Pushing Away from Peace

An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century
Dan Blumenthal and Phillip Swagel
AEI Press
November, 2012

As the friction between Beijing and Washington simmers, we assume that China bears the heaviest responsibility in the decline of the relationship. Dan Blumenthal and Phillip Swagel of the American Enterprise Institute aren’t buying the easy answer. Instead, they dive into what makes the Sino-American relationship works. What they find is unsettling: two giants locked in an embrace in which neither is comfortable, yet that neither can break.

For the authors, the economic ties hold the key to continued peace, or, by their decline, the cause of war. In an article in The National Interest, Blumenthal and Swagel note:

A dispute that upended this web of trade and financial ties would have serious negative consequences for both nations. For the United States, this would lead to higher prices for everything made in China—which at times feels like nearly everything—and steeper interest rates on debt for business and government. These negative impacts would be felt by every American. For China, the loss of the United States as a major export market would mean weaker growth and slower job creation, and thus undermine political and social stability. This instability is the ruling party’s nightmare and thus the source of leverage for the United States.

Ironically, we are urging China to take steps for its economy that will make it less dependent on foreign direct investment and exports. At the same time, we are finding more reasons, both commercial and economic, to shift the locus of our manufacturing away from China. Finally, with a few notable exceptions, we are making it clear to China that America’s assets are not for sale – at least not to them.

Without realizing it, then, we are weakening the regime of economic and commercial codependency that has been the primary guarantee of peace between the two nations. And we are doing so even as China faces domestic instability, reaches an apogee of military power and diplomatic influence, and is stoking nationalist belligerence.

Blumenthal and Swagel have crafted a poignant portrait of Sino-American interdependence. In the process, they remind us of the danger of proferring simplistic solutions to the challenges that plague this key relationship. The more Washington and Beijing let domestic politics guide international relations, the closer they bring conflict.

Also at Amazon.com.

Does Thailand Want the US to Pivot?

Thailand guard

Thailand guard (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

“After Obama’s Visit: The US-Thailand Alliance and China”
Sasiwan Chingchit

East-West Center
December 4, 2012

The underlying assumption of U.S. President Barack Obama‘s strategy to shift the focus of the U.S. security establishment away from Southwest Asia and Europe to Southeast Asia is that the locals are going to be happy with the idea. A read of Sasiwan Chingchit’s essay, though, makes you wonder.

The author suggests that despite a long friendship with the U.S. that peaked in the early 1970s, Thai attentions and affections have since shifted north, to China. Little wonder: since China backed the Thai economy during the dark days of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the money has continued to flow from China and into the Thai economy in the form of loans, direct investment, and plume of tourists that grows by the year. That one Thai in five is ethnically Chinese probably doesn’t hurt. The message is clear: don’t think you’re going to swoop in here and turn us against our new benefactors to the north.

Chingchit makes a fair point, but the elephant in the room should be obvious to any Thai realist: what happens if the price of Chinese friendship gets a little too high?

Thailand is not alone in Southeast Asia in finding itself caught between two giants. On the one hand, relations with the rising China carry the promise of commercial and economic benefit. On the other, the U.S. presence in Asia stands as a guarantor that limits China’s ambitions to the commercial sphere. Having the U.S. and China at loggerheads on their behalf suits the smaller nations of Asia as the competition between two eligible bachelors suits the coquette.

What happens, then, when the U.S., tired of a low diplomatic return on its security investment, allows the pivot to become a dead letter and leaves Southeast Asia to manage its own fate? The last time the region was without a capable protector it fell under the shadow of Japan’s East-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. It does not take a surfeit of imagination to see something altogether similar happening again.

Japan has Territorial Issues with Russia, too

“On Trenin’s Proposal for Russia to Return Four Disputed Islands to Japan”
Hakamada Shigeki
GFJ Commentary
February 28, 2013

As if having to argue with China and Korea over rocks was not complex enough for Japan, a third territorial counterparty is (re)emerging in the form of Moscow. It seems like, since everyone else in the neighborhood wants to clarify territorial issues, the Russians are chiming in as well.

