Tag: China (Page 1 of 7)

Let’s be prudent about Myanmar

I wrote a recent piece in The Federalist on the hysteric Western liberal media coverage of the Rohingya crisis is looking very similar to the ones during the early days of Libyan and Syrian civil wars. Naturally, the reaction to that, was…let’s say…quite extreme.

Anyway, here’s what we are seeing now. the same appeal to emotions, same arguments of ethnic cleansing, and genocide, without any understanding of the history and context of the crisis. It will soon lead to arguments of regime change, and sanctions, if UN peacekeepers. And it is specifically for that reason, every neighbouring country should be wary of the situation in Myanmar.

With more than 310,000 people having fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, there are daily reports of violence in Myanmar border. The UNHRC, which bizarrely had Saudi Arabia as a chair, of all countries, noted that Myanmar is apparently having an ethnic cleansing. An official was quoted by Guardian, saying, “I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population.”

The Rohingya issue is not new. It originates from the forced demographic change during the British times, when the northern Myanmar was socially engineered by the British colonial governance, to provide for cheap labour. It created centuries of sectarian tension and separatism, and worse, anti-Burmese violence in the 40s and 50s. Over 50000 Myanmar Buddhists were killed in the 1940s, a wound that still lives in Myanmar. Recently, since the 1980s, the Rohingya separatism, acquired an Islamist character. It is important to note that there’s a huge connection between Islamists in North India, and Xinjiang, and Rohingya and the Moro Liberation front. While most of these groups started with political or economic demands, over time, they have acquired a religious character which cannot be negotiated with.

It is in this time, the latest Rohingya crisis started.

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Korean Security Chat, I: Fallout from Trump-Kim confrontation

Yesterday morning, B+D editor Mitchell Blatt chatted with former Korean army soldier Daniel Kim about the tense situation on the Korean peninsula in the first of a new series. Later that day, North Korea launched a missile over Japan. In our conversation, we discussed Korea’s relations with Japan, White House shakeups and what effect they will have on U.S. policy towards Korea, and Korean President Moon’s “North Korean sympathetic” policy.

Daniel Kim has served as an artillery man and an interpreter in the Republic of Korea Army and is currently enrolled at Eastern Washington University where he is majoring in interdisciplinary studies. He will be joining B+D on a regular basis to discuss Korea issues. Mitchell Blatt is a founder and editor of Bombs + Dollars and is pursuing a degree in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University.

Mitchell Blatt: First off, White House advisors Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have both been fired/resigned in the past two weeks. How do you think it will affect White House policy?

Let me start with my thoughts: Bannon was pushing for a minimalist response to North Korea. He let loose in an interview with The American Prospect the night before leaving, promising to fire many of the State Department’s East Asia specialists and undercutting Trump’s threats of military force against North Korea by saying, “There’s no military solution.” Trump was saber rattling, but it seemed like Trump was bluffing the whole time. I think Bannon leaving reflects existing White House policy more than meaning any changes. Mattis and McMaster have the situation in their hands. They want to increase pressure but do so rationally, knowing the risks of war.

You?

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Not the bloody trade war talk again

As the talks of trade war heat up from across the pond again, it is time to highlight some home truths. A beleaguered US Presidency, completely sabotaged by opposing domestic interests between several differing factions, found a rare bipartisan point of solidarity, as hawkish Democrats urged on Trump to be stern in face of a possible trade war. The argument lies like this. Chinese economic prowess has coerced several American companies, to start joint ventures or lose Chinese markets. That led to diffusion of technology, and sharing of intellectual property. Technology and Intellectual property is now proving to be new battleground, as Bob Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, is apparently now preparing a trade case against extensive misuse of IP.

That’s, however, easier said than done.

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Modi’s newfound pragmatism towards China

A month back, Indian hyper sensationalized news media was jingoistically pointing out how much Indian government is correct in not taking part in the OBOR initiative, while every serious political commentator with half a brain was saying, how terrible a mistake that was. From boycotting a summit on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in May, to being hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) summit it looks like a total 180 turn for Indian foreign policy.

This is not baffling. Here’s what is happening.

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Climate leadership passes to China?

