Writing Contest Results — Below Threshold Competition: China

Divergent Options ran a Writing Contest from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020 and as of this writing all of the entries we received have been published.  On behalf of the Divergent Options Team of Phil Walter, Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein, and also on behalf of our judges Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, Wayne Hugar of the National Intelligence University, and Ali Wyne a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, we want to thank all of our writers who entered the contest.  Divergent Options would not be what it is without our writers, and for that we are eternally grateful.  All writings related to this contest can be found by clicking here, and the awards are as follows:

First Place $500:  Michael D. Purzycki – “Options for Altering Global Energy Developments to America’s Advantage and China’s Disadvantage

Second Place $300:  James P. Micciche – “U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China

Third Place $100:  Eli Kravinsky – “Below Threshold Options for China Against the U.S.

Honorable Mention $50:  Thomas J. Shattuck – “Options for Taiwan to Better Compete with China

Honorable Mention $50:  Drake Long – “U.S. Options for Countering the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa

Honorable Mention $50:  William Freer – “Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China)

U.S. Options for Countering the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Drake Long is an analyst with RadioFreeAsia, covering the South China Sea and other maritime issues. He is also a 2020 Asia-Pacific Fellow for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). He can be found on Twitter @DRM_Long and has previously written for RadioFreeAsia, The Diplomat, 9DASHLINE, and the Center for International Maritime Security. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States is competing with the People’s Republic of China and its landmark Belt and Road Initiative.

Date Originally Written:  July 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes ‘great power competition’ as prescribed by the National Defense Strategy is in reality a competition for the favor of unaligned countries, most especially the economically dynamic middle powers and rising powers in Africa.

Background:  Thirty-nine African countries have signed onto China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an infrastructure and investment project that is synonymous with Chinese foreign policy[1]. More African college students attend Chinese universities over that of the U.K. and U.S., largely through programs like the China-Africa Action Plan that recruits 100,000 African civil servants and military officers annually[2]. However, African countries have also grown wary of Chinese investment, renegotiating their debt with China as a bloc this year[3].

Significance:  BRI projects are one method of co-opting African political elites, as the ‘corrosive capital’ of Chinese investment often exacerbates existing inequality and graft issues in developing countries[4]. Certain Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE) hold virtual monopolies on certain materials like cobalt, found only in a select few places on the African continent, to secure materials necessary for an advanced economy[5]. On top of this, China’s co-opting of local media means negative coverage of China is suppressed.

Option #1:  The U.S. facilitates local journalism in African countries at the center of China’s Belt and Road Initiative through specialized grants to local news outlets and public-private partnerships to create tertiary journalism schools.

Chinese BRI projects are often signed on opaque or parasitic terms. Exposure in the public press creates upward pressure on African elites to cancel these projects or renegotiate them, hurting Chinese soft power, influence, and economic dominance over certain sectors of the African economy[6].

A free press is ultimately good for elite accountability, and elite accountability spells doom for Chinese influence efforts. In some cases, exposing kleptocracy can lead to a change in government, removing officials previously eager to sign BRI deals for potential kickbacks[7].

If the U.S. were to use existing tools to better support local journalism in small-but-pivotal African states along the BRI, this would facilitate opposition to Chinese influence. Targeted grants to local and sub-regional news outlets is one method of achieving this, but the training of journalists in African countries is pivotal, too. As such, existing agencies could partner with experienced U.S. news organizations to create schools and training initiatives that would seed a new generation of journalists in African countries.

Risk:  Some negative coverage of U.S. investments and multinational companies operating in Africa may also occur.

Gain:  This option will create a stronger network of accountability for African elites susceptible to Chinese corrosive capital, and expose China’s BRI projects without the stigma of being the U.S. government and thus not impartial.

Option #2:  The U.S. strengthens labor unions and they more forcefully advocate labor rights in African countries.

Organized labor has played a critical role in exposing worker abuse and poor conditions at the sites of Chinese BRI investment before, most notably in Kenya, where a railway strike in 2018 brought Chinese railway projects to a halt[8].

Many of China’s business and infrastructure projects in certain African countries are facilitated by bribes to local officials. Labor movements bypass this ‘elite capture’ by exposing ties between Chinese and African oligarchs, and pressuring those same elites to cancel BRI projects or negotiate terms that are more favorable to African workers.

At the same time, organized labor in Africa faces steep challenges: labor migration is largely unregulated[9] and labor unions have long been marginalized from developing economies, holding little actual political power in the modern day[10].

If the U.S. were to give labor and trade unions targeted support similar to other civil society initiatives, it would create domestic pressures on Chinese investors in African countries. Expanding the U.S. Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau would provide accurate data on labor movements and labor rights, and placing a Labor section on the National Security Council Staff would assist policy coordination.

Risk:  This option would potentially anger non-Chinese multinational corporations with a presence in those countries as well.

Gain:  African labor movements could shut down BRI projects entirely or put pressure on national governments to renegotiate terms with Chinese SOEs.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Risberg, P. (2019). The Give-and-Take of BRI in Africa. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.csis.org/give-and-take-bri-africa

[2] Acker, Kevin, Deborah Brautigam, and Yufan Huang. (2020). Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics. Working Paper No. 2020/39. China Africa Research Initiative, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.sais-cari.org/publications

[3] Natalunya, Paul. (2020). China Promotes Its Party-Army Model in Africa. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://africacenter.org/spotlight/china-promotes-its-party-army-model-in-africa

[4] John Morrell et al. (2018). Channeling the Tide: Protecting Democracies from a Flood of Corrosive Capital. Retrieved from https://www.cipe.org/resources/channeling-the-tide-protecting-democracies-amid-a-flood-of-corrosive-capital

[5] Jack Farchy and Hayley Warren. (2018) China has a secret weapon in the race to dominate electric cars. Bloomberg News. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-china-cobalt

[6] Shikongo, Arlana. (2019). ‘Chinese invasion’ claims hit cement factory. The Namibian. Retrieved from https://www.namibian.com.na/191934/archive-read/Chinese-invasion-claims-hit-cement-factory

[7] Hursh, John. (2019). A Bump in the Belt and Road: Tanzania pushes back against Chinese port project. Center for International Maritime Security. Retrieved from http://cimsec.org/a-bump-in-the-belt-and-road-tanzania-pushes-back-against-chinese-port-project/42449

[8] Kenyan workers’ strike halts Chinese railway project. (2018). GlobalConstructionReview. Retrieved from https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/kenyan-workers-strike-halts-chinese-railway-projec

[9] An assessment of labour migration and mobility governance in the IGAD region. (2020). International Labor Organization. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—africa/—ro-abidjan/—sro-addis_ababa/documents/publication/wcms_740549.pdf

[10] Pitcher, M. (2007). What Has Happened to Organized Labor in Southern Africa? International Labor and Working-Class History, (72), 134-160. Retrieved August 1, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/27673096

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa China (People's Republic of China) Competition Drake Long Journalism / The Press Option Papers United States

An Assessment of the American National Interest in Sino-American Competition

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Brandon Patterson is a graduate student at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, whose area of focus is China.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the American National Interest in Sino-American Competition

Date Originally Written:  July 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 2, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the United States, in order to maintain a sense of proportion in dealing with China, must find criteria over which in must resist Beijing.  Additionally, wherever the U.S. makes practical accommodations, in order to transcend Cold War-like conditions, and to create a basic American approach to relations with China that can be passed from one administration to the next with a high degree of continuity, it should do so.

Summary:  As tensions rise between the United States and China, Washington requires a concept of the national interest to serve as a guide in navigating this new dynamic. Wearing ideological blinders nearly tore the American psyche apart at key moments during the Cold War. As competition with China develops, America can prevent itself from falling into the Cold War era Manichaeism that shook domestic consensus on the nature of its task.

Text:  In light of deteriorating relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, emphasis on so-called great power competition enters the American lexicon[1]. Competition implies a victor; yet great power relations are a process with no terminal point. Complicating matters is the fact that the relationship between Washington and Beijing has acquired ideological contours, which serve as a blight on the minds of American policymakers who tend to lose a sense of proportion when facing ideological opponents[2]. Under these conditions, competition becomes an end in itself as foreign policy becomes a struggle between good and evil rather than the threading together of various issues into a relationship neither entirely friendly nor wholly adversarial. A clear set of objectives on the American side of this competition, and how they are enmeshed in a grand strategy aimed at a concept of world order is necessary. In other words, before Washington acts, American policy makers ask themselves:

  • What is this supposed competition about and how should one define success?
  • What threat does China pose to international order?
  • What changes must the United States resist by forceful means?

Though unexceptional, these questions are uniquely crucial for a country lacking a geopolitical tradition. The United States can look beyond the aspects of China’s domestic structure which the U.S. rejects in order to retain a clear conception of how the United States may accommodate China without turning the world over to it. This is the space America is obliged to navigate. The national interest, still so vaguely defined in American strategic thought, will fail unless clearly articulated in order to provide criteria by which America’s relationship with China can be assessed and altered. The emphasis on “competition below the threshold of armed conflict” requires examination. To abjure from the use of force — or to define precisely where one is unwilling to go to war — is to define a limit to the national interest.

The United States is the ultimate guarantor of the global balance of power. In order for there to be stability in the world, equilibrium must prevail. This equilibrium is America’s most vital interest, its primary responsibility to international order, and is thus the limiting condition of its foreign policy. The United States cannot permit any power, or any grouping of powers, to attain hegemony over Eurasia, or any of its constituent sub-regions[3]. The People’s Republic of China, whatever its intentions, by the nature of its power, poses the greatest threat to global equilibrium. Tensions are therefore inherent.

It is equally true, however, that the United States and China are likely to be the twin pillars of world order, and that the peace and progress of mankind will likely depend on their conceiving order as a shared enterprise rather than a Cold War in which one perception emerges dominant. Of course, Beijing retains a vote, and if a Cold War becomes unavoidable, Washington requires a clear conception of its necessities to prevent the wild oscillations between overcommitment and over-withdrawal to which it is prone.

American foreign policy can reflect this Janus-like dynamic. This is when the national interest becomes imperative. The United States and China can convey to one another what interests they consider vital, the violation of which will result in conflict. For America, such a threat is more difficult to determine now than during even the Cold War. The Belt and Road initiative is the most awe inspiring example. This initiative represents a Chinese attempt to restructure Eurasia such that China reemerges as the Middle Kingdom[4]. America for its part cannot permit any single country to achieve hegemony over Eurasia; yet Belt and Road is not a military enterprise, and so the threat it poses remains ambiguous, and the best means of countering it is far from self-evident. It thus becomes imperative that American administrations establish what they consider to be a threat to equilibrium and find means of conveying this to the Chinese.

Keeping this competition below the threshold of armed conflict rests upon the ability of Washington to drive home to Beijing precisely what is likely to lead to war while such threats remain ambiguous, and thus manageable. This also implies an early response to Chinese probing actions — such as in the South China Sea — lest they acquire a false sense of security, prompting more reckless actions down the road.

Calculations of power become more complex for the United States than for China however, as America is steeped in a tradition of idealism for which no corresponding impulse can be found in China. The United States is an historic champion of human rights, spending blood and treasure in its defense on multiple occasions since the end of the Second World War. In order to be true to itself, the United States stands for its basic values — it too is a duty to the world. This finds expression in America’s support for the cause of Hong Kong’s protests[5], for the victims of China’s excesses in Xinjiang[6], and for political prisoners[7].

The question is not whether America should stand for these values, but rather the extent to which it does so, and at what cost. The United States cannot directly influence the internal evolution of an historic culture like China’s, and that attempting to do so will manufacturer tensions over issues with no resolution, which in turn renders practical issues within the realm of foreign policy less soluble, combining the worst of every course of action.

A wise course for American policy makers then, is to use the national interest as a compass in navigating what will be a journey without a clear historical precedent. Equilibrium is the obvious limiting condition and starting point for such an effort. Moral purpose guides pragmatic actions just as pragmatism makes idealism sustainable. Such an approach is not an abrogation of American values, rather it is the best means of vindicating them over a prolonged period. For, in Sino-American relations, there will be no ultimate victory nor final reconciliation.


Endnotes:

[1] Jones, B. (February 2020). China and the Return of Great Power Strategic Competition. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_china_power_competition_jones.pdf

[2] Debate Over Detente. (1973, November 17). Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/1973/11/17/archives/debate-over-detente.html

[3] Spykman, N. J. (2007). America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (1st ed., pp. 194-199). Routledge.

[4] Kaplan, R.D. (March 6, 2018). The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century. (pp.). New York: Random House.

[5] Edmundson, C. (2020, July 2). Senate Sends Trump a Bill to Punish Chinese Officials Over Hong Kong. Retrieved July 3, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/us/politics/senate-china-hong-kong-sanctions.html

[6] Pranshu, V. & Wong, E. (2020, July 9). U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Chinese Officials Over Mass Detention of Muslims. Retrieved July 10, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/world/asia/trump-china-sanctions-uighurs.html?searchResultPosition=1

[7] Puddington, A. (2018, July 26). China: The Global Leader in Political Prisoners. Retrieved July 10, from https://freedomhouse.org/article/china-global-leader-political-prisoners

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Brandon Patterson China (People's Republic of China) Competition Policy and Strategy United States

An Assessment of Chinese Mercantilism as a Dual Circulation Strategy with Implications for U.S. Strategy

Patrick Knight is an active duty U.S. Army Officer and has served in a variety of tactical and force generation assignments. He is currently a student in the Army’s Command and General Staff College as part of a strategist training pipeline. He can be reached on LinkedIn or pjknight12@gmail.com. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.




Title:  An Assessment of Chinese Mercantilism as a Dual Circulation Strategy with Implications for U.S. Strategy

Date Originally Written:  October 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of China towards regional states and the U.S.

Summary:  China has become a dominant regional and global power through its export-centric mercantilist practices. This mercantilism underpins a larger expansionist foreign policy. China has reacted to U.S. and global economic pressure by instituting the Dual Circulation strategy, focusing on domestic consumption markets. U.S. strategies that do not take into account China’s Dual Circulation strategy will not be effective.

Text:  Mercantilism, specifically Chinese mercantilism, is the macroeconomic policy of emphasizing exports and minimizing imports, and relates to the broad long-term economic strategy of Chinese trade and supply chain management. Mercantilism is tied to the broader concepts of Chinese expansion strategy which underpin its foreign policy. That Chinese foreign economic policy is growing and seeks to become a dominant regional and global power has, at the time of this authorship, become a relatively elementary platitude. Chinese economic and larger foreign policy is more complex and nuanced. The 2020 introduction of a Dual Circulation policy calls into question the monolithic approach of mercantilism, and has critical implications for U.S. strategists[1].

For historical background, in 1987, a Chinese economic policy advisor, Yuon Geng, suggested to then de facto state leader Deng Xaopeng the concept of Dual Circulation. In that context, he meant relying on low labor costs within the Chinese labor market to develop export capabilities, building foreign investments which thus improve domestic financial resources[1]. This suggestion began an economic opening of China, and in the decades that followed, China developed into an export centric nation. The Chinese socialist system’s advantage in focusing and underwriting industrial capabilities allows China to, in Deng Xaopeng’s words, “concentrate power to do great things[2].” In this way, China emerged as the commonly understood world’s factory, especially after China’s admittance into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

With the now famous One Belt and One Road Initiative, China has devoted significant financial and diplomatic resources to developing infrastructure and trade relationships with dozens of states in the Indo-pacific region and beyond. This is a foundational tenet of Xi Jingping’s foreign policy.

One could thus assume that China uniformly pursues mercantilism strategy of concentrating all instruments of national power to develop a dominant, yet supporting, relationship in emerging markets and developing states and bolster an export economy.

However, the new reintroduction of a Dual Circulation Strategy adjusts the original meaning of Dual Circulation as intended by Yuon Geng. Here, China seeks to enhance its domestic markets and consumption over foreign investments, markets, and technology. It seeks to ease its dependence on foreign markets in favor of the domestic[1].

China’s policy goals of moving up the value chain, improving the overall wealth of China, and having a resilient economy are working under its export centric strategy, yet there has been an inward shift via Dual Circulation. China policy expert Andrew Polk believes that this inward shift is not a response to internal demand in China as much as it is a reaction to the external environment[1]. External variables have changed significantly in recent years. In one way, the global economy and its state actors have exerted pressure on Chinese technology companies, such as in the case of the semiconductor industry. Second, the massive impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the global economy has not yet receded. The Chinese export industry has been negatively affected as consumer demand falls. Dual Circulation is a reaction of the vagaries of the external economy that China seeks to remain resilient.

For those familiar with the ways, means, and ends framework of strategic thinking, Chinese economic ends have not changed. The ways, relying on and enhancing domestic economic capabilities, has shifted within the national strategic framework.

Vice Premier Liu He, Xi Jingping’s top economic advisor, has developed the Dual Dirculation concept, and seeks to de-risk the oversupplied industrial sector. This de-risking is reminiscent of his proposed Supply Side Structural Reform strategy of 2015, in which Liu He feared China relied too much on the export industry[2].

Most imperatively, the introduction of Dual Circulation amidst China’s mercantilist tendencies signifies a fundamental inflection point in strategy and macroeconomic thinking. Proximately, Dual Circulation means that China is unified on restructuring its macroeconomic strategy, which directly challenges other high-end manufacturing economies. More broadly, Dual Circulation indicates that China is vulnerable, or at least reactive, to external pressure and environments. This new policy further demonstrates that China estimates that powerful western economies, such as the U.S. and U.K., have focused too much on services and consumer centric industries and have not adequately supported and developed their manufacturing capabilities[2]. China seeks to add the most value by dominating the high-end manufacturing sector in both its domestic and global economy, what Polk refers to as the German economic model of manufacturing.

Lingling Wei of the Wall Street Journal believes that Dual Circulation also exposes key defense industry implications in Chinese policy making. She argues that now is China’s “Sputnik moment” in that the recent U.S. trade war provides an opportunity to make significant policy shifts[2][3]. The Chinese defense industry has been a focus of Xi Jingping’s reforming attention in recent months, moving key political allies with defense industry background. The defense industry focus includes recently installing a new deputy of the National Development Reform Commission. Wei suggests that China acknowledges its exposure in the defense supply chain where competitors like the U.S. can exert pressure.

Dual Circulation is highly relevant to U.S. national security and economic strategists. Since March, U.S. President Donald Trump has increased pressure on China, significantly shifting his policy azimuth. The Trump administration has closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas on charges of espionage, dispatched carrier strike groups to the South China Sea, blocked Chinese technology company activites, increased support to Taiwan, and made headlines with conflict and eventual merger with Tik Tok[3]. Numerous political factors contributed to President Trump’s decisions which are outside the scope of this assessment. However, U.S. and allied leadership needs to understand the degree and nature of the impact from President Trump’s efforts. Strategists use all elements of national power to impact the environment: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. China has signaled it will adjust its ways, enhancing domestic economic consumer markets, in order to ensure its ends, a resilient and regionally dominant economy, based on the external environment. If China can successfully pivot away from a pure mercantilism economy to a more resilient, self-sustaining economy, U.S. strategists may calculate a diminishing effect of its pressure tactics.


Endnotes:

[1] Center for Strategic & International Studies. Online Event: The End of Chinese Mercantilism? YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnyYbMPrBM&t=1080s

[2] Blanchette, J. & Polk, Andrew (24 August, 2020). Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged Integration Strategy. Center for Strategic & International Studies. https://www.csis.org/analysis/dual-circulation-and-chinas-new-hedged-integration-strategy

[3] Davis, B., O’Keeffe, K, & Wei, L. (16 October, 2020). U.S.’s China Hawks Drive Hard-Line Policies After Trump Turns on Beijing. Wall Street Journal.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Patrick Knight Trade United States

Options to Decrease Trade Tensions Between the U.S. and China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Rukhsar Azamee is a graduate student at the school of professional studies, New York University. She can be found on Twitter @RukhsarAzamee. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. requires options to decrease trade tensions with China.

Date Originally Written:  July 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the U.S-China relations point of view. It elaborates on how the U.S. and China can decrease the trade tensions and how they can continue their collaboration in the future.

Background:  China’s economic growth in the last decades has started a new chapter in the international arena. After 9/11, America started the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq[1] while China kept strengthening its economy. China became the world’s second-largest economy in 2010[2]. Currently, China is considered the world’s largest economy by the purchasing power parity (PPP). China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by PPP is approximately $24.5 trillion, while America’s GDP by PPP is $20.5 trillion[3]. The 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy declared China as a competitor, and as a threat to the United States[4].

Recognizing China officially as a competitor is a policy shift for the U.S., the United States followed the “engagement” policy towards China’s rise under two assumptions in the past.  The first U.S. assumption was that a strong China would serve the interests of America, and the second assumption was that a prosperous China would share American values by fostering regime change. The United States had not considered China a threat to its future[5].

China started modernizing its military by investing in missile and other military technology. From 2005 to 2014, China increased its military spending by 9.5% per year. China invested heavily in cyber operations. The argument is that China has strengthened its military to deter America’s intervention in its neighbors and to resolve Taiwan’s status[6]. China’s president Xi Jinping, unlike his predecessors, seeks to establish China as a Great Power again[7]. The competition is between the U.S. and China, and both countries are trying to prevail.

After the 2016 election in America, professor Yang Qijing of Renmin University stated in his report, “Trump Wins, Immense Challenges for China” implying that President Trump would focus on U.S. domestic economic growth. Yang said that Trump administration would seek a protectionist approach towards China and the U.S. started a trade war with China in 2018 by imposing tariffs on the import of Chinese goods in the U.S.[8] The trade war has hurt U.S-China relations, but it has also damaged the global economy[9]. The International Monetary Fund’s officials encouraged both countries to decrease the trade tensions in its 2019 reports[10].

Furthermore, China’s top talent in artificial intelligence (A.I.) end up working in America. Fifty-four percent of Chinese A.I. students come to the U.S. for their A.I education and research and then stay to work at U.S. firms[11]. Cyberattacks, and A.I theft remain a challenge in U.S.-China relations. A report by the U.S. National Security Agency noted 600 instances of Chinese hackers stealing confidential information from U.S. companies from 2009 to 2013 and a cybersecurity firm named Mandiant presented documents of 115 attacks against the U.S. by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2013[12]. The Trump administration decided to cancel the visa of those students/researchers with ties with China’s military in 2020[13].

China is trying to form a new tributary system through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. Sri-Lanka, as an example, can demonstrate China’s expansionist ambition. In 2017, Sri-Lanka was unable to pay the loan taken from China under the BRI project. Sri-Lanka defaulted and signed a 99-years lease of its port to Chinese state-owned enterprises[14]. On the other hand, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia was re-launched in 2017 to counterbalance China’s assertive policies in the indo-pacific region[15].

Significance:  The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies. The management of U.S competition with China will affect other countries’ policies towards China.

Option #1:  The U.S. embraces China as a Great Power, promote strategic economic engagement with China, and create frameworks that would regulate A.I and cyberspace for both countries.

Risk:  There are two risks. The first is that Japan, India, and Australia would work hard to stop China from becoming a Great Power[16]. The second is that China might seek global dominance after achieving regional power based on “Chinese dreams” or “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” strategy discussed by the Chinese president[17].

Gain:  The U.S.-China competition is different and it sets itself apart in two ways. First, China has not shown desires for global dominance, and while they have been expanding their presence in the neighboring islands in the Pacific, China has not shown an appetite for the use of military force to enhance its influence[18] (in contrast to Russia’s approach to the Balkans for example, or even the supply of weapons to Syria). Second, China is seeking regional dominance through debt diplomacy. Therefore, this option allows China to achieve its goal, and it de-escalates the tension among both countries by being strategically engaged.

Option #2:  The U.S. creates a veto power alliance against China within the Security Council of the United Nations. The veto power could block China’s foreign policies that do not meet international standards.

Risk:  There is a high likelihood that Russia would not join this alliance. Russia is more likely to side with China against the U.S. than join a three-way pact[19].

Gain:  Advanced nations with powerful economies blocking China would isolate it, putting pressure on China to change its foreign policies. Eventually, this option would ensure a peaceful international order by regulating China’s assertive actions, and it set a precedence for any rising powers to be mindful and comply with the international community in the future.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Four Scenarios for U.S.-China Relations and What They Mean for Japan
https://www.tokyoreview.net/2019/05/four-scenarios-us-china-relations

[2] China overtakes Japan as world’s second-largest economy
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/aug/16/china-overtakes-japan-second-largest-economy

[3] The world Bank – Open Data- “GDP, PPP (current international $) – China, United States”
https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.PP.CD?locations=CN-US

[4] 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy
https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905-2.pdf 

[5] What Went Wrong? U.S.-China Relations from Tiananmen to Trump- by James B. Steinberg
https://tnsr.org/2020/01/what-went-wrong-u-s-china-relations-from-tiananmen-to-trump

[6] The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress- Ian E. Rinehart -Analyst in Asian Affairs March 24, 2016
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44196.pdf

[7] Saving America’s Alliances- By Mira Rapp-Hooper, March/April 2020
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-02-10/saving-americas-alliances

[8] Towards Economic Decoupling? Mapping Chinese Discourse on the China–U.S. Trade War- by Li Wei
https://academic.oup.com/cjip/article/12/4/519/5650490

[9] US-China trade Dangerous miscalculations
https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/08/08/dangerous-miscalculations

[10] IMF’s country reports/Article IV consultation 2019, Executive Board Assessment (China and U.S.)
https://www.imf.org/en/countries

[11] A U.S. Secret Weapon in A.I.: Chinese Talent
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/technology/china-ai-research-education.html

[12] International Law Norms, Actors, Process (Aspen Casebook Series) 5th – Jeffrey Dunoff (State Responsibility: Attributing Malicious Cyber Conduct)

[13] A U.S. Secret Weapon in A.I.: Chinese Talent
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/technology/china-ai-research-education.html

[14]H.R. McMaster, “How China Views the World,”
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/2020/04/19/how_china_sees_the_world–and_how_we_should_see_china_508340.html

[15] The US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: Indo-Pacific alignment or foam in the ocean?
https://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/the-us-japan-india-australia-quadrilateral-security-dialogue

[16] The US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: Indo-Pacific alignment or foam in the ocean?
https://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/the-us-japan-india-australia-quadrilateral-security-dialogue

[17] H.R. McMaster, “How China Views the World,”
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/2020/04/19/how_china_sees_the_world–and_how_we_should_see_china_508340.html

[18] Saving America’s Alliances- By Mira Rapp-Hooper, March/April 2020
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-02-10/saving-americas-alliances

[19] CHINA AND THE RETURN OF GREAT POWER STRATEGIC COMPETITION- by BRUCE JONES- P8
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_china_power_competition_jones.pdf

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Rukhsar Azamee Trade United States

Options for the U.S. to Counter China’s Disruptive Economic Activities

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Johnathan Falcone is a United States Naval officer, entrepreneur, and graduate of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He can be found on Twitter @jdfalc1. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) economic activities threaten the U.S.-led financial order.

Date Originally Written:  June 02, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 26, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that conflict between the U.S. and China is underway, and China has fired the first salvos in the economic and financial domains. The article is from the perspective of U.S. economic strategy to maintain competition below the threshold of kinetic war.

Background:  The PRC emerged from the 2008 financial crisis with increased capability to influence markets abroad and undermine U.S. leadership. Through new institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and new development plans, including Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is making strides towards bifurcating the international financial system[1].

Significance:  Beijing uses its growing economic might to erode international support for the Republic of China (ROC) (Taiwan / Taipei)– the most likely source of armed conflict – and to increase military capacity beyond its shores[2]. Coercive economic strategies like tacit regional acquiescence and strategic land acquisition threaten the non-kinetic nature of today’s competitive environment[3]. Below are economic-based options to strengthen the existing U.S.-built financial order while simultaneously limiting the PRC’s capacity to project regional influence and stage wartime assets.

Option #1:  The U.S. takes action via proxy and encourages Southeast Asian and Pacific Island countries to increase bi-lateral trade volume with the ROC.

For countries in China’s near-abroad, diplomatic recognition of Taiwan is not possible. On the other hand, increasing trade with the ROC, a World Trade Organization member, is less provocative.

Risk:  As Taiwan’s largest trading partner, China will threaten and apply economic pressure to achieve political aims on the island. If Taiwan diversified its trade activity, economic coercion may no longer prove effective. This ineffectiveness might encourage China to pivot to military pressure against Taipei and its citizens. Substantiating this concern is the fact that China has already demonstrated its willingness to aggressively protect its economic interests in the South China Sea[4].

Further, the existing One-China Policy may be endangered if an increase in bi-lateral partnerships appeared to be U.S.-orchestrated. Although ROC independence would not be explicitly recognized, encouraging action symbolically consistent with an independent international actor could increase military posturing between the U.S. and China, as seen in the 1995-96 Taiwan Straits Crisis[5]. If tensions were to heighten again, the U.S. Navy would be opposing a much more capable People’s Liberation Army-Navy force than in previous crises.

Gain:  In addition to limiting China’s ability to apply economic pressure, bi-lateral trade would tie regional interests to ROC. China’s BRI has undermined relationships between ROC and neighboring countries, reducing incentives to aid Taiwan militarily and limiting U.S. military capacity to respond if China were to act aggressively in the region[6]. Substantive partnerships with the ROC create de facto buy-in to the U.S.-led financial system, increasing the number of potential partners to assist U.S. forces in case of war.

Option #2:  The U.S. lowers barriers to trade and access to markets by joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement.

The original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was developed as part of the U.S.’ “strategic pivot to Asia” during President Obama’s administration. President Trump campaigned that he would withdraw the United States from negotiations and did so in 2017.

Risk:  The new CPTPP has left the door open for the PRC to join[7]. If Beijing and Washington were members of the same trade zone, it would become easier for both to circumvent tariffs, thereby undermining each state’s ability to compete with non-military tools.

Also, when it comes to CPTPP, friction exists between U.S. grand strategy and domestic politics. TPP received harsh opposition from both the political left and right[8][9]. Although there was agreement that there would likely be overall economic growth, many feared that American middle-class workers would be negatively impacted. As such, this option may be politically untenable.

Gain:  This option encourages regional buy-in to the U.S.-led financial order. CPTPP already creates a new market bloc that will bring about economic prosperity under U.S.-influenced rules. U.S. membership in the agreement would amplify its benefits. Chinese markets will have to liberalize to remain competitive, undermining the PRC’s alternative offerings to nearby states.

Today, China bullies developing countries into economic agreements with political concessions in exchange for access to Chinese markets[10]. U.S. entrance into CPTPP would decrease both PRC coercive power and regional dependency on Chinese markets.

Option #3: The U.S. leverages international institutions and assists strategically significant holders of Chinese debt obligations to refinance through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

China infamously financed the Hambantota Port Project, a port in southern Sri Lanka with access to the Indian Ocean. When the project failed, China negotiated a deal with Sri Lanka and now owns the port and surrounding land, granting Beijing unchallenged access to strategic waterways[11].

Risk:  Existing tensions between Western and the five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) states could be exacerbated at the World Bank and IMF. BRICS nations have routinely called for fundamental reforms to the Bretton Woods system to reflect the rising economic influence of developing states[12]. This financial intervention to refinance Chinese debt through Western channels could accelerate BRICS’ efforts to develop a competing financial channel.

Gain:  Beijing touts development projects in the Maldives and Djibouti, whose outstanding debt owed to China stands at 30 percent and 80 percent of their national Gross Domestic Products, respectively[13]. Default by either state would resign strategic territory in the Indian Ocean and mouth of the Red Sea to the PRC. Refinancing would ensure China does not acquire access to these strategic staging areas and would demonstrate the liberal financial system’s willingness to protect vulnerable states from predatory practices.

Other Comments:  The PRC will continue to project influence and hold an alternative vision for the world economy. The objective is to demonstrate the value of free markets to developing states and tie regional interests to ROC’s quasi-independent status.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hillman, J. (2020, March 13). A ‘China Model?’ Beijing’s Promotion of Alternative Global Norms and Standards. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/china-model-beijings-promotion-alternative-global-norms-and-standards.

[2] Kynge, J. (2020, July 10). China, Hong Kong and the world: is Xi Jinping overplaying his hand? Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/a0eac4d1-625d-4073-9eee-dcf1bacb749e.

[3] Leung, Z. (2020, May 15). The Precarious Triangle: China, Taiwan, and United States. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/the-precarious-triangle-china-taiwan-and-united-states; Kristof, N. (2019, September 4). This Is How a War With China Could Begin. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/04/opinion/china-taiwan-war.html.

[4] Stavridis, J. (2020, May 30). World cannot ignore Chinese aggression in South China Sea. Retrieved from https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/World-cannot-ignore-Chinese-aggression-in-South-China-Sea.

[5] Suettinger, R. (2003). Beyond Tiananmen: The Politics of U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000. Brookings Institution Press.

[6] Meick, E., Ker, M., & Chan, H.M. (2018, June 14). China’s Engagement in the Pacific Islands:
Implications for the United States. Retrieved from https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/China-Pacific%20Islands%20Staff%20Report.pdf.

[7] Zhou, W., & Gao, H. (2020, June 7). China and the CPTPP: is it time to rethink Beijing’s involvement in the trans-Pacific trade pact? Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/economy/article/3087725/china-and-cptpp-it-time-rethink-beijings-involvement-trans-pacific-trade.

[8] Stiglitz, J. (2016, March 28). Why TPP Is a Bad Deal for America and American Workers. Retrieved from https://rooseveltinstitute.org/why-tpp-bad-deal-america-and-american-workers

[9] McBride, J. & Chatzky, A. (2019, January 4). What Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp.

[10] Grossman, D., & Chase, M.S. (2019, December 9). What Does Beijing Want from the Pacific Islands? Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/12/what-does-beijing-want-from-the-pacific-islands.html.

[11] Abi-habib, M. (2018, June 25). How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough up a Port. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html

[12] Gangopadhyay, A., & Kala, A.V. (2012, March 29). Brics Wants World Bank, IMF Reforms. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303816504577311012331186378.

[13] The Economic Times. (2019, May 09). China Building ‘International Network of Coercion through Predatory Economics’: US. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/china-building-international-network-of-coercion-through-predatory-economics-us/articleshow/69257396.cms.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors Johnathan Falcone Option Papers United States

Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

Coby Goldberg is a researcher with the Asia-Pacific Program at the Center for a New American Security. His writing has been published in The National Interest, World Politics Review, and The Wire China. Follow him on Twitter @CobyGoldberg. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

Date Originally Written:  October 14, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Chinese President Xi Jinping sees himself at the helm of a boat pushed along by the tides of history. Today the tides carry that boat towards a more globalized, interconnected, and in many ways peaceful world, but the tides may be turning.

Summary:  Dialectical materialism – the belief that history has a force of its own beyond the power of human ideals or willpower, and that this force is not static throughout time, but always changing – provides insight into how the Chinese Communist Party thinks about its strategic options. While Xi Jinping tells Party members the tide of history points towards greater economic integration today, the dialectic teaches him the tides could turn against peace tomorrow.

Text:  For all the debates about the guiding ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chairman Xi Jinping has made his views rather plain to Party members. Take the opening lines of a speech to the CCP Central Committee on January 23, 2015, later re-published in Qiushi, the authoritative CCP journal of theory: “Dialectical materialism is the worldview and methodology of Chinese Communists[1].” The practical impact of this “worldview and methodology” can be significant for the average (non-CCP member) reader.

The CCP has a materialistic worldview, an inheritance from Karl Marx and Frederic Engels. Many of Marx’s and Engels’ contemporaries were idealists, who argued that adherence to a concept born of the mind, namely faith, could determine the reality of the world. Marx and Engels, by contrast, believed in the indomitable force of the material world. The material world shapes laws of history to which man must submit, like it or not. Or, as Xi put it in his 2015 speech: “The most important thing is that we proceed always from objective reality rather than subjective desire[2].”

If the ways of the world are governed not by the will of the individual but by external material conditions –by “objective reality rather than subjective desire” – then history’s arc can be read but not bent. Xi often compares material trends to the ocean. “The tide of the world is surging forward,” he told an audience in Russia. The people of the world must “rally closely together like passengers in the same boat[3].”

According to Xi, the two trends of his time are increasing multipolarity produced by the rise of the developing world, and ever-growing economic integration produced by globalization[4]. Together, these two trends form an inexorable movement that countries can either participate in and benefit or reject to the detriment of all. In the lens of this analogy, the United States has been rocking the collective boat with its recent complaints about a world order that has allowed many countries to flourish, none more so than China.

Military force is a detriment to a globalized economy. At the Party Congress in 2012, Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, declared that “peace and development remain the underlying trends of our time[5].” This statement has held true amidst the downward spiral of the U.S.-China relationship. Xi and the CCP have taken to referring to “profound changes never seen in a century” underway on the world stage, “yet peace and development remain the underlying trend of the times,” Xi reaffirmed as recently as September 22, 2020[6].

These statements appear to be cheap talk offered up for foreign audiences, but the chief audience of Xi Jinping are those listening to his lectures, namely Party members who are habitually called to Beijing to imbibe the Party line. “One does not call every ambassador to Beijing just to bore them with the latest propaganda hacks,” Taiwan-based analyst Tanner Greer writes. “Addresses like these are less like stump speeches on the campaign trail than they are like instruction manuals[7].” For now, the instruction manual says that the underlying trend of the time is peace and development.

Through the materialist worldview of the CCP, Xi has concluded that history’s tides are moving towards economic integration, not military confrontation. However, dialectal materialism teaches Xi that the dialectic, – the state of permanent flux created as contradictions in the world emerge and resolve themselves, producing progress and new contradictions – requires that the CCP remain ever vigilant to the changing conditions of the material that forms reality.

Dialectical thinking helps explain what many observers describe as the CCP’s ideological flexibility. Material conditions might at one time dictate that the CCP must eradicate the capitalist class as it attempted under Mao Tse-tung, and the next year lead the CCP to welcome entrepreneurs into its ranks as members it officially did in the 1990s. Material conditions could make the United States the enemy in the 1950s, and a partner in the 1970s. The dialect effects such changes. “Objective reality is not fixed, but rather develops and changes all the time. Change is the most natural thing in the world,” Xi told Party members. “If we cling to our perception of China’s realities as they were in the past without adjustment, we will find it difficult to move forward[8].” Unfortunately, the material conditions that once set history on the path of economic integration across a multipolar world could evolve into the conditions of fragmentation and conflict. If the tide of history were blowing in that direction, expect China to behave very differently than it has for the past three decades.

As Americans seek to steer the US-China relationship through the “profound changes never seen in a century” that are powering China’s rise as a global competitor, Xi’s advice works for both parties. Both the U.S. and China will be required to balance perceptions of each other’s previous realities with adapting to material conditions today. The best both can consider, to quote Deng Xiaoping, might be to “cross the river by feeling for the stones.”


Endnotes:

[1] Xi Jinping (2019). Dialectical Materialism Is the Worldview and Methodology of Chinese Communists. Qiushi Journal, 11(38). Retrieved October 13 from http://english.qstheory.cn/2019-07/09/c_1124508999.htm?fbclid=IwAR32Q9zVU8NXgSu5UrFMP75srZoTV7lyggtTxLoGC5p_wJ4uKyI2w_QwY-s.

[2] ibid.

[3] Xi Jinping (2013, March 23). Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Peace and Development in the World. Retrieved October 13 from https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1033246.shtml.

[4] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinping. Retrieved October 13 from https://palladiummag.com/2020/07/08/the-theory-of-history-that-guides-xi-jinping.

[5] Hu Jintao. (2020, November 18). Full text of Hu Jintao’s report at 18th Party Congress. Retrieved October 13 from https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/744889.shtml.

[6] (2020, September 22). Peace, development remain underlying trend of times: Xi. Retrieved October 13 from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-09/22/c_139388433.htm.

[7] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinping. Retrieved October 13 from https://palladiummag.com/2020/07/08/the-theory-of-history-that-guides-xi-jinping.

[8] Xi Jinping (2019). Dialectical Materialism Is the Worldview and Methodology of Chinese Communists. Qiushi Journal, 11(38). Retrieved October 13 from http://english.qstheory.cn/2019-07/09/c_1124508999.htm?fbclid=IwAR32Q9zVU8NXgSu5UrFMP75srZoTV7lyggtTxLoGC5p_wJ4uKyI2w_QwY-s.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Coby Goldberg Governing Documents and Ideas

U.S. Options for Subversion within China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Chris Wozniak is an independent analyst. He holds a BA in Political Economy from the University of Washington. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  China is seeking to reclaim their historical role in Asia. Under current international norms this is seen as revisionist by the United States which holds the post World War 2 system as the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States seeking options that erode Chinese influence abroad and interfere with China’s ability to reassert historical tools of influence.

Background:  The steady rise of China’s relative power on the international stage has placed it in competition with the United States and the international system of which the U.S. is the steward and chief stakeholder. While the international system is currently Westphalian in flavor, a resurgent China sees the world in starkly different terms. Traditional Chinese political philosophy took the view that their place in the world was as the center of a system based on influence and coercion. Today, China seeks to restore this system through the Belt and Road Initiative which extracts resources, establishes leasing agreements, and enhances influence abroad with the intent to secure resources and control commercial flows.

Significance:  Expansion of Chinese influence abroad presents a challenge to the interests and values of the United States. U.S. politics and business interests have often compromised diplomatic initiatives while military options remain prohibitively costly. A third path may be found in covert actions designed to subvert the information control that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership enjoys domestically and deprive them of access to technologies that support force projection.

Option #1:  The U.S. undermines Chinese ambitions abroad by creating diversionary doubt at home. This diversionary doubt would create an environment for political dissent by targeting CCP social control mechanisms.

A U.S. cyber campaign designed to delete or corrupt data in the Social Credit System administered by the People’s Bank of China is launched to reduce the level of scrutiny the population is under. Simultaneously, the U.S. promotes awareness or access to tools that circumvent information controls to break the information monopoly of the CCP.

Risk:  Chinese citizens have an extreme aversion to foreign interference rooted in China’s historical experience with Western powers. Coupled with the intense focus the CCP has on maintaining political orthodoxy, any discovery of meddling with Chinese domestic sphere would elicit severe consequences in diplomatic relations, trade, and military postures in the region. The sophistication that a cyber operation would require to disrupt, let alone cripple the PRC Social Credit program – and undermine its credibility in the same manner as the anti-Maduro TeamHDP attack on Venezuela’s much less robust social credit system did – would implicate the United States[1]. Moreover, tools such as virtual private networks for circumventing China’s Great FireWall (GFW) as an information barrier is publicly known information that most technically unsophisticated individuals can use.

