Home » Posts tagged 'East China Sea'
Tag Archives: East China Sea
In the last year, China has increased the military activity and actions in the South China Sea around the so-called Nine Dash Line — China’s expansive claim into the region which is in conflict with several other international claims.
China’s Nine-Dash Line
As USNI reports, Capt. James Fannell, deputy chief of staff intelligence and information operations for PACFLEET, notes that while China has long trained for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan during military exercises but has expanded its training to include a similar attack on Japanese holdings in the East China Sea. He concludes, “the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands].”
As part of China’s Mission Action 2013 exercise — a massive exercise between the all branches of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — the military trained for taking the Senkaku Islands, said Capt. James Fannell, deputy chief of staff intelligence and information operations for PACFLEET.
View China’s Training Plan in a larger map
“We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross military region enterprise — Mission Action 2013,” Fannell said at the West 2014 conference on Feb. 13 in San Diego, Calif.
“[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say.”
“As a senior U.S. government official recently stated, there is growing concern that China’s pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects an incremental effort by China to assert control of the area contained in the so-called 9-dash line despite the objections of its neighbors, and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law.” Fannell said.
He then detailed a series of what he called aggressive actions taken by China against its neighbors over the past year. Some of those actions, including combat drills in the south Philippine Sea were described as China’s “protection of maritime rights.”
“By the way, protection of maritime rights is a Chinese euphemism for coerce seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors,” Fannell said.
“Tensions in the South and East China Seas have deteriorated with the Chinese Coast Guard playing the role of antagonist, harassing China’s neighbors while PLA Navy ships, their protectors, (make) port calls throughout the region promising friendship and cooperation.”
Fannell’s assessment of the Chinese lies seemingly in contrast to American efforts to forge close military-to-military ties with the country.
» Report: Japan Secretly Developing Nuclear Weapons Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!
Tokyo begins arms build-up in response to East China Sea tension
Paul Joseph Watson
February 18, 2014
Asia Weekly, a Hong Kong-based news outlet, is reporting that Japan is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program in response to increasing hostilities with China over the East China Sea dispute.
According to the report, paraphrased by the Want China Times, “With the capability to build at least 2,000 nuclear warheads, Japan has recently demanded the United States return 300 kilograms of plutonium. A Japanese military analyst told Yazhou Zhoukan that Washington has paid close attention to the potential development of nuclear weapons in Japan.”
Asia Weekly, known as Yazhou Zhoukan, is a popular Chinese-language platform with a 20 year publishing history.
The article notes that Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba all possess expertise in the area of nuclear energy and along with 200 other small companies could all be called upon to kickstart a nuclear weapons program. Japan already has over 40 tonnes of plutonium in its possession.
Influential voices like Major General Yoshiaki Yano of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force are also calling on Tokyo to adjust its nuclear policy.
The story arrives hot on the heels of reports that China is extremely concerned about Japan’s initial resistance at handing back weapons-grade plutonium to the United States which was bought back in the 1960′s for research purposes but has the potential to be turned into 50 nuclear bombs.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that within the next six years Japan would revise its pacifist constitution, which limits its military activities to self-defense.
Tensions over China’s declaration of an air defense zone over the disputed Senkaku Islands have continued to simmer, with three Chinese ships sailing through the region on Monday in another show of aggression.
A deluge of aggressive rhetoric has emerged out of official Communist Party organs in recent months directed against the United States, including discussion about China’s ability to attack U.S. military bases in the Western Pacific, as well as a lengthy editorial which appeared in Chinese state media explaining how the Chinese military’s current reformation process was part of a move by President Xi Jinping to prepare the People’s Liberation Army for war.
Last month, Chinese state media reported that Beijing’s new hypersonic missile vehicle is primarily designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers. Last year, China reportedly sunk a mock U.S. aircraft carrier utilizing the DF-21D anti-ship missile, dubbed the “carrier killer,” during a wargame which took place in the Gobi Desert.
This article was posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 9:59 am
It is certainly not inevitable, but what form would a Sinic Monroe Doctrine take?
