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China

Tag Archives | China

Japan, Australia and Canada: Climate Change Saboteurs

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Pictured: Shinzo Abe, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper

The climate change saboteurs are mucking in with their bits of devastating advice. Australia, as it promised to do with its new conservative government, has taken the lead against carbon pricing as a mechanism of curbing pollution. Its newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is a minted climate change denialist. Even as continents burn, and typhoons rage, expediency is too sacred a calf to sacrifice. In the Australian context, mining corporations touch the status of the divine.

Pictured: Shinzo Abe, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper

Australia has other cheer leaders to add to its pro-mining, anti-climate change squad. Last week, the Canadian government released a formal statement via Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, celebrating the Australian stance. “Canada applauds the decision by the prime minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax. The Australian prime minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.” The statement was certainly right on the second point.

The decision by the Abbott government to repeal the carbon tax on the country’s 300 biggest polluters has been considered an act of environmental lunacy. The mining lobby is chortling. In the case of Canada, it already started chortling in 2011, when Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol on climate change. Its report card on the subject of reductions is bleak, having failed to meet its own international emission targets. The culprit there has been mining in the Alberta tar sands.

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Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden

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Chinese sailors

The Naval War College published in November 2013 a massive study titled “No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden” by Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange. The authors address six major aspects of China’s anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since their inception in December 2008: modern piracy and the relevance to China; institutional underpinnings: domestic political and policy issues; China’s views on multilateral coordination; China’s recent anti-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean; operational trajectories; and lessons learned and implications for global maritime governance.

Understanding China’s Underwhelming Response to Typhoon Haiyan

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Displaced Filipino and other international personnel prepare for takeoff from Tacloban Air Field

A week after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the Chinese have been bit players in the response, with an initial pledge of 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in-kind aid, and $200,000 in cash. Is this all we can expect?

Displaced Filipino and other international personnel prepare for takeoff from Tacloban Air Field

Probably not. Yet while all the news stories on the meager Chinese donations usually note that China has “the world’s second largest economy,” they usually fail to put China’s generosity (or lack) into context. Context helps to understand Chinese actions in two ways. First, any donation should properly be judged against not against a country’s absolute wealth but in relation to its wealth and population: i.e. wealth on a per capita basis. Seen from this perspective, China falls to #92 in the list of prosperity (using the World Bank’s measure of 2012 GDP/pc, or per capita, PPP).

With a per capita GDP of $9,233, the Chinese are far less wealthy than the countries that have contributed the most to the relief effort, so far: the UK ($32 million, $36,950 GDP/pc), Australia ($30 million; $44,598 GDP/pc), and the US ($20 million; $49,965 GDP/pc). (Many of these countries have also pledged in-kind assistance). Still, the response could have been more generous. Indeed, as I outline below, a historical perspective shows just how paltry the Chinese response has been so far, and how much it likely has to do with Chinese bitterness about the Philippine’s recent actions in the South China Seas.

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Reuters’ Coverage of China’s Response to Typhoon Haiyan is Curious

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USNS Mercy off the coast of the Philippines in 2012.  It has been deployed in support of rescue operations

Reuters’ concern-trolling over the low-key Chinese response to the Philippine Haiyan supertyphoon disaster is revealing, in a relatively inadvertent way. Yesterday it was, “China’s meager aid to the Philippines could dent its image,” and today it is, “No sign of help for Philippines from China’s hospital ship.”

USNS Mercy off the coast of the Philippines in 2012. It has been deployed in support of rescue operations

The Chinese government has not been particularly forthcoming in aid to the Philippines, especially in comparison with the high profile pledges by the United States and Japan, and the dispatch of the US aircraft carrier George Washington and its strike group to provide relief.

There’s a dearth of hard data on exactly why the PRC hasn’t gone all out in opening the aid floodgates to the Philippines, with whom China is locked in an antagonistic maritime dispute. China’s activist hardliner newspaper, Global Times, did weigh in with one editorial urging the government not to snub the Philippines; for the rest, Reuters has been forced to rely on the usual suspects—pundits, Twitterers, and Weibo posts—in order to weave a narrative out of the fact that China has provided less aid than the United States and Japan.

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George Washington Strike Group boosts Philippines Relief Effort

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An MV-22B Osprey circles the airfield before landing to join efforts in assisting the Philippine government in aid and relief operations at Vilamor Air Base, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 11, 2013

A US aircraft carrier and its escort of two cruisers have arrived off the Philippines coast to help communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

An MV-22B Osprey circles the airfield before landing to join efforts in assisting the Philippine government in aid and relief operations at Vilamor Air Base, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 11, 2013

The top US commander in the Philippines told the BBC that US military support would be on an unprecedented scale. Officials have begun burying some typhoon victims in mass graves. The confirmed death toll stands at more than 2,300 but is likely to rise. The UN says some 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon. With images of the suffering flashed around the world, a huge international aid effort has swung into operation.

