China and the U.S.: Military and Economic Rivalry Analyzed, Part 4

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has just released its 2017 “Report to Congress.” The Commission’s analysis reveals that Beijing’s meteoric economic rise in recent years is beginning to show some strain and  increasing debt. Of particular concern to Americans is the vast deficit the U.S. has in its trade relations, some of which has been generated by China’s unfair trade practices.  Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is Beijing’s continued massive growth in military power, and the aggressive nature of Chinese relations with nations within its region.  We have excerpted the key findings of the Report, and present them in four parts without comment. 

 

CHINA’S DOMESTIC INFORMATION CONTROLS, GLOBAL MEDIA INFLUENCE, AND CYBER DIPLOMACY

In 2017, the CCP tightened its control over media and online content. Authorities shut down independent media, penalized companies for disseminating news content without authorization, and eroded the privacy of Internet users in China by forcing them to connect their online profiles to their real names. As a result of a crackdown on “unauthorized” virtual private networks (VPNs), many popular VPN apps have been removed from online stores, and some VPN distributors based in China have been prosecuted and harassed by the state. VPNs have historically been one of the only reliable methods of circumventing China’s censorship of the Internet; this censorship functions as a “tax” by forcing users to spend more time and money to access blocked content. The Chinese government’s nascent “social credit” program, which relies on accumulated user data to build comprehensive profiles of Chinese citizens, is set to usher in a period of pervasive personal surveillance and social engineering. Multinational corporations with operations in China also have become unsettled by the tightening information controls, which many said negatively impact their business.

Amid the crackdown on independent media, and as journalists increasingly fear the repercussions of pursuing sensitive stories, investigative reporting in China has gradually diminished. Foreign journalists and their local assistants in China now face more restrictions and harassment than at any other time in recent history. The Chinese government also delays or denies visas from foreign journalists; in at least one case in 2016, Chinese authorities held up a visa for a foreign journalist until they were satisfied that another recent hire by the same press agency would not be covering human rights. Foreign correspondents also are increasingly being summoned by local authorities for informal interrogations.

Meanwhile, Beijing has rapidly expanded its overseas media influence by growing its overseas press corps and by exerting pressure on foreign publications both indirectly and directly. In April, the Chinese government also launched a major international media campaign to discredit a Chinese whistleblower living in the United States. In August, the Turkish foreign minister vowed to eliminate anti-China media reports in that country. Chinese authorities also (ultimately unsuccessfully) pressured Cambridge University Press to censor several of its academic publications. At the same time, China’s influence over Hollywood and the U.S. entertainment industry has grown.

The Chinese government has been promoting its views of “Internet sovereignty,” including in international fora, to legitimize its monitoring and control the Internet in China. This concept entails that a government has the right to monitor and control the networks in its territory and the content that Internet users there access and transmit. Beijing also advocates for a “multilateral” system of Internet governance in which national governments are the main actors. These views sharply contrast with longstanding U.S. support for the “multistakeholder” model, in which governmental, industry, academic, and other nonstate organizations have an equal role in the management of the Internet.

CHINA’S HIGH TECH DEVELOPMENT

The Chinese government is implementing a comprehensive, long-term industrial strategy to ensure its global dominance in computing, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, and biotechnology. This strategy is laid out in the 13th Five-Year Plan, and the Made in China 2025 and Internet Plus initiatives and continues China’s state-directed approach over the last six decades to build internationally competitive domestic firms. Beijing’s ultimate goal is for domestic companies to replace foreign companies as designers and manufacturers of key technology and products first at home, then abroad. It utilizes state funding, regulations, China-specific standards, localization targets, government procurement, foreign investment restrictions, recruitment of foreign talent, close integration of civilian and military technology development, and, in some cases, industrial espionage.

China is also leveraging the openness of the United States and other market-based economies to gain access to advanced research and data, recruit a globally talented workforce, acquire and invest in leading edge firms, and freely sell their products and services abroad. The scale and volume of government resources directed toward these sectors undermines the ability of foreign firms to fairly compete in China’s market and creates distorted global and domestic market conditions and rampant overproduction and overcapacity. In addition, China’s high market access barriers for foreign firms, localization targets, and China specific standards further restrict foreign competition’s access to China’s rapidly growing market, a major loss of market and job opportunities.

The United States remains a global technological and innovation leader in many cutting-edge, dual-use technologies due to its world-renowned universities, innovation ecosystem, federal funding of basic research and development (R&D), and recruitment of the world’s brightest minds. But falling and inconsistent federal R&D spending, reduced openness to global talent, and lack of interagency coordination are undermining these drivers of U.S. innovation to China’s advantage. Loss of global leadership in these key high-value-added, dual-use sectors is detrimental to U.S. long-term economic growth, weakening U.S. firms’ competitive edge, and reducing the capabilities, capacity, and resilience of the U.S. defense industrial base.

 

 

China and the U.S.: Military and Economic Rivalry Analyzed, Part 3

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has just released its 2017 “Report to Congress.” The Commission’s analysis reveals that Beijing’s meteoric economic rise in recent years is beginning to show some strain and  increasing debt. Of particular concern to Americans is the vast deficit the U.S. has in its trade relations, some of which has been generated by China’s unfair trade practices.  Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is Beijing’s continued massive growth in military power, and the aggressive nature of Chinese relations with nations within its region.  We have excerpted the key findings of the Report, and present them in four parts without comment. 

CHINA AND THE WORLD

China and continental Southeast Asia

China’s relations with Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand are driven by two broad goals: taking advantage of Southeast Asia’s economic potential and balancing the region’s geopolitical opportunities against its security vulnerabilities. In pursuit of these goals, China has leveraged its economic importance to Southeast Asia and capitalized on regional countries’ infrastructure needs. China has also forged ties with key regional political groups, particularly in Burma where China has supported different sides of Burma’s ethnic conflict.

Economically, the region boasts some of the highest growth rates in the world as well as valuable mineral and agricultural resources, such as Burma’s $31 billion jade trade. China uses a number of tactics to exploit the region—including trade links, infrastructure projects, and assistance packages—in a way that benefits China’s economic interests. For example, Chinese infrastructure projects in the region will help give Chinese exporters a competitive edge in regional markets and ameliorate excess capacity in China’s construction sector. Chinese firms have also invested in plantations and mineral extraction projects that have harmed host countries, including jade smuggling in Burma and pesticide-heavy plantations in Laos that have left thousands of workers sick.

Geopolitically, China desires stability and leverage along its 1,370 mile border with Burma where fighting between ethnic armed groups and Burma’s army has claimed the lives of Chinese citizens. China sees an opportunity to bypass its energy supply vulnerabilities in the Strait of Malacca by establishing transportation corridors through Burma and has built oil and natural gas pipelines connecting China to Burma’s Indian Ocean coast, where China seeks to control a key port. China has used regional countries’ membership in the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) to its advantage—China’s financial support and close relationship with Cambodia has been pivotal to preventing joint ASEAN opposition to China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea. Finally, following the coup in Thailand, China has sought to move closer to the U.S. treaty ally, and has exceeded the United States in arms sales to Thailand, although the degree to which Thai-China ties have improved is uncertain.

Geopolitically, China desires stability and leverage along its 1,370 mile border with Burma where fighting between ethnic armed groups and Burma’s army has claimed the lives of Chinese citizens. China sees an opportunity to bypass its energy supply vulnerabilities in the Strait of Malacca by establishing transportation corridors through Burma and has built oil and natural gas pipelines connecting China to Burma’s Indian Ocean coast, where China seeks to control a key port. China has used regional countries’ membership in the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) to its advantage—China’s financial support and close relationship with Cambodia has been pivotal to preventing joint ASEAN opposition to China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea. Finally, following the coup in Thailand, China has sought to move closer to the U.S. treaty ally, and has exceeded the United States in arms sales to Thailand, although the degree to which Thai-China ties have improved is uncertain.

