2 September 2014

Strictly business

Mohan Guruswamy
Sep 02, 2014

The US is too broke to provide us with capital… India needs partners who can put their money where their mouths are. Only China and Japan can provide the partnerships India needs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now in Japan, having what is evidently a good visit. His Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, has left no stone unturned to make Mr Modi feel most welcome. Later this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping will call on Mr Modi and make a determined effort to take Sino-India relations to a new level. After an economic and political drift lasting a few years, it would seem that India is once again being seen as the economic opportunity not to be missed and the political friend to have.

In recent months there has been a determined effort by Japan and its friends in India to bring these two Asian giants closer, to close ranks against the third and increasingly assertive giant. There is, however, a big difference. While China and Japan can afford to be fierce Kabuki warriors, their conflict is still mostly theatre. A deep sea separates them and the US’ great military presence ensures that Japan’s security is assured.
India, on the other hand, has over a quarter of a million heavily armed troops and a huge and modern Air Force deployed against an equally powerful China’s People’s Liberation Army. At many places, the forces are eyeball to eyeball. War is a hair-trigger away and this is no Kabuki play. The big question for India is whether it wants any part in this drama?
The scars that blight Japan and China’s relations are old and deep, and even the fact that the two are close economic partners has not erased them. India will do well to skirt away from this conflict and focus on serving its own interest.

It took a climactic ending of World War II to force change upon Japan and make it a near pacifist country almost entirely dependent on the US for its security. It was the US that brought China out of its isolation to create a new flank against the Soviet Union. It was the US’ economic engagement with China that turned it into an economic power.
But as China’s assertiveness rises and the US has to gradually withdraw from its self-assumed role as the world’s policeman with global interests, Japan is beginning to bear the brunt of this assertiveness. Japan is hence seeking new friends and emphasising common interests as India alone in Asia has the heft and size to balance Chinese power.

Development 2.0

By: Deepak Nayyar
September 2, 2014

The Planning Commission is in the news. It is being closed down almost 65 years after it began life. Two questions arise. What happened? What next? In thinking about the future, it is instructive to learn from the past.

Then Prime Minister Nehru created the Planning Commission in 1950 to formulate a strategy of development for independent India in a long-term perspective. It was widely respected in government. Before long, it also turned into an intellectual hub, with distinguished economists from across the world traversing its corridors. Indeed, it was a role model for similar planning boards in most developing countries. Economic planning was the flavour of the times. It assigned the state a strategic role in the process of development and sought to restrict the degree of integration with the world economy. Both were points of departure from the colonial era, characterised by open economies and unregulated markets, where the outcome was underdevelopment. This approach helped create the initial conditions and laid the essential foundations for industrialisation, not only in India but also elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.

The economic crisis in the mid-1960s, triggered by successive droughts and poor harvests, led the government to abandon planning for an interregnum of three years. The spirit of economic planning never revived thereafter. The focus shifted to crisis management. In retrospect, the planning process should have been reoriented in the mid-1970s. It was a missed opportunity.

This was the beginning of decline. The role of planning was slowly but steadily eroded by administrative fiat. The Planning Commission was gradually transformed into a department of the government without any clear function or mandate. Its supposed task was to mediate on finances between the Centre and the states but this was more form than substance. The statutory transfers were decided upon by finance commissions. The non-discretionary transfers were governed by the Gadgil formula already in place. The residual discretionary allocation of resources to states in the Union budget was in effect decided by the ministry of finance. It was only the ritual of five-year plan documents that continued.

The decline gathered momentum once again in the 2000s. Governments progressively undermined the role of the institution. And the institution progressively eroded its credibility.

A REPUBLIC OF EXPERTS - How the Planning Commission could be transformed

Writing on the wall - Ashok V. Desai 

I have recently been giving talks on economics to intelligent non-economists. It revealed to me a difference between economics and the natural sciences. A non-scientist who goes to a talk on science is unlikely to claim any knowledge about the subject. But non-scientists often come with well-formed, even if incorrect, economic preconceptions. They will firmly believe that the oil crisis was orchestrated by the American government, or that the industrialization policy was a personal invention of Jawaharlal Nehru. The preconceptions generally are only tangentially related to facts; they are closer to conspiracy theories, which are typical of paranoia. They are so strongly held that they would seem to be a part of their holders’ religion or psychosis.

Thomas Piketty puts this point somewhat differently in the introduction to his famous book,Capital in the 21st Century. He points out the strong convictions of many people about trends in distribution: some believe incomes have become more equal, whilst others believe just the opposite, and both engage in a dialogue of the deaf. “Social scientific research is and always will be tentative and imperfect. It does not claim to transform economics, sociology and history into exact sciences. But by patiently searching for facts and patterns and calmly analyzing the economic, social and political mechanisms that might explain them, it can inform democratic debate and focus attention on the right questions. It can help to redefine the terms of the debate, unmask certain preconceived or fraudulent notions, and subject all positions to constant critical scrutiny. In my view, this is the role that intellectuals, including social scientists, should play, as citizens like any other but with the good fortune to have more time than others to devote themselves to study (and even to be paid for it — a signal privilege).” In other words, intellectuals are common people just like the opinionators in my audiences, but are trained to judge the solidity of evidence, and eliminate wrong or poorly grounded positions.

