Why China’s Exports to North Korea are Growing

China’s exports to North Korea grew nearly 20 percent in the first half of the year, according to the Korea International Trade Association on Wednesday, despite its promises to crack down and impose international sanctions.China’s exports to the

Source: Beijing’s exports to Pyongyang swell 18%-INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

 

This should come as a surprise to no-one.

Beijing’s endgame with North Korea is clear: drain Pyongyang and its leadership regime – the Kim family – of every last penny of hard currency or valuable goods possible. Then, and only then, bring down the boot, and on Beijing’s terms, not Washington’s.

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.

The Resilience of Cold War Strategic Alliances

William Tow at the Australian National University summarizes the results of an ANU conference covering the question of why Cold War strategic alliances remain in force in Asia. The obvious answer is “China.” But Tow notes that there is more to it than that, and that the bigger question facing these alliances is how much US involvement in those tie-ups is a substantive factor, and how much of it is so much rhetoric.
Tow’s paper is another sign that observers around the Pacific are unsettled about the degree to which the Obama Administration’s “Asia Pivot” is real vs. so much aspirational hot air.

Review Essay: An Unbetter China

Chinese armies defeating the Dzungar prior to the genocide.

There is a growing chorus of voices, mostly Sinophilic or Russo-philic, who attempt to bestow upon China a mantle of moral superiority in its dealings with the wider world for the sole reason that it has not waged any form of expeditionary warfare in its recent history.

This forum and this writer have criticized many of America’s forays into overseas military engagements over the past 50 years. That said, there is no moral standard of which this writer is aware that bestows moral ascendancy upon a country that systematically slaughters its own citizens over another country that engages in misguided adventures abroad.

It is possible to deplore most or even all major exercises of American military power abroad since the cessation of hostilities in Korea in 1953, to see them as misguided and their outcomes to be awful, and yet to acknowledge that with a few exceptions the intentions were neither evil, nefarious, nor malicious. As an historian, you judge the decisions of the past in the context of the times, on that basis this writer would argue that that on the balance the US mostly acted in good faith, with notable and egregious exceptions in Chile, Iraq and Afghanistan.

China’s history leaves the nation much for which it must answer, including the “red on its ledger” from the nation’s imperial period that has not been entirely expunged by decades of foreign incursion, Republican rule, civil war, and Communist rule. Indeed, in the period following the revolution, the Chinese Communist Party has continued some of the tendencies that characterized the worst behaviors of its emperors.

Explore, if you will, how a middling agrarian kingdom actually managed to expand to dominate the continent. I’ll give you a hint: they weren’t invited by their subject peoples, Han or otherwise. Dig, if you dare, into the the gritty details of China’s imperial tributary system, which was outwardly peaceful but often ugly and violent, involving the stationing of military forces beyond China’s borders. Ask the Koreans, Mongolians, and Russians how their histories see China as a “ good neighbor.”

Consider the forcible takeover of the Tibetan region in the 1950s, China’s war with India, and its attack on Vietnam in 1977. And finally, look at the background of the 20+ territorial disputes in which China is currently engaged, including China’s extraordinary claim to the overwhelming majority of the South China Sea, and it’s effort to buy vast swaths of land in Africa and elsewhere. China has been, and is once again, an Imperial Power with 21st Century Characteristics.

Both China and the US have done great things, and both have done atrocious things. But we do ourselves and those countries a disservice by exaggerating the good or whitewashing the bad of either. And if China appears to be under more of a microscope at the moment, there is good cause. For if we accept the premise proffered by scholars both within and outside of China that America is entering a period of relative decline in its international power and China is in a period of relative ascendancy, we must use extreme care in bestowing moral superiority over a nation whose record is distinctly mixed. Doing so only grants it license to engage in much more of the same.

Japan Debates the Issue of Comfort Women

How to Cleanse Asahi’s Widespread ‘Misreports’ on Comfort Women
Masaaki Sugiura 
The Global Forum of Japan
1 December 2014, Vol. 7, No. 6

Venerable Japanese political commentator Masaaki Sugiura, offers a rebuttal to sensationalist reports in the Japanese media (specifically the Asahi Shimbun) about Japanese soldiers and “comfort women,” local girls and women from territories conquered in Japan who were essentially forced into prostitution serving Japanese soldiery before and during World War II.

Masaaki does not seem to be associated with the kinds of nationalist factions that make a habit of whitewashing Japanese behavior in the war. What he does, however, is call into question the dominant Korean and Chinese narratives about “comfort women,” and suggest that the nature and extent of the problem may well have been exaggerated in China and Korea for domestic political purposes.

An interesting issue, and an interesting read.

Why China is Playing Nice in the East China Sea

Analyzing China’s support for a crisis management mechanism in the East China Sea” 
Mathieu Duchâtel
SIPRI

SIPRI’s Mathieu Duchatel offers this short paper on why China went from confrontation to conversation in the East China sea, thus defusing an increasingly tense situation of its own manufacture.

He identifies and evaluates several hypotheses as to why the change has taken place, and underscores why this may – or may not – signal even bigger foreign policy changes in Beijing.