China and Northeast Asia

Northeast Asia—encompassing China, Japan, North Korea, and South Korea—is the locus of some of the most pressing security challenges in Asia. Two of these countries—Japan and South Korea—are U.S. treaty allies. North Korea, on the other hand, is highly antagonistic to the United States and a threat to global peace and security.

Although Beijing increasingly is frustrated and concerned by Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear testing and escalatory rhetoric, China is North Korea’s top trading partner, most reliable supporter, and treaty ally. China is necessarily a key player in any significant international effort to manage the North Korean threat, and took some steps to strengthen international sanctions against North Korea in 2017. It is too soon to measure China’s compliance with the latest rounds of sanctions, which, if implemented fully, would significantly constrain the North Korean regime’s ability to fund its nuclear and conventional weapons programs. Given China’s lackluster record of previous sanctions enforcement and continued sanctions violations by Chinese companies exporting dual-use items to North Korea, however, the United States and the international community should keep their expectations low. China’s reluctance to assist with the U.S.-led effort to neutralize the North Korean threat is also driven by Beijing’s belief that Washington’s North Korea policy is designed to strengthen U.S. regional alliances and military posture to contain China.

China-South Korea relations are evidence of this belief. After years of generally positive bilateral relations buoyed by robust trade and cooperative efforts by the countries’ top leaders, the China-South Korea relationship took a negative turn starting in 2016 over the planned deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea. China indicated its displeasure with this development by mounting a massive economic retaliation campaign against South Korea, causing millions of dollars in losses and forcing one South Korean company to cut back on operations in China. Comparing China’s harsh rhetorical response to THAAD and its lukewarm response to North Korea’s provocations, it appears Beijing finds U.S.-South Korea missile defense cooperation to be a greater threat to Chinese interests than a nuclear-armed North Korea. China has clearly signaled to South Korea that cooperation with the United States will be met with punishment from Beijing. This puts Seoul, which already struggles to balance its relations with Washington and Beijing, in a strategically difficult position, and will necessarily complicate U.S. efforts to enhance cooperation with South Korea going forward.

China-Japan relations continue to be strained as well, with the East China Sea dispute remaining the central flashpoint. Although tensions there have declined since their peak in 2012–2013, the dispute continued to simmer in 2017 with persistent Chinese maritime operations near the Senkaku Islands and sharply increasing Chinese air operations in the East China Sea.

In the near term, Chinese aggression toward Japan and economic coercion against South Korea seem to be driving both countries toward closer security cooperation with the United States. Prospects for enhanced South Korea-Japan security cooperation are less certain, however, and longstanding tensions between the two countries complicate U.S. efforts to evolve Northeast Asia’s security architecture from a “hub and spokes” model to a more integrated trilateral cooperative structure.

China and Taiwan

Cross-Strait relations entered a period of increased tension after President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in January 2016, as Beijing steadily increased pressure on Taiwan. Despite President Tsai’s cross-Strait policy of “maintaining the status quo,” Beijing has been displeased with her unwillingness to endorse the “one China” framework for cross-Strait relations (a 1992 framework Taipei and Beijing endorsed during the previous administration in Taiwan that acknowledges there is “one China,” but that allows each side to maintain its own interpretation of the meaning of “one China”). The measures Beijing is employing to pressure Taiwan include suspending official and semiofficial cross-Strait communication and meetings; establishing diplomatic relations with three of Taiwan’s former diplomatic partners (The Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama); reducing the number of Chinese group tours to Taiwan and Chinese students who can attend Taiwan universities; refusing to facilitate repatriation to Taiwan of citizens accused of telecommunications fraud in countries with which Taiwan does not have diplomatic relations; and blocking Taiwan’s participation in certain international fora, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the UN World Health Assembly. A complicating factor in cross-Strait relations is Taiwan’s dependence on China-bound exports. China remains Taiwan’s largest trading partner, biggest export market, and top source of imports, giving Beijing significant economic leverage over Taipei. President Tsai has sought to reduce Taiwan’s reliance on China by diversifying Taiwan’s economic ties. Central to this effort is President Tsai’s New Southbound Policy, which seeks to strengthen trade, investment, people-to-people, and other links with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Oceania. The policy already has led to increased tourism to Taiwan, with the number of visitors from New Southbound Policy target countries increasing 28.6 percent in the first six months after the policy was enacted.

China’s military modernization program remains focused on deterring Taiwan from moving toward formal independence and preparing the Chinese military for a cross-Strait conflict. Faced with a growing threat from China’s military modernization, Taiwan has sought to enhance its own military capabilities in part by indigenously developing combat ships, aircraft, and weapons systems. Advanced antiship cruise missiles, air defense missiles, and fast attack and stealthy catamaran-style patrol ships are among the newest platforms and weapons systems Taiwan has produced. In 2017, Taiwan launched programs to build submarines and advanced jet trainers. Taiwan also seeks to enhance its military capabilities through the procurement of military equipment from the United States. In June 2017, the U.S. Department of State announced its approval of seven foreign military sales and one direct commercial sale to Taiwan valued at $1.4 billion, including AGM-154C joint stand-off weapon air-to-ground missiles and AGM-88B high-speed antiradiation missiles, among other items.

President Tsai has emphasized enhancing Taiwan’s economic relations with the United States as a top priority for her administration. Although there remain obstacles for U.S.-Taiwan trade (particularly the decade-long dispute over Taiwan’s ban on U.S. pork products), both Washington and Taipei remain committed to furthering their economic relationship. Beyond commercial and security ties, U.S.-Taiwan cooperation spans many other areas, including environmental protection, cybersecurity, education, public health, and science and technology. Taiwan’s robust democracy, civil society, and technology sector, and its vast expertise and experience in areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, make it a strong partner for the United States.

China and Hong Kong

In 2017, 20 years after Hong Kong’s handover from the United Kingdom to China, Beijing continued to erode the spirit of the “one country, two systems” policy that has guided its relationship with Hong Kong since 1997. (This policy grants Hong Kong and Macau the right to self-govern their economy and political system to a certain extent, excluding foreign affairs and defense.) The Chinese government increased its interference in the territory’s political affairs, becoming more pervasive in Hong Kong’s government and civil society. Several notable examples include Beijing’s use of legal measures to vacate the seats of six democratically-elected legislators for altering their oaths of office before taking office; its reported involvement in the apparent extralegal abduction of a Chinese billionaire from Hong Kong; and its active efforts to ensure Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was selected as the territory’s new chief executive. Hong Kong’s rule of law, widely viewed as central to its unique status and a key distinguishing characteristic from the Mainland, is being challenged on many fronts. Freedom of expression in the territory—as guaranteed by China’s handover agreement with the UK and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution— also faces mounting challenges; these range from a crackdown on prodemocracy activists to pressure on the media, universities, and others to self-censor and conform to Beijing’s views.

As it has done in other aspects of Hong Kong’s politics and society, Beijing has become more active in asserting its presence in Hong Kong’s economy. For example, in 2017, Hong Kong-listed Chinese state-owned enterprises were ordered to include a formal role for the CCP in their articles of association, raising concerns among investors who feel the Chinese government is interfering in business operations. Integration of the mainland and Hong Kong economies continues to deepen, with the launch of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the China-Hong Kong Bond Connect serving as the latest in a series of measures aimed at attracting global investors to China’s domestic markets. Hong Kong’s strong rule of law and economic openness have long made it an important destination for international trade and investment. However, some observers are beginning to question Hong Kong’s ability to maintain its status as Asia’s premier financial center if companies and individuals lose confidence in the territory’s rule of law, political autonomy, and other freedoms as they are eroded by Beijing.

Mainland China’s increasing encroachment on Hong Kong’s promised “high degree of autonomy” poses obstacles for the United States in carrying out its policy objectives in the territory. Hong Kong is a major destination and partner for U.S. trade and investment and plays a valuable role as a participant in important international economic organizations. In light of China’s recent intrusions into Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, some observers argue the territory is losing its unique characteristics that make it a close U.S. partner in the Asia Pacific. U.S. allies and partners in the region, particularly Taiwan, also are closely watching these developments with unease. The Mainland’s adherence to its commitments regarding Hong Kong is necessary to ensure continued strong ties between the United States and the territory.

