Gringo Lost

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Archive for the ‘China’ Category

The leading back page headlines…

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Here are some news stories that deserve more main stream coverage.

India-China face-off in South China Sea

[The Financial Times] termed the actions of the Chinese warship as the latest example of Beijing’s assertiveness which had irked India and Vietnam. China claims South China Sea in its entirety, rejecting claims by other nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over the resource rich region.

Maritime disputes between the world’s two most populous countries are a growing concern, especially as China grows more confident in its military capabilities.

The deadly dilemma of Libya’s missing weapons

At one unguarded facility, empty packing crates and documents reveal that 482 sophisticated Russian SA-24 missiles were shipped to Libya in 2004, and now are gone. With a range of 11,000 feet, the SA-24 is Moscow’s modern version of the American “stinger,” which in the 1980s helped the US-backed Afghan mujahideen turn their war against the Soviet Union.

Though Libya’s SA-24s are reportedly the variant without the “gripstick,” which means they cannot be man portable and shoulder fired, they are still a major air defense weapon. In in the wrong hands they could be used as an offensive capability by guerrilla fighters or terrorists.  The small arms and light weaponry looted from Libyan stockpiles is a growing security concern, especially with regards to the missing remnants of Qaddafi’s chemical weapons program.  John Brennan worries that Libya could become an “arms bazaar” for terrorist organizations.

NATO official says alliance won’t stay in Libya for long

“Currently, the situation is so-called post-Gaddafi. And it is not NATO’s intention to stay on top of this situation. The UN should take the reins in its hands, and we are ready to support it, should we receive such a request,” NATO Assistant Secretary General Dirk Brengelmann told reporters.

The UN and NATO are likely to have a major hand in the development of post-Qaddafi Libya. Yet, there has not been an established framework on how they are going to conduct state building in the country and help Libyan rebels create viable governing institutions. Sooner rather than later this needs to be addressed by all the interested parties.

Afghan Army Attracts Few Where Fear Reigns

Afghan and NATO officials have long struggled to entice young men in the heavily Pashtun south — the Taliban heartland — to join the Afghan Army. Despite years of efforts to increase the enlistment of southern Pashtuns, an analysis of recruitment patterns by The New York Times shows that the number of them joining the army remains relatively minuscule, reflecting a deep and lingering fear of the insurgents, or sympathy for them, as well as doubts about the stability and integrity of the central government in Kabul, the capital.

Building a professional and representative Afghan National Army is one of the top priorities of America’s strategy in Afghanistan. However, serious problems remain regarding professionalism, recruitment of quality soldiers, and abuses by ANA personnel such as thievery.  Many parts of Afghanistan are skeptical of the rank and file ANA because they are viewed as miscreants from across the country who are sent into the army by tribal leaders tired of having them in their village.


Written by gringolost

September 10, 2011 at 11:09 am

Obama’s message of internet freedom in China, censored by China

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Speaking in front of a town hall meeting in Shanghai yesterday, President Obama called for more internet freedom in China and took on the issue of the country’s “great firewall” blocking internet traffic.  While many event attendees seemed to be members of the China Communist Youth League, one lone Twitterer was able to slip in a question about China’s ongoing internet censorship.  In response to the question, President Obama said:

I’ve always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.

Reports were that this Q & A was not aired by China’s state owned new agency, Xinhua.  Additionally, Obama’s statements on internet freedom and open communications were being glossed over by more trivial inquiries into his Facebook account.

In my opinion, President Obama should maintain his calls for open communication to “draw the world together,” as he said.  Maybe even 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Obama can echo ex-President Reagan and say: Mr. Jintao, tear down this firewall!

Written by gringolost

November 17, 2009 at 3:13 am

The waning power of India

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In international relations, power can be measured in absolute or relative terms.  When it comes to economic power, a country is mostly likely said to be better off if its economic power increases in absolute terms.  But, when it comes to diplomatic power, a country is more concerned with its relative power vis-à-vis others.

