Thursday, October 17, 2013

Warning Shot: Why the time May be Right for another U.S. Arms Sale Package to Taiwan

During last week's APEC Summit in Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated to the Taiwanese envoy that Beijing and Taipei must begin taking steps to close the political divide between them.  While such statements could have been taken in an attempt to garner and maintain support from the leadership of the People's Liberation Army, it is equally as likely that the absence of American President Barack Obama emboldened Xi to take an increasingly assertive tone towards Taipei.  If the Obama Administration is serious about  security commitments to its Asian allies,  the time may be optimal for it to fire a "diplomatic  warning shot" across the bow of the PRC in the form publicly declaring its willingness to be open to new military platform requests from its longtime ally Taiwan.

Sorry President Ma, you're not winning the Nobel Peace Prize 

Taiwan's President Ma has been doing everything but taking out space in the People's Daily , in an attempt to angle himself to be in a position to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in next year's APEC summit in China. Now that China has smacked down that idea, the President with the 9.5% approval rating in Taiwan does not have to take Beijing's feelings into as much consideration if he wished to ponder the possibility of reengaging with the United States regarding long-stalled military platform purchases.  The President could also look to regain some credibility within his country among those who feel that he has given China far too many concessions in the economic arena, which has placed Taiwan's already fragile sovereignty at great risk. New platform purchases could also boost the morale of Taiwan's military, which has suffered greatly due to the scandal that plagued the army earlier this year.

Mr. President, show us something

There are also a number of reasons why arms sales to Taiwan could be of interest to the United States as well.  One of the great fears among American allies in the region is that the United States could elect to reduce its military presence in the region, forcing them to take more accommodating positions with China that would rather not take. Earlier this year, the United States looked to show the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (as well as the DPRK's powerful generals) that the United States stood strong with South Korea, and would stand with them and fight if necessary.  This message was delivered loud and clear.  While joint military operation exercises between the United States and Taiwan would be far too politically sensitive at this time, the resumption of talks regarding arms sales to Taiwan would not.  The administration could state its willingness to discuss the sale of platforms long desired by Taiwan's forces, such as the F-16 C/D, AEGIS capable naval vessels, and missiles for Taiwan's air force fleet. Additionally, Randy Schriver of Project 2049 has stated on multiple occasions that there is data that supports the notion that whenever major arms sales have taken place between the United States and Taiwan, diplomatic breakthroughs between Taiwan and China have soon followed.  The administration would also be showing its support for Taiwan by showing that it will not allow China to pressure or coerce Taiwan into political talks that it does not want to enter at this time, something that China in the past has promised not to do. Such a sale, or at least the willingness to talk about one, could be effective at countering China's attempt to back Taiwan into a corner, and showing its citizens that they still have a reliable ally who does not plan on leaving the Pacific anytime soon.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Truths (and Myths) of Air/Sea Battle

 On Thursday, the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Sea Power and Projection Forces conducted a hearing on the lengthy topic of "USAF, USN and USMC Development and Integration of Air/Sea Battle Strategy, Governance and Policy into the Services' Annual Program, Planning, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Process."   The hearings allowed leadership from the branches of the armed forces that are most involved in the Air-Sea Battle Concept (ASB) to express their respective objectives in the process, as well as clarify realities and dispel myths that accompany the concept.

The focus of this article is not to explain the basic tenets that make up the foundation of ASB, ( click here for a more thorough introduction of the Air-Sea Battle Concept) but rather to highlight the primary talking points from the military leadership that was present at the subcommittee meeting (the major points that were said by the military during the meeting will be bold and in italics, and the opinions of this author will precede them-but  these are not direct quotations from the witnesses, but rather a summary of their comments during the meeting).

It IS NOT an Overhaul of Current American Military Doctrine 
Air-Sea Battle is not a strategy but an approach or framework 
Not a strategy but a concept--a method to obtain specific capabilities 

There seems to be some misconception among those who follow the Air-Sea Battle concept, as many believe that it is to eventually be the guiding principle of a new unified American military doctrine.  This does not appear to be the case.  Specific geographic areas were repeated among the witnesses as likely areas in which the ASB concept could be utilized: Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Pacific Rim, and the Eastern Mediterranean.  This hardly encompasses the entire globe. While ASB does have a potentially wide range in which it could be used by American forces, it is not without limitations.