The Report Concludes Tomorrow.

China and the U.S.: Military and Economic Rivalry Analyzed, Part 2

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has just released its 2017 “Report to Congress.” The Commission’s analysis reveals that Beijing’s meteoric economic rise in recent years is beginning to show some strain and  increasing debt. Of particular concern to Americans is the vast deficit the U.S. has in its trade relations, some of which has been generated by China’s unfair trade practices.  Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is Beijing’s continued massive growth in military power, and the aggressive nature of Chinese relations with nations within its region.  We have excerpted the key findings of the Report, and present them in four parts without comment. 

U.S.-China Security Relations

China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea and in South Asia flared in 2017. China continued to rely primarily on nonmilitary and semiofficial actors (such as the China Coast Guard and maritime militia) to advance its interests in the disputed South China Sea, straining already-unsettled relations with the Philippines and Vietnam. The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which overwhelmingly sided against China’s position, has not deterred Beijing. China’s territorial assertiveness was also on display when Chinese armed forces attempted to consolidate control over territory disputed by Bhutan and India. Ultimately, India was more successful than the Philippines and Vietnam in countering Chinese coercion.

China’s One Belt, One Road initiative continued to expand in 2017. Although China claims the mega-project is primarily economic in nature, strategic imperatives are at the heart of the initiative. China aims to use One Belt, One Road projects to expand its access to strategically important places, particularly in the Indian Ocean; to enhance its energy security; and to increase its leverage and influence over other countries.

The People’s Liberation Army continues to extend its presence outside of China’s immediate periphery by opening its first overseas military base in Djibouti, increasing its contributions to UN peacekeeping operations, and conducting more bilateral and multilateral exercises. China’s arms exports continued to grow in volume and sophistication in 2017, although they remain limited to low- and middle-income countries and are dwarfed by U.S. and Russian sales in value. The People’s Liberation Army’s expanded exercise portfolio includes new partners, such as Burma and Nepal, as well as long-time partners Pakistan and Russia. China’s defense ties with Russia continued an upward trend in 2017.

U.S.-China security relations saw new dialogue formats emerge following the U.S. presidential transition, but were marked by growing tension due to disagreements over issues such as North Korean denuclearization and China’s continued coercive actions in regional territorial disputes.

CHINA’S MILITARY MODERNIZATION IN 2017

China’s military modernization program seeks to advance Beijing’s security interests, prevent other countries from challenging those interests, and defend China’s sovereignty claims to disputed areas along its border and maritime periphery. The weapons and systems under development and those that are being fielded by China’s military—such as intermediate-range ballistic missiles, bombers with long-range precision strike capabilities, and guided missile nuclear attack submarines—are intended to provide China the capability to strike targets further from shore, such as Guam, and potentially complicate U.S. responses to crises involving China in the Indo-Pacific.

China will continue to modernize strategic air and sea lift capabilities, which will enable China’s military to conduct expeditionary operations. The continued production of the Chinese navy’s amphibious lift ships and the air force’s heavy lift transport aircraft will increase China’s ability to deliver troops abroad and to conduct expeditionary operations beyond the first island chain, humanitarian assistance operations, and noncombatant evacuation operations.

China’s increasingly accurate and advanced missile forces are intended to erode the ability of the United States to operate freely in the region in the event of a conflict and are capable of holding U.S. forces in the region at risk.

China’s continued focus on developing counterspace capabilities indicates Beijing seeks to hold U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance satellites at risk in the event of conflict.

The consolidation of space, cyber, electronic warfare, signals, and potentially human intelligence capabilities under the Strategic Support Force provides China a centralized all-source intelligence apparatus to support national-level decision makers. Furthermore, this development could strengthen the Chinese military’s ability to conduct integrated joint operations by providing a wide range of collection capabilities including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to commanders responsible for operational forces under the military’s five theater commands.

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PLA GROUND FORCES • 850,000 Troops • 13 Group Armies • 78 Combined Arms Brigades • 2 Infantry Brigades • 4 Infantry Divisions • 1 Mechanized Infantry Brigade • 15 Air Defense Brigades • 14 Army Aviation Brigades • 15 Artillery Brigades • 1 Airborne Corps • 15 Special Operations Brigades • 7,000 Tanks • 8,000 Artillery Pieces PLA AIR FORCE AND NAVAL AVIATION • 1,700 Fighter Aircraft • 400 Bombers/Attack Aircraft • 475 Transport Aircraft • 115 Special Mission Aircraft PLA NAVY • 1 Aircraft Carrier • 26 Destroyers • 55 Frigates • 34 Corvettes • 86 Coastal Patrol (Missile) Boats • 27 Tank Landing Ships • 4 Amphibious Transport Docks • 21 Medium Landing Ships • 57 Diesel Attack Submarines • 5 Nuclear Attack Submarines • 4 Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines PLA ROCKET FORCE • 75-100 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles • 200-300 Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles • 1,200 Short-Range Ballistic Missiles • 200-300 Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles • 200-300 Land-Attack Cruise Missiles

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CHINA’S PURSUIT OF ADVANCED WEAPONS

China is pursuing a wide range of military technologies at the global frontier—weapons just now being developed or not yet developed by any country. Advanced systems such as maneuverable reentry vehicles, hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, electromagnetic railguns, counterspace weapons, and unmanned and AI-equipped weapons contribute to China’s longstanding goal of military modernization and its efforts to compete militarily with the United States. They also go hand in hand with Beijing’s desire for the country to become a leading high technology power across commercial and dual-use areas. China’s government has taken a comprehensive approach to the development of key dual-use technologies, leveraging state funding, licit and illicit technological exchange, foreign investment, and talent recruitment opportunities to build national champions and advance its military capabilities.

Although information regarding China’s advanced weapons programs is not always publicly available, numerous open source writings, government statements, and testing and deployment activities indicate Beijing has undertaken vigorous efforts in these areas. China revealed two antiship ballistic missile systems with reported maneuverable reentry vehicle capabilities in 2010 and 2015, respectively, and has taken steps toward developing the reconnaissance-strike complex necessary to successfully strike a moving target at sea, still unproven. China’s hypersonic weapons program appears to be in developmental stages but progressing rapidly, featuring seven likely hypersonic glide vehicle tests since 2014 and a reported scramjet engine flight test in 2015. Following a deep history of research into directed energy weapons, China’s progress includes reported advancements in developing a highpower microwave antimissile system in 2017, at least one chemical high energy laser designed to damage or blind imaging satellites as of 2006 (with likely further developments), and recent marketing of low-power solid state laser weapons. China has reportedly built experimental electromagnetic railguns, and numerous research institutes in China are studying aspects of electromagnetic launch technology. China’s technology tests applicable to counterspace weapons include direct-ascent antisatellite missiles, ground-based directed energy weapons, and rendezvous and proximity operations; and its writings and capabilities indicate the potential for directed energy weapons based on co-orbital platforms. Finally, in addition to developing and marketing a wide range of unmanned systems, China has conducted research into autonomous systems such as AIequipped cruise missiles, autonomous vehicles, and drone swarms, alongside its rapid rise in the global commercial AI sector.

While the United States appears to retain a lead in developing most of these systems according to public reports, China likely possesses the key factors (scientific knowledge, critical components, and skills and techniques) necessary to successfully develop advanced weapons. China is able to access scientific knowledge through publicly available information, academic exchanges, and strong efforts to cultivate human talent. Its advances in computing and robotics provide critical components for next frontier weapons: semiconductors are key to intelligent weapons systems; supercomputing is crucial for weapons design and testing; industrial robotics enhances the quality and efficiency of manufacturing; and national champions in the commercial robotics and AI sectors are well positioned to provide next frontier military applications. Finally, while China currently trails the United States in developing relevant skills and techniques, the only fundamental barriers to achieving these will be effort: time, will, and financial support. China appears to have the long-term plans, consistent funding, and human talent in place to eventually overcome these barriers. China may in fact be moving toward a phase of higher-end innovation, given cutting-edge advances in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and quantum information science. Should the United States falter in its own efforts, China is well prepared to close the gap further than it already has.