East Asia is becoming, in the language of international relations theory, “bipolar.” That metaphor, from magnetism, suggests two large states with overlapping spheres of influence competing for regional leadership. The Cold War was a famous global example of bipolarity. Most states in the world tilted toward the United States or the Soviet Union in a worldwide, zero-sum competition. Although analysts have hesitated for many years in applying such strong language to East Asia, this is now increasingly accepted. A lengthy twilight struggle between China and Japan, with U.S. backing, seems in the offing.
Until recently, Asia was arguably “multipolar”—there was no one state large enough to dominate and many roughly equal states competed for influence. China’s dramatic rise has unbalanced that rough equity. China is now the world’s second largest GDP. Although its growth is slowing, it is still expanding at triple the rate of the U.S. economy and six times the rate of Japan’s. By 2020 China is predicted to be the world’s largest economy. Its population, 1.35 billion, is enormous. One in seven persons on the planet is Chinese. Were China’s GDP per capita to ever reach Japanese or American levels, its total GDP would match that of entire planet today. These heady numbers almost certainly inspire images of national glory or a return to the “middle kingdom,” in Beijing. They help account for China’s increasingly tough claims in the East and South China Seas.
Until recently, China pursued a “peaceful rise” strategy, one of accommodation and mutual adjustment. This approach sought to forestall an anti-Chinese encircling coalition. China’s rapid growth unnerves many states on its perimeter, from India, east to Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, north to Taiwan, Japan, and Russia. Were these states to align, they might contain China in the same way the Japan, China, and NATO all worked to contain the U.S.SR. The peaceful rise seemed to work, especially in southeast Asia, where Chinese generosity has successfully blocked a united ASEAN position on South China Sea issues.
Since 2009 however, China has increasingly resorted to bullying and threats. The 2008 Olympics appears to have been read in Beijing as a sign of China’s newfound might and sway. In the South China Sea it has pushed a very expansive definition of its maritime zone of control, and it recently faced down the Philippines in a dispute over the Scarborough Shoal in that sea. Indeed, one possible explanation for China’s expansion of itsair defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea is that a hard line seems to be working in the South China Sea. But China’s northeast Asian neighbors are far stronger and more capable than its southeast Asian ones. Most observers expect Japan, South Korea and the U.S. to push back, as indeed they have. The U.S. flew bombers through the new ADIZ without warning, and both Japanese and South Korean civilian airlines have been instructed by their respective governments not to comply.
All this then sets up a bipolar contest between China and Japan, in the context of China’s rapid rise toward regional dominance.
A common theme in the literature on China’s rise is its apparent inevitability. Westerners particularly tend to get carried away with book-titles such as Eclipse (of the U.S. by China), When China Rules the World, orChina’s New Empire. History is indeed filled with the rise to dominance of powerful states. China and Japan both sought in the past to dominate Asia. Various European states including the U.S.SR, Germany, and France did the same. But frequently these would-be hegemons collided with a counter-hegemonic coalition of states unwilling to be manipulated or conquered. Occasionally the hegemonic aspirant may win; Europe under Rome was “unipolar,” as was feudal Asia now-and-again under the strongest Chinese dynasties. But there is nothing inevitable about this. Hegemonic contenders as various as Napoleon or Imperial Japan have been defeated.
To be fair, it is not clear yet if indeed China seeks regional hegemony. But there is a growing consensus among American and Japanese analysts that this is indeed the case. By Chinese hegemony in Asia we broadly mean something akin to the United States’ position in Latin America. We do not mean actual conquest. Almost no one believes China intends to annex even its weakest neighbors like Cambodia or North Korea. Rather, analysts expect a zone of super-ordinate influence over neighbors.
For example, in 1823, U.S. president James Monroe proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine, which warned all non-American powers to stay out of the Western Hemisphere on pain of U.S. retaliation. This has worked reasonably well for almost 200 years. The U.S. has variously used force, aid, covert CIA assistance, trade, and so on to eject foreign powers from what Washington (condescendingly) came to call “America’s backyard.” Today, of course, such language seems disturbingly neocolonial, but many assume that the fundamental illiberalism of such spheres of influence do not worry non-democracies like China. A Sinic Monroe Doctrine would likely include some mix of the following:
– the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Japan and Korea,
– U.S. naval retrenchment from east Asia, perhaps as far back as Hawaii,
– a division of the Pacific into east/U.S. and west/China zones with a Chinese blue-water navy operating beyond the so-called second island chain running from Japan southeast to New Guinea,
– an RMB currency bloc in southeast Asia and possibly Korea,
– a regional trading zone,
– foreign policies from China’s neighbors broadly in sync with its own.