I thought that Piketty’s point was relevant to the debate that currently rages about the future of the Planning Commission. Intellectuals have been writing feverishly in the press; almost to a man, they are shocked by the prime minister’s decision to disband the Planning Commission. I do not have to go into their arguments in its defence; but it can be confidently said that none of them makes Piketty’s point. The reason is obvious: whatever its original conception, the Planning Commission never publicly played an intellectual role. In the beginning, it was the product of a religion called socialism. Later it was used as an implement to steer the economy in directions favoured by the rulers, which changed marginally from time to time.

Continuing transgressions on tribals since the British era

V. B. Ganesan
September 1, 2014

Special ArrangementSAVAGE ATTACK — Tribal Insurgency in India: Edited by Crispin Bates, Alpa Shah; Social Science Press, 69, Jor Bagh, New Delhi-110003. Rs. 725.

Special ArrangementSAVAGE ATTACK — Tribal Insurgency in India: Edited by Crispin Bates, Alpa Shah; Social Science Press, 69, Jor Bagh, New Delhi-110003. Rs. 725.

The term ‘adivasi’ denotes the prime dwellers of an area since time immemorial. Despite ‘progress’ elsewhere, they were happy in their own abode, if not disturbed by the ‘civilised’ in the name of extending territories into ‘their’ forests.

The late 18th and early 19th century were a decisive period for the British rule in the Indian sub-continent. When the British were keen to expand their control, the conflicts over India’s forests were one of the most important forms of protest ascribed to tribals all over the sub-continent. With the introduction of the Forest Act 1878, subsequently amended in 1927, shifting cultivation, foraging, grazing and hunting were all banned, thereby eliminating the livelihoods of those living in and on the margins of the forests.

However, the adivasis were not passive to this development. Their armed rebellions and the active retaliation of the Andamanese in particular were branded as ‘savage attacks’ by the British even when the tribals were actually defending their long-standing rights over the forests. When the forests were finally brought under their control and the tribals were subdued, the British became paternalistic.

In such a background, Savage Attack Tribal Insurgency in India, edited by Crispin Bates and Alpa Shah, presents a kaleidoscopic view on the tribal issue . The 10 articles in this volume, written by various scholars, cover the British invasion into the Andamans, North East to the role of adivasis in the Maoist movement in Jharkhand.

Savage or savaged?

In order to establish supremacy over the indigenous population, the British had started terming them as savages while themselves using methods of extreme savagery. To justify their actions, the colonialists cited many practices of the tribals.

TRAVELS IN TIBET China inaugurates new rail-lines in Tibet

Suhasini Haidar
September 1, 2014

The HinduLhasa-Shigatse Railway line getting ready for operation soon. Photo: Specilal Arrangement.

The HinduShigatse Railway station all up for operation soon. Photo: Specilal Arrangement.

The HinduLhasa-Shigatse Railway line getting ready for operation soon. Photo: Specilal Arrangement.

The HinduShigatse Railway station all up for operation soon. Photo: Specilal Arrangement.

Seven years after it began an ambitious rail journey from Beijing to Lhasa, China’s railway plans for Tibet are firmly on track with the inauguration of two new rail lines going west and east from Lhasa. The extended lines, (251 kms) from the Tibetan capital to the city of Shigatse on the west and (433 kms) from Lhasa to Nyingchi still under construction to the east, will effectively link Tibet to India, Nepal and Bhutan as well, all part of the Chinese government’s mission 2020 for infrastructure in Tibet.

The lines are also seen as a “triangular defence” for China, allowing it to rush troops and military hardware to its sensitive southern borders with India at short notice. On Thursday, a Chinese defence ministry spokesperson answered Indian concerns over the proximity of the rail line to India’s borders by saying, “I hope this will not be over interpreted by the Indian side.” The railway simply aims to raise “economic development and living standards” in Tibet, said Col Yang Yujun in Beijing.

By 2020, China hopes to build 1,300 kilometres of railway lines in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), as well as more than 1,10,000 kms of roadways, many of which will work as feeder lines to the railway stations that dot the line. On a visit by The Hindu to the Qushui railway station, about 80 kms from Lhasa, it is clear that capacity is key to Chinese plans. An imposing 4-story structure built onto a cleared plateau, with construction ongoing all around it, the station could easily process close to 5,000 passengers over the course of a day. Yet Qushui is a small stop on the Lhasa-Shigatse line, with only one train running up and down it everyday, and boards only 200 passengers a day today! For the two-hour ride, that cuts down travel between Lhasa and Shigatse by half, passengers pay between 40 Yuan- 170 Yuan (In Rs 240-680) per seat.

Officials tell The Hindu that the Qushui stop, like other train stations in Tibet, is powered by solar energy, pointing to the roof of the station that is wholly covered with solar panelling, and that the line to Shigatse had to be particularly routed so as not to disturb a black-crane natural reserve park on the way. Even so, environmental activists say they are concerned about its impact, given the major tunnelling through mountains, and point to a government study published in June, that said glaciers in Tibet had shrunk 15% since 1980, about 8,000 square kilometres in three decades.

Disaster Management in India - The Urgency of Fresh Thinking

Swami Vivekananda once visited a great sage of our country, a very holy man and wrote: “We talked about our revered book- the Vedas, of your Bible, of the Koran, and of the revered books in general. At the close of our talk, this great sage asked me to go to the table and take-up the book; it was a book, which, among other things, contained a forecast of the rainfall during the year. The sage said, Read them. And I read out the quantity of rain that was to fall. He said, now take the book and squeeze it. I did so and he said, why my boy, not a drop of water comes out. Until the water comes out, it is all book, book.”

