1 November 2014

Recalibrating India’s foreign policy

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PHOTO: REUTERSIndian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patroling near the Line of Control (LoC).

The new government is clearly defining Indian interests (‘India First’) in terms of technological and economic development with a greater focus on these goals in foreign policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now interacted with the leaders of four of the five countries/regions — SAARC, China, Japan, Russia, and U.S. — on the list of foreign policy priorities mentioned in the President’s address to the opening session of Parliament. It is, therefore, an appropriate time to take stock of the underlying changes in the directions of India’s foreign policy. In other words, is Mr. Modi’s foreign policy likely to differ from that of Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh?

Every country’s foreign policy has elements of continuity and change following a change in government. India’s policy under Mr. Modi is no different. The changes have not necessarily been explicitly articulated, but are implicit in the government’s actions and view of the world.

There are five areas of the emerging change: the centrality given to economic and technological development; the orientation of domestic and foreign policies toward this objective; the emphasis on national power including military power; and stress on soft power; and a reduction in self-imposed constraints on actions that other countries may construe as inimical to their interests.

Changes in foreign policy

The first change in foreign policy relates to the greater attention provided to economic objectives. This is not a mere reiteration of the economic development objective that has been India’s mantra since independence but recognition of the role of technology (broadly defined) in all aspects of economic development. This involves an implicit benchmarking of the technological capabilities of the Indian economy with the global best practices; having a perception of the gaps; and setting the goal of bridging these gaps.

The government’s divergence from the policies of the previous regimes is reflected in two initiatives, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the Digital India campaign, both of which involve the use of appropriate technology.

“Aggression along the border is being countered by bold moves like the decision to construct a ‘McMahon highway’ in Arunachal Pradesh”

This is probably the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has explained India’s economic and technological objectives abroad — ‘India First’; has identified the specific role each country could play in achieving these objectives — for instance U.S. and Japan; and has made that the centrepiece of his discussion with the leaders of that country. ‘India First’ means that India’s requirements — when it comes to various areas like basic sanitation, defence and space technology — will be expressed with greater clarity and specificity to other countries.

The second change relates to a much greater orientation of domestic and foreign policies toward those objectives. The Indian Prime Minister has been very explicit about Indian objectives with respect to economic development and technological catch-up and in exploring how domestic and international policies will be used to close the gaps across the entire spectrum. Its decisions will then be based on a cost-benefit analysis on a defined set of parameters, not on ideological considerations like that of non-alignment.

The third change is with respect to a greater emphasis on overall national power — recognising that economic power is its foundation, but also giving a greater role to military power.

The Modi government appreciates that economic power cannot be a substitute for military power in deterring aggression from the ideologically driven foes. On the contrary, economic assistance can be viewed by military ideologues as an expression of superiority to be resented. Economic relations can complement international security relationships by influencing the behaviour of non-ideological, economically rational players in the global system but only military strength can deter militaristic ideologues and ensure peace.

President Putin’s world view

BRICS must help end East-West rift

S Nihal Singh

WHILE the world is still analysing Russian President Vladimir Putin's combative take on the state of international affairs in the annual dialogue, this time in Sochi, his speech marks a water mark in a situation when East-West relations have sunk to a new low in the past three decades.

Mr Putin was making several seminal points. First, the West led by the United States had taken the break-up of the Soviet Union as its victory and had decided to play the world according to its own rules. Second, to cement its primacy, Washington had brought the Cold War alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), to Russia’s very borders.

The Russian President reminded the US that conducting international affairs was a two-way street, implying that the days of Moscow’s weaknesses, symbolised by Boris Yeltsin, were over. He pointedly referred to American interventions in third countries without United Nations approval. This was, in a sense, a rebuttal of Western criticism of the Russian annexation of Crimea, which was once part of the Soviet Union.

Mr Putin did not give a direct answer to Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine — officially, Moscow does not acknowledge it has sent its soldiers there — but elaborated at length on how an elected president of Ukraine was dethroned in what amounted to a coup. It was only last Sunday that Ukraine voted — without the rebel-held enclaves in the east taking part - for an elected parliament expectedly won by pro-West parties.

Beyond making his points, the Russian President was offering an olive branch in the form of talks on a new basis for East-West relations. This is now being analysed in Western capitals because the situation in the Middle East in particular, with the ominous rise of ISIS, now morphed into the Islamic State, needing essential Russian inputs.