This is not going to happen soon of course. This is a project for the next several decades, just as U.S. power over Latin America came slowly through the nineteenth century. But such goals would broadly fit with what we have seen in the behavior of previous hegemons, including Imperial Japan and China, Rome, the British Empire, the U.S. in Latin America, and various German plans for Eastern Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. The era of U.S. preponderance in Asia is coming to an end.
Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly) is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University. More of his work may be found at his website,AsianSecurityBlog.wordpress.com.
The Japan-China provocations show no sign of letting up
By Joe Schlesinger, CBC News Posted: Feb 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET
Foreign Correspondent Emeritus
Joe Schlesinger was a foreign correspondent for CBC for 28 years, covering natural disasters, political upheavals and conflicts from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. In 2009, the Canadian Journalism Foundation honoured Schlesinger for his body of work.
The Davos economic conference is over, and the presidents, prime ministers and other potentates who attended have gone home with their briefcases full of recipes on how to make the world — and themselves — richer and more secure.
Some of these recipes will surely do some good. Except for one big hitch. The kitchens in which the fate of nations is baked may be in danger of blowing up.
The man holding the fuse aloft is Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan no less.
His warning was that the current tension between his country and China is similar to the rivalry between Britain and Germany that led to the First World War 100 years ago. And it sparked a very angry, un-Davos-like response from the Chinese, one of whom compared Abe to North Korea’s wacky dictator.
While Abe talked in generalities about the trouble brewing in the region, everyone knew that he was talking about the escalating tug of war over the eight contested islands in the East China Sea.
These rocks, some smaller than a football field, are called Diaoyu by the Chinese; they are 330 km from China’s coast and 410 km from Japan, where they are known as Senkaku.
Their inhabitants: moles, goats and albatrosses. More importantly, though, the islands are surrounded by the magical Aladdin’s lamp of our era — oil and gas deposits.
The area has been controlled by Japan since the days of gunboats and colonial expansion in the 1890s.
And in laying claim to these islands now, China is trying to match its status as a new economic superpower by asserting itself as a military force (as Abe sees it, like Germany did a century ago).
Two months ago, Beijing announced the creation of an air defence identification zone over the portion of the East China Sea that includes Diaoyu.
The new rules, with their implicit threat of military action against foreign aircraft that don’t identify themselves to Chinese authorities, caused an international uproar.
But the immediate danger is in the military jockeying that’s taking place over these islands.
The warplanes China has dispatched to patrol the area have been challenged by U.S., Japanese and South Korean fighter planes.
With armed planes buzzing each other in a small airspace, there is the very real possibility that a simple miscalculation could lead to war, not unlike the small events that triggered WWI.
Another danger factor is the animosity that still exists between the Chinese and Japanese; in many ways they have never put the Second World War behind them as most other former enemies have.
Echoes of 1914
It isn’t that either Japan or China wants war necessarily — though both are arming noticeably.
What’s more likely going on in the East China Sea is that two of the world’s largest economies — China is No. 2 and Japan No. 3 — have ramped up their bullhorn rivalry as a means of deflecting attention from their own domestic problems.
However, if not checked by the power of No. 1 — the U.S., which is showing its disinclination to intervene abroad militarily — the animosity between China and Japan could unleash a wider conflict.
When 1914 came, there was no hint of the scale of the disaster to come.
Then, as now, the world had gone through a period without the kind of far-ranging wars that devastated continents.
Europe, which endured centuries of bloody conflicts, had been largely peaceful from the 1850s on.
But by the early 1900s, a growing world economy rested on colonial empires. Not just European ones either.
Japan also acquired colonies towards the end of 19th century, mainly by conquering Korea and setting its sights on Russian-controlled Manchuria.
What made being an imperial power so attractive was that it provided cheap colonial labour and raw materials — the equivalent of today’s coveted undersea resources — and turned these colonies into protected markets for the “mother” country’s manufactured goods.
Lines in the sea
In 1914, the world’s two biggest industrial powers were Germany and Britain, who were also among each other’s biggest trading partners.
But the Germans were frustrated because the Brits had the world’s largest empire — and navy. And they became determined to grab a bigger share of the global pie.