It IS in the Early Stages of Development
Air-Sea Battle is still developing and we are unsure what is needed 
Air-Sea Battle mission focus areas are still being developed 

Perhaps  the most surprising response that came from the military witnesses was in an answer to Chairman Randy Forbes (R-VA) question, in which he asked quite simply: "What more do you need from us?" Forbes is known to be one of ASB's core Congressional supporters, and his potential voice of support for military platforms that would be requested by military brass would hold some serious weight.  Yet ASB is still such a new concept that there is a great deal of uncertainty of what is needed, as well as what a definitive concept will entail. It should be of no surprise that the answers to Congressman Forbes questions were answered with a high level of uncertainty. The phrase Air-Sea Battle exercises allow all the branches to look through a prism to see what future needs may be was uttered more than once.

The Army DOES Have a Role to Play in ASB 

While the primary focus of ASB is to integrate the capabilities  of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines into a layered network that will allow for enhanced cohesion during military operations, the army will likely a niche role in the concept.  Witnesses from the army spoke about exercises that have taken place  with the navy in which army apache  helicopters were positioned on navy carriers and used naval radar capabilities to track down small fast moving maritime targets in exercises.  While it seems likely that the marine corps is being counted on to bear the majority of "boots on the ground" responsibilities under the current ASB framework, the army will likely have an increased role to play as the concept develops further.

The Air-Sea Battle Concept IS NOT Based on Platform Procurement (...Yet) 
Strategy is not based on procurement 

Military witnesses stressed that platform procurement was not a requirement for ASB to be developed and integrated into the military lexicon.  There was, however, an emphasis by the branches on the need to maintain the F-35 joint fighter, the development of a new long-range strike bomber (LRSB), and the KC-46 refueling air tanker.  The first two platforms, especially, are of high importance.  One of the primary tenets of ASB is the need to counter potential threats by means of enhanced stealth capabilities.  If such capabilities are slow to come online, it could prevent ASB from reaching its full potential.

Air-Sea Battle COULD Involve Varying Levels of Preemptive Maneuvering and Strikes
The Primary Focus of Phase 0 in Air-Sea Battle is the attempt to shape the battle space

One witness stated that there could be scenarios in which the US military would need to rely on stealth capabilities in order to place assets inside a potential area of conflict in order to shape a potential battle space.  From the American perspective, this mindset is encouraging in that it shows a proactive mindset that may be favored  in circumstances in lieu of a reactive approach that the US military has had the luxury of undertaking in recent decades following the Cold War.

"Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted"
-Sun Tzu 
(More on Mr. Sun's country of origin later)

Air-Sea Battle WILL Rely Increasingly on the Dispersion of US Military Assets 
Air-Sea Battle requires rapid and tight coordination 
A2AD Ranges have expanded 
There is a need to build sustained operations 
One of the primary ASB was deemed necessary by the US military was that new military capabilities by potential enemies: cruise and ballistic missiles with enhanced range, quiet diesel submarines and stealth aircraft, and the uncertainty within the realms of cyber and space, could leave assets that were concentrated into limited areas vulnerable to attack.  Since the ASB concept requires not only "breakthrough" ability in terms of pushing through an enemies defense; but also a need to sustain control over choke points and vital areas within the conflict, the US has looked to diversify its military real estate  portfolio in recent years--in particular the Eastern and South Pacific. The following has taken place within the past 2 years.
* Hardening of bases in Guam
* Increased rotations or Marines and Air Force assets into Australia
*Refurbishing of World War II airfields in Tinian and Saipan
* Negotiations with the Maldives about a large scale naval presence on multiple locations within the country
* Negotiations with the Philippines regarding a resumption of an American presence
* Invitation from Palau to resume a US military presence

In addition, the US Air Force is currently splitting its 40 F-22 fighters into a highly elusive, four plane "Rapid Raptor Packages".  It also should be noted that the Marine Corps is planning to do the same with its F-35B joint fighters. With military assets spread among such a wide array of locations,  ASB development will be critical in order for join force communication and actions to maintain optimum levels.

Air-Sea Battle IS Directed Towards the People's Liberation Army 
Air-Sea Battle is not focused on a particular adversary or region but towards accessing area challenges 

China. The elephant (or perhaps more geographically accurate, the obese panda) in the room.  While the country was only mentioned once by name (and not at all by members of the military), the primary focus of ASB is undoubtedly focused on the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).  While there can be some focus on regional actors such as Iran and North Korea, an entire military concept is not being developed simply because these countries have some enhanced range on new ballistic missiles.  When speaking about ASB,   nearly all academics and analysts look to its potential strengths and pitfalls by measuring it against the capabilities of China.