Gain:  The obsession of the CCP on assuring the pervasiveness of the party in Chinese life would mean that even an unsuccessful Option #1 would likely result in extensive efforts to preserve the status quo information environment. Any subsequent diversion of resources into domestic programs fraught with difficulties would put other ambitions abroad on hold until a level of control was re-established. Any discovery of responsibility for the cyberattacks could be explained away as analogous to the Chinese theft of Office of Personnel Management data in 2015 to mitigate blowback.

Covert action aiming to lower barriers to foreign information would further roll back controls over China’s population. Undermining the GFW by promoting circumvention as a gateway to electronic gaming, sports broadcasts, and other media in demand but blocked in China is one promising area of focus. An estimated 768 million gamers are projected for China by 2022[2]. Enabling access by a growing population that trends young presents an opportunity to influence a substantial slice of the population with narratives that run counter to those government censors allow.

Option #2:  The U.S. subverts Chinese progress towards the military-industrial base that is needed for power projection.

A prerequisite to Chinese ambition abroad is establishing the military-industrial base to sustain economic growth and project power. The rapid development of China’s industry has been facilitated by student programs, scientific exchanges, forced technology transfer, and industrial espionage. Espionage has proven particularly difficult for western counterintelligence to manage because of their scale and persistence. A covert action program to feed disinformation to Chinese collectors engaged in industrial espionage could hinder development of the military-industrial base so critical to Chinese ambitions.

Risk:  Successful implementation may prove difficult in the face of robust efforts by Chinese collectors and vetting of the information by intelligence customers. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) aggressively recruits students to spy for China before they go abroad. If even one percent of the estimated 360,000 students who study in the United States are recruited, that means there are 3,600 potential long term agents seeking sensitive information[3]. The challenge increases when control of an agent is given to the Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense also known as COSTIND whose agents are technically educated and more likely to detect misinformation. The impact of any program designed to deceive China will be potentially limited in scope to sensitive technologies being developed in the United States in order to maintain the credibility of the deception and make vetting of information more difficult. This makes for a risky gamble when the ideal approach to managing sensitive information is to reveal nothing at all.

Gain:  Deception could prove a more cost effective approach than the predominant mindset of reactive counterintelligence predicated on scrutiny of potential foreign agents. Potential espionage by Chinese students alone already invalidates this approach due to personnel requirements. By dangling bait in the form of falsified technical information sensitive industries and facilities, the United States can reverse the benefits of large unsophisticated espionage efforts and take a preventative approach. If coordinated with Allied intelligence services of countries suffering from similar intellectual property theft the effects of a deception campaign would be magnified. The MSS would doubtless struggle to adapt if caught up in a sea of misinformation.

Other Comments:  None of these options are decisive factors in competition between the United States and China but should prove useful in preparing the battlefield prior to any confrontation.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Berwick, A. (2018, November 14). How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control. Retrieved June 4, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/venezuela-zte

[2] Takahashi, D. (2018, May 7). Niko Partners: China will surpass 768 million gamers and $42 billion in game revenue by 2022. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://venturebeat.com/2018/05/07/niko-partners-china-will-surpass-1-billion-gamers-and-42-billion-in-game-revenue-by-2022

[3] Trade war: How reliant are US colleges on Chinese students? (2019, June 12). Retrieved July 7, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48542913

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Chris Wozniak Option Papers United States

Below Threshold Options for China against the U.S.

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Eli Kravinsky is an undergraduate student at Haverford College. He previously spent a year in China on a State Department-funded language scholarship. He can be found on Twitter @elikravi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. is continuing to orient its foreign policy and defense policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Accordingly, PRC tactics that have proven successful against the U.S. thus far may begin to fail. This failure will cause the PRC to develop new tactics to use against the U.S. below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 19, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an American undergraduate student interested in China and security studies. The article is written from the perspective of the PRC and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) towards the U.S.

Background:  Strategic competition between the U.S. and China has increased in recent years. China’s strategy is to carefully escalate tensions so as to enable it to create “facts on the ground”, such as de-facto Chinese control over much of the South China Sea, without allowing tensions to boil over into full-scale war, which could result in China’s gains being rolled back[1].

Significance:  The U.S. has started taking much stronger notice of China’s below-threshold tactics and is responding increasingly harshly. As such, China must innovate new, carefully calibrated below-threshold tactics.

Option #1:  The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy (PLAN) can deliberately ram a U.S. Navy (USN) ship in the South China Sea.

While PLAN ships sometimes ‘brush up’ on USN ships, an actual crash – intentional or otherwise – is unprecedented. However, in the 2001 EP-3 incident a PLA fighter jet crashed into a USN reconnaissance aircraft[2]. An easy method to create plausible deniability and reduce the risk to the PRC side would be to instead use a civilian freighter operating under the Maritime Militia. In the summer of 2017, two USN Arleigh Burke-class destroyers collided with civilian ships, both suffering severe damage and casualties. Even though the two incidents both occurred close to shore, Search and Rescue vessels and aircraft did not arrive until several hours after the initial crash in both cases[3]. As such, a USN response in force would likely arrive late, especially given that a deliberate ramming attack would occur closer to Chinese shores. Accordingly, the PLAN could pre-position ships to rapidly secure the site of the incident, and the U.S. side would have to confirm the incident was deliberate and not an accident as in the 2017 incidents.

Risk:  This would constitute a significant escalation of tensions between the two militaries. There is an appreciable chance that such an incident would be treated by the U.S. as a casus belli, especially if it caused casualties on the U.S. side.

Gain:  If executed successfully, this move could deter the USN from operating within China’s claimed waters. While the USN understands the PLA can impose costs on it via access-denial weaponry in an actual conflict, this option would impose similar costs even under competition that falls short of war. Additionally, doing so could allow the PLA to board a damaged or possibly crippled USN ship under the guise of rescue operations, offering a valuable opportunity to study USN technology and damage-control procedures up close. Tellingly, in the EP-3 incident, the PLA exploited the situation to extract numerous secrets from the downed USN reconnaissance aircraft[4]. Lastly, were the USN ship to be sufficiently damaged the PLAN could effectively intern the crew under the guise of rescuing them. This would give the PRC leverage over the U.S. in the unfolding crisis, as it would effectively be holding U.S. military personnel as hostages.

Option #2:  The CCP can secretly support extremist protest movements in the U.S.

Risk:  The most appreciable risk is that the U.S. would respond in kind, and offer support to dissident groups in China, such as Hong Kong separatists. However, a convincing argument can be made that the CCP believes the U.S. is already secretly doing so[5][6], meaning the CCP may well be willing to stomach this risk. Likewise, the PRC can control the flow of information within its borders and call upon an effective domestic security apparatus to stem anti-Party civil disturbances. The risk of a harsh U.S. response would be contingent on how well the CCP could keep the funding secret or maintain plausible deniability.

Gain:  Recent events such as the anti-lockdown protests and anti-police brutality protests have shown the risk of domestic instability in the U.S.[7][8]. The CCP knows all too well from its own history how internal instability can sap a state’s ability to deal with external threats. Secretly channeling funding to extremist groups in the U.S., such as armed militias, would be an effective and cheap way to create a security headache for the U.S. government at home.

Option #3:  The PLAN could impose a maritime blockade on Taiwan. The CCP views Taiwan as an incredibly sensitive issue, to the extent that “reunifying” it with the mainland is the ultimate test of its legitimacy[9]. As such, the CCP is concerned about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and especially the possibility that the U.S. might relieve Taiwan were the PRC to attempt to invade Taiwan. One option to resolve both of these concerns, as well as potentially sap Taiwan’s will to resist would be to launch a maritime blockade of Taiwan[10].

Risk:  This option entails considerable risk. Although the PLAN and PLA Air Force are rapidly expanding their capabilities, this would still be a very difficult task[11][12]. Were the U.S. or its allies to attempt to relieve Taiwan, war could easily erupt from a localized incident at sea. This would also have huge knockoff effects on the shipping industry, as insurance rates would skyrocket amidst rising tensions. China’s exports sector would foot much of the bill. Lastly, doing so would likely backfire and strengthen Taiwan’s desire to protect itself from China, instead of weakening it. However, as the 1996 Taiwan Straits Incident shows, the CCP often fails to appreciate how a heavy-handed policy towards Taiwan can be against its own interests. The key to predicting this possibility isn’t a perfectly objective cost-benefit analysis, but an awareness of how constraints on the CCP could cause it to make a self-defeating choice.

Gain:  If executed successfully, this option could cripple the Taiwanese economy and make U.S. intervention in a Taiwan-PRC conflict vastly more difficult, making USN access to the Western Pacific increasingly difficult.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Erickson, A. S., Martinson, Martinson, R. D. (March 15, 2019) China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations. China Maritime Studies Institute and Naval Institute Press

[2] Sanger, D. E., Rosenthal, E. (2001, April 2) U.S. Plane In China After It Collides With Chinese Jet. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/02/world/us-plane-in-china-after-it-collides-with-chinese-jet.html

[3] Department of the Navy/Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. (2017). Memorandum for Distribution:  Report on the Collision between USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) and Motor Vessel ACX CRYSTAL, Report on the Collision between USS JOHN S MCCAIN (DDG 56) and Motor Vessel ALNIC MC. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/CHINFO/USS+Fitzgerald+and+USS+John+S+McCain+Collision+Reports.pdf

[4] Zetter, K. Burn After Reading: Snowden Documents Reveal Scope of Secrets Exposed to China in 2001 Spy Plane Incident. The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/2017/04/10/snowden-documents-reveal-scope-of-secrets-exposed-to-china-in-2001-spy-plane-incident

[5] Buckley, C. (2013, August 19). China Takes Aim at Western Ideas. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/world/asia/chinas-new-leadership-takes-hard-line-in-secret-memo.html

[6] Higgins, A. (2019, August 9). China’s Theory for Hong Kong Protests: Secret American Meddling. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/world/asia/hong-kong-black-hand.html

[7] Picchi, A. (2020, January 6). Top Global Risk in 2020? It’s American politics, experts say. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-top-risk-in-2020-its-u-s-politics-geopolitical-analysts-say

[8] Purtill, J. (2020 June 17) This Model forecast the US’s current unrest a decade ago. It now says ‘civil war’. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/model-predicting-united-states-disorder-now-points-to-civil-war/12365280

[9] Yeung, J. T. (2019, October). Why is Taiwan so important? The manipulation of nationalism in legitimizing​ one-party rule in China. The Yale Review of International Studies. http://yris.yira.org/essays/3613

[10] Easton, I. (2017). The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia. Project 2049 Institute.

11] Yoshihara, T., Holmes, J. (2018). Red Star over the Pacific, Revised Edition: China’s Rise and the Challenge to US Maritime Strategy.  Naval Institution Press.

[12] Lee, J. (2019, April 3). Why a US Sale of Fighter Jets to Taiwan Matters. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2019/04/why-a-us-sale-of-fighter-jets-to-taiwan-matters

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Eli Kravinsky Option Papers United States

Options for Taiwan to Better Compete with China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Thomas J. Shattuck is a Research Associate in the Asia Program and the Managing Editor at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Mr. Shattuck was a member of the 2019 class of scholars at the Global Taiwan Institute, receiving the Taiwan Scholarship. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Taiwan requires options to better compete with China in international organizations below the threshold of conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a research associate at a non-partisan foreign policy think tank.

Background:  One of the key national security priorities of the People’s Republic of China is to force Taiwan into unification. Part of that strategy is to limit Taiwan’s ability to participate fully in the international community, specifically in international organizations in which Taiwan is not a full member[1]. Such pressure would be removed upon China-Taiwan unification.

Significance:  In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the full participation and cooperation of the entire international community is needed to understand best practices in limiting the spread of the virus. The pandemic has shown the importance of public and global health for a country’s national security. Taiwan’s exclusion from the May 2020 United Nations (UN) World Health Assembly—after dual campaigns by major international players in support of Taiwan’s observership bid and by China to keep Taiwan out—demonstrates the danger and limitations of excluding certain states based on their geopolitical situation[2]. Taiwan is prevented from learning important information or receiving key data in a timely fashion. Also, it is more difficult for Taiwan to share its expertise in stopping the virus’ spread, something that Taipei has succeeded at doing despite its limitations[3]. The spread of viruses endangers the entire world, and political maneuvering by Beijing has damaged the global response effort.

Option #1:  Taipei works with like-minded nations, particularly the United States, to develop a new, non-UN-membership-based international entity, initially focused on health issues with a plan for expansion into other areas.

Risk:  There are two primary risks to such an endeavor. The first risk is the possibility that Beijing will pressure nations into not participating. By threatening various economic or political repercussions, leaders in China have been able to stop Taiwan from expanding its international participation. Such a campaign would likely occur in light of any effort by Taipei to work around current Beijing-imposed limitations. If such a new entity does not receive enough international buy-in, then Taipei risks getting embarrassed for failing to garner support. Second, Beijing would likely direct even greater backlash at Taipei for attempting to challenge it internationally. This could include more assertive military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

Gain:  Successfully establishing a new international entity would demonstrate that Taipei does not have to live within Beijing-imposed boundaries. As the recent COVID-19 example has shown, Taiwan has much to contribute internationally, but international organizations and members will quickly revert to Beijing’s stance when it comes to Taiwan. It was Taipei that first sounded the alarm regarding the potential danger of COVID-19[4]. Without those confines, Taiwan would be able to showcase its COVID-19 success story and teach other nations its best public health practices. It also would be able to receive information in a timelier fashion. Taiwan’s international participation would no longer be limited by the current status of cross-Strait relations and could be further integrated into the international community. Such an effort would complement the Trump administration’s desire to form some sort of “alliance of democracies” to meet the China challenge[5].

Option #2:  Taiwan relaunches its bid for membership in the UN so that it could become a full member of all UN-affiliated international organizations and ones that require statehood for membership.

Risk:  Any attempt by Taipei to join the United Nations will be stopped by Beijing. The vote would fail in the same way that Taiwan’s bids for guest or observer status in international organizations have since 2016. Depending on the form that such a bid takes (i.e., independence referendum for establishment of the “Republic of Taiwan”), the bid could have catastrophic effects, i.e., Chinese military action against Taiwan or an invasion. If such a move is conducted similarly to past attempts, then it would cause Beijing to lash out in a ways below the threshold of war—perhaps more intense forms of aggression that have become regularized since 2016[6].

Gain:  Even though a UN membership bid would fail, it would once again place Taiwan’s confusing geopolitical status in the limelight. Taiwan’s international plight receives sympathetic news coverage in democratic nations, and forcing countries to vote for the record on where it stands on this issue could spark new conversations about a country’s relationship with Taiwan. With increasingly assertive and aggressive actions by Beijing on various fronts, launching a UN membership bid could help Taipei enhance ties with current “friends” or find new ones because how China treats Taiwan would be given even greater focus across the world. The current international spotlight on China’s behavior at home and abroad may lead to countries working to strengthen relations with Taiwan. Positive outcomes are possible even if the membership bid fails.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Dreyer, J. T. (2018, August 13). The Big Squeeze: Beijing’s Anaconda Strategy to Force Taiwan to Surrender. Foreign Policy Research Institute. https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/08/the-big-squeeze-beijings-anaconda-strategy-to-force-taiwan-to-surrender

[2] Tan, H. (2020, May 19). Taiwan ‘disappointed and angry’ about being excluded from WHO meeting, says it is developing its own coronavirus vaccine. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/19/taiwan-says-it-is-disappointed-and-angry-being-excluded-from-who-meeting.html

[3] Griffiths, J. (2020, April 5). Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/04/asia/taiwan-coronavirus-response-who-intl-hnk/index.html

[4] Watt, L. (2020, May 19). Taiwan Says It Tried to Warn the World About Coronavirus. Here’s What It Really Knew and When. Time. https://time.com/5826025/taiwan-who-trump-coronavirus-covid19

[5] Pompeo, M. (2020, July 23). Communist China and the Free World’s Future. U.S. Department of State. https://www.state.gov/communist-china-and-the-free-worlds-future

[6] Taiwan says China sending planes near island almost daily. (2020, July 22). Associated Press. https://apnews.com/2126b0fbdf2b7d2e6a5a77c464aeb7b1

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Taiwan Thomas J. Shattuck

Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Rusudan Zabakhidze is an International Conference of Europeanists coordinator at Council for European Studies at Columbia University and a non-resident fellow at Middle East Institute’s Frontier Europe Initiative. She can be found on Twitter @rusozabakhidze. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 12, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that increasing Russian and Chinese influence in Africa is yet another external attempt to exploit African resources. The absence of democratic preconditions from cooperation agreements between African countries that work with Russia and China undermines U.S. democratization efforts in the region and create obstacles for international transparency and accountability.

Summary:  The Sino-Russian strategic competition in Africa is characterized by the complex interplay of mutual interests, yet divergent means and ways of achieving the strategic interests. In comparison to China, Russian economic cooperation with African countries is modest, however, deep military cooperation across the continent places Russia in an adventitious position to change the conditions for the economic development by stirring the local or regional instability, if desired.

Text:  Rapid urbanization and the economic rise of the African continent in the past decades have harnessed the potential for a redefined development path. Colonial legacy has earned the European powers a controversial status in contemporary affairs of African countries. Alternatively, China has grasped an opportunity to fill the vacuum and advance its strategic interests. The mainstream discourse around the geopolitical competition in Africa is mostly dominated by the U.S.-China rivalry, however, increasing Russian influence suggests that the current power dynamics across Africa are much more complex.

To assess the comparative advantage or disadvantage of the Russian position in Africa, it is helpful to delineate the key drivers of Russian strategic interests. As a resurgent power, Russia has been challenging the Western-centric world order globally; hence, the African continent represents yet another territory for projecting its global power status. While similar to other external actors in Africa Russia is interested in accessing natural resources[1], Russian connections with African countries are most notable in defense sector. The absence of democratic preconditions for various forms of cooperation serves the mutual interest of Russia and recipient African governments[2].

The Sino-Russian strategic competition in Africa is characterized by the interplay of similar interests, yet different means and ways towards attaining these goals. In terms of projecting the global power image, China and Russia share a common revisionist agenda based on offering an alternative to the western models of governance. Chinese and Russian discourses are built around emphasizing the superiority of their non-interference approach[3] that is based on respectful cooperation in contrast to the colonial practices of European powers. Patterns of rapid urbanization and accelerated economic growth of African countries enable China to draw comparisons to its own past in the 1990s[4]. Such parallels place China in an advantageous position to advocate for its governance model across the continent. China and Russia also try to use the cooperation with African governments as a supporting mechanism for their global power image in other parts of the world. Namely, African countries represent the largest voting bloc in the United Nations and regardless of the diversity of political positions of the national governments, both Russia and China have tried to use their influence over the voting behavior in favor of their positions within the UN system[5].

The differences between the Sino-Russian strategic competition is best visible in the economic cooperation trends. Russian economic engagement in African countries is relatively modest compared to large-scale Chinese investments. This difference is a logical amalgam of general economic trends in both countries and the retrospective of cooperative efforts. Unlike Russia, China has remained a steady interest in Africa since the decolonization period. The establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000 supported the facilitation of the cooperation efforts[6]. On the other hand, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia temporarily detached itself from African politics. Belated Russian rapprochement was therefore met with a Chinese dominant presence. African markets with the fastest growing population and increased consumption needs, present an attractive venue for selling Chinese goods[7]. Almost all African countries are benefiting from diversified Chinese foreign direct investment. Oil and extractive natural resources account for a large share of investments, however, financial services, construction, transportation, and manufacturing make up half of Chinese FDI in Africa[8]. Against this backdrop, despite its own rich mineral resources, Russia has a shortage of certain raw materials, including chrome, manganese, mercury, and titanium that are essential for steel production[9]. Therefore, Russian economic interests in African countries mostly revolve around accessing these resources.

Russia’s strategic advantage over China is more visible in military cooperation with African countries. Russia has become the largest supplier of arms to Africa, accounting for 35% of arms exports, followed by China (17%), U.S. (9.6%), and France (6.9%)[10]. Besides arms trade, Russia provides military advice[11]. Reportedly, Wagner Group, a private military company with a history of fighting in Ukraine and Syria and has close ties to the Russian government has also shifted its focus towards Africa[12]. Even though Russia has a marginal advantage in military cooperation over China and western powers, Chinese actions in this direction should not be under-looked. Chinese defense strategy in Africa is based on a comprehensive approach, combining arms sales with other trade and investment deals, cultural exchanges, medical assistance, and building infrastructure. For instance, the package deal for building a Chinese military base in Djibouti covers the large non-military investment projects[13].

In support of the above-given strategic interests, Russia and China are actively using soft power tools. Confucius Institutes that promote Chinese language and culture are rapidly popping up across Africa and are now present in over 40 countries[14]. China is also becoming a popular destination for African students[15]. China also boosts its image through media cooperation. The Chinese Communist Party has organized four annual forums bringing together the representatives of Africa state-owned and private media agencies to discuss the global media environment and the state of African media[16]. These gatherings are unprecedented compared to China’s media-related efforts in other regions. On the other hand, Russia is also actively using the media as a medium for projecting its positive image. Russia Today and Sputnik – media agencies aligning with the discourses favorable to the Russian government, have expanded their reach to the African continent as well[17]. The number of the Russian World Foundation, known as Russkiy Mir, is also increasing in African countries[18]. Somewhat different from the Chinese approach is using the Russian Orthodox Church as the way to approach the Christian communities in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia[19]. Even though current Chinese and Russian efforts to promote their image through media and cultural activities are not targeted at deterring the influence of each other, both actors have the potential to exploit the information space through controlled media platforms. Such developments can significantly undermine the social cohesion, as well as the trust and confidence in targeted actors.


Endnotes:

[1] Adlbe, J. (2019, November 14). What does Russia really want from Africa? Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2019/11/14/what-does-russia-really-want-from-africa

[2] Procopio, M. (2019, November 15). Why Russia is not like China in Africa. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/why-russia-not-china-africa-24409

[3] Ibid.

[4] Diop, M. (2015, January 13). Lessons for Africa from China’s growth. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/speech/2015/01/13/lessons-for-africa-from-chinas-growth

[5] Spivak, V. (2019, October 25). Russia and China in Africa: Allies or Rivals? Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://carnegie.ru/commentary/80181

[6] Nantulya, P. (2018, August 30). Grand Strategy and China’s Soft Power Push in Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://africacenter.org/spotlight/grand-strategy-and-chinas-soft-power-push-in-africa

[7] Maverick, B. (2020, April). The three reasons why Chinese invest in Africa. Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/active-trading/081315/3-reasons-why-chinese-invest-africa.asp

[8] Pigato, M. (2015). China and Africa: Expanding Economic Ties in and Evolving Global Context. The World Bank. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Event/Africa/Investing%20in%20Africa%20Forum/2015/investing-in-africa-forum-china-and-africa.pdf

[9] Hedenskog, J. (2018, December). Russia is Stepping Up its Military Cooperation in Africa. FOI, retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.foi.se/rest-api/report/FOI%20MEMO%206604

[10] Adlbe, J. (2019, November 14). What does Russia really want from Africa? Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2019/11/14/what-does-russia-really-want-from-africa

[11] Russel, M & Pichon E. (2019, November). Russia in Africa. A new area for geopolitical competition. European Parliament’s Research Service, Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2019/642283/EPRS_BRI(2019)642283_EN.pdf

[12] Hauer, N. (2018, August 27). Russia’s Favorite Mercenaries. The Atlantic. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/russian-mercenaries-wagner-africa/568435

[13] Benabdallah, L. (2018). China-Africa military ties have deepened. Here are 4 things to know. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/07/06/china-africa-military-ties-have-deepened-here-are-4-things-to-know

[14] Nantulya, P. (2018, August 30). Grand Strategy and China’s Soft Power Push in Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://africacenter.org/spotlight/grand-strategy-and-chinas-soft-power-push-in-africa

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Arbunies, P. (2019). Russia’s sharp power in Africa: the case of Madagascar, CAR, Sudan and South Africa, retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.unav.edu/web/global-affairs/detalle/-/blogs/russia-s-sharp-power-in-africa-the-case-of-madagascar-central-africa-republic-sudan-and-south-africa

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Russia Rusudan Zabakhidze

Options for Altering Global Energy Developments to America’s Advantage and China’s Disadvantage

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Michael D. Purzycki is a researcher, analyst, writer and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He is a former communications and media analyst for the United States Marine Corps. He writes regularly for Charged Affairs (the journal of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy) and Braver Angels, and has also been published in Merion West, Washington Monthly, the Truman National Security Project, France 24, and Arc Digital. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki and on Medium at https://medium.com/@mdpurzycki. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States devotes considerable military resources to the Persian Gulf despite significantly reduced reliance on the region’s oil, while China buys more Gulf oil than the U.S. does.

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of U.S. policymakers who wish to indirectly increase economic and military burdens on the People’s Republic of China, in ways that benefit the United States and do not lead to armed conflict.

Background:  The United States has drastically reduced its reliance on oil from the Persian Gulf over the last decade, as the U.S. has become the world’s largest producer of crude oil[1]. China purchases significantly more oil from Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest producer and the largest producer in the Gulf, than the U.S. does[2]. However, the U.S. still expends considerable military and financial resources in the Gulf, part of the estimated $81 billion per year it devotes to protecting global oil supplies[3]. Meanwhile, as demand for electric cars increases in response to climate change, China’s share of global electric vehicle production is double that of the U.S.[4].

Significance:  While there are multiple reasons for the U.S. presence in the Gulf region, such as deterring Iranian aggression and combatting terrorism, every ship, aircraft, vehicle and service member not protecting oil is one that can be deployed elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, despite the increase in oil prices that would likely result from more vulnerable oil supplies, an incentive to develop alternatives to petroleum would be a positive aspect, given climate change.

Option #1:  The United States ceases to deploy naval vessels to the Persian Gulf.

Risk:  A reduced military presence in the Gulf would increase the vulnerability of oil supplies to attacks by Iran, its proxies, and terrorist organizations, and will likely lead to a rise in global oil prices[5]. Saudi Arabia will fear the U.S. is abandoning it, and may begin developing nuclear weapons to guard against the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. Countries that rely more heavily on Gulf oil than the U.S. does – not only U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, but China’s rival India – may be harmed economically by less secure oil[6].

Gain:  Ceasing to deploy vessels to the Gulf leaves more vessels available for the U.S. to use in the Asia-Pacific. A risk of greater instability in the Gulf may lead China to expand its current naval presence in the region, leaving fewer vessels available elsewhere[7]. U.S. vessels would no longer be vulnerable to attacks by Iranian forces. Chillier U.S.-Saudi relations will loosen America’s connection to the aggressive and brutal regime of Mohammad bin Salman, improving America’s moral position[8]. Meanwhile, given petroleum’s contribution to climate change, a rise in oil prices can be embraced as an incentive to reduce reliance on oil, regardless of its source.

Option #2:  The United States prohibits oil exports to China in concert with withdrawal from the Gulf, and steers additional oil exports to major importers of Gulf oil, compensating them for Gulf oil’s increased vulnerability.

Risk:  Embargoing crude oil would likely stall or end negotiations for a U.S.-China trade deal[9]. Furthermore, the U.S. is a relatively minor source of oil for China, meaning the impact of an embargo will likely be weak[10]. China may also retaliate with new and/or higher tariffs on U.S. exports. Also, even with additional imports of U.S. oil, America’s trading partners may still endure a negative economic impact from higher oil prices during a global recession.

Gain:  If compensatory exports of U.S. oil are proportionate to a country’s purchases of Gulf oil, the largest beneficiaries would likely be Japan, South Korea and India (respectively the first, third and fifth largest purchasers of Saudi oil)[2]. The first two have deep, long-lasting economic and defense relationships with the U.S., while India is a potential counterweight to Chinese hegemonic ambitions in Asia. Thus compensatory oil supplies could link these countries close to the U.S. in a multilateral effort to tie China’s hands regarding Gulf oil.

Option #3:  The United States partners with countries importing Gulf oil to develop alternatives to petroleum products, and pointedly excludes China from the partnership. Public policies to this end can include increased investment in clean energy research and development, and initiatives to produce more electric cars at lower prices, as well as car charging stations powered by non-fossil energy.

Risk:  China might portray itself as a victim if it is excluded from international efforts to reduce fossil fuel use. This option might also portray the U.S. as not serious about climate change, arguing that if the U.S. really wanted to solve the problem it would cooperate with any country, including China.

Gain:  Participation in multinational efforts to reduce petroleum use would position the U.S. as a leader in the fight against climate change. U.S. clean energy development lags behind China’s, and during a global recession, a major stimulus of clean energy technology, including in the transportation sector, would provide economic and environmental benefits[11]. If, as with Option #2, America’s primary partners are Japan, South Korea and India, it will be collaborating with countries that are home to car manufacturers listed on the Global 500, companies well-positioned to benefit from an electric car boom[12].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “What countries are the top producers and consumers of oil?” U.S. Energy Information Administration, April 1, 2020.
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php

[2] Stevens, Harry, Lauren Tierney, Adrian Blanco and Laris Karklis. “Who buys Saudi Arabia’s oil?” Washington Post, September 16, 2019.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/09/16/who-buys-saudi-arabias-oil

[3] “The Military Cost of Defending the Global Oil Supply.” Securing America’s Future Energy, September 21, 2018.
http://secureenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Military-Cost-of-Defending-the-Global-Oil-Supply.-Sep.-18.-2018.pdf

[4] Bledsoe, Paul. “New Ideas for a Do Something Congress No. 7: Winning the Global Race on Electric Cars.” Progressive Policy Institute, April 1, 2019.
https://www.progressivepolicy.org/publication/winning-the-global-race-on-electric-cars

[5] Cordesman, Anthony H. “The Strategic Threat from Iranian Hybrid Warfare in the Gulf.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 13, 2019.
https://www.csis.org/analysis/strategic-threat-iranian-hybrid-warfare-gulf

[6] “Iraq continues to be India’s top oil supplier, imports from US rises 4-folds.” Economic Times, May 1, 2019.
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/oil-gas/iraq-continues-to-be-indias-top-oil-supplier-imports-from-us-rises-4-folds/articleshow/69129071.cms

[7] Eckstein, Megan. “5th Fleet CO: China Laying Groundwork in Middle East to Pose Future Threats; International Coalitions Pushing Back Against Iran.” USNI News, July 23, 2020.
https://news.usni.org/2020/07/23/5th-fleet-co-china-laying-groundwork-in-middle-east-to-pose-future-threats-international-coalitions-pushing-back-against-iran

[8] Editorial Board. “One year later, our murdered friend Jamal has been proved right.” Washington Post, September 30, 2019.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/30/one-year-later-our-murdered-friend-jamal-has-been-proved-right

[9] Swanson, Ana and Keith Bradsher. “Once a Source of U.S.-China Tension, Trade Emerges as an Area of Calm.” New York Times, July 25, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/25/business/economy/us-china-trade-diplomacy.html

[10] “China’s crude oil imports surpassed 10 million barrels per day in 2019.” U.S. Energy Information Administration, March 23, 2020.
https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43216

[11] Bledsoe, Paul. “Jumpstarting U.S. Clean Energy Manufacturing in Economic Stimulus and Infrastructure Legislation.” Progressive Policy Institute, May 2020.
https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PPI_Clean-Manufacturing-Infrastructure_Embargoed.pdf

[12] “Global 500: Motor Vehicles & Parts.” Fortune, 2019.
 https://fortune.com/global500/2019/search/?sector=Motor%20Vehicles%20%26%20Parts

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers Resource Scarcity United States

Assessing the U.S. and China Competition for Brazilian 5G 

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Martina Victoria Abalo is an Argentinian undergrad student majoring in international affairs from The University of San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She can be found on Twitter as @Martilux. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the U.S. and China Competition for Brazilian 5G

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an advanced undergrad student of International Affairs from Argentina.

Summary:  Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump see the world similarly. At the same time, China’s investment in Brazil is significantly more than the U.S. investment. With China trying to put 5G antennas into Brazil, and the U.S. trying to stop China from doing the same worldwide, President Bolsonaro finds himself in a quandary and thus far has not decided to side with the U.S. or China.

Text:  When thinking about China and the U.S., most tend to see the big picture. However, often unseen are the disputes that are going in the shadows for alignment. This article will assess how U.S. tries to counterbalance China in Brazil, as China pursues the alignment of the South American power for 5G.

The relationship between China and Brazil must be understood in context. Before the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, China was Brazil’s most important ally economically and one of the closest politically[1]. However, with the assumption of the Presidency by Jair Bolsonaro in 2019, Brazil’s foreign policy towards China turned 180 degrees[2]. Although Brazil has been famous for having a foreign policy autonomous from their domestic one[3], Bolsonaro’s office changed that and started a close linkage with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Having a similar political outlook, Bolsonaro and Trump have made Brazil and the U.S. closer than they have ever been. Nevertheless, this closeness comes with a price, especially for Brazil, which seems to be playing the role of the second state in a bandwagon for survival relationship[4] with the United States. This role can be seen in the first months of 2019 when Jair tried to follow the U.S. lead in the international community. Though alignment with the U.S. may be well or poorly appreciated, it remains to be seen what impacts Brazil will feel from China following this alignment.

Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. did not last long because no matter how uncomfortable Bolsonaro feels with the Chinese political model, China remains Brazil’s first economic partner. In 2018 the Brazilian Gross Domestic Product GDP was 12,79%[5] and during 2019 China bought assets in Brazil for U.S. $62.871 billion and had total trade of U.S. $98.142 billion[6] between these two countries. In parallel with this, Brazil’s second-best trade partner, the U.S., was far behind China, with a two – way trade of U.S. $59.646 billion. As we know, the United States can not offer to Brazil the economic benefits that China does and clearly, this is no secret in Brazil. With this trade disparity, the question is whether the U.S. can offer something as powerful as China, to persuade Brazil from signing more agreements with China, such as installation of 5G antennas?

Even though 5G antennas are faster than the 4G, there are two concerns around this new technology. The first one is the privacy of the users because it is easy to get the exact user location. The second is that the owner of the 5G network or a hacker could spy on the internet traffic passing through said network[8].

In 2020, the United States is attempting to thwart China from signing agreements to place 5G antennas in countries worldwide. While the United Kingdom and France[9] rejected any kind of deal with China, in Brazil the official decision keeps on being delayed, and as of this writing nobody knows whether Bolsonaro align with China or the U.S.

China is trying to persuade Brazil to sign an agreement with Huawei which aims to develop 5G technology by placing 5G antennas all along Brazil[10]. This quest to convince Brazil to sign with Huawei has been going on for months. Despite the lack of a signed agreement Huawei, who has been operating in Brazil for a long time now, is opening a lab of 5G technology in Brasilia[11].

The U.S. does not have a viable counteroffer to Brazil for the placement of Huawei 5G antennas across the country[12]. The Trump administration keeps trying to persuade their political allies to not sign with Huawei, although the United States has not developed this kind of alternative technology. However, there are some companies interested in placing 5G on Brazil alike the Mexican telecommunications company Claro[13].

President Bolsonaro, in an effort to balance the U.S. and China’s interest in Brazil, will likely have to find a middle way. Regarding the influence of China when it comes to Brazil’s economy, it is naïve to think that there will not be any consequence if Brazil says no to Huawei. Of course, this possible “no” does not mean that China will break any economical entanglement with Brazil, but clearly, China would not be pleased by this decision. A yes decision by Bolsonaro might be a deal-breaker for the Trump-Bolsonaro relationship. Additionally, Bolsonaro started his presidency seeking to be Trump’s southern ally to ensure survival. Bolsonaro remains as hopeful as Jair that Brazil would be a secondary state[14], and that following the U.S. will help Brazil to change their political and economic allies. Finally, the close relationship between the U.S. and Brazil is quite good, and the U.S. can support Bolsonaro politically and diplomatically speaking in ways that China is simply not able.

In conclusion, Brazil is placed between a rock and a hard place and the solution to this matter will not satisfy all participants. It might be rather expensive for the future of Brazil if the U.S. does not back Bolsonaro if he says yes to China, and China might turn back on the Brazilian administration if they say no to Huawei.


Endnotes:

[1] Ferreyra, J. E. (n.d.). Acciones de política exterior de Brasil hacia organismos multilaterales durante las presidencias de Lula Da Silva [Grado, Siglo 21]. https://repositorio.uesiglo21.edu.ar/bitstream/handle/ues21/12989/FERREYRA%20Jorge%20E..pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[2] Guilherme Casarões. (2019, December 20). Making Sense of Bolsonaro’s Foreign Policy at Year One. Americas Quarterly. https://www.americasquarterly.org/article/making-sense-of-bolsonaros-foreign-policy-at-year-one

[3] Jacaranda Guillén Ayala. (2019). La política exterior del gobierno de Bolsonaro. Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica. http://revistafal.com/la-politica-exterior-del-gobierno-de-bolsonaro

[4] Matias Spektot, & Guilherme Fasolin. (2018). Bandwagoning for Survival: Political Leaders and International Alignments.

[5] Brasil—Exportaciónes de Mercancías 2019. (2019). Datos Macro. https://datosmacro.expansion.com/comercio/exportaciones/brasil

[6] World Integrated Trade Solutions. (2020, July 12). Brasil | Resumen del comercio | 2018 | WITS | Texto. World Integrated Trade Solutions. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/es/Country/BRA/Year/LTST/Summarytext

[7] World Integrated Trade Solutions. (2020, July 12). Brasil | Resumen del comercio | 2018 | WITS | Texto. World Integrated Trade Solutions. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/es/Country/BRA/Year/LTST/Summarytext

[8] Vandita Grover. (2019, October 16). In the Age of 5G Internet Is Data Privacy Just A Myth? | MarTech Advisor. Martech Advisor. https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/mobile-marketing/5g-internet-and-data-privacy

[9] George Calhoun. (2020, July 24). Is The UK Ban On Huawei The “Endgame” For Free Trade? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgecalhoun/2020/07/24/is-the-uk-ban-on-huawei-the-endgame-for-free-trade/#6735924d46db

[10] Oliver Stunkel. (2020, June 30). Huawei or Not? Brazil Faces a Key Geopolitical Choice. Americas Quarterly. https://americasquarterly.org/article/huawei-or-not-brazil-faces-a-key-geopolitical-choice

[11] Huawei to open 5G lab in Brasília. (2020, July 23). BNamericas.Com. https://www.bnamericas.com/en/news/huawei-to-open-5g-lab-in-brasilia

[12] Gabriela Mello. (2020, July 7). Huawei says U.S. pressure on Brazil threatens long delays in 5G rollout. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-huawei-tech-brazil-5g-idUSKBN2482WS

[13] Forbes Staff. (2020, July 8). Claro, de Carlos Slim, iniciará la carrera del 5G en Brasil. Forbes México. https://www.forbes.com.mx/tecnologia-claro-slim-5g-brasil

[14] Matias Spektot, & Guilherme Fasolin. (2018). Bandwagoning for Survival: Political Leaders and International Alignments.

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Brazil China (People's Republic of China) Competition Emerging Technology United States

Minerals, Minds, and Accommodation: U.S. Options Against China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Patrick M. Foran is a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He can be found on Twitter @Patrick__Foran and has a newsletter at CatalogofCurisoties.substack.com. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China grows richer, more powerful, and more revanchist, the U.S., as the world’s current-yet-faltering hegemon, requires options to meet this rising challenger that plays to the edge of, but stays below the threshold of, armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri – St. Louis with a broadly realist foreign policy point of view. The article is written from the point of view of the United States towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Background:  The U.S. under President Donald Trump understands that “great power competition” has “returned,” as announced in the 2017 National Security Strategy[1]. Yet “complex interdependence” between the U.S. and the PRC has created liabilities, challenges, and an entangled relationship that is a double-edged sword for the U.S. should they uncouple without care[2].

Significance:  The significance of this interdependence cannot be overstated. The U.S.-China relationship is certainly the most important in the world, and this goes for finance, climate, trade, the future of international institutions and regime maintenance, and so much more.

Option #1:  The U.S. could attempt to carefully decouple its critical minerals relationship and defense-industrial base needs in a neo-Hamiltonian way, referring to the Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton and his belief in infant industry support and fostering research and development to build competitive industries. This option would be understood as support for re-developing and re-conceptualizing what is critical using the broad scope of powers delegated to the president under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act[3]. The U.S. would also form a Five Eyes or Democratic Club-like international agreement with fellow liberal democracies. This agreement would ensure cooperation regarding research and development, logistics, and ensure robustness and sustainability. This cooperation would look like a shared pool similar to the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve but for minerals and high-tech components with the addition of ally access to the reserve. This pool would be shared with Western and liberal allies who agree to shun China’s current dominance in the realm of rare earth minerals.


Risk:  This option risks sparking a “beggar thy neighbor” system, where zero-sum moves engaged by those inside and outside the system produce a worst world for all. In other words, it risks a new Cold War that hardens into blocs, blocs that would make future pandemics, for example, or future financial crises harder to manage. Further, this option risks more realpolitik when it comes to ocean exploration and when it comes to African state sovereignty where rare earth minerals are present.

Gain:  This option contributes to a renewed liberal international order, one that is modern, looking towards the future, and one that is concerned with sustainability and shared prosperity. Offering an “opt-in” for liberal and democratic countries is aligned with much evidence that shows that positive inducements work more than negative inducements; and also the fear of kinetic conflict with China nudges allies to take strategic materials and infrastructure seriously[4]. Moreover, much of the gains would accrue to the U.S. since it would be the leader and sustainer of this strategic mineral reserve; new U.S. companies could be created to manage such an important reserve.

Option #2:  The United States creates a sister channel to Radio Free Asia that exclusively highlights the horrors of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This radio station’s content would encourage the use of onion addresses and virtual proxy networks as ways to pursue internet freedom, and could feature audio essays of “Civil Disobedience,” “The Rights of Man,” and the U.S. Constitution, for example.

Risk:  This option risks escalation in this sphere. And, shouts of hypocrisy could fairly be leveraged by the CCP against the U.S. since this option could be interpreted as a violation of the United Nations Charter, Article II, Section 7 which states that “states that the United Nations has no authority to intervene in matters which are within the domestic jurisdiction of any State[5].”

Gain:  This option bolsters support for already existing information programs. It suggests that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy and about pushing back against China’s goal of spreading its influence worldwide. And, more importantly, this option counters the spreading of the CCP’s “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” model around the world.