China’s advanced weapons programs present both direct implications for U.S. security interests and broader implications for long-term U.S.-China defense technological competition. Breakthroughs in any of the aforementioned advanced weapons categories would contribute to China’s antiaccess/area denial capabilities and directly challenge U.S. advantages. Notable examples include the potential for antiship ballistic missiles to hold U.S. surface ships at risk; for hypersonic weapons to defeat kinetic missile defenses, if capable of sufficient speed and maneuverability; for directed energy weapons and railguns to undermine future U.S. military concepts such as using distributed low-cost platforms to assure access to contested environments; for counterspace weapons to deny key space-based systems to the U.S. military in a contingency; and for unmanned and AI-equipped weapons in large numbers to saturate U.S. air defenses, particularly by using swarm technology. China is poised to challenge U.S. technological leadership in an environment in which dual-use commercial technology increasingly contributes to military technological strength. As the United States seeks to ensure it is prepared to deter aggression and defend key interests in the Asia Pacific, such as the security of allies and partners, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation, recognizing these critical challenges will be crucial.

HOTSPOTS ALONG CHINA’S MARITIME PERIPHERY

U.S. presence and alliance commitments have helped maintain regional stability in Asia. China’s aggressive actions in the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait threaten principles such as freedom of navigation, the use of international law to settle disputes, and free trade. If Beijing continues to increase its control over the East and South China seas, the United States could receive requests for additional assistance by allies, friends, and partners to improve their capabilities to defend themselves, along with calls for the United States to remain engaged in the region to maintain security and stability.

With China actively preparing contingency plans for operations against U.S. allies, friends, and partners along China’s maritime periphery, the United States and China could quickly become involved in a conflict if Beijing escalates. This risk becomes greater depending on the level of tensions associated with any of the following flashpoints: the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and cross-Strait relations.

Chinese leaders are cautious about letting a crisis escalate into conflict, and Chinese military thinkers study “war control” as a method for limiting the scope of a conflict to minimize negative consequences and achieve a victory at minimal cost. However, if Beijing believes the risk of a response to Chinese action is low, China may be tempted to risk brinksmanship to achieve its national objectives. Furthermore, if Beijing is unable to avoid escalation, any crises involving the use of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) create opportunities to widen a crisis into a conflict that results in the use of force.

China has emphasized building a military capable of responding to situations in multiple regions and has developed theater commands capable of planning and executing missions in their respective areas of responsibility. A key element of success in achieving operational objectives, however, will be managing resources across multiple theaters should China find itself challenged in multiple directions simultaneously. This could create an opportunity to dissuade Chinese aggression or potentially result in Beijing escalating or accelerating a conflict.

The PLA presently lacks the amphibious lift to directly assault Taiwan, and would instead have to successfully seize ports and airfields for the flow of follow-on forces to conduct onisland operations. Likewise, sustaining a prolonged air and maritime blockade against Taiwan is likely to strain PLA logistical capabilities, potentially disrupt trade routes through East Asia, and inhibit freedom of navigation in the region. These are high risk operations for China, and may be conducted only after other coercive options are exhausted.

Military facilities currently under construction in the Spratly Islands are intended to improve the PLA’s operational reach by strengthening logistical support, extending operational reach, and bolstering the military’s capability to monitor potential adversaries. Once these outposts are completed, they will improve the PLA’s ability to take action against Vietnamese or Filipino forces on adjacent features if so ordered. China’s militarization of these features is therefore inherently destabilizing for its neighbors who have overlapping sovereignty claims.

There are several U.S. alliances and other commitments that could be activated by a maritime hotspot conflict with Japan, the Philippines, or Taiwan. Depending on the scenario, the United States could be expected to become involved in a conflict, although China will seek to discourage this by many means, possibly to include ensuring conflict remains in the “grey zone” where U.S. defense commitments are uncertain and the onus of escalation is shifted to China’s adversary.

The forward presence of U.S. forces in East Asia, coupled with the treaty alliances and partnerships of the United States in the region, constitute the most important factor in deterring Chinese adventurism. Nevertheless, they also increase the likelihood, should deterrence fail, that the United States becomes involved in armed conflict. The Commission has documented in previous reports how the balance of military power in the region has shifted in China’s direction. Should that shift continue without a change in U.S. policy, there is a danger that Chinese leaders will consider the United States an obstacle to their ambitions that must be removed. In that event, Beijing may decide to escalate a crisis when the circumstances seem favorable to the achievement of China’s larger ambitions.

The Report Continues Tomorrow.

China and the U.S.: Military and Economic Rivalry Analyzed

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has just released its 2017 “Report to Congress.” The Commission’s analysis reveals that Beijing’s meteoric economic rise in recent years is beginning to show some strain and  increasing debt. Of particular concern to Americans is the vast deficit the U.S. has in its trade relations, some of which has been generated by China’s unfair trade practices.  Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is Beijing’s continued massive growth in military power, and the aggressive nature of Chinese relations with nations within its region.  We have excerpted the key findings of the Report, and present them in four parts without comment.

ECONOMICS AND TRADE

In 2016 and the first half of 2017, the Chinese government has reported it met or exceeded the targets it set for gross domestic product (GDP) growth—an important deliverable in advance of the political leadership transitions at the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress scheduled for October 2017. The Chinese government has achieved this high growth through reliance on old drivers: credit and real estate. However, the government’s unwillingness to allow the market to play a bigger role has resulted in deteriorating investment efficiency, meaning higher levels of debt are necessary to generate growth. Household consumption—an essential element of China’s economic rebalancing—is growing but at a sluggish pace due to the slow rate of reform.

China’s high and rising debt levels pose a growing threat to the country’s financial stability. China’s total debt reached $27.5 trillion, or 257 percent of GDP, at the end of 2016. The dramatic rise in China’s debt burden can be attributed to the relentless expansion of credit the government has relied on to generate growth since the global financial crisis.

The U.S. trade deficit in goods with China totaled $347 billion in 2016, the second-highest deficit on record. In the first eight months of 2017, the goods deficit increased 6.2 percent year-on-year to $239.1 billion, with U.S. exports to China reaching $80.2 billion, an increase of 15 percent year-on-year, while imports from China grew 8.3 percent year-on-year to $319.3 billion. In 2016, the U.S. services trade surplus with China reached a record high of $37 billion, driven almost entirely by an increase in Chinese tourism to the United States.

China’s foreign investment climate continues to deteriorate as government policy contributes to rising protectionism and unfair regulatory restrictions on U.S. companies operating in China. The newly implemented cybersecurity law illustrates this trend. The law contains data localization requirements and a security review process U.S. and foreign firms claim can be used to discriminatorily advantage Chinese businesses or access proprietary information from foreign firms.

U.S. government efforts to tackle China’s trade-distorting practices continue to yield limited results. The inaugural Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, created following a meeting between President Trump and President Xi in April 2017, concluded with no concrete agreements or future agenda.

At the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United States continues to challenge China’s non-compliance with key provisions of its accession agreement, including failure to notify subsidies. In the past year, the United States requested WTO consultations over China’s management of tariff rate quotas for rice, wheat, and corn, and subsidies to select producers of primary aluminum.

CHINESE INVESTMENT IN THE UNITED STATES

Chinese government policies, coupled with increased investor uncertainty in China, have contributed to increased investment flows to the United States in recent years. In 2017, Chinese investment flows to the United States are expected to decline relative to 2016 as the Chinese government seeks to limit capital outflows and fend off risks from mounting corporate debt.