This time, the tone is conciliatory, even though it does not come from the Kremlin. Dmitri Trenin, who directs the Carnegie Moscow Centre, put out a paper in December of 2012 proposing a mechanism by which four islands taken by the USSR from Japan at the end of World War II would be returned to Japanese control.

Professor Hakamada Shigeki of the University of Niigata prefecture is cool to the proposal. While conceding that any such opening is worth pursuing, he is under no illusions about Trenin’s position (a Western-funded think tanker rather than a Kremlin insider) and Putin‘s continuing need to prove to Russians he is a strongman.

To expect Russia to concede territory for nothing would be unrealistic. But Hakamada sees other wheels at work. China looms large for Russia (especially after Xi Jinping’s recent visit) but Putin will not want to close out other options in the region. Working out longstanding territorial disputes with Japan would allow Russia to play the conciliator in a Sino-Japanese standoff, and would keep Japan in the game as an alternate destination for Siberian natural gas.

The source of the suggestion is Machiavellian. To have the suggestion come from the Carnegie Centre could be serving as Putin’s trial balloon, giving him a chance to judge Japanese reaction without committing himself publicly.

The next move, as Hakamada hints, is Japan’s. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Clearly, the diplomatic game is afoot in East Asia.

What is Beijing Thinking?

 

English: Profile image of Hu Shuli

English: Profile image of Hu Shuli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China 3.0
Mark Leonard, et. al.
The European Council on Foreign Relations
November 2012

Those of us watching the goings-on in Chinese politics have been treated to the non-fiction equivalent of a byzantine soap opera over the past two years. The unexpectedly turbulent generational leadership transition has given us opportunity to speculate ad nauseum about who was going to get what seat, a debate doubly invigorated by the drama surrounding Bo Xilai‘s metoric rise and fall.

But the seats are filling, the slate of leaders is falling into place, and our attention turns from personalities to policies. What, exactly, are those leaders going to be doing for the next ten years?

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have begun to lay out their policy priorities, but there are few surprises or insights to be gleaned from public positions. Of far greater interest are the debates taking place within government and the nation’s intelligentsia over the path to take in the future. As James McGregor summarizes in his recent book No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers, for the first time in generations the path forward for China is unclear, there are contending schools of thought at the top of the Party organization, and China lives under the threat of indecision and paralysis in Beijing.

Which is why this slim volume, edited by Mark Leonard, c0-founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, is such a valuable survey. Rather than focusing on the dramatics, Leonard’s line up of scholars and observers (including Caixing’s Hu Shuli and blogger Michael Anti) focus on how the debates around finding that way forward are playing out.

In the course of a dozen pithy essays we are treated to a glimpse of how the nation’s leaders are thinking about the future of domestic politics, the economy, foreign policy, and the search for models from which China can glean its own pathway to the future. Most of us will never get a chance to sit in the halls where these decisions are being made, but in China 3.0 Leonard and the ECFR have given us a chance to sit outside the door and listen at the keyhole, all while being treated to the perspectives of 17 of China’s own most astute observers.

Do Washington and Beijing Offer Alternative World Orders?

Between Integration and Coexistence: US-Chinese Strategies of International Order
Liselotte Odgaard
Strategic Studies Quarterly
Spring 2013

The past five years have witnessed much debate as to whether a world order dominated by liberal internationalists institutions (UN, WTA, World Bank, IMF, etc) has reached the end of its era, and whether perhaps the time has arrived for the rise of a new international order that finds its inspiration in China. The rise of the Chinese economy, the nation’s growing assertiveness in international affairs, and its readiness to interpret international agreements to suit its own purposes makes that question real. Is China happy to run rampant across an established world order, or does it sincerely propose to offer a unique international order of its own?