Their opportunity came when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne next door, was assassinated in June 1914 by a Serbian nationalist.
The Austrians, encouraged by Germany’s promises to back them up with its huge army, blamed the assassination on Serbia and declared war on the Serbian kingdom.
That started the dominoes falling. As expected, Russia came out on Serbia’s side. Germany, in turn, declared war on Russia and, for good measure, on France as an ally of Russia, while Britain joined in as an ally of France.
Once the U.K. became involved, Canada was in automatically as a member of the British Empire.
Even distant Japan declared war on Germany because of an alliance with Britain. And Turkey, which had been at odds with Russia, also joined the fray.
Within four months of Ferdinand’s death just about all of Europe and much beyond was bogged down in a war that would last four years and cost more than 16 million lives.
Some would argue it has continued its baneful influence to this day, from communism to Nazism and the Second World War with its many disastrous aftershocks.
The grievous miscalculations of 1914 should serve all those involved in the current spat over those few rocks in the China Sea as a lesson about the danger of setting lines in the sea and defying the rest of the world with shows of might.
Once the shooting starts it can be too late. As it was in 1914.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pressed by China and seeking to strengthen ties with the U.S., is considering Japan’s biggest change in military engagement rules since World War II.
Barred by its interpretation of a pacifist constitution from protecting other nations’ troops, Japan needs broader deployment abilities, according to Abe, 59. Having increased defense spending two years running and set up a U.S.-style National Security Council, Abe is now seeking to allow Japan to come to the aid of its allies, telling parliament yesterday that “it’s about whether we can exercise this right that every country has.”
China’s escalating challenge to Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea played into Abe’s plans to strengthen the military, said ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa. The initiative, which requires backing by Abe’s coalition partner, faces public opposition and risks further straining ties with China and South Korea that soured in December with Abe’s visit to a war shrine in Tokyo.
“Abe is determined to do this now because otherwise it is very difficult to get support,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow at The Tokyo Foundation research center. When regional tensions are low “people don’t see the need for it.”
Abe has shown a willingness to expend political capital on national security. His approval rating dipped below 50 percent after he passed a bill in December to stiffen penalties for leaking state secrets that was favored by the U.S. but opposed by a majority of Japanese. His popularity is back above 55 percent and there are no national elections before 2016, giving him some protection from the fallout of loosening the rules on collective self-defense.
Fifty four percent of Japanese are against the change, according to a poll by Kyodo News on Jan. 25-26. “This is partly to do with postwar pacifist sentiment in Japan, given that Japan was engaged in a very atrocious and damaging war of aggression,” said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.
Such a change would also escalate tensions with China and South Korea, where memories of Japan’s occupation resonate almost 70 years after the end of World War II.
“Japan should build mutual trust with countries in the region, including South Korea, China and Southeast Asian ones, rather than pursue collective security now,” South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung Joo said, according to a Nov. 6 ministry statement.
Enabling collective self-defense could help ensure the U.S. backs Japan militarily if China asserts its claims over the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. In November, China set up an air identification zone over part of the East China Sea covering the islands, increasing the risk of confrontation with Japan and the U.S.
“What is lucky for the Abe administration is that China set up the ADIZ,” said the LDP’s Hirasawa, who tutored Abe as a child. “That proves that what the Abe administration has been saying is correct. China is taking a stronger and stronger stance.”
Japan was stung by accusations of “checkbook diplomacy” after the country contributed $13 billion and no troops to the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The government then began changing policy, allowing the first substantial contribution of troops to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992. Still, the 600 troops sent to Iraq in 2004 to support the U.S.-led war were limited to non-combat duties and had to be protected by Dutch and Australian soldiers.
The move comes as part of Abe’s policy of contributing more actively to international security and seeking a higher profile on the world stage, with a busy diplomatic schedule taking him to 30 countries in his first year in office.
“Abe is more of a globalist than just about any of his predecessors,” said Alan Dupont, a professor of international security at the University of New South Wales. “He sees a new role for Japan commensurate with its economic and political weight.”
Yousuke Isozaki, a special adviser to Abe on security policy, is spearheading the effort on collective self-defense and says the change will deepen security ties with the U.S. and allow Japan to reach out to other allies.
