China

Preventing Further Russian Aggression

by on 2014-04-15- 12 Comments

-

 "The hour is getting late...all along the watchtower, princes kept the view...two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl."

Bob Dylan

America and Russia are not engaged in a new Cold War, but Russia is playing the global menace du jour. The U.S. and Europe need to take more aggressive action to prevent the annexation of eastern Ukraine, and time is short. Beyond this crisis the West needs an updated defense posture, but for now the road ahead is clear.

Russia will take as much of Ukraine as the West allows, nothing more, nothing less. Yet few in Washington and Brussels seem to understand this. In recent weeks the view among the cognoscenti was that the crisis over Ukraine was largely over.  Yet little in the U.S.-European response has changed. Hence, the incentive structure that failed to prevent the Crimea annexation is not likely to prevent further dismemberment. President Putin views the West as weak, which has kept him emboldened.
Continue reading

Russia, Ukraine, and a New Era of International Relations

by on 2014-03-23- 7 Comments

 

thCAYFA069

The U.S. and Russia are not engaged in a new Cold War, but Russia is clearly playing the geopolitical menace du jour. The U.S. and Europe are going to need to up their game to keep Vladimir Putin’s hands off the rest of Ukraine. Beyond this crisis the West needs a new defense posture, as the world just entered a new era of international relations.

Just weeks ago numerous observers dubbed the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi “Putin’s Triumph,” when it was anything but that. Russia may have barely edged the U.S. in total medals, but the price for Putin’s orderly Olympics was serious repression, severe environmental damage, and seismic corruption. Then came Ukraine.
Continue reading

The Pivot to Asia: Some Tough Questions

by on 2014-02-15- Leave a reply

thCAV0Z60KThe so-called Pivot to Asia, or "rebalance" in official parlance, has been one of the Obama Administration's signature strategic moves on the global chessboard. But for all the serious engagement of the Pacific Rim countries, the core of the pivot has always been about China and responding to its rise as a regional and proto global power. U.S. intentions aside, China has accused the U.S. of using the pivot as a form of neo-containment of itself. The containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War ultimately proved to be a stabilizing strategic move by the U.S. and its western allies. Whether the pivot ends up bringing about a similar outcome in the Pacific Rim in essence constitutes the strategy's ultimate test.
Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Questionable Metaphors: Sino-Chinese Addition

by on 2014-01-07- Leave a reply

People may have wondered why spend so much time thinking about what pop culture says about international relations.  They have have pondered whether dedicating entire class sessions to Harry Potter and the International Relations of Ethnic Conflict might be misguided.

Continue reading

Will China meet its energy-related targets under its 12th five year plan?

Will China meet its energy-related targets under its 12th five year plan?

by on 2013-12-10- Leave a reply

Did you see the photos like the one above out of Shanghai? For the first time ever, Shanghai's air pollution, like Beijing's before it, exceeded the scale for particulate matter. For the past seven days, the air quality has been so bad that schools and flights were cancelled, cars were forced off the roads, industries were shut down (Though a marathon last Monday went on as planned. Runners complained that their lungs hurt. Go figure!).

This post follows up my previous one a couple of weeks ago on whether China can gets its air quality problems under control. That was essentially the text for my contribution to the first half of a webinar sponsored by the outstanding ChinaFAQS, an initiative sponsored by the World Resources Institute to provide U.S. policymakers on the latest state of play in China, energy, and the environment. This post is a revised version of  the second set of remarks I made and deals with whether or not China is meeting its energy-related commitments under its 12th five year plan.
Continue reading

4 Quick Hypotheses on Why China Suddenly Declared this New Air Defense Zone

by on 2013-11-29- 13 Comments

26071410

If you haven’t yet seen the zone’s geography, here it is to the left, complete with its overlap with the Korean and Japanese zones. The most important conflict of course is over Senkaku, but Korea watchers will also note that the Ieodo submerged reef, which Korea claims, is also in the zone. Gotta wonder what the Chinese were thinking by giving Korea and Japan common cause over anything. Foolish.

Dan Drezner asked the question I think pretty much everyone is wondering now: did the PRC really expect the US, Japan, and SK to just accept this out of the blue? Obviously they’re not, and it’s hard to find anyone besides the Fox News of Asia Global Times who thinks they should. The following are some quick ideas for where this suddenly came from. Each is more-or-less tied to a level of analysis, but the prose is laymen-style because it was originally written for media

1. Belligerence (anarchy, straight-up realism): the Chinese really are picking a fight with Japan. This is the worst possible reason. They may figure that the Hagel visit to Japan a couple months ago has made Japan into an open challenger to China now. And that is kinda true. America is hedging China, ducking and weaving, trying hard to avoid an open confrontation with it. But Japan is increasingly unabashed that is it balancing China directly as a threat. Abe is increasingly willing to call out China openly. So Asia is becoming a serious bipolar contest, and maybe the Chinese are thinking: 'to hell with it; Abe's playing tough; we have too also.' Certainly my Japanese colleagues in this area increasingly talk about China this way.

