“China’s Strategic Capabilities and Intent,” Rebeccah Heinrichs, Issue Brief, No. 4111, The Heritage Foundation, December 18, 2013. Heinrichs summarizes the changes taking place in China’s nuclear defense posture, noting that rather than engage in bursts of effort and spending, China has been slowly and steadily improving its offensive nuclear capabilities for years now. She also lays out a policy program that responds to these developments and reminds us that the US has ignored its own strategic forces for far too long.
“Taking Stock of Chinese Leader Xi Jinping’s One Year Rule,” R.S. Kalha, IDSA Comment, December 20, 2013. Kalha, of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis in India, takes a look at the first year of Xi Jinping’s rule from a security policy perspective. His takeaway: by focusing on Japan, Xi picked the right nemesis, managing to demonstrate the real limits to the US commitment to the security of its allies in the region. More adventurism can be expected as a result.
“North Korean Regime Change”
Ralph A. Cossa
Pacific Forum CSIS
December 16, 2013
In a thought-provoking article, Ralph Cossa, who is president of the Pacific Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a noted Korea expert, comes up with a whopper of a revelation for those of us who don’t follow North Korean politics on a daily basis.
Apparently, when Kim Jong-un had his uncle eliminated in a gruesome execution last December, he was doing more than settling a family score. Korea watchers had pegged Jang Song-thack as North Korea’s best hope for a transition away from poverty-stricken kleptocracy to a functional, modern state. Chinese observers were even suggesting that Jang was Korea’s Deng Xiaoping.
Cossa’s conclusion is chilling and makes the entire report worth a read. “Imagine China’s fate if the Gang of Four had prevailed. This may have been what just happened in Pyongyang.”
“The Urbanization Solution”
Government Designed for New Times
McKinsey & Co.
China is on the back end of the largest and most rapid urbanization in the history of mankind. In the past 30 years, the nation’s population has gone from being 80% rural to over 60% urban. Lu Mai, Secretary General of the China Development Research Foundation and an expert on rural affairs, pens a forthright essay saying that China should stay the course: the more people you move to the cities, the more manageable China’s problems will be.
At the same time, Lu doesn’t want forced relocations. The market is the best mechanism to drive the process, he says. The appropriate role for the government is to serve as an enabler, making the process of integration into the cities as smooth as possible, and ensuring that migrants are provided the necessary services and statuses to make their shift from the countryside as smooth as possible.
Lu is wise enough not to call for the outright elimination of China’s hukou household registration system. Doing so would touch politically sensitive nerves, come across as slightly wild-eyed, and anyway would miss the point. Lu’s focus is on outcomes: get people into the cities, and anticipate and address the challenges this is going to create for municipal governments and the migrants themselves.
A quick read, but a good one.
“Understanding Chinese Revisionism in International Affairs”
April 2, 2014
Whenever I start to think I know something about international relations (my major in school three decades ago, and my predilection ever since), I need only read something by Matthew Stinson to send me, humbled and chastened, back to the library.
Stinson, who is on the faculty at Tianjin Polytechnic University in China, is not a paid political scientist, but he writes like one, albeit rather more clearly than most. It pains me to note that much of his output is in the form of Facebook posts, a fine way to engage his friends, but not so much to give him the profile he deserves.
The most recent entry in his blog Like Cooking a Small Fish is a happy exception. In an wide-ranging and highly erudite article, Stinson explains in detail how China is changing the rules of international relations simply by refusing to play by those established by the U.S. and European powers over the last two centuries. He concludes:
In 1996, the popular Chinese nationalist book China Can Say No advanced the concept that China should no longer follow America’s lead in world affairs. Roughly twenty years later, we may be reaching a point where, thanks to Chinese power, authoritarian regimes of the Global South can also “say no” to the West and pay no penalties for it.
Thought-provoking, and for those of us who place value in the international system as it currently stands. What Stinson suggests that we face is not a future of bad actors, but one in which we will have two systems operating by separate rulesets operating side-by-side. It is the perfect recipe for global conflict.
“Economics and the Rebalance”
Matthew P. Goodman
Global Economics Monthly
Volume II, Issue 12
To this point, discussion of Obama’s strategic pivot to East Asia has focused primarily on the military and political aspects of that shift. But as Matthew Goodman of CSIS notes, the administration has placed economics at the center of the rebalance, and has made its biggest bet on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade agreement designed to link Asia and the Americas in a free-trade zone.
Goodman is emphatic: based on Obama’s approach, success of the economic end of the pivot – and of the pivot itself – depends on success of the TPP:
Without TPP, the rebalance would contain little of substance that is new and would be perceived in the region as driven primarily by military considerations.
What is more, success of the TPP depends, he notes, on Congress getting behind it. Thus, it stands to reason, the success of the pivot depends on Congress. Goodman offers recommendations for the Congress, but gently dodges the elephant in the room: will the Republicans in Congress support anything that is important to the President?
A thoughtful read, and one that offers persuasive food for thought on the administration’s Asia foreign policy.
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
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.