This is also the story of disaster management in India. We have a National Disaster Management Act, a National Disaster Management Authority with the Prime Minister of India as its Chief, a country wide disaster management apparatus, an impressive array of knowledge institutions, a full fledged National Institute of Disaster Management and an over stocked library of Guidelines, Plans, SOP’s and Office orders. It is time we squeeze them all to count the drops! We have definitely progressed but we have a very long way to go.

By the very nature of the challenge, the road to disaster management has always been under construction and will remain so in the future as well. It has long been realized that the road begins from the territory of policy formulation, but the results will begin to trickle in only the day we come out of the comfort-zone of the business as usual and bridge the gap between our scientific and operating tempers and between the plan and its implementation. In our straight –jacket style of functioning, we get easily swayed when we see a logical, demand based approach to project identification, a scholarly written feasibility report tuned to environmental sensitivities, and a convincing environmental impact assessment. An exclusive chapter on Integration of disaster risk reduction with the project planning makes us feel that now is the time to take a break and hope for the things to happen on their own, as we had planned. Have we ever thought whether it is the right road that would lead us to the freedom from disasters?

Only one road can lead us to freedom from disasters and that is the road passing through the culture of safety to be travelled in the vehicle of non-violence with a deep sense of commitment to posterity. I have lost no chance to express myself by repeating Antoine de Saint Exupéry‘s words: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up men to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

The real world of disasters is far more complex than we can singly or collectively imagine. In the real world, we can be only as successful as our ability to foresee multiple scenarios of hazards, vulnerability and risk. For decades, we have been in the business of making hazard maps and printing atlases. Let us squeeze and stir all our hazard maps and atlases, and count the drops. Sorry, we will have to wait until someone more serious and scientific places the first, validated and user-friendly hazard map into our hands. And imagine, if we can’t reliably anticipate the hazards before they strike, how can we ever prevent them from happening?

We are a democratic country and in order to appear democratic, we are perpetually engaged in discussion and planning, that leaves us without much time to spare for implementation of plans. According to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, “no real change in the history has ever been achieved by discussion.” But his words did not suit our way of life. Discussion per se is not bad, but when it comes to managing disasters, we have seen our plans getting bogged down in the quicksand of endless discussion and become stale on its way to the printing press. It is said that the devil is in the detail and yet we prefer to ignore details and instead face the wrath of the devil. On the other extreme are our people who would not move an inch beyond discussion because of the paucity of data or absence of consensus. ” Reality is, after all, too big for our frail understanding to fully comprehend. Nevertheless, we have to build our life on the theory which contains maximum truth. We cannot sit still because we cannot, or do not know the absolute truth,”said Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. “The finest of the plans are always ruined by the littleness of those who ought to carry them out, for the Emperors can actually do nothing”, said Bertolt Brecht.1

The use of clever or dishonest methods (chicanery) and sugar-coated populist approaches have hurt us a great deal. Non transparent approaches in the investigation and knee-jerk reporting often sully the disaster case records and bury the truth deeper. We were taught in the classroom to walk slowly when in a hurry. But in the race for supremacy in reporting, we fancy reporting as we walk and document as we talk. As Richard Bach has said, “The world is your exercise book, the pages on which you do your sums. It is not reality, though you may express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write lies, or nonsense, or to tear the pages.”2 But by not being honest, are we not robbing the future generations of the awe inspiring grandeur of nature’s exposition? By ignoring proof, logic and science, are we not ignoring our own future? Are we not increasingly getting identified as the generation of editors rather than of authorship?

Ending East Asia’s History Wars

AUG 28, 2014 

Yuriko Koike, Japan's former defense minister and national security adviser, was Chairwoman of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party's General Council and currently is a member of the National Diet. read more
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/yuriko-koike-urges-japanese-and-south-korean-leaders-to-emulate-france-and-germany#FX3357Fyve4C0kxd.99 

TOKYO – Georges Clemenceau, who, as France’s prime minister, led his country to victory in World War I, famously said that “war is too important to be left to the generals.” Japan is now discovering that history is too important to be left to newspaper editors.

In the 1990s, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun caused a firestorm at home and in South Korea by publishing a series of articles, based upon testimony by the former Japanese soldier Seiji Yoshida, on “comfort women” – Koreans forced to provide sexual services to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Asahi has now admitted that the soldier’s confessions were unfounded, and has disavowed the core supporting evidence for the articles.

That retraction appears to be causing as much embarrassment – and diplomatic vitriol – in Japan and South Korea today as the original series did. But, at a time when both countries cannot afford to permit partisan or sloppy abuses of history to roil their bilateral relations, Asahi’s careless work has turned out to be more than abysmal journalism; it has introduced a dangerous element into regional diplomacy.

Some say that Japan and South Korea should follow the example set by France and Germany. Reconciling in the first two decades following the Nazi Occupation of France, these countries’ leaders understood that their security and economic ties were far too important to their citizens’ wellbeing to allow the old hatreds to fester. They knew that the unimaginable violence of WWII was a direct result of the antagonisms that had festered since the Napoleonic Wars and that were allowed to persist after 1918.

In Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, France and Germany had two of the twentieth century’s greatest statesmen, leaders who were able to discern the broad sweep of history through the fog of quotidian politics. Their loyalty was not only to the citizens who elected them, but also to the generations of the past that had endured the consequences of Franco-German enmity, and to generations yet to come, which would benefit from reconciliation.

Of course, given that Japan and Korea have not fought a series of wars against each other, their relationship is not the same as that between Germany and France. But it is clear that no one will benefit from a new round of heated historical debate. To avoid this, political leaders like de Gaulle and Adenauer are needed. Only when we can discuss the past without endangering the future will the countries of Northeast Asia be able to establish a truly durable structure of peace.