In an article in the just-released edition of Strategic Studies Quarterly, Danish security strategist Dr. Liselotte Odgaard notes that China and America have espoused two visions of the way the world should work, but she suggests that they are incompatible. Why? Because both are based on domestic ideologies that appear to prevent either side coming to a practical accommodation. The real challenge is whether either of these approaches will garner international support. Odgaard takes a bold step by suggesting which side she thinks will prevail and why.

My Power is Softer than Yours

English: Press room of State Council Informati...

Press room of the State Council Information Office of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China’s Soft Power in East Asia: A Quest for Status and Influence?
Chin-Hao Huang
National Bureau of Asian Research
January 2013
24pp

China has pledged itself to winning the “soft power” game in Asia and worldwide ever since the phrase became a buzzword among international relations literati following the 204 publication of Joseph Nye‘s Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Beijing has spent billions on this campaign, funding schools of Chinese language and culture, big-budget films, and an expanding global media network of foreign language television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and wire services all controlled by the State Council Information Office.

Beijing has done little to help itself in this campaign, especially with its neighbors. Armed belligerence in the South China Sea and the Senkakus, bolstered by questionable legal claims, has made China look less attractive to its neighbors and more like a teenaged dragon out to test the limits of its growing power.

Chin-Hao Huang of USC tells us not to let ourselves get lulled by this ham-handed behavior. China appearing itself in the foot does not mean that the U.S. and Europe can let up their efforts to build attraction and influence in the region. In fact, it doesn’t mean that it is losing the soft-power war, either. Studies indicate that China’s soft power is rated just below that of Japan and the United States by populations in Asia. So, in fact, the U.S.  needs to get better at playing the game right now, both to exploit the current opportunities and as a hedge against the day that China begins playing the coquette again.

We also have to consider the possibility that the elements that invite soft power may vary from culture to culture. We see that in our own efforts to build soft power among Muslim populations worldwide. It may be that by compartmentalizing the Senkakus and South China Sea disputes that China is able to play divide-and-conquer among its neighbors. Or it may be that some cultures respect the might China has created even as that power is aimed at them, especially if China is able to rise at the cost of Japanese and American prestige in the region. Asia for the Asians Redux, if you will.

Whether you buy Huang’s argument or whether you think he is repeating the obvious, he deserves credit for pointing out that just because China is playing the bully doesn’t mean they’re losing hearts and minds, and we need to figure out how to play that game much better in a region that has stymied us for half a century.

Why China will make its own rules

Drawing of an early Chinese soldier lighting a...

Drawing of an early Chinese soldier lighting a rocket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“More Security for Rising China, Less for Others?”
Denny Roy

East-West Center
January 2013
8pp

In this brief but thoughtful paper, Denny Roy suggests that China’s days of playing by international rules are over. He notes that despite China’s assertions that it will play within international bounds and rise peacefully, mounting evidence suggests otherwise.

Specifically, Roy points to two factors that will put an end to the “peaceful rise.” First is a strong sense of Chinese manifest destiny that the nation is the rightful leader (read “hegemon”) in Asia, both among the leaders in Beijing and the Chinese people. The second is the constant stoking of nationalism by a new generation of leaders who, uncertain about the course to chart for the nation at home, is turning to international conflict to keep the country united.

What will determine China’s success, Roy suggests, is not what is said in Washington or Brussels, but what the nations of Asia do in response to China’s efforts. The nations of the region can simply give in to becoming satellite states within an uncontested Chinese sphere of influence, or they can work to stop it.

To date, the region has been happy to let the US fight its battles, but it will be Asia, and in particular India and Japan, who will be compelled to respond to an increasingly aggressive – and entitled – China.

Free eBook of the Day: U.S. Global Defense Posture, 1783–2011

U.S. Global Defense Posture, 1783–2011
Stacie L. Pettyjohn

RAND
2012
144 pp.