“We want to be able to discuss security with friendly countries other than the U.S.,”he said in a Jan. 17 interview. “If we are bound hand and foot, we cannot talk. We cannot even say we will protect one another if something happens.”
Isozaki guided Abe’s unpopular secrecy bill through parliament while thousands of protesters chanted outside the building.
“There’s no time to sit around,” he said. The process will accelerate once an advisory panel of mostly academics submits its recommendations in April. Isozaki is looking for the LDP and its pacifist partner New Komeito to adopt a joint position by June, and expects bills related to the change to be presented starting in autumn.
“Japan will be a more effective alliance partner if its Self-Defense Forces are able to help defend American soldiers or sailors if they are attacked,” U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy told the Asahi newspaper in an interview published Jan. 23.
Securing the reinterpretation will be complicated by the need for Komeito’s support. “Until now, we haven’t done a single thing without the agreement of Komeito,” Isozaki said. “Getting their approval is a must.” Komeito backed Abe’s on the secrecy bill and the NSC legislation.
Isamu Ueda, deputy head of Komeito’s policy panel, said he favors Japan’s pacifist policy, while being open to possible exemptions such as allowing troops to protect other countries’ forces during peacekeeping work.
“We believe Japan should keep its military power to a minimum,” Ueda said in a Jan. 21 interview. “Japan should not be involved in international conflicts outside the country.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson firstname.lastname@example.org
What are the biggest political risks for 2014?
There are plenty of potential crises to keep us up at night in 2014. There are tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea and elite-level executions in North Korea. Violence continues to worsen in the Middle East with a resurgence of a more localized Al Qaeda, a deteriorating security environment in Iraq, and 2014’s biggest geopolitical pivot point: the make-or-break Iran nuclear agreement. If the P5+1 and Iran strike a deal, it would be a huge boon for the Obama administration, but it would leave Iran economically emboldened and looking to backstop Shia initiatives across the region, putting it even more at odds with Saudi Arabia. A deal is, on balance, more likely than not. But if it falls through, it means a spike in oil prices, in addition to the likelihood that Israel strikes Iran before it can sprint to nuclear-breakout capacity. All of these geopolitical concerns are front and center for the coming year.
But above all, two essential questions best categorize the major political risks of 2014. For many of the world’s predominant emerging markets, it’s an internally focused question: How will key developing countries adapt to upcoming elections or implement ambitious agendas—and what does it mean for their behavior beyond their borders? For the United States, the question is externally focused. The international community perceives America’s foreign-policy behavior as increasingly unpredictable. Is the United States disengaging internationally? How will policymakers define the role that the US should play in the world? Much depends on these concerns, as America’s relationships with its allies become increasingly fraught.
When you add these two questions to the more conventional geopolitical security uncertainties, there is one clear answer: the erosion of global leadership and coordination will become more apparent and pronounced in 2014.
How will emerging markets respond to internal challenges?
This year, we will see domestic distractions in emerging markets, from election cycles to unprecedented reform agendas; do not expect them to play a significant role internationally that does not cohere with their more pressing priorities at home. We are in the midst of a new era of political challenges for emerging markets, as slowing growth, sputtering economic models, and rising demands from newly enfranchised middle classes create heightened uncertainty. As recent protests in Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia, Ukraine and Russia have shown, new middle classes have new demands—and are willing to take to the streets if they go unmet.
It is in this context that six of the world’s largest emerging markets—Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey—will hold national elections in 2014. In all six countries, the incumbent party will have ruled for a decade or more, but since coming to power, few of them will have faced an electoral cycle quite like this. Political, social, and economic dynamics in each of these countries vary immensely, but elections raise the risk of prevote populist policymaking in all of them. As emerging-market growth wanes, many of these countries need to implement economic reforms in order to enhance productivity and continue enriching their citizens. But as elections loom, the fears of politicians grow, and substantive reform of pensions, privatization, labor markets, and taxation will stall. Nor will the outlook improve substantially post-elections. We are likely to see second mandates of weaker leaderships—a political environment that is by no means ideal for big-bang reforms.
While these six emerging markets are the most important players for the global economic community, the emerging market elections story extends much further. A total of forty-four democratic emerging-market countries accounting for 36 percent of the world’s population will hold national elections this year. Growing middle classes across the emerging market space are expecting more and better services precisely as governments’ capacity to deliver (economically and politically) is diminishing. That leaves emerging market governments with their hands full at home.
