The CSS Blog Network

The Rise of China – A View from Singapore

 Ng Eng Hen

Singapore’s Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen (right). Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet/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

Leveraging Mongolia

Mongolian Expeditionary Task Force 1

Mongolian Expeditionary Task Force 1. Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons.

If asked how China, the United States, Japan and other Asian countries might engage with each other more constructively, it is doubtful that the first word that would come to mind would be “Mongolia.” And if then asked what mechanism Mongolia would use to further mutual comity and understanding, it is unlikely that ‘Khaan Quest’ would be mentioned. Yet there are compelling reasons to justify both answers. Military-to-military diplomacy is an important form of statecraft and its utility in Asia remains obvious.

This past summer marked the 10th anniversary of the Mongolian Armed Forces’ Khaan Quest exercises, which among other activities brings militaries from around the world to share their best practices in multinational peacekeeping operations (PKO). This focus may at first appear narrow, but for three reasons the impact of Khaan Quest is potentially positive and significant.

Reason #1: Khaan Quest has symbolic value in a historically fractured and suspicious region. Indeed, it is a symbol, in the words of Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, of “mutual respect among nations . . . and a vivid example of how countries can collaborate despite differences in forms of government, social and economic systems.” » More

Which Asian Century?

War Memorial of Korea – honor guard ceremony and museum exhibits – Seoul, South Korea, courtesy of Expert Infantry/Flickr

NEW YORK – It has become something of a cliché to predict that Asia will dominate the twenty-first century. It is a safe prediction, given that Asia is already home to nearly 60% of the world’s population and accounts for roughly 25% of global economic output. Asia is also the region where many of this century’s most influential countries – including China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, and the United States – interact.

But to point to Asia’s growing importance says nothing about its character. There can be two, very different Asian centuries, and the one that emerges will have profound consequences for the region’s peoples and governments – and for the world.

One future is an Asia that is relatively familiar: a region whose economies continue to enjoy robust levels of growth and manage to avoid conflict with one another. » More

China as a Major Arms Exporter: Implications for Southeast Asia

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

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ANZUS and the new Defence White Paper

F/A-18 and F-16's fly in formation over Sydney, Australia

F/A-18 and F-16’s fly in formation over Sydney, Australia. Photo: Department of Defence/flickr.

Last Friday’s Defence White Paper (DWP) rightly drew a lot of praise from (most) of the analytical community and the media. Many commentators, including myself, welcomed the more cautious tone regarding China’s military rise and the dismissal of Australia having to choose between Washington and Beijing. Does that mean Australia is less supportive of our US alliance? I’d argue that exactly the opposite is the case. There are several key points that support my view.

First, being more nuanced about China’s military capacity and intentions shows a maturation of Australian strategic thinking which surely is welcomed in Washington. As it seeks to integrate (not contain) China, Washington doesn’t need alarmist rhetoric about Beijing from its allies. It also doesn’t want us to invest in military capabilities such as nuclear submarines or long-range strike assets which would unnecessarily duplicate theirs and send provocative signals to China. » More

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