Continue reading

Tactical Concessions or a Kiss Off? Understanding Recent Changes in Chinese Human Rights Policies

by on 2013-11-20- Leave a reply

As has been widely reported in the Western media, on Friday, China’s state media finally officially announced two changes in human rights policies: (a) an end of the “Laojiao” policy of “re-education through labor” and (b) a change in the one-child policy in China, allowing two children per family if at least one of the parents was a single child (before both parents had to be only children).   Other, somewhat underreported, changes coming from the same official media report about the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China included a reduction of crimes punishable by death and efforts “to ban extorting confessions through torture and physical abuse.” Also in the news last week concerning Chinese human rights: China will have a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in the New Year.

What do these changes mean for the human rights situation in China?  Are they a sign of things to come or are these changes just “window dressing,” meant to divert attention away from the very pressing human rights problems within the state?  Many experts have highlighted that it is the latter: for example, Steve Tsang, although saying that the steps are an “important step forward,” said that it would be “naive to think this effort will seriously address the human rights problems in China.”  The famously negative NGO UN Watch also indicated that it was a “black day for human rights” when China and other human rights offenders were elected to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Continue reading

Can China Get a Handle on Pollution? What Does that Mean for Climate Change?

Can China Get a Handle on Pollution? What Does that Mean for Climate Change?

by on 2013-11-05- Leave a reply

In the northern city of Harbin, China, air quality was so bad ten days ago that concentrations of particulate matter reportedly reached 1000 micrograms per cubic meter at their peak, exceeding the World Health Organization's daily safe levels by a factor of 40 and shrouding the city in a fog so dense that commuters had trouble finding their way and a numbers of schools were forced to close. As China's pollution has reached intolerable levels, the air quality problem may pose an opportunity for China to address not only its dirty air but also its greenhouse gas emissions, as actions to reduce air pollution may produce co-benefits for climate change.

China's awful pollution situation and whether action to address climate change were the main subjects of discussion for a number of scholars and practitioners last Friday in a Webinar hosted by ChinaFAQs*. I was fortunate to be among the presenters, and though the event itself was subject to Chatham House rules, I'm making the first of my two contributions to the event available as a blog post (the second will follow shortly).

I've written on China, climate change, and energy in the past for CNAS and RFF. For me, this Webinar was timely, as I have just started a year long MA class on sectoral greenhouse gas emissions reductions strategies by the major economies. Our class has a group blog which we hope is a great resource for those interested in the domestic implementation challenges of climate change policies by the world's major emitters. In the comments that follow, I take up the issue of whether China can get its act together on air pollution and what this might mean for climate change.

Continue reading

The Duck of Minerva is blocked in China

by on 2013-10-23- 3 Comments

I was just in China for a work thing, when I checked the Duck for something. Turns out the Duck is screened out by the
Continue reading

Chinese Hegemony in Asia is Unlikely, so AirSea Battle Unnecessarily Provokes the Security Dilemma

by on 2013-10-04- 10 Comments

water_pollulation_shaoxing_zhejiang

The following is a re-up of a piece I wrote for the Diplomat last month as part of an informal back-and-forth series with the National Interest this summer on the US pivot to Asia and AirSea Battle. (Here and here are some of the other entries.) That pic, which has got to be the grossest river in all China, is from here.

In brief, I increasingly think that ASB is a mistake, because it’s almost impossible to read it as anything other than hugely provocative from the Chinese point of view, no matter what we say to them about our peaceful intentions. (Read this, and tell me reasonable Chinese wouldn’t flip out.) It’s a classic example of the security dilemma, but as I argue below, I am not really convinced that we actually need this high-tech, super-fearsome-sounding ASB right up in their face. More generally though, the pivot to Asia – a sharpening of American attention on the region - is probably a good idea. China is vastly more influential on American life than Israel or Iran. But the Middle East and Islam activates belligerent American religiosity so much, that I doubt we’ll really be able to pivot. In any case, the essay follows the jump and is written in an op-ed style.

Continue reading

Friday Nerd Blogging: Galactica (Not) Actual and the Sci-Fi / Sci-Fact / Globalization Intertext

by on 2013-08-30- 1 Comment

bsg

The Chinese state media could perhaps be forgiven for mistaking  fictional Battlestar Galactica blueprints for future US fleet schematics this week, given this.
Continue reading

Ham Omelettes and Taiwan’s Defence

by on 2013-08-23- 2 Comments

In the old old question of why the weak occasionally beat the strong, my favourite metaphor is the Ham Omelette. In a Ham Omelette, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.

