Philippines sends six Coast Guard vessels to South China Sea

Move to guard Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal

Source: Philippines sends six Coast Guard vessels to South China Sea | GulfNews.com

So the Philippine Coast Guard is going to protect Filipino fishing vessels.

There are yachts and fishing boats in any given marina in the US that are more heavily armed than your average Philippine Coast Guard ship. It’s a fairly good bet that the PLA(N) is unfrightened, which suggests that these ships are aught more than a tripwire, a means to provoke an incident.

There will be much to watch in the coming weeks.

New Imperial China and the US-Japan Alliance

The rise of China poses many questions, foremost of which is will a powerful China be a responsible member of the international community, complying with established rules and norms of the current global system? Or will it defy global standards, and strive instead to project its own rules and norms, thereby challenging the world order established by the United States?

Source: New Imperial China: A Challenge for the US-Japan Alliance | East-West Center | www.eastwestcenter.org

Short but good, this sharp piece offers some interesting – and still relevant – perspective on the escalating tensions in Northeast Asia.

A Peaceful Racist Rise: China, Africans, Race, and International Relations

Last summer there were a spate of articles documenting the sometimes latent and often blatant antipathy that many Chinese feel toward people of African descent. In Foreign Policy, Fulbright Scholar Viola Rothschild described her findings while conducting research on African entrepreneurs in China. Ayo Awokoya offered this cogent exposition of anti-African racism on line in China. Promotional posters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were modified in China to minimize or eliminate non-white actors. And shrill government mouthpiece Global Times published a cartoon showing President Obama in a way that would, in the United States, be beyond the ken for even those publications in most vigorous opposition to the President.

My point is not to suggest that China is alone in its attitudes – indeed, the candidacy of Donald Trump in the current U.S. Presidential campaign has demonstrated that America is far from ridding itself of ethnic hatreds. Rather, it is to highlight several important points around the dialogue of China and its role in the world.

  • First, that China’s status as a nation of “color” (i.e., predominantly non-white in ethnic makeup and dominated by non-whites) does not excuse it or individual Chinese for racist behavior,
  • Second, that words or policies that favor or disfavor one race or another are no less racist in China than they would be elsewhere;
  • Finally, that neither the Chinese nor the peoples around the world with whom they have increasing contact have yet to reckon with that racism, its policy implications, and its potential impact on the world as a whole.

As China emerges as an international power, it faces the danger that latent racism in its relations with other countries will undermine its efforts to win friends beyond its borders. Veteran journalist Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa, notes that Chinese operating in Africa are racist to the point that they are unconscious of the aspects of their behavior and speech that cause offense.

Provoking local resentment, though, is only the beginning of the dangers implicit in Chinese racism. Racism can fester all too easily into the kind of cultural chauvinism that propelled the worst elements of Japan’s foreign policy between 1868 and 1945. For the sake of both the nation and the world, China cannot be allowed to fall into that trap. The example of Japan – and those of the great European empires – offers a surfeit of reasons to fear a world power convinced of its own ethnic superiority.

One friend suggested to me that authoritarian regimes are naturally less racist. Even if we leave aside the extreme systemic racism of the USSR and the Third Reich, one would be hard pressed to prove that authoritarian regimes are better at eliminating de facto racism (or what I call “social racism”) than their pluralist counterparts. As the articles linked above attest, there is certainly social racism in China. And as for systemic racism in China, one need explore no further than its immigration policy, which makes attaining citizenship in China fairly straightforward for an ethnic Chinese applicant, but practically impossible for a caucasian, an African, or a Latino.

If we are going to call out our own governments and institutions for their racist behavior, we cannot afford to give other governments a pass. This is not imposing our standards or culture on another: it is, rather, compelling China to eschew a behavior that is inimical to its own interests.

And it would do us well to contemplate the implications for the world if a fundamentally racist nation were to win its bid for global leadership. Would such attitudes mellow? Could they? Or would they instead sow a value system where “diversity” became an obscenity?

A thought for the National Day holiday. Enjoy, and see you after the break.

Innovation and Standardization in China

The study examines defining characteristics of the evolving Chinese innovation and standards system and explores possible impacts for China as well as the global economy. China considers standardization to be an essential tool for improving its innovative capacity, yet very little is known about this critical building block of China’s innovation system.

Source: Indigenous Innovation and Globalization: The Challenge for China’s Standardization Strategy | East-West Center | www.eastwestcenter.org

The Infrastructure Thing

More than half of Chinese infrastructure investments have “destroyed, not generated” economic value as the costs have been larger than the benefits, according to researchers at Oxford university, a finding that will fuel debate over the viability of China’s infrastructure-heavy growth model.