China and the Arctic Long Game

China and the Arctic: Objectives and Obstacles,” Caitlin Campbell, U.S. China Economic and Security Council Review Commission, Washington, April 13, 2012

China’s Arctic Aspirations, Linda Jakobson and Jingchao Peng, SIPRI Policy Paper 34, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, November 2012

China’s New Arctic Stratagem: A Strategic Buyer’s Approach to the Arctic,” Timothy Curtis Wright, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2013

The Dragon Eyes the Top of the World: Arctic Policy Debate and Discussion in China, David Curtis Wright, China Maritime Studies Institute, United States Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, August 2011

Polar Bearings: China Pursues its Interests in the North” The Economist, July 12, 2014

Race to the North: China’s Arctic Strategy and its Implications,” Shiloh Rainwater, Naval War College Review, Providence, RI, Spring 2013, Vol. 66, No. 2

Will China Purchase a Piece of the Arctic?” Mark Strauss, io9.com, April 29, 2014

 

China holds no territory or coastal waters that encroach upon the Arctic, and the closest the nation gets to being an arctic nation is a point of land in Heilongjiang province some 53 degrees north of the Equator and some 1,500 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle.

Those inconvenient facts have not prevented China from beginning a measured, multi-faceted campaign to establish claims on the region and its resources. There has as yet been no definitive statement on the nation’s policy in the region, but Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) noted in March of 2010 “The Arctic belongs to all the people around the world, as no nation has sovereignty over it. . . . China must plan an indispensable role in Arctic exploration as we have one-fifth of the world’s population.”

The Chinese government has not distanced itself from Admiral Yin’s position, and China’s efforts since – launching two large icebreakers, establishing an Arctic research station in Norway, and politicking hard to get itself admitted (albeit as an observer) to the Arctic Council suggest that his quote may well serve as de-facto policy. That Admiral Yin’s statement is in direct contravention of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, to which China is a signatory) should not be ignored.

China is playing a long-term game in the Arctic, but its end game should be clear. The only question should be whether the world is prepared to grant China its wish: a major change in the rules governing and protecting one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Is China Playing Straight in the East China Sea?

The Japan-China Maritime and Air Communication Mechanism: Operational and Strategic Considerations
Marta McLellan Ross

Japan Institute of International Affairs

Recent tensions in the South China sea have raised the possibility that confrontational behavior designed to make a point can all too easily escalate into something far more dangerous.

Apparently eager to avoid this scenario, China and Japan have begun developing a series of protocols to ensure that both countries can make their points in the standoff without things spinning out of control. Marta McLellan Ross of the Council of Foreign Affairs suggests in this paper, however, that these ostensibly laudable efforts may be nothing more than a Chinese tactic to neutralize Japan.

A fascinating read.

Greek Vote opens the door for China and Russia

China State Official Hints Beijing May Bailout Greece”
Tyler Durden
Zero Hedge
2
 July 2015

While Europe (and much of the west) shakes their heads at Greece’s referendum vote against the EU bailout offer, in the east, the aparatchiki and the mandarins are likely rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a foreign policy coup.

The always thoughtful and often weird folks at Zero Hedge have hinted that Beijing may be planning to step into the Greek Breach with loans, and recently suggested that Russia and China may together form Greece’s bailout.

My bet is that this has been the plan for some time, and that the referendum has simply been a play to lay the domestic political groundwork for that plan to be put into action. When the time comes that there are no more terms to be had from Europe, Alex Tsipras can present the Asian superpowers as the answer to the EU’s austere terms. It would be a fair wager that the Greek people are unlikely to be too picky, as long as they don’t need to cough up any lifestyle changes.

The geopolitical opportunities of having Greece in either a Russian sphere of influence, an Chinese one, or in both are significant. At the very least it would ensure that the Russian Navy and the PLAN would have forward operating bases in the Mediterranean.

This may not happen overnight, or on this round. But Russia and China are playing a long game with Athens (and vice-versa,) one that the EU will likely not ignore as it debates terms for Greece and contemplates problems in Italy and Iberia as well.

WAPO: Japan has a flag problem, too

Japan has a flag problem, too – The Washington Post.

I have long wondered about Japan flying the rising sun flag on its warships. It always struck me as a near-deliberate provocation, and an oversight that the Maritime Self Defense Force would still fly it, especially now that they are flying on Japan’s new mini-aircraft carrier helicopter destroyer.

Japan has a flag problem, too - The Washington Post

 

I would wager that Japan will hold fast on continuing to use the Rising Sun flag as a naval ensign, just as it will continue to use the angry red meatball on the wings of its planes. The nation is embarking on a new era, one that will see it bearing a greater part of its defense burden than anytime in 70 years, thanks to a rising China and US empire fatigue.

The time to have asked Japan to dump the Rising Sun would have been 40 years ago. Now that the nation is rekindling its martial roots, don’t bet on them dropping what little of its military heritage is left.

 

Indonesia is Worried about ISIS

ISIL, a Growing Threat in Indonesia?”
Gwenael Njoto-Feillard

East-West Center
September 23, 2014

Lest we develop the impression that concern about ISIL/ISIS is restricted to the Middle East and select western capitals, this paper by Njoto-Feillard, a visiting scholar at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies in Singapore, makes clear that the entire Muslim world is coping with the disruption in the fertile crescent.