The USS George Washington will expand search-and-rescue operations and provide a platform for helicopters to move supplies, the White House said. Two US destroyers are already in the Philippines and other US vessels are expected to arrive in about a week, the US Navy said. On Wednesday the US also ordered the activation of a hospital ship, the USNS Mercy. However, if deployed, it would not reach the Philippines until December. US Marine Brigadier General Paul Kennedy told BBC Radio 5 live that the US aid effort was being stepped up to a level that has “probably never been applied” to a humanitarian crisis. He said the arrival of the USS George Washington would triple the number of available helicopters, which can also deliver hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every day.

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Unmanned Aerial Drones: If Kill You Must…

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President Barack Obama in the Oval Office with Thomas E. Donilon, left, the national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser.  Pete Souza/White House

UAS (unmanned aviation systems), popularly known as drones, are playing an increased role in armed conflicts. They are used both for collecting intelligence and for deploying lethal force.

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office with Thomas E. Donilon, left, the national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser. Pete Souza/White House

Whereas in 2007 there were 74 drone strikes in Afghanistan and 5 in Pakistan, by 2012 the military was executing an average of 33 drone strikes per month in Afghanistan, and the total number of drone strikes in Pakistan has surpassed 330. Drones have been employed in multiple theaters of the counterterrorism campaign, including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Libya.

They are now included in the arsenal of many nations including Israel, China, and Iran. They have even been operated by a non-state actor (Hezbollah) which has flown at least two drones over Israel. Several nations are currently developing drones that will be able to carry out highly-specialized missions, for instance tiny drones able to enter constricted areas through narrow passages. Given the move by the American military away from deploying conventional forces on the ground (in Iraq and Afghanistan) to a ‘light footprint’ strategy of ‘offshore balancing’ (as employed in Libya), drones are likely to play an even more important role in future armed conflicts. Like other new armaments (e.g., long-range cruise missiles and high-altitude carpet bombing) the growing use of drones has triggered a considerable debate over the moral and legal grounds on which they are used. This debate is next reviewed.

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With Iran Negotiations Ongoing, Is there Still a Risk of War?

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifying  before the House Armed Services Committee

Is Israel really planning to attack Iran, or are declarations about the possibility of a pre-emptive strike at Teheran’s nuclear program simply bombast? Does President Obama’s “we have your back” comment about Israel mean the U.S. will join an assault? What happens if the attack doesn’t accomplish its goals, an outcome predicted by virtually every military analyst? In that case, might the Israelis, facing a long, drawn out war, resort to the unthinkable: nuclear weapons?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifying before the House Armed Services Committee

Such questions almost seem bizarre at a time when Iran and negotiators from the P5+1—the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany—appear to be making progress at resolving the dispute over Teheran’s nuclear program. And yet the very fact that a negotiated settlement seems possible may be the trigger for yet another war in the Middle East.

A dangerous new alliance is forming in the region, joining Israel with Saudi Arabia and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council, thus merging the almost bottomless wealth of the Arab oil kings with the powerful and sophisticated Israeli army. Divided by religion and history, this confederacy of strange bedfellows is united by its implacable hostility to Iran. Reducing tensions is an anathema to those who want to isolate Teheran and dream of war as a midwife for regime change in Iran.  How serious this drive toward war is depends on how you interpret several closely related events over the past three months.

First was the announcement of the new alliance that also includes the military government in Egypt. That was followed by the news that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were stocking up on $10.8 billion worth of U.S. missiles and bunker busters. Then, in mid-October, Israel held war games that included air-to-air refueling of warplanes, essential to any long-range bombing attack. And lastly, the magazine Der Spiegel revealed that Israel is arming its German-supplied, Dolphin-class submarines with nuclear tipped cruise missiles.

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China and the International Antipiracy Effort

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Chinese Navy

Writing for The Diplomat on 1 November 2013, Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange discuss China’s engagement in countering piracy in an article titled “China and the International Antipiracy Effort.” The analysis emphasizes the importance of this activity for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), especially in the Gulf of Aden.

China’s Central-Asian Game

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan poses an important geopolitical dilemma for China.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

With Xi Jinping’s recent meeting with Hamid Karzai in Beijing and his assurance that China would continue to support Afghanistan’s reconstruction as well as remain a “stable, strong friend and neighbor,” it is worth taking a look at China’s relationship with Afghanistan’s southern neighbor, Pakistan.