As Admiral Dennis C. Blair, a former commander of the US Pacific Fleet, stated at a recent conference, “The history of Asia from the 1930s to about 1955 or so was not pretty in any way….I don’t think any country can have a monopoly on righteousness, or on guilt and shame” for that time. Blair added that “the attempt to hold a ‘we were right’ and ‘you were wrong’ sweepstakes is not going to help our children and grandchildren understand what happened there.”

India-Japan ties poised for upgrade

30th Aug 2014 

The relationship is set to expand in many directions and could help counter China’s push for regional domination. 

Japan’s Premier Shinzo Abe welcomes Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kyoto on Saturday. AFP

India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Tokyo on Saturday for a four-day official visit to Japan, with the relationship poised to be energised and substantively upgraded. The visits last year by Japan's Emperor and Prime Minister paved the way for a potentially vibrant, strategic partnership. Prime Minister Modi's personal rapport with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, after his first visit to Japan in 2007, will provide an impetus as will the shared concerns about China's territorial ambitions.

India and Japan share common strategic interests. In addition, India offers Japan a vast untapped market; a safe and stable destination for investment and establishing manufacturing enterprises including for re-export; a huge young human resource reservoir; and assured benefits from investments in its infrastructure. Additionally, Japan carries no historical baggage that could hamper its dealings with India.

The present two-way trade between India and Japan of $18.51 billion can easily be doubled within five years and Japanese investments, which in Gujarat alone are expected to touch $2 billion by 2015-16, should similarly be boosted. Other important areas of cooperation, where a beginning has been made, include defence-related dual-use technology and production, hi-tech ventures, and advanced electronics, to encourage which India should offer easy, liberal terms. Such cooperation will help balance disproportionate Chinese investments and products in the Indian economy.

Hanging as an uncomfortable backdrop to Modi's visit to Japan are China's claims in the South China Sea which have sharply escalated tension in the region. China's claim over 3 million square kilometres of the South China Sea is actually an attempt to establish its pre-eminence in the region. China first applied military and economic pressure on the Philippines to secure sovereignty over some islands in the South China Sea. In the absence of adequate support from the US, the Philippines opted for international arbitration to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime territorial rights. Beijing at the same time chose to follow a two-track policy towards Vietnam. While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to retain warmth in its relations with the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), Chinese armed ships clashed at sea with Vietnamese Navy vessels. Reliable reports state that Chinese ships regularly receive instructions directly from Beijing, thereby confirming that operations are conducted with approval of the highest echelons of the Chinese leadership.

Hundreds of Nigerian Soldiers Fled in Fear Boko Haram declares caliphate, shatters army morale

The Nigerian army isn’t just notorious for its human rights abuses. It also has a huge morale problem. Hundreds of Nigerian soldiers that Abuja sent to crush the Boko Haram uprising in the country’s northeast have fled their posts in recent months.

On Aug. 25, the BBC reported that 480 soldiers had fled over the border into Cameroon after Boko Haram fighters bested them in battle. The Nigerian army denied that the soldiers deserted their posts—instead claiming they were conducting a “tactical maneuver.”

In some cases, the soldiers outright deserted, refusing to fight the insurgents. Many of the soldiers ultimately returned to Nigeria “looking haggard and wearing tattered clothing.”

Heavy casualties and inadequate equipment also prompted protests by troops’ relatives. In the city of Maiduguri, hundreds of army wivesprotested the government’s plan to deploy their husbands to fight Boko Haram.

Boko Haram as been quick to exploit the army’s low morale. After forcing government troops out of several towns and holding these areas for weeks at a time, militant leader Abubakar Shekau released a video proclaiming the establishment of a new caliphate in Nigeria’s northeast.

Sahara Reporters has translated parts of the video. Shekau praises his forces for their military victories and refutes the authority of the Nigerian state. “We are in an Islamic caliphate,” he boasts. “We have nothing to do with Nigeria. We don’t believe in this name.”

Shekau’s video includes footage of fleeing Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram fighters sporting heavy weapons and armored personnel carriers.

Boko Haram could be following the lead of Islamic State, the Iraqi and Syrian militant group that recently declared its own caliphate. In earlier videos, Shekau has congratulated Islamic State on their victories.

Boko Haram doesn’t control a lot of territory like Islamic State does. Nor has the Nigerian group shown any interest in or capacity for actually governing. Still, the announcement is a huge blow to Abuja’s public-relations efforts.

Nigeria’s government and army have dismissed the caliphate proclamation as “empty” and have promised a speedy victory over the insurgents. But authorities have been making claims like these for many years.

Between the army’s well-known structural problems, recent signs of the rank and file’s low morale and internal political tensions due to the upcoming elections, a Nigerian military victory over Boko Haram is unlikely any time soon.

An international military operation could do better. In Mali, a coalition of mostly French and Chadian forces successfully pushed back a strong Islamic insurgency. But a similar operation against Boko Haram would need thousands of well-equipped foreign soldiers, a substantial overhaul of the Nigerian army itself as well as an admission on the part of the Nigerian government that it can’t handle the situation on its own.

None of these things is probable.

The alternative would be for Abuja to negotiate a settlement with Boko Haram. The government blocked previous opportunities for mediation … and insisted on a military solution.

There might be a fresh opportunity for compromise. With the declaration of the caliphate, Boko Haram has publicly committed itself to a political role. The group has also offered to enter negotiations over the 200 girls it abducted from Chibok earlier this year.