There is virtually no conflict scenario in which the ideas of a developed Air-Sea Battle concept would not be of use against a conflict vs. the PLA in the East Asian region.  Although there are undoubtedly regions and maritime choke points in which ASB could be utilized, the necessity of such a complex and expensive undertaking of creating Air-Sea Battle  would not be necessary if the military did not believe that a clear threat existed, or would in relatively short time--As was the primary reason AirLand Battle was developed by the United States, which was to counter the Soviet military threat in Europe.

American Allies WILL BE a Major Part of the Air-Sea Battle Concept 
A US Marine General who was a witness to the hearing stated that "One of the most asymmetric advantages that the United States has is our allies". Although in very early stages, the United States has begun to reach out to its allies to inform them of how ASB is developing, and the respective role that they could choose to have.  One example of this is the sale of the F-35 to allied countries.  Once brought online, these countries will be implemented into the United States joint communication network.  There will likely be further moves made to implement allies into ASB in the areas of naval vessels, satellite communication, cyber security, and infantry.

While there is still a great deal of speculation of what ASB will become, there at least can be some understanding of what it is not--which is small thinking.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Northeast Project: What China's "Study" of Ancient History Says about Beijing's Strategy of Pursuing Territorial Claims

     Since  taking control of the country in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to solidify its claims on disputed territories (ie the "autonomous regions" of Xinjiang and Tibet) by claiming that such regions have been a part of China "since ancient times".  Additionally, regions that are not currently under the jurisdiction of the PRC (Taiwan, wide swaths of maritime areas in the East and South China Sea, and Okinawa) have been claimed by Chinese  government officials and scholars alike-- pointing to historical "knick-knacks" such as tribute payments, parched maps drawn over a thousand years ago by Chinese Imperial officials, and poems written by sailors as justification for Chinese claims over territory.

     Even though Chinese territorial claims that are based on  historical merit  have little or no value under the pretext of international law, such claims warrant attention due to the fact that these claims are being made by a state that has the world's second largest economy, as well as an increasingly assertive military.  The continuing "research" that is being done by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) with its   Northeast Project, is a look inside the mindset of Beijing's territorial strategy towards Korea, as well as its method of contorting history in order to help achieve multiple foreign and domestic policy objectives.

What is the Northeast Project? 
  According to Yoon Hwy-tak, a Professor of Chinese History in South Korea, the project was begun by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in 2002, the Northeast Project was an extension of the Ancient Civilization Research Center  was created to conduct studies in the Chinese provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, with the premise that such studies were to "research and organize the culture, society, and social system of the Chinese mythic era of the Five Mythical Emperors, and the origin and formation of the Chinese nation and its relation to ancient civilization." The primary purpose of the study, however, was to show that the ancient Korean Kingdom of Koguryo was in fact part of "China".  The most recent research that has been conducted by the project (as late as July of this year)  has been deemed "closed" by Beijing and the findings not released to the public.

What is the Korean Kingdom of Koguryo? 
     The Kingdom of Koguryo was the largest of the three kingdoms that divided Korea until 668 AD. The Kingdom was said to have been founded around 37 BCE in the Tongge River Basin of present day North Korea.  As shown by the image below, the Koguro Kingdom extended well into Manchuria, which is situated in modern day China.


In 2003, The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that on June 24th, the CCP journal Guangming Ribao stated that "Koguryo was an ancient nation established by a Chinese minority tribe",  a notion that was repeated by the PLA Foreign Minister on multiple occasions following the publication.  Later "findings" of the Northeast Project stated that the Korean Kingdoms that later followed the Koguryo: The Gija Chosun, Puyo, and Barhae--were also part of Chinese history and even stated that China's realm extended as far as Korea's Han River.

As noted by the image, the Han River lies deep within South Korea's borders, passing through Seoul.

Why does Beijing Rely so Heavily on "Historical Claims"? 

 The heavy reliance of  history for contemporary Chinese territorial claims serves a number of purposes for Beijing.  First, China's attempt to increasingly incorporate the Xia and Shang Dynasties into historical territorial claims is a savvy one due to the fact that neither has a clear beginning and end date, so therefore China's history is without a clear starting point,  so it is able to expand deeper into history without constraints .  Secondly, China uses its historical claims to serve a political purpose, which is to defend itself against a separate ethnic history developing within China among its multitude of minority ethnic groups.  The PRC considers China to be a multi-ethnic state, and therefore all ethnic groups that are or have been part of the current territory that comprises the PRC are "Chinese" and therefore all people of the ancient Korean empires should be considered "Chinese".  This rationale also extends to the ethnic groups within Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, Yunnan, and other provinces throughout China, as well as territories outside its current jurisdiction--allowing for  historical "discoveries" from Chinese historians to be used in justifying future PRC territorial claims.