Among emerging markets, Turkey is especially vulnerable in 2014. The country faces spillover effects from the civil war in Syria and a re-emergence of the Kurdish insurgency. More worryingly, Prime Minister Erdogan’s increasingly aggressive behavior is a huge variable at a time when he is likely to become president. Expect uncertainty and conflict over the division of powers between him and the prime minister.
China, by far the most important emerging market in the world, certainly does not face electoral pressure; in fact, the new leadership under Xi Jinping has consolidated power quickly and efficiently since the leadership transition in late 2012. But China will face demands from its constituents and domestic distractions all the same, as its economy is now undergoing a dramatic shift. The new leadership has embraced far-reaching reform to a greater degree over president Xi Jinping’s first year than we’ve seen in the past two decades. Beijing will prioritize reform over more rapid economic growth in 2014, likely focusing on reforms that address public concerns to bolster its political strength and popular legitimacy. Expect social-policy reform at the forefront, with energy policy as another priority. We could also see financial reform moving more quickly than current consensus would indicate.
These reforms constitute a huge potential positive for China’s investment climate and potential integration into the world economy. Beijing must, however, tread carefully: there are many dangerous moving pieces attached to the reform agenda. There will be losers in the reform process as industries go out of business, officials get purged, and firms come under heavy regulatory scrutiny. If reforms move too quickly, they could destabilize the ruling party from within, as these key stakeholders push back to protect their vested interests. To protect against public and bureaucratic backlash, the leadership is using anti-corruption and reeducation efforts to intimidate reform opponents within the party while using new technologies to mitigate public dissent. But if the reforms fail or are widely perceived to be moving too slowly, political instability and popular protest could grow. That is only magnified by the fact that Beijing is doing this in the context of a fundamentally changed information environment, where the proliferation of information leaves the ruling party more beholden to the demands of its citizens—and where rapid shifts in popular sentiment can arise quickly and unexpectedly. Missteps could undermine the broader reform process and the leadership itself.
If— or perhaps, when— there are bumps in the road, Beijing will try to divert public anger toward foreign targets. Xi Jinping’s first substantial foreign-policy move was to announce an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea; that caters to widespread anti-Japanese sentiment within China. Should trouble emerge domestically, the Xi government might be willing to deflect attention by playing up this antagonism. On the other hand, in the longer run, if China implements its reform agenda successfully, it could empower the regime to project its regional influence still further.
Russia is one emerging market where, under President Putin’s rule, there is a great willingness to intervene on the international stage—but often in unpredictable ways. Putin remains the single most powerful individual in the world, but two worrying trends are converging: his popularity has slipped, and after a decade of rising expectations, Russia’s economy is stagnating. This makes Russia under Putin, a leader unusually capable of getting big things done quickly, far less predictable at home and abroad.
Is the United States disengaging internationally?
As Putin injects uncertainty by intervening abroad, the United States is doing so as well—but predominantly by disengaging.
Some of this decline in consistent US foreign-policy engagement is determined by structural international changes. First, there are too many increasingly influential countries that need to be at the table for a negotiation to have global impact, making it more difficult to coordinate effectively at the multilateral level. On top of this, a distracted German-led Europe is focusing inward on economic prerogatives of repairing the eurozone and restoring competitiveness; for foreign-policy engagement, the United States would much prefer the more geopolitically aligned UK and France driving European affairs. Emerging markets, particularly Russia and China, are more willing to challenge US preferences abroad.
Some of this new American foreign policy tack derives from tectonic shifts in the US domestic picture. In the 2012 election, just 5 percent of voters ranked foreign policy as their priority, and widening income inequality is persuading many Americans that they do not share the benefits of US engagement abroad. With a reactive, risk-averse approach to foreign policy along with a weaker second-term foreign-policy team, the Obama administration’s preferences and recent actions have magnified the issue considerably. The White House has made a handful of important missteps in the last year, even if many were at least partially the product of circumstance. The NSA scandal in the wake of the Snowden revelations has undermined the United States around the world. The need for attention at home amidst congressional infighting, a government shutdown, and the Obamacare rollout fiasco has come with significant foreign-policy opportunity cost—perhaps most importantly, Obama’s need to miss the APEC summit. Obama’s vacillation on whether to strike Syria undermined US credibility, and when the chance for a chemical-weapons agreement arose (thanks to an internationally engaged Vladimir Putin…), Obama jumped at the chance to take the deal and chalk it up as a justification for Washington remaining a spectator to the broader civil war.