But there is no indication that the Nigerian government plans to change its approach to the crisis in the northeast. In all likelihood, the war between Boko Haram and the state will continue in its current form—and intensity—for some time.

At top—a Nigerian soldier at the scene of an explosion in Abuja in June. AP photo/Olamikan Gbemiga

Strategic stability and Chinese SSBNs: The need for net assessment

28 August 2014 

In his introduction to this Interpreter debate, Rory Medcalf raises the important question of how nuclear-armed ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) programs in Asia influence strategic stability.

Making such an assessment for any one weapons system in isolation is fraught with difficulty, as judgments are inevitably based on assumptions about doctrine, employment, escalation, and strategic concepts. Technical details also matter a lot, as was demonstrated in the late Cold War by the development of the highly precise Trident D5 (which gave the US SSBN fleet the ability to conduct counterforce missions against hardened targets) on the one hand, and the appearance of very quiet Soviet submarines (pictured) on the other. Strategic stability is thus always a question of net assessment.

Viewed in this light, the scale and scope of the programs under development in Asia today seem unlikely to change fundamental power relationships and military balances. India and China have toyed with SSBN technology for decades, and it is difficult to see either action-reaction patterns, or an out-of-character acceleration, that would indicate an incipient SSBN arms race. That said, the fact that SSBNs are now being introduced into the regional mix of capabilities throws a useful spotlight on the influence of geography, and on Chinese views about the vulnerability of their nuclear forces. Both of these factors are of fundamental importance to net-assessment-based judgments of strategic stability in the Western Pacific, and highlight the strengths of the current strategic order that China must still overcome.

The attraction of SSBNs is that they can be difficult to find and destroy, particularly if they are either isolated from adversary ASW forces in a 'bastion' or able to hide in the vast expanses of deep water found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and under the Arctic ice cap. Strategic geography thus favoured the employment of SSBNs by the main nuclear powers of the Cold War (the US, Soviet Union, France and Britain), whose submarine bases had direct access to suitable deployment areas.

Not so in China's case. While the waters of the northern South China Sea are deep, they are also confined.

The need to pass through chokepoints into the Pacific places Chinese submarines at a disadvantage, as it makes it easier to for US and allied ASW forces to detect and track Chinese SSBN patrols passing into the Pacific, or to block them through mining in wartime. Moreover, the South China Sea is ringed by US allies, and any 'bastion' the PLA Navy might attempt to establish could be contested by a range of US and allied systems operating from friendly territory. Those systems would of course themselves be at risk of Chinese attack, but the heart of a conventional battle would not be a good place for an SSBN to be.

The Illusion of Chinese Weakness

August 31, 2014

Just because China exercises restraint with regards to issues not in its direct national interest, does not necessarily make it a diplomatically weak nation.

The rise of China is perhaps the defining event of our epoch. Although predictions of the future are notoriously unreliable, such a monumental shift in the global order, which is currently being witnessed from one characterized by expansive Western domination, should not be underestimated and could well prove to be comparable in magnitude with the sack of Rome. Rigorous, logical and evidential analysis of China's development and influence on world affairs is therefore of paramount importance.

On June 25 2014, The National Interest published an article by the respected political scientist Professor David Shambaugh arguing that despite theimpressive list of Chinese achievements and rapid advancements, the People's Republic of China (PRC) is far from approaching any state of parity with the United States in terms of great-power status. Although there is merit in criticizing the plethora of hyperbolic commentaries regarding China's rise, the analysis contains many erroneous factual statements, inconsistencies and logical fallacies.

Professor Shambaugh details Chinese capabilities which make it a viable contender as the world's foremost power. These include, verbatim: the world’s largest population, a large continental land mass, the world’s second-largest economy, the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, the world’s second-largest military budget, the world's largest standing armed forces, a manned space program, an aircraft carrier, the world’s largest national expressway network and the world’s best high-speed rail system. China is the world’s leading trading nation, the world’s largest consumer of energy, the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, the world’s second-largest recipient and third-largest originator of foreign direct investment and the world’s largest producer of many goods.

Although one may dispute the list provided, for example, a large population and land mass did not prevent China succumbing to Britain in the two Opium Wars, Shambaugh maintains that it provides the PRC with a solid claim to great-power status. Nevertheless, Chinese weaknesses in the realms of international diplomacy, military might, cultural influence, economic dynamism and miscellaneous factors seriously diminish China's international standing, invalidating claims that it will soon surpass the United States in the global hierarchy.

Due to space and time constraints, this essay will systematically assess only one element of the original thesis: that China is ineffectual diplomatically; it is a passive and selfish nation seriously undermining its international power.

The Definition of Power

China's Xi urges army to create strategy for information warfare

August 31, 2014

BEIJING--Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as the country embarks on military reform, state media said on August 30.

Xi heads the Central Military Commission, which controls the 2.3-million-strong armed forces, the world's largest, and is stepping up efforts to modernize forces that are projecting power across disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.

During a meeting with the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Politburo, Xi said China "must vigorously promote military innovation" but warned it will be difficult.

"When you compare military innovation to other forms of innovation, the demands are greater and there will be a higher degree of difficulty," Xi was quoted as saying.

"Faced with the severe challenges to our national security and stability and the deep-seated contradictions and problems with reform, it is even more pressing that we greatly liberate our ideas and concepts, have the courage to change our fixed mindsets of mechanized warfare and establish the ideological concept of information warfare".

Xi said the army must "strive to establish a new military doctrine, institutions, equipment systems, strategies and tactics and management modes" for information warfare.