In a clash over the Taiwan Strait, who would be the pig, who the chicken? This matters, because in the end predicting the outcome of a China-Taiwan clash would not be about the absolutes of military victory narrowly conceived, but about the issue of cost tolerance and the fear of a Pyrrhic result.
Continue reading

Contentious Politics and Ducks: China Edition

by on 2013-06-05- Leave a reply

In case you don't know, the PRC has censored searches for "Big Yellow Duck." The reason?

tiananmenduck

 

You can see a larger version here.
Continue reading

Do US Alliances Re-Assure in Asia, or Create Moral Hazard?

by on 2013-05-23- Leave a reply

Newsweek Korea cover

The conventional wisdom on the US presence in Asia is that we re-assure all players. Specifically, US allies don’t need to arms race local opponents, because the US has extended deterrence to cover them. Hence Japan and South Korea don’t need to go nuclear, for example. Among academics, this logic pops in the work of Christensen, Ikenberrry, and Nye; among policy analysts, here is the US military saying this, and here is the DC think-tank set.

But there’s flip-side to this logic that really needs to be investigated – whether the US presence also freezes conflicts in place, by reassuring Asian elites against their own reckless nationalist rhetoric, racially toxic historiographies, and Fox News-style inflammatory media (just read the Global Times op-ed page occasionally). I think the Liancourt Rocks fight is a particularly good example of this ‘moral hazard’ mechanic, as is the recent comment by no less than the South Korean foreign minister (!) that Abenomics’ threat to Korean export competitiveness is a greater danger to SK than North Korea’s nuclear program. That kind of preposterous, reckless myopia can only be explained by taking the US security umbrella for granted.

Continue reading

The Post-1979 ‘Asian Peace’ & Economic Miracle are Probably Connected

by on 2013-05-12- Leave a reply

Newsweek 3rd coverNewsweek Japan asked me to write an introductory essay for a special issue on tension in Northeast Asia. Basically I plea not to throw out all the remarkable growth of the last 35 years in an orgy of nationalism. It’s almost certain that the post-79 Asian peace was a necessary condition for simultaneous economic growth. So fighting over some empty rocks (Liancourt Rocks, Pinnacle Islands) is a terrible idea. And for IR, I think the current Sino-Japanese tension is a good test of the old liberal hypothesis that economic interdependence encourages peace. It’s fascinating to watch China especially try to figure out just how much economic gain to forego to push Japan over the Pinnacle Islands. Here we go:

Continue reading

Arms transfers to Africa: Hold the phone!….China is the good guy?

by on 2013-04-30- 3 Comments

This week’s topic for both my grad and undergrad human rights courses is “foreign policy and human rights promotion.”  On the list of readings-not-on-last-year’s-syllabus is this little gem: “Enter the Dragon!  An Empirical Analysis of Chinese versus US Arms Transfers to Autocrats and Violators of Human Rights, 1989-2006” by Indra de Soysa and Paul Midford.  It appeared in last December’s issue of ISQ.  Drop what you are doing now and read it!  Seriously.  It is thought -provoking, made me want to download their replication dataset and play with it before class, and made my students argue aggressively with each other in class.[1]

Continue reading

Cold War: Old or New?

by on 2013-03-16- Leave a reply

In the aftermath of a long war, a new degree of suspicion ensues between two powerful countries that were nominally on the same side…one rattles its sabre, threatening small countries on its borders…the other shores up relations with the very same countries… a tit-for-tat arms race begins, waged with the advantages of recent technological advances…espionage takes the form of a new battleground as the stakes move progressively higher…for the most part the top leaders of each continue to say nice things about each other in public, but a new undertone of tension has become apparent…privately each frets about the other’s intentions, how far will they go?

If this frame fitted the spring of 1947, should we be getting concerned that increasingly we have a current goodness of fit? Mutual suspicions between the U.S. and China have risen to new heights based on the razor’s edge tension between Japan and China and the latter’s major espionage effort, probing among other things the American energy and infrastructure grid that is largely—and worryingly—in the hands of private companies whose defenses against Chinese hacking are too low. The newly installed President Xi has taken a mildly more strident tone compared to his predecessors, but this is less concerning compared to the rhetoric of the newly installed generals atop the Chinese armed forces. The rhetoric and world view of this younger and more bellicose cadre has the hair of analysts in the U.S. intelligence community beginning to stand up on the back of their necks. And although the U.S. has actually re-pivoted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to Mali/Syria/Iran/Arab Spring, the pivot that has captivated elites around the world is the supposed U.S. pivot toward Asia (i.e. China). As such, the nascent Chinese leadership has become convinced the U.S. has an active policy of containment towards it.