Add all of these factors together and it seems that a perfect storm of US foreign policy decline is brewing. A poorly defined, more risk-averse US role in the world has allies frustrated with and uncertain about Washington’s longstanding policy preferences and commitments. They are actively questioning some American security guarantees and worrying about Washington’s reluctance to deploy military, economic, and diplomatic capital.
This new period of uncertainty for American foreign policy will impact US relations with countries around the world—but by no means equally. Despite their consternation, America’s closest allies don’t have viable alternatives. Mexico and Canada are far too economically integrated with the US to effectively hedge the relationship with outreach to other major powers. For Japan, Israel and the UK—the United States’ preeminent ally in each of their respective regions—the same is true strategically. As a result, they are particularly exposed in an increasingly leaderless world order.
That’s not the case, though, for the US’s second-tier allies, who have flexibility in structuring their strategic partnerships. This a much larger group, including Germany, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Brazil, and Indonesia. All have governments that consider it unwise to bet too fully on the US, and they are preparing to hedge their position by shifting their international orientation accordingly.
The prime example is the deterioration in US-Saudi relations. In recent months, the Saudi leadership has rejected a seat on the UN Security Council and penned forceful op-eds in Western publications, explaining Saudi consternation with American policy in the Middle East—the Iran nuclear deal in particular—and the need for Saudi Arabia to “go it alone.” The Brazilians and Germans have been particularly vocal in their opposition to NSA practices in the wake of the discovery that their leaders’ personal emails had been monitored by US intelligence.
The implications of these shifting alliances will be stark. US corporations are primed for new challenges. Post-Snowden, American firms that rely on collecting or sharing information, such as telecoms, banks and credit-card companies, may encounter a more hostile regulatory environment in countries like France, Germany and Brazil. US defense companies selling into countries such as Turkey and the Gulf states could also find themselves on the losing end of a tilt away from the United States. And expect Washington’s multilateral agenda to suffer, as “coalitions of the willing” become harder to establish and important trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership lose some momentum. Confusion over US commitments will complicate choices for countries balancing security and economic interests between the US and China; some Asian governments may align more closely with Beijing. And as the US is no longer perceived as a credible driver of the single global marketplace, a weakening of international standards is likely in the years to come. We might see faster fragmentation of the Internet, more disjointed financial regulation, a weaker NATO, and an even more fragmented global environment.
But despite its waning foreign-policy engagement, the US is not in economic decline.Investors continue to look past America’s many challenges and bet heavily on the US economy.In fact, driven by an energy revolution, game-changing technologies in diverse sectors, favorable demographics, and strong underlying political and social stability, the American economic story remains among the most dynamic and exciting in the world.The United States may be hamstrung by issues such as its yawning gap between rich and poor and its increasingly ineffectual secondary-education system, but for now at least, corporate investment and international support for the US dollar remain robust. So despite Washington’s inconsistencies on the international stage, America’s allies—and the international community—are set to struggle with it most.
In 2014, as emerging markets look inward and American foreign policy goes wayward, the only certainty is that international coordination is eroding. That will generate a more volatile global landscape and unforeseen crises.
Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group, global research professor at New York University and a contributing editor at The National Interest.
Image: Flickr/Beverly Goodwin. CC BY 2.0.
For months, rumors have been floating that China is building a second aircrafit carrier. It is not a fact. Reuters cites Chinese and Hong Kong media reports that China is building its second aircraft carrier, which is expected to take six years. While it is constructing this one, China plans to build at least two more, as it aims to have four aircraft carriers in the near future.
As a reminder, the country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning – a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-fitted in a Chinese shipyard – has long been a symbol of China’s naval build-up, and recently saw its maiden voyage in the South China Sea when in a clear demonstration of naval force, it crossed through the Taiwan straits. The Liaoning successfully executed more than 100 tests, including those of its combat systems, during drills in the disputed South China Sea last month. The exercises off the coast of Hainan Island marked not only the first time China had sent a carrier into the South China Sea but the first time it had maneuvered with the kind of strike group of escort ships U.S. carriers deploy, according to regional military officers and analysts.