Njoto-Feillard suggests that the way to resist the tsunamis of extremism washing through Muslim communities worldwide is to build resilient societies. Those societies, he notes, would involve stronger cooperation between the state and “all elements of Islamic civil society.” Absolutely.

What we wonder, though, is what happens to non-Muslim minorities in a situation like that. Do you marginalize them for “their own good,” because being marginalized in a moderate society is better than being slaughtered in a radical one? Or do you bring them to the table and incorporate them into the process, finding a role for them in society that makes the entire society stronger?

 

Measuring the Monsoon

“India Advances in Naval Arms Race With China”
Micha’el Tanchum
The Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
January 14, 2014

Media in the west has been focused on China’s increasing assertiveness in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Less visible in the west – but plainly evident to New Delhi – China has been moving to enhance its naval and maritime presence in the Indian Ocean for some time, being careful not to raise the stakes too quickly.

In this brief paper, Micha’el Tanchum offers a sobering, pithy explanation of how China is moving toward provoking a face-off in the IO, as the response from the subcontinent shifts from the diplomatic to the unequivocal.

India now sees China’s moves as zero-sum, as each step China makes in the region is perceived as undermining New Delhi’s strategic position in its own back yard. India does not yet seem ready for a showdown, but Tanchum’s paper leaves a concern that India is not prepared to allow China’s growing influence to continue unchecked for much longer.

 

North Korea: When Hope for Reform Died

“North Korean Regime Change”
Ralph A. Cossa
PacNet, #90
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.”

Is China a Revisionist Power?

“Understanding Chinese Revisionism in International Affairs”
Matthew Stinson
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.

The Other Side of the Pivot

“Economics and the Rebalance”
Matthew P. Goodman
Global Economics Monthly
Volume II, Issue 12
December 2013

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.

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.

 

Korea Goes Rogue on China’s ADIZ

Korea’s Mistake on China’s ADIZ Controversy | Center for Strategic and International Studies – Dr. Victor Cha of the CSIS calls the government of South Korea to the carpet for allowing China to play “divide-an-conquer” on the ADIZ issue. Korea had apparently quietly and unilaterally approached China on redrawing its ADIZ to eliminate overlaps with Korea’s ADIZ. Cha says the ROK broke faith with its allies in the region when it did so.

Asia and Disease

In The Global Burden of Disease: Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy—East Asia and Pacific Regional Edition, the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Examination summarize differences in diseases, injuries, and risk factors for the East Asia and Pacific region and summarizes intraregional differences in diseases, injuries, and risk factors. Unsurprisingly, some countries do a better job than others.

Justice in North Korea After the Kims

Start Thinking Now About Transitional Justice in a Post-Transition North Korea
Oknam Yi, David Sungjae Hong
Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 11, 2013

If and when the Korean peninsula reunifies – or when the Kim Family Regime gives way to a new form of government – there is going to be a fair sum of Hell to pay for the family and its collaborators.

Yi and Hong argue with force and conviction that we need to think about these issues in advance if we are to avoid a tragedy of a different kind when Kim’s Hermit Kingdom finally returns to the light.

India and Japan Grow Closer

The Expanding Indo-Japanese Partnership”
K.V. Kesavan

East-West Center
July 10, 2013

K.V. Kesavan of the Woodrow Wilson Center writes that the growing institutional ties between Japan and India lay the groundwork for closer economic, political and even military ties. No doubt China will be less than happy to hear it.

Why TPP is Not a Four-Letter Word

Strategic Implications of TPP: Answering the Critics”
Ellen Frost
East-West Center 

July 9, 2013

The East-West Center’s Ellen West explains how TPP is a good thing not only for Japan and Korea, but for the entire region. In so doing she explains – concisely – why we shouldn’t be worried about Beijing’s reaction to the treaty.

Do U.S. Overtures to ASEAN Matter?

English: A screen shot from this White House v...

President Obama attends a working lunch with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations around the United Nations General Assembly Meeting in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“US-ASEAN Relations: Advances Made But Challenges Remain”
Prashanth Parameswaran
East-West Center
December 13, 2012

As a part of his “grand pivot tour” last fall, Barack Obama engaged with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in an effort to rejuvenate ties that had gone fallow for nearly a decade and a half.

While progress was made, as the author of this paper points out, the bigger questions are the continuing relevance of both the U.S. and ASEAN to the futures of the nations in the region. Regional trade ties are supplanting both Europe and the United States in economic importance. The U.S. realistically does not have a lot of diplomatic bandwidth for the region. And in the face of a series of more relevant groupings, like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP,) ASEAN is starting to look dated, much as SEATO became in the wake of the fall of South Vietnam.

All of this complicates U.S. foreign policy, but it plays into the hands of a China looking to define Asia outside the grasp of the United States, Russia, and Europe. For the first time since the Second World War, then, the region is starting to wonder what it needs America for in the first place. Perhaps it is time the U.S. began reassessing our own interests in the region.