What are China's Concern's Regarding North Korean Territory? Isn't North Korea China's Most Reliable Ally? 

Of the myriad territorial disputes that China is currently involved in, the PRC-DPRK border is an area that is most likely to directly involve China either politically, militarily, or both in the near future.  The 880 mile (1,416 KM) border that China shares with the DPRK is important to China for a number of reasons.

 Carla Freeman of John Hopkins University points out, "as a result of territorial losses in the 19th century, Chinese territory falls about 11 miles (17km) short of the sea, leaving China's Tuman Delta region landlocked."  Freeman also points out that a railway bridge between Russia and North Korea at the mouth of the river acts as an effective block to any shipping at all on the river.  As a result, China signed a thirty year lease with the DPRK for use of its port facilities in Chongjin.

China also has legitimate concerns about the stability of the current regime in the DPRK, and the fallout that could result in its collapse.  A Recent RAND Corporation study regarding potential scenarios following a DPRK collapse theorized that most outcomes would involve the PRC on at least some level.  In recent years the PLA has conducted exercises in which it has simulated the crossing of the Yalu river with the objective of rapidly securing territory inside the DPRK in the event of its collapse.  If China were to have its military cross over into North Korea, it is likely to justify the action by citing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed by China and North Korea in 1961.   It is entirely plausible that Beijing is looking to use the "findings" of the Northeast Project in order to justify any future occupation or annexation of Korean territory, by claiming that such territory has been an "inseparable part of China since ancient times".  Sound familiar?

Perhaps the issue of most concern to the leadership in Beijing is one of a domestic nature.  Chinese thinking about security has always linked the management of frontier affairs to its domestic security, and within the past 5 years, the PRC has placed the Yanbian autonomous prefecture on its watch list of regional security concerns as a "sensitive area".  The prefecture borders North Korea, and for centuries has been home for a sizable ethnically Korean population.  Much in the same way that  similar methods that have been used in provinces that have traditionally had the han Chinese ethnic group (the group that comprises 95% of the population of the PRC) in the minority, Yanbian has seen an influx of han migrants in recent years. The percentage of ethnic Koreans living in Yanbian has fallen from 60% in 1953 to 36% in 2000, and is expected to drop to 25% by 2015 in an effort to weaken Korean territorial claims.  In the event of a unified Korea, the issue of Yanbian belonging to Korea  would be one issue in which all Korean citizens could rally around---potentially a political nightmare for China to deal with. A number of nationalistic Koreans have called for the invalidation of the 1909 Gando Convention between Imperial Japan and the Qing Dynasty, in which Japan recognized China's claims to Jiandao, and Japan received railroad concessions in Northeast China.

The Gando Convention could also be a geo-political landmine for the PRC to negotiate, as the PRC has stated that other treaties signed during  the Qing Dynasty period are invalid (including the treaty of Shimonoseki, which granted Japan sovereignty over Taiwan), due to such treaties being signed by the Qing while under duress.

In conclusion, China's constant practice of revisionist history needs to be understood in its proper context by international actors if Beijing's actions are to be understood and countered.  Otherwise, Mongolia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Thailand could someday be considered a vital part of China.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When is Enough Enough? China's Increasingly Assertive Demands to the U.S. Warrant Attention

"Thus the enemy is established by deceit, moves for advantage, and changes through segmenting and reuniting" 
---Sun Tzu 

     In recent months, the leadership of the People's Republic of China has quietly  attempted to test the limits of the Obama Administration in terms of how far it is willing to go in aiding  President Xi Jinping's vision of a "New Type of Great Power Relationship".  While dialogue between global heavyweights such as China and the United States can beneficial if a mutual respect is given, actions speak louder than words.  Thus far in this modern chapter of the relationship, China has taken a pattern of increasing its military assertiveness in the East-Southeast Asian region as its military capabilities have modernized and expanded--thus challenging the long established status-quo of stability and economic prosperity  in the region, largely a result of the established (and for the most part welcomed) U.S. military presence in the region.  China has also used its rapid economic rise to pressure countries, including to a great extent the United States, to various economic and geo-political concessions that gives China a unique advantage when pursuing its strategic objectives.