In a refreshingly thin volume, Stacie Pettyjohn offers us an overview of how the U.S. approach to its national defense evolved from a minimalism that could barely defend the national frontiers to global interventionism.

It is a thoughtful, largely apolitical study that points us to a future where the U.S. treads more lightly overseas, and as such will offer food for thought for all of us who debate U.S. foreign policy.

Zbigniew Brzezinski and America’s Pivot

How U.S. Can Secure the New East
Zbigniew Brzezinski

The Diplomat

All too often I find myself on the opposite side of an issue with Mr. Brzezinski, but his recent contribution to The Diplomat is deserving of consideration. His feeling: the U.S. should stay out of direct military involvement of conflicts among Asian powers.

While not altogether unique (I hear echoes of Douglas MacArthur), the warning is timely. With our strategic pivot to Asia, the U.S. looks altogether too ready to leap into a fray over the South China Sea, to give one example. In that there are some twenty unresolved border conflicts involving China alone, we may be writing a check the U.S. armed forces could never cash.

What worries me about Mr. Brzezinski’s advice are telltale signs that Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Advisor has some reasonably large blind-spots in Asia. In describing the strains between India and China, for example, he is oddly silent on the matters of Tibet, the Himalayan republics, and Sino-Indian territorial disputes. Instead, he isolates Pakistan and India’s naval power as the core points of contention.

He suggests getting too close to India would open the door for Russia in Central Asia as America would be “distracted.” All of this, of course, assumes capability that it is unclear lies within the grasp of Putin’s Kremlin and that China and India would sit idly while it happened.

More disturbingly, Brzezinski seems blind to the calculation of the Asian nations who on the one hand are concerned about China’s growing power, but on the other hand want to profit from deep engagement in its rise. Walking this fine line would be served elegantly by drawing the U.S. into the “bad cop” role in Asia, allowing Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines to play off the US and China against one another to their benefit.

He concludes:

Ultimately, the United States’ geopolitical role in the new East will have to be based on mediation, conciliation and balancing and not on military engagement in mainland Asia.

A fine sentiment, but allow us to suggest an alternative formulation.

Ultimately, the United States’ geopolitical role in the new East will have to be based on a careful calculation of our interests, a recognition that, paradoxically, our power and influence in the region may best be served by engagement at a distance.

China’s appetite for regional and global influence far exceeds its current and projected capabilities. A true realist might suggest giving China enough rope to make its own noose.

China and Obama’s Second Term

Big Bets and Black Swans: Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term
Brookings Institution

January, 2013
94 pp.

On the eve of Barack Obama’s second inauguration, The Brookings Institution has compiled a briefing book from a collection of memoranda to the president outlining where and how they feel POTUS should spend his foreign policy time over the next four years. Significantly, five of the fifteen foreign policy challenges the experts identify are related to China.

Most notably, Kenneth Lieberthal suggests in “Bringing Beijing Back In” that it is time to shift away from “The Pivot” and put all effort into engaging Xi Jinping, whom he characterizes as “more open and politically agile than was Hu Jintao.” If nothing else, Lieberthal offers an agenda that will put the initiative in the bilateral relationship back into U.S. hands.

The briefing book is worth a read, if for no other reason than to use it as a baseline against which to evaluate the Administration’s progress in the region. You may argue with the tactics or the approaches, but the Brookings team have done a solid job at identifying the issues. Interestingly – but I would imaging by pure coincidence – The Economist this week makes recommendations not too far removed from those of the Brookings team.

On the Rack: China Brief

English: Gordon G. Chang 中文: 章家敦

English: Gordon G. Chang 中文: 章家敦 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China Brief
The Jamestown Foundation

Of all of the free publications circulating about China, the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief has frustrated me the most – but in a good way.

Let me explain.

When I first started reading China Brief, I was struck by the number of authors who were unrepentant Panda Punchers, people like Gordon Chang (pictured) who seemed more interested in foisting a negative perspective on the PRC than on adding insight to the debate.