Over the last several years China has built a “special” relationship with Pakistan, largely in response to US support for India. Up to this point, the relationship has proven beneficial for both sides. Pakistan was able to secure a strategic ally against India, as well as allowing it to play a double game between the US and China, whereby it could leverage one against the other in order to achieve a more favorable outcome for itself.

China on the other hand supported Pakistan to balance the US support for India, as well as to prevent itself from being surrounded or “contained” as the US continued to court its neighbors, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.  China also gains security and economic benefits, with Pakistani cooperation in helping secure Xinjiang province by capturing Uyghur separatists on its territory, and China’s investments in Pakistan, especially its $1.6 billion deep water port project at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

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Spain’s Indictment of Hu Jintao and International Justice

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Pictured: Hu Jintao with Xi Jinping

Earlier this month, Spain’s Audencia Nacional accepted an appeal by a Spanish based Tibet advocacy group claiming that the Chinese government had supported “genocidal policies” in the Tibet Autonomous Region and initiated a probe.

Hu Jintao pictured with Xi Jinping

Among those indicted is Hu Jintao, the former President of the People’s Republic of China (2003-2013), who the appellants allege supported the policy while he was the Secretary of the Communist Party in Tibet from 1988-1992 and President of the nation almost a decade later. The court cites two factors for the basis of Spanish jurisdiction in the matter, invoking the controversial doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which is recognized by the Spanish legal system. Firstly, one of the complainants, Thubten Wangchen, is a Spanish citizen and secondly there is no evidence that any Chinese authority or court has initiated an investigation into the complaints made initially in 2008.

The lawsuit claims that during the years Mr. Jintao led the administration in the Tibet Autonomous Region, many of the policies and measured implemented were aimed at “eliminating the idiosyncrasies” of an independent Tibetan identity and existence. The policies stated include the “implementation of Martial law, forced displacement, mass sterilization campaigns and the transfer of a large number of ethnic Chinese people to gradually dominate and displace the indigenous Tibetan population.”

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Is the U.S. Losing Saudi Arabia to China?

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China's Hu Jintao with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia’s declared intention to pivot away from the U.S. in foreign policy implies a shift toward Beijing, which predates both the Obama presidency and the Arab Awakening. While a full-fledged “divorce” from the U.S. appears highly unlikely at this juncture, there is genuine cause for concern in Washington.

China’s Hu Jintao with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah

The Saudi government’s decision has potentially profound implications regionally, as cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. has been a hallmark of the Middle East’s political landscape for the past 80 years.  The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have maintained a strategic partnership since World War II based on a common understanding — Saudi Arabia provides the U.S. with oil and the U.S. in turn provides a security umbrella to the Kingdom. The two have for many years also shared mutual interest in containing Communism and Arab nationalism, which has led to many joint U.S.-Saudi campaigns throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Washington and Riyadh’s shared objective of countering the influence of post-revolutionary Iran has also served to strengthen their ties.

Part of what is at issue here is a simmering, lingering tension between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. The U.S. has beaten the ‘democracy’ drum in the Middle East for decades, particularly since 9/11, which has not sat well with the distinctly undemocratic Saudi polity. The fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi nationals prompted greater scrutiny in Washington about the nature of the bilateral relationship, as have questions about human rights in the Kingdom since that time. Saudi officials view U.S. hegemony in the post-Cold War era as having a destabilizing impact on the Middle East. Saudi Arabia sees itself as paying a price for reckless and poorly executed U.S. foreign policy, with the U.S., for example, having refused to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians (consistent with the Saudi Initiative of 2002) and having toppled Saddam Hussein against Riyadh’s advice.

The Saudis saw the U.S. decision to remove Saddam as misguided from the beginning, and anticipated that any democratically-elected national Iraqi government would be Shi’ite-majority and politically tied to Iran. However, when protests erupted in Bahrain in 2011, the Saudis did not wait for a permission slip from the White House before waging a harsh crackdown to defend the Sunni-dominated monarchy in Manama. Riyadh views the prospects of political change in Bahrain as another potential Saudi loss and Iranian gain, rooted amid concern that Saudi Arabia’s own Shi’ite community would rise up against the House of Saud, in response to a Shi’ite take-over of Bahrain.

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Torpedoing the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks

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President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2013.  Pete Souza/White House

As the U.S. and its allies prepare for another round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, powerful and wealthy opponents—from the halls of Congress to Middle East capitals—are maneuvering to torpedo them. At stake is the real possibility of a war with consequences infinitely greater than the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

When the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany—the so-called “P5+1”—sit down with Iran’s negotiators in Geneva on Nov. 7, those talks will be shadowed by an alliance of hawkish U.S. Congress members, an influential Israeli lobby, and a new regional alliance that upends traditional foes and friends in the Middle East.  The fact that the first round of talks on Oct.15 was hailed by Iran and the P5+1 as “positive” has energized opponents of the negotiations, who are moving to block any attempts at softening international sanctions against Teheran, while at the same time pressing for a military solution to the conflict.