     Some within the halls of Capitol Hill and academia subscribe to the notion that by embracing China now will result in a future China that can be "molded and crafted" into a benevolent state that adheres to Western values and democracy in the future.  While the future cannot be judged, the present actions of the PRC can. China has been of little or no help to American interests in either Asian or global affairs, or in the areas of a fair economic relationship between the two states. There has been no help by the PRC in the American interests of stopping Iran's or North Korea's nuclear programs.  In fact, it is widely accepted that the PRC has sold substantial quantities of arms to both countries.  China has also threatened to disrupt the stability of the East Asian region, with claims of territorial sovereignty of the Japanese controlled Senkaku Islands, as well as the Philippine-administered Mischief Reef.  The idea of the Western perception of human rights penetrating the PRC has also been an abject failure.  The PRC continues to rule the Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Regions with an iron fist: Destroying thousand-year old towns, forced relocation of families, and even monetary bonuses given to newly-married couples who are of the  Han-minority mixed race status.  As King Edward "the Longshanks" stated in the movie Braveheart, "If we can't get them out, we'll breed them out."

Warning sign placed by CCP government in Tibet 

Now China wants more.

     According to multiple reports, China feels assertive enough under its new leadership, led by President Xi Jinping, to make some rather bold requests to the U.S. regarding current trade restrictions that are currently in place.  Among the alleged requests:

---The lifting of all sanctions imposed by Congress after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre

---The removal of limits of commercial satellite cooperation and exports, unfettered access of integrated circuit technology, and greater access to U.S. aerospace and electronics technology.

--Requests that the State Department's arms export control list, be downgraded and administered by the trade-oriented Commerce Department.  This change would allow the export of sensitive defense technology to China.

The last request is perhaps the most troubling.  The PRC has long had a standing policy of non-interference of other countries internal affairs. Beijing often points to this policy when asked about it's lack of action taken towards well-documented human right abuses in areas such as the Sudan and Syria.  Yet, Chinese leadership feels confident enough to breach this protocol and "request" that the United States make major changes in its federal government's weapons-proliferation regulation system.

There's more

Beijing has also asked the Obama administration to allow for China's Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to be named a "validated end-user", which would permit easier exports of sensitive defense-related aircraft technology. This controversy has previously arisen within the halls of Congress, as in 2011 Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) stated the concerns of many within the U.S. lawmaking body about the joint venture between the American company General Electric and Chinese state owned aircraft company AVIC, in which the technology that was being used to help AVIC develop avionics for its aspiring domestically produced jumbo airliner could easily be converted for military use.   If restrictions were lifted, such future joint ventures would be less likely to come under the jurisdiction of Congress, and therefore be permitted unfettered.  It is not a secret that most (if not all) major Chinese corporations have a strong but often silent hands in the form of Communist Party officials who have access to the latest technological advancements that these companies acquire and produce.  Increased access to American companies will allow for such officials to gain easier access to sensitive technology that the People's Liberation Army so greatly covets.

Will this...........................

Lead to this?

It is not yet known which, if any of the demands made by the PRC will be accepted by the current administration.  One hopes, however, that with the current threat of a government shutdown and debt ceiling issues taking most of the attention and headlines out of Washington, that the PRC requests will set off alarm bells before such an arrangement can be quietly agreed upon.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Link: Why a Free Taiwan is Vital to Japanese National Security (Revised Edition)

     All too often when policymakers in Washington think about the importance of Taiwan in regards to American interests in the East Asian region, it is done with a relatively narrow point of view.  What this means is that  often when policy is discussed regarding Taiwan, there is a  tendency to focus only on areas  which have direct  tangible for American interests: The American  trade and military  relationship with Taiwan and how these relationships effect the American-China relationship are usually the  primary focal points within Washington.  Yet the argument could be made that Taiwan's importance to other American allies is nearly as important as the US-Taiwan relationship itself. Which brings us to the state of Japan: America's closest ally in the Asian Pacific.  To understand why Taiwan's status should be of paramount importance to American interests, this article will show why a free Taiwan is so vital for not only Japan's national security interests, but for East Asian regional stability, and American interests as well.

It's All About Location 
Taiwan is located in a strategically important location within the Pacific Ocean.  In any direction from Taiwan, there are vital sea lanes that a resource-poor Japan relies upon for its trade and energy resources.  Two of these primary trade arteries, The Taiwan Strait, and the Luzon Strait, are shown below.

