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.

Chinese SOEs and Diplomatic Immunity

There has been a lot of discussion in the news and online today about whether a Chinese state-owned enterprise can claim sovereign immunity from prosecution in the United States because they should be considered “an organ of the state.”

This is a legal question, and it is not cut and dried. Andrew Dickinson, Rae Lindsay, and Audley Sheppard of Clifford Chance in London did a superb write-up on the issue for the UN Special Representative on business and human rights, “State Immunity and State-Owned Enterprises.

The conclusion they reach will not salve the anger of anyone outraged by what appears to be a Chinese attempt to claim extraterritoriality for their largest companies. The issue is less a matter of statute than it is one of precedent, and the fact is, the matter could go either way.

For that reason, any Chinese state-owned enterprise operating in the US and facing civil or criminal prosecution in US courts would be foolish not to try to get an immunity ruling. At the same time, common sense would suggest to any businessman that caution is warranted in dealing with a Chinese SOE: the courts may not offer you the protections that you might expect.

In the long run, this will undoubtedly hurt Chinese SOEs: if they operate above the law while their US partners are subject to it, the legal imbalance in any contractual arrangement makes it foolhardy to contract with an SOE, to buy their products, or to engage their services. Careful businesspeople may wish to steer clear of Chinese state-owned enterprises for this reason alone.

Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers 

As China deploys surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers to the Woody Islands in the South China Sea, CNAS Defense Strategies and Assessments Program Associate Fellow Kelley Sayler has written a new report, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” The report examines the short-, medium-, and long-range threats to the carrier – including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities, in which China is investing heavily – and concludes that U.S. carriers will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.

Source: Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers | Center for a New American Security