Current international sanctions have halved the amount of oil Iran sells on the international market, blocked Teheran from international banking, and deeply damaged the Iranian economy. The worsening economic conditions are the backdrop for the recent election of pragmatist Hassan Rowhani as president of Iran. Hassan’s subsequent efforts to move away from the confrontational politics of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears a signal that Iran wants to peacefully resolve a crisis that has heightened tensions in the region and led to everything from the assassination of Iranian scientists to the world’s first cyber war.

The central issue is whether Iran is constructing a nuclear weapon in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a charge Teheran denies. Iran is a NPT signatory and UN inspectors regularly monitor the country’s civilian power plants and nuclear facilities. Enhanced fuel is required for civilian power plants and medical research, but it is also an essential ingredient in a nuclear weapon. Iran enhances some of its fuel to 20 percent. Bomb fuel must be 90 percent pure.

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Saudi Arabia’s Message to the United States

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The Saudis have said they disagree with the U.S. approach to Syria

Last week’s decision by Saudi Arabia to pass on an opportunity to become a member of the UN Security Council speaks to the Council’s perceived ineffectiveness on a host of issues, and what comes with membership — the need to take a public position on sensitive issues in international relations.

The Saudis have said they disagree with the U.S. approach to Syria

This is contrary to the Saudi approach to influencing its neighbors, which is essentially to throw money their way and presume doing so will result in policies that are in line with that of the Saudis. To many countries this would seem an odd approach to conducting international affairs, but it actually makes a good deal of sense given the context. Saudi Arabia has the money, and they use it, often obtaining the desired effect. The Kingdom’s decision vis-à-vis the UN seat does not have a major impact on its relations with its neighbors and allies, but rather preserves it.

However, the Saudi announcement that it will implement a major shift in its relations with the U.S. should serve as a major wake-up call for Washington — not only in terms of bilateral relations, but for what it implies about the Kingdom’s relations with other nations in the Middle East and beyond. In essence, the Saudis have said they disagree with the U.S. approach to both Iran and Syria, and plan to ‘go it alone’ in addressing Iran’s nuclear program and the ongoing Syrian conflict. They are betting that they will do no worse by embarking on an independent path than they did in achieving their objectives by being aligned with the U.S. The Saudi government not only sees the Obama Administration as ineffective on both subjects, but acting in a manner contrary to their own interests and policies.

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Paths to Achieve Peace and Security in Africa

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A Somali woman waiting for medical treatment from AMISOM. Stuart Price/UN

It is impossible to separate peace and security in Africa from economic development, democratic governance, and improvement in the daily lives of Africans, including those from ethnic and religious minorities.

A Somali woman waiting for medical treatment from AMISOM. Stuart Price/UN

A significant failing in any one of these three areas will put in serious doubt the ability of a country to maintain peace and security. Africa has experienced impressive economic growth in recent years. That is the good news. At the same time, too many African countries continue to experience conflict. That is the bad news. Conflict can quickly reverse the benefits of even strong economic growth. Fragile states are especially susceptible to conflict.

The African Development Bank estimates there are 20 “fragile states” today in Africa. Almost half of these states qualify as “middle income,” a shift from a decade ago when most were low-income countries. The African Futures Project, a collaborative effort involving the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa and the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, uses criteria that identify 26 fragile African countries. It projects that 10 of these countries will remain fragile until at least 2050. Whether the number of fragile states in Africa is 20 or 26, the large number is of concern for many reasons. Adding to the concern is the estimate that by 2050 some 23 percent of the world’s population will be living in Africa.

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A View from Tehran, Iran’s Nuclear Program

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Secretary of State John Kerry

With the recommencement of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, hopes have been revived that after more than two decades of enmity between the two sides they can finally come to an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry

International observers hailed the latest round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 on October 15 and 16 in Geneva as constructive, calling it a step forward on the path of finding a conclusive and definite resolution to Iran’s nuclear standoff.

The Iranian negotiators demanded that the contents of the talks remain undisclosed until an agreement is reached. Their demand sounds reasonable as it will prevent the mass media from spreading falsehoods regarding the details of the agreement yet to be reached and also impede the efforts made by neo-conservative elements in the West to bring the negotiations to a premature end without a negotiated settlement.

During the talks, Iran presented a three-phased proposal entitled “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, Opening New Horizons” which drew a roadmap for the future of the talks. According to the proposal, Iran would remove the concerns of the P5+1 through confidence-building measures and increased transparency in its nuclear activities, and in return, the Western powers will offer incentives to Iran by lifting the sanctions on a step-by-step basis.

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