That’s why this article by Brahma Chellaney in Forbes’ Magazine, “Behind the Sri Lankan Bloodbath,” sheds interesting light on the state of India’s power in South Asia.  Because while India may be one of the strongest regional actors in terms of trade, population and military might – it is still struggling to assert itself in the diplomatic arena.

Even the small island-state Sri Lanka, which is proximate to India in many ways, does not operate as a client or as India’s sole beneficiary, instead pledging allegiance to other states (especially China and Pakistan) in return for counterinsurgency support against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

As Chellaney notes, Sri Lanka “practiced adroit but duplicitous diplomacy” which often contradicted India’s interest but was in-line with Sri Lanka’s sovereign interest:

[Sri Lanka] assured India it would approach other arms suppliers only if New Delhi couldn’t provide a particular weapon system it needed. Yet it quietly began buying arms from China and Pakistan without even letting India know. In doing so, Colombo mocked Indian appeals that it rely for its legitimate defense needs on India, the main regional power. It was only by turning to India’s adversaries for weapons, training and other aid that Colombo pulled off a startling military triumph. In any event, Colombo was emboldened by the fact that the more it chipped away at India’s traditional role, the more New Delhi seemed willing to pander to its needs.

Accordingly Chellaney reports, “India’s waning leverage over Sri Lanka” manifested itself in how “it has to jostle for influence there with arch-rivals China and Pakistan.”  As an example, Chellaney uses the billion-dollar seaport being built by Beijing in Sri Lanka’s southeast as a symbol of China’s strategic challenge to India.

In a broader sense, India’s inability to exert diplomatic leverage over other powers becomes apparent with the global influence China has compared to India despite their approximate similarities in demographics, military capability and economic strength.  India’s waning regional influence is exemplified by the Sri Lanka case.

Now, what are the reasons for India’s lackluster ability to project diplomatic power?  In regards to Sri Lanka, Chellaney believes India’s foreign policy suffered because it was not driven by “resolute, long-term goals, but by a meandering approach influenced by the personal caprice of those in power.”  Additionally, I would add that India’s foreign policy is hindered by domestic and border concerns that often receive paramount attention.  And India’s “meandering” approach can be explained by its inability to overcome these critical constraints at home. ♦

How economics and security meet: US-PRC relations

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Dr. Kissinger just penned this article titled Forging a New Agenda with China about how, like-it-or-not, the US and China are locked in an economic relationship that neither country can afford to ignore.  The article is worth a read because it neatly breaks down how our two economies have become so intertwined.  But, I’d like to pullout some quotes that concern global power relationships and how forging collaborative economic institutions can have spillover effects into other realms like international security.

To make this effort [Sino-American partnership] work, American leaders must resist the siren call of a containment policy drawn from the Cold War playbook. China must guard against a policy aimed at reducing alleged American hegemonic designs and the temptation to create an Asian bloc to that end. America and China should not repeat the process that, a century ago, moved Britain and Germany from friendship to a confrontation that drained both societies in a global war. The ultimate victims of such an evolution would be global issues, such as energy, the environment, nuclear proliferation and climate change, which will require a common vision of the future.


[The US & China] must not slide into a 21st-century version of classic balance-of-power politics. It would be especially pernicious if opposing blocs were to form on each side of the Pacific. While the center of gravity of international affairs shifts to Asia, and America finds a new role distinct from hegemony yet compatible with leadership, we need a vision of a Pacific structure based on close cooperation between America and China but also broad enough to enable other countries bordering the Pacific to fulfill their aspirations.

Emphasis added by me because I found this line peculiar coming from the 20th-century’s foremost proponent of realpolitik.

North Korea: What’s the US to do?

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Since, I’m a student at one of the flagship international relations schools, I feel like I should do some real IR blogging on this site (similar to the kind that happens here). So, today when news passed that North Korea has named Kim Jong-un as their next leader, I felt like it was a good idea to start with my IR blogging on the DPRK. After all, there is so much to say about this country.

