On March 25, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released its annual Military Power of the People’s Republic of China (.pdf) report. Despite the recent change in White House occupants, the text resembles the department’s previous Chinese military power reports, suggesting that holdovers from the Bush administration supervised its composition. As required by the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual report assesses the current and likely future military capabilities, doctrine, strategies, and operational concepts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The U.S. and other foreign officials have repeatedly complained about the severe constraints on transparency that the Chinese […]

Under the Influence: Going it Alone in Afghanistan

After seven years in Afghanistan, it’s back to basics. On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled the results of his comprehensive and long-awaited policy review of the U.S. war strategy in South and Central Asia. Reining in what has become a discombobulated mission, he asked outright, “What is our purpose in Afghanistan?” He then went on to answer his own question: Our purpose is the pursuit of al-Qaida and its leadership, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. There is little surprise in that decision. Likewise, the new way forward offered few unexpected headlines. The strategy will focus on an approach to […]

France: Outside Edition

Art Goldhammer also flags French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s double dis at the London G-20 summit: Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have nixed sideline meetings. Here’s Goldhammer: With no promise of domestic improvement, Sarkozy may well covet asplashy international occasion to demonstrate his indispensability, butthe dice haven’t been rolling his way since he stepped down from the EUpresidency. In all fairness to Sarkozy, his prime minister, Fran├žois Fillon (who probably shouldn’t be left out of the 2012 “presidentiable” sweeptakes) just met with Obama’s vice president, Joseph Biden, yesterday in Washington, and the two presidents are scheduled […]

U.S.-China Naval Incident: A Chinese Perspective

Editor’s note: The following is an unsolicited response to the World Politics Review Briefing, “An Impeccable U.S.-China Incident at Sea.” As both a newsand analysis journal, WPR recognizes that some articles it publisheswill provoke differences of opinion and disagreements ofinterpretation. Our commitment is to airing all sides of acontested issue, so long as they are respectfully expressed.On March 10, 2009, the U.S. Navy surveillance ship Impeccable intruded into Chinese jurisdictional waters, inducing a confrontation with five Chinese ships. The incident raised tension in the South China Sea, which has been the site of international confrontations recently. According to the Chinese […]

The U.S.-China naval confrontation in the South China Sea two weeks ago was only the latest in a series of military showdowns between the two countries in the past decade. And like the others before it, the skirmish — which according to initial reports had Chinese sailors stripping down to their skivvies before U.S. seamen — seemed harmless enough. But the quarrel came, if you will, amid tumultuous seas. Not long afterwards, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, troubled perhaps by Washington’s response to the financial crisis and its consequences on the broader U.S. economy, voiced concern about China’s massive economic investments […]

Protectionism Watch: China-India

After a series of disputes over export subsidies and trade barriers, China and India agreed to form a working group (via 2point6billion) that will meet every few months to discuss trade issues. Score one for responsible management of trade disputes. Protectionism is not an inevitable response to the economic downturn. Send in anything you see, I’ll flag it.

Checking China’s Naval Ambitions from the Air

In his WPR column on Wednesday, David Axe discussed the budding American-Chinese naval rivalry in the South China Sea-Indian Ocean. He called particular attention to the role India plays in American plans to check China’s naval ambitions in the region. Interesting to note, then, that four days after the USNS Impeccable incident off of Hainan Island, the State Dept. informed Congress it would license the sale of eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft to . . . drumroll, please . . . India. The $2.1 billion contract, which I flagged two months ago, is the largest U.S. weapons transfer […]

Liberians Tune Into China

MONROVIA, Liberia — One of the most interesting developments in post-war Liberia over the past three years has been the emergence of the Chinese presence. In addition to building themselves a lavish new embassy, the Chinese have been making major investments in education and infrastructure. On the way in from the airport last night, I passed several road crews working under flood lights, each with a nattily dressed Chinese foreman guiding the effort. Another of their more visible projects is a $4 million investment in the rebuilding of the Liberian government’s radio broadcasting network. In exchange for all the new […]

Up to $1.7 billion a year in oil money is set to flow into impoverished Cambodia, where 35 percent of the population lives under $1 a day and where this year’s national budget is only $1.8 billion. Yet in a country ranking a dismal 166 out of 180 on Transparency International’s annual corruption rankings, allegations of nepotism and cronyism are already surfacing around the country’s nascent oil sector, set to start production in 2012. Critics, like London-based watchdog Global Witness, claim the makings of a “resource curse” are in place, wherein a political elite will siphon profits that should be […]

