Third Culture Queen vol. 20
Superpower Struggles | American Empire, and China's Belt and Road
|Kyle Borland||Oct 7, 2019|
US trade officials said the tariffs would be set at a 10% rate on aircraft and 25% on agricultural and other items.
They have published a list of all the items that will be subject to the tariffs, most of which will apply to imports from France, Germany, Spain and the UK.
Meanwhile, the two sides are waiting for the WTO to decide on what tariffs the EU can impose against the US in retaliation for US state aid given to Boeing. That ruling is expected next year.
The European Commission, which has proposed tariffs on $20bn (£15bn) of US goods, said it hopes to reach a settlement.
How did this row start?
The US first filed the case in 2004, arguing that cheap European loans for Airbus amounted to illegal state subsidies.
The WTO decided in favour of the US, which subsequently complained that the EU and certain member countries were not in compliance with the decision, prompting years of further wrangling.
The US had sought to impose tariffs on about $11bn in goods. Though the WTO cut that figure to $7.5bn, Wednesday's decision still marks the largest penalty of its kind in the organisation's history.
Related: Alabama Hit by Trump’s Global Trade War (Bloomberg)
Don’t miss the next Superpower Struggles!
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasised that Canada "is a solid ally" and can offer "a reliable supply" of rare earth minerals, many of which currently "come from China.” It is in Canada's interest, Trudeau said, "to ensure that we have reliable supplies of these important minerals for technologies and it is a conversation that our government is leading on."
The remarks followed a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper that Canada and the United States are drafting plans to reduce their mutual dependance on China for rare earth minerals such as lithium, uranium, cesium and cobalt.
Related: Nine countries join U.S. strategic minerals initiative in bid to cut reliance on China (Japan Times)
Related: Trump considers delisting Chinese firms from U.S. markets (Reuters)
Related: U.S. ban on Chinese investments would take trade war to a new level (Axios)
Trillions of dollars worth of untapped oil, natural gas and other resources could be uncovered as the ice melts. The nations that make up the Arctic Council—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the U.S.—are all eyeing the opportunities.
But China—which refers to itself as a "near-Arctic state"—also wants a piece of the action, despite not being an Arctic nation.
Last year, China announced its intention to develop a "Polar Silk Road" route through the region, constructing infrastructure and opening new shipping lanes through the warming waters.
On Wednesday, Trump said that the U.S. will not tolerate Arctic interference from non-Arctic nations. In an apparent warning to China, the president said the region must be "free from external intrusion, interference, and coercion."
Related: Grand Strategy in the Age of Climate Change (Real Clear Defense)
First, it must stop exports of police gear to Hong Kong. Protesters have asked for an independent investigation into the credible claims that the Hong Kong police have used excessive force. Until the report of such an investigation is released, the United States should stop all exports of U.S. security, police, or surveillance equipment to Hong Kong.
Second, it should provide temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure to Hong Kong residents. As the country did following Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen, the United States should protect Hong Kong residents involved in protests and who travel to the United States until they are confident that they will not be punished for exercising the right to peaceful assembly.
The current situation must be resolved peacefully through dialogue. And China needs to know that the United States has options if it resorts to force in Hong Kong.
The United States should work with its partners in multilateral forums such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization to make clear that it expects China to live up to its commitments to Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms. Although the United States’ specific response would depend on the situation on the ground, if China uses force in Hong Kong, Washington should consider freezing the assets of Chinese state security and other officials and companies complicit in committing violence against protesters, as well as imposing targeted sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals who do business in Hong Kong. These steps can create real costs for those promoting violence and limit the impact on U.S. and allied economies.
Iranian Hackers Targeted Trump’s Re-election Campaign (New York Times)
News that Mr. Trump’s campaign was an Iranian target came just hours after Microsoft said in a report that hackers, with apparent backing from Iran’s government, had made more than 2,700 attempts to identify the email accounts of current and former United States government officials, journalists covering political campaigns and accounts associated with a presidential campaign.