Source: China infrastructure investment model under fire – FT.com

A fascinating article, and a reasonable proposition. Except for three things.

First, China remains short of infrastructure in key areas. A few examples: freight rail remains in desperate need of an upgrade; highways are groaning under the load of China’s car-crazy masses; and the power grid needs a switch to sustainable energy sources before coal chokes the country. As such, spending on new infrastructure per se is not necessarily misdirected.

Second, much of the infrastructure that has been built over the last thirty years is either worn out or was poorly built in the first place. The Chinese slang term “tofu construction” refers to just this phenomenon, and news reports offer discouragingly regular examples of underbuilt architecture.

Finally – and perhaps most important – most infrastructure (at least, the bits not made out of “tofu,”) is designed to last for a long time, often dozens of years. Any ROI calculation taken soon after completion is likely premature. By design, infrastructure should precede development, and is often the impetus of wider economic activity. Thus the effect of any given project on the wider economy is often impossible to gauge until long after construction.

Waste and graft permeate infrastructure development in China, and the government would do well to avoid dependence on infrastructure spending for growth. That said, more well-managed and thoughtful investment in infrastructure is needed, and will be for a long time.

And one last thought: better for reasons both economic and political that the government’s Keynesian spending goes into infrastructure that is ahead of its time than into military hardware and facilities.

 

Only China Can Contain China

Only China Can Contain China”
Joseph Nye

The Huffington Post
11 May 2015

Ariana Huffington’s eponymous clickbait factory is so often a cloaca of journalistic offal that it is almost painful to cite it, but this piece by Joseph Nye is an important exception, if for no other reason than its source.

Nye is a calming voice of reason, suggesting that despite China’s frequent and heavily-covered displays of bad-actor behavior, the interests that bind China, Europe, and the U.S. run deep and are often overlooked. His point is well-taken, and generally that approach offers a foundation for diplomacy for both President Obama and his successor.

But Nye the strategic optimist slips into Pollyanna territory when he notes:

Some analysts see China as a revisionist state eager to overthrow the established international order as its strength increases. But China is not a full-fledged revisionist state like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union in the last century. While it has joined in the creation of a BRICS development bank, and promotes regional organizations that suit its needs, China has benefited greatly from, and is not eager to destroy, existing international institutions such as the UN, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization — as well as many others. American allies help shape the environment that encourages responsible behavior, and China cares about its reputation.

China does care about its reputation, but Nye appears to summarily dismiss the possibility that China sees its reputation best served not as a conformist participant in a “Western” new order, but as the power that exploited that order, demonstrated its fundamental weaknesses, and then replaced it with an ostensibly superior international system rooted in Beijing’s own ethos.

China, in short, may not appear today to be a “full-fledged” revisionist state like the Third Reich, the USSR, or interbellum Japan. But even Nye must acknowledge that Germany and Japan both appeared to operate as troublesome participants of the post-Versailles system until at least the Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937 (for Japan) and the Sudetenland crisis in 1938 (for Germany). Revisionist powers do not always start the game (as did the USSR) in open opposition. Some operate within it until they must reveal their true intentions.

Nye, for all of his wisdom, is no more privy to the thinking of Beijing’s highest councils than we.  At the same time, a wise and cautious observer will find in the pattern of Beijing’s actions over time evinces a design to displace – if not actually replace – the global international order with one of its own making. At the very least, we must prepare for a future when China finds its participation in the current liberal global system more a hindrance than a help, dividing the world into competing systems if not upending the existing order altogether.

The PLAN figures out expeditionary logistics

Sustained Support: the PLAN Evolves its Expeditionary Logistics Strategy | Andrew S. Erickson

The old saw about military affairs still applies: “amateurs study tactics, armchair generals study strategy, and true professionals study logistics.”

The prolific and erudite Andrew Erickson now delves into the most important question surrounding China’s growing naval expeditionary operations: how it is handling logistics. For a military lacking a significant history of operations with globe-spanning supply lines, the speed with which China can learn this craft will do much to determine both the sustainability and effectiveness of deployments abroad.

It’s not easy to strike that balance and do so cost-effectively: the recent prosecution of USN Captain Donald Dusek underscores the dangers of running an overseas logistics procurement operation, and shipping supplies from home will be expensive and tricky. Projecting power abroad will, for China’s armed forces, prove itself to be a cluster of unanticipated challenges.