Posts Tagged ‘china security’

Finally catching up on some very old posting. Here is a piece on China for the Telegraph, was intended after the 19th Party Congress. I will catch up on other posting later.

Can China avoid an armed confrontation with the West?

Chinese soliders

China is moving towards shedding Deng Xiaoping’s famous maxim about hiding its strength and biding its time. President Xi Jinping’s bold statements during his 19th Party Congress speech last week spoke of a China rising to fill its role on the global stage.

The difficult question for the West is: how will this newfound confidence be expressed in China’s posture on the world stage? And how the rest of the world will have to interact with it?

China’s rise as a military and security power is not a new story. From a third-rate military force in the 1980s, the People’s Liberation Army has transformed itself.

Xi Jinping’s administration has stepped this up through an intensive process of reform that is giving it doctrines and approaches that are competitive with some of the world’s most effective militaries.

China is also expanding its military footprint. We can see this from the establishment of new forward bases, like in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, or through port visits, such as the appearance of Chinese submarines in Sri Lanka.

On land, Chinese peacekeepers are being deployed with increasingly dangerous mandates, something reflected in losses on the ground in parts of Africa.

In military sales, China has leapt up the rankings to become the world’s third largest weapons vendor at around $9.1 billion, according to estimates by SIPRI.

But is this surprising? China will soon be one of the world’s largest economies, with investments and interests all around the globe. It makes sense for it to develop a hard power capability to protect its interests and people as they go out under the auspices of Xi Jinping’s keynote “Belt and Road Initiative”, which aims to build a series of land and sea trade routes across Asia.

The dilemma for China is whether this role is one which will complement or compete with the activities of the West – and the United States in particular. The American political scientist Graham Allison believes all rising powers face something called the Thucydides Trap, in which their rapid improvement brings them into inevitable confrontation with an established power which fears replacement.

In reality China’s foreign policy is complex, containing three strands with varying degrees of aggression:

1. China often cooperates with the West

In Afghanistan it has worked closely with the US and Germany on joint training missions, providing training for Afghan security forces, and facilitating negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Kabul. This clearly matches with western interests.

2. China sometimes passively opposes the West

In Syria the US and most of Europe has taken against the Assad regime, against Isil and alongside the Kurdish forces. By contrast, Beijing has thrown its weight firmly behind Assad, and is supporting the fight against Isil only with the proviso that it is ultimately the regime (supported by Russia and Iran) that will bring stability and security back to the country.

The running theme through all of these situations is that China is protecting its own interests. This is quite natural, but an accidental war would be in nobody’s interest. So far, tensions like these re mostly restricted to border countries where China feels it is not being expansionary but merely protecting its homeland.

A bigger dilemma will present itself when China decides to undertake a more aggressive action in some foreign field where it has no direct border dispute but isprotecting its interests or nationals. In this context, what will be the Western response – to support or condemn?

It is not clear we are anywhere near this situation yet, but clearly Beijing has started down a path of preparing itself for such an eventuality. The question at that stage will be whether the West agrees and supports China’s activity, or whether Beijing is seen as an aggressor that requires confrontation.

There is no clean answer to this question. And nor is it clear whether and when it will be faced. But there is no doubt that China is rising as a global power and has a growing military and security footprint to accompany its mighty economic machine. How the world manages this will be one of the defining questions of the next decades.

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A longer paper for ECFR with Jonas looking at China and the Arab Spring. It has managed to pop out before a longer piece on EU-China I am working on, but hopefully that should also land soon. The whole paper can be found here, with a slight typo in my name. The published text to release it is below.

 

China’s Janus-faced response to the Arab revolutions

China’s zigzagging response to the Arab revolutions: How Europe can benefit

China was caught off guard by the Arab revolutions. Its first response in Libya was to go along with international sanctions against Gaddafi for abuses on his people while undertaking its largest evacuation mission of Chinese citizens. It then changed tack and verbally opposed international military action. The protection of citizens abroad didn’t extend internally in China, where a crackdown was carried out in response to minor breezes of the Jasmine Spring.