The announcement by Xi could rattle many of China's rivals, including the United States. Officials in Washington have argued for years that cyber espionage is a top national security concern, and Beijing and Washington have confronted each other publicly about the issue.

In May, U.S. authorities charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets.

A hacking attempt on a sensitive Canadian government computer network last month was similar to attacks mounted by an elite unit of the Chinese army based in Shanghai, according to a cyber security expert.

China has denied those charges, saying it is also a victim of cyber attacks.

In March, China announced its biggest rise in military spending in three years, a strong signal that it is not about to back away from its growing assertiveness in Asia, especially in disputed waters.

The spending increase appears to reflect Xi's desire to build what he calls a strong, rejuvenated China, even though the country has not fought a war in decades.

Xi also recently urged military leaders to speed efforts to get the country's sole aircraft carrier combat-ready.

Aside from the carrier, China is developing a range of high-tech weaponry, from stealth fighters to systems for shooting down satellites.

Colloquium Brief: The Chinese People's Liberation Army in 2025

August 27, 2014 

Key Insights. 
Domestic, external, and technological drivers of China's military modernization are examined. 
Three plausible scenarios for the modernization of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) that result from these drivers are explored. 
Implications of these futures for regional dynamics, the international system, and U.S.-China strategic dynamics are considered. Also, the potential "wild card" events which could undermine the futures discussed are explored. 


Leading experts on the Chinese military gathered at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, on February 21-23, 2014, for a discussion on “The PLA in 2025.” The conference was convened by The National Bureau of Asian Research, the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, and the U.S. Pacific Command.

Over the past 20 years, leading scholars and experts on the Chinese military have gathered at the annual People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Conference to discuss important trends in the modernization of China’s military. The series of annual volumes that result from these conferences has become an authoritative benchmark on the pace, scope, and scale of China’s military modernization.

For the foreseeable future, China’s military modernization will be of significant consequence for security in the Asia-Pacific region and for U.S. national interests. In an effort to better understand critical trends in China’s military modernization, the 2014 PLA Conference asked authors to “look over the horizon” and conduct an assessment of the PLA in 2025-30. This analysis builds upon years of retrospective analyses at Carlisle.

Conference participants examined three plausible futures for the PLA’s modernization. The futures considered by conference participants are not exhaustive, but they provide a common analytical starting point for examining the breadth of potential trajectories in China’s military modernization. To assess various components of these alternative futures, conference organizers structured the discussions as follows:

• Conference participants first examined the domestic, external, and technological drivers of China’s military modernization.

• Participants then explored three plausible scenarios for PLA modernization that result from these drivers.

• Last, participants considered the implications of these futures for regional dynamics, the international system, and U.S.-China strategic dynamics. As well, participants explored the potential “wild card” events which could undermine the futures discussed.

Projecting into the Future: Cautions and Limitations.

Global Economics Monthly: China's Water Woes

By Matthew P. Goodman, Grace Hearty 
AUG 25, 2014 

As noted in a recent CSIS Simon Chair study, China's economic policymakers face a myriad of objectives as they attempt to transition the country toward a new, more sustainable model of development. One of the most pressing of these goals is a cleaner environment. While much of the international media's focus on China's staggering environmental challenges has centered on air pollution, the greatest threat to the country's sustainable development today is a shortage of water. As with many of their most serious policy challenges, Beijing's leaders know they have a water problem; however, the solutions they are pursuing may do more harm than good... 



Where are the Russian forces in Ukraine?


Russian troops have been fighting in Ukraine, despite Moscow's denials, U.S. officials said August 28. Intelligence reports and analysis of satellite imagery point to specific instances of what a top Ukrainian army officer is calling “an invasion.”

Here’s what NATO says the evidence shows:

Krasnodon, Ukraine

Satellite images from August 21 show “Russian self-propelled artillery units moving in a convoy through the Ukrainian countryside and then preparing for action by establishing firing positions,” NATO said in a statement.

Kuybyshevo, Russia

NATO analysts say an image from late July appears to show guns in Russia in probable firing position and pointing north toward Ukrainian territory.

Novoazovsk, Ukraine

Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council said that Russian forces were in full control of Novoazovsk as of August 27. Novoazovsk is strategically important because it lies on the main road from the Russian border through Ukraine to Crimea, which Russia annexed in March.

Eastern Ukraine

This image taken on August 26 and analyzed by British intelligence shows Russian military forces in a field east of Donetsk, a British security source says. It shows 15 heavy trucks, at least seven armored vehicles, and at least nine artillery positions.

Iran Didn’t Create ISIS; We Did

By Ben Reynolds
August 31, 2014

Instead of shifting blame, the West and its allies should look to themselves 

The Baroness Turner of Camden recently argued inThe Diplomat that Iran is the “major driving force” in Iraq’s civil war, and furthermore, that Iran is “central to the broader conflict that has seemingly put the entire Middle East beyond hope of stability.” The Baroness’ article is right about one thing: the Iranian regime brutally suppresses dissidents. But it is not the main party responsible for Iraq’s civil war, or for the broader conflict in the Levant. It may be convenient for dissidents and opponents of the current Iranian regime to blame Iran for the rise of ISIS, but history tells a different story.

The U.S., Western Europe, and their regional allies in fact bear most of the responsibility for the rise of extremist groups like ISIS. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Britain notably supported, was a strategic disaster. Contrary to speculation at the time, Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist regime prevented Al Qaeda from operating out of Iraq. Iraq had also been supported by the West before the 1991 Gulf War as a counterbalance against the revolutionary Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq War. The U.S.-led invasion changed all of that.