Sectors of the U.S. economy deemed strategic by the Chinese government are more likely to be targeted by Chinese firms for investment, while Chinese investments in nonstrategic sectors like entertainment, real estate, and hospitality are declining amid Chinese Communist Party efforts to limit capital outflows and reduce corporate debt.

Some Chinese firms seek to obscure their dealings in the United States through U.S.-based shell companies or attempt to drive down the value of U.S. assets through sophisticated cyber espionage campaigns. These firms are becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to circumvent Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) reviews and other U.S. investment regulations.

Greenfield investments in the United States are not subject to the CFIUS review process, which may raise national security risks. Although the number of Chinese greenfield investments in the United States remains limited compared to acquisitions of U.S. assets, federal laws and screening mechanisms do not sufficiently require federal authorities to evaluate whether a greenfield investment may pose a national security threat.

The application of the sovereign immunity defense to commercial cases presents a potential risk for U.S. businesses and individuals, allowing Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to conduct unlawful activity in the United States without legal consequences. Some Chinese SOEs are evading legal action in the United States by invoking their status as a foreign government entity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The opaque nature of China’s financial system makes it impossible to verify the accuracy of Chinese companies’ financial disclosures and auditing reports. Chinese businesses continue to list on U.S. stock exchanges to raise capital, despite operating outside the laws and regulations governing U.S. firms.

U.S. regulators have struggled to deter Chinese fraud schemes on U.S. exchanges, with Chinese issuers stealing billions of dollars from U.S. investors. Efforts to prosecute the issuers of the fraudulent securities have been unsuccessful, with Chinese regulators choosing not to pursue firms or individuals for crimes committed by Chinese companies listed overseas.

Some Chinese companies operate with little oversight under China’s opaque financial system, leaving U.S. investors exposed to exploitative and fraudulent schemes perpetrated by China-based issuers. Negotiations between the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and its counterparts in China have resulted in little progress toward securing increased cross-border transparency and accountability.

U.S. ACCESS TO CHINA’S CONSUMER MARKET

China’s rebalancing to a more consumption-driven growth model should present opportunities for U.S. companies in the e-commerce, logistics, and financial services sectors. However, U.S. companies operating in China do not have a level playing field and continue to face significant market access challenges, including informal bans on entry, caps on foreign equity, licensing delays, and data localization policies.

China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, with e-commerce sales reaching $787 billion in 2016. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, by 2019 an estimated one out of every three retail dollars in China will be spent online, the highest percentage in the world. Although China has traditionally provided the world with its manufactured goods, its e-commerce boom should offer increased opportunities for U.S. retailers and brands, with more and more Chinese consumers purchasing foreign goods. Demand is strong in areas where the United States excels, such as high-quality foods and supplements, beauty products, and healthcare-related goods.

Although China’s e-commerce market offers opportunities for U.S. retailers and brands, it is not without its challenges and risks. While the Chinese government has made some improvements in enforcing intellectual property rights, intellectual property issues remain a key challenge for U.S. companies operating in China. In particular, the prevalence of counterfeit goods on Chinese e-commerce platforms continues to hurt U.S. retailers and brands.

E-commerce has been a key driver of improvements to China’s $2.2-trillion-dollar logistics sector. Yet, China’s domestic logistics industry remains underdeveloped, due to the country’s historical focus on improving export logistics at the expense of domestic logistics infrastructure. This has caused logistics to become a major bottleneck for China’s e-commerce sector. China’s efforts to develop and modernize its express delivery industry could offer U.S. logistics firms like FedEx and UPS opportunities to expand their China operations.

Financial services have been a major driver of growth within China’s services sector, increasing 11 percent annually from 2012 to 2016. However, Chinese consumers’ access to financial services remains inadequate, and most Chinese consumers lack formal credit histories. Improving their access to financial services will be critical for raising domestic consumption levels. In addition, China has made limited progress in implementing reforms to improve the market orientation and efficiency of its financial sector.

Financial services are a mainstay of the U.S. economy and a major services export to China. While China has taken some steps to expand foreign firms’ access to its financial markets since joining the World Trade Organization, U.S. financial services companies continue to face significant market access barriers in China. These include informal and formal bans on entry, equity caps, licensing restrictions, and data localization requirements. China’s new cybersecurity law poses additional challenges for U.S. financial institutions operating in China. As a result, U.S. firms’ market share in China’s financial sector has been stagnant or declining in recent years.

China has become a global leader in financial technology. China’s Internet giants have emerged as significant players not only in e-commerce and logistics, but also in China’s financial services sector, particularly in payments and lending.

The Report Continues Tomorrow.

NATO Responds to Russia

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and Georgia, its vast military modernization program, its violation of the INF treaty, and Vladimir Putin’s clear nostalgia for the former Soviet Union have made it clear that a new Cold War has emerged.

In response, NATO has been adjusting to the new threat level. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg  stated this month that “We have seen a much more assertive Russia, we have seen a Russia which has over many years invested heavily in their military capabilities, modernized their military capabilities, which are exercising not only conventional forces but also nuclear forces, and which has been willing to use military force against a neighbor: Ukraine. And of course, NATO has to be able to respond to that and we have responded to that partly with our enhanced Forward Presence with more deployment of troops in the eastern part of the alliance, but also by increasing the readiness of our forces and also increasing our ability to move forces. And we are constantly adapting and what we do in Europe now is part of that adaptation.”

At the end of the recent NATO defense ministers meeting, Stoltenberg discussed how NATO is responding to the new threat level. He  emphasized that “A key component of our adaptation is a robust and agile command structure.  This underpins both our strengthened deterrence and defense posture and our ability to project stability beyond NATO’s borders. At the Warsaw Summit last year, we decided to launch an assessment of the NATO command structure in light of the changed security environment. To ensure it can do the job across the full spectrum of Alliance missions. Today, we agreed on the outline design for an adapted NATO Command Structure, which will be the basis for further work.”

Two new commands will be created:

A Command for the Atlantic, to ensure that sea lines of communication between Europe and North America remain free and secure, and a new Command to improve the movement of military forces across Europe. And ways to strengthen the logistical function across the NATO Command Structure.

Stoltenberg said that “The adaptation of the NATO Command Structure will further strengthen our ability to reinforce Allies quickly and effectively. But military mobility is not only about new commands. It’s also about the ability to move forces and equipment quickly, with the right transport means and the right infrastructure. Since 2014, we have made good progress in improving national legislation. Removing many bureaucratic hurdles to allow us to move forces across Allied territory. But much more needs to be done. We need to ensure that national legislation facilitating border crossing is fully implemented. We need enough transport capacity at our disposal, which largely comes from the private sector. And we need to improve infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railways, runways and ports. So NATO is now updating the military requirements for civilian infrastructure.

“Of course, military mobility is not just about the military. It requires a whole-of-government approach. So it’s important that our defense ministers make our interior, finance and transport ministers aware of military requirements.

“It’s also important that NATO coordinates with the European Union and we are indeed working closely and actively together on this issue. For instance, we share information on standards, requirements, as well as challenges related to civilian infrastructure. So I envisage that military mobility could become a real flagship of NATO-EU cooperation.”

“Other moves approved by the Defense Ministers included increased attention to cyber warfare, including the creation of a new Cyber Operations Centre to help integrate cyber into NATO planning and operations at all levels, and an increase in the size of the alliance’s Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan from, approximately 13,000 to about 16,000 individuals.”

Stoltenberg explained that “We must be just as effective in the cyber domain as we are on land, at sea and in the air, with real-time understanding of the threats we face and the ability to respond however and whenever we choose.”

NATO is changing in a number of ways, some encouraging for the alliance, and some that are frankly worrisome.

Under the leadership of Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, a nation that was once considered a key anchor in NATO’s south, and, before the end of the cold war, the only NATO ally directly bordering the USSR, continues to drift away.  The latest indication is his purchase of a Russian Air Defense System, Moscow’s S-400.  The move has been soundly criticized by the United States.