Option #3:  A perhaps counterintuitive option involves the U.S. could taking a long-term accommodation strategy. This strategy would be built on the assumption that China’s internal problems and international liabilities are so vast and challenging that a bearish strategy is warranted. This is still a great power strategy yet privileges a “foreign policy begins at home” concept: rebuild American schools, roads, infrastructure, and human and social capital[6].

Risk:  Without the U.S. checking its behavior, China becomes hyperaggressive and revisionist, even more so, leaving the world with worst options, which increase the likelihood of war or disorder.

Gain:  The gains are enormous. To ensure that the U.S. remains “unrivaled,” truly rebuilding American institutions that make them more democratic, more responsive, and more with institutions in mind. This rebuilding would oppose the current situation where institutions are personalistic and engage in performative displays. Through this option the U.S. can become a sustainable superpower, one that once again reminds that world that a hegemon can be liberal, democratic, and patient.

Other Comments:  The U.S. U.S.-China is a dyadic relationship, one situated in an international system. Relationships are managed—they are not problems to be solved. How the U.S.-China dyad evolves and how it shapes the world is the most important question of the next few decades and this seriousness deserves careful consideration.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Trump, Donald J. (December 2017). “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” Retrieved July 19, 2020, from http://nssarchive.us/national-security-strategy-2017

[2] Keohane, R. O. and Joseph s. Nye. [1977] (2012) Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition. Boston: Longman Books.

[3] The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (1977). Title 50, §§1701–1707.

[4] Axelrod, R. (1981). The Emergence of Cooperation Among Egoists. American Political Science Review, 75 (2), 306-18. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from DOI:
10.2307/1961366 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1961366; Axelrod, R. (1984) The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books; Drezner, D. W. (1999/2000). The Trouble with Carrots: Transaction Costs, Conflict Expectations, and Economic Inducements. Security Studies, 9 (1-2), 188-218. Retrieved July 20, 2020, from
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0963641990842939; Nincic, M. (2010). Getting What You Want: Positive Inducements in International Relations. International Security, 35(1), 138-183. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40784650

[5] UN Charter, Article II, Section 7.

[6] Haass, R. N (2013). Foreign Policy Begins At Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order. New York: Basic Books.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Patrick M. Foran Psychological Factors Resource Scarcity United States

Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


William Freer is currently reading at War Studies at King’s College London. He was a European finalist in the KF-VUB Korea Chair Writing Competition in 2018. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 28, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a soon to be graduated War Studies student reading at King’s College London who strongly believes in the upholding of the rules-based international order.

Summary:  Beijing’s continued use and development of coercive tactics below the threshold of armed conflict, sometimes referred to as ‘Hybrid’ or ‘Grey Zone’ conflict, threatens to undermine the existing rules-based international order. Rather than responding to Beijing at the tactical level, her competitors can instead develop their response on the strategic level and do so multilaterally.

Text:  Hybrid warfare is nothing new. States unable to compete (with the United States) in conventional military terms have long been evolving their capabilities below the threshold of armed conflict from cyber warfare to ‘Ambiguous’ warfare and everything in between[1]. The world has seen these tactics in use for decades in attempts by revanchist states to undermine the existing international order, yet there is little agreement on which tactics work best to counter them. In order to successfully compete with Beijing below the threshold of armed conflict, countries in South/East Asia can look to developing their responses on the strategic level and in a multilateral way.

The main problem this strategic level response poses is that it will require a great deal of multilateral cooperation. Beijing prefers to target states with its diplomacy and hybrid warfare individually rather than collectively[2]. By doing so, Beijing can maximise its coercive potential. When compared to Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and even India or Japan, China’s economic and military strength is far greater[3]. These Chinese strengths have seen the placing of oil rigs in the claimed waters of other states or regular intrusions into the claimed waters of other states by Chinese naval vessels (from fishing boats to warships)[4]. These tactics are difficult to counter. The Vietnamese, for example, attempted to interfere with a Chinese oil drill’s operation in their waters through harassing it with coast guard cutters, but this did not prove effective in deterring Beijing’s activities. Simply responding in kind to Beijing’s tactics like this will in fact further serve to undermine the rules-based international order.

It is hard for individual states to counter these activities on the tactical level. The same cannot be said for the strategic level, however. Through more meaningful multilateral engagement, states can use their collective power to more effectively compete with Beijing, this multilateral engagement can (and must) come in many different forms.

The most important way in which states can help each other to compete with Beijing is through intelligence sharing. Good intelligence is vital in allowing for states to effectively combat tactics below the threshold of armed conflict. The less wealthy of China’s neighbours are severely restricted by the resources at their disposal and can therefore seek to pool their intelligence capabilities as much as possible. This pooling would not be a simple task; it will involve highly sensitive information and states typically jealously guard their secrets. To be able to stand a chance in competing against an adversary, especially in the use of hybrid warfare, knowledge of Chinese activities is essential. There is already a great deal of the necessary diplomatic framework in place for this sharing to happen. The Association of South East Asian Nations could provide a useful starting point for its members to better share intelligence. There is also talk of the Five Eyes program being expanded to include Japan, which is a step in the right direction[5].

Much of the competition between China and other countries is playing out across the Indo-Pacific region (from Japan and the central Pacific to the western end of the Indian Ocean), this is an inherently maritime region[6]. As such, any meaningful multilateral cooperation by those countries that compete with Beijing will need to include a maritime element.

This maritime angle presents many possibilities. For example, the joint patrolling of each other’s waters or joint responses to intrusions by Beijing’s naval assets is one way this could be done. Another would be to embed military personnel into each other’s forces. Actions like these would serve an important purpose in disabling Beijing’s ability to target countries bilaterally and thus minimise the leverage that Beijing could bring to bear on its competitors. If these actions were taken, Beijing would have to seriously re-evaluate when and where they employ coercive tactics. Already moves in this direction are being made as Japan, India, the United States and others conduct regular joint exercises[7]. These joint exercises could be taken to the next stage in the form of regular joint deployments and should even go as far as to include joint coast guard duties. This strategy could also include land-based options, military observers embedded with Indian forces along their contested borders with China for example.

The main problem in making a success out of multilateral engagement will be overcoming trust issues. Many of the countries that will need to support each other have their own disputes and complex histories. Take the Spratly Islands for example, it is not only China and Vietnam who have claims there, but also the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan[8]. Even so, these countries could learn to put aside their differences for now. Some countries appear to be trying to avoid competition with Beijing, but whether they like it or not Xi Jinping’s China will compete with them. Unless the countries of the Indo-Pacific work together, Beijing will be able to target them bilaterally at will.

The U.S. could encourage and support these actions and indeed this may be a necessary component for success. However, for it to work it is vital that the US does not take a leading role, but instead allows the regional countries to take these steps on their own initiative. In this way, these countries will not feel pressured towards an unwanted confrontation with Beijing by the US. If successful, this non-leading role for the U.S. will avoid tit-for-tat responses and the further undermining of international norms.

Beijing has become adept at making use of hybrid warfare, so why try and play them at their own game? By taking the competition with Beijing below the threshold of armed conflict to the strategic level, countries can prevent bilateral coercion from Beijing. If Beijing believes that actions against one country will result in involving many others into the situation, they will be far less likely to do so. Increased multilateral cooperation can have many different facets, in terms of competition with Beijing, the intelligence and maritime domains are the most important and so these would be the areas for countries to prioritise.


Endnotes:

[1] Connell, Mary Ellen and Evans, Ryan (2015, May). Russia’s “Ambiguous Warfare” and implications for the U.S. Marine Corps. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/DOP-2015-U-010447-Final.pdf

[2] Miller, Tom (2019). Chapter 6. In China’s Asian Dream: Empire Building Along the New Silk Road (pp. 199-235). London: Zed Books.

[3] Blackwill, Robert D. & Harris, Jennifer M. (2016). Chapter 5. In War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft (pp 129-152). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[4] Cole, Bernard D. (2016) Chapter 3. In China’s Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil and Foreign Policy. (pp 85-114). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

[5] Howell, David (2020, June 30). Why Five Eyes should now become six. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/06/30/commentary/japan-commentary/five-eyes-now-become-six

[6] Patalano, Dr Alessio (2019). UK Defence from the ‘Far East’ to the ‘Indo-Pacific’. London: Policy Exchange. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/UK-Defence-from-the-%E2%80%98Far-East%E2%80%99-to-the-%E2%80%98Indo-Pacific%E2%80%99.pdf

[7] Oros, Andrew L (2017) Chapter 5. In Japan’ Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century (pp 126-168). New York: Columbia University Press.

[8] Hawksley, Humphrey (2018) Part I. In Asian Waters: The Struggle over the Asia-Pacific and the Strategy of Chinese Expansion (pp 22-57). London: Duckworth Overlook.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) William Freer

Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


James Ridley-Jones is a PhD student at King’s College London currently researching Geostrategy in Central Asia. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia

Date Originally Written:  July 15th 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Chinese Soft Power, initiative failures are indicative of wider Chinese strategic engagement failures in the Central Asian region. For the purposes of this assessment Soft Power is defined as the use of investment diplomacy and cultural engagement to build relationships and project influence below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:  Chinese Soft Power initiatives remain key to facilitating relations alongside Chinese investment. Although China retains good bi-lateral relations with the Central Asian states, a closer examination of Chinese initiatives demonstrates failures amongst the region’s general populations comparative to the ruling elites.

Text:  The announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative by Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan 2013 led to the required development of Chinese Soft Power within the region. The purpose of this Soft Power is to enable political security alongside economic investment. The Belt and Road Initiative encompasses economic investment and diplomatic initiatives, which, when combined, develop working partnerships and economic corridors along projected routes. The initiative has also absorbed prior programs and investments into this framework.

Chinese investment in the region allows for key infrastructure developments that might improve economic and social capacities. Diplomatic and co-operative initiatives take the form of exhibitions, student engagement and the notorious Confucius Institutes. All of these aim to engage students, businessmen and key officials in cultural engagement for the promotion of relations.

Chinese Soft Power actions are not without a downside. High levels of one-sided investment can be, and are, perceived negatively. The often debated debt-trap diplomacy employed by China, together with the use of a Chinese workforce for such projects, leaves poor public perceptions of these investments, irrespective of the benefits.

Similarly, the potential reach of Soft Power initiatives is limited within the countries that China targets. This limitation is due to population dispersal and the extent of possible population engagement. Although there have been multiple exhibitions in Tashkent for example, they only reach a small percentage of the population.

Soft power through language learning to encourage engagement is increasing, but still falls behind state languages, the lingua franca Russian, and English for both tourism and business purposes. In Almaty Kazakhstan, the Confucius Institute remains one of the few places Mandarin can be learnt, compared with English which is far more prevalent in foreign language schools.

China, however, does attract significantly more students to its Universities (2017-2018), with approximately 12,000 Kazakh students currently studying in China[1]. Comparatively there are only 1,300 Kazahk students in the United Kingdom[2] and 1,865 in the United States[3]. Although distance can be included as a factor for this decision, there are also additional Chinese grants and scholarships given to Central Asian students to encourage their attendance at Chinese Universities. This Soft Power will go on to affect the next generation of Kazakhs in the future.

The effectiveness of Chinese diplomatic initiatives is impeded in Central Asia by two main factors:

The first is the disparity between key parts of the target countries’ political and financial elite and the general population.

Although policymakers and businessmen in Central Asia benefit from Chinese initiatives and as such look to engage with China on business, such perceptions remain different to those of the general population who do not benefit in such ways. This disconnect requires a two-tier Chinese approach to inter-country relations that currently does not exist.

The second is the Uyghur problem, where current Chinese policy and actions are perceived very negatively by Central Asian populations. These differences on the Uyghur problem are illustrated in the government support given to Chinese actions, compared to feelings amongst the general populace. An indicator of this is a lack of support from specific Central Asian nations. Only the Governments of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (the two most closed off Central Asian nations) signed a letter in support of Chinese actions, suggesting the other countries are in more turmoil over the decision[4].

The Uyghur have ethnic, cultural and religious similarities to the other Turkic ethnic groups within Central Asia, as well as there being Uyghur minorities in Central Asia. Because of such ties Chinese attitudes in Xinjiang have significant negative connotations within the Central Asian general populace. Although this might not be demonstrated at a governmental level, Sinophobia can be noted across the general population.

Both of these issues take the form of anti-Chinese protests, such as those in Almaty, to even the car bombing of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek (2016). This car bombing, it was reported, was the action of an Islamist, but it has also been suggested that it was in retaliation for the mistreatment of the Uyghur people and Sinophobia.

In 2016, land reform protests revealed underlying concerns of potential Chinese control over agriculture in Kazakhstan[5]. In 2019, there were protests at a Kyrgyzstan mine over environmental quality concerns, greatly affecting the local population[6]. This issue is likely to be compounded with additional mines given or sold to Chinese investors.

More recent protests in Almaty and Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan and in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan September 2019 suggest relations remain frayed. The Kazakhstan protests stem from a variety of reasons to do with increasing Chinese influence in the region[7]. Similarly, in Kyrgyzstan protests grew as a result of Chinese businesses side-lining existing Kyrgyz businesses in the capital[8].

All of these protests demonstrate the disconnect between Chinese investment and maintaining relations with the general populace through diplomatic initiatives.

Given the nature of the regimes in Central Asia, there is no available data on opinion polls of China, and if data was available the validity of results might also be questionable. Public protest in these countries becomes an available method of assessing public opinion, though it is limited in scope and nuance.

The increasing numbers of Central Asian students at Chinese Universities through both grants, scholarships and engagement programs, will most likely be the continued Soft Power tactic.

Although relatively ineffective currently, the Confucius Institutes will look to further develop language teaching capabilities and promote further cultural engagement.

Chinese exhibitions will most likely continue, but at a similar rate of engagement with the population, limiting their effectiveness.

Understanding and analysing Chinese Soft Power failures is important to the development of counter- Chinese strategy. Although inaction by others would allow for continued Chinese failure, these Chinese actions will eventually become successful as newer generations, specifically elites, are increasingly influenced by Chinese Soft Power initiatives, particularly through Universities.

Chinese Soft Power failure is a lack of ability to connect with the wider population beyond the national elites. Critically, Chinese Soft Power failure indicates a lack of cohesive strategy incorporating both investment and diplomacy.


Endnotes:

[1] Uatkhanov, Y. Kazakh Students Also Seek Education in the East – Edge : Kazakhstan. Edge : Kazakhstan. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.edgekz.com/kazakh-students-also-seek-education-in-the-east.

[2] Shayakhmetova, Z. (2019). Kazakh students seek degrees in best UK universities – The Astana Times. The Astana Times. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://astanatimes.com/2019/12/kazakh-students-seek-degrees-in-best-uk-universities.

[3] Kazakhstan – Education. Export.gov. (2019). Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.export.gov/apex/article2?id=Kazakhstan-Education.

[4] Putz, C. (2019).Which Countries Are For or Against China’s Xinjiang Policies?. Thediplomat.com. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/which-countries-are-for-or-against-chinas-xinjiang-policies.

[5] Why Kazakhstan’s protests are unusual. BBC News. (2016). Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36163103.

[6] Putz, C. (2019). Tensions Flare at Kyrgyz Gold Mine. Thediplomat.com. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2019/08/tensions-flare-at-kyrgyz-gold-mine.

[7] Dozens detained in Kazakhstan at anti-China protests. reuters.com. (2019). Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kazakhstan-china-protests-detentions/dozens-detained-in-kazakhstan-at-anti-china-protests-idUSKBN1W60CS.

[8] Kruglov, A. (2019). Sinophobia simmers across Central Asia. Asia Times. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://asiatimes.com/2019/11/sinophobia-simmers-across-central-asia.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Central Asia China (People's Republic of China) Coercive Diplomacy Diplomacy James Ridley-Jones

U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He is currently a Command and General Staff Officer Course student and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China rises to become a Great Power and other nations lack the will to counter this rise via armed conflict, options below the level of armed conflict are required.

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 21, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the United States must increase its capability and efforts to compete with China below levels of armed conflict.

Background:  The 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) specifically identifies China as a revisionist competing against the United States. The NSS describes the objectives of revisionist nations as, “contesting our geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor[1].” Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth identify China as the driving force of a systemic realignment, “the system has shifted from 1 superpower plus X great powers to 1+1+X, with China occupying a middle category as an emerging potential superpower[2].”

Significance:  China currently avoids directly challenging U.S. hegemony and instead utilizes two primary strategies to expand influence and advance objectives below levels of conflict.

The first strategy, “Three Warfares,” seeks “to break adversary resistance and achieve Chinese national objectives with little or no actual fighting[3].” The three “warfares” are public opinion, psychological operations, and legal warfare. The first two warfares attempt to dominate the information domain and the third warfare targets both international and national structures as a means to make them more conducive to Chinese objectives.

The second strategy uses China’s growing economic power to expand China’s political power.  This expansion is done through a combination of debt-laden investments, economic coercion, and predatory liberalism, which describes how China weaponizes market access to suppress public criticism from companies and nations alike[4].

These two strategies mutually support each other as predatory liberalism enables information dominance facilitating further coercive economic expansion enabling systemic changes to legal structures. Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster described this vanguard of Chinese expansion as “a delegation of bankers and party officials with duffel bags full of cash[5],” rather than the traditional military elements of national power associated with historical revisionist expansion. This paper will provide three options to degrade China’s capability and deter their will to execute the aforementioned strategies.

Option #1:  The United States resurrects previous capabilities in an effort to dominate the information environment.

China’s Three Warfares and economic programs are predicated upon dominance of the information environment which is “comprised of and aggregates numerous social, cultural, cognitive, technical, and physical attributes that act upon and impact knowledge, understanding, beliefs, world views, and, ultimately, actions of an individual, group, system, community, or organization[6].” The United States is unable to compete within this environment due to a lack of bureaucratic coherence and leadership[7]. In this option, the United States recreates an Information Age version of the United States Information Agency (USIA) empowering it not only to counter malign Chinese efforts but also potentially propagate messaging into China itself against an autocratic state that severely restricts external information access to its citizens.

Risk:  Establishing an empowered and aggressive USIA could lead to an increase in China’s use of psychological operations, sharp power, and media manipulation against the U.S. and other regional partners. There are also legal concerns regarding U.S. Government filters on speech, press, or information consumed by U.S. citizens.

Gain:  Reestablishing information dominance enhances U.S. soft power globally and fosters resiliency against Chinese manipulation both domestically and abroad. Gaining the capability to target domestic Chinese populations as a form of punitive deterrence restricts China’s aggression across the whole spectrum of competition.

Option #2:  The United States reestablishes and expands the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region that excludes China.

This TPP 2.0 would specifically address intellectual property rights, Chinese foreign direct investment review processes, and provide smaller nations access to development funds through USAID, The World Bank, and similar organizations. TPP 2.0 would expand from the original 11 signatories to include India, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Risk:  By utilizing their quasi command economy and authoritarian state structure, China could attempt to take substantial economic losses to create an alternative structure to counter U.S. efforts. There might be apprehension from potential TPP 2.0 members due to the unilateral withdraw from TPP by the Trump administration in 2017 placing the United States at a disadvantage in negotiations.

Gain:  TPP 2.0 would provide preferential treatment to U.S. goods, thus increasing market access. It would improve the economies of small Indo-Pacific nations, fostering resiliency to Chinese economic coercion. TPP 2.0 would deny China access to benefits unless it discontinued intellectual property theft, predatory FDI practices, and other malign economic behaviors. Increased trade costs and potential exclusion would undercut much of the funding needed to complete Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. TPP 2.0 enables the creation of alternate supply chains and offshoring options outside of China allowing U.S. firms to protect intellectual property while still reducing costs to U.S. consumers and remaining globally competitive.

Option #3:  The United States harasses and impedes China’s terrestrial expansion.

Chinese competition below levels of conflict includes land and sea-based building programs ranging from constructing artificial islands within the South China Sea to infrastructure projects associated with the BRI initiative. The United States could take overt and covert actions to drive up the costs of Chinese expansion. Overt efforts include funding local environmental and cultural heritage groups that oppose Chinese projects and foster local resistance, which increase regulatory or construction costs. Covert efforts include incentivizing maritime proxies to harass and impede the use of Chinese paramilitary maritime militia in the South China Sea.

Risk:  If direct U.S. funding of proxies becomes known, there could be irreversible damage to the United States’ reputation and advantages in soft power and the information domains. Funding or supporting proxies can lead to secondary support for nonstate actors that seek to destabilize regional partners as well as China. Any escalation in the South China Sea could lead to armed conflict.

Gain:  Increasing Chinese costs could severely restrict their capability to continue expansion and complete projects per agreements with host nations. Combining overt resistance campaigns with coordinated messaging enables the United States to degrade China’s soft and economic power. Directly confronting Chinese maritime militia with similarly designed forces presents a unique geopolitical challenge with few positive outcomes.

Other Comments:  These options are not mutually exclusive and can be utilized in conjunction with other elements of national power to support competition below levels of conflict.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Trump, Donald J., National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States, 2017, 27

[2] Brooks, Stephen G., and William C. Wohlforth. “The rise and fall of the great powers in the twenty-first century: China’s rise and the fate of America’s global position.” International Security 40, no. 3 (2016): 7-53, 43

[3] Livermore, Doug. “China’s “Three Warfares” in theory and practice in the South China Sea.” Georgetown Security Studies Review (2018).

[4] Cha, Victor, and Andy Lim. “Flagrant Foul: China’s Predatory Liberalism and the NBA.” The Washington Quarterly 42, no. 4 (2019): 23-42.

[5] McMaster, H. R., “How China Sees the World,” The Atlantic, (2020), accessed April 22 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

[6] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment (JCOIE), Department of Defense, Washington DC (2018)

[7] Cobaugh, Paul, “Combat Ineffective: Ethical Influence, the Broken-down Rusting Vehicle of American Power” Narrative Strategies, (2020) accessed April 23 2020, https://www.narrative-strategies.com/failed-usg-influence

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) James P. Micciche Option Papers United States

Alternative Future: Options to Address China’s Reaction to COVID-19 and Growing Anti-Chinese Sentiment

Sarah Lucinsky is an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and is a postgraduate at Charles Sturt University. She sometimes tweets from @LouSeaLu and has previously edited for JUR Press and presented at Asia-Pacific Week at Australian National University. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese activities in its disputed peripheries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic are increasing and anti-Chinese sentiment is growing. This increase and growth pose risk to nations on China’s periphery.

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that analysing an array of counter-factual scenarios and alternative futures through collegiate debate is valuable when tackling security issues.

Background:  China’s stated desire for ‘One China’ involves a forcible reunification of Hong Kong and Taiwan, but since the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis[1] this goal has been approached gradually by focussing on methods below the threshold of war. This is largely due to China’s desire to retain a level of world power credibility and consequently avoid widespread international backlash that risks dividing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Recently, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising[2] mostly due to COVID-19, but also due to growing awareness of China’s controversial territorial expansionism in the South and East China Seas (S/ECS). Simultaneously, Indo-Pacific militaries have progressively focussed on countering China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in these disputed areas. These two factors risk eroding China’s fear of international backlash that has historically prevented it from executing decisive military actions.

Significance: If China continues to face the current international backlash and counter-PLA military activity in proximity to its claimed territories, two concurrent issues will arise. Firstly, China will perceive that its sovereignty is being directly threatened by foreign militaries. Secondly, China will no longer believe there is value in exercising restraint in its disputed areas in order to protect its international image, as its image has been eroded anyway[3]. This could lead to a more expansionist and offensively postured China[4]. The introduction of China’s new national security laws in Hong Kong is quite possibly an example of how international perceptions now matter less to China under the current, evolving context[5].

Option #1:  Nations on China’s periphery form paramilitaries that conduct activities below the threshold of war, separate from conventional military forces. The paramilitaries operate with the express aim of countering the PLA’s coercive tactics in disputed areas of national interest.

Risk:  As China’s own paramilitary forces operate throughout the S/ECS, other nations introducing their own paramilitaries jeopardise their legal advantage achieved through the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against China. China may then use the new paramilitary forces as a justification for bolstered militarisation of outposts and concentration of conventional forces. A greater concentration of forces in the vicinity of disputed areas increases the risk for paramilitary engagements such as freedom of manoeuvre and ramming incidents[6].

Gain:  S/ECS claimant states can more effectively address the threat of the PLA’s coercive tactics near their territories whilst also retaining a level of political deniability[7]. Asymmetric platforms and tactics can level the playing field, enabling smaller nations to more effectively defend their territory and increase their deterrence ability, similar to Iran’s success with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy[8]. Additional paramilitaries equal additional, stealthier threats for China to identify, track and respond to. China will not be able to démarche nations with emergent paramilitary forces without highlighting their own.

Option #2:  Indo-Pacific nations establish bilateral military exercises and political summits with China that are widely covered by local media to improve regional perceptions of China.

Risk:  China may perceive this proactive attempt to bolster relationships as appeasement or worse, agreement with their territorial claims and coercive activities in S/ECS. Moreover, there is little scope to control or influence how these bilateral exercises and summits will be framed in Chinese state media. Even if this approach succeeds from the Chinese side, pro-China publicity may not gain traction in the host country due to trending national issues such as COVID-19 and territorial disputes. In a worst-case scenario this option may be counter-productive and lead to public outrage, protests or boycott attempts of China/Chinese goods. In turn, media coverage of the public’s negative response would also be reported on in China and undermine any successes achieved there.

Gain:  Pro-China sentiment may draw China back into the soft-power game of international engagement. This could reignite China’s desire to protect their international image and thus refrain from conducting decisive military actions like forcibly reunifying Taiwan. Further, sustained bilateral engagement will improve political relationships and develop mutual understanding, reducing the likelihood of misjudgement or miscalculation at the strategic and tactical levels. A tertiary gain is Indo-Pacific nations would gain intimate exposure to PLA personnel, platforms and operational art that could provide advantages in a future conflict scenario. Sometimes one must put the rifle down to really pick the rifle up.

Option #3:  The United States deepens its ties with Russia, creating a new modus vivendi, working towards a future alliance that alienates China.

Risk:  A U.S.-Russia alliance would require the two nations to find common ground on Crimea, Iran and North Korea, all of which are incredibly unlikely without significant costs from either side[9]. A close relationship with Russia has higher risks for the U.S. as it would directly challenge much of U.S. recent history and ideology, alienate North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and breed distrust amongst the five eyes community. Further, closer ties with Russia may include additional Russian scrutiny that could result in political interference, cyber and information warfare operations as well as increased Russian avenues for intelligence collection.

Gain:  Whilst this option would carry a significant ideological cost for America, a U.S.-Russia alliance would combine the lethality of two military superpowers, a significant deterrent if both parties could agree on its use in a counter-China context[10]. Even without reaching alliance status, closer U.S.-Russia relations that incorporates military engagement would still create an effect that China would need to consider as a significant factor prior to any attempts at decisive military action.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Yves-Heng Lim, “Expanding the Dragon’s Reach: The Rise of China’s Anti-Access Naval Doctrine and Forces,” Journal of Strategic Studies 40, no. 1-2 (2017).

[2] Motoko Rich, “As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Anti-Chinese Sentiment,” New York times 2020.

[3] Michael Swaine, “The Pla Navy’s Strategic Transformation to the “Far Seas”: How Far, How Threatening, and What’s to Be Done?,” in Going Global? The People’s Navy in a Time of Strategic Transformation (Rhode Island: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2019).

[4] People’s Republic of China, “China’s Military Strategy,” (Xinhua News Agency2015).

[5] Eleanor Albert, “Which Countries Support the New Hong Kong National Security Law?,” The Diplomat 2020.

[6] Dhara Shah, “China’s Maritime Security Strategy: An Assessment of the White Paper on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 13, no. 1 (2017).

[7] Tobias Böhmelt and Govinda Clayton, “Auxiliary Force Structure: Paramilitary Forces and Progovernment Militias,” Comparative political studies 51, no. 2 (2017).

[8] Abhijit Singh, “”Dark Chill in the Persian Gulf” – Iran’s Conventional and Unconventional Naval Forces,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 6, no. 2 (2010).

[9] Legvold Robert, “All the Way: Crafting a U.S.-Russian Alliance,” no. 70 (2002).

[10] Ibid.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Sarah Lucinsky United States

Boxing Out: Assessing the United States’ Cultural Soft Power Advantage in Africa Over China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Scott Martin is a career U.S. Air Force officer who has served in a multitude of globally-focused assignments.  He studied Russian and International Affairs at Trinity University and received his Masters of Science in International Relations from Troy University.  He is currently assigned within the National Capitol Region. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Boxing Out: Assessing the United States’ Cultural Soft Power Advantage in Africa Over China

Date Originally Written:  July 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that as a mechanism to counter China’s rising influence in Africa, the U.S. can leverage some of its soft power advantages. In particular, the popularity of American cultural offerings, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) offers an opportunity for the U.S. to counter China and its soft power efforts in a geographically critical area of the globe.

Summary:  Chinese investment in hard and soft power in Africa over the past several decades presents a challenge to the U.S. role on the continent. While the Chinese focus in Africa is yielding positive results for China’s image and influence, there are still areas where the U.S. outpaces China. American advantages in soft power, such as the popularity of its cultural exports, like the NBA, offer an opportunity for the U.S. to counter Chinese efforts in Africa.

Text:  Since the Cold War, Chinese investment and engagement in Africa is a strong point of their foreign policy. For several decades, China has pumped billions in economic aid, estimated at over $100 billion[1]. The combination of presenting economic assistance on business terms only without dictating values and lack of historical barriers (ala Western Europe’s colonial past and American insistence on adherence to values such a human rights for economic assistance) has made China a formidable force on the African continent, offering an attractive “win-win” relationship[2]. However, while China dominates when it comes to economic engagement, they have not shut out the West when it comes to various forms of soft power. In particular, U.S.-based forms of entertainment, from movies to sporting events, still out-pace Chinese variants.

Since political scientist Joseph Nye first defined “soft power” in the 1990s as the concept of “when one country gets other countries to want what it wants…in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants”, the concept has gained many political and academic converts[3]. The Chinese look to promote their soft power capabilities, and it is a stated goal of Chinese leaders since Hu Jintao in 2007[4]. These efforts appear to pay off, as surveys show Africans with positive opinions related to China[5].

Yet, while China makes strides in promoting its soft power, it still faces challenges. For all the positive responses it engenders with its efforts, it has not won over all Africans. In various surveys, many ordinary Africans do not always feel that China’s continued investment in their respective countries benefits them as much as it does political leaders[6]. Additionally, Chinese efforts for the promotion of soft power lack the impact of its Western/U.S. competitors. In cultural examples, to include entertainment, the Chinese lag far behind the U.S. It is in this area that the U.S. can leverage its soft power capabilities to help promote itself and counter some aspects of China power projection.

Many aspects of American culture and entertainment find a home in Africa. American cinematic offers dwarf all other international offering by a significant margin, to include China[7]. American music, especially hip-hop and rhythm and blues, dominate African music channels. An American traveling through the continent is considerably more likely to run across American music than the Chinese equivalent[8]. While the Chinese promote their educational capabilities, more African will look towards American colleges/universities if given the chance to attend[9]. While hard power economic and military investment numbers might favor China, the U.S. continues to hold a significant lead in soft power ratings over China in Africa[9].

In one key example, the U.S.-based NBA is arguably the most popular U.S.-based sports league on the continent. While professional football/soccer might be the most popular international sport, the NBA has grown in global popularity over the past 20 years, which includes Africa. Prior to the suspension of the NBA season due to COVID-19, 40 players born in Africa or descended African-born parents were on NBA rosters, to include reigning league Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and All-Star Joel Embiid[10]. Factor in NBA Hall of Famers such as Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon, and the NBA has significant connections with Africa. Additionally, NBA merchandising and broadcasting takes in significant money, and previous games played in Africa posted sell-out crowds[11]. At the start of 2020, the NBA established an NBA Africa league for the continent, with participation from multiple countries. While COVID-19 disrupted plans for this league, the NBA will be eager to re-engage with Africa post-pandemic.

For the U.S., the NBA efforts offer an opportunity to counter Chinese activity, playing to America’s significant soft power advantage. While the NBA is becoming a more international game, the league is still an American corporation, with mainly American stars. While jersey sales focus on the individual names, which will include African players, the designs and logos are still from the American-based teams. Additionally, with the NBA’s current relationship with China severely curtailed after Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey retweeted a message support Democratic protestors in Hong Kong, the NBA, facing a pre-COVID-19 shortfall of $400M from Chinese boycotting, is looking for additional revenue streams[12]. A U.S./NBA relationship in Africa can be a version of “win-win.”

While most view soft power as more effective when it is not directly promoted by the power projecting country, the U.S. can leverage its soft power advantages to counter Chinese actions in Africa. When it comes to the promotion of American cultural imports, U.S. officials, while not explicitly stating that the U.S. government supports that activity, can do things such as promote their attendance at such events via social media as well as take advantage of other communication forums to promote the successes of such ventures in Africa. Additionally, when applicable, the U.S. government can promote favorable messaging at efforts to expand U.S.-based cultural exports, such as the release of American-owned movies and music recordings and clear any governmental administrative hold-ups for entities like the NBA to promote their games and products in Africa.

Granted, promotion of American-based culture and entertainment, such as the NBA, cannot offset the extensive Chinese economic investment in Africa, and the U.S. will have to face its own challenges in soft power projection. However, by playing to its strengths, especially in soft power realm, the NBA in Africa can open the door towards showing a positive image and outreach of American and Western values. This NBA actions can also open the door toward future engagements that can both benefit Africa and challenge Chinese efforts. American cultural offerings are not a cure-all magic bullet, but the U.S. does have the ability to leverage them for soft power advantages, which could stem an increasingly powerful China whose influence across Africa is growing.


Endnotes:

[1] Versi, Anver (Aug/Sept 2017).“What is China’s Game in Africa?” New African, 18. https://newafricanmagazine.com/15707.

[2] Tella, Oluswaseun (2016) “Wielding Soft Power in Strategic Regions: An Analysis of China’s Power of Attraction in Africa and the Middle East” Africa Review, 8 (2) 135. https://www.academia.edu/30299581/Africa_Review_Wielding_soft_power_in_strategic_regions_an_analysis_of_Chinas_power_of_attraction_in_Africa_and_the_Middle_East.

[3] Lai, Hongyi (2019) “Soft Power Determinants in the World and Implications for China: A Quantitative Test of Joseph Nye’s Theory of Three Soft Power Resources and of the Positive Peace Argument.” The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, 37(1) 10.

[4] Schmitt, Gary J (19 June 2014) “A Hard Look at Soft Power in East Asia” American Enterprise Institute Research, 5. https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/a-hard-look-at-soft-power-in-east-asia.

[5] Tella, Oluswaseun, “Wielding Soft Power in Strategic Regions” 137.

[6] Langmia, Kehbuma (2011). “The Secret Weapon of Globalization: China’s Activities in Sub-Saharan Africa” Journal of Third World Studies, XXVIII (2), 49. https://www.academia.edu/31196408/THE_SECRET_WEAPON_OF_GLOBALIZATION_CHINAS_ACTIVITIES_IN_SUB-SAHARAN_AFRICA_By_Kehbuma_Langmia.

[7] 2015-2020 Worldwide Box Office, IMDb Pro, Accessed 13 June 2020, https://www.boxofficemojo.com/year/world/?ref_=bo_nb_in_tab

[8] Tella, Oluswaseun. “Wielding Soft Power in Strategic Regions” 161.

[9] Lai, Hongyi. “Soft Power Determinants in the World and Implications for China” 29.

[10] Mohammed, Omar (2 April 2019) “NBA to Invest Millions of Dollars in New African League” Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nba-africa-idUSKCN1RE1WB.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Young, Jabari (2020, 16 Feb). “NBA will Lose Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Due to Rift with China, Commissioner Says” CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/16/nba-will-lose-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-due-to-rift-with-china-commissioner-says.html.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Private Sector Scott Martin United States

Assessment on the 2035 Sino-U.S. Conflict in Africa Below the Level of War

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Major Thomas G. Pledger is a U.S. Army National Guard Infantry Officer and visiting military analyst at the Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesCenter on Military and Political Power. Tom has deployed to multiple combat zones supporting both conventional and special operations forces. He has been selected to the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Thinkers Program and will be attending Johns Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Tom has been a guest lecturer at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. His current academic and professional research is focused on network targeting, stability operations, and unconventional/gray zone warfare. Tom holds a Master in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, a Master of Humanities in Organizational Dynamics, Group Think, and Communication from Tiffin University, and three graduate certificates in Advanced International Affairs from Texas A&M University in Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and Defense Policy and Military Affairs.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment on the 2035 Sino-U.S. Conflict in Africa Below the Level of War

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 7, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that China’s male population bulge will cause conflict in Africa.

Summary:   The year is 2035 and the world’s major production facilities have shifted from China to Africa. In Africa, Western business interests and the interests of the People’s Republic of China have begun to intersect and interfere with one another. No government wants a conventional conflict where the goods are produced. This interference leads instead to gray-zone operations and information warfare.

Text:  The year is 2035 and over the last decade a landmark shift in the location of production and manufacturing facilities of the world occurred. China has suffered a self-inflicted population crisis. The One-Child Policy, established in 1980[1] and modified in 2016[2], created a Chinese population with a gender imbalance of 50 million excess males and a rapidly expanding older population bulge. By 2050 the median age in China is expected to be 50 years old[3]. Earlier this century, China recognized this demographic shift and began investing in Africa’s infrastructure to increase control and influence on global production means. China’s implementation of this policy through loan-debt traps to improve local infrastructure was complemented by the permanent movement of Han Chinese from China to Africa. Moving these populations served multiple purposes for China. First, it eased resource demands in China. Second, it increased the Chinese economic and political influence in African countries. Lastly, it allowed China to use Chinese workers instead of African workers, thus using the loans from the loan-debt traps to pay local African Chinese reinvesting these Chinese loans in Chinese workers and Chinese corporations, instead of the local African population or businesses. Once the Chinese populations had moved to the African countries, China rapidly implemented the Chinese Social Credit System in Africa. Chinese communities in Africa remained isolationist. These actions would disenfranchise most local African communities to direct Chinese influence in their countries.

Many international Western corporations, which depended on cheap labor in China, began to recognize this future shift in Chinese demographics around 2025. These corporations’ analysis of the world provided two likely locations for future labor markets, South America and Africa. In South America, those nations with low wages remained politically unstable and unlikely to support Western businesses. Africa was subject to impacts from local or regional Islamists, but governments were supportive of international business opportunities. Africa, in addition to low wages and a large working-age population, also provided many of the raw resources, to include rare earth metals[4]. The major hindrance to expansion in Africa was a lack of stable infrastructure.

Unlikely as it was, Chinese funded infrastructure in Africa would enable Western businesses. The proximity of Western economic interests and Chinese efforts to consolidate political influence and commercial control created a region in which no nation wanted a conventional conflict, but gray-zone and information warfare were dominant.

Complicating the efforts for Western influence operations were those advertising campaigns conducted by private industry occurring at the same time as Western government efforts, creating information fratricide for Western efforts. The Chinese Communist Party-controlled Chinese efforts were unified.

Chinese efforts targeted local infrastructure with cyberattacks to disrupt Western production facilities while simultaneously blaming the disruptions on Western companies’ energy demands. Chinese banking officials pressured local African governments to place undue taxes and administrative hardships on Western corporations, for the possibility of reduced interest rates and small portions of loan forgiveness against the Chinese loans. The use of the social credit system in Africa was challenging to implement. The Chinese built 6G communication systems were largely ignored by the local population, due to concerns for personal security, and access to space-based internet. U.S. Government messaging was one of the significant successes of the coordination between the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), and the forward-deployed Military Information Support Operation (MISO) Teams. Another major win for USCYBERCOM was the deployment of Cyber Operation Liaison Officers (LNO). These LNOs were established to coordinate security, protection, and, if necessary, responses to support U.S. businesses with operations in foreign countries from attacks by any nation. This authority had occurred with the passing of legislation after the 2020 Pandemic, recognizing that many of America’s business interests, supported National Security Interests.

The U.S. government’s efforts were specifically designed and implemented to keep a light military footprint while enabling local security and governance to support the population and allow the local governments to be supported by the local community. U.S. Military training missions increased the capabilities of regional militaries to conduct security operations to improve border security and counter Islamist influence. These light military efforts were coordinated with the Department of State’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP increased the number of involved African countries during the late ’20s from 15 countries to 49 countries[5]. This increase in SPP participation also created a rise in the Sister Cities Program[6]. These two programs created a synergistic relationship creating regular exchanges between U.S. State and local governments and African governments and cities in a concerted effort to increase local government efficiency and effectiveness. The U.S. Agency for International Development worked with the Department of State SPP to bring professional health care organizations and U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Air National Guard capabilities to improve, build, and train locally sustainable healthcare facilities. Along the Chinese built roads and rails, microloans from Western sources began to flow in, creating local businesses, starting the foundation for local economies. The use of Foreign Military Sales was targeted not on tanks or U.S. weapons and aircraft, but rather engineering equipment. Engineering equipment was selected to enable the local African governments to repair the Chinese built and funded roads and rails.

The unsung hero for coordinating and supporting all these efforts was the Civil Affairs Officers and Bilateral Affairs Officers working diligently to synchronize and present a positive U.S. presence and counter Chinese dominance, enabled by the delegated approval authority. This field-based synchronization authority streamlined staffing times from over a year to months or weeks. These coordinations were with the Country Teams, the National Guard Bureau, the Department of State, non-governmental organizations, MISO Teams, and others.


Endnotes:

[1] Kenneth Pletcher, “One-Child Policy,” Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. , https://www.britannica.com/topic/one-child-policy.

[2] Feng Wang, Baochang Gu, and Yong Cai, “The End of China’s One-Child Policy,” Brookings Institution https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-end-of-chinas-one-child-policy.

[3] Karen Zraick, “China Will Feel One-Child Policy’s Effects for Decades, Experts Say,” The New York Times, October 30, 2015 2015.

[4] JP Casey, “Into Africa: The Us’ Drive for African Rare Earth Minerals,” Verdict Media Limited, https://www.mining-technology.com/features/into-africa-the-us-drive-for-african-rare-earth-minerals.

[5] “The State Partnership Program (Spp),” National Guard Bue, https://www.nationalguard.mil/Leadership/Joint-Staff/J-5/International-Affairs-Division/State-Partnership-Program.