Iran’s targeting of Mr. Trump is part of a much broader Iranian campaign, according to the Microsoft report, which found that hackers had tried to attack 241 accounts, using fairly unsophisticated means. The hackers appeared to have used information available about their victims online to discover their passwords. It was unclear what information they stole.
For weeks, officials from the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have said they are particularly concerned about Iranian-backed attacks. Their worries stemmed from rising tensions over new sanctions on Iran and nascent Iranian activity in the 2018 midterm elections.
While the officials said they believed that all the American presidential candidates were likely targets, President Trump’s campaign has long been considered a prime target.
Related: New Russia sanctions show U.S. won't tolerate election meddling (Axios)
Related: IRGC chief says Iran has become invincible in West Asia (Tehran Times)
Related: U.S. Treasury Official Who Ramped Up Sanctions on Iran Announces Resignation (Haaretz)
Related: Iran's Rouhani says French plan for talks broadly is acceptable (Reuters)
Last year Amazon spent over $22 billion company-wide on R&D. That’s almost ten times more than longtime government contractor Boeing, which allocated just over $3 billion to research and nearly twenty times more than Lockheed Martin. A recent paper from the Council on Foreign Relations partially attributes this wide discrepancy in spending to the long-winded procurement systems that the government uses to obtain software development contracts.
To secure a contractor, the relevant bureau must create a specified set of requirements, take bids, select contractors, and then execute programs so that they meet the original set of needs. The CFR report estimates that it can take two years to secure a contract and then additional time to test, approve, and prototype work. When the bureau finally uses the finished product, it may no longer match what the government needs, particularly for fast-moving fields and industries like software development.
As tech innovates, the federal government is trying to as well. In 2015, the U.S. government funded less than half of all basic research in the country for the first time since World War II. That same year the Department of Defense started testing out the Defense Innovation Unit to help streamline procurement processes in major tech hubs like Austin, Boston, and Silicon Valley.
Related: About half of the world's militaries are now flying drones (Axios)
Related: Bell unshrouds Invictus, its answer for the US Army’s future attack recon aircraft (Defense One)
Related: Why we need a more modern and ready military, not a larger one (Brookings)
Rising Threat in the West From Qaeda Branch in Syria (New York Times)
The new Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, emerged in early 2018 after several factions broke away from a larger affiliate in Syria. It is the successor to the Khorasan Group, a small but dangerous organization of hardened senior Qaeda operatives that Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s leader, sent to Syria to plot attacks against the West.
The Khorasan Group was effectively wiped out by a series of American airstrikes a few years ago. But with as many as 2,000 fighters, including seasoned leaders from Jordan and Egypt, the successor Hurras al-Din group is much larger and is operating in areas where Russian air defenses largely shield them from American airstrikes and the persistent stare of American surveillance planes. Moscow dispatched military aid and advisers to Syria in late 2015 to support the beleaguered government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Hurras al-Din is considered so dangerous that the Pentagon in at least one instance took the unusual step of using a special hotline with Russian commanders in Syria to allow the American military to conduct uncontested airstrikes against Qaeda leaders and training camps in Aleppo and Idlib provinces in June and August. Those were rare attacks west of the unofficial dividing line between American forces to the east of the Euphrates River, and Russian and Syrian government troops west of the river.
“Al Qaeda has been strategic and patient over the past several years,” Nathan A. Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said last month about the terrorist group and its affiliates. “It let ISIS absorb the brunt of the world’s counterterrorism efforts while patiently reconstituting itself.”
The Pentagon publicly does not distinguish between Hurras al-Din and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, calling them both Al Qaeda in Syria, but American analysts privately say Hurras al-Din poses the larger threat to the West and are the militants being targeted.