The Iraq War toppled Saddam, destabilized the country, and led to a wave of sectarian bloodshed. It also made Iraq a safe haven and recruiting ground for Al Qaeda affiliates. Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s forerunner, was founded in April 2004. AQI conducted brutal attacks on Shia civilians and mosques in hopes of sparking a broader sectarian conflict. Iran naturally supported Shia militias, who fought extremists like AQI, both to expand its influence in Iraq and protect its Shia comrades. Iran cultivated ties with the Maliki government as well. Over the long term, Iran tried to seize the opportunity to turn Iraq from a strategic counterweight into a strategic ally. The U.S. didn’t do much to stop it.

When the U.S. helped to establish Iraq’s government, it consistently supported Maliki, even going so far as toassist in Maliki’s persecution of dissidents and civil society activists. The U.S. was probably more instrumental than Iran was in cementing Maliki’s power than Iran. Maliki alienated Sunnis in Iraq by cracking down on his opponents and pursuing discriminatory policies in government and the armed forces. When Maliki’s troopsstormed Sunni protest camps in 2013, they were armed with U.S.-made weapons. By the time the U.S. and Western Europe finally decided Maliki was enough of a liability to push out of government, fertile ground already existed for an ISIS-led Sunni insurgency in Western Iraq.

Not Your Grandfather’s Terrorist Organization: Why ISIS Has Been So Successful On the Battlefield So Far

Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt
August 28, 2014 
Military Skill and Terrorist Technique Fuel Success of ISIS

BAGHDAD — As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to seize territory, the group has quietly built an effective management structure of mostly middle-aged Iraqis overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment.

At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.

He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.

They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group’s military council.

The pedigree of its leadership, outlined by an Iraqi who has seen documents seized by the Iraqi military, as well as by American intelligence officials, helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army.

“These are the academies that these men graduated from to become what they are today,” said the Iraqi, a researcher named Hisham Alhashimi.

ISIS, which calls itself Islamic State, burst into global consciousness in June when its fighters seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, after moving into Iraq from their base in Syria.

The Iraqi Army melted away, and Mr. Baghdadi declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, that erased borders and imposed Taliban-like rule over a large territory. Not everyone was surprised by the group’s success. “These guys know the terrorism business inside and out, and they are the ones who survived aggressive counterterrorism campaigns during the surge,” said one American intelligence official, referring to the increase in American troops in Iraq in 2007. “They didn’t survive by being incompetent.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence reports.

After ISIS stormed into Mosul, one official recalled a startling phone call from a former major general in one of Mr. Hussein’s elite forces. The former general had appealed months earlier to rejoin the Iraqi Army, but the official had refused. Now the general was fighting for ISIS and threatened revenge.

“We will reach you soon, and I will chop you into pieces,” he said, according to the official, Bikhtiyar al-Qadi, of the commission that bars some former members of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party from government posts.

ISIS’s success has alarmed American and regional security officials, who say it fights more like an army than most insurgent groups, holding territory and coordinating operations across large areas.

The group has also received support from other armed Sunni groups and former members of the Baath Party — which was founded as a secular movement — angry over their loss of status.

“In the terrorism game, these guys are at the center of a near perfect storm of factors,” the American official said.

Mr. Baghdadi’s deputies include 12 walis, or local rulers; a three-man war cabinet; and eight others who manage portfolios like finance, prisoners and recruitment.

Its operations are carried out by a network of regional commanders who have their own subordinates and a degree of autonomy, but they have set “drop times” when they open a shared network to coordinate.

How to Beat the Islamic State


Militant Islamist fighters parade through the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. Reuters

The lights are on 24/7 in the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group these days, with real-time spy satellite imagery, electronic intercepts and drone videos pouring in from Iraq and Syria, along with intelligence reports from agency bases in Baghdad, Kurdistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey. But the whispered corridor conversations and worried looks among analysts and operations officials, sources say, tell the real story: Even if the White House decides to go to war against the Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS, there are no good options.

The last time the CIA faced an Iraqi insurgency it had the backing of 140,000 U.S. troops, a 500-strong Baghdad station and constant air cover from in-country bases, not to mention the support of President George W. Bush and Congress for a big troop “surge.” It was also able to promise Sunni tribal leaders that they would have a seat at the table in Baghdad. Today, it has none of those advantages, and it faces an enemy far more lethal, and based across the border in Syria.

“There are just a lot of least-bad options right now,” says Patrick Skinner, a former CIA operative in Iraq who frequently travels to the region for the Soufan Group, a private intelligence organization staffed by former CIA and FBI personnel. “I’m not political in any way, but I don’t fault the administration too much for the situation overall. I mean, you’ve got Syria collapsing and a civil war in the heart of the Middle East along with everything else going wrong. We can change certain things, but to change the overall trajectory of that is an international and regional affair.”

Others aren’t as kind to President Obama. “The White House is the big issue,” says Charles Faddis, a former top CIA operative in Kurdistan during the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003. “There’s no plan, no coherence, just half-measures, not enough to accomplish anything” in Syria. “Nobody wants anything to do with it. It’s not just that the agency has no appetite for it. They’re also having trouble getting the [Jordanians] enthusiastic about” taking the battle to Syria. “All they see is half-measures, and that’s enough to piss anybody off.”