   Both the Taiwan and Luzon Straits are shipping lanes in which most Japanese imports that originate from the Persian Gulf and Central Asia are shipped through en route to ports in Japan. If Taiwan were to lose its sovereignty and fall under PRC jurisdiction, China could use its naval power to cut-off these sea lines of communication that are vital to Japan's means of acquiring goods and energy.  The mere threat of doing so could force Japanese concessions in areas that China currently does not have the leverage to enforce to the degree that it would like (ie. Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial disputes).  There would also be security concerns for Japan and the United States, which will be covered later.


      A Chinese-controlled Taiwan would also allow the Chinese Navy (PLAN)   greater access to the South China Sea, an area in which nearly 60 percent of Japan's energy supplies are shipped.  Additionally, nearly one third of all global trade passes through the South China Sea maritime shipping lanes.  Any disruption of these trade routes by either blockade or conflict could not only cripple the Japanese economy, but send  shock waves through the global economic system that would leave no country untouched in its wake. China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea makes the scenario of a Chinese-controlled Taiwan even more precarious for Japan's security interests. Former Japanese diplomat Hisahiko Okazaki stated in 2003 that
"Occupation of Taiwan means control of the northern entrance of the South China Sea.  Then, the large part of the South China Sea would become a kind of China's inner water. If China claims exclusive jurisdictions there, in case of emergency, the only safe seaplane for Japan in Asia will be the passage through the Lomboc Strait in Indonesia through the east coast of the Philippines."

Too Close for Comfort 
From the Japanese perspective, Chinese control of Taiwan would cause  immediate concern, as the Senkaku Islands would see the  already small geographic buffer between the two countries all but erased. Currently the islands are located 200 nautical miles from China, but if China were to control Taiwan, that distance would be nearly halved to 120 nautical miles.  Richard Fisher, Senior Fellow of Asian Military Affairs for the International Assessment and Strategy Center, states that "with forces on Taiwan the PLA can better take control of the Senkakus and Sakashima islands, which then give defensive depth to their forces on Taiwan."  Fisher also states that in the long term, the island of Okinawa could be a future target of Chinese territorial ambition, stating "Chinese possession of any of the Ryukyu chain will strengthen its claim to Okinawa.  We can be sure that China is helping to stoke Okinawan independence sentiment.  You can be assured that the PLA would like to control Okinawa as well." Fisher also says of Taiwan's importance to Japan: "Taiwan bisects Japan's southern strategic horizon.  If Taiwan is under PRC control then Japan's sea lines of communication are effectively cut.  Aircraft and missiles on Taiwan can reach thousands of kilometers into the Pacific to interdict Japanese commerce."

The Ryukyu island chain is part of the "First Island Chain" that the PLAN must negotiate through in order to move into the open waters of the Pacific.

Taiwan's Importance to the PLAN's Maneuvering & the Aftermath of PRC- Controlled Taiwan 

China's navy currently has a number of constraints it must overcome in order to move its vessels into the open water of the Pacific (This author previously  compared these restraints to a Pacific version of the Maginot Line).  A Chinese annexation of Taiwan would greatly relieve these constraints on a number of levels. Currently, the lack of deep waters on its coast remains an achilles heel of the PLAN, as described by Okazaki:
 "Chinese submarines have to sail on the surface for a considerable distance and dive near the Ryukyu Archipelagoes in order to operate in the Pacific. As a result, Chinese submarines are presently not a serious threat. In contrast, Taiwan's east coast is directly faced with the deepest sea in the Pacific. If China controlled Taiwan, China could utilize Taiwanese ports for submarines to operate freely throughout the Western Pacific."  

PLAN submarine ports in Eastern Taiwan could critically hinder the advanced submarine surveillance capabilities of the Japanese Defense Forces (JDF) if it lost the capability to track PLAN submarines once they left port, as they would not have to traverse through JDF-monitored maritime space near the Ryukyu Island Chain.

If Taiwan were to fall under Chinese control, China could then move on to redirecting its military capabilities towards territorial claims in the Pacific region.  Its increasingly advanced aircraft, naval vessels could be turned towards pressing its claims in the East and South China Sea.  China has been in negotiations with Russia for over 5 years in an attempt to secure a sizable order of Sukhoi-35 fighter jets. If a sale is completed, these aircraft have extended fuel tanks which would allow for increased periods of time that the PLAAF would have in patrolling the skies over the Senkaku islands.  The ability for the PLAAF to take off from airfields in Taiwan (in lieu of bases in Southeast China)  would greatly increase the patrol times of the aircraft as well.  Such a move would force Japan and/or the United States to increase their respective patrols of the skies, thus increasing the possibility of conflict, or allowing the PLAAF to patrol over the area unimpeded.  Additionally, the PLA 2nd Artillery Corps could focus its nearly 1,600 ballistic missiles based in Eastern China towards new adversaries, with Japan being a likely target. The PLAN would also have the ability to extend its reach directly towards the American military hubs in the region: Guam and Hawaii--unimpeded. The "boxing in" of the PLAN would be no more.