Related: Officials Concerned over Possible Turkish Action in Syria (WSJ)
Related: U.S. Military Again Strikes ISIS in Southern Libya (New York Times)
The Joint Chiefs’ Power Surge (US News)
What had previously been two cohorts of defense professionals – military and civilian – designed to approach problems differently but ultimately to work together has become an imbalance of power, many current and former officials say. Uniformed members of the military serving on the Joint Staff under its outgoing chairman, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, have in recent years sought and won more influence over the decisions that govern how their troops fight and die in foreign war zones. A perception continues to grow among the civilian staffers within the offices of the defense secretary – the ultimate authority on military matters – that they have become ostracized from the critical work that leads to the decisions top leaders up to the president ultimately make, fundamentally undermining the concept of civilian control of the military.
At the center of the concern is a specially created position known as the "global force integrator" – an official meant to be the ultimate authority on identifying where U.S. military resources, including the troops themselves, are needed most and who makes the final recommendation on where to dispatch them. Congress in 2016 quietly bestowed the role upon the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in legislation that allows the top officer to serve as the principal adjudicator among military planners on threats the U.S. faces and how it should respond. It's a role Dunford has considered essential and sought for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The chairman's camp says the new responsibilities have "transformed" the role of the nation's top military officer. They represent a subtle but dramatic shift turning the position that was originally designed to be the "principal military adviser to the president" into the principal official considering global tradeoffs, broadening the scope of advice the chairman was tasked with providing.
Most of those familiar with the inner workings of Pentagon decision-making in the 21st century agree about the need for a position dedicated to understanding existing and future threats to the U.S., broader themes like great power competition with China and Russia, and the complex work of determining how to allocate limited assets. But many question whether that role should be held by military officers.
Related: Trump’s New Joint Chiefs Chair Is A Savvy Political Operator (DefenseOne)
The Untold Story of How George W Bush Lost China (Foreign Policy)
The China shock – which refers to the decimation of manufacturing companies in a number of U.S. blue-collar communities that were disproportionately affected by Chinese imports – although not recognized by economists as a distinctive event until years later, spurred political sentiment especially among working-class Americans that their country’s trading partners had taken it for a ride—a view that Donald Trump exploited in his presidential campaign with his claim that China had committed “rape” of the U.S. economy. And Beijing’s alleged maltreatment of U.S. companies—which has become much more intense under Xi Jinping, China’s supreme leader since 2012—was the main basis for the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods in 2018.
Looking back at the Bush administration’s handling of these problems, it is reasonable to wonder why a more forceful approach wasn’t taken; the U.S. response can be fairly described as sluggish. Several reasons emerge from a granular look at the process. Among the most important is persistent optimism in Washington that China would continue to shed the vestiges of Maoism and open its markets. Also playing a part were fears of a U.S.-China economic rupture and what that would mean for the United States and its allies.
But perhaps most crucial of all was the outbreak of the global financial crisis, which brought glaring defects in the U.S. model to the fore and stymied efforts to modify China’s policies. It is a cruel historical irony that Paulson, the kingpin of the Bush administration’s efforts to change Chinese policy, stood at the nexus of the financial collapse that fatally undermined them.
Meanwhile, at the IMF, a battle over China’s currency policy was nearing a climax behind the scenes. The IMF staff was putting the finishing touches on a report that would have sharply rebuked China in the eyes of the international community by calling the renminbi “fundamentally misaligned” and calling for the fund’s top management to initiate special consultations with Beijing. Paulson and other Treasury officials were pressing hard, over vehement Chinese objections, for the report to be published and brought to the monetary fund’s executive board. A showdown loomed when a board meeting was scheduled for Sept. 22, 2008—which at the time no one knew would come exactly one week after the most catastrophic financial episode in generations.
The board meeting was never held. The staff report remained buried in the fund’s files until I received a copy and brought it to light years later. Indeed, the U.S. Treasury lost interest in prodding the IMF to denounce China’s currency policy. On Sept. 15, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt; the following day, the giant insurer AIG required an emergency $85 billion loan from the Fed to avoid Lehman’s fate. The staggeringly large financial gyrations that ensued for months thereafter shifted the balance of power again away from the United States and toward China—this time seismically, by several orders of magnitude greater than anything that had come earlier in the crisis.