There is still some of that, as Chang remains a contributor and Willy Lam is a columnist. Under the editorship of Peter Mattis, who comes out of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the U.S. Government, the publication has become less shrill but much more insightful.

The tone is serious but not so academic that it is off-putting. The style strikes a balance between the insider insight of The Economist and the deep-diving thoughtfulness of professional and academic journals. In short, it belongs in the inbox of any regular reader of The Peking Review.

I have to confess that the fortnightly arrival of China Brief means that I don’t always get to read through the whole publication, but I feel intellectually naked if I don’t at least scan its pages.

The China Brief is a free download.

Dead Dinosaurs and Asian Geopolitics

“Oil and Gas for Asia: Geopolitical Implications of Asia’s Rising Demand
Philip Andrews-Speed, Mikkal E. Herberg, et. al.
The National Bureau of Asian Research
September 2012

Though it seems obvious now, the first inkling I had that Asia’s future – and the world’s – would be determined largely by the region’s thirst for fossil fuels was when I read Thomas P.M. Barnett’s excellent The Pentagon’s New Map in 2004. Barnett noted that one of the four major forces that would shape the world of the future was the growing demand for energy coming out of Asia, and how that positioning Asia in potential conflict with both the U.S. and the E.U. as competitors for those resources.

In Oil and Gas for Asia, the NBR offers six essays that dive into the details of how that demand in Asia is intensifying. Naturally the authors cover the matter of the region’s role in (or effect on) global energy security and the entire issue of China’s relationship with Iran, two areas that have come to global attention.

Intriguingly, they also examine the effect that Japan is having on the global market of LNG after the Fukushima melt-downs all but put Japan out of the nuclear energy business, and the question of whether investments by national oil companies (think China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Sinopec, and PetroChina) actually enhance energy security at home. They then wrap up the analysis with policy recommendations for U.S. leaders.

There is a lot written about China and energy, much of it driven by petrodollars in an effort to create a policy environment in the U.S. that is favorable to greater development of oil resources within the Western hemisphere. China is an effective boogeyman to drive the development of deep-water drilling, hydrofracking, and tar sands. This study, however, is notable in its focus not on specific policy goals but in describing how the world’s most populous region is changing the rules for all of us.

On the Rack: Strategic Studies Quarterly

Demilitarized Zone, North Korea

Demilitarized Zone, North Korea (Photo credit: yeowatzup)

Strategic Studies Quarterly
Winter 2012

The SSQ for Winter 2012 is out and on the racks. There is nothing specific about China in this edition, but a couple of articles might capture the imagination of China hands.

USAF Colonel Vincent Alcazar offers some thinking about how to counter “anti-access/area denial” strategies pursued by potential adversaries, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Interesting to note that Russia is back on the boogey-man board.

RAND’s Bruce Bennett offers some ideas on deterring North Korea from using WMD. What is fascinating about the article is its underlying assumption: deterrence depends on the actions of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. The hint is clear: US planners no longer feel they can count on China’s help in addressing the Korean nuclear threat.

As always, a half dozen excellent reads. It is telling, though, that most of the contributors in this Air Force publication are not serving or former USAF officers. One wonders if there is a brain drain sapping the formerly deep intellectual pool of America’s air service.

 

China and the Sanctions Game

China’s Unilateral Sanctions
James Reilly
The Washington Quarterly
Fall 2012

While China has been a longtime critic of economic sanctions as a tool of statecraft, James Reilly at the University of Sydney thinks that in light of its own changing approach to international politics, Beijing perhaps protests overmuch. Now that China has built substantial economic wealth, it has begun using that wealth to influence or coerce other nations.

Reilly brings to light a new strain of thinking in China’s foreign policy establishment that eschews the “non-interference” and multilateralist doctrines of international relations. Given that many of these treasured guidelines are of considerable vintage (dating back to Zhou Enlai at the Bandung Conference in 1955), the new approaches have not been adopted quickly.

