A Cybersecurity Moment

Toward a Safer and More Secure Cyberspace
Seymour E. Goodman and Herbert S. Lin, Editors, 
Committee on Improving Cybersecurity Research in the United States
National Research Council
2007

On a day during which many of us are rushing about trying to secure our servers and our identities from the ravages of Heartbleed, we cannot help but wonder how the issue of cybersecurity can be addressed at a macro level.

The National Academies Press has just sent out a reminder that in 2007 it published Seymour Goodman, Herbert Lin’s and the National Research Council’s superb Toward a Safer and More Secure Cyberspace. The book, available free to download if you register, seems only a little dated: most of the fundamental concerns it identifies and addresses are more relevant now than they were seven years ago.

All of this is a bleak reminder that there are a lot of folks out there who are in a position to say “I told you so.” No doubt a few of them are probably having the busiest week of their lives.

Towards a New Model of Major Power Relations

Towards a New Model of Major Power Relations
John Podesta, C.H. Tung, Sandy Berger, Wang Jisi
CHINA US Focus
Center for American Progress

February 2014

Growing concern about the state of the US-China relationship is bringing the pundits out in force. Former Clinton Administration officials John Podesta and Sandy Berger got together with former Hong Kong Chief Executive C.H. Tung and Peking University’s Wang Jisi to try to figure out a new framework for the relationship.

In Towards a New Model of Major Power Relations, published by the Center for American Progress, they have produced a list of recommendations for US and Chinese diplomats to follow in an effort to stabilize the relationship.

The report makes for thoughtful reading, and offers hope for those who despair of the current state of play between the two countries. It will no doubt attract its share of criticism.

The most obvious problem is that the report gives but passing acknowledgement to the importance of domestic politics in both countries in setting the tone of the bi-lateral relationship. This is unrealistic What we need is a framework that is not based on domestic politics the way we wish they would be and that treats them as an afterthought, but that begins with our respective domestic challenges and mutual misperceptions and grows from there.

The second problem is that there seems to be an implicit assumption in the document that China actually wants a positive relationship with the US, and vice-versa. That remains unclear. China appears to be moving beyond the era of the “Peaceful Rise” to what I wild call “Assertive Breakout.” It is based in part on a perception of a declining US that recent US actions would appear to support.

As such, these recommendations are premature. Until both sides signal that they are really ready to sit down, we need a path to get to where Podesta, Tung, Berger, and Wang seem to think we are.

The NSA, Snowden, and the Elephant in the Room

Recent revelations from the Snowden-Industrial Complex (SIC) appear to offer evidence that the U.S. National Security Agency hacked into one or more corporate computer systems at Chinese telephone giant Huawei. This was done, ostensibly, to search for evidence to support the suspicion that Huawei was operating in cahoots with the Chinese government to the detriment of US interests.

All of these revelations are fascinating, but there is an elephant in the room that we’re missing amid the outrage. What, if anything, did the NSA find in Huawei’s computers? Was the US, in retrospect, looking for a chimera, or did they find evidence of the complicity for which they were searching?

The fact that the latter has not been addressed suggests that the SIC is being selective about its disclosures, either because of an implicit agenda, or, perhaps, because Snowden has new masters.

China and the Money Diversion

China After Tian’anmen
Perry Link
The New York Review of Books
31 March 2014

Those among us who watch these sorts of things, but who don’t talk about them, share a quiet understanding that 2014 is one of those little anniversary years in China.

The fourth of May marks the 95th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, a 1919 grassroots nationalist campaign protesting the Chinese government’s handling of the Versailles treaty, a key event in the history of the Chinese revolution. The first of October marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China; and the fourth of June marks the 25th anniversary of the incident in Beijing’s main public square in 1989.

It is perhaps this latter milestone that inspired Rowena He to pen her new Tiananmen Exilesand that inspired Perry Link to write the foreword to that book. The foreword is excerpted in Link’s NYRB essay.

In his article, Link takes us through the background of China’s modern social contract: the shock of the June 4th incident was followed by a concerted effort on the part of the Party to shift the nation’s focus away from politics and toward prosperity. Commerce, opportunity, rising living standards and the social stability that made all of them possible absorbed the attention of the nation for the next two decades. The quid pro quo, of course, was that the people would not ask hard questions of their leaders.

For a generation, this approach has yielded great success as China’s economy continued to rise on the back of consistent and high economic growth. But the number of people enjoying consistently rising standards of living is falling, and the nation faces simultaneous crises in both the environment and ethics. As Link notes:

At a deeper level, though, Chinese people (like any) do not feel secure in a system built on lies. The wealthy send their money abroad—and their children, too, for education. In 2013 several surveys and reports showed sharp increases in the plans of whole families, especially among the wealthy, to emigrate, and there is no reason to think that poorer people would not follow this trend if they had the means.

The nation’s most prosperous are turning into a quiet flood of refugees to societies with rule of law, strong ethical systems, and who place limits on opportunity in favor of a better lifestyle.

Link summarizes a narrative familiar to many of us. It does more than simply justify the current silent exodus: it sets the stage for the next act in China’s economic and political evolution.

China is Not Ready for a Short, Sharp War

“Is China Preparing for a “Short, Sharp War” Against Japan?” Brookings Institution. Jonathan Pollack and Dennis Blasko name the elephant in the room in Asia. Their call: the alarm bells sounding at the US Pacific Fleet are premature because China lacks either the doctrine or preparedness to conduct such an operation. The conclusion is debatable, but it is interesting to note that the issue in debate is neither motive nor opportunity, but capability.

Op/Ed: Our Ally in Tokyo

“Stand With Our Ally in Tokyo”
Rep. Randy Forbes

The Diplomat
18 February 2014

Representative J. Randy Forbes, (R-VA), writes this editorial in The Diplomat urging us to stand behind our ally in Tokyo. He makes some good points.

But this is a piece of political advocacy, not a balanced treatise. Forbes needs to be both the political leader and the strong diplomat. While we should stand behind all of our alliances, we should also make clear to our allies that there are conditions.

If Japan provokes China, we will not back them. If Japan fails to negotiate settlements with China in good faith, we will not back them.

And if Japan seeks our backing, they must publicly own up to, and apologize to the Chinese people for the atrocities committed against them in the name of the Chrysanthemum Throne prior to 1945. Failure to do any of that undermines our legitimacy in the eyes of not just the people of China, but of the people in Asia as a whole.

There are no white hats in Northeast Asia. We cannot ignore China’s creeping hegemony, but we cannot ignore the slow-motion effort of Japan’s militant right wing to rewrite history, either. Before we decide to throw our full weight behind one side or the other in this conflict, let us make certain we are acting in accordance with all of our values, not just one.

CIGI: East Asia Wants Into the Arctic

East Asia-Arctic Relations: Boundary, Security and International Politics
Centre for International Governance Innovation

This is a superb recent series of papers from CIGI about the evolving geopolitics of the arctic, this article focuses on the ambitions of East Asian nations like Japan, Korea, and China in the Arctic.

Sovereignty in the Arctic has been a latent issue, and international practice has been that the countries that have lands in the Arctic have essentially divided the region among them. Climate change, and the alterations that it is making to Arctic geography, are turning the region from a frozen wasteland to a shipping channel and a storehouse of natural resources seemingly begging for exploitation.

That change is also changing the attitudes of nations outside the club of countries with Arctic lands, and the countries of East Asia are making a more assertive case that they have interests in the arctica as well.

The entire series is superb, but Kai Sun’s “China and the Arctic: China’s Interests and Participation in the Region” will be of particular interest to Peking Review readers.