Questions about the rift between liberal institutionalism and sovereignty became deeper with US President Donald Trump unilaterally announcing withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate agreement. Trump’s argument is that the deal wasn’t fair, and disadvantages US businesses and workers. Trump also mentioned that this deal throws a spanner in American oil and coal industries, even when the world is cutting down on coal. The opposition to this move has been global so far. The Paris agreement commits US and other countries to keep global temperature rising to pre industrial level. While there are valid questions about the implementation of the deal, it is widely accepted as a necessity for the planet by every country and every major powers of the globe. US now stands essentially against the entire world when it comes to climate change.

Trump stated that his goal was to renegotiate the treaty. It is understood that’s an impossible task, to have 193 different bilateral treaties and then ass them with Senate. Already, Italy, Germany, and France, the big three have jointly stated that this decision was regrettable. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni stated in a joint statement. Japan hasn’t signed the statement, but has echoed similar sentiment, while May of UK said that while it is regrettable it’s a decision by Washington and not London. Canada’s Trudeau has also regretted the decision. “The US decision can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet” the chancellor added. Her counterpart, Macron of France, went on even further, stating there’s no Plan B, as there’s no Planet B. And invited US businesses to France, potentially starting a small scale trade war initiation.

According to Daily Mail reports, a planned U.S. pullout from the Paris climate deal would be a further 0.3-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100. However, Deon Terblanche maintained that due to other factors, that might not happen. However, hidden in all the outrage, a simple thing is lost. This is not about climate. Trump’s withdrawal was purely geopolitics. 

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Optimism in Korean peninsula

After months of political drama liberal Moon Jae-in decisively won in South Korea, a victory that ended over a decade-long conservative rule, which was by the end tarnished by extreme corruption and scandal, and ended in the impeachment and arrest of Park Geun-hye which triggered a snap election. The liberal victory was expected, given the current mood of South Korea, and a high turnout almost guaranteed the defeat of the incumbent conservatives. A simple plurality was needed for the liberals to win. Speaking at a makeshift podium, Moon was quoted to say “I will make a just, united country. I will be a president who also serves all the people who did not support me.”

In an interesting development, Moon said that he would be willing to go to North Korea to meet its leader Kim Jong-un, in a notable change of track from the previous conservative governments. Signaling that he is flexible and expressing willingness to negotiate immediately, the left-liberal-leaning Moon said that he is willing to do anything that might help bring peace to the continent. “I am willing to go anywhere for the peace of the Korean peninsula if needed. I will fly immediately to Washington. I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo. If the conditions are right, I will go to Pyongyang,” he was quoted by Guardian.

Perhaps in a further indication that the new administration would be different than the old one, Moon even considers reviewing THAAD system placed in South Korea. The system has been a bone of contention between China and United States and was installed just a week before the elections. China has consistently opposed and urged the new president to scrap the system.

There has been talks reported by Reuters, where US officials have anonymously raised their concerns, about the new volatility in ties between South Korea and US. Moon and US President Trump are very different characters. There are chances of confrontation. Trump recently also demanded payment for THAAD placed in South Korea. That, added to the fact that Trump is positioning himself as a North Korea hawk, means that there are chances of difference of interest.

The US, of course, as per diplomatic rituals congratulated Moon, just as China and Japan did. The White House press secretary spoke of a continuing a strong alliance and enduring partnership.

That said, I would suggest a few cautions for both South Korea, and US. First of all South Korea needs to realise that any diplomatic maneuver, especially in such a volatile situation will inevitably bring up risks of cheesing off partners and adversaries. Any individual single effort to solve the Korean crisis would anger hardliners in both Washington and Tokyo. It is unlikely that Seoul, despite its good intentions is willing or able to take that risk or go that far. The idea in Washington is simple, that America is unwilling to coexist with a nuclear North Korea and that North Korea is a danger to American interests in the Pacific. Given that situation, if any country, especially South Korea intends to bypass American intentions to hand olive branch to the North, they will risk a collision course with Washington.

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Exclusive: The maritime balance of power slowly shifts in the Indian Ocean

Published in CLAWS.

The naval balance of power slowly shifts in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in the Indian ocean, as China launches its first domestically built, and the second aircraft carrier of its navy. The carrier was built in the northeastern port of Dalian, and is expected to join service, in 2020, but the bow and hull is already operational, and the arms and software needs debugging and fitting. The carrier’s development was already underway since 2015, and it shows the remarkable speed and expertise with which the carrier was built. China’s first carrier was the Soviet made Liaoning, which was also refitted in the same shipyard, and was only operational a few years back. The design is Soviet style ski jump, and not American style catapult launch. The carrier is supposed to base Chinese J-15 fighters. [1][2]

 

This is remarkable development and here’s why.