[6] “Sister Cities International,” Sister Cities International, https://sistercities.org.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Civil Affairs Association Thomas G. Pledger United States

Assessing the Chinese Diaspora as Key to Southeast Asian Human Factor Influence Through 2035

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Tom Perkins is a 2010 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He commissioned into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer and served at the Platoon, Company, and Battalion level. He is currently serving as a Southeast Asian Foreign Area Officer.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Chinese Diaspora as Key to Southeast Asian Human Factor Influence Through 2035

Date Originally Written:  June 17, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 17, 2020.

Article and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from a U.S perspective concerning partnership in Southeast Asia vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Summary:  The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is able to define the “Chinese” identity. This gives the CCP human factor influence over ethnic Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia. The PRC can use these community relationships to influence and even manipulate nations throughout Southeast Asia. Chinese Americans, as credible Chinese voices, can build relationships and define cultural norms that are not dictated by the CCP.

Text:  The Chinese Diaspora, or Chinese abroad, is a concept that developed from Chinese immigration throughout history but particularly the 19th and 20th centuries. This concept created tight knit, and in some places, large communities outside of China. The largest of these communities are in Southeast Asia. These communities traditionally defined their identity based on family, language, business, food, and traditional practices such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism etc. The large number of ethnic Chinese in various countries made the community a significant force for political mobilization. The most overt example of mobilization is the ethnic Chinese led Malayan Communist Party which waged a communist insurrection in Malaysia throughout the second half of the twentieth century[1].

Even when large scale political mobilization does not occur, the existence of these communities at times causes conflict in the host nations. Ethnic Chinese throughout Southeast Asia are perceived to be better connected in business than the local ethnic majorities of the countries they live in. As a result, distrust and resentment has occasionally erupted into the local ethnic majorities protesting and engaging in violence against the Chinese communities. There is no easy solution to such a conflict. Historically, efforts to force assimilation of these communities were generally unsuccessful at reducing conflict and erasing Chinese identity. Starting in 1966, under the Suharto presidency, Indonesia orchestrated a series of policies meant to discourage Chinese identity and culture in an attempt to forge a more nationalist Indonesian identity.  However, since the reform period in Indonesia, these policies have been rescinded[2]. These historical trends suggest overseas Chinese communities will continue to exist and grow as an independent cultural and social network into 2035.

The growth of China into the world’s second largest economy has given it a new level of prestige. China’s real economic power as well as soft and sharp power will continue to increase through 2035. The ability for the CCP to influence human factors among and through overseas Chinese is more favorable than it has ever been, and will continue to be more favorable into the future. The increased economic wealth of people in China makes them a natural source for business ties among the diaspora. It is conceivable that the CCP will leverage such relationships in the future to gain political influence throughout Southeast Asia. This leveraging can be an alarming prospect when one considers a long-term U.S partner, such as Thailand, has an ethnic Chinese population of around 7 million, which is approximately 10% of the population[3]. Actions by the CCP signal a desire to gain influence in Southeast Asia. Traditional soft power programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative promulgated by Xi Jinping are supplemented by more subtle gestures such as establishing Confucius Institutes. The latter being an example of the CCPs manipulation of human factors to increase political capital by using Confucius institutes as a communications platform for signaling Chinese cultural values.

The heart of the issue is that the CCP is able to define the Chinese identity. Thus, anyone who identifies as Chinese, will have an affinity for the culture, and will be more susceptible to CCP messaging. This is an old struggle in a new context. The Republic of China, aka Taiwan, has been raging against the CCP’s attempts to define what is and is not Chinese since the Chinese Civil War. The strategy throughout history was to lay claim to the terms “Chinese” and “China” with its own branding. The issue is that the CCP has been very successful at stamping out such branding attempts. This is why even well-traveled and educated Americans are surprised to learn that China Airlines is not based in China, it is based in Taiwan, and why there is nothing weird about some “Chinese” people marching into an Olympic stadium under a banner labeled “Chinese Taipei.”

The U.S is in a good position to address the CCP dominance of Chinese culture in Southeast Asia. The U.S is home to a large and relatively affluent ethnic Chinese population. The Department of State and accompanying agencies can make efforts to reach out to community and business leaders to empower them to define what it means to be overseas Chinese. By empowering ethnically Chinese Americans the United States can lead the overseas Chinese movement in Southeast Asia and prevent the business networks, family ties, social networks, and overall population from being tools of CCP sharp power. In popular culture influence, Chinese Americans could be leading the production of Mandarin language cinema and music. Southeast Asian Chinese could look to Chinese American businesses for capital investment as well as future markets. Additionally, U.S government messaging can reconsider usage of the term “Chinese” because of its implicit affiliation with the CCP. The word “Sino” sufficiently distinguishes the ethnic affiliations from national affiliations associated with the PRC. These actions are an effective start to neutralizing CCP appropriation of the ethnic Chinese identity.

As PRC state power grows, its ability to wield influence outside of its boarders increases. The State Department and supporting agencies can take initiative to combat messaging that implies the CCP monopolizes Chinese culture. The U.S can foster real relationships between Sino Americans and ethnic Sino populations throughout Southeast Asia. By doing this the U.S can deny the CCP human factor influence among partner nations in Southeast Asia.


Endnotes:

[1] Opper, M. (2020). People’s Wars in China, Malaya, and Vietnam. Washington D.C: University of Michigan Press.

[2] Kitamura, Y. (2019). The Re-recognition of Confucianism in Indonesia: An Example of China’s. In M. S. Dioko, H. M. Hsiao, & A. H. Yang, China’s Footprints in Southeast Asia (pp. 172-193). Singapore: NUS Press.

[3] Goodkind, D. (2019). The Chinese Diaspora: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Trends. Washington D.C: U.S Census Bureau.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Civil Affairs Association Minority Populations and Diasporas Thomas Perkins

Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Richard Tilley is a strategist within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Previously, Richard served as a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer and a National Security Advisor in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is on Twitter @RichardTilley6 and on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

Date Originally Written:  July 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an unconventional warfare scholar and strategist. He believes renewed American interest in great power competition and Chinese approaches to unrestricted warfare require the United States national security apparatus to better appreciate the disruptive role advanced technology will play on the future battlefield.

Summary:  China’s dreams of regional and global hegemony require a dominant People’s Liberation Army that faces the dilemma of accruing military power while not raising the ire of the United States. To meet this challenge, the Chinese Communist Party has bet heavily on artificial intelligence as a warfighting game-changer that it can acquire surreptitiously and remain below-the-threshold of armed conflict with the United States.

Text:  President Xi Jinping’s introduction of the “The China Dream” in 2013 offers the latest iteration of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) decades-long quest to establish China in its rightful place atop the global hierarchy. To achieve this goal, Xi calls for “unison” between China’s newfound soft power and the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) hard power[1]. But, by the CCP’s own admission, “The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries[2].” Cognizant of this capability deficit, Beijing adheres to the policy of former Chairman Deng Xiaoping, “Hide your strength, bide your time” until the influence of the Chinese military can match that of the Chinese economy.

For the PLA, Deng’s maxim presents a dilemma: how to build towards militarily eclipsing the United States while remaining below the threshold of eliciting armed response. Beijing’s solution is to bet heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to upend the warfighting balance of power.

In simple terms, AI is the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. AI is not a piece of hardware but rather a technology integrated into nearly any system that enables computing more quickly, accurately, and intuitively. AI works by combining massive amounts of data with powerful, iterative algorithms to identify new associations and rules hidden therein. By applying these associations and rules to new scenarios, scientists hope to produce AI systems with reasoning and decision-making capabilities matching or surpassing that of humans.

China’s quest for regional and global military dominance has led to a search for a “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics[3].” An RMA is a game-changing evolution in warfighting that upends the balance of power. In his seminal work on the subject, former Under Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers found eighteen cases of such innovations in history such as massed infantry, artillery, railroad, telegraph, and atomic weapons[4]. In each case, a military power introduces a disruptive technology or tactic that rapidly and enduringly changes warfighting. The PLA believes that AI can be their game-changer in the next conflict.

Evidence of the PLA’s confidence in AI abounds. Official PRC documents from 2017 called for “The use of new generation AI technologies as a strong support to command decision-making, military deductions [strategy], and defense equipment, among other applications[5].” Beijing matched this rhetoric with considerable funding, which the U.S. Department of Defense estimated as $12 billion in 2017 and growing to as much as $70 billion in 2020[6].

AI’s potential impact in a Western Pacific military confrontation is significant. Using AI, PLA intelligence systems could detect, identify, and assess the possible intent of U.S. carrier strike groups more quickly and with greater accuracy than traditional human analysis. Then, PLA strike systems could launch swarming attacks coordinated by AI that overwhelm even the most advanced American aerial and naval defenses. Adding injury to insult, the PLA’s AI systems will learn from this engagement to strike the U.S. Military with even more efficacy in the future.

While pursuing AI the CCP must still address the dilemma of staying below the threshold of armed conflict – thus the CCP masterfully conceals moves designed to give it an AI advantage. In the AI arms race, there are two key components: technology and data. To surpass the United States, China must dominate both, but it must do so surreptitiously.

AI systems require several technical components to operate optimally, including the talent, algorithms, and hardware on which they rely. Though Beijing is pouring untold resources into developing first-rate domestic capacity, it still relies on offshore sources for AI tech. To acquire this foreign know-how surreptitiously, the CCP engages in insidious foreign direct investment, joint ventures, cyber espionage, and talent acquisition[7] as a shortcut while it builds domestic AI production.

Successful AI also requires access to mountains of data. Generally, the more data input the better the AI output. To build these data stockpiles, the CCP routinely exploits its own citizens. National security laws passed in 2014 and 2017 mandate that Chinese individuals and organizations assist the state security apparatus when requested[8]. The laws make it possible for the CCP to easily collect and exploit Chinese personal data that can then be used to strengthen the state’s internal security apparatus – powered by AI. The chilling efficacy seen in controlling populations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong can be transferred to the international battlefield.

Abroad, the CCP leverages robust soft power to gain access to foreign data. Through programs like the Belt and Road Initiative, China offers low-cost modernization to tech-thirsty customers. Once installed, the host’s upgraded security, communication, or economic infrastructure allows Beijing to capture overseas data that reinforces their AI data sets and increases their understanding of the foreign environment[9]. This data enables the PLA to better train AI warfighting systems to operate in anywhere in the world.

If the current trends hold, the United States is at risk of losing the AI arms race and hegemony in the Western Pacific along with it. Despite proclaiming that, “Continued American leadership in AI is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States[10],” Washington is only devoting $4.9 billion to unclassified AI research in fiscal year 2020[11], just seven percent of Beijing’s investment.

The keep pace, the United States can better comprehend and appreciate the consequences of allowing the PLA to dominate AI warfighting in the future. The stakes of the AI race are not dissimilar to the race for nuclear weapons during World War 2. Only by approaching AI with the same interest, investment, and intensity of the Manhattan Project can U.S. Military hegemony hope to be maintained.


Endnotes:

[1] Page, J. (2013, March 13). For Xi, a ‘China Dream’ of Military Power. Wall Street Journal Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324128504578348774040546346

[2] The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2019). China’s National Defense in the New Era. (p. 6)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vickers, M. G. (2010). The structure of military revolutions (Doctoral dissertation, Johns Hopkins University) (pp. 4-5). UMI Dissertation Publishing.

[5] PRC State Council, (2017, July 17). New Generation Artificial Intelligence Plan. (p. 1)

[6] Pawlyk, O. (2018, July 30). China Leaving the US behind on Artificial Intelligence: Air Force General. Military.com. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.military.com/defensetech/2018/07/30/china-leaving-us-behind-artificial-intelligence-air-force-general.html

[7] O’Conner, S. (2019). How Chinese Companies Facilitate Technology Transfer from the United States. U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission. (p. 3)

[8] Kharpal, A. (2019, March 5). Huawei Says It Would Never Hand Data to China’s Government. Experts Say It Wouldn’t Have a Choice. CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/huawei-would-have-to-give-data-to-china-government-if-asked-experts.html

[9] Chandran, N. (2018, July 12). Surveillance Fears Cloud China’s ‘Digital Silk Road.’ CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/11/risks-of-chinas-digital-silk-road-surveillance-coercion.html

[10] Trump, D. (2019, February 14). Executive Order 13859 “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.” Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-maintaining-american-leadership-artificial-intelligence

[11] Cornillie, C. (2019, March 28). Finding Artificial Intelligence Research Money in the Fiscal 2020 Budget. Bloomberg Government. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://about.bgov.com/news/finding-artificial-intelligence-money-fiscal-2020-budget

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Richard Tilley United States

Alternative Future: The Perils of Trading Artificial Intelligence for Analysis in the U.S. Intelligence Community

John J. Borek served as a strategic intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army and later as a civilian intelligence analyst in the U.S. Intelligence Community.  He is currently an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University where he teaches courses in governance and public policy. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Future: The Perils of Trading Artificial Intelligence for Analysis in the U.S. Intelligence Community

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 12, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of a U.S. Congressional inquiry excerpt into an intelligence failure and the loss of Taiwan to China in 2035.

Summary:  The growing reliance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide situational awareness and predictive analysis within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) resulted in an opportunity for China to execute a deception plan.  This successful deception plan resulted in the sudden and complete loss of Taiwan’s independence in 2035.

Text:  The U.S. transition away from humans performing intelligence analysis to the use of AI was an inevitable progression as the amount of data collected for analysis reached levels humans could not hope to manage[1] while machine learning and artificial neural networks developed simultaneously to the level they could match, if not outperform, human reasoning[2]. The integration of data scientists with analytic teams, which began in 2020, resulted in the attrition of of both regional and functional analysts and the transformation of the duties of those remaining to that of editor and briefer[3][4].

Initial successes in the transition led to increasing trust and complacency. The “Black Box” program demonstrated its first major success in identifying terrorist networks and forecasting terrorist actions fusing social media, network analysis, and clandestine collection; culminating in the successful preemption of the 2024 Freedom Tower attack. Moving beyond tactical successes, by 2026 Black Box was successfully analyzing climatological data, historical migration trends, and social behavior models to correctly forecast the sub-Saharan African drought and resulting instability, allowing the State Department to build a coalition of concerned nations and respond proactively to the event, mitigating human suffering and unrest.

The cost advantages and successes large and small resulted in the IC transitioning from a community of 17 coordinating analytic centers into a group of user agencies. In 2028, despite the concerns of this Committee, all analysis was centralized at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under Black Box. Testimony at the time indicated that there was no longer any need for competitive or agency specific analysis, the algorithms of Black Box considered all likely possibilities more thoroughly and efficiently than human analysts could. Beginning that Fiscal Year the data scientists of the different agencies of the IC accessed Black Box for the analysis their decision makers needed. Also that year the coordination process for National intelligence Estimates and Intelligence Community Assessments was eliminated; as the intelligence and analysis was uniform across all agencies of government there was no longer any need for contentious, drawn out analytic sessions which only delayed delivery of the analysis to policy makers.

Regarding the current situation in the Pacific, there was never a doubt that China sought unification under its own terms with Taiwan, and the buildup and modernization of Chinese forces over the last several decades caused concern within both the U.S. and Taiwan governments[5]. This committee could find no fault with the priority that China had been given within the National Intelligence Priorities Framework. The roots of this intelligence failure lie in the IC inability to factor the possibility of deception into the algorithms of the Black Box program[6].

AI relies on machine learning, and it was well known that machines could learn biases based on the data that they were given and their algorithms[7][8]. Given the Chinese lead in AI development and applications, and their experience in using AI it to manage people and their perceptions[9][10], the Committee believes that the IC should have anticipated the potential for the virtual grooming of Black Box. As a result of this intelligence postmortem, we now know that four years before the loss of Taiwan the People’s Republic of China began their deception operation in earnest through the piecemeal release of false plans and strategy through multiple open and clandestine sources. As reported in the National Intelligence Estimate published just 6 months before the attack, China’s military modernization and procurement plan “confirmed” to Black Box that China was preparing to invade and reunify with Taiwan using overwhelming conventional military forces in 2043 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth.

What was hidden from Black Box and the IC, was that China was also embarking on a parallel plan of adapting the lessons learned from Russia’s invasions of Georgia and the Ukraine. Using their own AI systems, China rehearsed and perfected a plan to use previously infiltrated special operations forces, airborne and heliborne forces, information warfare, and other asymmetric tactics to overcome Taiwan’s military superiority and geographic advantage. Individual training of these small units went unnoticed and was categorized as unremarkable and routine.

Three months prior to the October 2035 attack we now know that North Korea, at China’s request, began a series of escalating provocations in the Sea of Japan which alerted Black Box to a potential crisis and diverted U.S. military and diplomatic resources. At the same time, biometric tracking and media surveillance of key personalities in Taiwan that were previously identified as being crucial to a defense of the island was stepped up, allowing for their quick elimination by Chinese Special Operations Forces (SOF).

While we can’t determine with certainty when the first Chinese SOF infiltrated Taiwan, we know that by October 20, 2035 their forces were in place and Operation Homecoming received the final go-ahead from the Chinese President. The asymmetric tactics combined with limited precision kinetic strikes and the inability of the U.S. to respond due to their preoccupation 1,300 miles away resulted in a surprisingly quick collapse of Taiwanese resistance. Within five days enough conventional forces had been ferried to the island to secure China’s hold on it and make any attempt to liberate it untenable.

Unlike our 9/11 report which found that human analysts were unable to “connect the dots” of the information they had[11], we find that Black Box connected the dots too well. Deception is successful when it can either increase the “noise,” making it difficult to determine what is happening; or conversely by increasing the confidence in a wrong assessment[12]. Without community coordination or competing analysis provided by seasoned professional analysts, the assessment Black Box presented to policy makers was a perfect example of the latter.


Endnotes:

[1] Barnett, J. (2019, August 21). AI is breathing new life into the intelligence community. Fedscoop. Retrieved from https://www.fedscoop.com/artificial-intelligence-in-the-spying

[2] Silver, D., et al. (2016). Mastering the game of GO with deep neural networks and tree search. Nature, 529, 484-489. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nature16961

[3] Gartin. G. W. (2019). The future of analysis. Studies in Intelligence, 63(2). Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-63-no-2/Future-of-Analysis.html

[4] Symon, P. B., & Tarapore, A. (2015, October 1). Defense intelligence in the age of big data. Joint Force Quarterly 79. Retrieved from https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Media/News/Article/621113/defense-intelligence-analysis-in-the-age-of-big-data

[5] Office of the Secretary of Defense. (2019). Annual report to Congress: Military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2019. Retrieved from https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/2019_CHINA_MILITARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf

[6] Knight, W. (2019). Tainted data can teach algorithms the wrong lessons. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/tainted-data-teach-algorithms-wrong-lessons

[7] Boghani, P. (2019). Artificial intelligence can be biased. Here’s what you should know. PBS / Frontline Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/artificial-intelligence-algorithmic-bias-what-you-should-know

[8] Angwin, J., Larson, J., Mattu, S., & Kirchner, L. (2016). Machine bias. ProPublica. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing

[9] Fanning, D., & Docherty, N. (2019). In the age of AI. PBS / Frontline. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai

[10] Westerheide, F. (2020). China – the first artificial intelligence superpower. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2020/01/14/china-artificial-intelligence-superpower/#794c7a52f053

[11] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (2004). The 9/11 Commission report. Retrieved from https://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Exec.htm

[12] Betts, R. K. (1980). Surprise despite warning: Why sudden attacks succeed. Political Science Quarterly 95(4), 551-572. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2150604.pdf

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Information and Intelligence John J. Borek Taiwan

Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Matthew F. Smith is an active duty officer in the United States Army. He can be found on Twitter @Matt_F_Smith. The views expressed in this paper represent the personal views of the author and are not necessarily the views of the Department of Defense or of the Department of the Army.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of resourcing the U.S. Executive Branch Departments and Agencies primarily responsible for executing foreign policy strategies below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:   U.S. policymakers are deciding how to compete with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and counteract their objectives. Given fiscal realities, the opportunity exists to rebalance current militaristic policy tendencies and force institutional reforms. The U.S. Department of State, due to its largely below-threshold mandate, is a good target for modernization so it can better lead foreign policy efforts through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance.

Text:  Over the last decade, American foreign policy has focused increasingly on competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Regardless of the various administrations’ policies, the central strategic aim has been how the United States can best compete with China while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict. The PRC’s central strategic aim is to undermine current U.S. alliances and other historically U.S. lead global institutions[1]. Given the $2.5 trillion in federal spending in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and an economic recession, a fiscally conscience U.S. government is likely to exist moving forward[2]. As a result, future foreign policy decisions will focus on the smart application of strategic tools that are gauged not merely by measures of performance but also by the financial effectiveness in achieving the desired outcome. For the U.S. to maintain the fundamental ability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict, the State Department, whose mission is to “lead America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance”; requires equipping through bipartisan commitment of resources to compete in the current environment[3]. Understanding that near-term competition will likely remain below the threshold of large scale combat operations, and U.S. strategy aims to promote a range of acceptable options short of armed conflict, the resourcing of such efforts is a fundamental issue.

Just as the U.S. military is resourced to innovate and adapt in response to emerging military threats, undertaking the institutional reform necessary for the State Department to have the capability to lead an integrated approach to promote U.S. strategic interests is of vital importance. An environment that is competitive but not combative requires the State Department to be capable of frustrating Chinese interests in areas that cooperation is not possible while seizing fleeting moments of opportunity for mutually beneficial agreements. Without a properly resourced and organized State Department, opportunities to frustrate China will be lost altogether or be handled in such a manner that its potential benefit will be greatly diminished. The Indo-Pacific region is vital to U.S. objectives because of its continuing economic opportunities, and yet, to fully reap the benefits of those opportunities, the United States, China, and the other countries that are impacted by regional competition must work together to communally benefit whenever possible. Competing with China requires the U.S. to advance its position by smartly leveraging all instruments of national power that enable the current strategic approach.

Policymakers can ask themselves how the U.S. can be expected to compete below the threshold of armed conflict without adequately resourcing the primary agency responsible for executing the policies in that environment. The Department of Defense requested $705.4 billion for FY21; and while defense spending on military capability is an important component of a deterrence strategy, it only inadvertently promotes the U.S. capability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict[4]. The State Department requested $40.8 billion for FY21, which is an $11.7 billion, or 22-percent decrease from the 2020 enacted level[5]. In the face of reports calling for the State Department to modernize, the U.S., as is evident in the proposed budget, is prioritizing military capability for deterrence at the expense of investing in deterrence through greater diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts[6]. Ignoring the reality of State Department capability will lead to U.S. policy missteps and encourage China to expand their focus beyond military development and increase investing in other strategic sectors[7]. These sectors, which include the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are effective in increasing the political clout the PRC can wield in forming new alliances and dependencies while degrading the U.S. position in the region.

The current United States strategic approach to the PRC reaffirms many of the incorporative strategic approaches described in the 2017 National Security Strategy, 2018 National Defense Strategy, 2019 Department of State Strategy, and the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report[8]. Specifically, the current U.S. strategic documents accept China as a major power in its own right and describe many unconstrained approaches that will foster cooperation and competition wherever possible while not allowing rivalry to degrade the entire relationship. While these documents allude to a networked approach for competing with China in some areas while cooperating in others, the fiscal allocation of resources and the demonstration that when under stress, the liberal virtues championed in these strategies are easily sacrificed, make clear that execution of the supporting policies is an issue. To compete with China, policymakers can consider sufficiently budgeting the resources required for the State Department to increase its capability to promote U.S. strategic interests across the many non-military domains[9].

The State Department, as the primary agency that coordinates diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts, is critical in a competitive environment that falls below the threshold of armed conflict. The United States cannot effectively or efficiently compete with China while using inflexible and un-adaptive organizational structures that are ill-equipped to deliver relevant solutions[10]. Just as the U.S. military has been equipped to conduct modernization efforts, the Department of State requires the same focus of resourcing for their modernization efforts to successfully outcompete China. Without adequate funding, the State Department will not reform into a more agile institution that can deliver the strategic objectives in a manner reflective of the current period of great power competition[11]. The undervaluing of non-military strategic tools and agencies such as the State Department, over time, will make the military option the most preferred deterrence and engagement method for shaping foreign affairs. The United States’ costly global military presence as a result of the war on terror and extended campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have only reinforced this militaristic reality and are an impetus for assessing foreign policy approaches to foster more competitive practices below the threshold of armed conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Araya, D. (2019, October 20). China’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielaraya/2019/01/14/chinas-grand-strategy/#27ce4ef61f18

[2] Swagel, P. (2020, April 24). CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56335

[3] United States Department of State. (2019, May 13). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/about/about-the-u-s-department-of-state

[4] Department of Defense 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-9.pdf

[5] Department of State and Other International Programs 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-18.pdf

[6] United States Government Accountability Office. (2019, March). Integrated Action Plan Could Enhance Efforts to Reduce Persistent Overseas Foreign Service Vacancies. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697281.pdf

[7] Ju, S. F. (2018, March 6). China’s diplomacy budget doubles under Xi Jinping. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.ft.com/content/2c750f94-2123-11e8-a895-1ba1f72c2c11

[8] United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China. (2020, May 20). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/U.S.-Strategic-Approach-to-The-Peoples-Republic-of-China-Report-5.20.20.pdf

[9] Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State Diplomatic Engagement. (2020, March). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/FY21-CBJ-Appendix-1-FINAL-for-GPA-Mar-26-2020.pdf

[10] Daalder, I., & Lindsay, J. (2001, March 1). How to Revitalize a Dysfunctional State Department. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gs_20170927_dos__usaid_listening_report_2017.pdf

[11] Office of Inspector General. (2019, November). Review of the Department of State’s Organizational Reform Effort. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.stateoig.gov/system/files/aud-mero-20-09.pdf

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Budgets and Resources China (People's Republic of China) Diplomacy Matthew F. Smith Option Papers United States

Options for African Nations Regarding Economic Collaboration with the U.S. and China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Ekene Lionel is the Executive Director for Military Africa.  He can be found on Twitter @LionelfrancisNG.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States and the People’s Republic of China are competing below the threshold of war for influence in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 27, 2020.

Author and / or Point of View:  The author believes that the possibility of a U.S.-Chinese economic collaboration in Africa is the only way forward, and that this collaboration will be key to competition in Africa below the threshold of war. The article is written from the point of view of Africa’s relationship between both major powers.

Background:  China is an increasingly important player in the politics, economic development, and security of Africa. China has prioritized strong diplomatic relations and political ties with African states. Beijing’s ideological aspiration, anchored on solidarity amongst the Third World countries, is appealing to African states.

Significance:  With China’s focus on Africa’s rich resources is to fuel its own domestic economic growth, this has placed it in direct competition with the United States.

Option #1:  The U.S. increases bilateral trade and investment in Africa to compete with China below the threshold of war.

Although China and the United States employ different strategies and tactics in Africa, they share very similar interests, and that their competition has been largely confined to the economic domain. Even though there is a fundamental distrust between both nations, particularly as the U.S. is cautious of China’s military entry into Africa, there is still much room for their cooperation in promoting peace and economic development on the continent.

With that said, the U.S. currently lacks a comprehensive approach to multilateral issues such as regional trade, governance, and infrastructural development that will serve Africa better than what China offers. Since trade is vital to Africa’s economic future and to improving lives and livelihoods, the U.S. can recognize that much of China’s appeal is its willingness to respond to Africa’s developmental priorities, and to project Africa as a promising hub for foreign investment. For several decades, U.S. investment is still heavily concentrated in the natural resource sector. Instead, for a long-term, sustainable economic growth, and development in Africa, America can identify and promote other sectors where U.S. businesses might have competitive advantages.

The United States can also work with African countries to take full advantage of both African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and worldwide trading opportunities and send exports to emerging markets such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil (BRIC). The AGOA, which was signed between 2002 and 2008, lowers tariff barriers for entry into the United States of African-produced textiles and other commodities[1].

Besides trade and foreign direct investment, America can leverage its relationship with Africa to encourage improvements in human rights practices and the pursuance of Western-style liberal democracy. In contrast, China has a policy of no political strings attached to its aid. Beijing maintains close relations with African governments whether they are democracies, autocracies, military regimes, or Islamists.

Risk:  Increased U.S. trade and investment in Africa angers China, who then takes steps to roll back U.S. efforts in Africa or elsewhere.

Gain:  This option will appeal to African nations on the basis of a common U.S-African interest in trade negotiations. At present, Africa has just 2 percent of all world trade, this is still low considering a large number of resources present in Africa. The U.S. will have to convince companies to invest in the region, and also opening its markets further to African exports.

Option #2:  The U.S. and China collaborate economically in Africa.

Militarily, the United States has a robust presence in Africa, and is particularly active in anti-piracy and counter-terror efforts, operating up to 29 different bases in the continent[2]. China cannot hope to match or contest U.S. military dominance in Africa. Africa is no stranger to conflict as the continent has been subjected to constant warfare for the past several decades. Africa will fiercely resist any attempt of international armed struggle for clout within the continent.

The United States and China use essentially the same political, economic, military, and cultural tools for implementing their policies in Africa. For China, the country has placed itself as the infrastructural vanguard of the new frontier, since Africa is now considered the fastest urbanizing continent globally. According to a 2017 report by the International Monetary Fund, in 2017, Africa boasted seven of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world[3].

Thus, China has position itself to capitalize and exploit this growth. Since 2005, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) China Global Investment Tracker determined that the total value of Chinese investments and construction in Africa is nearing $2 trillion[4]. The Chinese investment is compared with the just $39 billion combined trade value for the United States according to a 2017 United States Agency for International Development report. The U.S. is it Africa’s third-largest trading partner behind China and the European Union.

To consolidate its robust economic influence, China recently launched a $1 billion Belt and Road infrastructure fund for Africa, and a $60 billion African aid package[5]. Even though China is presenting itself humbly in its interaction with Africa, it has been accused of saddling developing countries with substantial volumes of hidden debt through its Belt and Road Initiative. This humility is rapidly changing as China’s political and economic power increases. As China looks to diversify its trade and investment relationships amid the protracted trade war with the U.S, Beijing’s opaqueness in issuing loans means debt burdens for recipient countries, which can cause potential problems for the African economy.

For now, Chinese firms have been actively building ports, roads, and railways to enhance integration and trade between African nations, mainly under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). AfCFTA intends to bring together all 55 African Union member states into the world’s largest free trade area, covering over 1.2 billion people. Besides, China now has more diplomatic offices in Africa than the U.S., and in some countries, Chinese influence counts for more[6].

In contrast, being the leader of the Western world since the end of World War II, the United States is sometimes perceived in Africa as insensitive and arrogant. U.S.-Africa trade has dipped in recent years. Nearly all of the assistance provided to Africa by the United States is in the form of grants and aids to Africa has been running at about $8 billion annually.

If the U.S continues to pursue military dominance or competition with China even below the threshold of war, it risks being a step or even two behind China in Africa for a long time. U.S. interests in Africa remain shaped, to its own detriment, by a perceived competition with China. The U.S. may accomplish more by focusing on areas of current or potential collaboration and to pay less attention to the debilitating debate about U.S-China competition.

Washington can collaborate with China, smoothing the way to trade will help more entrepreneurial African states, especially those with the thriving private business sector, to grow where it would be welcomed by the new generation of dynamic African entrepreneurs.

While there are areas in Africa where China and the United States might compete as major powers, especially below the threshold of war, there are many more areas where they can cooperate. For example, both Countries have a successful agricultural sector, components of which could be combined and adapted to improve production in Africa.

At this point, America likely cannot sit idly while countries such as China become more engaged with the aspirations of Africa’s next generation of leaders. Frankly, China is not a strategic threat to the United States in Africa. However, Beijing could pose serious political and commercial challenges for influence. Nonetheless, by engaging China more on Africa-centric socio-economic, diplomatic, and infrastructural development can the U.S. meet this challenge effectively.

Risk:  Chinese and U.S. investments in Africa further entangle the two nations and cause both to hesitate to take more important actions to preserve national security.

Gain:  A coordinated and dedicated diplomatic, commercial, and security strategy can increase U.S. investment and challenge Chinese influence in Africa.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), https://agoa.info/about-agoa.html

[2] Nick Turse, Pentagon’s map of US bases in Africa, The Intercept, February 27, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/02/27/africa-us-military-bases-africom

[3] IMF Annual Report 2017, Promoting inclusive growth, 2017, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/ar/2017/eng/pdfs/IMF-AR17-English.pdf

[4] AEI, China Global Investment Tracker, 2005-2019, https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/China-Global-Investment-Tracker-2019-Fall-FINAL.xlsx

[5] Silk Road Briefing, US$ 1 Billion Belt & Road Africa Fund Launched, July 04, 2019, https://www.silkroadbriefing.com/news/2019/07/04/us-1-billion-belt-road-africa-fund-launched

[6] Ben Doherty , The Guardian, China leads world in number of diplomatic posts, leaving US in its wake, Tuesday 26 Nov 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/27/china-leads-world-in-number-of-diplomatic-posts-leaving-us-in-its-wake

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Ekene Lionel Option Papers United States

Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that China’s current posture in Africa, if left unchecked, will turn the continent into a battleground for Great Power Competition below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:  China, despite its claims of peaceful rise, has steadily exercised its military, economic and diplomatic might. With strong leadership that is not afraid of compromise, African countries can enforce their independence as they ensure peace and prosperity on the continent.

Text:  When Deng Xiaoping liberalized the Chinese economy in 1978[1], his goals were to lift 860 million Chinese from poverty and power the Chinese economy to overtake its neighbors[2]. From an agrarian, state-controlled economy, China is now an industrial, largely private sector-led economic superpower[3]. However, as China’s economic power has grown, concerns about China’s global agenda have emerged[4]. China, along with Russia, is determined to reorder the world in its image[5], making conflict with the West more likely[6]. Yet, despite professing a policy of “Peaceful Rise[7]”, Chinese actions in the South China Sea[8] and its isolation campaign against Taiwan[9] show that Beijing isn’t afraid to flex its diplomatic, economic and military muscles.

Africa has attracted the interest of Great Powers through the ages. Often this interest has been to the detriment of Africans. From the destruction of Carthage[10] to slave trade[11][12] and colonization[13], Africa has faced privations from empires looking to exploit its resources. Even after independence, warring powers continued to interfere in the internal conflicts of African countries[14] throughout the Cold War. With a large and growing African population, sophisticated middle class, and increased connectivity to the rest of the world, Africa will continue to be both a source of materials and destination for goods and services.

As China expands its international footprint, it has deliberately increased its African ties. It supplies weapons to African countries without regard to the human rights practices of their leaders[15]. China is now Africa’s biggest trading partner[16] while providing financing for infrastructural projects through its Belt and Road Initiative. These projects have often been sponsored without regard to their sustainability or economic viability. The inability of countries to repay such loans have forced them to surrender critical infrastructure, with potential military implications[17][18].

As Great Power competition returns and China’s stance becomes more confrontational, and African leaders fail to act, the continent will again become just another front for global rivalries without regard for the well being of Africans. Global powers have fought their wars on African soil since the 18th Century. Regardless of the winners of these conflicts, Africans lose more than they gain. Africans, more than ever, can shape their destinies and work for the 21st Century to become Africa’s Century.

Africa nations can work to secure peace on the continent. By leveraging multilateral organizations operating on the continent, African leaders can make the painful compromises required to settle their inter-state disputes and move to cooperative models that engender peace based on common interests. African leaders can expand intra-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area and exploit regional organizations to tackle transnational crimes including human trafficking, illegal extraction of resources, religious extremism, and corruption under joint platforms.

Leaders can resolve the various internal stresses that keep their countries in political crises. Many African countries have been unable to foster a national identity, leaving their people clinging to tribal and religious identities without regard for the state’s interest. By decentralizing power, increasing citizen participation, respecting the rule of law, and reforming governance models for efficient service delivery, populations can begin to develop their sense of nationhood. Food security, public sanitation, healthcare, power, justice, and education programs can be implemented smartly and with consideration to the direct needs of their citizens, to prevent the resentment that bad actors can exploit.

African countries can take deliberate steps to diversify their technical, industrial, and financial sources. Governments can implement open standards, secure sensitive infrastructure from interference, and break up monopolies. As COVID-19 exposes the weakness of China’s role as the world’s manufacturing hub, countries can invest in manufacturing abilities and build capabilities to scale up production of critical items to safeguard their supply chains.

Most importantly, African leaders can declare that China will not be allowed to use its assets on the continent for military purposes in its competition with the West. Individual countries can also demonstrate the will to prevent the militarization of Chinese financed projects in their jurisdictions. Regional blocs can come together and draw up contingencies to retake control, by force if necessary, any dual-use facilities in member states. The status of Chinese bases on the continent can be spelled out, and appropriate contingencies planned should open conflict break out.

Ultimately, Africans can make deliberate decisions about the future of the continent. They have more agency than at any other time in history to shape the direction of the continent. While many may balk at the redirections needed to make themselves independent of Chinese machinations as well as the costs involved, such actions are crucial to ensure that African countries have the freedom to pursue policies most favorable to them.


Endnotes:

[1] Le, Y., Rabinovitch, S. (2008, December 8). TIMELINE: China milestones since 1978. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-reforms-chronology-sb-idUKTRE4B711V20081208

[2] Kopf, D., Lahiri, T. (2018, December 18). The charts that show how Deng Xiaoping unleashed China’s pent-up capitalist energy in 1978. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://qz.com/1498654/the-astonishing-impact-of-chinas-1978-reforms-in-charts

[3] Brandt, L., Rawski, G. (2008, April 14). China’s Great Economic Transformation.

[4] Arace, A. (2018, August 8). China Doesn’t Want to Play by the World’s Rules. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/08/china-doesnt-want-to-play-by-the-worlds-rules

[5] Stent, A. (2020, February). Russia and China: Axis of Revisionist? Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_russia_china_stent.pdf

[6] Kaplan, R. (2019, January 7). A New Cold War Has Begun. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/07/a-new-cold-war-has-begun

[7] Bijian, Z. Speeches of Zheng Bijian 1997-2004. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/20050616bijianlunch.pdf

[8] Axe, D. (2020, March 23). How China is Militarizing the South China Sea with a Ton of Missiles. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/how-china-militarizing-south-china-sea-ton-missiles-136297

[9] Myers, S. and Horton, C. (2018, May 25). China Tries to Erase Taiwan, One Ally (and Website) at a Time. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/world/asia/china-taiwan-identity-xi-jinping.html

[10] Kierana, B. (2004, August 1). The First Genocide: Carthage, 146 BC. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://gsp.yale.edu/sites/default/files/first_genocide.pdf

[11] M’Bokolo, E. (1998, April). The impact of the slave trade on Africa. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://mondediplo.com/1998/04/02africa

[12] Nunn, N. (2017, February 27). Understanding the long-run effects of Africa’s slave trades. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxt3gk7/revision/1

[13] Settles, J. (1996). The Impact of Colonialism on African Economic Development. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from
https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1182&context=utk_chanhonoproj

[14] Schmidt, E. (2016, July 26). Conflict in Africa: The Historical Roots of Current Problems. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/summer-2016/conflict-in-africa-the-historical-roots-of-current-problems

[15] Hull, A. Markov, D. (2012, February 20). Chinese Arms Sales to Africa. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.ida.org/-/media/feature/publications/2/20/2012-chinese-arms-sales-to-africa/2012-chinese-arms-sales-to-africa.ashx

[16] Smith, E. (2019, October 9). The US-China Trade Rivalry is Underway in Africa, and Washington is playing catch-up. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/09/the-us-china-trade-rivalry-is-underway-in-africa.html

[17] Abi-Habib, Maria. (2018, June 25). How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html

[18] Paris, C. (2019, February 21). China Tightens Grip on East African Port. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-tightens-grip-on-east-african-port-11550746800

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Damimola Olawuyi Great Powers

Options for the United States to Compete with China Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Matthew Ader is a second-year undergraduate taking War Studies at King’s College London.  He tweets occasionally from @AderMatthew, and is an editor at the Wavell Room. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China rises and the U.S. wants to avoid direct military confrontation, the U.S. requires options to compete with China below the threshold of armed conflict

Date Originally Written:  May 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 8, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a second-year undergraduate student at King’s College London with a broadly liberal foreign policy view. The article is written from the point of view of the United States towards the People’s Republic of China.

Background:  The United States has identified China as a key competitor and revanchist power seeking to undermine the U.S.-led international order.

Significance:  China is expanding its influence globally through competition below the threshold of armed conflict, to the detriment of U.S. interests. A conventional Sino-American war to counter or roll back these gains would be catastrophic. The below options enable the U.S. to compete against China short of war.

Option #1:  The United States deploys specialist surveillance and training capabilities, along with Coast Guard and Navy vessels, to enhance and expand existing multilateral efforts against maritime lawlessness – particularly illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – in the Indo-Pacific theatre.

Risk:  This option would put US personnel in close contact with Chinese maritime militia, coast guard, and fishing fleets on a regular basis – increasing the possibility of a geopolitical incident. It could also contribute to overstretch in the U.S. 7th Fleet. Further, while maritime lawlessness is recognised as a major problem by all countries in theatre, U.S. enforcement action could be seen as high-handed. One particular concern would be how the U.S. treats Japan – it is a key ally but is also heavy enmeshed in the IUU industry. Too heavy-handed a treatment would alienate Japan; too lenient would make the U.S. seem hypocritical. This option might also embroil the U.S. in regional disputes over maritime border claims.

Gain:  This option would strengthen the U.S. claim of being a status quo power upholding the law and rules-based international order against an aggressive and lawless China. Given that regional trust in the U.S. has sunk dramatically over the course of the Trump administration, this option could constitute a helpful corrective. Substantively, this option could also assist in pushing back on Chinese influence in the South China Sea; the current Freedom of Navigation Operations are inherently transient and can be avoided without change to broader Chinese strategy — persistent presence cannot. Lastly, it would permit U.S. forces to work alongside regional partners, gaining valuable operational expertise and local knowledge.

Option #2:  The United States increases funding for the journalists, civil rights activists, and anti-corruption campaigners in nations involved in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Risk:  This option may be seen as the U.S. meddling unduly in the affairs of foreign countries, and certainly would be portrayed as such by the Chinese state media. It is also difficult to assess the impact of such investments, which, given the kleptocratic or authoritarian nature of many BRI states, may be negligible. Moreover, this option could lead to activists and journalists being labelled as foreign agents. Further, while the material loss to U.S. interests resulting from states cracking down on individuals and organisations who receive U.S. funding is relatively small, the reputational risk is significant.