Related: As Went the British, So Will Go America’s Empire (American Conservative)
The U.S. Navy Isn’t Ready to Take On Iran (Foreign Policy)
As a result, U.S. aircraft carriers are no longer immune from risk when entering waters within range of enemy forces.
More serious still is the deployment of Russian and Chinese area denial systems, like the so-called carrier killer DF-21 antiship missile developed in the last decade by China. Its range of over 1,000 miles far outstrips the range of any warplane on U.S. flight decks today. Sailing a U.S. carrier strike force through the Taiwan Strait these days—in a show of support for pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, for instance—would risk catastrophe.
Iran does not yet possess anything as sophisticated as China’s DF-21. However, its domestically produced Noor antiship missile (itself a reverse-engineered rip-off of an earlier Chinese cruise missile) is dangerous at over 100 miles. In 2016, the USS Mason, a destroyer ship, discovered as much when it was targeted by several Noor missiles apparently fired by Iran’s Houthi rebel allies in Yemen. The combination of these missiles and Iran’s fleet of fast and cheap patrol boats has been enough to keep the USS Lincoln out of the Persian Gulf as tensions between Iran and the United States increased this summer.
This is an important moment for military strategists. Even against what the U.S. military regards as a second-tier power like Iran, Washington’s options are severely limited. As a result, as the Trump administration ponders what to do in Iran, President Donald Trump’s options will be limited, likely confined to surface warships and submarines capable of launching long-range cruise missiles, warplanes based in politically sensitive and unreliable Middle Eastern countries, or strategic bombers such as the B-52 and B-2s based half a world away. Naval air power, which since World War II has been the main weapon in the U.S. arsenal in such scenarios, is quite nearly irrelevant.
Related: US Marine Corps ‘must adapt to long-term China threat’ (SCMP)
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, a series of U.S. presidents were misled by wishful thinking and strategic naiveté about the long-term ambitions of Russian leaders, who now threaten the American homeland. Three fallacies stand out.
First, the death of Soviet communism was not synonymous with the end of Russian imperialism. Leninism was simply the 20th century veneer for Russia’s expansionism. In previous centuries, Russia’s rulers had deployed Christian Orthodoxy and pan-Slavdom to conquer their neighbors and claim a global role, and they would invent new justifications in the 21st century.
Second, the surrender of Moscow’s colonies, such as Ukraine and Georgia, happened at a time of weakness from which the Kremlin would sooner or later recover. Vladimir Putin became the embodiment of a resurgent Russia determined to regain its global stature and lost territories.
And third, an imperialist Russian government cannot be a genuine partner for Washington; rather, it is a constant adversary intent on weakening America’s international influence. According to Russia’s military doctrine, NATO led by the U.S. remains Russia’s main enemy on the global stage.
China’s Belt and Road
70 years of communist China (Axios)
What to watch: The stage-managed parade will involve some 300,000 participants and an exhibition of military might, including 15,000 soldiers, 160 aircraft, and weapons that have never before been displayed publicly.
Those weapons likely include a new ICBM, "Dongfeng-41," that could reach the U.S., along with two new types of drone, a new lightweight tank, and an updated long-range bomber, per the Washington Post's Anna Fifield.
This year's ceremony will carry extra significance, Fifield notes: the Soviet Union collapsed a year before its 70th birthday.
Flashback: “National Day commemorates Oct. 1, 1949, when Mao appeared on the same balcony on the Gate of Heavenly Peace that Mr. Xi will on Tuesday and proclaimed the formation of the People’s Republic of China,” per the NYT.
Relevant: Here's What We Saw At China’s Gigantic Military Parade (Jalopnik)
For Mr. Xi, it was his second military parade in four years, something no party leader since Mao had attempted to stage. During his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Xi repeated a famous phrase attributed to Mao — “The Chinese people have stood up.” But he took it one step further, saying, “There is no force that can shake the status of this great nation. No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead.”
