Tag: China (Page 2 of 7)

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.

Trump, China and trade war : two short op-eds

Trump declares (trade) war…for now

Donald Trump’s inauguration marked a change in the world order, the free market liberal order that continued from 1945 in the West, and spread across the world around 1989. Here’s the transcript of the entire speech. But here are my quick three takeaways. The speech means, firstly, Trump is planning a 1930s-type national nation building project. Secondly, and inevitably, there’s now all possibility of a devastating trade war. And thirdly, Islamists are now the prime target of the administration.

The speech highlighted the new American credo of manufacturing in US, with American workers, and American infrastructure getting priority. It is unclear how he can do it, however, as if he imposes legal procedures on manufacturing outside US, his own company which outsources to China, will also suffer. The world is not stuck in the 1930s, and one cannot change the direction of capital flow or alter the comparative advantages. The center of gravity of economy moved to the East, and one can only adapt so far.

Trump’s inauguration statement was straightforward and refreshingly neutral in tone. In a certain way, it was without all the ridiculous and optimistic and hopeful balderdash we seem to have expect from American inaugurations. This was like a whistle for a firing squad. The world is now without leadership, and every power for its own. If you’re a strong power, then be stronger, if you’re weak, choose a side. Simple as that.

Researchers who deal with grand strategy often tries to find historical patterns in foreign policy. 

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Why young Chinese aren’t nationalistic

Sumantra noted a research paper by Harvard’s Alastair Iain Johnston in the journal International Security that raises doubts about the narrative that China is becoming increasingly nationalistic.

One section of the paper highlights differences between attitudes of the youth and those of their elders.

Johnston wrote:

Moreover, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the data do not show that China’s youth express higher levels of nationalism than older generations. Indeed, it is China’s older generations that are more nationalistic than its youth. These findings—with due regard for caveats about representativeness— suggest that rising popular nationalism may not be a critically important vari- able constraining Chinese foreign policy.

Sometimes the claim is made that rising nationalism exists because it is assumed, though not shown, that official government policies such as the Patriotic Education Campaign, launched in the early 1990s, are having their intended effect.

As Johnston’s numbers suggest, China’s youth are in fact noticeably less likely than their parents to answer yes to questions of patriotism and nationalism like, “I would prefer to be a citizen of China,” “China is a better country than most,” and “You should support your country even when it is wrong.”

china better

This makes sense for multiple reasons:

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New research suggests that conflict with China is not inevitable

Extraordinary research came out yesterday in International Security Journal, which concludes that

  1. Nationalism declining in China.
  2. China views, any potential Great power conflict from geopolitical and not ideological lens.

Here’s the paper.

And some data set.

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Tariffs are falling everywhere but in America — 12 charts to explain the economy

Economic charts to explain some aspects of Trump’s economic policy.

Donald Trump has proposed a 20 percent tariff to pay for his proposed barrier on the border with Mexico. During the campaign, he often proposed raising tariffs on China up to 40 percent and renegotiating or leaving trade deals. Among his first executive orders was one to call for “renegotiating” NAFTA and leaving the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Trump’s argument for doing so rests on the case that America imports a lot of goods and thus has a high trade deficit and that he and some of the economists he has surrounded himself with, such as Peter Navarro, believe that America’s trade deficit is causing manufacturing jobs to be lost to countries with low wages, like China.

Trump is right that the U.S. has a high trade deficit, though he often espouses false and exaggerated numbers. In one debate he said the U.S. had an $800 billion trade deficit. In fact, the U.S. had a $484 billion trade deficit (deficit in current account balance) in 2015. Canada and Mexico were also among the top seven.

However, the United States also has the largest economy in the world. America’s trade deficit is nearly the same as that of Canada and Mexico as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, according to the IMF, the three countries rank consecutively.

Tariffs around the world have been falling for years as countries embrace free trade. While Mexico’s average tariffs remains higher and more volatile than Canada’s or America’s, it has fallen since 1990.

Source: Google Data Explorer

Source: Google Data Explorer

Tariffs in important Asian countries have fallen “bigly.” China’s average tariff fell from over 30% in 1992 to less than 5% by 2014. When China joined the WTO in 2001, its tariff fell from close to 15% to 10% the next year.

Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Along with a decrease in tariffs, major Asian countries have also seen increases in imports.

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Few Recent Essays by yours truly

A lot changed in one year. Almost a pole switched, and the global order reversed, since September 2015 to Trump’s inauguration. A lot happened in between, questioning out essential assumptions about everything we know.

How did we get here? What changed? What went wrong, and how to explain the change?

From February 2017, I am starting to teach a course called “M11006 Problems in Global Politics” and I will be quite busy. But I took some time off, to write a few long essays about issues around us.

I like to see myself as a chronicler of time; a political realist, equally hated from the right and the left, and that gives me immense pleasure. True neutrality is something to be cherished, and strive for constantly. From the ashes of our civilisation, sometime in distant future, maybe there will remain some iconoclastic viewpoints, a few of them mine hopefully.

In that spirit, here are a few selected long essays from last couple of weeks. 

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Will Donald Trump start a “Clash of Civilisations” in Middle East?

(Originally published by the Centre For Land Warfare, New Delhi, India. Republished here, with added links.)

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