But as Turkey becomes increasingly estranged, other nations are moving closer.  Sweden, notes RT, recently played host to around 2,000 NATO personnel,” more than 1,400 of whom are from the US, according to the local Sydöstran newspaper. NATO members Denmark, Estonia, France, Lithuania, and Norway are also participating, as well as non-aligned Finland.”

Within the Middle East, Israel may be moving closer to NATO.  According to Judah Ari Gross in The Times of Israel,  Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Israeli Defense Forces, made an undeclared trip to NATO headquarters in Brussels to speak with the top US general in Europe. Regional developments were reportedly discussed. Accompanying Eisenkot were Erez Maisel, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Foreign Relations Division, and Ram Yavne, the head of the army’s Strategic Division. According to The Times, “the senior officers met with Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who serves as both the head of the US military’s European Command and as supreme allied commander of NATO. Hadashot news, formerly known as Channel 2 news, first reported on the unannounced trip.” A key part of the discussion “included Iran’s alleged construction of a military base less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Israel’s Golan border. On Friday, the BBC, citing Western security official, reported that Iran was setting up a permanent base a site used by the Syrian army near el-Kiswah, 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus, and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Israeli border.”

During his presidential campaign, Trump urged NATO members to do more. Emphasizing NATO’s key role continued into his Administration. Todd Lindberg, writing in Commentary notes that “Senior officials of his administration have probably devoted more time and energy to making the public case for NATO and our Pacific alliances during his first 10 months in office than their predecessors did in the previous 10 years.”

Hysteria vs. The White House: What’s Different This Time, Part 2

In Part 2 of our analysis, The New York Analysis of Policy and Government places the media criticism of the Trump White House in perspective, and defines why the actions against the current White House are unique.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, in an American Enterprise Institute  article, notes: “Donald Trump has done very little to justify the hysterical rage which has consumed his critics…, we should remember that a large part of the anti-Trump eruption is cultural. Trump is obviously neither a conventional US politician nor a standard-issue international statesman. These differences, mostly stylistic but with substantive implications, are terribly threatening to his opponents; for his supporters, they are beyond doubt among his most attractive attributes. Trump doesn’t light candles to establishment icons, doesn’t talk the way smooth liberals talk, and most assuredly doesn’t care what America’s mainstream media say.

Kyle Smith, writing in the New York Post, reports that “The unhinged coverage of all Trump scandals, real and imagined, has cost the media in the eyes of the public, among whom only 39 percent said they had a ‘great deal’ or even ‘some’ confidence in news outlets last November…The media are correct in thinking they have an important duty in the Trump era. But the people are correct in noticing that the media is filtering everything through an obsessive hatred for Trump.

What distinguishes the extreme criticism of Trump from that of his predecessors such as Lincoln, Reagan and Bush 43 is the attempt to attempt to invalidate his election.

Initially, violent protests erupted, with the threat of more to come unless somehow the Constitution was ignored and Trump was not inaugurated.  Then came the criticism that he won by gaining the majority of electoral college rather than popular votes.  That faded away, because it was rather swiftly pointed out that the newly elected president had the Constitution on his side, and this had occurred several times in the past. Calls for impeachment followed the President’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.  However, it now seems that Comey’s record at the FBI was spotty at best, and the former FBI chief had sustained substantial criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. That approach failed to gain traction with the public.

That was followed by charges that members of his campaign had “colluded” with the Russians. That has proven to be a double-edged sword. Despite an all-out effort by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team, which contains a number of Clinton contributors, little has been uncovered that would seem to threaten the current White House.  On the contrary, revelations of potentially illegal surveillance by the Obama Administration on its political rivals, and renewed emphasis on the highly questionable sale of uranium to the Russians during the Obama Administration,  has been the unintended consequence.

The uranium sale may be the most potent point in demonstrating that it was the Obama Administration that should be charged with collusion—and that Mueller is less an objective investigator than a partisan politico inadvertently aiding those seeking to  overturn the 2016 election.

The Hill notes that “Anger at Robert Mueller is burning white-hot on the right and in conservative media, where calls for the special counsel to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election have reached a fever pitch…From Fox News to Breitbart and talk radio, conservative media has been drawing attention to Mueller’s relationship with fired former FBI Director James Comey and his hiring of Democrats for his investigative team. They also argue Mueller has gone far beyond his mandate of investigating Russian interference in the election. Conservative media has taken a new tack against Mueller in recent weeks, zeroing in on the sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russia state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom…The sale was approved by nine members on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States … while President Obama was in office. Mueller was the director of the FBI at the time.” David Willman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, reports that “…Mueller has a record that shows a man of fallible judgment…his … approach to evaluating evidence led him to fumble the biggest U.S. terrorism investigation since 9/11…”

To many Republicans, Mueller’s questionable investigation is a painful reminder how official Washington was used by the Obama Administration to wage an illicit repressive effort against its opponents, That era was characterized both the IRS’s now-admitted wrongdoings, and the Justice Department’s actions, which, under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, seriously considered criminally prosecuting organizations that merely disagreed with Obama on climate change.

While extreme criticism of a president is nothing unprecedented, the repeated attempts to overturn the results of a presidential election through a variety of tactics are a new and deeply disturbing development.

 

Hysteria vs. The White House: What’s Different This Time

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government places the media criticism of the Trump White House in perspective, and defines why the actions against the current White House are unique.

Pundits portray the extensive criticism of President Trump as an unusual event, an occurrence if not unprecedented than certainly unique in its extremity. The point a rather biased press seeks to convey is that, in their perception, the 45th President of The United States is an advocate of policies that are particularly dangerous, and hence inspires an exceptional level of condemnation.

It is a venerable historical tradition.

The bulk of the media banks heavily on its belief that the American public suffers with a minute lack of historical knowledge, and retains little memory beyond events of the past year or so. It is aided in this effort both by an academic curriculum that is woefully lacking in adequate teaching of U.S. history, and social media search engines that tend to downplay results that are contrary to the prevailing press mindset.

Media coverage of the Obama Administration was overwhelmingly favorable, indeed, almost fawning.  The limited exceptions included only conservative talk radio, Fox News, and a very limited number of other outlets.  This occurred despite that Administration’s extraordinary failures in foreign policy, its steps which prevented the U.S. economy from recovering from the Great Recession, the enhanced suffering of the middle class, its detrimental impact on race relations, and its unprecedented scandals,(including its use of the IRS to attack political opponents,) its attempts to ignore First Amendment protections (particularly in regard to those disagreeing with the White House on climate change,) its false statements in regard to Benghazi, and the bizarre sale of uranium interests to Russia.

But contrast that with what could accurately be described as the outright hatred displayed by the Fourth Estate for Obama’s immediate predecessor, George W. Bush.  It was so extreme that the term, Bush Derangement Syndrome, (BDS) was coined by the distinguished columnist and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer. He defined BDS as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush” … Krauthammer outlined how the attacks were based more on emotion than logic. In his book, “Things That Matter,” he cites examples of the level of hysteria reached by Bush opponents, including defining the 43rd President as a Frankenstein-like figure.

Using hyperbolic language, inaccurate statements, and emotional rather than intellectual appeals has become something of a regular tactic, used far more effectively by the Left in presidential matters.

Today, President Ronald Reagan has become an iconic figure.  Although arguably one of the most conservative U.S. presidents, he is now regularly invoked by politicians of all stripes.  Even the most progressive president in U.S. history, Barack Obama, at times invoked Reagan’s example.  But it was not always so.  The media portrayed Reagan as likely to start World War Three, and, for good measure, also likely to destroy the U.S. economy.

Outlandish criticism is nothing new in presidential politics.