However, since the Lioning was a retrofit and not China’s own creation, the country’s navy has been scrambling to get beyond the ridicule it can only “reverse engineer” its crowning ship. Hence the push for a second one.
After two decades of double-digit increases in the military budget, China’s admirals plan to develop a full blue-water navy capable of defending growing economic interests as well as disputed territory in the South and East China Seas.
Successfully operating the 60,000-tonne Liaoning is the first step in what state media and some military experts believe will be the deployment of locally built carriers by 2020.
In comments carried on Chinese news websites, Wang Min, the Communist Party boss of the northeastern province of Liaoning, where the first carrier is based, said the second carrier was being built in the port city of Dalian.
Its construction would take about six years, and in future China would have a fleet of at least four carriers, Wang told members of the province’s legislature on Saturday, the reports added.
Dalian is the port where the existing carrier was re-fitted for use by the Chinese navy.
Of course, the parallels to the cold war build up of nuclear weapons between the US and the USSR are quite obvious making one wonder if the same strategy is in play once more, especially when one considers that the US itself is also building three Ford-class supercarriers, the CVN-78, 79 and 80.
Finally, as we showed before, here are leaked photos of the second aircraft carrier in construction from China Defense.
Finally for those curious about more than just China’s nascent aircraft carrier fleet, here are some additional maps from the most recent Congressional report on Chinese military developments:
The Philippine armed forces says it needs at least six more frigates to effectively patrol its waters [AP]
|The Philippines has said it wants to acquire two more navy ships from the US to boost its maritime protection amid military threats from China, according to the country’s military chief.
“Within the last year, we realised that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory,” armed forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista told the Philippines’ ANC television on Wednesday.
The new acquisitions fall under the $40m in military assistance pledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the country in December 2013.
But Bautista said the country needs about six more frigates to effectively guard its coastline.
“In fact, we are bidding now for two frigates, hopefully we will be able to acquire them in (a) couple of years,” he said.
The Philippines is a long-time US military ally and has already received two refurbished ships in the past two years.
These boats now patrol the South China Sea where, in 2012, the flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first US acquisition, confronted Chinese ships on Scarborough Shoal, a small outcrop just off the coast of the country’s main island of Luzon.
The Chinese eventually gained control of the outcrop after Manila backed down. And the Filipino government sought UN arbitration to settle the dispute, a move which China rejected.
The Philippines has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
Bautista said the Gregorio del Pilar, as well as another frigate that arrived last year, have been deployed to protect the country’s waters.
“There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak,” he said, but declined to say where they were in the disputed waters.
China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea, including waters near the cost of its neighbours.
And it recently declared an “air defence identification zone” over the East China Sea, where it is engaged in a dispute with Japan.
Kerry has warned China against imposing a similar air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.
Last week China also announced a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to obtain permits for activities in most of the South China Sea, triggering outrage in Manila.
Chinese ships and aircraft have attempted to demonstrate Beijing’s claims to the islands [Reuters/Kyodo]
|Japan’s defence minister has vowed to defend the country’s territory after three Chinese government ships entered disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
The Chinese coastguard vessels sailed at about 8:30am local time on Sunday (2330 GMT on Saturday) into territorial waters off one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, Japan’s coastguard said.
The ships left less than two hours later.
“We can never overlook repeated incursions into territorial waters,” Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters.
“We need to make diplomatic efforts on one hand. We also want to firmly defend our country’s territorial sea and land with the self-defence forces cooperating with the coastguard,” he said.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft approach the disputed islands from time to time in an effort to demonstrate Beijing’s territorial claims, especially after Japan nationalised some of the islands in September 2012.
Sunday marked the first time Chinese ships were spotted there since December 29, when three coastguard ships entered the zone and stayed for about three hours, Japanese officials said.
Japanese coastguard patrol boats have tried to chase Chinese vessels away, fuelling tensions that some fear could spiral into an armed clash. Japan’s conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed no compromise on the sovereignty of the islands and recently announced a boost in military spending.
Tensions were heightened in recent months after Beijing announced an air defence identification zone covering a large swathe of the East China Sea, including the disputed islands.