Continue reading

The Good Ol’ Cold War

by on 2013-03-12- Leave a reply

In the aftermath of a long war, a new degree of suspicion ensues between two powerful countries that were nominally on the same side…one rattles its sabre, threatening small countries on its borders…the other shores up relations with the very same countries… a tit-for-tat arms race begins, waged with the advantages of recent technological advances…espionage takes the form of a new battleground as the stakes move progressively higher…for the most part the top leaders of each continue to say nice things about each other in public, but a new undertone of tension has become apparent…privately each frets about the other’s intentions, how far will they go?

If this frame fitted the spring of 1947, should we be getting concerned that increasingly we have a current goodness of fit? Mutual suspicions between the U.S. and China have risen to new heights based on the razor’s edge tension between Japan and China and the latter’s major espionage effort, probing among other things the American energy and infrastructure grid that is largely—and worryingly—in the hands of private companies whose defenses against Chinese hacking are too low. The newly installed President Xi has taken a mildly more strident tone compared to his predecessors, but this is less concerning compared to the rhetoric of the newly installed generals atop the Chinese armed forces. The rhetoric and world view of this younger and more bellicose cadre has the hair of analysts in the U.S. intelligence community beginning to stand up on the back of their necks. And although the U.S. has actually re-pivoted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to Mali/Syria/Iran/Arab Spring, the pivot that has captivated elites around the world is the supposed U.S. pivot toward Asia (i.e. China). As such, the nascent Chinese leadership has become convinced the U.S. has an active policy of containment towards it.

Continue reading

The Era of Austerity or the Era of Intervention?

by on 2013-02-02- 2 Comments

Tuareg_rebel_in_northern_MaliA variety of commentators listened to President Obama’s Inauguration speech and, having heard few words devoted to foreign policy, declared that the second term of this Administration will be marked by less activism on the global stage.  The draw downs from Iraq and Afghanistan readily reinforce this view, as do a variety of academics peddling recommendations for a new grand strategy of restraint.  I am more circumspect, for inauguration speeches are by nature more domestic in focus.  More importantly, America’s national security interests have not changed fundamentally.

The Obama Doctrine of robust burden sharing—being multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must—will continue to cope with a world that may be in rapid flux but has little propensity to generate the stability and security that would justify a restraint-based grand strategy.  Al-Qaeda was quiescent in one form, but in its new decentralized affiliate-based form it is anything but.  With the global campaign against terrorism continuing amid a constellation of constrained economic resources, robust burden sharing is an appropriate grand strategy; moreover, it is here to stay (at least for the duration of this Administration and likely well beyond).

Opponents of the President have had a heyday with the unintentional phrase “leading from behind.”  Ever since an unnamed Administration official spoke these tongue-in-cheek words to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, critics have twisted them and/or ascribed their own meaning more along the lines of “retreat to the back.”  Some grew so agitated, they practically fell over themselves in their clarion call for robust American leadership practically at all costs—case-in-point a certain presidential candidate’s “No Apology” book that aptly captured this sentiment, and a certain senator’s delight in singing “Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.”

Continue reading

USC-CSIS Conference on Korean Unification (3): DPRK ‘Sovereignty’ is a Sino-Russian Fig-Leaf to Slow Unification and Check US power

by on 2013-01-26- 2 Comments

CSIS Korea Project

Here are part one and part two of this post. I spoke last Tuesday at a USC-CSIS conference on Korean unification. I learned a lot, and it was very good. If you’re interested in unification, start here with the primary report on which the conference was based. The principal investigators said a final wrap-up report will come at some point, and I’ll put up that link when it arrives.

My comments below are on the papers presented on Tuesday about neighboring states’ reactions to Korean unification. These papers aren’t publicly posted yet, so all the comments might not make sense. But in the interest of completism, I’m putting this up to round out my thinking on this excellent unification project. (For my earlier thoughts on dealing with NK, try this; for my travelogue of my trip to the DPRK, try this.)

My big beef with these sorts of conferences on NK – I go to a lot - is that inevitably outsiders, especially Chinese scholars, start laying down all sorts of guidelines, restrictions, parameters, etc. for unification, as if it’s our right to muck around in this thing. I can understand the national interest in doing so. But we shouldn’t have the temerity to try to legitimate our muddying of the waters in what is really an internal family affair. It would also help a lot if the Chinese would stop talking (not so much at this conference, but definitely at others I’ve gone to) about how Korea needs to respect its wishes, because China is big and important now, post-2008 Olympics. I heard one guy once even say that China is now the ‘veto-player’ on unification. That’s true of course in realist sense, but that sorta cockiness infuriates Koreans who’ve really soured on China in the last decade. I see the same kind of emergent Chinese bullying on unification that Southeast Asian littoral states see on the South China Sea. So I try to call that out whenever it seems necessary.

Anyway, here on my thoughts on Japan, Russia, and China’s role in this thing.

Continue reading