Perhaps the most salient example of over-the-top criticism of U.S. Presidents can be seen in the treatment of Abraham Lincoln.  The historical site Civil War.org  provides this example:

“’The illustrious Honest Old Abe has continued during the last week to make a fool of himself and to mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation. His speeches have demonstrated the fact that although originally a Herculean rail splitter and more lately a whimsical story teller and side splitter, he is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion. People now marvel how it came to pass that Mr. Lincoln should have been selected as the representative man of any party. His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President. The truth is, Lincoln is only a moderate lawyer and in the larger cities of the Union could pass for no more than a facetious pettifogger. Take him from his vocation and he loses even these small characteristics and indulges in simple twaddle which would disgrace a well bred school boy.’ this tirade was not the rant of a fire-eating secessionist editor in Richmond or New Orleans. It was the declaration of the Salem Advocate, a newspaper printed in Lincoln’s home ground of central Illinois…At the time he was sworn in, Lincoln’s ‘approval rating’ can be estimated by examining wintertime Republican losses in local elections in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Cleveland and St. Louis, and state elections in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island; by the observations of Henry Adams (of the presidential Adamses) that ‘not a third of the House’ supported him; and by the published reckoning of the New York Herald that only 1 million of the 4.7 million who voted in November were still with him. All these indications put his support in the nation at about 25 percent — roughly equivalent to the lowest approval ratings recorded by modern-day polling.”

The Report Concludes Tomorrow.

FUNDING DEFENSE: MEETING THE CHALLENGE, Part 4

The New York Analysis concludes its review of whether the 2018 defense budget is sufficient to meet threats facing the United States.

China’s military has evolved from a large but unsophisticated force into one that rivals any on Earth for technological prowess. Funded by a vast economy, the People’s Liberation Army (which includes all branches of armed services) draws not only on its publicly admitted budget but also on monies gleaned from companies in which it has control or a vested interest.  Beijing was able to move rapidly ahead thanks to its extensive and sophisticated espionage network, which, targeting both private companies and government entities throughout the west, allowed it to save both decades of years and billions of dollars in weapons development. Add corruption to that approach, as well.  From President Bill Clinton’s OK for the sale of a supercomputer to China at a time when that nation sought to contribute to his campaign, and the greed of some corporations to glean major profits from sales, Beijing was able to leapfrog to the heights of military technology while paying only a fraction of the cost Americans had to devote to their own research and development.

To what end?  Writing in National Review, Victor Davis Hanson presents a disturbing answer. “China is currently following the Japanese model of the 1930s and early 1940s… In our arrogance and complacency, we once scoffed at the Japanese… then suffered what followed. Are we doing the same thing some 75 years later?”

The Congressional Research Service notes that “China is building a modern and regionally powerful military with a limited but growing capability for conducting operations away from China’s immediate periphery…China has engaged in a sustained and broad effort over more than 25 years to transform its military…into a high-technology, networked force with an increasing emphasis on joint operations and naval and air power… From 2005 through 2014, China’s official military budget increased at an average rate of 9.5% per year in real terms, allowing the PLA to improve its capabilities in many dimensions. PLA naval forces feature quieter submarines, large surface combatants with improved air defenses and long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, and a nascent aircraft carrier program. New air power capabilities include modern fighter aircraft, more supporting platforms and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in production and under development. The PLA has increased the number and accuracy of its ballistic missiles for both nuclear and conventional strike missions. China has launched numerous satellites for military communications, surveillance, and navigation, and also has developed a variety of counter-space capabilities. The cyber operations of the PLA are harder to characterize, but reports indicate that China has invested heavily in this area…since the late 2000s the PLA has expanded the geographic scope of its operations.”

One salient example of Beijing’s exceptional sophistication is its DF-21 missile, believed to be “A complete game-changer in the Pacific.”  Global Security  explains: Peter M. Bilodeau noted in 2011 that “The DF-21D, if fully operational, could reach all current forward bases in the region with the exception of perhaps Guam. Therefore, the US must consider all current forward bases vulnerable to attack… Gregory R. Bamford noted in 2012 that “The loss of a Nuclear Powered Carrier (CVN) and its associated airwing or an Amphibious Assault Ship (multi-purpose) LHD with its Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) components due to PRC use of the DF-21 ASBM would be a significant strategic defeat for US naval forces in the region. The use of the DF-21, combined with the use of intra-theater ballistic missiles against aircraft, surface units and their associated logistical support bases, could close the South China Sea…”

The advances include strategic nuclear weaponry. Consider just one area: advanced means of delivering nuclear weapons.  An Investors Daily study details the challenge:

“China and post-Soviet Russia are making continued progress on vehicles that can transport nuclear warheads at 10 times the speed of sound … Beijing [has] for the seventh time successfully flight-tested its DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, traveling up to over 7,000 miles per hour…Three days earlier, Russia flight-tested its own hypersonic glider, launched from a ballistic missile…The new vehicles Russia and China are developing go hypersonic in mid-phase, and can maneuver at that high velocity, too fast for missile defenses to be effective…The Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency says it isn’t funding any initiatives to counter hypersonic attack; a laser weapon that could shoot such weapons in flight won’t even be tested until 2021, years after China is expected to be able to deploy the DF-ZF.”

Bill Gertz, writing in the Free Beacon (which has provided exceptional coverage if China’s military threat) reports that China is “pursuing [a] ‘leap ahead’ high tech arms strategy…China is developing an array of advanced, high technology weapons designed to defeat the United States in a future conflict… ‘China is pursuing a range of advanced weapons with disruptive military potential,’ says the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The report outlines six types of advanced arms programs that Beijing has made a priority development in seeking ‘dominance’ in the high-tech weapons area. They include maneuverable missile warheads, hypersonic weapons, laser and beam weapons, electromagnetic railguns, counterspace weapons, and artificial intelligence-directed robots.

The Congressional Research Service notes that “China is building a modern and regionally powerful military with a limited but growing capability for conducting operations away from China’s immediate periphery…China has engaged in a sustained and broad effort over more than 25 years to transform its military…into a high-technology, networked force with an increasing emphasis on joint operations and naval and air power… From 2005 through 2014, China’s official military budget increased at an average rate of 9.5% per year in real terms, allowing the PLA to improve its capabilities in many dimensions. PLA naval forces feature quieter submarines, large surface combatants with improved air defenses and long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, and a nascent aircraft carrier program. New air power capabilities include modern fighter aircraft, more supporting platforms and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in production and under development. The PLA has increased the number and accuracy of its ballistic missiles for both nuclear and conventional strike missions. China has launched numerous satellites for military communications, surveillance, and navigation, and also has developed a variety of counter-space capabilities. The cyber operations of the PLA are harder to characterize, but reports indicate that China has invested heavily in this area…since the late 2000s the PLA has expanded the geographic scope of its operations.”

An area that is the most publicly-noted aspect of China’s advance both in numbers and sophistication in military is its navy. A just-released report from the Congressional Research Service describes the challenge:

“China since the early to mid-1990s has been steadily building a modern and powerful navy. China’s navy in recent years has emerged as a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe. Observers of Chinese and U.S. military forces view China’s improving naval capabilities as posing a challenge in the Western Pacific to the U.S. Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain control of blue-water ocean areas in wartime—the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War. More broadly, these observers view China’s naval capabilities as a key element of a broader Chinese military challenge to the long-standing status of the United States as the leading military power in the Western Pacific…China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of platform and weapon acquisition programs, including anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and supporting C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems… Observers believe China’s naval modernization effort is oriented toward … displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and asserting China’s status as a leading regional power and major world power.”

FUNDING DEFENSE: MEETING THE CHALLENGE, Part 3

The New York Analysis continues its review of whether the 2018 defense budget is sufficient to meet threats facing the United States.

Due to its arm modernization and in its aggressive policies, Iran is a significant threat.  This is important both for the significance of its actions as a single nation, as well as a member of the maturing Russian-Chinese-Iranian axis. Tehran continues to develop its missile technology, provide major support and guidance for terrorist organizations, and expand its reach beyond the Middle East.