Reason for Optimism? 
There are experts, however, who believe that such a scenario is highly unlikely, if not impossible under current conditions for both military and political reasons.  Ian Easton, a Research Fellow at Project 2049 Institute, believes that "for a number of reasons, the PLAN will not be able to compete with us and our allies for at least 20 years." He also states that Japan has a tremendous ASW, mine sweeping, and air defense capability--and the 7th Fleet relies on the JMSDF to a great degree in these areas.  For its part, Taiwan is rapidly developing and fielding the means to destroy any PLAN surface operation within some 100-200 nm of her coastline with land, air, and sea launched anti-ship missiles.  (The) PLAN is extremely vulnerable to Taiwan's missiles---and USN submarines and F-18s.  The more aircraft carriers China builds, the more vulnerable it will be."

Regarding the much-publicized 1,600 missiles that China's 2nd Artillery Corps has aimed in the direction of Taiwan, Easton states that Taiwan appears to be developing and implementing the capabilities to counter what is thought by many to be Taiwan's most serious military threat. "These are a real threat," he states, "but one that Taiwan is well positioned to counter through a combination of passive air base hardening and resiliency measures, active BMD interceptors (PAC-3 and TK-3), and conventional strike (and cyber) attacks on PLA launch units and command nodes. Japan and the U.S. are less well prepared to defend against Chinese missiles, and have much to learn from Taiwan."   

Easton is also confident that the United States and Japan have little to fear of such a scenario because "that scenario is absolutely impossible." He goes on to say that  Taiwan, as a democracy, will not surrender on its territorial sovereignty, no matter how much money it is able to make through sweet-heart trade deals with the PRC. Even President Ma, Taiwan's most "China-friendly" leader in history, is rock-solid on this issue. He doesn't even acknowledge the legitimacy of the CCP and doesn't recognize the PRC as a "real" country. In that sense, he's a lot tougher diplomatically than we are." 

The Big Picture 
Finally, what would the long-term ramifications be for Japan and the region if such a scenario were to unfold? First, it would likely mean a regional arms race, a diminished role for the United States in the region, states increasingly accommodating an assertive PRC, and a new order in the Pacific region.  Mr. Fisher offers two points on this scenario.

On an imminent regional arms race:A free Taiwan plus the continued engagement of the Americans allow Japan the luxury of not having to rearm completely.  Japan has the luxury of stressing those forces most needed to assist US military operations only for the defense of Japan.  A loss of Taiwan will mean that such an era is over for Japan, it will have to build a full nuclear deterrent, which will spur ROK, Australia and Vietnam to follow suit."

On the aftermath of a Chinese-controlled Taiwan:  "At this point an unfree Taiwan becomes not just a liability for Japan but also for the US as well.  An Asia in which most states have daggers and nuclear daggers drawn on most of their neighbors is a recipe for incalculable instability, and a grand loss of the benefits of our vast commercial relationship with Asia.  In a post free Taiwan era, the US security network in Asia will be based not on an extended US nuclear deterrent, but upon our willingness to proliferate, give nuke weapon tech to our closest friends, which would make inevitable the very instabilities for our children that our predecessors prevented from befalling our generation."

For Japan and the United States alike, a Chinese-controlled Taiwan could aid China in its goal of reshaping the regional maritime order that has been a bedrock of stability for not only the economic development of the region, but for the overall stability of it as well.  Oftentimes, the interests of a state and one or more of its allies  will directly intersect, creating an scenario  in which a mutual interest can be found.  In the case of a Taiwan free from PRC control, Japan and the United States should not find it hard to see that there is a mutual interest in maintaining the current order in the Pacific.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Document Number 9": The Secret Chinese Government Memo and why it matters

     For decades there has been a strong voice among some Washington policymakers that are of the school of thought that believes if the United States approaches its relationship with China in a way that does not intend  to shake the current political and social status quo within that country, that China would inevitably find itself embracing the  lure of Western democracy, and the capitalist economic system and basic tenets of social freedoms that come with it.  While the notion is admirable in its intentions, the reality is that the leadership of  Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees these same ideals as threats to its grip on power, and has given the notion of interacting with China with "kid gloves" perhaps a mortal blow in the form of Document Number 9  .