At the same time, the author provides a glimpse at a uniquely Chinese way of playing the sanctions game, often imposing the sanctions without declaring the. He also evaluates the effectiveness of unilateral sanctions imposed from Beijing, and while finding results to be wanting, he notes that China appears to be getting better at playing.

The Word on China and the EU

“Results, Regrets, and Reinvention: Premier Wen’s last China-EU Summit
Chen Zhimin
ESPO Policy Brief 6
October 2012

As a part of his valedictory activities in his last year in office, Wen Jiabao conducted two summits with the EU, in February and then in September. As befits the departure of a person like Wen from the world of diplomacy, Chen Zhimin of Fudan University begins with a hopeful note suggesting that relationships are still moving forward.

Nonetheless, Chen does not shy from the dark spots on the body of the China-EU relationship. China remains frustrated that it cannot buy European armaments, that it cannot trade with Europe with the status of a market economy. But these are minor compared to Chinese frustration that despite Chinese help with Europe’s economic crisis, European governments continue to curb Chinese imports. Chen ends his paper with a veiled threat – China’s new leaders may not be so nice about all of this.

I read through the paper hoping that Professor Chen was one of that small cohort of China-based Chinese academics who had discovered a way to speak truth to power. Sadly, there is no such independent voice here. The paper was interesting in that it was an essential restatement of the official line, but Chen goes no further. Sadly, the author fingers himself as a cat’s paw of the central government. We may not expect particular insights from Professor Chen, but we will get a reliable rewrite of the official line.

Beijing’s Response to the TPP

“China’s Free Trade Agreement Strategies”
Guoyou Song and Wen Jin Yuan
The Washington Quarterly
Fall 2012

Song and Yuan from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggest that China sees the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade famework being driven by the United States as an implicit threat to its foreign policy goals. The authors argue that the TPP is seen by Beijing as a soft-power aspect of the US “pivot to Asia,” and that the agreement would undermine Asian economic integration.

While China wants to respond with a free-trade agreement (FTA) series of initiatives on their own, the authors argue that domestic politics will make that impossible. Unlike their counterparts in the developed world, domestic Chinese enterprises, SOEs, and other commercial interests see FTAs as a net negative. Too much of Chinese industry still relies on protection at home for competitive advantage, and FTAs would undermine the “safe base” aspect of SOE global growth strategies.

The end result is that the U.S. is quietly creating the framework for Asia’s economic future, and it puts the U.S. smack at the center of that future. Chinese companies, for their part, will be left to fight for new regional markets rather more hobbled.

A Partisan Perscription – Updated

Managing Insecurities Across the Pacific
Nina Hachigian

Center for American Progress

Nina Hachigian, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is a stranger neither to China nor to the business end of national security. A veteran of both the RAND Corporation and the Clinton National Security Council, Hachigian knows her stuff.

It is disappointing, then, to see this obviously intelligent analyst labor mightily and come up with a series of recommendations that amount to “keep doing what we’ve been doing,” and “try to do more of it.” At best, this is a document designed to assure the American public that the Administration is already doing everything right. At worst, it is downright unrealistic, and represents a lost opportunity.

Her first mistake is in endorsing our current effort to mollify China by reassuring Beijing of the importance of our relationship:

Assurances about the desire for collaboration with a rising China are important even if many or most Chinese do not entirely believe them. At minimum, they provide a counternarrative that could help keep suspicions in check.

This is the “spin” approach to international relations, and it doesn’t work well. The Chinese will ignore what we are saying diplomatically and look at our actions. If we want to deliver these messages, we must frame our actions in a manner that takes into account the preconceptions of the Chinese people and their leaders. That’s a very different approach from “ignore what we’re doing. We really like you.”

What the U.S. should do is communicate our clear principles on international behavior – our rule set – and act in accordance with our beliefs. Done.