The Free Beacon  recently reported that “A top Iranian military commander has threatened to launch ballistic missile attacks on U.S. forces in the region amid a public effort by the Islamic Republic to show off its advanced missile capabilities, according to U.S. officials and regional reports.Iranian leaders disclosed that their advanced ballistic missile technology, which could be used as part of a nuclear weapons program, is sophisticated enough to strike U.S. forces up to nearly 1,300 miles, or 2,000 kilometers, away, which encompasses all U.S. bases in the region.”

Iran’s threat extends beyond the Middle East. In 2015, The United States Institute for Peace quoted the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: “Iran and Hezbollah’s history of involvement in the Western Hemisphere has long been a source of concern for the United States. Given the nature of transnational criminal networks existing in Latin America and the rise of terrorism ideology being exported worldwide from Middle East, it is disturbing that the [Obama] State Department [had] failed to fully allocate necessary resources and attention to properly address this potential threat to our nation. It is well known that Iran poses a security threat to regional affairs and has expanded its ties in countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador.”

In November, according to a Daily Star report,  Iran’s Navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi “announced the major operation as he pledged to sail warships into the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico…The admiral said: ‘The appearance of our vessels in the Mediterranean and Suez Canal shocked the world and the US also made comments on it.’ He promised the warships would steam close to US waters “in the near future” and would visit nations in South America.”

In 2012, Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) noted that Iran used its terrorist Hezbollah proxy force in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, to gain influence and power; built numerous “cultural centers” and overstaffed embassies to assist its covert goals; and supported the activities of the terrorist group Hamas in South America. He specified that Iran was complicit in numerous dangerous unlawful activities in addition to military threats, including drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forged travel documents, intellectual property pirating, and providing havens for criminals and other terrorists. Sophisticated narco-tunneling techniques used by Hezbollah in Lebanon have been discovered along the U.S.-Mexican border, and Mexican gang members with Iranian-related tattoos have been captured.

Reports from around the world have highlighted Tehran’s growing military presence in the Western Hemisphere.  Germany’s Die Welt described the Islamic Republic’s construction of intermediate range missile launch pads on Venezuela’s Paraguana Peninsula.

The threat is not confined to low-level tactics.  There is mounting concern that both nuclear and ballistic missile threats are emerging from Venezuelan-Iranian cooperation.

The Tehran/Caracas axis, first encouraged by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, is particularly troubling. The Foundry’s Peter Brookes has  reported  that the two nations have a Memorandum of Understanding “pledging full military support and cooperation that likely increases weapons sales.” One could easily see Tehran using Caracas as a stepping off point for attacking U.S. or other (e.g. Israeli) interests in this hemisphere or even the American homeland, especially if action is taken against Iran’s nuclear program.”

 He goes on to note that “There is concern that Iran and Venezuela are already cooperating on some nuclear issues.  There have been reports that Iran may be prospecting for uranium ore in Venezuela, which could aid both countries’ nuclear programs, should Caracas proceed…  While still prospective, of course, there is the possibility that Tehran, which has an increasingly capable missile program, could sell or help Caracas develop ballistic missiles capable of reaching American shores.”

  Iran’s interest in Latin America entails both its goals of threatening the United States and enhancing its nuclear capability.  In his testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Ilan Berman stressed Iran’s need for uranium ore.

Iran’s indigenous uranium ore reserves are known to be limited and mostly of poor quality…Cooperation on strategic resources has emerged as a defining feature of the alliance between the Islamic Republic and the Chavez Regime.  Iran is currently known to be mining in the Roraima Basin, adjacent to Venezuela’s border with Guyana.  Significantly, that geologic area is believed to be analogous to Canada’s Athabasca Basin, the world’s largest deposit of uranium.”

 He notes that Iran “boasts an increasingly robust paramilitary presence in the region.  The Pentagon, in its 2010 report to Congress on Iran’s military power, noted that the Qods force, the elite paramilitary unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is now deeply involved in the Americas, stationing ‘operatives in foreign embassies, charities and religious/cultural institutions to foster relationships with people, often building  on socio-economic ties with the well-established Shia Diaspora,’ and even carrying on ‘paramilitary operations to support extremists and destabilize unfriendly regimes.”

Matthew Levitt, writing for the Washington Institute noted: “Iran and Hezbollah remain hyperactive in Latin America…In its 2015 annual terrorism report, the State Department highlighted the financial support networks Hezbollah maintains in Latin America. The report concluded that Hezbollah is “capable of operating around the globe.”

The Report Concludes Tomorrow.

FUNDING DEFENSE: MEETING THE CHALLENGE. Part 2

The New York Analysis continues its review of whether the 2018 defense budget is sufficient to meet threats facing the United States.

One enduring myth that is consistently cited as a counter to arguments to adequately fund U.S. defenses is that the U.S. has a considerable lead in military technology.  That is no longer accurate. In both conventional and nuclear-related areas, China and Russia have equaled and in some cases exceeded America’s lead.

The Threat From Russia

Russia’s new Armata tank has three times the range of America’s Abrams. Task & Purpose reports that “Russia’s next-generation battle tank can reportedly out-stick the American armor in a heartbeat — and it’s coming to battlefields sooner than expected.”

Moscow has accelerated its development of other advanced nuclear weaponry. The Independent reports that Russia has developed a missile with unprecedented power The weapon, named the Satan-2, “ is said to be capable of carrying 12 nuclear warheads and could wipe out a whole country with a single strike.” Nuclear capable bombers are also enjoying a renaissance. The Russian news source RT reports that “A newly built Tupolev Tu-160 long-range heavy strategic bomber [NATO designation Blackjack]…was rolled out of the hangar as Russia resumes production of the world’s largest operational bomber …Russia’s military announced the decision to resume production of the Tu-160s in modernized Tu-160M2 variation back in 2015. Blackjack is largest combat aircraft in the world, with maximum takeoff weight of about 275 tons. It can cover a distance of more than 12,000 kilometers without refueling…The Tu-160 and other long-range aircraft resumed patrol flights over the Pacific and Atlantic in 2007…” The publication also reported  on Moscow’s ambitious submarine program. The Sun described the latest Russian “super-sub:” “RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has unveiled his Navy’s most powerful nuclear submarine  – which can easily outgun its American rival. The Knyaz Vladimir is capable of launching 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), which can lay waste to cities up to 5,778 miles away. Russia’s nuclear-powered Borei-A-class sub has the ability to dive to about 400 metres, making it hard to detect by sonar. Russia now plans to build a total of eight of the super subs by 2025.”

In 2015, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work stated: “Russia [is] modernizing … Its naval and air units are operating at a pace and an extent that hasn’t been seen in quite some time, to include a large increase in trans-oceanic and global military operations. And as General Dempsey has said, Russia’s activities in the Ukraine are, quote, “giving the world a disturbing image of the hybrid nature of military aggression in the 21st century.”

General Joseph Dunford (USMC), quoted in the National Interest,  noted that “Russia has made a significant investment in military capabilities.  Putin has recently fielded a wide range of systems to include new intercontinental ballistic missiles, aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines, tanks, and air defense systems.  We’ve seen some of Russia’s more modern conventional capabilities on display in Syria, and we’re closely tracking Russian developments and actions in space and in cyberspace.”

In 2016, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe General Philip Breedlove warned: “we cannot ignore Russia’s increase in military activity which concerns all nations…Russia’s coercive use of energy has grown with threats and outright use of force. Eastern and Central European states, to include the Baltics, are concerned about Russia’s intentions in Europe and consider Russia’s aggression in Ukraine validation of their concerns.”

Moscow Times reports that “Russia’s military spending is set to increase despite the welfare budget decreasing…”

NATO describes Moscow’s drive to establish a dominant military: “Russia is roughly half-way through a major ten-year State Armaments Program, which foresees the procurement of large amounts of new or upgraded weapons systems and other military hardware, across all services of its armed forces, over the period 2011-2020…Overall, a large part of the program is likely to be fulfilled by 2020…”

The Report Continues Tomorrow.