   Before focusing on the mentioned document, a quick reflection back into recent Chinese history.   Former Chinese President Deng Xiaoping stated that it was wise to "hide your strength and bide your time".  During his time as leader of the PRC (which lasted in various forms from 1976 to 1989), China was just waking up from a Mao-induced economic coma that lasted nearly thirty years.  Additionally,  Chinese society was in tatters from the Cultural Revolution that wasted a decade of potential economic growth, as well as sorely needed economic and society building that was essential for stabilizing the country.  Deng realized this and toned town China's hostile tone towards Western states in general, as well as laying the foundation that was soon to become an economic boom within China.  The idea seemed to be for China to be patient, adopt specific aspects from the West that were needed in order to revitalize China, and to lie dormant until China had the strength politically, economically, and militarily to pursue its goals of once again placing China atop the global pecking order of the international system.  Success was to be measured in decades; not in election cycles.  China could afford to be patient, as there was no electorate to answer to, and no opposition party to fear.

Many countries, including the United States, saw the potential for a consumer market of one billion people, and  a cheap labor force in which to manufacture their goods.  For many countries, the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was naively believed by many in the West that if China were to "become exposed" to Western capitalism, as well as its liberal social values that coincide with it, it would eventually itself liberalize and happily join hands and walk into the sunset with the rest of the liberal international order.  This mindset was fraught with problems with the outset.  It did not take into account that a liberalization would likely spell the end of one party rule in China, that China was not one of the states who helped form the new international order following World War II and did not want to be subject to its restraints, and that many within Chinese society feel that their country was shamed by Western encroachment in the past century, and there are scores that have yet to be settled properly.

Yet Beijing was content to play the Western game as long as it needed to.  During this patient phase, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was of grave concern to the CCP leadership, as it saw its future if it did not take steps to ensure its own security within China.  Even today, mandatory classes are given to CCP members about the lessons from the downfall of the Soviet Union--and how they can be avoided. From the portions of Document Number 9 that were released, it appears that Xi Jinping has taken these lessons to heart, and the West should take note, as perhaps Beijing feels that its long period of slumber is now over.

Portions of the document, obtained by the New York Times, appears to run counter to Xi Jinping's statements about a desire to come to an agreement with the United States on a new "Great Power" Consensus, and instead views many aspects of Western society as threats to the Communist Party in China.

"Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.
These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past."

     While Xi has used Maoist themes in a number of his speeches and decrees since coming to power, it has been widely assumed that it was done in order to placate the leftist factions within the CCP in order to consolidate his power base, as well as an attempt to appease supporters of the ousted Bo Xilai, the once popular Central politburo member now on trial for corruption.  Document Number 9 seemingly shows that the hope of liberalizing China through means of engagement and liberal economics will not work, and that the CCP  will continue to play by their own rules.  Potential American concessions to China in the areas of human rights, economics, Taiwan, and other issues should not be given simply because there has been little or no reciprocation from China regarding American interests elsewhere in the world.  Memo Number 9 makes clear that Western values and norms are not welcome in the eyes of the CCP in China.  The era of American concessions to China in the hope that liberalization would occur should cease.  The ruling party appears to feel confident enough in its abilities to rise from its slumber. It will take an equally strong resolve from the United States to maintain its place of supremacy globally, and no amount of goodwill shipped from Washington to Beijing will alter the CCP's stance of feeling threatened by Western liberal values. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Taiwan and China take yet another step towards economic integration

A short snippet taken from April's edition of Monocle magazine.

"China and Taiwan might be diplomatic adversaries but their economies have never been more tightly intertwined.  Businesses and investors on both sides of the strait can now exchange Chinese renminbi and Taiwanese dollars without having to convert to US dollars first. It's part of a gradual warming of economic ties with China that Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, has pursued since taking office in 2008.  Taipei's hope is that it will become a regional financial centre; the more likely scenario is that Taiwan adds to renminbi trading, raising the Chinese currency's profile overseas (emph. added), says Frances Cheung, senior markets analyst at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong."

Unfortunately, Mr. Cheung is probably right with his analysis.  Until Taiwan makes the difficult decision to deregulate its banking and energy sectors, moves such as the one described above will simply enhance the international perception that  Taiwan is moving ever closer towards near-total  economic dependency on China.