But she goes on:

That said, U.S. officials must continue to raise issues of human rights and political reform in China both in private and in public. While for some Chinese these entreaties may feed the narrative of the United States wanting to undermine China, they are so important to the United States and such a constant in the relationship that any damage they do are outweighed by their benefits.

What exactly are the benefits of appearing to “undermine China” when in return we get little real gain in human rights and political reform? This is where we need to leave the idealism at home. No diplomatic action from outside is going to bring about these changes: that impetus will (and should) come from within (that’s my read of Jefferson, anyway.)

By making public statements criticizing Chinese human rights and politics, we not only appear to the Chinese like we are meddling in their business, we are also employing the tactics proven least effective in supporting improvements in human rights and domestic politics. There are other channels of action for us to take that will yield more fruit than self-righteous posturing, especially when the CCP has very effective counter-messaging to make us look like hypocrites.

But the recommendation I like the best is this one:

It is also imperative that the United States and China grow their military-to- military contacts. This is where suspicions on both sides run deepest and where worst-case scenarios are daily bread and butter.

A fifteen minute conversation with any current or former U.S. military attache to China will make clear to anyone bothering to inquire that the U.S. military has been busting its hump trying to put mil-to-mil discussions in place. If nothing else, such discussions guard against incidents like the EP-3 collision in 2001.

Unfortunately, the Chinese reject mil-to-mil ties because the leaders of the PLA do not see an upside. Our military is already transparent, theirs isn’t, and they’d prefer to keep us guessing. Hence mil-to-mil contacts aren’t happening.

Would it not be better to put in place education programs for the U.S. military that ensure that the widest possible range of our uniformed personnel speak, read, and write Chinese, understand Chinese culture, and study China, so that whether we fight or we work together we have a cadre of officers prepared to do so?

The paper is not without its virtues. She calls upon the US to retool our economy to “thrive in a future world with a greater number of large economies, including China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and others.” Spot on. Unfortunately, Ms. Hachigian then undermines her argument with a partisan shot, suggesting that the problem here is that “many conservatives have advocated for cuts in these very areas.” Without recognizing the wastefulness of an industrial policy that subsidized photogenic enterprises rather than university R&D, Hachigian surrenders credibility on economic competitiveness.

Unless you are an Obama campaign operative, the best approach to this paper is to skim the last five pages, and do so critically. In an effort to provide a dubious third-party endorsement to a sitting president in an election year, the CAP has given up the opportunity to offer new ideas and thoughtful solutions to the challenge of US-China relations, and in so doing has failed to live up to its charter and its name.

Catching Famine Early

Chinese officials engaged in famine relief, 19...

Chinese officials engaged in famine relief, 19th C. engraving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Famine Early Warning and Early Action: The Cost of Delay
Rob Bailey

Chatham House
July 2012

Famines are tragedies that have been with mankind since before recorded history. What is different today, however, is that there are a growing number of systems and tripwires that can warn the world when and where a famine will strike long before it does.

The problem, finds Chatham House’s Rob Bailey, is that such warnings are greeted not by action on the part of NGOs and the UN, but delay and prevarication. Examining past cases, Bailey isolates why, despite advanced notice, people were allowed to die, and he offers a blueprint to improving the process between warning and response.

With China’s growing appetite and the specter of global warming hovering over the world’s agricultural output during this long, hot summer, Bailey’s could not have come at a more apt time.

How Should Europe Dance with India and China?

see Images name

see Images name (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“EU Relations with China and India: Courting the Dragon, Wooing the Elephant
Bernd von Muenchow-Pohl
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
August 23, 2012

As Europe lies all but prostrate in the throes of its creeping crisis, the leaders of the continent are reaching out to the emerging economies of India and China for help. No doubt some Europeans greet this spectacle with a shot of nausea. After all, most of us old enough to remember disco can remember a time when it was the other way ’round.