Though the main audience for the party’s national anniversary military parades is Chinese citizens, the event does send a significant signal to the outside world, said Cheng Xiaohe, a professor and deputy director of the Center for China’s International Strategic Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. A central message, he said, is: “If China has to engage in war, China is prepared. China is not afraid to fight a war against anyone who dares to challenge China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The proud unveiling at the parade of the Dongfeng-41, China’s latest nuclear-ready intercontinental ballistic missile, underscored the point.
Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of Global Times, a nationalistic state-run newspaper, distilled his swelling pride at the martial showcase into a pair of tweets on Tuesday about what he called the “legendary DF41.”
Related: Beijing’s soft power deficit (Arab News)
China’s Path Forward Is Getting Bumpy (The Atlantic)
According to Nargis Kassenova, a Central Asia expert at Harvard who focuses on China’s role in the region, this might prevent Khorgos from delivering as advertised. “Khorgos is not a game changer and might never become one, despite genuine efforts by both the Chinese and Kazakh sides,” she told me.
These concerns may be part of a broader pattern. At the second annual Belt and Road Forum, in April, the Chinese leader Xi Jinping signaled that his government would move to tighten oversight of the opaque network of infrastructure projects that makes up BRI and discussed taking on more high-quality and sustainable deals, saying that Beijing had “zero tolerance” for corruption. This came on the heels of several instances that have sullied the initiative’s brand. The $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been scaled back amid Pakistan’s increasing debt problems, while a major port deal in Myanmar was slimmed down from roughly $7 billion to $1.3 billion. A port in Sri Lanka garnered global headlines after the government couldn’t repay its loans and granted a state-owned Chinese company a 99-year lease on the port as a form of debt relief. Elsewhere, projects have been tarnished by corruption: The new Malaysian government renegotiated a major rail project at a significantly reduced cost and canceled $3 billion worth of plans to build new pipelines following a graft scandal. The Maldives is seeking debt forgiveness following corruption allegations connected to Belt and Road projects green-lit by its previous government.
These scandals come as a slowing Chinese economy could lead to a more cautious approach to investment in the future. According to Cainey, from Chatham House, Beijing is still fine-tuning BRI and trying to learn from a spree of large-scale projects in countries with poor governance and weak rule of law.
Related: Is China Heading for Crisis? (New York Times)
Related: Who Wins In China’s Great Central Asia Spending Spree? (LobeLog)
Related: Without Democracy, China Will Rise No Farther (Foreign Affairs)
Three of the envoys said the contingent of Chinese military personnel in Hong Kong had more than doubled in size since the protests began. They estimated the number of military personnel is now between 10,000 and 12,000, up from 3,000 to 5,000 in the months before the reinforcement.
As a result, the envoys believe, China has now assembled its largest-ever active force of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops and other anti-riot personnel and equipment in Hong Kong.
Significantly, five of the diplomats say, the build-up includes elements of the People’s Armed Police (PAP), a mainland paramilitary anti-riot and internal security force under a separate command from the PLA. While Reuters was unable to determine the size of the PAP contingent, envoys say the bulk of the troops in Hong Kong are from the PLA.
PAP forces would be likely to spearhead any crackdown if Beijing decides to intervene, according to foreign envoys and security analysts. These paramilitary troops are specially trained in non-lethal tactics and methods of riot suppression and crowd control.
The PAP is a key element in Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s drive to reinforce the ruling Communist Party's control over the nation of 1.4 billion people while building a potent military that can supplant the United States as Asia’s dominant power. The PAP has up to one million troops, according to an April research paper from the U.S.’s National Defense University - about half the size of China’s standing military. The paramilitary’s primary duty is to defend against potential enemies within - countering domestic upheaval and protecting top leaders. In recent years, it has contained unrest in Xinjiang and Tibet. Elements of this force are also trained for counter-terrorism, securing key infrastructure, disaster relief and international peacekeeping.