This zigzagging response to the crisis points to the new pressures that Beijing is under, from growing international interests, pressuring traditional non-interference principles abroad, to a population that is also increasingly connected to events across the globe.

A new policy memo published by the European Council on Foreign Relations, China’s Janus-faced response to the Arab revolution, explores these arguments. The authors, Jonas Parello-Plesner andRaffaello Pantucci, argue that:

  • China has now laid down a ‘responsibility to protect’ its own citizens abroad. China’s international interests (it had an estimated 38,000 nationals in Libya, along with contracts worth $18.8 billion) mean it can no longer remain aloof from developments like the Arab revolutions.
  • Beijing’s behaviour is increasingly influenced by relationships with other nations, for instance South-South cooperation. Its initial support for sanctions in Libya was influenced by the stance of Arab nations and the Arab League.
  • Beijing’s domestic crackdown, including the arrest of artist Ai Weiwei, demonstrate the authorities’ concerns about increasing connections to the outside world and the internal development of a bustling public sphere with more than 400 million internet users and where microblogs are used to dodge censorship and expose official corruption.

Click here for the pdf of the memo

The authors argue that the EU has the opportunity to push for Chinese responsibility on the international stage because China sees a pragmatic need to protect its investments and citizens. They recommend that:

  1. The EU should engage with China on framing stability in a broader bandwidth and look at joint approaches to crisis management and good governance in third countries.
  2. EU should develop a strategy for influencing China through others, as Arab and African reactions to Libya counted more than Western pressure. A discreet China component could be added to EU dialogues with other emerging countries.
  3. The EU needs to remain vocal and consistent on Chinese human rights and internal reforms.

“Chinese zigzagging is a reflection of a broader realisation that its previous posture of absolute non-interference is increasingly at odds with its global economic presence.”

A somewhat inflammatory title for my latest for Whose World Order? – but oh well. Daily life feels pretty far from a police state to be honest. Addresses some points I have touched upon previously, and I am going into greater detail about in an upcoming longer piece.

Shanghai View: Living in a police state

Date: 10th May 2011  |  Author: Raffaello Pantucci,

Categories: China,
Tags: , AppleIpadPla

Things are strange in China at the moment. This past week there was the announcement that the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) had told broadcasters not to show TV dramas related to spying, criminal cases, romance or time-travel during May, June and July. The reason is the upcoming 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the desire of the organs of state that the public is entertained appropriately. This came on the heels of an article published in the magazine of the Central Party School by Zhou Yongkang, the powerful politburo member in charge of State Security, in which he proposed the creation of a massive ID card database including all adult citizens on the mainland to ensure “perfection of citizen identification registration and management.” Orwellian sounding stuff indeed.

Of course, some objectivity needs to be maintained here – the ID card system has only been proposed, and many Chinese already have something similar (though this new version would contain more information). SARFT, on the other hand, was quite quick in clarifying that “we aimed not at forbidding but delaying the broadcast of TV shows relating to spies, crime and time-travel.” Their intention was solely to encourage channels “to play dozens of excellent shows on revolution and development of the Communist Party of China.” So that’s ok then – but I leave it to your vivid imaginations to imagine what would happen if any of this was proposed in Europe.

Additionally, on the eve of the big US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue happening in Washington, the New York Times ran a story detailing the growing number of problems that diplomats and journalists have been encountering in China. With regard to both groups, I can testify from a conference I attended last week, and from speaking to friends in Beijing, that things seem particularly glum at the moment. Many of those I spoke to talked of a prevailing tense wind in the air. In one visible demonstration of this, after crowds got unruly at the Apple store in Beijing while queuing frantically for the new iPad2, a foreign store owner came out and ended up getting into a fight with scalpers. Rather than even try to thrash out the case in court, the Apple store chose to quickly settle, giving the aggrieved party (a likely scalper, as even reported now in the state press) 20,000RMB to go away – that’s about £2,000. It is a testament to the company’s fear of generating a bad name for itself in China that it so quickly capitulated to make the story go away.

But not everything is bad and scary. On a more positive note, while researching this post, I came across the reassuring news that the “PLA denies rumours of massive cutbacks.” We were, of course, all very concerned that the People’s Liberation Army was shrinking.