Gain:  This option allows the U.S. to contest and bog down Chinese BRI expansion in Africa and central Asia, as activists and journalists expose Chinese elite corruption and oppose predatory debt-trap diplomacy. It would involve no risk to U.S. personnel, and limited expenditure compared to more kinetic options. Moreover, this option could, with appropriate messaging, allow the U.S. to portray itself as siding with local populations against an overbearing China and its puppets – an advantage for international media coverage.

Option #3:  China is a highly aggressive and malign actor in cyberspace. The U.S. encourages and facilitates greater global regulation surrounding cyberwarfare and espionage. One specific option would be an international body, likely under United Nations authority, to identify the origin of cyberattacks.

Risk:  The U.S. is highly capable in the cyber domain, and there is a risk that by encouraging more regulation, it would be creating a purity test it cannot itself meet. This would, in turn, create substantial reputational problems for the U.S. Moreover, attributing cyberattacks is difficult, and it is possible that the U.S. might be inadvertently accused of a crime it did not commit. Lastly, while international naming and shaming can be effective, the extent to which it would matter to China is unclear; the option might therefore involve expending substantial U.S. diplomatic capital for limited returns.

Gain:  This option could lead to stronger norms against aggression in cyberspace. This may not discourage China from continuing its current aggressive policy, but it could increase the reputational costs and diplomatic consequences associated with it. Moreover, an impartial and open-source organisation for attributing cyberattacks could be a helpful resource against non-state actors and rogue states – especially given that U.S. efforts at attribution are often hampered by the need to protect sensitive intelligence sources and methods. Lastly, this option, as a recourse to multilateralism, would signal U.S. commitment to the rules-based international order, which may be important in restoring global trust in U.S. leadership.

Other Comments:  Sino-U.S. competition is and will continue to shape this century. New ways for the U.S. to compete below the threshold of armed conflict may be critical assets in assuring U.S. victory.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Larter, D. B. (2019, May 2). Here’s how the Japan-based 7th Fleet has changed since 17 sailors died in accidents 2 years ago. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/navy-league/2019/05/05/heres-how-the-japan-based-7th-fleet-has-changed-since-17-sailors-died-in-accidents-2-years-ago

[2] Mackie, J. (2019, October 18). Japan Has an Illegal Seafood Problem. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.hakaimagazine.com/news/japan-has-an-illegal-seafood-problem

[3] Rudd, K. (2020, May 6). The Coming Post-COVID Anarchy. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-05-06/coming-post-covid-anarchy

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Matthew Ader Option Papers

Options for a Five Eyes Response to Below Threshold Competition with China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Alexander Craig works in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  Competition with China below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of the ‘Five Eyes’ nations: the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Background:  The Five Eyes nations are united not just by security cooperation, but by shared history, language, culture and a commitment to democracy, free market institutions and the rule of law. Being few in number compared to the European Union’s 27 members and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 30, the Five Eyes have the potential to act with depth and agility against a common challenge on the world stage beyond that of other international affiliations.

Significance:  China is promoting its authoritarian model abroad as a superior alternative to liberal democracy and the free market[1]. In doing so China is seeking to undermine the current rules based international order; with Xi Jinping openly stating in 2014 that China should be “constructing international playgrounds” and “creating the rules”[2]. If left unchecked, this below threshold competition will undermine democratic norms, support for the free market, and subvert global institutions.

Option #1:  The UK grants full citizenship to Hong Kong’s British Overseas Nationals.
There are approximately 250,000 holders of British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passports.[3] Holders are permanent Hong Kong residents who voluntarily registered prior to 1997. They are not afforded the protection and right that full British citizenship would bring.

Risk:  It is likely that the Chinese government would seek to portray this as an act of interference in its domestic affairs. There is a possibility that BN(O) holders would be seen by the authorities as a suspect group, and this measure could be the catalyst for the victimisation of BN(O) passport holders. Domestically, there would likely be concern in the UK about the possible impact of the instant granting of citizenship to quarter of a million people.

Gain:  By granting full citizenship, the UK demonstrates its support to these citizens of Hong Kong. This act would reassure the people of Hong Kong that international support did not just amount to words; and demonstrates that there can be effective soft power responses to China’s use of hard power against its own citizens.

Option #2:  The Five Eyes nations establish their own Free Trade Agreement.

China uses access to its markets as a tool of both influence and punishment, as seen in recent threats levelled towards Australia[4]. Several unconnected arrangements already link most of the Five Eyes nations such as free trade agreements between the United States, Australia and Canada[5][6]. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union presents an opportunity to simplify and formalise arrangements between the five nations.

Risk:  Free trade agreements can prove controversial[7] and domestic support for free trade often fluctuates, especially in the United States[8]. Increased rhetoric regarding the need for protectionism and claims that the coronavirus has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains could combine to make the early 2020s a difficult period for advancing ambitious free trade agreements[9].

Gain: The establishment of a simple and transparent free trade area by democratic nations deeply committed to the institutions of the free market and the rule of law (and with already existing security arrangements) would provide a global market where participants need not be at the mercy of an autocratic state. This free trade area would be the largest in the world, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of 26.73 trillion dollars, almost double that of China and exceeding the European Union’s[10].

Option #3:  The Five Eye nations give Taiwan full diplomatic recognition.

Currently 15 nations recognise Taiwan, a decrease of seven since 2016. This is primarily a result of pressure placed on smaller nations by China[11].

Risk:  The recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation would be highly provocative and would almost certainly be met with a response from China. U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed into law the TAIPEI Act[12], which prompted the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson to respond “We urge the United States to correct its mistakes, not implement the law, or obstruct the development of relations between other countries and China, otherwise it will inevitably encounter a resolute strike back by China[13].” This option might entail having to be prepared to face this threatened ‘strike back’.

Gain:  The Chinese government’s opposition to international recognition of a prosperous free market democracy is enforced through threats and coercion. Recognition would be a declaration that, on the world stage, aggressive rhetoric and punitive use of boycotts and market access by larger nations do not trump the rule of law, democracy, and the sovereignty of smaller nations. If China does attempt a forced reunification, previous recognition of Taiwan makes clear what crime has been committed: the invasion of a sovereign nation by another – not a conclusion to the civil war, or the reigning in of a secessionist province.

Other Comments:  Suggestions for addressing the risks posed by Chinese competition are often reactive in nature and assume China has the initiative: preventing dominance of 5G networks, preventing mass corporate theft, reducing the influence of Confucius Institutes etc. While each suggestion is valid, there is a risk that the assumption of Chinese advantage fosters a pessimistic attitude. Instead, what authoritarian regimes often see as the West’s weaknesses are often strengths, and in the words of U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, “we have far more leverage than we are employing[14].”

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] McMaster, H. 2020. How China sees the World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

[2] Economy, E. 2018. China’s New Revolution. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution

[3] UK House of Commons. 2020. British Overseas Passport Holders in Hong Kong. Hansard https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-01-29/debates/AC02FF56-64CB-4E14-92FD-D2EF59859782/BritishOverseasPassportHoldersInHongKong

[4] McCullough, D. 2020. China threatens to stop Australian imports. Canberra Times. https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6736562/china-threatens-to-stop-australian-imports

[5] Office of the United States Trade Representative. 2020. Free Trade Agreements. https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements

[6] Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. 2020. Free Trade Agreements. https://www.agriculture.gov.au/market-access-trade/fta

[7] Pengelly, M. 2017.Trump threatens to terminate Nafta, renews calls for Mexico to pay for wall. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/27/donald-trump-camp-david-nafta-mexico-wall-canada

[8] Wofe, R., & Acquaviva, 2018 Where does the public sit on NAFTA? Policy Options. https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2018/public-sit-nafta

[9] O’Leary, L. 2020. The Modern Supply Chain is Snapping. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/supply-chains-and-coronavirus/608329

[10] The World Bank. 2020. GDP (current US$). The World Bank. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD

[11] Lyons, K. 2020. Taiwan loses second ally in a week as Kiribati switches to China. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/20/taiwan-loses-second-ally-in-a-week-as-kiribati-switches-to-china

[12] Hille, K. 2020. US steps up support of Taiwan in open rebuke to China. The Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/161e1b6b-8b5c-44a8-a873-76687427b522

[13] Blanchard, B., & Tian, Y. U.S. increases support for Taiwan, China threatens to strike back. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-usa/us-increases-support-for-taiwan-china-threatens-to-strike-back-idUSKBN21E0B7

[14] McMaster, H. 2020. How China sees the World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Alexander Craig Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers

Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. He believes in the importance of employing all national instruments of power in warfare in a comprehensive approach, including non-state actors as well as allies, coalition forces, and partners. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how China plans to achieve its objectives.

Summary:  The Thucydides trap – it is a phenomenon destining a hegemon and an emerging power to war. The People’s Republic of China and the United States of America are currently following this schema. China aims at reaching a status above all others. To achieve that, it employs all instruments of national power in a concerted smart power approach, led by the constant political leadership. China fills emerging gaps in all domains and exploits U.S. isolationism.

Text:  The People’s Republic of China and the U.S. are competing actors. As an emerging power, China challenges the current hegemon[1]. Whereas the U.S. sees itself “first” amongst others[2], China aims at being “above” all[3]. To achieve this goal, China adheres to a whole of nation approach[4]. In the current stage of national resurrection, China will not challenge the U.S. in a direct approach with its military[5]. However, it balances hard and soft power, consequently employing smart power[6]. Within this concept, China follows examples of the U.S., further develops concepts, or introduces new ones. Foremost, China is willing to fill all emerging gaps the U.S. leaves in any domain. Its exclusive political system provides a decisive advantage towards other competitors. China’s political leadership has no pressure to succeed in democratic elections. Its 100-year plan for the great rejuvenation until 2049 is founded on this constancy[7].

China’s diplomacy is framed by several dogmata, executed by the Chinese People’s Party that stands for entire China, its well-being, and development. China’s view of the world is not pyramidic but concentric. That given, it might be easier to understand why China is ignoring concerns about internal human rights violations, adheres to a One-China policy regarding Taiwan, and assumes Tibet as Chinese soil. Maintaining North Korea as a buffer-zone to a U.S. vassal and developing the “string of pearls” in the South China Sea are more examples for the concentric world perception. These examples are the inner circle. They are indisputable[8].

Additionally, China’s diplomacy overcame the pattern of clustering the world by ideology. Necessity and opportunity are the criteria for China’s efforts[9]. Western nations’ disinterest in Africa led – like the European Union’s incapability in stabilizing states like Greece after the 2008 economic crisis – to close diplomatic, economic, and military ties with China. Whereever the so-called west leaves a gap, China will bridge it[10]. The growing diplomatic self-esteem goes, thereby, hand in hand with increasing China’s economic and military strength. China exploits the recent U.S. isolationism and the lacking European assertiveness. It aims at weak points.

In the fight for and with information, China showed an impressive evolution in information technology[11]. This field is of utmost importance since gathering data is not the issue anymore, but processing and disseminating. The infinite amount of information in the 21st century requires computer-assisted processes. Since China gained “Quantum Supremacy”, it made a step ahead of the United States of America[12]. Under this supremacy, China’s increasing capabilities in both Space and Cyberspace gain relevance. Information is collected almost equally fast by competitors, but more quickly fed into the political decision-making process in China[13]. The outcome is superiority in this field[14].

In the information domain, China follows a soft power approach, turning its reputation into a benevolent one. Lately, even the COVID-19 crisis was facilitated to make China appear as a supporter, delivering medical capacities worldwide. China makes use of the western community’s vast and open media landscape while restricting information for the domestic population. China will continue to show a domestically deterrent but supportive expeditionary appearance.

A strong economy and an assertive military are the Chinese political leadership’s source of strength[15]. Concerning the economy, China achieved remarkable improvements. From being a high-production rate, but low-quality mass-producer, it switches increasingly towards quality industries — their chosen path led via industrial espionage and plagiarism towards further developing imported goods[16]. Automobile and military industries are two illustrative examples. The former led to Chinese cars being banned, for example, from the U.S. market, not due to lacking quality but to protect U.S. automobile industries. The latter is based on Russian imports that were analyzed and improved. In doing so, China was able to raise its domestic weapons industry, literally rushing through development stages that took other nations decades.

China requires economic development. Only a strong economy ensures social improvements for its population, a precondition for internal stability. As long as this social enhancement is perceived, China’s domestic population bears restrictions. China will, therefore, maintain its economic growth with all given means. Modern technologies will be pursued in China, and resources will be either imported or, as seen in Africa, entire land strips or regions will be acquired. An essential capstone in this regard will be the “Belt and Road Project”, connecting the Chinese economy with other relevant markets such as Europe[17]. Concentrically, China will extend its influence along this trade route and grow its influence by creating dependence[18].

Establishing and maintaining contested economic routes requires capable security forces. China’s military keeps the pace. Founded as a revolutionary force, the military achieved the goal of combat readiness. Until 2049, China’s ambition is to build armed forces, able to fight and win wars. In a regional context, deterrence is the requirement. However, China seeks more. Superseding the U.S. means exceeding U.S. maritime capabilities. China’s strategic goal is to build the most capable blue-water navy[19]. The “string of pearls” is just an intermediate step until its naval fleet as assets of power-projecting will be established. China will maintain its land forces and increase its capabilities in all other domains. Regional conflicts will be facilitated to test doctrine, technology, and combat readiness.

China is aware of its geopolitical situation. It has to deter Russia militarily while marginalizing it economically. It will avoid a direct military confrontation that might hamper economic growth[20]. China has to shape the surrounding Asian nations’ attitude so they would not provide U.S. forces further staging areas. It will exploit U.S. isolationism, influence Europe economically, and diminish transatlantic influence using the information domain.

The U.S., being a maritime power, is eager to maintain its status as a hegemon by controlling opposite coast-lines such as Europe via Great Britain or Asia via Japan and South Korea. Reluctance to directly compete with China will enable the concentric power growth to reach the U.S. territory, finally overwhelming it. Interventionism will be exploited in the information domain, and isolationism is even a precondition for China’s success.


Endnotes:

[1] Allison, G. (2018, 24). Destined for War.

[2] The President of the United States. (2017, 1). National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

[3] Ward, J. (2019, 5). China’s Vision of Victory.

[4] Ward (2019, 92). Ibid.

[5] Ward (2019, 31-36). Ibid.

[6] Allison, G. (2018, 22). Destined for War.

[7] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[8] Ward (2019, 54-61). China’s Vision of Victory.

[9] Raik et al. (2018, 22-26). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[10] Allison (2018, 20-24). Destined for War.

[11] Ward (2019, 85-87). China’s Vision of Victory.

[12] Ward (2019, 86). Ibid.

[13] Preskill (2018, 7). Quantum Computing in the NISQ.

[14] Poisel (2013, 49-50). Information Warfare and Electronic Warfare.

[15] Raik et al. (2018, 36). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[16] Ward (2019, 92-95). China’s Vision of Victory.

[17] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[18] Ward (2019, 116-118). China’s Vision of Victory.

[19] Ward (2019, 61). Ibid.

[20] Raik et al. (2018, 34). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Matthias Wasinger United States

Assessing China’s Civil and Military Crisis Response Capabilities

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group. 


Title:  Assessing China’s Civil and Military Crisis Response Capabilities

Date Originally Written:  March 17, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 8, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that observing China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can inform national security researchers and practitioners as to how China may respond to other crises.

Summary:  COVID-19 has highlighted China’s strengths in terms of rapid quarantine implementation and mobilizing national-level resources quickly. It has also highlighted failures in China’s bureaucratic nature and failing public health systems and breakdowns on the military front.  COVID-19 has enabled outsiders a rare look to both analyze and assess the China’s current capabilities for crisis response.

Text:  COVID-19 has engulfed not only the entirety of People’s Republic of China (PRC) but also the world. From quarantining entire regions in China to mobilizing national-level assets, the PRC has been forced to demonstrate its crisis response abilities in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Crisis response is a particularly vital capability for the PRC to possess in order to truly legitimize its standing on the global stage, with these abilities allowing China to project power internally and externally. The reactionary nature of the PRC’s response to COVID-19 can be analyzed to showcase its current capabilities when applied to a variety of other scenarios, from insurgent threats to bioweapon attacks.

The PRC has responded to COVID-19 in two distinct ways that can be applauded, with these specific crisis response initiatives being drastic quarantine measures and the mobilization of national-level assets. The large-scale quarantine ordered in the Hubei province by Beijing in January 2020 demonstrated a specific capability to employ scalable options in terms of reducing the number of COVID-19 cases from this region[1], with other areas in China also following suit. The Hubei quarantine was no small feat, given Wuhan’s status as the capital of the Hubei province with some estimates placing the number of affected individuals to approximately 35 million people[2]. Furthermore, the PRC’s mobilization of national-level assets demonstrates a consolidated ability to action resources, potentially in an expeditionary capability. Aside from the cancellation of major Lunar New Year events throughout the country[3] and the mass recall of manufacturing workers to produce face masks[4], PRC authorities also deployed resources to build multiple hospitals in a time of less than several weeks, to include the 1,000 bed Huoshenshan hospital and the 1,600 bed Leishenshan hospital with 1,600 beds[5]. These actions demonstrated the PRC’s crisis response strengths in attempting to contain COVID-19. China’s stringent mass-quarantine measures and mobilization of national-level resources showcased the PRCs ability to exercise its authority in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

While the PRC has proven itself effective on some levels, COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses in the PRC’s crisis response apparatus in both civilian and military infrastructure systems. From a civil perspective, the PRC’s multi-tiered bureaucratic nature has showcased itself as a point of failure during the PRC’s initial response to COVID-19. With a top-down approach emphasizing strict obedience to superiors and centralized PRC leadership, local-level officials hesitated in relaying the dire nature of COVID-19 to their superiors, going so far as to continue local Lunar New Year Events, shut out experts, and even silence whistleblowers[6]. The PRC’s already over-burdened health system did not fare much better[7], with Chinese hospitals quickly exhausting available supplies, personnel, and hospital beds in the initial weeks of the declared coronavirus outbreak[8].

Chinese military response efforts also experienced similar breakdowns in purported capabilities. The PRC’s Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF), a Wuhan-headquartered force purported to comprise of “multiple units, ammunition depots, warehouses, fuel depots, hospitals, and underground facilities spread over a wide geographic area,” has seen relatively little activation in support of the PRC’s crisis response efforts thus far[9]. The JLSF has mobilized less than 2,000 personnel in support of COVID-19 response efforts as of the writing of this article, playing a role more in-line with situation monitoring and self-protection[10]. Additionally, military logistics were further highlighted by a significant shortage in the amount of available nucleic acid testing kits[11], highlighting issues between both JLSF and People’s Liberation Army enterprise-at-large. Therefore, it is only possible for one to conclude that the PRC’s military crisis response capabilities may not be as developed as otherwise advertised.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will be a defining medical pandemic with global impact. Testing the PRC at a real-time level, COVID-19 has highlighted Beijing’s strengths in terms of rapid quarantine implementation and the ability to mobilize national-level resources quickly. On the other hand, China’s ineffectiveness in terms of crisis response has also been showcased, with failures emerging from the PRC’s bureaucratic nature and failing public health systems combined with breakdowns on the PRC’s military front. As devastating as its effects continue to be, the coronavirus provides immense value into understanding the PRC’s capabilities for crisis response.


Endnotes:

[1] Woodward, A. (2020, January 28). Wuhan, China, and at least 15 other cities have been quarantined as China attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus. That’s about 50 million people on lockdown. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/wuhan-coronavirus-officials-quarantine-entire-city-2020-1

[2] Bernstein, L. & Craig S. (2020, January 25). Unprecedented Chinese quarantine could backfire, experts say. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/unprecedented-chinese-quarantine-could-backfire-experts-say/2020/01/24/db073f3c-3ea4-11ea-8872-5df698785a4e_story.html

[3] Reuters (2020, January 23). Beijing cancels New Year events to curb virus spread. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/china-health-newyear/beijing-cancels-new-year-events-to-curb-virus-spread-beijing-news-idUSB9N29F025

[4] Zhang L. & Goh, B. (2020, January 23). China’s mask makers cancel holidays, jack up wages as new virus spurs frenzied demand. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-masks-idUSKBN1ZM18E

[5] Wang, J. & Zhu, E. (2020, February 6). How China Built Two Coronavirus Hospitals in Just Over a Week. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-china-can-build-a-coronavirus-hospital-in-10-days-11580397751

[6] Wang, D. (2020, March 10). Wuhan officials tried to cover up covid-19 — and sent it careening outward. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/10/wuhan-officials-tried-cover-up-covid-19-sent-it-careening-outward

[7] Shim, E. (2020, February 6). China’s ‘grand gestures,’ propaganda aim to calm fears about coronavirus. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/02/06/Chinas-grand-gestures-propaganda-aim-to-calm-fears-about-coronavirus/8971580989891

[8] Buckley, C. & Qin, A. (2020, January 30). Coronavirus Anger Boils Over in China and Doctors Plead for Supplies. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/30/world/asia/china-coronavirus-epidemic.html

[9] China’s Military Reforms and Modernization: Implications for the United State: Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. 115th Cong. (2018) (testimony of Kevin McCauley).

[10] ANI. (2020, February 5). PLA rushes to the rescue in Wuhan. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/pla-rushes-to-the-rescue-in-wuhan/articleshow/73951301.cms

[11] Wee, S.L. (2020, February 9). As Deaths Mount, China Tries to Speed Up Coronavirus Testing. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/world/asia/china-coronavirus-tests.html

 

Aid / Development / Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement China (People's Republic of China) COVID-19 Hugh Harsono

U.S. Aircraft Basing Options in Competition and Conflict with China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Captain Walker D. Mills is a Marine infantry officer. He is currently serving as an exchange officer with the Colombian Marine Corps. He is also pursuing an MA in international relations and contemporary war from King’s College London.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. and China are competing below the threshold of armed conflict and trying to best position themselves should conflict occur.  One area of competition focuses on Chinese rockets and missiles, and their potential use against U.S. aviation facilities.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 27, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty military member with a stake in potential future competition and conflict with China in the Pacific. The options are presented from the point of view of the United States.

Background:  In recent decades, the People’s Liberation Army within the People’s Republic of China has invested heavily in conventional cruise and ballistic missiles of several types. Today the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has thousands of missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 kilometers[1]. Their rocket force is among the premier in the world – U.S. and Russian militaries have not kept pace with Chinese missile development and deployment because, until recently, they were constrained by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Chinese missiles are more than capable of targeting fixed U.S. bases and ships. A recent Center for New American Security report noted that “…a preemptive missile strike against the forward bases that underpin U.S. military power in the Western Pacific could be a real possibility” and named it “the greatest military threat” to U.S. interests in Asia[2]. Analysis of images from missile ranges in the Gobi Desert indicates that the primary targets for these missiles are U.S. aircraft carriers and fixed aviation facilities like airplane hangers and runways[3]. The missiles have repeatedly been highlighted in military parades and are the cornerstone of the PLA’s capability to defeat and deter U.S. military action in the South and East China Seas and their anti-access, area-denial network[4].

Significance:  The increasing threat from Chinese missiles will prevent U.S. forces from being able to credibly threaten the use of force in the seas around China and the First Island Chain because of the extreme risk to U.S. bases and large ships. Without the credible ability to employ force in support of foreign policy objectives in the region, the U.S. may be unable to fulfill treaty obligations to allies in the region and will cede one of its primary tools for competition and foreign policy. The capability to credibly threaten the use of force is the cornerstone of U.S. deterrence in the region.

Option #1:  The United States can embark on a multi-national, multi-agency effort to build dual-use aviation facilities across the First Island Chain. Because the most of the First Island Chain is comprised of U.S. treaty allies, the U.S. can work with allies and partners to rapidly construct a large number of runways and aviation facilities for civilian and military use by foreign partners, which would become available for U.S. military use in the event of a conflict. There are also dozens if not hundreds of derelict runways from the Second World War across the First Island Chain that could be renovated at lower cost than new construction.

Risk:  Such a building program would be expensive, and would have to significantly increase the number of available airfields to achieve the desired effect. This option is also contingent up U.S. partners and allies accepting the U.S. construction programs and the proliferation of airfields on their sovereign territory which may face local political resistance. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  A significant proliferation of dual-use runways in the First Island Chain would complicate Chinese targeting and force the PLA to spread out their missiles across many more targets, limiting their effectiveness. This building plan would also serve as a type of foreign aid – is it a non-confrontational approach to competition with China and would be a gift to our partners because the airfields and support facilities would be intended for partner use and civilian use in times short of armed conflict.

Option #2:  The U.S. can invest in amphibious aircraft that do not need to operate from runways. Legacy U.S. amphibious aircraft like the PBY-Catalina, also call the ‘Flying Boat’ and the Grumman Albatross were highly effective as utility transports, search and rescue, and maritime patrol craft during the Second World War into the 1980s in the case of the Albatross. These aircraft are capable of operating from conventional runways or directly from the sea – which makes strikes on runways and traditional aviation facilities ineffective towards preventing their operation. These planes are able to operate from any coastal area or inland waterway. Other militaries in the region including the Chinese, Russian and Japanese are already modernizing and upgrading their respective fleets of amphibious aircraft.

Risk:  The risk to this option is that reinvestment in amphibious aircraft could be expensive for the U.S. military or too much of a burden for a niche capability. The risk is also that amphibious aircraft are not capable of performing the necessary roles or do not posses the necessary capabilities for operations in against a peer-adversary like China. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  The advantage of this option is that it mitigates the risk to U.S. aircraft in the First Island Chain by creating a reserve of aircraft not tied to easily targeted, fixed-bases. Also, amphibious aircraft can be deployed worldwide – and are relevant beyond East Asia. This option does not depend on allies or partners and the capability to operate from the water can be employed in any theater, against any threat, not just in the Pacific.

Other Comments:  Other types of unconventional aircraft may also be considered for development and acquisition. Wing-in-Ground-Effect vehicles can function like aircraft and operate completely from the water and aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capability can also be employed without traditional runways though struggle with logistics and maintenance in austere environments.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] RAND Corporation. (2017). The U.S. – China Military Scorecard. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.

[2] Shugart, Thomas. (2017). First Strike: China’s Missile Threat to US Bases in Asia. Retrieved from https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/first-strike-chinas-missile-threat-to-u-s-bases-to-asia.

[3] DeFraia, Daniel. (2013). China tests DF-21D missile on mock US aircraft carrier in Gobi Desert. Agence France-Presse. Retrived from https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-01-30/china-tests-df-21d-missile-mock-us-aircraft-carrier-gobi-desert.

[4] RT. (2015, September 3). China’s V-Day military parade in Beijing 2015 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoC0Xcjko0A&sns=em.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Air Forces Artillery / Rockets/ Missiles China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers United States Walker D. Mills

Assessing China’s Economic Influence in Latin America

Assad Raza is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment experience throughout the Middle East.  He holds an M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He can be found on Twitter @assadraza12.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing China’s Economic Influence in Latin America

Date Originally Written:  April 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 25, 2020.

Summary:  Similar to the Soviet Union during Cold War, China is seeking victory without war.  In this Latin America case however, China is leveraging its economic instrument of power to achieve influence instead of supplying fellow communists with materiel like the Soviet Union did.  China’s efforts in this arena are a threat to U.S. interests in Latin America.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes China’s investments and financial deals throughout Latin America can threaten U.S. interests in the long-term.

Text:  In 2008, China published a White Paper expressing their long-term goals in Latin America. This White Paper highlighted several areas of cooperation to include trade, investment, and financing throughout the region[1]. Over a decade later, China almost built a canal in Nicaragua, negotiated several free trade agreements with countries like Brazil and El Salvador, and funded several infrastructure projects throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, China has successfully used its economic instrument of power to coerce countries and legally advance their global interests against competitors like the United States.

Over the past decade, China has become the largest trading partner to countries like Brazil and El Salvador. However, these trading dependencies have caused countries like Brazil to fall into recessions because of their reliance on China’s economy, as seen in 2015[2]. China’s approach has increased Latin American countries dependencies with them, which can be a risk to their economies and the region. A good example is China’s loans-for-oil deal with Venezuela, which contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse due to falling oil prices and their inability to repay Chinese loans[3]. However, China’s trade is not limited to only natural resources; it also includes building infrastructure throughout the region as another means to trap countries into default, holding them hostage to more Chinese coercion.

China has taken on several infrastructure projects to consolidate its influence throughout Latin America. In December 2019, the President of El Salvador met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to finalize a deal on several infrastructure projects for the country[4]. These projects include a large sports stadium and a water treatment plant[5]. This deal came after El Salvador broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan and publicly announcing their support to the One-China Policy[6]. The agreement with El Salvador demonstrates China’s ability to undermine international support for Taiwan through investment opportunities in developing countries. These risky investments in Latin America are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in countries throughout Asia.

Throughout Asia and Africa, China has leveraged long-term leases of ports in vulnerable countries that have failed to pay off loans. For example, China was able to negotiate a 99-year lease over the port of Hambantota with Sri Lanka due to debt[7]. This long-term lease to pay off loans is not isolated to Asia but could be used to leverage territories in Central and South America with countries in debt to China. China’s investments are strategic, knowing that developing countries in Latin America that default on payments may feel pressured to lease out territories like their ports.

China has already attempted this approach in Central American countries like El Salvador. In 2018, China tried to purchase Isla Perico, an Island off the coast of El Salvador, and to relocate its population to the mainland[8]. China also requested a 100-year lease for areas near a port and tax exemptions for Chinese companies[9]. More importantly, these offers came at a time when the U.S. had suspended aid to El Salvador because of mass migration issues leaving a gap for China to exploit. Although the U.S. has temporarily stalled these negotiations, it demonstrates China’s ability to target vulnerable states to advance their agenda legally.

Chinese investment in Latin America also includes the technology sector. This technology consists of similar systems used in China to conduct surveillance on their people. In 2016, Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp assisted with Venezuela’s “fatherland card” that tracked citizens and linked it to government subsidized food and health programs[10]. The risk with this technology is that other governments may want to acquire it from China and use this to reward loyalists and oppress those perceived as not loyal, increasing instability, as seen in Venezuela. This pattern is worrying and without mitigation could be a harbinger of more Orwellian-type surveillance state behavior spreading throughout Latin America.

China’s interests throughout Latin America continue to increase, as seen with their recent attempt to lease port lying areas in El Salvador. Much like in Sri Lanka, China aggressively pursues developing countries to legally entrap them and coerce them into long-term commitments for compensation. Although their priority in Latin America is to gain an economic foothold, their actions also shape Latin American perceptions and buys political influence in the region. China’s economic advancement in Latin America has the potential to become a national security threat to the U.S. and its interests throughout the region.


Endnotes:

[1] Peters, E. (2015). China’s Evolving Role in Latin America: Can It Be a Win-Win? (pp. 5-11, Rep.). Atlantic Council. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/resrep03629.5

[2] Patey, L. (2016, November 21). Trouble Down South: Xi Jinping’s Latin American Tour. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/south-america/2016-11-21/trouble-down-south

[3] Guevara, C. (2020, January 13). China’s support for the Maduro regime: Enduring or fleeting? Atlantic Council. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/chinas-support-for-the-maduro-regime-enduring-or-fleeting

[4] Renteria, N. (2019, December 3). China signs on for ‘gigantic’ investment in El Salvador infrastructure. Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-el-salvador-china/china-signs-on-for-gigantic-investment-in-el-salvador-infrastructure-idUSKBN1Y7266

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Schultz, K. (2017, December 12). Sri Lanka, Struggling with Debt, Hands a Major Port to China. New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/world/asia/sri-lanka-china-port.html

[8] Londono, E. (2019, September 21). To Influence El Salvador, China Dangled Money. The U.S. Made Threats. New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/21/world/americas/china-el-salvador-trump-backlash.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] Berwick, A. (2018, November 14). How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/venezuela-zte

Assad Raza Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors

An Assessment of U.S. Leadership Potential in Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Dr. Heather Marie Stur is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi and fellow in the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society. She is the author of several books, including Saigon at War: South Vietnam and the Global Sixties (Cambridge 2020 forthcoming), The U.S. Military and Civil Rights Since World War II (Praeger/ABC-CLIO 2019), and Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (Cambridge 2011). Her articles have appeared in various publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, National Interest, War on the Rocks, Diplomatic History, and War & Society. Stur was a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam, where she was a professor in the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. She can be found on Twitter @HeatherMStur. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of U.S. Leadership Potential in Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 11, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a diplomatic and military historian who is interested in U.S. history in a global context. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of international alliances to address issues of global security.

Summary:  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) enables the U.S. to assert leadership in the Asia-Pacific region. Although U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP, he indicated in 2018 that he would consider returning to the alliance. Regional tensions make this a favorable time for the U.S. to enter the TPP as a way to challenge China’s dominance.

Text:  As 2019 drew to a close, leaders from China, Japan, and South Korea met to discuss strengthening trade and security ties. But the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the development of closer regional relations and has created a chance for the U.S. to assert economic leadership in Asia. The U.S. vehicle for doing this is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP’s origins go back to 2008, when talks between several Asia-Pacific countries eventually brought the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore together in a proposed sweeping trade agreement aimed at strengthening relations among the member countries and limiting China’s economic influence. Former U.S. President Barack Obama saw the TPP as the centerpiece of his foreign policy “pivot” to Asia[1]. Yet President Donald Trump rejected the agreement, asserting that the U.S. could make better trade deals working on its own[2].

Trump was not the TPP’s only opponent. Critics of the agreement have decried the secret negotiations that shaped it and have argued that the TPP favors corporations over labor[3]. After Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, the remaining 11 members forged ahead, renaming the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). In March 2018, Trump attempted to put his “go-it-alone” strategy into practice, announcing that the U.S. would levy new tariffs on Chinese imports, but in December 2019, he back-pedaled, declaring that not only would the U.S. not impose new tariffs on Chinese goods, it would also lower existing ones[4]. With U.S.-China trade relations in flux and COVID-19 threatening the global economy the U.S. could reconsider its exit from the TPP.

The TPP offers a framework in which the U.S. can assert itself as a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, a primary reason for Obama’s support of the deal. The agreement isn’t just about trade; it’s about international rules of engagement in areas including intellectual property, labor relations, the environment, and human rights. U.S. leaders have been particularly concerned about Chinese theft of American intellectual property (IP), which was one of the motivations behind Trump’s 2018 tariffs. Protecting US IP was also a priority for the Obama administration, and American negotiators pushed for strong IP protections in the original TPP contract[5]. With the U.S. at the helm of an alliance that would cover about 800 million people and 40 percent of the global economic output, the Trump administration could shape and even make the rules. Returning to the TPP now wouldn’t be a radical move for Trump. In April 2018, he suggested that he would consider returning the U.S. to the alliance.

Joining the TPP would also allow the U.S. to capitalize on regional discord. Despite a December 2019 meeting in Chengdu that brought together Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss regional stability and shared concerns, Japan is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reduce its economic dependence on China. The Japanese government’s pandemic stimulus package includes more than $2 million USD for companies that move production out of China[6]. Vietnam and China have a contentious relationship that dates back nearly two millennia. One of Vietnam’s most famous legends is that of the Trung sisters, who led a successful rebellion against Chinese control of Vietnam in the year 40 and subsequently ruled their country for three years. Earlier this year, Vietnamese defense officials published a white paper that indicated Vietnam’s desire to build closer ties with the U.S. while drifting away from the Chinese orbit[7]. Japan, Vietnam, and the U.S. are among China’s largest trading partners, and all three were members of the talks that produced the original TPP. A restored alliance that includes the U.S. could modify its terms of agreement to respond to current regional and global phenomena.

Among those phenomena are wild game farming and pandemic preparedness. The wild game industry in China involves the farming of animals such as bats, pangolins, and peacocks, which are then sold for human consumption in wet markets throughout the country. The practice has been at the center of two global health crises, the SARS outbreak that began in 2002 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S.-led TPP could put economic pressure on the Chinese government to shut down the wild game industry and regulate wet markets more rigorously to uphold internationally-accepted hygiene and food safety standards.

If and when another pandemic occurs, the U.S. will need to be more prepared than it was for COVID-19. Some economists have indicated that Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products caused shortages in the U.S. of ventilators, masks, and other medical equipment that are made in China[8]. A renewed TPP contract could include provisions for the manufacture and sale of medical supplies by member nations.


Endnotes:

[1] McBride, James and Chatzky, Andrew. (2019, January 4). “What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?” Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp

[2] Dwyer, Colin. (2018, March 8). “The TPP is Dead. Long Live the Trans-Pacific Trade Deal,” National Public Radio. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/08/591549744/the-tpp-is-dead-long-live-the-trans-pacific-trade-deal

[3] BBC News. (2017, January 23). “TPP: What is it and why does it matter?” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715

[4] Franck, Thomas. (2019, December 13). “Trump halts new China tariffs and rolls back some of the prior duties on $120 billion of imports,” CNBC. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/13/trump-says-25percent-tariffs-will-remain-but-new-china-duties-will-not-take-effect-sunday.html

[5] Baker McKenzie. (2018, April 22). “Reconsidering the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Impact on Intellectual Property.” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en/insight/publications/2018/04/reconsidering-the-tpp-and-impact-on-ip

[6] Reynolds, Isabel and Urabe, Emi. (2020, April 8). “Japan to Fund Firms to Shift Production Out of China.” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-08/japan-to-fund-firms-to-shift-production-out-of-china

[7] Kurlantzick, Joshua. (2020, January 30). “Vietnam, Under Increasing Pressure From China, Mulls a Shift Into America’s Orbit.” Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28502/as-china-vietnam-relations-deteriorate-hanoi-mulls-closer-ties-with-the-u-s

[8] The World. (2020, March 23). “Trump’s China tariffs hampered U.S. coronavirus preparedness, expert says.” Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2020-03-23/trumps-china-tariffs-hampered-us-coronavirus-preparedness-expert-says

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Dr. Heather Marie Stur Economic Factors United States

Assessing COVID-19’s Impact on the Philippines in the Context of Great Power Competition

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group. 


Title:  Assessing COVID-19’s Impact on the Philippines in the Context of Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the Philippines are important to U.S. national security efforts and is concerned that China will use the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to further exacerbate U.S.-Philippine relations.

Summary:  The Philippines is currently at a pivotal crossroads, with the coronavirus hastening the Philippines’ decision to choose a strategic partner in light of actions by Philippine President Duterte. Choosing between a historic relationship with the United States or a newer one with either China or Russia, the Philippines’ actions in the immediate future will set the stage for world history.

Text:  The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has placed the Philippines at a critical point in history in terms of Great Power Competition. Through a variety of extraneous factors, the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the Philippines’ decision to choose between its close historic relationships with America and a potentially prosperous economic future with its more regionally-aligned Chinese and Russian neighbors. Through careful analysis, readers will be able to understand how and why this sole event has forced the Philippines to this point in history, with this pivotal time potentially shaping the future of Asia for the next millennia.

The Philippines and the United States share a myriad of close ties, many of them deeply rooted in both nation’s histories. For example, the Philippines and America enjoy very close military bonds. In fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s force structure closely mirrors that of America’s, to include similar civilian control mechanisms providing oversight over military actions, in addition to existing close relationships between the Philippine and United States’ Military Academies[1]. These relationships are further strengthened through events such as annual bilaterally-led Balikatan exercises, combined with a myriad of episodic engagements to include military Joint Combined Exchange Training, Balance Pistons[2], law-enforcement oriented Badge Pistons[3], counter-narcotics Baker Pistons[4], and regular civil-military events[5]. The Philippines and the United States’ close relationships have even extended into the cultural realm, with a mutual shared love of fast food, basketball, and American pop culture[6]. These factors, combined with the Filipino diaspora in the West and high rates of positive perceptions of America in the Philippines[7], showcase the close bonds between the Philippines and America.

However, since his election in May 2016, Filipino President Duterte has made it a point to form increasingly close relationships with China. Just several months after his election in October 2016, President Duterte announced a “separation” from the United States, with his trade secretary simultaneously announcing over $13 billion dollars of trade deals[8]. President Duterte has also regularly supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) development project, going so far as to court Chinese tourists to the point where mainland Chinese tourists account for the Philippines’ second-largest source of tourist arrivals, with a 41% increase from 2018 to 2019 and a projected 30% average growth by 2022[9]. Additionally, China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 has so far gone uncontested during President Duterte’s reign, to the point where China is developing military facilities on Scarborough Shoal, among other areas in the South China Sea[10]. This pursuance of Chinese military favor through inaction has also paid off for President Duterte, with China supplying the Philippines with aid ranging from rifles in October 2017 to boats and rocket launchers in July 2018[11][12], and even a state-of-the-art surveillance system in November 2019[13], culminating recently in the first-ever Philippines/Chinese joint maritime exercise in January 2020[14].

On a similar note, President Duterte has also sought closer ties between the Philippines and Russia. In October 2019, the Philippines and Russia signed several business agreements focused on infrastructure development, agriculture, and even nuclear power plant growth[15]. On the military front, Russia has so far made a landmark donation of weapons and equipment to the Philippines through two military deals in October 2017[16], with an additional promise of further equipment procurement in September 2019[17]. These landmark military procurement efforts have also been seen in military cooperation through the posting of respective defense attachés to both nations’ capitals, marking a new era of defense cooperation[18].

Despite being able to effectively balance between supporting historic partnerships with the United States and its new ones with China and Russia, the Philippines has now been forced to choose between the three due to implications stemming from the coronavirus. While President Duterte announced his decision to pursue “separation” from the United States in October 2016, the announcement of the revocation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between America and the Philippines was not made until February 2020, with an effective termination date of August 2020[19]. Under normal conditions, this revocation would allow the United States a total of six months to plan for full retrograde of personnel and equipment from the Philippines. However, the coronavirus has hastened this process, with an emphasis on force protection measures and a tightening of international and local travel restrictions throughout the Philippines[20]. As a result, this revocation opens immense opportunities for both China and Russia, particularly as these developing bi-lateral security pacts become an increasing reality.

The preceding is where the Philippines become a primary pivotal point in terms of Great Power Competition. The Philippines has enjoyed a long-standing and stable relationship with the West with America being a stabilizing regional guarantor, a fact highlighted in the chaotic aftermath of the American withdrawal from the Philippines in the 1990s[21]. At the same time, many other nations are looking at the Philippines as a test ground of China’s BRI, particularly amidst allegations of predatory lending and “debt-trap diplomacy[22] [23].” On the same note, others see the Philippines as being the key to forging a free trade agreement between the Russian-centric Eurasian Economic Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations community, further showcasing the critical importance of the Philippines at this pivotal time in history[24].