But I think it was genuine smart strategy and not an reaction to the tides of history that provoked career diplomat von Muenchow-Pohl to write this paper. In it, he urges Europe’s leaders to deal with Asia’s emerging giants with “the right mix of realism and self-confidence.”

What is fascinating here is not the prescriptions themselves, which seem the epitome of level-headed common sense. Instead, what captures the attention is the fact that Dr. von Muenchow-Pohl felt it necessary to give this pep-talk in the first place. As a lifelong diplomat he surely has insights into how Europe’s leaders conduct themselves behind closed doors, and how they frame their negotiation strategies.

The meta-message here is that Europe needs to stop being the supplicant, get some backbone, and deal with China and India in confidence. It won’t be easy: the Asians seem to hold all the cards, and they are surely relishing both their new-found stations and the irony of the role-reversal. But it would do Europe and the world no good to have China and India believe the Old World is weaker than is the case, any more than it would serve to have China and India overestimate what they have to offer.

A New START is Not Enough

The Next Arms Race
Henry D. Sokolski, Ed.

Strategic Studies Institute
July, 2012

While it is gratifying to see the United States and Russia continuing the effort to reduce the nuclear weapons on the planet, the elephant in the room is the rise of other nuclear powers and the extent to which they undermine the New START agreement.

In this comprehensive volume, Henry Sokolski, the Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, brings together a range of expert perspectives on the looming nuclear standoffs, touching on South Asia, Northeast Asia, and the Mideast. The question implicit in the volume is whether we need to rethink arms control in the face of creeping proliferation and the growing number of regional conflicts that might go nuclear. The answer, unsurprisingly, is “yes.”

Which leaves the world with a question: which way do we turn? The book offers some answers for people who are either worried about a world with more bombs and less control, or for those in denial. Both will find not only analysis, but the beginnings of some very smart solution.

China and “Access Diplomacy”

“The Geopolitics of Chinese Access Diplomacy”
Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy and Guy M. Snodgrass

German Marshall Fund of the United States
May 29, 2012

The authors build a framework to understand the broad direction of Chinese foreign relations in the coming decade, focusing on what they believe is China’s Grand Strategy: access diplomacy, or “politics of routes.”

While by no means comprehensive (there is no in-depth analysis of whether China possesses the means to conduct this Grand Strategy, or of potential alternatives), the paper is nonetheless a pithy primer on Chinese strategy and what is driving China’s approach to the world.

Managing China’s Carbon

Carbon Management in China: The Effects of Decentralization and Privatization

This paper is Professor Steven Lewis’ discussion of whether China’s carbon management should be vested in the hands of  a single centralized body, or whether it should continue the current trend of privatization.

Getting Navies to Work Together

Naval Command College

Flags of the home nations of the students of the Naval Command College (Photo credit: U.S. Naval War College RI)

“Networking the Global Maritime Partnership” – Stephanie Hszieh, George Galdorisi, Terry McKearney, and Darren Sutton, via U.S. Naval War College | 2012 – Spring.

This is a fascinating article that picks up on the concept first introduced by Chief of Naval Operations (later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Admiral Mike Mullen, wherein we  no longer see the U.S. Navy as operating in a strategic vacuum, but as a component of a “Thousand Ship Navy,” a multinational maritime force of nations who share the same priorities and can therefore be melded into a single, unified force.

I liked Mullen’s idea when he first introduced it six years ago, and I like it more now that the USN is fumbling its warship procurement efforts and other nations are expanding their naval forces (Look at the UK building two aircraft carriers as a part of a fleet renewal program as just one example.) Mullen may not have taken his ideas directly from Thomas P.M. Barnett‘s thinking about a multi-agency, multi-national response to global security challenges (as outlined in his seminal book The Pentagon’s New Map,) but the direction is the same. The U.S. may be sheriff, but it needs deputies to run the town.

The article offers some detailed ideas about the challenges and opportunities in making it happen.