Thailand’s Kra Canal

How’s this for infrastructure stimulus spending (via 2point6billion): The Kra Canal Project, which would link the South China Sea directlyto the Indian Ocean by cutting across the Thai isthmus, has shownrecent signs of being reactivated given the economic benefits it wouldbring to the region as well as the continuing problems with piracy inthe Straits of Malacca and the current route for trade to and fromIndia and South-East Asia to China. The canal, which was first recognized as a potential for boostingtrade in 1677, would have the same impact on South-East Asia as thePanama and Suez Canals have had elsewhere. The […]

On March 8, five Chinese trawlers surrounded and harassed the USNS Impeccable, a civilian-crewed naval survey ship sailing in international waters on the South China Sea, resulting in a week-long diplomatic tiff. The Chinese government accused the ship of spying on its naval forces. Washington eventually admitted that was true, but insisted it had every right to do so. (See James Kraska’s WPR Briefing.) In the wake of the incident, both sides moved in reinforcements. The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer to escort Impeccable on future missions; Beijing deployed a patrol vessel to the area. Some pundits declared the confrontation […]

Will the worldwide recession actually benefit Chinese arms exports? That’s what WPR managing editor Judah Grunstein speculated last week, citing Chinese defense companies’ ability to reproduce foreign weapons systems and then sell them on third-party markets at lower prices than the original. It is too early to identify a clear trend, but not premature to consider potential unwelcome scenarios. The tremendous diplomatic exertions that the United States and Israel are making to keep Russia from selling its S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran or Syria, for instance, will matter little if China chooses to sell them its HQ-9 surface-to-air […]

The Legal War behind the Impeccable Incident

The ancient strategist Sun Tzu stated that the acme of military skill consists of defeating one’s enemy without actually engaging him in battle. China’s strategy for advancing its domination of the South China Sea resembles a modern-day attempt to put that advice into practice. With a weak but growing blue-water capability, China is carefully and deliberately promoting a vision that de-legitimizes the forward presence of the U.S. Navy in the region. Last week’s bold and dangerous maneuvers by Chinese government vessels to disrupt a military survey mission 120 km from its coastline is the latest example of that effort. The […]

Protectionism Watch: Asia

More from 2point6billion: While India has imposed restrictions on Chinese toys and the import ofsome types of steel, Vietnam has increased import tariffs on dairy andpaper products. Similarly, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments arepublicly prompting their people and ministers in specific to buylocally produced food, drinks, shoes, clothes, music and films or facepenalties. In China, farmers in certain provinces are being given a 13percent subsidy if they buy locally made refrigerators, televisions,mobile phones and washing machines. While construction companiesproducing publicly funded infrastructure projects in other parts ofChina are being encouraged to use locally produced steel, concrete,doors and windows, glass, wiring […]

The news coverage of the recent U.S.-China incident at sea is tendingtowards a reductionist take: portraying Chinese behavior mostly as an attemptto test the Obama administration. But the incident has more to do with a longstanding strategic chess match in the South China Sea that goes back at least to the 1990s, and that is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. If the USNS Impeccable was loitering off the coast of Hainan, it was not by coincidence. The island is home to a Chinese naval base where a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines is now stationed, providing easier access […]

Hu Jintao Can Not Save the Global Economy

This was my intuitive reaction after reading this Matthew Yglesias post: So without a recovery in the U.S. and global economy, there cannot be asustainable recovery of Chinese growth. And with the U.S, recoveryrequiring lower consumption, higher private savings and lower tradedeficits, a U.S. recovery requires China’s and other surplus countries'(Japan, Germany, etc.) growth to depend more on domestic demand andless on net exports. But domestic-demand growth is anemic in surpluscountries for cyclical and structural reasons. So a recovery of theglobal economy cannot occur without a rapid and orderly adjustment ofglobal current account imbalances. But I’m not Nouriel Roubini,so I […]

Towards a U.S.-India-China Cooperative Triangle

It seems like all roads lead to China here on the blog, at least yesterday and today. But among the seven points raised by Karl Inderfurth in Congressional testimony on U.S.-India relations, this one really warrants emphasizing: Sixth, promote a cooperative triangle. Along with themuch-improved U.S. -India relationship has come questions about theunderlying motivations for this new direction in American foreignpolicy, specifically whether it represents a hedge by Washingtonagainst a rising China, India’s most consequential neighbor. Thesemanipulative temptations should be resisted. Strengthened U.S. tieswith India have their own strategic logic and imperatives and shouldnot be part of a China containment […]

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