There is no question that multi-domain partnerships will a play important role for the Philippines to select a future strategic partner. America’s historic relationships and nuanced expertise in security programming create a strong choice for the United States as a strategic partner. However, economic and matériel promise by both China and Russia also make these two countries enticing strategic partners, particularly as Filipino financial markets struggle amidst the coronavirus[25]. The world will watch this evolving situation closely, particularly as the Philippines precariously approaches a crossroads in terms of selecting a strategic partner.


Endnotes:

[1] Steffen J. (2015). The Role of the U.S. Military in the Professionalization of the Armed Forces of Liberia (Master’s thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States of America). Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a623974.pdf

[2] Leuthner, S. & Cabahug, S. (2015). Joint Combined Exchange Training Evaluation Framework: A Crucial Tool in Security Cooperation Assessment (Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterrey, California, United States of America). Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=790460

[3] U.S. and Philippine Forces Conduct Joint Training in Negros Occidental. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://ph.usembassy.gov/us-and-philippine-forces-conduct-joint-training-in-negros-occidental

[4] Taboada, J. (2019, August 30). Baker Piston 19-2 holds counter-narcotics simulated exercise. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from https://palawan-news.com/baker-piston-19-2-holds-counter-narcotics-simulated-exercise

[5] U.S. and Philippine Service Members Jointly Volunteer at Day Care. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://ph.usembassy.gov/us-and-philippine-service-members-jointly-volunteer-at-day-care

[6] Meyers, J. (2019, October 29). Ties between the U.S. and Philippines run deep. It won’t be easy for Rodrigo Duterte to unravel them. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-us-philippines-explainer-20161031-story.html

[7] Poushter, J. & Bishop, C. (2017, September 21). People in the Philippines Still Favor U.S. Over China, but Gap Is Narrowing. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2017/09/21/people-in-the-philippines-still-favor-u-s-over-china-but-gap-is-narrowing

[8] Reuters (2016). Duterte: Philippines is separating from US and realigning with China. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/20/china-philippines-resume-dialogue-south-china-sea-dispute

[9] Xinhua. Philippines expects to attract 4 mln Chinese tourists annually by end of 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/20/c_138646442.htm

[10] CIMSEC (2020). China’s Military Modernization Is Becoming A Real Problem For America. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/chinas-military-modernization-becoming-real-problem-america-138537

[11] Zheng, S. (2017, October 5). China arms Philippine police for counterterrorism mission. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2114152/china-arms-philippine-police-counterterrorism-mission

[12] Reuters. (2018, July 30). China donates small boats and RPG launders to Philippines. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/diplomacy/article/2157406/china-donates-small-boats-and-rpg-launchers-philippines

[13] CNN. (2019, November 22). DILG launches Chinese CCTV surveillance system in Metro Manila. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/11/22/DILG-Chinese-CCTV-Manila-Safe-Philippines.html

[14] Maitem J. (2020, January 15). Philippine, Chinese Coast Guards Stage Joint Drill in South China Sea. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/philippine/coast-guards-joint-drill-01152020135718.html

[15] ABS-CBN News. 2019, October 04). Philippines, Russia ink 10 business agreements. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/04/19/philippines-russia-ink-10-business-agreements

[16] Mogato, M. (2017, October 25). Philippines, Russia sign two military deals. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-russia-defence/philippines-russia-sign-two-military-deals-idUSKBN1CU1K6

[17] Simes, D. (2019, November 4). Why Russia is arming a longtime US ally in Asia. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.ozy.com/around-the-world/why-is-russia-arming-a-long-time-u-s-ally-in-asia/220634

[18] Russia posts first defense attaché to Philippines. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/04/c_138365216.htm

[19] Esguerra, D. (2020, February 11). Philippines officially terminates VFA with US. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://globalnation.inquirer.net/185186/fwd-breaking-philippines-officially-terminates-vfa-with-us

[20] Santos, A. (2020, March 09). Crossing the Pacific to beat the Philippines’ coronavirus lockdown. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2020/03/crossing-pacific-beat-philippines-coronavirus-lockdown-200319022504907.html

[21] Winger, G. (2020, February 06). For want of a visa? Values and Institutions in U.S.-Philippine Relations. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2020/02/for-want-of-a-visa-values-and-institutions-in-u-s-philippine-relations

[22] Green, M. (2019, April 25). China’s Debt Diplomacy. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/25/chinas-debt-diplomacy

[23] Pandey, A. (2019, September 05). China: A loan shark or the good Samaritan? Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/china-a-loan-shark-or-the-good-samaritan/a-48671742

[24] Ramani, S. (2017, January 07). The Growing Russia-Philippines Partnership. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2017/01/the-growing-russia-philippines-partnership

[25] Tu, L. & Sayson, I. (2020, March 17). Philippines becomes first country to shut financial markets thanks to virus. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-16/philippines-shuts-financial-markets-after-virus-spurs-stock-rout

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Competition COVID-19 Great Powers Hugh Harsono Philippines United States

Writing Contest — Below Threshold Competition: China

China, controlled and claimed regions, map

It is a new year and Divergent Options has enlisted Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, Wayne Hugar of the National Intelligence University, and Ali Wyne a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council to be the judges for our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest.

What:  A 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper examining how countries can compete more effectively with China below the threshold of armed conflict.  We are also interested in writers examining how China will continue to compete and evolve their tactics below the threshold of armed conflict.

When:  Submit your 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper between May 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020 to submissions@divergentoptions.org.

Why:  To refine your thoughts on China, which, depending upon your point of view, could be an important trading partner, a complex competitor, or a sworn enemy.  Writers will have a chance to win $500 for 1st Place, $300 for 2nd Place, $100 for 3rd Place, or be one of three Honorable Mentions who receives $50.

How:  Submissions will be judged by strength of argument, relevance, uniqueness, adherence to format, adherence to length, and grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Submissions will be published during and after the contest closes.  Contest winners will be announced once the judging is complete.

Other Comments:  For the purposes of this contest we encourage writers to think in an unconstrained manner and to not worry about what authority or what organization would be used to execute a given option.  From a U.S. point of view, some examples of unconstrained thinking could include:

A.  Since China has established Confucius Institutes in the United States, what is the risk and gain of the United States establishing “Thomas Jefferson Institutes” in China?

B.  The U.S. Government provides agricultural subsidies to agribusinesses to supplement their income, manage the supply of agricultural commodities, and influence the cost and supply of such commodities.  What is the risk and gain of U.S. colleges and universities adopting a version of this program?  In this option the U.S. Government would provide subsidies to U.S. colleges and universities that ban the enrollment of Chinese students thus protecting U.S. intellectual capital without affecting college or university financing.  These subsidies would continue until the U.S. college or university could find students from countries that aid the U.S. in its competition with China to take the enrollment slots previously reserved for the Chinese students.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Contest (General)

U.S. Options to Combat Chinese Technological Hegemony

Ilyar Dulat, Kayla Ibrahim, Morgan Rose, Madison Sargeant, and Tyler Wilkins are Interns at the College of Information and Cyberspace at the National Defense UniversityDivergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  China’s technological rise threatens U.S. interests both on and off the battlefield.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States Government.

Background:  Xi Jinping, the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. affirmed in 2012 that China is acting to redefine the international world order through revisionist policies[1]. These policies foster an environment open to authoritarianism thus undermining Western liberal values. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) utilizes emerging technologies to restrict individual freedoms of Chinese citizens, in and out of cyberspace. Subsequently, Chinese companies have exported this freedom-restricting technology to other countries, such as Ethiopia and Iran, for little cost. These technologies, which include Artificial Intelligence-based surveillance systems and nationalized Internet services, allow authoritarian governments to effectively suppress political dissent and discourse within their states. Essentially monopolizing the tech industry through low prices, China hopes to gain the loyalty of these states to obtain the political clout necessary to overcome the United States as the global hegemon.

Significance:  Among the technologies China is pursuing, 5G is of particular interest to the U.S.  If China becomes the leader of 5G network technologies and artificial intelligence, this will allow for opportunities to disrupt the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. China has been able to aid regimes and fragmented democracies in repressing freedom of speech and restricting human rights using “digital tools of surveillance and control[2].” Furthermore, China’s National Security Law of 2015 requires all Chinese tech companies’ compliance with the CCP. These Chinese tech companies are legally bound to share data and information housed on Chinese technology, both in-state and abroad. They are also required to remain silent about their disclosure of private data to the CCP. As such, information about private citizens and governments around the world is provided to the Chinese government without transparency. By deploying hardware and software for countries seeking to expand their networks, the CCP could use its authority over domestic tech companies to gain access to information transferred over Chinese built networks, posing a significant threat to the national security interests of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners. With China leading 5G, the military forces of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would be restricted in their ability to rely on indigenous telecoms abroad, which could cripple operations critical to U.S. interests [3]. This risk becomes even greater with the threat of U.S. Allies and Partners adopting Chinese 5G infrastructure, despite the harm this move would do to information sharing with the United States.

If China continues its current trajectory, the U.S. and its advocacy for personal freedoms will grow increasingly marginal in the discussion of human rights in the digital age. In light of the increasing importance of the cyber domain, the United States cannot afford to assume that its global leadership will seamlessly transfer to, and maintain itself within, cyberspace. The United States’ position as a leader in cyber technology is under threat unless it vigilantly pursues leadership in advancing and regulating the exchange of digital information.

Option #1:  Domestic Investment.

The U.S. government could facilitate a favorable environment for the development of 5G infrastructure through domestic telecom providers. Thus far, Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have been able to outbid major European companies for 5G contracts. American companies that are developing 5G infrastructure are not large enough to compete at this time. By investing in 5G development domestically, the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would have 5G options other than Huawei and ZTE available to them. This option provides American companies with a playing field equal to their Chinese counterparts.

Risk:  Congressional approval to fund 5G infrastructure development will prove to be a major obstacle. Funding a development project can quickly become a bipartisan issue. Fiscal conservatives might argue that markets should drive development, while those who believe in strong government oversight might argue that the government should spearhead 5G development. Additionally, government subsidized projects have previously failed. As such, there is no guarantee 5G will be different.

Gain:  By investing in domestic telecommunication companies, the United States can remain independent from Chinese infrastructure by mitigating further Chinese expansion. With the U.S. investing domestically and giving subsidies to companies such as Qualcomm and Verizon, American companies can develop their technology faster in an attempt to compete with Huawei and ZTE.

Option #2:  Foreign Subsidization.

The U.S. supports European competitors Nokia and Ericsson, through loans and subsidies, against Huawei and ZTE. In doing so, the United States could offer a conduit for these companies to produce 5G technology at a more competitive price. By providing loans and subsidies to these European companies, the United States delivers a means for these companies to offer more competitive prices and possibly outbid Huawei and ZTE.

Risk:  The American people may be hostile towards a policy that provides U.S. tax dollars to foreign entities. While the U.S. can provide stipulations that come with the funding provided, the U.S. ultimately sacrifices much of the control over the development and implementation of 5G infrastructure.

Gain:  Supporting European tech companies such as Nokia and Ericsson would help deter allied nations from investing in Chinese 5G infrastructure. This option would reinforce the U.S.’s commitment to its European allies, and serve as a reminder that the United States maintains its position as the leader of the liberal international order. Most importantly, this option makes friendlier telecommunications companies more competitive in international markets.

Other Comments:  Both options above would also include the U.S. defining regulations and enforcement mechanisms to promote the fair usage of cyberspace. This fair use would be a significant deviation from a history of loosely defined principles. In pursuit of this fair use, the United States could join the Cyber Operations Resilience Alliance, and encourage legislation within the alliance that invests in democratic states’ cyber capabilities and administers clearly defined principles of digital freedom and the cyber domain.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Economy, Elizabeth C. “China’s New Revolution.” Foreign Affairs. June 10, 2019. Accessed July 31, 2019. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution.

[2] Chhabra, Tarun. “The China Challenge, Democracy, and U.S. Grand Strategy.” Democracy & Disorder, February 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-china-challenge-democracy-and-u-s-grand-strategy/.

[3] “The Overlooked Military Implications of the 5G Debate.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/blog/overlooked-military-implications-5g-debate.

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming China (People's Republic of China) Cyberspace Emerging Technology Ilyar Dulat Kayla Ibrahim Madison Sargeant Morgan Rose Option Papers Tyler Wilkins United States

Assessing a U.S. Policy of Détente with China

Assad Raza is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment experience throughout the Middle East.  He holds a M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He can be found on Twitter @assadraza12.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing a U.S. Policy of Détente with China

Date Originally Written:  December 23, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 27, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes a policy of Détente, easing tension, with China would benefit the U.S. to avoid a military confrontation and increase economic opportunities between major powers.

Summary:  Any U.S. confrontation with China, which is the world’s second-largest economy and an emerging major power, would impact the global economy. The U.S. and its allies and partners cannot sever ties with China due to economic interdependencies. For these reasons, a policy of Détente with China that balances cooperation and deterrence to avoid a military confrontation would not only benefit the U.S. but the entire world.

Text:  In 1971 the United States set the conditions to integrate China into the international community. That year U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Beijing twice, and the United States voted for China’s permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council[1]. Now, 48 years later, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is saying that “China is the greatest threat the U.S. faces[2].” As an emerging major power, China’s foreign policy and competitive economy can threaten U.S. interests in the long-term.

To secure U.S. interests, a U.S. policy of Détente would ease U.S. tensions with China thus avoiding a military confrontation that could expand on a global scale. According to author Fareed Zakaria, “The U.S. risks squandering the hard-won gains from four decades of engagement with China, encouraging Beijing to adopt confrontational policies of its own, and leading the world’s two largest economies into a treacherous conflict of unknown scale and scope that will inevitably cause decades of instability and insecurity[3].” In a globalized world, the U.S. and several allies are economically interdependent, and any confrontation with China would have a drastic effect on the global economy. For this reason, improved U.S. relations with China would increase economic opportunities and reduce the risk of confrontation.

China is the second-largest economy and the largest trading partner in the world. As a result of this, any confrontation, either economically or militarily, will drastically impact the entire world. China’s recent economic decline and current U.S. trade disputes demonstrate China’s impact on the global economy. For example, Japan, China’s second-largest trading partner, blames China’s economic downturn for its first global trade deficit (1.2 trillion yen) since 2015[4]. Understanding China’s economic ties will likely drive U.S. policy development towards China. A China policy taking into account economic cooperation in areas of mutual interest will reduce the risk of a global market crash.

Beyond economic concerns, a U.S. policy towards China could include an arms agreement to limit a potential arms race and identify areas of cooperative research between the two countries. A good example is the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) that was part of the 1972 Nixon-Kissinger strategy of Détente with the Soviet Union[5]. Although negotiations over various strategic delivery systems (nuclear) continued through several administrations, this treaty did establish the necessary groundwork to prevent an accidental escalation of a nuclear war. A similar model to SALT with China would avoid the risk of confrontation and promote peace between major powers. A treaty between both countries does not imply that deterrence is not an option to manage any military ambitions China may have, for example, with Taiwan and the South China Sea.

In addition to economic and arms concerns, a policy of cooperation in technology and space with China would benefit the U.S. diplomatically and economically. During the Cold War, the U.S. pursued cooperative space research with the former Soviet Union. Although tensions at the time limited the extent of the cooperation, Russia’s technological contributions, pre- and post-Cold War, did benefit with establishing the International Space Station[6]. Additionally, cooperation in space also promoted U.S. foreign policy objectives in areas such as nonproliferation and arms control with Russia. Involving China in selected areas of cooperation in technology and space can ease tensions and increase diplomatic engagements in areas of mutual interests for both countries. Moreover, this space involvement can provide opportunities for the U.S. to engage with China on their nuclear program as they continue to build out their military capabilities.

The U.S. cannot sever ties with China due to the economic interdependence between China, the U.S., and its allies and partners. Additionally, several U.S. based companies want access to the growing market in China. According to the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), William Reinsch, “With 1.2 billion people, you can’t be a multinational company or a global company without some kind of presence there one way or the other[7].” Hence, U.S. companies would benefit from a U.S. policy that eases tension and increases economic ties with China. However, the topic of human rights abuses, censorship, and mass surveillance in China will continue to be debated between U.S. businesses, the U.S. government, and China.

China’s domestic behavior and foreign policy do threaten the liberal international order, for example, with human rights. However, severing ties with China would empower them to continue those repressive behaviors and influence other developing countries to follow suit. A U.S. policy that increases relations with China can provide the necessary leverage in the future to reinforce their commitment to human rights and promote peace within their borders.

For the U.S., a multi-faceted policy of Détente, compared to severing ties with from China, would better benefit the nation in the long-term. According to the chief economist at Enodo Economics, Diana Choyleva, severing ties with from China “…would mean cost-push inflation, it would mean the slowing down of innovation and technological progress, it would mean that each economy trying to solve the issues of increased inequality will find it that much harder to do so[8].” For this reason, a policy of Détente with China that balances cooperation and deterrence to avoid a military confrontation would not only benefit the U.S. but the entire world.


Endnotes:

[1] United States Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute (n.d.). Rapprochement with China, 1972. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1969-1976/rapprochement-china

[2] Schwartz, I. (2018). Pompeo: China Is The Greatest Threat U.S. Faces. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/12/10/pompeo_china_is_the_greatest_threat_us_faces.html

[3] Zakaria, F. (2019). The New China Scare. Foreign Affairs, 99(1), 52–69. DOI: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2019-12-06/new-china-scare

[4] Johnston, M. (2019). China’s Top Trading Partners. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/092815/chinas-top-trading-partners.asp 

[5] United States Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute (n.d.). Strategic Arms Limitations Talks/Treaty (SALT) I and II. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1969-1976/salt 

[6] U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1995). U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space, OTA-ISS-618. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1995/9546/9546.PDF 

[7] Disis, J. (2019). American companies are taking enormous risks to do business in China. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/11/business/us-china-trade-war-business/index.html 

[8] Mistreanu, S. (2019). Beyond ‘Decoupling’: How China Will Reshape Global Trade In 2020 . Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/siminamistreanu/2019/12/03/beyond-decoupling-how-china-will-reshape-global-trade-in-2020/#44bda74065b7 

 

Assad Raza Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Détente / Detente

Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Humayun Hassan is an undergraduate student at National University of Sciences and technology, Pakistan.  His areas of research interests include 5th and 6th generation warfare and geopolitics of the Levant.  He can be found on Twitter @Humayun_17. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Date Originally Written:  September 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 2, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the Chinese standpoint, with regards to U.S and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member country (NATO) presence in Afghanistan and the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Summary:  Afghanistan is important to Chinese strategic interests. To ensure stability in its autonomous region of Xinjiang, expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and counter a perceived “encirclement of China” strategy, Afghanistan holds the key for China. Therefore, China is consolidating its interests in Afghanistan through “economic diplomacy”, facilitation of peace talks, and working with other regional players.

Text:  As a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is establishing multiple economic passages, across Eurasia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. A total of six economic[1] corridors are designed to connect China with most of the major markets of the world. To consolidate her direct access to these markets, it is pivotal for China to maintain regional and political stability, especially in areas that directly pertain to these economic corridors. Two of these six corridors, namely CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and China-Central Asia and West Asia economic corridors pass through the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. This network of railroads, energy projects, and infrastructure is meant to connect Beijing with Central and Western Asia, along with the Middle East. Xinjiang is not only one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped regions of China, but is also home to almost 10-12 million Uighurs Muslims. In the past few years, Muslims in Xinjiang have caught significant media spotlight[2], due to growing sense of discontent among the local population with the Chinese administration. While the official Chinese narrative depicts a few Uighurs groups to be supportive of terrorist activities, the opposing viewpoint highlights internment camps[3] and over-representation of police force in the region. Nevertheless, the geo-economic importance of Xinjiang is paramount, which is why China is willing to use aggressive measures to restore stability in the area.

The militant factions of the Uighur community are supported by various group operating from Afghanistan. The Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was formerly known as East Turkestan Islamic Movement, is considered to be the primary organization undermining the Chinese sovereignty in Western China. In the past, this group has primarily operated from Afghanistan, with alliances with the Afghan Taliban (Taliban) and Al-Qaeda. However, since 2015, China has another reason to be cautious of protecting its economic[4] interests in the region. The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) chapter of the violent extremist organization the Islamic State was established that year, with an aim to create its terror network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from tacitly supporting the Uighurs militant factions, IS-K has openly threatened to attack the ongoing CPEC projects, not only inside Pakistan but also in Western China[5].

The encirclement of China strategy advocates for constant U.S military and political presence in Chinese proximity[6]. With forces in Afghanistan the United States and NATO have opened up a new pressure point for China, a country that is already coping with the U.S forces in South China Sea and Japan, on the eastern front. After almost 18-years of non-conclusive war in Afghanistan, the U.S and Afghan forces have failed subdue the Taliban[7]. As the Kabul administration is facing financial and political turmoil, the U.S is considering reducing military presence in the country, and leaving a friendly government in Afghanistan. China seems to be aware of the political vacuum that awaits Afghanistan, which is why it presents an opportunity for it to find new allies in the country and work with other stakeholders to bring in a friendly government. This government vacuum-filling may not only allow China to neutralize U.S encirclement from Afghanistan, but will also help suppress terrorist organizations operating from Afghanistan. The latest developments in lieu of U.S-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar indicate that China is enhancing ties with the Taliban. A Taliban government in Afghanistan may be suitable for China, at least in consideration of the available options. Not only have the Taliban declared war against IS-K[8], an entity that has openly threatened to disparage Chinese interests in the region and support militants in Western China, but also remained silent on the alleged persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. This war declaration may be regarded as a major milestone in the China-Taliban relations, since the late 1990s when the Taliban government in the country allowed militant groups, such as Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

For the first few years of the Afghan war, China passively supported it. However, as the United States, under the Obama administration started to hint a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, China assumed a more active role in the country. Since the initiation of BRI, Chinese exports to Afghanistan have increased significantly[9]. For the first time in modern China-Afghanistan relations, China has offered military aid to the Afghanistan. The Chinese foreign minister also expressed a desire to expand the ongoing CPEC into Afghanistan as well[10]. Another aspect that is often discredited is the natural resource potential in the country. Afghanistan incorporates some of the largest Lithium reserves, which are particularly essential for the manufacturing of most electronic products. As per the American Geological Survey, Afghanistan holds approximately $3 trillion worth of natural resources[11]. This alone makes Afghanistan an area of interest for major world powers.

In conclusion, China’s approach towards Afghanistan may be best deciphered by a paradigm shift. From a strategic limited involvement to active leadership, China has now become one of the key stakeholders in the Afghan peace process. With an apparent failure of the Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and U.S, the situation is deteriorating quickly. The Taliban, since then, have vowed to double down on militancy. From a Chinese standpoint, continuation of U.S presence in Afghanistan and the anticipated increase in violence would be the least desired outcome. China, over the years, has strategically played a balancing act between all the internal stakeholders of Afghanistan, from offering aid to the national government to hosting a Taliban delegation in Beijing. Therefore, any political settlement in the country, whether it is the creation of a new “national government” with the Taliban or a truce between the fighting forces within the country may suit the Chinese in the long-run. As the BRI initiative enters the next stage, and threats of terror activities in the Xinjiang loom, and the race to tap into Afghanistan’s natural resources intensifies, China is now in unchartered waters, where any significant development in Afghanistan will directly effects its regional political and economic interests. It seems that, in coming times, China may assume the central role in organizing new peace initiatives, ensuring that whoever comes to power in Afghanistan may not thwart China’s ambitions in the country.


Endnotes:

[1]1 Hillman, J. (2019, September 4). China’s Belt and Road Is Full Of Holes. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.csis.org/analysis/chinas-belt-and-road-full-holes

[2] Sudworth, J. (2019, July 4). China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48825090

[3] Shams, S. (2015, July 24). Why China’s Uighurs are joining jihadists in Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.dw.com/en/why-chinas-uighurs-are-joining-jihadists-in-afghanistan/a-18605630

[4] Pandey, S. (2018, September 22). China’s Surreptitious Advance in Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/chinas-surreptitious-advance-in-afghanistan/

[5] Aamir, A. (2018, August 17). ISIS Threatens China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/isis-threatens-china-pakistan-economic-corridor

[6] Gunner, U. (2018, January 18). Continuity of Agenda: US Encirclement of China Continues Under Trump. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.globalresearch.ca/continuity-of-agenda-us-encirclement-of-china-continues-under-trump/5626694

[7] Wolfgang, B. Taliban now stronger than when Afghanistan war started in 2001, military experts say. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/sep/9/taliban-strongest-afghanistan-war-started-2001/

[8] Burke, J. (2019, August 19). With Kabul wedding attack, Isis aims to erode Taliban supremacy. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/19/with-kabul-wedding-attack-isis-aims-to-erode-taliban-supremacy

[9] Zia, H. (2019, February 14). A surge in China-Afghan trade. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201902/14/WS5c65346ba3106c65c34e9606.html

[10] Gul, A. (2018, November 1). China, Pakistan Seeking CPEC Extension to Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/china-pakistan-seeking-cpec-extension-afghanistan

[11] Farmer, B. (2010, June 17). Afghanistan claims mineral wealth is worth $3trillion. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7835657/Afghanistan-claims-mineral-wealth-is-worth-3trillion.html

 

Afghanistan Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Great Powers Humayun Hassan

Alternative Future: Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander.  He currently serves as a Company Commander in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  He has just started tweeting as @strategy_boi, where he shares fiction and non-fiction content.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Future:  Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  August 10th, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current military member who served at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2018. The article is written from the point of view of a historian in the mid-2030s, examining shifts in great power competition in East Africa.

Summary:  After the United States lost its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2024, a series of operational and strategic challenges arose in East Africa. The departure of certain operational assets degraded America’s capability to conduct crisis response. At a strategic level, the ability of the United States to stem Chinese foreign direct investment and influence in Africa also suffered.

Text:  Looking back, it is easy to pinpoint the shift in America’s strategic position in East Africa to the 2024 decision by Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh to not allow the United States to extend its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ). As a former commander of United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) had once said of the then $1.2 billion worth of Djiboutian debt to China, there did indeed come a time when that money would be collected[1]. The collection came at a steep price for Djibouti, as the country was forced to hand over control of the Doraleh Container Terminal to Beijing, an outcome many had feared would be the eventual result of the Chinese debt trap[2]. However, the United States paid the steepest price of all by losing its strategic position at CLDJ, which was at the time the United States’ longest enduring military base in Africa and headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Whether the loss came as a result of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) influx of money and influence into the Djiboutian government, or as a result of American foreign policy changes, is still in debate even ten years later. It is clear though that the loss of CLDJ triggered strategic and operational effects that are still being felt today.

With the loss of CLDJ, the United States’ already tenuous grasp on Africa, best illustrated by the failure of USAFRICOM to establish its headquarters on the continent itself, slipped further. First used by America in 2001 and expanded in 2007, the camp had been a hub for a variety of United States operations not just in East Africa, but in Yemen as well[3]. As the base expanded, so did its mission set, resulting in the United States basing not just special operations forces and Marines there, but also conventional Army units[4]. This expansion of the base and the operational support that Camp Lemonnier provided to the operations in Yemen and East Africa only intensified the impact of the loss of the American lease on CLDJ.

The immediate scramble to plan for and then re-locate the 4,000 personnel on Camp Lemonnier and their attendant functions to other locations left little time to plan for contingency operations in the Horn of Africa. Just as the United States military was completing its phased transition out of Camp Lemonnier, riots in the South Sudanese capital of Juba in 2026 threated American embassy personnel and tested USAFRICOM’s ability to respond to crises on the continent from outside the continent. With the departure of the East Africa Response Force from Camp Lemonnier, the United States could no longer provide a rapid response force as outlined in the New Normal procedures that had been in put in place in reaction to the Benghazi consulate attacks in 2012[5][6]. Instead, USAFRICOM and the Department of State had to rely on another child of the Benghazi attacks: the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP-MAGTF) located in Moron, Spain and Sigonella, Italy[7]. In the vast distances of the African continent, the time spent getting from Sigonella to Juba proved costly, and by the time the SP-MAGTF element secured the embassy, two American diplomats were dead. In the investigations in the months that followed, it was not lost on American legislators that a failure to maintain a foothold in East Africa had contributed to the loss of American lives and property in Juba.

Beyond the immediate operational costs of losing CLDJ, America faced a greater strategic loss in East Africa. As part of the BRI that China had been pursuing for over a decade prior to 2024, the Export-Import Bank of China had loaned Djibouti nearly $957 million as of 2018 in order to finance development projects[8]. Also under the BRI, China constructed the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone, a 3.5 billion dollar project[9]. After losing its foothold in Djibouti, the United States had little diplomatic clout to resist the continued investment of Chinese capital into East African states, furthering the debt trap situation beyond the borders of Djibouti. Furthermore, with the departure of the United States military from Djibouti, long-term American humanitarian projects in Djibouti, such as the 2019 opening of a medical clinic in the town of Ali Oune, no longer had a logistical base from which to draw support[10]. With America out of the way, any non-Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) was left in the hands of the French, Japanese, and other foreign powers present in Djibouti. America could no longer use its military to try to match, in some small way, the FDI provided by China.

Despite the American military departure from the region beginning in 2024, several of America’s allies remain to this day. Although the French Senate had previously expressed concern over Chinese influence overshadowing French influence in Djibouti, France’s defense clause remains in place and ensures that the French will remain in Djibouti even as China grows in power[11]. With piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa no less prevalent than in the late 2010s, the Japanese anti-piracy base just outside the old Camp Lemonnier gate continues its operations. However, no amount of anti-piracy operations or promises of defense can match the sheer influx of money that China promised, and delivered, under their BRI. As the world moves toward the 2040s and the completion of the multi-decade BRI, the world is left wondering if the 21st century will be a Chinese century. With the departure of the American military from Djibouti, the answer seems to be that in Africa, it already is.


Endnotes:

[1] Browne, R. (2018, April 08). US military resumes air operations in Djibouti. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/08/politics/us-air-operations-djibouti/index.html

[2] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[3] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Martin, P. (2019, March 20). East Africa Response Force deployed to Gabon. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/218891/east_africa_response_force_deployed_to_gabon

[6] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[7] Egnash, M. (2019, January 14). Legacy of Benghazi: Marine force stays ready for quick Africa deployment. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.stripes.com/news/legacy-of-benghazi-marine-force-stays-ready-for-quick-africa-deployment-1.564342

[8] Daly, J. C. (2018, April 11). Geostrategic position draws foreign powers to Djibouti. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://thearabweekly.com/geostrategic-position-draws-foreign-powers-djibouti

[9] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[10] Nickel, S. (2019, January 31). U.S. Navy Seabees turn over Ali Oune Medical Clinic to Djiboutian officials. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.hoa.africom.mil/story/22489/u-s-navy-seabees-turn-over-ali-oune-medical-clinic-to-djiboutian-officials

[11] Griffin, C. (2018, October 28). Strategic Competition for Bases in Djibouti: TRENDS. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from http://trendsinstitution.org/strategic-competition-for-bases-in-djibouti/

Africa Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti Horn of Africa Travis Prendergast United States

Assessment of the Effects of Chinese Nationalism on China’s Foreign Policy

Adam Ni is a China researcher at the the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University in Sydney. He can be found on his personal website here or on Twitter. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Effects of Chinese Nationalism on China’s Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 10, 2019.

Summary:  Chinese nationalism can affect Beijing’s foreign policy deliberations through: 1) framing narratives and debates; 2) restricting Beijing’s foreign policy options; and 3) providing justifications for Chinese actions and/or leverages in negotiations. However, the effects of popular nationalism on foreign policy outcomes may not be significant. 

Text:  Chinese nationalism today is rooted in narratives of China’s past humiliations and weaknesses, present day revival, and aspirations for national rejuvenation. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actively tries to shape nationalist discourses to bolster its popular legitimacy. State-led nationalism attempts to cast Chinese foreign policy in a positive light, and to prevent discontent on foreign policy issues from kindling widespread criticism of the Chinese government for its perceived weaknesses and inability to uphold Chinese interests and dignity.

The rise of Chinese nationalism is often seen as a cause of China’s increasing assertive foreign policy, including its approach to territorial disputes. The argument is quite simple: China is becoming richer and more powerful, and as a result its citizens are more proud, and this is reflected in China’s new-found confidence. Despite the simple and intuitive appeal of this line of reasoning, the empirical evidence is unclear[1]. Putting aside the complexity of defining Chinese nationalism in the first place, it is unclear that Chinese nationalism is in fact rising. Indeed, there are trends that may be working against rising nationalism, including increased exposure to foreign peoples and cultures due to economic globalization, and improved education.

Despite the lack of clarity regarding Chinese nationalism,  there is evidence that Chinese public opinion is generally hawkish[2]. The Chinese support greater defense spending and using armed forces to deal with territorial disputes, such as these in the East and South China Seas. They also see U.S. military presence in Asia as a threat. Generally speaking, younger Chinese hold more hawkish views than their parents.

Given these hawkish views, and even if assuming Chinese nationalism have risen over recent years, it does not necessarily follow that popular sentiments have a major effect on Chinese foreign policy. One study looking at China’s foreign policy in the South and East China Seas since 2007, for example, found that popular nationalism had minimal effects on China’s assertive turn[3]. Indeed, other factors may be more important in Beijing’s foreign policy deliberations, including strategic considerations and preferences of top Chinese leaders.

The current international environment makes caution all the more important in China’s foreign policy-making. The intensifying strategic competition between the U.S. and China, and the increasing wariness with which countries around the world are viewing China’s growing power, makes China adopting nationalist prescriptions to its international challenges all the more risky.

In addition, China’s authoritarian political system arguably better insulates foreign policy making from public opinion than liberal democracies. For one, the ruling CCP does not face public elections. In fact, the Chinese government has at its disposal a range of powerful tools to shape public opinion, and if need be, shut down public debates. This include powerful state media and censorship systems, and the ability to silence dissent with swift and harsh efficiency.

Another difficulty in linking popular nationalistic sentiments to foreign policy outcomes is that Chinese nationalism gives rise to all kinds of foreign policy prescriptions, including contradictory ones. For example, nationalist discourses can prescribe a cautious approach to China’s international relations that focus on keeping a low profile, instead of advocating a confrontational approach.

Despite the difficulties in conceptualizing and measuring Chinese nationalism, there are a number of ways in which public opinion can affect China’s foreign policy. First, popular nationalist narratives, such as ones based on China’s past humiliations at the hands of encroaching foreign powers, frame and color contemporary foreign policy debates. In fact, a mentality of victimhood makes China more likely to react with a sense of grievance and moral righteousness to perceived slights to its dignity.

Second, Beijing’s spectrum of foreign policy options are constrained by popular sentiments. Perceived weakness and inability to defend China’s interests and dignity is costly for the Chinese government and leaders. The CCP have long feared that popular discontent on international issues could kindle widespread criticism directed at the Chinese government. Moreover, Chinese leaders are keen to appear tough on international issues to the domestic audience lest they weaken their position in the party system vis-à-vis their internal rivals.

Third, domestic pressures are sometimes used as justifications for Chinese actions or leverages in negotiations. Chinese leaders, for example, have attributed China’s more assertive stance in the South China Sea to the hardening of popular opinion[4]. Appeals to domestic pressures driven by nationalistic sentiments do play a role in China’s foreign policy. Whether these purported pressures are real or not is another question all together.

The above analyses indicate that Chinese nationalism could affect China’s foreign policy in a number of ways despite the difficulties of working out precisely how much popular sentiments influence Beijing’s foreign policy deliberations. This inability to measure influence is complicated by the fact that China’s authoritarian system enables the CCP to shape public debates in a way that would be impossible in liberal democracies. The lines between state-led and popular nationalism are blurry at the best of times.

Lastly, understanding nationalist discourses in China is still important for analysing Chinese foreign policy because it provides the domestic context for China’s international actions. There is little doubt that nationalist discourses in China will continue to exert an important influence on Chinese perceptions of its national past and aspirations for the future.


Endnotes:

[1] Alastair Iain Johnston, “Is Chinese Nationalism Rising? Evidence from Beijing,” International Security, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Winter 2016/17), 7-43. Available at: https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/ISEC_a_00265.

[2] Jessica Chen Weiss, “How Hawkish Is the Chinese Public? Another Look at “Rising Nationalism” and Chinese Foreign Policy,” Journal of Contemporary China, published online March 7, 2019. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10670564.2019.1580427.

[3] Andrew Chubb, “Assessing public opinion’s influence on foreign policy: the case of China’s assertive maritime behavior,” Asian Security, published online March 7, 2018. See https://doi.org/10.1080/14799855.2018.1437723.

[4] Ying Fu and Shicun Wu, “South China Sea: How We Got to This Stage,” The National Interest, May 9, 2016. Available at: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/south-china-sea-how-we-got-stage-16118.

 

Adam Ni Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Nationalism

Episode 0011: U.S.-China Relations with Special Guest Ali Wyne (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

On this episode of The Smell of Victory PodcastBob Hein and Phil Walter discussed U.S.-China relations with Ali Wyne a Political Scientist at RAND Corporation and the co-author of “Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World.

Issues touched on and quotes from this episode include:

– From Presidents Nixon to Obama, China policy was one of the few points of bipartisan consensus.

– President Trump’s concerns about China are not unique to his administration.

– China took advantage of the U.S. wars in the Middle East to rise without challenge.

– What could the U.S. have done, short of military confrontation to address China’s island reclamation?

– What would a timeline overlay of U.S. deployments to the Middle East look like, against Chinese expansionary decisions?

– China is not like a movie you can pause, rather it is a television mini-series that isn’t on Netflix.

– Could the U.S. have checked Chinese military expansion while allowing its economic expansion?

– Is China a hubristic incompetent upstart or an inexorably ascendant colossus? (Or both?)

– The U.S. competition with China comes down to who will have more high quality friends.

– Diagnosis is the prerequisite for strategy.

– The U.S. challenge with China is not a new Cold War….Get over it.

– If China is neither friend nor enemy, should we go to the High Schools of America to learn how to deal with Frenemies?

And much more!

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here. You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

9M2vSSDs

China (People's Republic of China) The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Options for Countering the Rise of Chinese Private Military Contractors

Anthony Patrick is a graduate of Georgia State University and an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Future threats to United States (U.S.) interests abroad from Chinese Private Military Contractors.

Date Originally Written:  November, 26, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 24, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a United States Marine Corps Officer and currently attending The Basic School. 

Background:  Over the last six months, the media has been flooded with stories and articles about the possibility of a trade war between the U.S and the People Republic of China (PRC). These talks have mainly focused around specific trade policies such as intellectual property rights and the trade balance between the two nations. These tensions have risen from the PRC’s growing economic influence around the world. While many problems persist between the U.S and the PRC due to the latter’s rise, one issue that is not frequently discussed is the growing use of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) by the PRC. As Chinese companies have moved operations further abroad, they require protection for those investments. While the current number of Chinese PMCs is not large, it has been growing at a worrying rate, which could challenge U.S interests abroad[1]. 

Significance:  Many countries have utilized PMCs in foreign operations. The most significant international incidents involving PMCs mainly come from those based in the U.S and the Russian Federation. However, many other countries with interests abroad have increasingly started to utilize PMCs. One of the most significant examples has been the growing use of Chinese PMC’s. These PMCs pose a very unique set of threats to U.S national security interest abroad[2]. First, like most PMC’s, Chinese contractors come mainly from the Peoples Liberation Army and policing forces. This means that the PMCs have a significant amount of military training. Secondly, the legal relationship between the PMC’s and the PRC is different than in most other countries. Since the PRC is an authoritarian country, the government can leverage multiple forms of coercion to force PMC’s into a certain course of action, giving the government a somewhat deniable capability to control foreign soil. Lastly, the Chinese can use PMC’s as a means to push their desired political endstate on foreign countries. With the U.S still being ahead of the PRC militarily, and with both states having nuclear capabilities, conventional conflict is highly unlikely. One way for the Chinese to employ forces to counter U.S. interests abroad is through the use of PMC’s, similar to what Russia has done in Syria[3]. With this in mind, the U.S will need a proactive response that will address this problem both in the short and long term.  

Option #1:  Increase the Department of Defense’s (DoD) focus on training to counter irregular/asymmetric warfare to address the threat posed by PRC PMCs. 

Risk:  The new National Defense Strategy (NDS) focuses on many aspects of the future conventional battlefield like increasing the size of the U.S Navy, cyber operations, and cutting edge weapons platforms[4]. By focusing more of the DoD’s resources on training to counter irregular / asymmetric warfare, the military will not be able to accomplish the goals in the NDS. This option could also lead to a new generation of military members who are more adept at skills necessary for smaller operations, and put the U.S at a leadership disadvantage if a war were to break out between the U.S and a near peer competitor. 

Gain:  Another major conventional war is highly unlikely. Most U.S. near peer competitors are weaker militarily or have second strike nuclear capabilities. Future conflicts will most likely require the U.S. to counter irregular / asymmetric warfare methodologies, which PRC PMCs may utilize.  By focusing DoD resources in this area, the U.S would gain the ability to counter these types of warfare, no matter who employs them. In addition to being better able to conduct operations similar to Afghanistan, the U.S. would also have the tools to address threats posed by PRC PMCs.  Emphasizing this type of warfare would also give U.S actions more international legitimacy as it would be employing recognized state assets and not trying to counter a PRC PMC with a U.S. PMC. 

Option #2:  The U.S. pursues an international treaty governing the use of PMC’s worldwide.  

Risk:   Diplomatic efforts take time, and are subject to many forms of bureaucratic blockage depending on what level the negations are occurring. Option #2 would also be challenging to have an all-inclusive treaty that would cover every nation a PMC comes from or every country from which an employee of these firms might hail. Also, by signing a binding treaty, the U.S would limit its options in foreign conflict zones or in areas where Chinese PMC’s are operating or where the U.S. wants to use a PMC instead of the military.