To recap, within the last two-weeks, the DPRK has detonated a nuclear weapon, ended a 56-year long truce with South Korea, began preparations to test an inter-continental ballistic missile (that would put Alaska and Hawaii within range), and announced their new leader will be the son of Kim Jong-il, a 26 year old spawn who was chosen because of his many “similarities” to his predecessor and father.

What, if anything, should we be worried about this? First, I think the possibility of nuclear attack from Pyongyang against the US is minimal for several reasons. First, The DPRK can’t fit a warhead on any of their missiles to send them across the Pacific. Second, the likelihood that a ballistic missile shot from the northeastern part of the Korean peninsula reaching the northwestern part of the US before it was intercepted by an anti-ballistic missile system is doubtful. This is simply because our ABM systems can intercept a ballistic missile at three stages during its trajectory from this distance (the initial ascent phase; the free-flight/mid-course phase or apogee; and the re-entry phase), giving us ample time and opportunity to strike down an offensive. The last reason why I don’t think the DPRK would try to attack the US is because it wouldn’t serve any strategic purpose, if only to draw the US into a war that wouldn’t make much sense from anyone’s standpoint.

But, a strike against the US is not the most worrisome scenario posed by a nuclear DPRK. North Korea has deep hostilities with regional neighbors such as Japan and South Korea. Recently, after Seoul joined the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in an effort to curb the flow of nuclear materials and missile systems being proliferated by and to Pyongyang, a DPRK military official revealed through threat that the move could provoke war. Yet, Seoul only agreed to join the PSI after Pyongyang conducted its second nuclear test.

The PSI represents an opportunity to reign in the DPRK; if it includes China’s support. Up until now China has declined to support the initiative because it questions whether the treaty interferes with sovereignty and violates international law. But, China’s wavering on the PSI is less of an indication on how it feels about the DPRK. Even Bejing recently lashed out against Pyongyang for its actions. And considering that North Korea is the closest to China of any other country in the world, this must have got their attention.

Gaining China’s acceptance of the PSI wouldn’t stop Pyongyang’s actions, because the DPRK already has the nuclear capabilities it needs, but it would be a clear signal to Pyongyang’s leadership that the region is wholeheartedly against its recent actions. China’s support for the PSI, backing of international sanctions, and restrictions on leadership in North Korea could offer the greatest potential for a diplomatic breakthrough. In fact, what might be the best strategy to obtaining a compliant DPRK is to focus on where it hurts them the most, their leadership.

Continuing with my point, the US shouldn’t back away from its support for South Korea, the six-party talks, and the PSI. But, what may prove more fruitful is if the US can concede some control to China, while maintaining its core objectives in regional negotiations. Hedging that China wants to maintain a stable region and is less susceptible to supporting communist governments (just because they’re communists), the US could reasonably predict that China would at some point increase its pressure on Pyongyang. While this might not work completely, it would at least be a change from our strategies over the past few years, which have basically rewarded Pyongyang for bad behavior. Kind of like providing carrots to the donkey who is immune to the stick. With this new approach, we wouldn’t supply any carrots nor furnish any sticks.

The DPRK has typically gained two benefits from its actions: 1) diplomatic favors/plea bargains and 2) regional legitimacy. Not to mention the economic benefits it receives from selling nuclear materials to places like Syria and Iran. The US cannot prevent the DPRK from receiving these benefits on its own. In actuality, the US is very limited for several reasons (partly because of a poor economic situation at home and an over burdened military abroad). Thus, by conceding more responsibility to regional players, the US could benefit by decreasing its obligations while supporting a more legitimate regionally-focused bargain. The only stipulation must be that deals brokered by China, Russia, and other nations less concerned with the DPRK threat, would have to be more along the lines of punishment or coercement, and not continued rewards and inducements that seek to spoil the DPRK into behaving better.

Written by gringolost

June 1, 2009 at 4:28 pm