Protesters are planning to march again on Tuesday despite a police ban, raising fears of more violent confrontations that could embarrass Chinese President Xi Jinping as his ruling Communist Party marks 70 years since taking power on Tuesday. Posters are calling for October 1 to be marked as "A Day of Grief."
Protesters, many clad in black with umbrellas and carrying pro-democracy posters and foreign flags, sang songs and chanted "Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom." Some defaced, tore down and burned National Day congratulatory signs, setting off a huge blaze on the street. Others sprayed graffiti along walls, and smashed windows and lobbed gasoline bombs at subway exits.
The demonstration was part of global "anti-totalitarianism" rallies planned in over 60 cities worldwide to denounce "Chinese tyranny." Thousands rallied in Taipei, Taiwan's capital, while more than 1,000 took part in a rally in Sydney.
Mobs of Beijing supporters have appeared in malls and on the streets in recent weeks to counter pro-democracy protesters, leading to brawls between the rival camps. Earlier Sunday, hundreds of pro-Beijing Hong Kong residents sang the Chinese national anthem and waved red flags at a waterfront cultural center in a show of support for Chinese rule.
Lam, the chief executive, held her first community dialogue with the public on Thursday in a bid to defuse tensions but failed to persuade protesters, who vowed to press on until their demands are met, including direct elections for the city's leaders and police accountability. The protracted unrest, approaching four months long, has battered Hong Kong's economy, with businesses and tourism plunging.
Related: Hong Kong Billionaire On Why He Supports The Protests (NPR)
Related: Authorities to announce face mask ban for Hong Kong protests (BBC)
The company will start mass production of U.S. component-free 5G base stations next month, founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei told a forum on Thursday.
“We carried out the testing in August and September, and from October on we will start scale production,” Ren said, adding that initially it would begin making 5,000 U.S. component-free 5G base stations a month.
Will Zhang, Huawei’s president of corporate strategy, told Reuters the performance of the U.S.-free base stations was “no worse” and the company “has had positive surprises”. He declined to give details.
Ren said Huawei would still like to use U.S. components if possible because the company has “emotional ties” with long-time U.S. suppliers.
Ren said this month he is open to selling the firm’s 5G technology - including patents, code, blueprints and production know-how - to Western firms for a one-off fee.
On Thursday he went further, saying Huawei was willing to license its 5G mobile technology to a U.S. company, and that he was not afraid of creating a rival by making Huawei’s technology available to competitors.
What Xi Jinping Hasn’t Learned From China’s Emperors (New York Times)
In its first decades, the P.R.C. tacitly acknowledged this past and proudly proclaimed its identity as a multinational state. But now, under President Xi Jinping, the C.C.P. is actively working to erase the cultural and political diversity that is the legacy of its imperial precedents.
When the C.C.P. first came to power in 1949, it tacitly recognized this imperial past. Like the Soviet Union — another socialist state that denounced Western imperialism while itself assuming power in a former empire — the P.R.C. did not want to look like an evil colonialist. So it acknowledged the ethnic diversity of the peoples living in the territory it controlled by recognizing 55 nationalities besides the majority Han. And it established titular “autonomous” administrations in non-majority-Han areas, in many of the same places where the Qing had ruled through local non-Han elites, including Xinjiang and Tibet.
The early P.R.C., then, recognized and drew upon the Qing tradition with flexible approaches to diversity and sovereignty. But over the years, especially since Mr. Xi came to power in 2012, the C.C.P. has abandoned its relatively tolerant tradition while intensifying ethnic assimilationism and political rigidity. Today, rather than celebrating the uniqueness of individual cultures, the C.C.P. increasingly promotes a unitary category called “zhonghua,” a kind of pan-Chinese identity. Though supposedly all-inclusive, the customs and characteristics of “zhonghua” are practically identical to those of the Han.
Such policies undercut the P.R.C.’s legacy of administrative flexibility and relative ethnic tolerance, as well as expose it to international criticism, exacerbating tensions while undermining the party’s legitimacy.