Gain:  A binding international treaty would help solve most of the problems caused by PMC’s globally and set the stage for how PRC PMC’s act as they proliferate globally[5]. By making the first move in treaty negotiations, the U.S can set the agenda for what topics will be covered. The U.S can build off of the framework set by the Montreux document, which sets a non-binding list of good practices for PMCs[6]. By using the offices of the United Nations Working Group on PMCs the U.S would be able to quickly pull together a coalition of like minded countries which could drive the larger negotiation process. Lastly, Option #2 would help solve existing problems with PMC’s operating on behalf of other countries, like the Russian Federation. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Swaine, M. D., & Arduino, A. (2018, May 08). The Rise of China’s Private Security (Rep.). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from Carnegie Endowment For International Peace website: https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/05/08/rise-of-china-s-private-security-companies-event-6886

[2] Erickson, A., & Collins, G. (2012, February 21). Enter China’s Security Firms. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://thediplomat.com/2012/02/enter-chinas-security-firms/3/

[3] United States., Department of Defense, (n.d.). Summary of the 2018 National Defense strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge (pp. 1-14).

[4] Gibbons-neff, T. (2018, May 24). How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/world/middleeast/american-commandos-russian-mercenaries-syria.html

[5] Guardians of the Belt and Road. (2018, August 16). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.merics.org/en/china-monitor/guardians-of-belt-and-road

[6] Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of International Law. (2008, September 17). The Montreux Document. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0996.pdf

Anthony Patrick Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Irregular Forces / Irregular Warfare Non-Government Entities Option Papers

Alternative Futures: South Korea Options for a Chinese Invasion of North Korea (Part 2 of 3)

(Editor’s Note:  This Options Paper is part of our Alternatives Future Call for Papers and examines an invasion of North Korea by the People’s Republic of China from the point of view of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.  We hope you enjoy all three articles over the coming weeks and many thanks to Jason Hansa for choosing to write for Divergent Options!) 

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  In an alternative future the People’s Republic of China invades North Korea.

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  September 3, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the South Korean defense minister personally briefing the South Korean President regarding a potential Chinese invasion of North Korea, circa 2020.

Background:  Our nation has a complicated relationship with China, stretching back centuries.  Our geographic location has made the peninsula the battlefield of choice for Chinese and Japanese invaders, going as far back as the double Manchu invasions of the seventeenth century, the Japanese invasions of the sixteenth century, and even skirmishes against Chinese states during our three-kingdoms period in the seventh century[1].

More recently and in living memory, the Chinese Army swarmed across the Yalu River in 1950, extending the war and inflicting tens of thousands of additional casualties upon our forces.  Had the Chinese not intervened, the war would have ended with our nation forming a new unified democracy with the North, not a land with a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and a never-ending war[2].

The Chinese have made no secret of their desire to expand at the cost of smaller nations.  Indeed, what the world calls the “South China Sea,” they internally refer to as the South Chinese Sea, a difference in terminology they point to as a misunderstanding.  But in politics and in war, words have meanings, and their meaning is clear.

Finally, while we have had periods of improved and degraded relationships with our wayward cousins in North Korea, we have always supported their territorial claims on the global stage, as they have supported ours.  Because we long for the day our nations reunite, on the international stage, both of our nations often speak with one voice.  Mount Baeku has, for centuries, been either wholly Korean or shared with our Chinese neighbors; the thought of it entirely under the rule of the Chinese due to a pending invasion is a disturbing one[3].

Significance:  Our intelligence agencies have confirmed the Chinese activation of three Army Groups on the North Korean border.  These groups have already begun preparatory movements and logistical staging, and have not issued the standard “only an exercise” proclamations.  It is clear their intent is to claim (at a minimum) the Paeku thumb, and most likely the entire ladle-handle of provinces stretching from Kimcheak north to the Russian Border.  North Korean forces are outnumbered approximately three-to-one.

Option #1:  We remain neutral as the Chinese invade North Korea.

Risk:  This option maintains our current relationship with China and North Korea.  This solution has several risks: if China wins and captures the northern provinces, they may be loath to ever return them; if the North Korean state survives the attack, they might feel betrayed by our lack of assistance, delaying peaceful integration.  If the North Korean regime collapses, we may see hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of refugees streaming across the DMZ that we will have to care for.  And, not least of all, a threatened North Korean regime may use nuclear weapons in a last-ditch effort to defend itself.  This use of nuclear weapons will no doubt bring about a vicious retaliation and devastate their land and risk effecting us as well.

Gain:  If the Chinese are able to topple North Korea, then it’s possible the remnants of the North Korean state would be equitable to peaceful reunification with our nation.  We could then, after absorbing the Northern provinces, pursue a peaceful diplomatic solution with the Chinese to return to an ante bellum border.  Our economy, untroubled by war, would be ready to integrate the provinces or care for refugees if necessary.  Finally, if the North Korea regime survived, our military would stand ready to defend against any vengeful tantrums.

Option #2:  We attack the North Koreans and knock them out of the war.

Risk:  This is an unpalatable solution, but as defense minister, I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t mention it. 

Launching a strike into North Korea once they are fully engaged fighting the Chinese brings about several risks.  The first risk is that most of our planning and simulations are for defensive wars, or—at most—counterstriking into North Korea after degrading their artillery, air force, and supply lines.  Even engaged against the Chinese, it is unlikely the North Koreans will or can move their currently emplaced heavy artillery, which is aimed towards us.  In essence, we will be attacking into the teeth of a prepared enemy.

Our forces will also not be seen as liberators, avengers, or brothers by the North Koreans, but as vultures looking to finish off an opponent already weakened by the Chinese.  Our own people would not look kindly upon our nation launching a war of aggression, and the world at large will question if we’d made a secret treaty with the Chinese.

Finally, it is an open question if a desperate North Korea would launch nuclear warheads at us, the Chinese, or both.

Gain:  Striking the North Koreans while they are engaged fighting the Chinese means they will fight a two-front war and won’t have a depth of reserves to draw upon.  Their forces may be more inclined to surrender to us than to the foreign Chinese, and striking into the country will surely bring the Chinese pause as they will not want to engage us, and we can seek to liberate as much of the North as we could, as fast as possible, diplomatically leaving us in a better post-war situation.

Option #3:  We—alone—join the war alongside the north.

Risk:  Our Northern cousins have always agreed and supported our territorial claims on the global stage, as we have supported theirs.  No matter our differences, we are Korean and stand united against outsiders.  An invasion of their territory is an invasion of Korea.

A risk in using only our brave and proud forces to assist the North is we would lose one of our most vital military assets: our technologically advanced allies.  The defense of our nation has always been an integrated one, so to leave our allies behind the DMZ as we travel north to fight as we have never trained is a risky proposition.

Gain:  This option gains the diplomatic ability to claim this is a Korean-only situation, allowing our allies to work behind the scenes for diplomatic solutions.  This option would also not preclude our allies from enacting their defensive obligations to us: we can turn more forces to the offense if our skies are still protected by the United States Air Force.  On the ground, the terrain of North Korea is mountainous and unforgiving.  It will be an infantry war, one we are well equipped to fight, but also a quagmire our allies will be wary of participating in.  Finally, fighting side-by-side with only our cousins puts us in the best position to control the post-war reunification negotiations.

Option #4:  We, and our allies, join the war alongside the north.

Risk:  Accepting allied assistance north of the DMZ—outside of medical, humanitarian, and possibly logistical—brings with it a number of risks.  First, this option must meet with North Korean approval, or the people of North Korea themselves might rise up against the very troops hoping to save them from invasion.  Second, a wider war could bring the global economy into a crises and expand—possibly even into a nuclear conflagration—as the forces of the U.S. and China begin worldwide skirmishing.  It is no secret the Chinese strategic weaknesses are nowhere near the peninsula, so it’s a forgone conclusion the Americans would attack anywhere they found an opportunity.  A wider war could expand quickly and with grave consequence to the world.  Finally, a wider war brings with it more voices to the table; the post-war reunification discussion would not be wholly Korean one.

Gain:  The Americans, and others, would strike the Chinese around the globe and deep inside China itself, ensuring their populace felt the pinch of the war.  If managed properly, this might not only bring about a quicker end to the invasion, but maybe even spark a popular uprising that would overthrow the Chinese communist.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] New World Encyclopedia (2018, January 10). History of Korea, Retrieved 14 June 2018. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/History_of_Korea 

[2] Stewart, R. The Korean War: The Chinese Intervention. Archived 2011, Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20111203234437/http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/kw-chinter/chinter.htm 

[3] New York Times, (2016, September 27). For South Koreans, a long detour to their holy mountain. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/world/asia/korea-china-baekdu-changbaishan.html

China (People's Republic of China) Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

Alternative Futures: North Korea Options for a Chinese Invasion (Part 1 of 3)

(Editor’s Note:  This Options Paper is part of our Alternatives Future Call for Papers and examines an invasion of North Korea by the People’s Republic of China from the point of view of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.  We hope you enjoy all three articles over the coming weeks and many thanks to Jason Hansa for choosing to write for Divergent Options!) 

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  In an alternative future the People’s Republic of China invades North Korea.

Date Originally Written:  June 10, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  August 27, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the North Korean Defense Minister personally briefing his Supreme Leader regarding a potential Chinese invasion, circa 2020.

Background:  Our nation, in truth, owes our existence to our allies in China for their assistance in our most desperate hour in our war to liberate our Southern Comrades.  For this reason, many of our nuclear research and weapons storage facilities were placed within 160 kilometers of their border, to use the Chinese radar and anti-air umbrellas as additional deterrents to American adventurism.

However, our friendship with China has slowly deteriorated, often because they have not always agreed with our decisions when dealing with the U.S. and our Southern Comrades.

Moreover, since our efforts to begin improving relationships with our Southern Comrades, the U.S., and the outside world began during the 2018 Winter Olympics, our relationship with China has soured quickly.  It is also not a secret that the Chinese have welcomed and supported our existence as a buffer state between their borders and that of our ambitious Southern Comrades and their U.S. allies.

The Chinese have long desired a port on the Sea of Japan, and they have spent time and money improving the route between their mostly Korean population of Jillian province and our port-city of Rasan.  We have long-standing agreements allowing them to access our ports with little-to-no customs interference, and they fear that unification will sever their access[1].

Finally, the Chinese have been moving to consolidate territory they consider to be theirs, rightfully or not, as a means to push their dominance onto other nations.  The Chinese have entered into territorial disputes with the Japanese, our Southern Comrades, the Vietnamese, and the Indians[2].  The Chinese have long argued that Mount Baektu, the spiritual homeland of our nation, belongs to them; however, maps and treaties for centuries have either split the mountain down the middle, or made it wholly ours[3][4].  On this, our Southern Comrades agree: the mountain must not be wholly consumed in a Chinese land grab.

Significance:  Our intelligence agencies have determined the Chinese have activated the three Army Groups on our border and intend to invade within the next 48 to 72 hours.  Their goals are to seize our nuclear facilities and many of our northern provinces, most likely from Mount Paektu east to the Sea of Japan.  With most of our forces either aligned towards the south or beginning to stand down in conjunction with peace talks, we are outnumbered approximately three-to-one.

Option #1:  We fight alone.

Risk:  This is a high risk answer because we do not have enough forces in place at this time, and our transportation infrastructure will be the logical first targets in the opening moments of the war.  Our fighter jets, though we have many of them, are antiquated compared to the Chinese air forces.  We do have an advantage in geography: Beijing is close, within our missile range across the Yellow Sea.

Tactically, we would order our forces to hold as long as possible while we brought our southern army groups to bear.  We have the advantages of interior lines, more troops, a populace that is willing to bear any sacrifice against invaders, and incredibly defensible terrain.  We would have to gamble that our Southern comrades would not strike at the same time across the demilitarized zone.

However, if our nuclear launch facilities were in danger of getting overrun by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), there might be a very real choice in which we must “use-them-or-lose-them” concerning our nuclear weapons.  Millions of Chinese are in range of our weapons, including their capital, but the reprisals would be fierce, our nation as we know it would most likely not survive.

Gain:  We would show the world that our nation is strong and unconquerable, provided we won.  There is a significant chance we would not be able to move our forces in time and would have to concede our northern provinces, though our nation as a whole would survive.

Option #2:  We ask only our Southern Comrades and long-time allies for assistance.

Risk:  Our Southern Comrades have always agreed and supported our territorial claims on the global stage, as we have supported theirs.  No matter our differences, we are all Korean, and stand united against outsiders.  Asking for their support would add their technologically advanced forces to our order of battle, thousands of well-trained and motivated infantrymen plus their supporting forces, and a transportation network stretching from Busan to Rasan.  Asking our international allies—such as Sweden—for diplomatic support would put pressure on China both internationally and economically, and would be a way for our nation to gain global support for our cause and condemnation of China’s activities without their active military participation.

However, there would be no return to a pre-war status quo, no chance of our nation surviving independently.  Asking for assistance and allowing the military forces of the south into our nation and fighting side-by-side as one Korea means that, once the war is over, we would reunite as one Korea.  Finally, it can be safely assumed our Southern Comrades will not allow us to use our nuclear weapons against China, no matter what the cost.

Gain:  This option gains us the military of the South without allowing in the U.S. or other allies, maintaining the pretense of a Korea-only problem.  This allows nations that might not feel comfortable fully siding with us an option to save face by aligning with our allies and conducting diplomatic and economic battle with China while remaining out of the active conflict.  Finally, fighting side-by-side with only our Southern Comrades puts us in the best position to ensure both the survival of our regime leadership and bargain for our people as we reunite with the south after the war.

Option #3:  We ask assistance from any who offer.

Risk:  It is likely assured our Southern Comrades would immediately join with us to fend off an invasion.  It is trickier to know the actions of the Americans, among others.  The Americans would have the most to lose fighting a war with China, their biggest creditor and a major trading partner.  But it could also be offered the Americans have the most to gain, a war against China as a possible means of clearing their debt.

As problematic as accepting U.S. assistance may be, there could be other nations that bring with them a host of issues.  Our people would be loath to accept Japanese military assistance, though they have technological capabilities on par with the U.S. and China.  Accepting Russian help once again puts us in their debt, and they always demand repayments in some form or another.  We may be unwilling to pay the costs of Russian assistance down the road.

Finally, accepting outside assistance means our post-war reintegration will be shaped by nations outside of Korea.  These outside nations desire a unified Korea to meet their needs, which is not necessarily the nation we are meant to be.

Gain:  The Americans, and others, would bring with them the capability of expanding the war, striking the Chinese around the globe, and attacking their supply lines, ensuring that the Chinese populace felt the pinch of the war, not only the PLA.  This global striking would probably dramatically shorten the war and reduce casualties among our brave fighting divisions.  Additionally, the U.S. could rally the world to our cause, bringing with them military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic aid.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] AP (2012, August 22) NKorea’s economic zone remains under construction. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20120823065244/http://www.thestate.com/2012/08/22/2408642/nkoreas-economic-zone-remains.html#.WyLBFWYUnxh

[2] Panda, A. (2017, October 22). The Doklam Standoff Between India and China is far from over. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/the-doklam-standoff-between-india-and-china-is-far-from-over/

[3] Lych, O. (2006, July 31) China seeks U.N. Title to Mt. Beakdu. Retrieved 14 June 2018. http://english.donga.com/List/3/all/26/248734/1

[4] New York Times, (2016, September 27). For South Koreans, a long detour to their holy mountain. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/world/asia/korea-china-baekdu-changbaishan.html

China (People's Republic of China) Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

David Mattingly serves on the board of directors for the Naval Intelligence Professionals and is also a member of the Military Writers Guild.  The views reflected are his own and do not represents the United States Government of any of its agencies.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  March 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  June 11, 2018.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. policy in Africa has focused primarily on defeating Al-Qaeda franchises and other violent extremists.  Djibouti’s natural deep-water harbor and stable government have made it the primary transshipment point for maritime trade in Northeastern Africa and as a naval base.  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent investment in the Port of Djibouti, a country with a U.S. military base, begins another chapter in geopolitical competition.

Text:  The U.S. has a standing requirement for overseas bases to support its global operations.  The U.S. Navy ship USS Cole was attacked in October 2000 in Yemen by Al Qaeda.  In 2003, the U.S. established Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) on the French Army’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, to support combat operations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2007, a reorganization of the U.S. military’s unified command structure created United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) based in Germany.  In Djibouti, since the establishment of USAFRICOM, the CJTF-HOA mission has increased with the growth of al-Qaeda and other groups such as the Islamic State, the conflict in Libya and Yemen, and pirate attacks on merchant shipping in the region.  In addition to the U.S., Camp Lemonnier is used by France, Japan, and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners.

Djibouti’s growth as a transshipment port has increased with the global demand for containerized shipping[1].  Additionally, Africa depends on maritime shipping to carry 90% of its imports and exports.  France created the port of Djibouti in 1888 and it became the capital of French Somaliland in 1892.  Once established, the port of Djibouti quickly became an important refueling station and cargo storage facility for ships traversing the Red Sea to and from the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.  During the closure of the Suez Canal (1967-1975) Djibouti suffered a severe decline in shipping volume.

Today, Djibouti is the linchpin to the PRC’s access to trade with Africa.  Business Tech’s 2015 assessment of African shipping ports states, “Djibouti’s is the only reliable port along the main shipping lanes between Europe and the Gulf and also between Asia on the eastern coast of Africa.” Additionally, Ethiopia lost its access to the sea during its war with Eritrea (1998-2000) and now relies on Djibouti as its transshipment access point.

In 2013, PRC President Xi Jinping, announced the resurgence of the ancient “Silk Road” which linked the PRC to markets in the Middle East and Europe and the idea was formalized in the Belt and Road Action Plan released in 2015.  This plan set out to improve trade relationships through infrastructure investments.  The PRC planned to invest $8 trillion for infrastructure in 68 countries which included Djibouti[2].  The port of Djibouti is critical to both the PRC’s African and European Roads. With the increasing demand for port services, the PRC negotiated to expand existing facilities, build new port facilities, and expand the inland transportation network of Djibouti and Ethiopia.  Due to the lack of natural resources, Djibouti depends on the revenue of its transportation facilities and a 2015 International Monetary Fund Report states “Diversifying [Djibouti’s] economic base remains difficult given that the country lacks natural resources and [its] agriculture and industrial sectors are almost non-existent[3].”

The PRC is the largest source of capital in Djibouti and has provided 40% of the financing for Djibouti’s major infrastructure projects.  Additionally, PRC-based firms built three of the largest projects in Djibouti and the PRC is the minority owners and operators of two of the three[4].

Since the emergence of the Somali pirate threat, the PRC has sought basing rights for the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) ships which joined in the international effort to protect shipping in the region.  The PRC’s interest in a navy base was born out of several ship engineering problems that developed while PLA(N) ships were deployed to the region and military ties had not been established between the PRC and Djibouti.  Although it was only speculated at the time, the PRC negotiated basing rights for the PLA(N) ships in a 2015 finance package and the base became active in September 2017.  The South China Morning Post reported, “The scale of the wharf should allow for the docking of a four-ship flotilla at least, including China’s new generation Type-901 supply ship with a displacement of more than 40,000 tons, destroyers and frigates, as well as amphibious assault ships for combat and humanitarian missions[5].”

The Trump administration released its 2017 National Security Strategy and though the administration appears to be aware of the situation in Djibouti stating, “China is expanding its economic and military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today,” the strategy lacks any concrete steps describing how U.S. diplomacy should proceed in the region.

An analysis of U.S. soft power in the Trump administration was recently published in Foreign Policy by Max Boot.  The article notes a recent Gallup Poll of “approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%.”  While the PRC is leveraging its economic power to enhance its military position, Boot opines that Trump’s America First campaign has resulted in the declining global opinion of the U.S. which in the long-term may result in a global environment more hostile to U.S. interests.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Henry Kissinger was quoted regarding trends and events that emerged from the Cold War and concludes, “…the rise of India and China is more important than the fall of the Soviet Union[6].”  The U.S. and PRC competition in Djibouti is only the beginning.  While both nations assess each others military forces in Djibouti, other instruments of national power are at work both in Djibouti and elsewhere on the continent.  The U.S. and PRC competition in Africa will likely expand, and be worthy of monitoring over the coming decades.


Endnotes:

[1] Africa’s biggest shipping ports. (2015, March 8). Business Techhttps://businesstech.co.za/news/general/81995/africas-biggest-shipping-ports/

[2] Bruce-Lockhart, Anna. China’s $900 billion New Silk Road. What you need to know. World Economic Forum, June 26, 2017 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-new-silk-road-explainer/

[3] Djibouti Selected Subjects. International Monetary Fund. November 18, 2015 https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr16249.pdf

[4] Downs Erica, and Jeffrey Becker, and Patrick deGategno. China’s Military Support Facility in Djibouti: The Economic and Security Dimensions of Chinas First Overseas Base. The CNA Corporation, July 2017. https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/DIM-2017-U-015308-Final2.pdf

[5] Chan, Minnie. (2017, September 27). China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112926/china-plans-build-djibouti-facility-allow-naval

[6] Mead, W. R. (2018, February 5). A word from Henry Kissinger. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-word-from-henry-kissinger-1517876551

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) David Mattingly Djibouti United States

Options for U.S. Naval Force Posture in East Africa

Matt Hein is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently studying for his Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University.  He can be found on Twitter @Matt_TB_Hein.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Low intensity maritime conflict and engagement in Eastern Africa.

Date Originally Written:  February 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 21, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article addresses U.S. naval force posture options in East Africa and the implications for a resource-constrained force.

Background:  Demands for counter-piracy operations, countering maritime human smuggling, countering the growth of violent extremism in Sub-Saharan African countries, and partner nation capacity building require the constant presence of U.S. naval forces in East African littoral zones.  Friction arises when high-end combatants such as aircraft carriers and destroyers divert from their East African littoral mission to the nearby Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea to conduct other missions.

Significance:  U.S. naval presence in East Africa has improved maritime security and facilitated operations on land.  Coalition efforts reduced piracy incidents from 237 attempted hijackings in 2011 to only three such attempts in 2017[1].  Joint exercises, such as Cutlass Express, have developed partner nation maritime law enforcement capacity[2].  Intelligence gathering from sea based platforms has enabled multiple U.S. military missions ashore[3].  Increasing demand for high-end combatants in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea leaves the East African littoral mission vulnerable to having its gains reversed and questions the utility of those ships for low intensity missions.  Enhanced naval presence from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the region, most notably the establishment of a port facility in Djibouti, further complicates force posture decision-making.   Despite the incredible gains realized for maritime security in the region, there is a demand signal for deliberate planning to match appropriate naval assets with a growing range of regional needs.

Option #1:  The U.S. maintains its current naval force posture for the East Africa littoral mission.

Risk:  Current naval force posture rotates multiple Expeditionary Strike Groups and Carrier Strike Groups through the region annually, in addition to several independent deployers dispatched for counter-piracy operations[4].  The opportunity cost of these deployments is enormous.  These ships were designed for much more complex operating environments and can often be better utilized in those environments.  Using multi-billion dollar warships for low intensity engagement not only limits the utility of these ship’s advanced combat systems but also inflates the likelihood they will be diverted to other specialized missions such as ballistic missile defense or integrated air defense.

Gain:  The existing force posture is responsible for enhanced maritime security already realized in the region.  While expanding threats may challenge the ability to maintain these gains, this hasn’t happened to the extent that a dramatic rise in piracy or a drop in partner nation capacity has occurred.  Further, the historical integration and corporate knowledge of U.S. ships deploying to the theater gives them an inherent advantage for conducting these types of operations.

Option #2:  The U.S. forward deploys two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Djibouti Naval Base.

Risk:  Forward-deploying the LCS is expensive and would require a large logistics and maintenance footprint in Djibouti.  Maintenance issues have plagued the LCS and will be exacerbated by a remote maintenance infrastructure with little experience.  Maintenance issues are compounded by difficult crew rotation schedules that have already hampered a similar forward deployment of LCS to Singapore[5].  The probability that forward deployed LCS will provide a persistent capability for the East Africa littoral mission is limited significantly by these LCS-wide problems.

Gain:  The LCS surface warfare mission package is uniquely suited for the East Africa littoral mission.  The LCS uses a combination of high speeds and shallow draft to operate aviation facilities, dedicated boarding teams, and anti-surface capabilities in littoral environments[6].  These attributes make the LCS ideal for intelligence gathering, capacity building, and counter-piracy missions.  Additionally, the use of LCS allows the multi-billion dollar warships currently conducting these missions to operate in more contested environments and across a broader swath of missions in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.   Option #2 also builds on the surge of LCS in similar mission sets from counter-drug operations in the Caribbean to fisheries patrols and bilateral engagements in Southeast Asia.

Option #3:  The U.S. decreases its naval presence in East Africa.

Risk:  The construction of the PRC naval base in Djibouti means the gap in activity from the U.S. Navy would likely be filled, at least in part, by a PRC presence.  The construction of a military docking facility, capable of berthing most People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ships, means previous PRC task forces deployed to the region could become a permanent fixture[7].  As foreign investment pours into East Africa, a reduced naval presence could cause countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia to turn elsewhere for maritime security support of their burgeoning economies.  Option #3 could further challenge the efficacy of counter-extremist efforts on land that require logistical and intelligence support from offshore assets.

Gain:  Decreasing U.S. naval presence does not mean disavowing the East Africa littoral mission entirely.  A P-3 squadron forward-deployed to Djibouti naval base combined with transiting strike groups still leaves intermittent capacity in the region to continue to support the East Africa littoral mission.  Option #3 also eliminates the requirements of keeping ships off the coast of Djibouti.  Not having to keep ships off Djibouti would allow a refocus towards heightened Iranian tensions, threats from Houthi rebels in Yemen, or even relocation to the Pacific fleet operating area in support of growing requirements.

Other Comments:  The Surface Navy Strategic Readiness Review, released in December 2017, stated that increasing readiness “require(s) a variety of naval assets and capabilities tailored to best achieve desired results[8].”  Shifting from a “demand” to “supply” model for naval surface forces means capabilities must be optimized against the mission with which they are tasked.  The options presented in this paper are three examples, of many, for shifting to a supply-based model for naval assets without sacrificing the East Africa littoral mission.

Recommendation:   None.


Endnotes:

[1] Sow, M. (2017, April 12). Figures of the week: Piracy and Illegal Fishing in Somalia. Africa in Focus.Retrieved February 9, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2017/04/12/figures-of-the-week-piracy-and-illegal-fishing-in-somalia/

[2] Williams, F. (2018, February 7), Exercise Cutlass Express 2018 Closes. Retrieved February 10, 2018. http://www.c6f.navy.mil/news/exercise-cutlass-express-2018-closes

[3] Eckstein, M. (2017, July 5).Textron’s Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Eligible for Navy Sea-Based ISR. United States Naval Institute News. Retrieved February 10, 2018. https://news.usni.org/2017/07/05/textrons-aerosonde-small-unmanned-aerial-vehicle-eligible-navy-sea-based-isr

[4] Defense Media Activity for U.S. Navy Office of Information. Navy Versus Piracy  #PresenceMatters. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/antipiracy/index.html

[5] Lartner, D. (2017, February 20) LCS crew marooned in Singapore on open-ended
deployment. Navy Times. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/02/20/lcs-crew-marooned-in-singapore-on-an-open-ended-deployment/

[6] United States Navy Chief of Information. Fact File: Littoral Combat Ships – Surface Warfare Mission Package. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2100&tid=437&ct=2.

[7] Chan, M (2017, September 17) China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112926/china-plans-build-djibouti-facility-allow-naval

[8] Bayer, M. Roughead, G. (2017, December 4) United States Navy Strategic Readiness
Review. Pg.20. Retrieved February 11, 2018 from http://s3.amazonaws.com/CHINFO/
SRR+Final+12112017.pdf

Africa China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti East Africa Horn of Africa Maritime Matt Hein Option Papers United States

Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Tyler Bonin is a history and economics instructor.  He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he developed and participated in host nation infrastructure projects as a construction wireman.  He can be found on Twitter @TylerMBonin.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  January 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 2, 2018.

Summary:   The People’s Republic of China’s continued infrastructure investment in Africa through its One Belt, One Road initiative has led to incremental change in its foreign policy. Security challenges arising in Africa due to continued PRC investment might lead to an increased PRC military presence on the continent, as well as a complete revision of its non-interference policy.

Text:  In 2013, People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping proposed a $5 trillion international infrastructure plan entitled One Belt, One Road (OBOR), intended to advance land and maritime trade routes between Asia, Europe, and Africa[1]. Initial expansion has included approximately 1,700 road, railway, pipeline, and port projects undertaken by PRC state-owned and private enterprises. The state-developed Silk Road Fund and several multilateral development banks have financed these infrastructure projects, in addition to PRC commercial bank loans to OBOR partner countries[2].

A combination of private and state-owned PRC construction firms have built several railways between major African cities, including the Addis Ababa – Djibouti line, which is Africa’s first transnational electric railway. PRC-built railways have opened landlocked countries’ access to seaports, eased the burden of travel for workers, and ultimately facilitated the development of industrial economic corridors. Additionally, PRC companies have continued their investment in roadways and ports. Construction of a port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania will have the two-fold effect of easing congestion at neighboring ports and attracting foreign direct investment; it is slated to be Africa’s largest port[3]. Overall, views toward PRC development activities have been enthusiastic. Survey data from Afrobarometer demonstrates that 63% of Africans (averaged across all countries) view PRC influence as “somewhat” or “very” positive[4]. The PRC’s increasing global investment in infrastructure improves the country’s access to natural resources and also opens access to markets for PRC goods and services. It also serves as a powerful element of the PRC’s increasing soft power.

The PRC’s ever-expanding investment in Africa has also meant its increased role in security on the African continent. As the PRC has invested heavily in the Sudanese oil industry, civil conflict in South Sudan in 2013 led Beijing to take a proactive mediation position. In addition to promising to continue PRC participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, President Jinping has also promised to support the development of counter-terrorism measures within African countries[5]. All of these activities have been a departure from the PRC’s traditional “non-interference” foreign policy stance. Security concerns in the past have arisen as the direct result of terrorist activity in Africa, including the kidnapping of PRC workers by the jihadist group Boko Haram. Furthermore, the PRC is now focusing on security as a manner in which to protect its infrastructure investments. Civil unrest and terrorist activity stalls PRC projects and hinders economic activity; the large upfront capital investment required of these infrastructure projects requires continuity in development, which is interrupted by civil strife.

However, security concerns in Africa may also surface as a direct result of PRC infrastructure development. While PRC activity in Africa has been viewed positively on average, PRC labor practices have received negative attention in particular regions. While PRC construction firms have used local workers for projects in regions where the pool of skilled labor is steady, PRC nationals have been brought into regions where skilled laborers do not exist in large enough numbers. Thus, a narrative of foreign workers taking jobs in which local workers could be employed has given rise to periodic populist movements in Africa. One example of populist movement activity is in Kenya, where a group demanding that a PRC project provide jobs to local citizens attacked PRC railway construction workers[6].

Furthermore, young and unemployed populations provide the foundation for rebel movements; As rebel groups may seize access to a country’s resources—and use the sales of such for continuing to fund the movement—participation in rebellion essentially provides young individuals with their only means to income[7]. Many fragile states are the product of extended civil war. Subsequently, these states have seen low levels of education and loss of skills among their working age populations. These fragile states, such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, represent the situation in which PRC workers are used[8]. Thus, PRC activities are a possible catalyst for violence in fragile states where infrastructure projects continue.  In these fragile states, local resentment and populist fervor may build due to the perception that political elites only profit from the governmental arrangement with Beijing, while persistent unemployment exists during an ever-increasing influx of PRC workers. These factors combined may provide the impetus for rebellion that would harm the long-term goals of the PRC’s OBOR.

Due to the preceding, PRC roles in security in Africa may continue well beyond the current financing of counterterrorism measures and the provision of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Specifically, the PRC’s non-intervention foreign policy may give way to a policy that seeks to actively finance state police forces and provide a stronger military advisory role.  While Djibouti currently maintains a permanent PRC naval station, an active PRC military presence seems likely to grow as investment in Africa increases, especially in fragile states. The dynamics of increased PRC economic and military influence in Africa are just now coming into existence and will pose interesting questions for future security considerations.


Endnotes:

[1] van der Leer, Y., Yau, J. (2016, February). China’s New Silk Route: The Long and Winding Road. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/growth-markets-center/assets/pdf/china-new-silk-route.pdf

[2] Gang, W. (2017, May 9). SOEs Lead Infrastructure Push in 1,700 ‘Belt and Road’ Projects. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.caixinglobal.com/2017-05-10/101088332.html

[3] Tairo, A. (2017, October 3). Tanzania Surrenders Bagamoyo Port Project to Chinese Firm. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Tanzania-Bagamoyo-port-project-to-Chinese/2560-4122244-rxa9wtz/index.html

[4] Lekorwe, M., Chingwete, A., Okuru M., and Samson R. (2016, October 24). China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Dispatches/ab_r6_dispatchno122_perceptions_of_china_in_africa1.pdf

[5] Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. (2012, July 19). Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC Opens Further China-Africa Cooperation. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://www.focac.org/eng/dwjbzjjhys/t954274.htm

[6] White, E. Analysis: Unpacking Attacks On Chinese Workers in Africa. (2016, August 5). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://international.thenewslens.com/article/45988

[7] World Bank’s World Development Report (2011). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/WDR2011_Chapter2.pdf

[8] Coroado, H. and Brock, J. (2015, July 9). Angolans Resentful As China Tightens Its Grip. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-angola-china-insight/angolans-resentful-as-china-tightens-its-grip-idUSKCN0PJ1LT20150709

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Tyler Bonin

Options for the U.S. to Deter China in the East & South China Seas

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Curtin is a Field Artillery Officer with over 20 years of experience in the United States Marine Corps, including at the Pacific Division of Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps.  Annie Kowalewski is a Chinese military and defense researcher at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese militarization of artificial islands in disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.

Date Originally Written:  March 1, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  March 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are a military member and a defense researcher.  The authors believe that Chinese actions in the East and South China Sea are destabilizing and threaten to shift the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background:  China is showing no evidence of slowing down its territorial aspirations within the “nine dash line” and continues to emplace anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems on its man-made islands in the East and South China Seas[1].  China also uses its maritime militia to bully neighboring countries and extend Chinese fishing rights and territorial reach.  The United States has thus far been unsuccessful in responding to or deterring these Chinese challenges to the status quo.

Significance:  Chinese actions represent a “salami-slicing” strategy aimed at slowly changing regional norms and asserting Chinese dominance in the East and South China Seas.  This strategy allows China to exert influence and establish itself as a regional hegemon, thereby threatening the balance of power and U.S. primacy in the region.  Chinese militarization and power projection also threaten the United States’ allies and security partners, some of which the United States is bound by treaty to offer security assistance.

Option #1:  The United States invests in capabilities-based deterrents that can deter specific Chinese actions.

Risk:  China has objected to the capabilities that provide this type of deterrent, such as the new F-35B fighter operating on naval vessels in the pacific[2].  China may use the deployment of these capabilities as an excuse to finally militarize islands such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Gain:  A capabilities-based deterrent will make Chinese islands in the East and South China Seas vulnerable and, ultimately, a military liability rather than an advantage.  New technologies such as the F-35B allow the United States more flexibility when operating in the Pacific, by providing U.S. and allied commanders with a 5th generation aircraft that is normally only employed off traditional U.S. aircraft carriers.  Option #1 would not only help offset the eventual Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) numerical superiority in the Pacific, but also demonstrate the U.S. commitment to modernizing a capability that has been historically suited for military operations against static, geographically isolated island targets.  This option may help shift China’s risk calculus when deciding how aggressively it hopes to militarize the islands, once it realizes that increased island investment actually increases vulnerability instead of capability.

Option #2:  The United States invests in strategic deterrence by helping boost allies’ and security partners’ amphibious capabilities.

Risk:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities runs the risk of antagonizing China.  China has already strongly condemned proposed amendments to the Japanese constitution calling for a larger defense budget[3].  China has been known to use economic and political coercion to pressure regional countries to adopt, or abandon, policies.

Gain:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities will be key to creating a sea force able to challenge an increasingly capable PLA(N).  This option would also allow allies and security partners to better deal with Chinese salami-slicing activities by providing them with the capability to deter or engage the Chinese on their own, rather than rely on U.S. deployments and assistance[4].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bader, Jeffrey. (2014). The U.S. and China’s Nine-Dash Line: Ending the Ambiguity. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-u-s-and-chinas-nine-dash-line-ending-the-ambiguity/.

[2] Lockheed Martin. (2018). The F-26B Lightning II. Retrieved from https://www.f35.com/about/variants/f35b.

[3] Huang, Kristin. (2017, October 23). China to keep wary watch on Abe’s push to change pacifist constitution. Retreived from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2116635/china-keep-wary-watch-abes-push-change-pacifist.

[4] Erickson, Andrew. (2016, September 21). Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea. Retreived from https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/seapower-and-projection-forces-south-china-sea.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners Annie Kowalewski China (People's Republic of China) Christopher Curtin Maritime Option Papers South China Sea United States

China’s Options Towards the (Re)emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University.  His areas of interest include China’s foreign and security policy.  He can be found on Twitter @adam_ni.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (China) is facing the (re)emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, consisting of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.  The unstated aim of the Quad is to constrain China’s growing power in Asia through possible military and economic cooperation that would raise the cost if Beijing challenges the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  February 28, 2018.

Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a scholar of China’s foreign and security policy.  The article is written from the point of view of Chinese decision-makers considering policy options in response to the Quad’s challenges.

Background:  The Quad can be traced back to 2007 when diplomatic efforts culminated in a multilateral naval exercise off the Bay of Bengal.  While the countries involved contended that their activities were not aimed at China, it was clear that these activities were largely a response to China’s growing power.  However, the Quad was short-lived with Australia pulling out in February 2008 under Chinese pressure[1].

Recently, the Quad has been revived in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China with expanded geopolitical ambitions.  In November 2017, officials from the Quad nations met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines and agreed that a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” is in the interest of all countries[2].  This meeting was followed in January by the meeting of the Quad navy chiefs at the Raisina Dialogue in India.  During the meeting, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, characterized China as a “disruptive, transitional force” in the region, and urged Quad nations to take measures against China’s “unilateral ways to change the use of global commons” and uphold “rule-based freedom of navigation[3].”  This sentiment was echoed by the navy chiefs of the other three Quad nations.

Significance:  While it is still too early to tell what the Quad would entail, in theory, it aims to constrain China’s growing power and to ameliorate China’s behavior by altering Beijing’s strategic calculus.  The military dimension of the Quad could take the form of expanded military cooperation that would raise the cost for China to use or threaten the use of force, including in relation to the East and South China Seas.  The economic dimension could take the form of expanded economic and infrastructure cooperation that would compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a grand plan to reshape the world economy with China at the center.

Option #1:  Reassurance.  China continues to emphasize to the Quad nations its intent to develop peacefully through public statements and diplomatic channels.

Risk:  Without pushing back against the Quad, the Quad nations and others in the region may believe that China is unwilling to impose a cost on them for challenging China’s security and economic interests.  This lack of push back may lead to further coalescence of the Quad and may even draw in other states in the region that have become wary of China’s growing power, including those that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Gain:  Option #1 may help to undermine the narrative of an ambitious China with a willingness to adopt coercive means to protect and advance its interests.  This option would strengthen the arguments of domestic forces in the Quad nations that advocate a softer approach in responding to Chinese power.

Option #2:  Punishment.  China applies a high degree of economic and diplomatic pressure on Quad nations to demonstrate the cost of challenging China’s interests and thus deter further challenges.  This option could take the form of economic coercion, formal diplomatic protests, and the downgrading of bilateral cooperation in key fields.

Risk:  Option #2 would strengthen the rationale for the Quad and the argument for constraining China’s power in the first place by demonstrating China’s willingness to adopt coercive measures against those that challenge its interests.  This option may further exacerbate the negative perception of China among the Quad nations, especially where there is already a lively debate about China’s influence (such as in Australia and the United States).  In addition, economic coercion may damage the Chinese economy and in the long run make the target economies less dependent on China.

Gain:  China demonstrating strength and resolve early on may lead to the collapse of the Quad if the Quad nations are not willing to pay the high cost of challenging China’s interests.  For example, Australia is highly dependent on China for trade and investment flows.  The Chinese government could put in place measures to reduce Chinese tourists or students from going to Australia and link these restrictions to Australia’s involvement with the Quad.  Such measures may also deter other regional countries from cooperating with the Quad against China’s interests.

Option #3:  Reassurance and caution.  China continues to emphasize its peaceful intent while also signaling its willingness to impose an economic and political cost on the Quad nations should they continue to challenge China’s interests.

Risk:  Option #3 may not be effective due to a lack of concrete cost imposed on the Quad nations, through, for example, coercive economic measures.  At the same time, the cautioning may be interpreted as an aggressive warning of China’s coercive intent, further exacerbating public anxiety in the Quad nations.

Gain:  This approach may be enough to forestall the further development of the Quad through providing reassurance but also signals China’s resolve to protects its interests.  Option #3’s key benefit is that it does not incur large political or economic cost for China immediately, but hinges Chinese retaliation on further Quad activities.

Other Comments:  The revived Quad is still in the early stages of its development, and it is too early to tell what the Quad would entail.  The above options are presented on the basis that the Quad may involve military and economic dimensions that challenge China’s interests, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as its Belt and Road Initiative.  Given the diversity of strategic interests between the Quad nations in relation to China, there is a likelihood that the Quad will not develop beyond a mechanism for dialogue.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Indrani Bagchi, “Australia to pull out of ‘quad’ that excludes China,” Times of India, February 6, 2008. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Australia-to-pull-out-of-quad-that-excludes-China/articleshow/2760109.cms.

[2] “India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Consultations on Indo-Pacific (November 12, 2017),” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 12, 2017. Available at: http://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/29110/IndiaAustraliaJapanUS_Consultations_on_IndoPacific_November_12_2017

[3] “‘China a disruptive power,’ say navy chiefs of Quadrilateral nations,” Times of India, January 19, 2018. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-a-disruptive-power-quad-nations-navy-chiefs/articleshow/62562144.cms.

Adam Ni Australia China (People's Republic of China) India Japan Option Papers United States

U.S. Options for Basing Forces to Deter North Korea

Mark Loncar is retired from the United States Air Force and is a graduate of the Defense Intelligence College, now called National Intelligence University.  He served in South Korea for 23 months.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. faces a growing existential Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

Date Originally Written: August 1, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a U.S. foreign policy advisor.

Background:  North Korea recently tested another ballistic missile, the second major test in a month, as part of a nuclear weapons program that, if brought to fruition, could threaten the U.S.  Policymakers in the U.S. are understandably reticent because of the serious threat that North Korea may respond with aggressive military action against South Korea and bring the U.S. into another Korean conflict.

