Barack Obama. Photo: Steve Jurvetson/flickr.
In international relations, there exists diplomatic theater and diplomatic facts. A recent example of theater is the agreement between China and the United States to expand their military exchanges and bilateral scientific contacts. The reality, however, is something quite different. The US Department of Defense, for example, continues to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, which forbids any contact with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staff members that might result in the “inappropriate exposure” of key US operational plans, dispositions or activities. China’s astronauts, in turn, remain banned from the International Space Station and, more recently, its scientists were prohibited from attending an academic conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
At the heart of these prohibitions is the US Congress. Over the past few years it has thwarted the funding for joint Sino-American projects; it has voiced concerns about the potential theft of US space technology; and it played a key role in terminating an exchange program that helped facilitate Sino-America dialogue on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unsurprisingly, leading American scientists are upset about the missed opportunities that these restrictions represent. Yes, they include missed chances for collaborative research, but they also represent a lost opportunity for each country to gain deeper insights into the long-term strategic interests of each other. » More
Chinese Type 99 Battle Tank on Display at the Beijing Military Museum, August 2007, courtesy of Max Smith/Wikimedia Commons
An article in the New York Times on 20 October 2013 highlighted China’s emergence as a major exporter of advanced weapons systems. The global arms market has traditionally been dominated by a handful of mostly Western suppliers: the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and, increasingly, Israel.
Now, however, China appears to be mounting some serious competition to this cabal, with its ability to offer increasingly sophisticated weaponry at rock-bottom prices. According to the NYT, this catalogue includes Predator-like armed drones, air-defence systems similar in capabilities to the Patriot missile, and perhaps even stealth fighter jets. » More
Dried Poppies. Image: Wikipedia.
The notorious illicit opium-producing area—the Golden Triangle—between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand in the heart of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) has become the focal point for China’s external antidrug policy. Connected by the Mekong River—which flows from the Chinese province of Yunnan through Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam into the South China Sea—this subregion is now the new frontline in China’s war on drugs, especially along the borders of northern Laos and northern Myanmar. The area is endowed with an ideal climate for opium poppy cultivation, the prime ingredient for heroin. Drug trafficking from the Golden Triangle into mainland China through Yunnan is currently perceived by the Chinese government as a serious nontraditional security challenge as it is estimated that between 60-70 percent of the drugs consumed in China come from this region. » More
Political Bureau member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Mr. Liu Yunshan with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the President’s House. Source: Flickr, Sudath Silva
Since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009, China has not only emerged as the main strategic actor in Sri Lanka, it has also replicated a familiar set of development and partnership strategies in the process. For instance, in 2012 Chinese companies completed the construction of a deep water port at Hambantola at an estimated cost of $450 million. More recently, the Sri Lankan Port authority announced a Chinese-backed $1.4 billion deal for the reclamation of 568 acres of land and construction of a new port near Colombo. Accordingly, China’s growing involvement in the Sri Lankan maritime sector is starting to bear all the hallmarks of its development of the Pakistani port of Qwadar. Currently managed by China Overseas Port Holdings, the port stands at the east entrance of the Straits of Hormuz and is set to be linked by road, rail and pipeline infrastructure to the resource-rich Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Like the Qwadar-Xinjiang Development Corridor project, China also views its growing interests in Sri Lanka as a geopolitical game changer. Chinese strategists have long feared that adversaries could close the Straits of Malacca in the event of conflict, thereby starving China of energy supplies and other strategic imports. In this respect, maritime facilities located on the island potentially allow Beijing to exert greater influence over the Straits. Yet, this has not gone unnoticed by South Asia’s traditional maritime and regional power India, which is also worried about the growing military partnership between China and Sri Lanka. » More
Vice President Joseph Biden delivers remarks at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue Joint Opening Session in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the US Departement of State in Washingon, D.C.
As the latest issue of the Pacific Forum’s Comparative Connections journal suggests, the success of the US’s realignment to Asia will certainly depend on its rapport with China. And yet, a lot has changed since Hillary Clinton’s article first popularized the ‘pivot to Asia’ idea. (See America’s Pacific Century.) That’s why Richard Weitz’s recent visit to the Center for Security Studies (CSS) was a fortuitous one. It provided us with the opportunity to ask him three questions about this major shift in US foreign policy.