The immediate objective is to “stop the bleeding” with air strikes, Skinner says. But U.S. war planes need reliable spotters on the ground to accurately identify enemy units and guide pilots and drones to their targets. During the first air strikes in late August against ISIS fighters threatening the Mosul Dam and Izidi refugees, U.S. Special Forces personnel and their Kurdish agents guided pilots onto their targets, intelligence sources say. A broader, sustained bombing campaign is probably beyond their capabilities. “Putting in U.S. military people for days or weeks to be spotters, that’s a very different proposition,” says Skinner. Using Kurdish or U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) irregulars as spotters for U.S warplanes is out of the question, he says. “ I can’t imagine a scenario where U.S. aircraft would drop ordnance on the instructions of even a vetted agent. Only a certified U.S. air controller could do that.”

More Faith, Less Fear: Islam, Islamism, and the Future of the West

August 2014

Ron Granieri is the Executive Director of FPRI's Center for the Study of America and the West, Chair of the Center's Study Group, and Host of Geopolitics with Granieri, a monthly series of events for FPRI Members. He is a specialist in Contemporary German and International History with degrees from both Harvard and the University of Chicago. He is a lecturer at UPenn’s Lauder Institute. 

These are difficult times for anyone who wants to believe in a free and pluralist society. The brutal ethnic and religious cleansing perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq, combined with the stories of young men from Western countries traveling to Syria to join the jihad in the Middle East, has sown fear and suspicion about Islam. Such fears have been further stoked by a disturbing rise in anti-Semitic demonstrations and violence in Europe, fed in part by reactions to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. For many observers, the two developments go together, an indication of a permanent and fundamental clash of cultures in which Muslims both abroad and at home threaten the peace and security of the liberal West.

Elsewhere in the world one sees even more reason to despair, from the civil war in Ukraine to the even more depressing spectacle of collapsing race relations in Ferguson, MO. Wherever one looks, one can find evidence of society breaking down, of simmering conflicts just about to boil over, and irreconcilable differences between social, religious, and ethnic groups. It’s not surprising that this dire situation leads many people to throw up their hands, and to preach a kind of bunker mentality in response.

This atmosphere of dread has given new life to an Internet phenomenon. In recent weeks, many friends of FPRI have received and forwarded the text of a speech that Dutch politician Geert Wilders gave in New York back in 2008. In it, Wilders warned of the rising tide of Muslim immigration, painting a lurid and frightening picture of an inexorable force that was already on its way to destroying Europe, and which would leave the United States as the “last man standing” in the face of an existential threat.[1] Wilders is a spellbinding speaker, and a gifted demagogue. He does a very good job describing the problem, and attacking the complacency of European elites. He urges resistance to this threat, citing Churchill’s unbending resistance against appeasement, “We cannot strike a deal with mullahs and imams,” he concludes. “Future generations would never forgive us. We cannot squander our liberties. We simply do not have the right to do so.”

But even as he presents an image of resolute resistance, there is something missing from this address, and from the arguments behind it. As is often the case with a politician who wants to stir the emotions of his listeners (and who has a very distinct, radical agenda), his comments are a mixture of the true, the wildly overstated, and the false. He is also much better at describing the dangers than he is at offering any actual solutions. The problem therefore is not that Wilders is completely wrong, but rather that he’s not as right as he thinks he is, and the things that he gets wrong are potentially very dangerous indeed for the political future of the West.

It is certainly true that there currently is a growing population of Muslim immigrants in Europe. It is also certainly true that a lot of this population—like pretty much every immigrant population in the history of mankind—is currently quite insular and concentrated in self-reinforcing linguistic, cultural, and religious ghettos. The combination of self-isolation and the failure of institutions to encourage more interaction between immigrants and the native born have created a vast and threatening gulf between them. One recent article even notes that there are more Muslim British citizens fighting for ISIS than there are Muslims in the British Armed Forces. [2] This current reality feeds the sense that Muslim immigrants simply cannot or will not be integrated into the larger society. Such concerns about Muslim men also encourage larger worries about the capacity of Western democracies to absorb new immigrants. They of course extend to the United States as well, where some political leaders warn that despite the history of immigration in the United States, these new immigrants are somehow less assimilable than those who came before.

That there are problems with the current situation is clear. The question is, how is this different from other immigrant experiences, and how threatening is it for the future of America and the West. Wilders takes some basic facts but then extrapolates them to excessive effect. He makes three problematic assumptions that need to be challenged:

First and most obviously is his characterization of Islam, which he claims is not a religion but a “political ideology,” which he compares to Nazism and Communism. “Therefore, there is no such a thing as moderate Islam,” he declares. “Sure, there are a lot of moderate Muslims. But a moderate Islam is non-existent.” This simplistic assumption is flat out wrong. The vast majority of Muslims in Europe, just as the vast majority of Muslims in the world, are not intolerant Islamist radicals. Most of them are hard-working people with families who are simply trying to make their way in the world. That Wilders feels it necessary to characterize a religious community that has existed for 1500 years and that includes hundreds of millions of peaceful people who have never threatened anybody (Indonesia, for example, is the world’s largest Muslim country, and currently threatens no one) as a relentless enemy of humanity, and that he wants to dismiss it as merely an ideology is the most stereotypical form of cultural arrogance and short-sightedness. Wilders even gets the basic definition of Islam wrong. He correctly identifies it as “submission” but the context he makes it seem as though that submission is of a political form, when actually what Islam is about his submission to God and God’s laws. I know of no monotheistic religion that does not basically expect the same thing of its believers. It’s also false to assume that there is no disagreement among Muslims about the practice of the faith, considering that most of ISIS’s victims are fellow Muslims who do not happen to measure up to ISIS’s particularly stringent dogma.