The U.S. security commitment to its South Korea ally has not been in doubt since the Korean War started in 1950.  However, the positioning of U.S. forces in South Korea has been debated, and over the years, the number of U.S. troops has decreased from the mid-30 thousands before the North Korean nuclear program started in the 1990s to around 28,000 today.  Amid the present North Korean nuclear challenge, it is time to reexamine the utility of keeping U.S. forces in South Korea.

Significance:  The Korean peninsula is no longer the center of gravity in any hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. as North Korea’s ICBM capability, according to media reports, could reach Honolulu, Anchorage, and Seattle.  U.S. policy must adapt to this drastic expansion of the threat in order to end the impasse that characterizes U.S. dealings with the North Korean ICBM challenge.  In expanding his nuclear capability to ICBMs, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has turned what was a Korean peninsula-centric issue into more of an eyeball-to-eyeball existential threat to the U.S..

Option #1:  U.S. forces remain positioned in South Korea.

Risk:  U.S. policy options concerning the North Korean nuclear program will continue to be limited due to the risk of war to South Korea.  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea preserves the status quo, but does not move the U.S. closer to a solution to the North Korean nuclear challenge.  Having U.S. forces in South Korea also complicates U.S. – South Korea relations and gives South Korea leverage in how the U.S. should respond to the North Korean nuclear issue, further constraining U.S. freedom of movement to respond to North Korea.

Gain:  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea signals U.S. resolve in the Korean Conflict through a sharing of risk with South Korean allies.  This option maintains a U.S. capability to respond quickly and forcibly to North Korean conventional incursions and other hostile actions against South Korea.

Option #2:  U.S. forces redeploy from South Korea to present cleaner options for dealing with North Korean nuclear weapons threat.  The policy would relocate U.S. forces from South Korea to Japan and other countries and bases in the region.  A continued U.S. military presence near the Korean peninsula will help to reassure South Korea and Japan that the long-time security commitments will abide.  The redeployment would also represent a continuation of major U.S. conventional capability in the area to counter any North Korean conventional aggression.

Risk:  Perception of outright appeasement by U.S. allies.  How could the U.S. proceed with redeployment of forces from South Korea without communicating to friends and adversaries that it would be engaging in all-out appeasement of the North Korean regime and surrendering important U.S. and allied interests in Northern Asia to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?

Gain:  The removal of U.S. forces from South Korea would be a major inducement for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program or for the PRC to pressure it to do so.  Indeed, North Korea’s paranoia concerning U.S. – South Korea intentions toward its regime could be significantly pacified by moving U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula.  At the same time, the stakes would be raised for Kim Jong-un and his PRC benefactors to change behavior on terms attractive to all parties—agreeing to a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a reduced threat of war on the peninsula.

Second, removing the threat to U.S. forces on the peninsula would present less cumbersome options for the U.S. with respect to the North Korean nuclear weapons challenge, especially concerns about war on the Korean peninsula.  The U.S. would also be less constrained in deciding to preempt or respond directly to North Korean nuclear aggression.  This is the real capability of such a redeploying U.S. forces from South Korea.  North Korea and the PRC would be on notice that if North Korea continued its nuclear weapons ICBM development after a redeployment of U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula, the regime’s action may be met with the gravest of responses.

Third, this option would deny North Korea a pretext for attacking South Korea should the U.S. strike Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities.  Such a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would come only after a U.S. redeployment from the peninsula and the North Korean regime’s obstinate refusal to scrap its nuclear weapons program.  In this security construct, any North Korean attack below the 38th parallel in retaliation for a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would likely elicit the immediate destruction of the North Korean state.

Other Comments:  An opportunity is in reach to have a return to the status quo without a Korean peninsula-centric relationship.  This relationship would be more North Korea-South Korea focused, with the U.S. and the PRC overseeing the relationship.  The U.S. would no longer be in the middle of the mix with its own forces physically present in South Korea.  It may not be the best the U.S. could hope for – that would be a democratic government in North Korea if not an eventual unification of North and South Korea.  However, a U.S. redeployment to incentivize peninsula denuclearization and present cleaner options concerning North Korea’s nuclear weapons program may be a more viable alternative than accepting and having to deter a North Korean global ICBM capability, or to fight another war on the Korean peninsula.  In the end, by removing U.S. forces from South Korea, friend and foe should understand that if North Korea refuses to scrap its nuclear weapons capability, it will be the North Korean regime alone against the overwhelming power of the U.S..


Endnotes:

None.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Weapons China (People's Republic of China) Mark Loncar North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

United States’ Options to North Korea Missile Development

Mike Dyer is a research assistant at a Washington-based international policy think tank.  He can be found on twitter @mikeysdyer.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  United States’ Options in response to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile developments.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 31, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a senior defense/foreign policy advisor to the Trump Administration.

Background:  After decades of development, for the first time in the history of the Korean conflict, North Korea is nearing the capability to hold U.S. population centers on the continental United States at risk with a small nuclear weapon[1].  Nearing this inflection point requires a reexamination of U.S. policy vis-a-vis Northeast Asia.

Significance:  If North Korea’s Kim regime believes it has an effective deterrent against the United States, it may become emboldened to pursue more provocative and dangerous polices.  Such brinkmanship could lead to disaster.  This new fact threatens U.S. extended deterrence commitments to both Japan and South Korea (Republic of Korea (ROK)), depending on the Trump Administration’s policy response.  The Kim regime, while rational, is certainly volatile, and engages in behaviors well outside of international norms.

Option #1:  The United States accepts the reality of North Korea as a nuclear power while maintaining demands for denuclearization.  This option may require adjustments to U.S. defense posture, namely the reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula or the expansion of the ballistic missile defense programs.

Risk:  First, the most salient risk the United States would face is relying on deterrence against a regime for which it lacks an acute understanding.  Relying on deterrence to keep the peace on the Korean peninsula is risky because the Kim regime derives power and legitimacy from propping up the United States and others as an aggressive enemy.

Second, even if the United States does nothing, the Kim regime would still be incentivized to provoke the United States and the ROK if only for domestic reasons.

Third, as previously mentioned, North Korea could work to weaken U.S. extended deterrence commitments by credibly threatening the U.S. homeland.  The United States could work to reduce this risk by demonstrating the effectiveness of its missile defense shield.

Gain:  This option does not risk conflict in the near to medium terms, thus it continues to “kick the can down the road.”  This policy trades tactical and operational risk for increased strategic risk over the long-term.  Otherwise, this option gains nothing.

Option #2:  The United States conducts a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s known nuclear and ballistic missile sites.

Risk:  First, this option risks large-scale retaliation against the ROK and Japan and the U.S. forces stationed there.  There is a significant chance a military strike would miss known or hidden weapons sites or leave North Korea with the capability to deliver a conventional counter strike[2].

Second, a military strike on North Korean nuclear sites is likely to cause an environmental and humanitarian disaster to some degree.  This could result in unnecessary civilian loss of life, increased pan-Korean nationalism at the expense of the U.S.-ROK alliance, and generally loss of support for U.S. leadership/presence in the region.  The illicit transfer of unaccounted for nuclear materiel could also result.

Gain:  If a strike were successful, the Kim regime would effectively be disarmed.  Such a blow to North Korea could lead to a coup against the Kim regime or to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) intervening to stabilize the situation.

Option #3:  The United States increases economic sanctions on the regime to either bring North Korea to the negotiating table or cause the regime to collapse.  This option is not possible without increased support from the PRC a because of its importance to the North Korean economy.

Risk:  First, sanctions need years to take full effect.  During this time, North Korea’s capabilities could grow and the regime would have opportunity to degrade the situation in its favor.

Second, it is unknown what the Kim regime would do if faced with collapse and loss of power.  Some North Korean interlocutors have made the point that North Korea did not build its nuclear weapons only to watch them go unused as the regime collapses.

Third, the regime values security, prestige, and power over a growing economy, it has effective control over its people and they are discouraged from speaking out against the regime even in private.

Gain:  If successful, sanctions have the potential to accomplish U.S. objectives without risking conflict.  Given the Kim regime’s hierarchy of values however, this option is unlikely to work.

Option #4:  The United States and the ROK negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea.  This option accepts the reality of North Korea’s newfound nuclear capability and gives up on past demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program prior to peace negotiations.

Risk:  First, for a durable peace to exist between the United States and North Korea, both sides would have to reach a mutually acceptable political solution, this may mean both North Korea and the ROK giving up on their objectives for reunification—something both states are unwilling to do.  Durable peace would also require security for all concerned and trust that does not currently exist.

Second, negotiating peace without denuclearization would weaken the nuclear nonproliferation regime and cause allies to lose faith in United States’ security commitments.  This option could result in greater nuclear proliferation across Northeast Asia.

Gain:  The gain is limited by the risk of failure, but a peaceful Korean peninsula would benefit regional security and ease the burden on U.S. defense commitments.

Option #5:  The United States undermines the Kim regime by encouraging the flow of information into and out of North Korea.  The United States works with the PRC and ROK to encourage the further development of independent (black) markets in North Korea at the expense of regime control on civil life.

Risk:  First, this policy would require years to fully carry out, allowing North Korea to expand its weapons program in the meantime.

Second, this policy may just raise the quality of life of the North Korean people and expand the regime’s tax base while not convincing the people to push-back against the regime.

Third, as previously mentioned, destabilizing the regime raises the risks of conflict.

Gain:  If successful, this policy could chance the character and policies of the North Korean regime, ultimately leading to peace and reconciliation.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ackerman, S., & Jacobs, B. (2017). US commander not confident North Korea will refrain from nuclear assault. the Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/26/north-korea-nuclear-attack-south-korea-us-navy

[2]  Your Bibliography: Peters, R. (2017). A New Approach to Eliminating North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Is Needed. Washington: The U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Retrieved from http://www.38north.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/NKIP-Peters-WMDE-062017.pdf  Also see, Bennett, B. (2013). Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse. Rand Corporation.

China (People's Republic of China) Mike Dyer North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Nuclear Issues Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

People’s Republic of China Options Toward North Korea

Paul Butchard is a graduate student in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security.  He also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Options for the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) toward North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK).

Date Originally Written:  July, 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 24, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of foreign policy advisor to the PRC government.

Background:  Since January 2016, the DPRK has conducted two nuclear weapons tests and ten missile tests.  Such actions, coupled with increasingly bombastic rhetoric, displays a more aggressive posture for the DPRK than previous years[1].

Significance:  For the PRC, their relationship with the DPRK is a regional policy issue and a central element of PRC-United States relations.  President Xi Jinping is forging an outgoing, “Striving for Achievement” foreign policy for the PRC[2].  Simultaneously, the PRC has displayed more public disapproval of Pyongyang’s destabilising behaviour than previous years[3].  The course of action the PRC adopts towards the DPRK will play a major role in the relationship between Beijing and Washington in years to come, influencing events globally.

Option #1:  The PRC maintains/increases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC continuing or building upon its current course of action, providing vast military and economic aid and diplomatic protection to bring the DPRK’s behaviour in line with the PRC’s wishes.

Risk:  The PRC risks appeasing the DPRK, encouraging it to continue along its current path, one that is increasingly casting the PRC as a suzerain unable to rein in a vassal state, to the casual observer.  The DPRK would view such action as capitulation and an acknowledgment by Beijing that Pyongyang cannot be penalised for actions and policies even when they harm the PRC’s interests[4].  The DPRK is conscious of its strategic importance to Beijing and able to take PRC aid without granting concessions.  The PRC risks escalating confrontation with the United States if the latter perceives the PRC as unwilling to act or enabling the DPRK’s current destabilising behaviour, a possibility given recent remarks by President Trump[5].

Gain:  This option enables the PRC to sustain the DPRK regime, avoiding a humanitarian crisis on its border because of regime collapse, maintaining the tense but peaceful status quo.  The PRC avoids being labelled a United States puppet as the DPRK has previously implied[6].  United States’ sanctions related to the DPRK have so far been limited to private companies and individuals, not the PRC government[7].  This option thus avoids igniting military, diplomatic or economic confrontations with the United States.

Option #2:  The PRC decreases/ceases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC ‘sanction’ the DPRK by reducing or halting military, economic or diplomatic aid to alter its behaviour to suit PRC preferences.

Risk:  This option risks the collapse of the DPRK regime due to the PRC being its main economic trading partner.  The PRC also risks economic self-harm due to the vast natural resources it imports from the DPRK[8].  The collapse of the DPRK brings unparalleled security concerns for the PRC from uncontrolled nuclear materials and mass immigration to the potential of a United States ally on its border.

Gain:  By reducing aid the PRC would be acting against the DPRK’s unpredictable actions, potentially slowing its development of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), increasing its international standing, a cornerstone of President Xi’s foreign policy.  Such action would be seen favourably by the Trump administration increasing the likelihood of favourable trade deals or relative acquiescence to PRC actions in the South China Sea.

Option #3:  Regime change.  This option would see the PRC pursue regime change within the DPRK by means of supporting a coup d’état or palace coup of some description rather than overt military action of its own.

Risk:  The DPRK government and society revolves fully around the Kim dynasty, the removal of the deity that is Kim Jong Un and the Kim lineage risks the total collapse of the state.  There is no clear successor to Kim due to the autocratic nature of the DPRK and any successor would likely be considered a PRC puppet and usurper.  Subsequent destabilisation would result in the aforementioned humanitarian and security crisis’ posing a grave national security threat to the PRC.  Such action would be logistically and strategically difficult to accomplish, requiring multiple sections of the DPRK military and governmental apparatus being coordinated by a vast human intelligence network operated by the PRC.  As such, and due to pervasive North Korean surveillance even of its elites, a coup risks discovery long before execution.  United States and South Korean forces may see any attempt at regime change as an opportunity to launch their own military offensive or as evidence of PRC expansionism and a threat to the South.

Gain:  Replacing Kim Jong Un could lead to increased stability for the PRC’s regional development objectives.  The PRC could avoid total DPRK state collapse due to external pressure and avert the potential national security threats to the PRC mainland.  This option also raises the possibility of enhancing United States-PRC relations, buying the PRC the aforementioned political capital.  A new DPRK regime, allied with the PRC, that tempers its actions toward the United States, also raises the possibility of the removal of the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system from South Korea, which the PRC views as a national security threat.  This option also presents the potential for the reduction of United States troop numbers in South Korea due to increased stability and a reduced threat from the DPRK.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Council on Foreign Relations, (2017) North Korea Crisis. Retrieved July 13, 2017 from https://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/north-korea-crisis

[2] Yan, X. (2014). From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement. The Chinese Journal of International Politics,7(2), 153-184.

[3] Perlez, J. (2017, February 24). China and North Korea Reveal Sudden, and Deep, Cracks in Their Friendship. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/world/asia/china-north-korea-relations-kim-jong-un.html

[4] Pei, M. (2017, March 14). North Korea: What Is China Thinking? Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/china-north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuclear-beijing-pyongyang-thaad/519348/

[5] Weaver, M., Haas, B., & McCurry, J. (2017, April 03). Trump says US will act alone on North Korea if China fails to help. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/02/donald-trump-north-korea-china

[6] Sang-hun, C. (2017, February 23). North Korea Accuses China of ‘Mean Behavior’ After It Tightens Sanctions. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/world/asia/north-korea-china.html

[7] Aleem, Z. (2017, June 29). Why Trump just slapped new sanctions on Chinese banks. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.vox.com/world/2017/6/29/15894844/trump-sanctions-china-north-korea-bank

[8] Perlez, J., & Huang, Y. (2017, April 13). China Says Its Trade With North Korea Has Increased. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/china-north-korea-trade-coal-nuclear.html 

[9] Reuters. (2017, February 28). China reacts with anger, threats after South Korean missile defense decision. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-usa-thaad-china-idUSKBN16709W

China (People's Republic of China) Leadership Change North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers Paul Butchard South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Options to Counter Piracy in the Horn of Africa

Captain Robert N. Hein (U.S. Navy, Retired) was a career Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.  He previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) and the USS Nitze (DDG-94).  He can be found on Twitter @the_sailor_dogClaude Berube teaches at the United States Naval Academy, was a 2004 Brookings Institution LEGIS Congressional Fellow and a 2010 Maritime Security Studies Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.  He can be found on Twitter @cgberube.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  After lying dormant for a few years, following a large international response, piracy off the Horn of Africa is again threatening the free flow of global commerce.

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 19, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Claude Berube has operated off the Horn of Africa, and has written extensively on piracy and private maritime security companies.  Bob Hein has hunted pirates off Somalia.  Bob’s final assignment was the Deputy Director of Strategy on the U.S. Navy Staff.

Background:  Somali piracy threatens major trade routes.  Over 30,000 ships transit the Gulf of Aden annually.  At its peak in 2007, the cost of Somali pirate attacks to the shipping industry was $7B.  The cost decreased to $1.3B in 2015, and climbed to $1.7B in 2016[1].  In May 2017, the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Walderhauser, indicated as many as six piracy attacks occurred in the last month[2].  Given the expanse of unpatrolled waters in the region and opportunities for criminal and pirate networks to exploit maritime security gaps, there will inevitably be more attacks.

Significance:  Since the Romans and Carthaginians raised their Navies against each other in the Punic Wars, the purpose of Navies has been to protect the coast, and protect maritime commerce.  Prior to that, Thucydides mentions piracy in History of the Peloponnesian War.  The actions of pirates in Africa led to the establishment and deployment of the U.S. Navy in the early 19th century.  A resurgence in Somali piracy represents a renewed threat to global trade, and the stability of Somalia.

Option #1:  The U.S. cedes the constabulary role for counter-piracy activities to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)).  In April 2017 the PRC deployed its 26th anti-piracy flotilla to the Horn of Africa.  In that time, the PRC escorted 5,900 ships in the region[3], and established a base in nearby Djibouti to maintain a mission to not only protects the PRC’s “One Belt” initiative, but give PRC Naval Commanders experience operating far from home.

Risk:  Taking over this mission allows the PRC to gain experience in operating far from home, a key attribute for an historic land power seeking increased influence abroad.  Prior to its first anti-piracy flotilla in 2008, the PLA(N) had been largely absent in international waters for five centuries.  The PRC may also give a false sense of security to those areas where it does not have a direct interest.  By ceding additional maritime security missions to the PLA(N), the U.S. and its partners empower PLA(N) overseas capabilities and the possibility that regional powers will become more reliant on the PRC.  For example, in 2015 the PRC was able to evacuate its citizens from the growing crisis in Yemen due, in part, to their enhanced capabilities from long-range operations in the region and newer platforms[4].

Gain:  The PRC does provide a short-term solution with a modern navy.  It has the motivation to prove itself as a guarantor of maritime security, not just a consumer.  The PRC has the capability and the desire to contain and curtail piracy in the Horn of Africa if not to simply secure shipping then for longer-range operational and strategic goals.

Option #2:  The U.S. builds capacity in the Somali maritime forces, and trains nascent Somali governments with the tools required to ensure domestic maritime security.  Local Somali governments have had some recent success in counter-piracy activity, rescuing eight Indian mariners captured by Somali pirates[5].  Introducing counter-piracy training, maritime domain awareness and intelligence sharing would go far in allowing regions of Somalia to work together to stop what should be a Somali law enforcement issue.

Risk:  The threat of corruption is a major concern; also the responsibility for building maritime law enforcement capacity would be a political minefield for any host nation.

Gain:  Using the dictum of “Teach a man to fish,” places Somalia in a position to police its waterways will provide a permanent solution to the piracy problem.  It will also ensure illegal fishing or overfishing by other states does not further deplete local fishing grounds[6].  Piracy in Somalia was born of frustrated fisherman who had no recourse against foreign fishing boats poaching their grounds.  Giving Somalia the ability to not only deter piracy, but also police their waters against illegal fishing should provide a complete long-term solution.

Option #3:  The U.S. continues to enable Private Maritime Security Companies, (PMSCs), to provide on-board armed guards at the shipping companies’ discretion.  To date, no ship with an armed team aboard has been successfully taken by Somali pirates.

Risk:  PMSCs are subject to market fluctuations.  As piracy rose in 2006-2008, PMSCs proliferated providing a wide spectrum of cost, capabilities, and legitimacy.  Ceding full maritime security control to unregulated PMSCs or to PMSCs from non-partnered nations could have other consequences as well, such as future military operations employing a trained, unaligned and unregulated force.  Additionally, many of the smaller shipping companies, favored by pirates, cannot afford PMSCs thus potentially identifying the smaller shipping companies as soft targets.

Gain:  Working with shipping companies and PMSCs would ensure the U.S. and its partners contribute to regulation of legitimate and capable PMSCs and would deny the PLA(N) an opportunity to enhance its capabilities through gaining experience in counter-piracy operations.

Option #4:  Coalition operations in the region continue.  In addition to independent operations, Somali piracy resulted in the creation of several key partnerships including Combined Task Force 151, the European Union’s Operation ATALANTA, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Operation OCEAN SHIELD.

Risk:  Coalition investment of time, money, staff, and platforms for any operation takes away from other missions.  If other missions such as North Korea, Iran, and threats in the Mediterranean Sea have a higher immediate priority, then coalition ships might not be available if the pirate threat level is assessed as low.  In November 2016, for example, NATO concluded Operation OCEAN SHIELD as it shifted resources to the Baltic and Black Seas[7].

Gain:  Coalition operations enhance interoperability between traditional and new partners.  The larger the coalition, the fewer resources each nation has to contribute.  In most maritime operations, few countries can go it alone.

Other Comments:  While the options are limitless, the options presented here are those the authors assess as being the most feasible and acceptable.

Recommendation:  None


Endnotes:

[1]  CNBC Int’l, Luke Graham, “Somali Pirates are Back,” 03 May 2017

[2] The Trumpet, Anthony Chibarirwe, “Somali Pirates are Back,” 19 May 2017

[3]  The Diplomat, Ankit Panda, “As Somali Pirates Return, Chinese Navy Boasts of Anti-Piracy Operations,” 16 April 2017

[4]  The Diplomat, Kevin Wang, “Yemen Evacuation a Strategic Step Forward for China,” 10 April 2015

[5]  The New York Times, Hussein Mohamed, “8 Indians rescued from Somali Pirates, Officials say,” 12 April 2017

[6]  Asia Today, Hong Soon-Do, “Chinese Illegal Fishing Threatens World Waters,” May 2017

[7]  Reuters, Robin Emmott, “NATO Ends Counter-Piracy Mission as Focus Shifts to Mediterranean,” 23 November 2016

Bob Hein China (People's Republic of China) Claude Berube Horn of Africa Option Papers Piracy

U.S. Options to Address a Growing People’s Republic of China Army (Navy)

Thomas is a junior sailor in the United States Navy.  He can be found on Twitter @CTNope.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the United States Navy, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Worrying trends in military shipbuilding by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Date Originally Written:  April, 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June, 15, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the current balance of naval forces, both qualitatively and quantitatively, between the U.S. and the PRC, must be examined or the U.S. will face severe policy consequences.  The article is written from the point of view of U.S. Navy (USN) leadership as they assess the growth of the People’s Liberation Army’s (Navy) (PLAN).  This article focuses on options that U.S. policymakers have in response to the trends in the PRC’s military shipbuilding, not the trends themselves.

Background:  Since the mid-2000’s the PRC’s economic situation has vastly improved, most evident as its GDP has grown from 1.2 billion to 11 billion over fifteen years, a growth of over 900 percent[1].  This growth has enabled the PRC to embark on a remarkable shipbuilding program, achieving vast strides in training, technology, capabilities, and actual hull count of modern vessels[3][2].  This growth is creating security challenges in the Pacific as well as igniting tensions between the U.S. and the PRC, as the disparity between the USN and the PLAN shrinks at an alarming rate[4].  These developments have been closely watched by both the U.S. and her Partners, challenging U.S. policymakers to address this new, rising maritime presence while maintaining security in the region.

Significance:  In the U.S. there is a growing bipartisan voice concerned about an assertive PRC[5], as halfway across the globe Asian nations wearily observe the PRC’s growth.  A more powerful PLAN allows greater flexibility for PRC officials to exert influence.  These impressive shipbuilding trends will embolden the PRC, as now they can brush aside actors that held credible deterrence when competing against an unmodernized PLAN.  If current trends in the capacity of PRC shipbuilding and technological advancement continue, the PLAN will be able to challenge the efforts of the USN and U.S. Partners to continue to keep sea lanes of communication open in the space around the disputed ‘nine-dash-line’ as well as other parts of the Pacific.  It is plausible that in the long-term the PLAN will emerge as a near-peer to the USN in the Pacific; as U.S. has to provide for its own security, the security of others, and the security of the Global Commons, while the PRC only has to provide security for itself and its interests.

Option #1:  Platform centric approach.  Review the current force structure of the USN to decide how large the force needs to be to satisfy U.S. policy goals and modify the fleet accordingly.

Risk:  Focusing too heavily on platforms could leave the USN without the tools needed to be on the technological forefront during the next conflict.  Also, a focus on building legacy systems could take resources away from initiatives that require them.

Gain:  An increased number of platforms would allow U.S. policymakers more flexibility in how they decide to most effectively use the USN.  Additionally, more hulls would not only contribute to the deterrence generated by the USN, but also improve the readiness of the USN as more ships can remain in port and undergo maintenance, while other ships conduct missions.  Option #1 maximizes readiness for the next conflict.

Option #2:  Modernization approach.  Focus on improving today’s platforms while additionally investing in the future with disruptive technologies, but do not undertake an extensive build up of hulls.  In this option the fleet would still expand in accordance with current programs, to include the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, and Virginia Class Submarines, but these production runs would be cut short to save funds.

Risk:  In the mid-term the USN might not have the hulls necessary to address global security concerns.  However, having fewer hulls does not mean that the USN can’t fight and win, instead, it will require that the USN’s leaders adapt.

Gain:  Investing in the future could yield powerful technologies that change the calculus on how the U.S. employs military forces.  Technologies like the railgun or unmanned systems change the way the USN fights by improving critical traits such as firepower and survivability.  Future technologies could create even greater offsets than previously discovered technologies, with the advent of artificial intelligence on the horizon, future applications appear limitless.  Option #2 increases the chance that the U.S. will continue to operate at the cutting edge of technology.

Option #3:  Balanced approach.  Modify the USN’s size, but not as broadly as the first option, instead providing additional funding towards Research and Development (R&D).

Risk:  This option could prove to be too little, too late.  The USN would benefit from the handful of additional hulls, but PRC shipbuilding pace might negate the benefit of the extra vessels.  The PRC could possibly out-build the USN by adding two new hulls for every one the USN commissions.  Likewise, the USN might need significantly more resources for R&D efforts.

Gain:  The USN would receive additional Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, LCS Frigates, and Virginia Class Submarines.  In addition, this option would free up more funds to put into R&D to keep the USN ahead of the PLAN in terms of technology.  Overall, this would keep the USN on a balanced footing to be “ready to fight tonight” in the short to mid-term, yet still on a decent footing in the long-term, from R&D efforts.  Option #3 could turn out to be the best of both worlds, combining the increased readiness through hulls as well as continued technological innovation.

Other Comments:  The PLAN still has many issues, ranging from naval subsystems, to C4I, to training and manning[3], but they are correcting their deficiencies at an impressive rate. As such, there is a cost for the U.S. in terms of both omission and commission.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  The World Bank Statistics. Retrieved from: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?

[2]  Gabriel Collins and LCDR Michael Grubb, USN. “A Comprehensive Survey of China’s Dynamic Shipbuilding Industry, Commercial Development and Strategic Implications”.     Published August 2008. Retrieved from: https://www.usnwc.edu/Research—Gaming/China-Maritime-Studies-Institute/Publications/documents/CMS1_Collins-Grubb.aspx

[3]  Ronald O’Rourke . “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress”. Retrieved from: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf

[4]  Shannon Tiezzi with Andrew Erickson. “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: Measuring the Waves”.  Retrieved from: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/chinese-naval-shipbuilding-measuring-the-waves/

[5]  Various. “Hotspots Along China’s Maritime Periphery”.
Retrieved from: https://www.uscc.gov/Hearings/hotspots-along-china%E2%80%99s-maritime-periphery

Capacity / Capability Enhancement China (People's Republic of China) Maritime Option Papers Thomas United States

Options for Bougainville Independence

Iain Strutt has been involved in military, police and private security in Australia for over twenty years.  He is currently completing a Bachelor of Science (Security) degree with a minor in international relations at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organisation, or any group.  


Area_Map_Bougainville

National Security Situation:  Independence options for Bougainville Island, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Date Originally Written:  March 26, 2016.

Date Originally Published:  May 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  While Bougainville may be a small Pacific Island and seem minor geopolitically, the author believes the outcome of the independence vote in 2019 will have regional implications.

Background:  Bougainville Island will hold a referendum on independence from PNG on June 15th, 2019.  Independence from PNG has been deliberated and defeated before[1].  Historically, Bougainville was administered first by Germany, then Britain.  After World War 2, Australia administered the territory as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of New Guinea.  With PNG independence from Australia in 1975, Bougainville became part of the new nation[2].  Bougainville was originally known as the North Solomons’, being as they were, part of the Solomon Islands.

Secessionists caused an insurrection in Bougainville in 1988 and it continued until the late 1990s.  The conflict succeeded in closing the giant Panguna copper mine in 1989, situated in the southern highlands.  Panguna was vital to the economy of PNG and Bougainville, as it has copper in abundance.  The two most prominent causes for the guerilla war on Bougainville can be traced back to the longstanding imbalance between ethnicity and financial reward.  Inadequate sharing of revenue with the traditional landowners of the copper mine has since been settled, with their involvement in future mining now a reality[3].

Following the ending of the guerilla war, agreement was reached by the secessionists and the PNG government in 2001, seeing Bougainville declared an autonomous region, governed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).  Both the ABG and PNG signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement, known as the Arawa Accord in 2001 which has three related processes: 

  1. Autonomy
  2. Referendum
  3. Weapons disposal plan[4]

Two of the three have been accomplished, although it is not known precisely how many weapons were cached or even in existence before or after the December 2001 disposal process, so questions remain over weapons numbers[5].  Of concern is that the independence votes’ outcome hinges upon its ratification by the PNG parliament as the “final decision-making authority[6].”  The state as a person in international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter relations with the other states[7].  Bougainville satisfies all criteria despite efforts to resist the breakup by PNG.

This region has previously been of strategic interest to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) due to its resources[8].  Foreign powers attempt at influence is nothing new and it appears that the PRC is endeavoring to extend its influence past the so-called Second Island Chain.  The chain is a strategic line that stretches from Japan, to Guam, then to the “vicinity of New Guinea[9].”  Similarly, Australia has a profound strategic interest in South-East Asia, particularly PNG and the islands of the South Pacific[9].  Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) nations have fought wars and participated in peacekeeping missions in this area over the past 75 years and Bougainville lies within this region.

Financing the reopening of the Panguna mine is something that the PRC can afford, in keeping with its desire for infrastructure projects globally and commercial diplomacy[10].  To get the copper to market requires access from Panguna to Kieta port, with its adjacent airfield, on the east coast of Bougainville.  The strategic importance of Bougainville should therefore not be overlooked as the island is in a sound position to monitor the western Pacific.

Bougainville_Neighbourhood

Significance:  The recent visit to Australia by PRC Premier Li Keqinang has led to the increased warming of the bilateral relationship between the PRC and Australia.  Although Australia is still a firm ANZUS partner, U.S. foreign policy is now inward looking, prompting a refocus by the ANZUS partners.  Australian foreign policy can now act as a positive influence over the PRC in this region, with a “non-provocative, pragmatic diplomatic stance[11].”

Option #1:  Bougainville achieves independence in 2019 and ANZUS can assume defense duties in rotation on the island as there is no allowance for a defense force in the Bougainville constitution.

Risk:  Low.  This is the preferred outcome due to the minimal risk to regional stability.  It would give greater influence in the area to ANZUS nations.  The PNG military can benefit from cross training in keeping with Australia’s regional outlook.

Gain:  Positive.  Economic benefit for Bougainville.  The Panguna mine would reopen without PNG involvement with income provided to the local landowners.

Option #2:  The Bougainville referendum result is denied by the PNG government.  Bougainville declares sovereignty itself, following the examples of Bangladesh, Croatia, Georgia and Moldova (see Other Comments below).

Risk:  Moderate.  If PNG denies the result of the referendum to preserve its sovereignty over Bougainville, civil discontent is highly likely as Bougainville independence is preferred and has been over time.

Gain:  Negative.  An outcome regional partners would not want, due to the potential for violence and civil unrest.  Intervention requiring peacekeepers may occur, a situation the islanders have endured before.

Option #3:  Regardless of the result of the referendum, with closer relationships between Australia, the PRC and the ABG, a mining joint venture could commence at Panguna.  It is conceivable that this would involve the PRC as a partner in the joint venture with an Australian mining company.

Risk:  High.  Although PRC preference is for critical infrastructure projects globally, the risk would be high as there are elements within the ABG itself who have a definite preference not to deal with the PRC in any form.  Politically, this option would be impractical.

Gain:  Moderate.  Economically this would be of benefit to Bougainville for the life of the mine, which is expected to be twenty-five years.

Other Comments:  Bangladesh, Croatia, Georgia and Moldova, came to statehood in differing ways with one common denominator, at the time of their proclamation of independence there was no effective government in all four.  This differs from Bougainville, which has had effective governance for some time, elected officials, and its’ own administration separate from PNG.  Of the four nations mentioned above, Moldova is the most relative to Bougainville.  Moldova declared sovereignty on June 23, 1990, providing for the Moldovan constitution and laws to have primacy over those of the Soviet Union.  This was a proclamation of sovereignty and not independence but was a step towards it.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Jennings P. & Claxton K. (2013) A stitch in time. Preserving peace on Bougainville. Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited.  p.3.

[2]  Jennings P. & Claxton K. (2013) A stitch in time. Preserving peace on Bougainville. Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited.  p.15.

[3]  Bougainville Mining Act 2015. Autonomous Region of Bougainville (no.3 of 2015).

[4]  United Nations [UN] (2001) Bougainville Peace Agreement. Introduction and OutlineS/2001/988 Enclosure II Bougainville Peace Agreement.  23rd October 2001. p.8

[5]  Woodbury J. (2015) The Bougainville independence referendum: Assessing the risks and challenges before, during and after the referendum. Australian Defence College. Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. p.9.

[6]  Woodbury J. (2015) The Bougainville independence referendum: Assessing the risks and challenges before, during and after the referendum. Australian Defence College. Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies.  P.7

[7]  Raic D. (2002) Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination. Brill Academic Publishers. p.406.

[8]  Hegarty M. (2015) Chinas growing influence in the South-West Pacific: Australian policies that could respond to Chinese intentions and objectives. Australian Defence College, Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. p. 8

[9]  Holmes J.R. (2011) Island Chain Defence. The Diplomat. Retrieved 27th March 2017. http://thediplomat.com/2011/04/island-chain-defense/

[10]  Frost E.L. (2007) Chinas Rise and the Balance of Influence in Asia. Edited by William W. Keller and Thomas G. Rawsky. Ch. 5. Chinas’ Commercial Diplomacy in Asia. University of Pittsburg  Press. p.95.

[11]  Carr. B. (2017) Canberra’s sensible South China Sea Stand is contingent on continual pragmatism in Beijing. The Weekend Australian. March 18-19, 2017, p.24. News Ltd. Sydney.

Australia Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) Bougainville China (People's Republic of China) Iain Strutt New Zealand Option Papers Papua New Guinea Referendums United States

Options for Managing Xinjiang Uighur Ethnic Tensions

Daniel Urchick is a defense and foreign policy analyst.  Daniel tweets at @DanielUrchick.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Unrest and separatist tendencies amongst the Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC)

Date Originally Written:  March 08, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 27, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the perspective of a PRC government official offering options for countering ethnic violence, separatism, and extremism amongst the Uighurs in Xinjiang. 

Background:  Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs comprise an estimated 42 percent of Xinjiang’s population of 19 million.  Uighur unrest was historically sporadic and easily suppressed but since 2008 Xinjiang has seen a slow, but noticeable rise in violent activity that appears to be aimed at local actors, such as the local government structure, state security forces, Han immigrants, and Uighur “collaborators,” rather than at the Chinese Central Government in Beijing.  Some Uighurs have called for total independence from the PRC due to cultural oppression.

Uighur terrorism has allegedly occurred across the PRC, including dual bombings in Yunnan Province in 2008, a bombing in Tiananmen Square in 2013, and a knife attack at Kunming Airport in Yunnan that killed 29 and injured 143 in early 2014.  In late February 2017, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video of Uighur members who claimed they would shed rivers of blood in the PRC and avenge the oppressed[1].  This video marked the first time Uighur militants had officially been tied to ISIS[2].

The PRC has increasingly relied on a heavy-handed and repressive approach to security operations in Xinjiang.  The arrests and detention of protesters, even peaceful ones, are estimated to be well into the tens of thousands, with an estimated 1.8 executions occurring weekly in 2008[3].  Tens of thousands of PRC security components currently operate in Xinjiang[4].

Drivers of Uighur unrest may include being barred from 95 percent of the civil-service positions in Xinjiang[5], being forced to teach Mandarin in Uighur schools, and, until recently, anyone under 18 was prohibited from entering a mosque.  Despite efforts to placate the Uighurs with promises of foreign direct investment, increased employment opportunities, and modernization projects, the majority of these opportunities are still reserved for the Han Chinese.

Significance:  Xinjiang links the PRC to Central Asia and the greater Middle East geographically, ethnically, and religiously.  The problems of ethnic separatism and religious extremism in the Middle East and Central Asia flow into Xinjiang.  For this reason, in addition to poor administrative practices, there is a small, but growing problem with separatism and terrorism in the region.  Fear of an ISIS-like organization forming in Xinjiang, combined with a theoretical collapse of adjacent Tajikistan, has spurred the PRC into creating an entire security organization: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Option #1:  The “Alaska” model— Reward the Uighurs with economic dividends based on exploiting Xinjiang’s resources.

Risk:  Economic dividends have historically been reserved for Han Chinese who may grow agitated with the loss of an exclusive “perk,” causing them to lash out at the local and Central Government.  Unhappy Han may direct their frustrations towards the Uighur population, who may respond to violence with greater violence, exacerbating the situation.

Gain:  Opening resource management to the Uighur population will co-opt Uighur elites and likely remove environmental concerns and wealth imbalances as a historical justification to protest resource exploitation in Xinjiang.  Option #1 places the onus of environmental degradation on the Uighur elites vice the local and Central Government.

Option #2:  The “Scotland” model— the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains direct control of international and interprovincial trade, as well as military and police functions, but cultural autonomy exists in exchange for loyalty.

Risk:  This model allows the Uighur identity to grow unchecked, which may develop to a point of seeking greater separation from the rest of the PRC.  Misplaced faith in Uighur officials by the CCP could create Uighur opposition leaders in future periods of unrest and rising tensions.  The granting of such a high-level of autonomy to Xinjiang may spark calls for similar policies in other ethnic minority regions in the PRC.

Gain:  The PRC government maintains control of local security apparatus while receiving maximum economic benefit to be distributed as it sees fit.  True autonomy for the region reduces international and domestic criticism of PRC governance in the region.

Option #3:  The “Hawaii” model— Calls for the creation of an “indigenous people’s organization” to communicate with local officials about ongoing and future disputes with the government or Han population.

Risk:  The creation of the indigenous people’s organization could result in a legitimate alternative authority to the Central Government in Beijing, which, in turn, could eventually organize the Uighur population to formally challenge PRC government authority.  This organization may create avenues for Uighurs who support violent extremism to move into positions of authority.

Gain:  This indigenous people’s organization places an administrative barrier between the local government and Uighur population’s criticism and frustrations.  Both the Central Government and local government can use this organization as a scapegoat when tensions flair, while staffing it with vetted personnel. 

Option #4:  The “Australian” model— Special privileges are granted to minorities, such as no birth restrictions, tax exemptions, and assured education.

Risk:  Special privileges conferred to the Uighurs risk increasing resentment among the Han population towards the Uighurs, leading to increased hostility and even greater inter-ethnic violence.  Even more worrisome, the Han populace in Xinjiang, and around the PRC, may become resentful of the Central Government for withholding highly coveted privileges.

Gain:  Removing restrictions that apply to the rest of the country promotes a sense of exceptionalism in the Uighur population, encouraging loyalty to the PRC.  Assured education encourages educated Uighurs to become local elites and support the Central Government that supported them.

Option #5:  The “West Bank” model— Government promotion of cultural and Islamic tourism to Xinjiang Province.

Risk:  Exposes a larger portion of the PRC populace to Islam, increasing the potential for conversion to a religion that believes in an authority other than the Central Government in Beijing.  Islamic tourists to Xinjiang could bring ideas about Islam and its role in society and government that the PRC government views as destabilizing, further increasing tensions.

Gain:  Uighurs are potentially exposed to more moderate Islamic ideas on a wider scale, rather than radical Islamist ideas that proliferate under or due to government suppression.

Other Comments:  The models presented above can be found with greater detail in Dru Gladney’s 2003 paper “Responses to Chinese Rule in Xinjiang: Patterns of Cooperation and Opposition,” published in the Mongolian Journal of International Affairs (http://www.mongoliajol.info/index.php/MJIA/article/viewFile/122/123).

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Katie Hunt and Matt Rivers. “Xinjiang violence: Does China have a terror problem?,” CNN, December 02, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/asia/china-xinjiang-uyghurs/

[2]  Ryan Pickrell. “ISIS Vows To ‘Shed Blood Like Rivers’ In First Threat Against China,” Daily Caller, March 1, 2017. Retrieved from: http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/01/isis-vows-to-shed-blood-like-rivers-in-first-threat-against-china/

[3]  Drew Gladney. “Responses to Chinese Rule in Xinjiang: Patterns of Cooperation and Opposition,” The Mongolian Journal of International Affairs. Retrieved from: http://www.mongoliajol.info/index.php/MJIA/article/viewFile/122/123

[4]  “Xinjiang deploys over 10,000 armed police in latest show of force after terror attacks,” South China Morning Post, February 28, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2074711/china-stages-another-huge-show-force-xinjiang-wake

[5]  Preeti Bhattacharji. “Uighurs and China’s Xinjiang Region,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 29, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.cfr.org/china/uighurs-chinas-xinjiang-region/p16870