diplomatic incident that often has serious consequences forbilateral relations. In case you missed it, here’s the video of Russian naval vessels sinking the New Star, a Sierra Leone-flagged, Chinese-owned cargo ship (via […]

The China Syndrome

Looks like with regards to what I wrote earlier about finding the balance with China, the new administration is leaning more towards “accepting the limits of our liberalizing influence” than towards maintaining the “low-end threshold of our expectations.” There will be plenty of time to get Beijing’s dander up the next time the Dalai Lama passes through Washington. But for now, in the opening days of a new administration, I’ve got to agree with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We pretty much know what they are going to say” on human rights issuessuch as greater freedoms for Tibet, Clinton told […]

What China Sees When It Looks at Us

Harry Harding has a rundown at the Asia Foundation’s In Asia blog of Chinese perspectives on President Barack Obama and how they have evolved from the campaign to the transition to the early administration. In a nutshell, the Chinese government prefers known quantities to newcomers promising change because it doesn’t like surprises (vive la revolution!), prefers Republicans to Democrats because the former are less likely to harp on things like human rights (although McCain’s League of Democracies caused them some concern), is perfectly happy with the benign neglect accorded China by this year’s campaign rhetoric, and reads Congressional transcripts (like […]

What We See When We Look at China

Tom Ricks flags a Chinese “soft power” bridge-building project in Africa and worries about Chinese military contractors: . . . Bridges don’t bother me somuch. What really worries me is the day when Beijing starts deploying “private securitycontractors” to African countries, in part because that might be when theprecedents established by the U.S. government in Iraq come back to haunt us.Among other things, Chinese mercenariesare gonna be much cheaper than their American counterparts — and also are likelyto be even cozier with their own government back home. Now, Ricks is right when he says, previously, that “China is serious about […]

China and Intellectual Property Rights

If you’re wondering why the headline of this DefenseNews article is “Russia Admits China Illegally Copied Its Fighter,” it’s because everyone knows China reverse engineers indigenous products from imported models, but the Chinese market has so much pull that people sell them the hardware along with technology transfers anyway. Then the trick becomes how to get the Chinese to respect the contract without making them lose face. A guy I met here in Paris who works for Alstom, the French train manufacturer, was telling me how they started seeing their trains show up in South America under Chinese brand names. […]

China’s Strategic Savvy

I thought I’d follow up Richard Weitz’s and JD Yuan’s China twofer from Tuesday with a handful of news items I’ve flagged over the past few days: First (via DefenseNews), China doubled the amount of its attack sub patrols last year to the (non-alarming) new total of 12. Still, in combination with the modernization of its missile capabilities (also via DefenseNews), it confirms China’s strategic emphasis on theater denial: Whatconcerns U.S. defense circles is the increasingly flexibility andaccuracy of China’s ballistic missile arsenal, including theintroduction of mobile launchers, maneuvering warheads, improved targetsensors, and command and control, [Loren Thompson, chief operating […]

The Obama administration is up and running at a brisk speed, from confronting the challenges of the financial crisis to closing the Guantanamo prison camp within a year. With the confirmation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the naming of special envoys to the Middle East and to Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama has indicated not only his foreign policy priorities but also the style of diplomacy he’ll use to tackle the world’s toughest problems. While Obama’s China policy has yet to be articulated, some of its priorities were indicated during the presidential campaigns by both him and his […]

The Chinese government recently released a white paper on national defense, continuing its trend of publishing documents that provide additional details about the evolving nature of Beijing’s defense programs as well as their underlying justifications. Nonetheless, the information still pales in comparison to that made available by the U.S. Department of Defense on the Internet. Except for a few classified “black programs,” the department gives independent researchers (and foreign governments) substantial information about the characteristics of current and planned defense policy and weapons programs. “China’s National Defense in 2008” contains the usual stock phrases found in the other security white […]