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.

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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.”