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To continue growth, keep out of conflict

When the Soviet Union was there, a field called Kremlinology was prevalent in the West. It was the study of the secretive Kremlin to understand and fathom what was happening behind the iron curtain. Things such as chair placement, who sits next to whom, etc was supposed to give an idea on how Soviet economy is supposed to perform. It was pseudoscientic, and most of it was of course threat inflated guesswork. Obviously sitting arrangements might give a hint of who within the Kremlin walls are falling out of fashion or not, but in no way can it give any hint about the overall direction of the country. Naturally the Kremlinologists couldn’t for the love of God, predict anything about Soviet economy, and couldn’t foresee the primary reason behind Soviet collapse.

In recent days, something similar is back in vogue. There is a steady stream of prediction about Chinese economy. As recently as in Davos forum last year it was predicted that Chinese economy was in for a hard landing. It wasn’t. China’s economy actually grew 6.9 percent in the first quarter from a year, which was slightly better than expected, as well as predicted. 

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Quick early take on the Xi-Trump meeting

Compromises and grand bargain time ahead

 

The State Department briefing on North Korea was a diplomatic equivalent of a mic drop, the thing when hip hop artists do when they drop their microphone after a particularly pithy innuendo laden verbiage. That’s what I am told, I am obviously too old for hip hop. Anyway, after North Korea launched another missile, the state department said in a statement by Secretary Rex Tillerson, that they don’t have anything more to say. “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” Short, pithy, ominous. Nothing like this have been seen in a diplomatic communique before, which are mostly long drawn, and vague. This means that the time for talk is up.

Almost within hours, President Donald Trump in an exclusive interview with Financial Times stated the often-pronounced charge, that it’s time push comes to the proverbial shove with regards to North Korea. “China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.” Trump said in the interview. But this is clear, Trump is readying himself, and US for a grand bargain with China. And in politics, every offer of bargain, implicitly comes with a threat of noncompliance. “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.” This time, the threat is real. The time for talks is over, at least from the US side.

This is a huge change. Forget everything that one can read in op-eds in newspapers, about how the upcoming meeting is a clash of differing values, ideologies etc, about how everything will be hinged on the personal chemistry of the leaders. Nothing like that will matter in the long run. The visit of President Xi to US is considered to be a power politics, as old as the 18th century. This is international relations at its earliest form, this is the language of realpolitik, at its peak and prime, at its most raw.

Let’s simplify the situation then.

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Mitch Blatt in The National Interest on North Korea

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt was published in The National Interest‘s website on U.S.-China relations with regard to North Korea.

Although he put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in context, noting that they don’t necessarily mean a vast change in policy, he did say that certain actions the U.S. has already taken, like the deployment of THAAD, and any possible change in policy to be more aggressive, are not acts of provocation but rather responses to growing North Korean provocations.

“But if the Trump administration does up the ante, it will be because proposals to engage in toothless talks with North Korea—like that made this week by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi—have utterly failed, and China hasn’t done its part to try to reign in its rogue frenemy,” he wrote. “Juxtaposed against its vitriolic response to the South Korean deployment of Terminal High Area Altitude Defense, China’s impassive response to multiple North Korean nuclear tests, always predicated on the same “firm opposition” talking point, which makes it look like China hasn’t been taking the threat of a nuclear North seriously.”

He pointed out that China hasn’t been faithfully enforcing some of the sanctions they agreed to against North Korea.

In summary, “As long as North Korea is an out-of-control threat, South Korea will need to take tough actions. China is reaping what it sowed from years of complacency.”

The whole article can be read here: Why China Must Confront North Korea.

The UK’s MoneyWeek also quoted Blatt’s article:

On the contrary, “China has largely itself to blame” if the US now pursues a more militaristic agenda towards North Korea, says Mitchell Blatt in the American magazine The National Interest. Beijing has spent years “turning a blind eye to sanctions violators and keeping the dangerous North Korean regime alive and its leaders well fed”, so it is not surprising that Washington now thinks “enough is enough”. China has also reneged on promises to limit imports of North Korean coal. Overall, “if China wants to avoid instability, then China must take an active role and take responsibility”.

Blatt also has an article about South Korea-China relations coming out in The Korea Times on Tuesday.

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