Besides, resolution of the Iran nuclear issue and the implied threat of regional proliferation, requires Russian co-operation. The earlier American “pivot” to Asia has been overshadowed by US President Barack Obama’s decision, however reluctant, to re-engage militarily in Iraq and Syria. The dangers represented by ISIS were simply too great for the West and the world to ignore.

Despite the fact that the US prefers to deal with China as the emerging great power in a changing world, Moscow remains an important element in the world, particularly in Europe, but also beyond it. Western sanctions on Russia following its policy towards Ukraine have hurt Russia as it has Western interests, but as Mr Putin choreographed the issue, it is part of the broader picture of how the West has treated Moscow after the Soviet break-up.

One Russian criticism one can infer from Mr Putin's exposition of the current malaise is that the United States cannot play the world by its own rules while denying the same privilege to Moscow. On the one hand, the West claims the right to expand its Cold War military alliance to Russia's borders in what it declares as a new world order. On the other, it denies Russia the room to safeguard what it sees as its vital national interests by co-opting the adjoining mass of a country closely tied up with Russia.

At least some of the Western participants in the Sochi dialogue thought anti-Russian sanctions were counter-productive and the sooner they were withdrawn, the better. But there are no immediate signs of a Western change of direction because the underlying feeling, piquantly voiced by Mr Putin, was that the West had won the Cold War.

However, for much of the world, President Putin has put the present turmoil in the world in perspective. What he is seeking is a new East-West entente in which the Cold War concept of who has won or lost should be given a burial. Much of the emerging world will agree with his hypothesis, which is less ideological than what Washington seems to believe in.

Perhaps the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, can play a part in an East-West rapprochement because continuing bad blood between Washington and Moscow will make it that much harder to resolve the world’s problems.

Chinese objection to Indian road projects unacceptable

31 Oct , 2014

A Road in Tawang area

Some 10 days ago, I wrote a piece “Chinese objection to Indian road projects unacceptable” for NitiCentral (see below).

My conclusion was that “There is absolutely nothing wrong in the proposed project to build a road on the Indian side of the India-Tibet border.”

Yesterday, during his monthly press conference, the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun again “urged India not to take actions that will complicate the situation on the border, where the two countries have territorial disputes.”

Looking at these pictures, it is clear that the terrain is not the same on the Tibetan side of the LAC than on the Indian. China which has built extremely good roads to the LAC, objects to India struggling to her side of the LAC…

It was in response to a question about Delhi’s plan to build 54 border posts in Arunachal Pradesh (‘Southern Tibet area’ for Beijing).

Yang Yujun said: “We have taken notice of the reports. China and India have disputes over the eastern part of their border. We hope India will try to help maintain stability and peace in the border areas, instead of taking moves that may further complicate the situation.”

The same day China Tibet Online run a piece on the roads in Tibet.

The caption was the same for all the pictures: “An off-road vehicle is running on the well-paved highway with endless grassland on either side in southwestern China’s Tibet Autonomous Region”.

Looking at these pictures, it is clear that the terrain is not the same on the Tibetan side of the LAC than on the Indian.

China which has built extremely good roads to the LAC, objects to India struggling to her side of the LAC (for example in Taksing area of Upper Subansiri) where the terrain is extremely difficult.

Further, China brings lakhs of Han tourists a few kilometers of the LAC under the pretext to visit the ‘most beautiful villages of China’ or ‘experience’ the sources of the Yarlung-Tsangpo (Siang-Brahmaputra).

At the same time, India continue to insist on an Inner Line Permit (for Indian nationals) and Protected Area Permit (for foreigners).

It is high time for India to open up and live in the 21st century.

Eurofighter ready to step in if Rafale deal fails, UK minister says

The Times of India
Oct 31, 2014

The Eurofighter, backed by UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, however, will find it difficult to fly back into the MMRCA project. 

NEW DELHI: The Eurofighter Typhoon is eagerly waiting in the wings to fulfill India's requirements if the ongoing final negotiations for 126 French Rafale fighters fail for the almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project. 

"We recognize the Indian government has put the French first in the MMRCA project. But we are still part of the competition. If the negotiations with France fail or stall, we are ready to step in," said visiting British defence secretary Michael Fallon, in an exclusive interview to TOI on Thursday afternoon. 

The David Cameron government is "very enthused" about partnering the Modi government in its "Make in India" campaign in the defence technology and production sector. "We see a huge opportunity for the UK. It's a hugely exciting time in India, with the new government taking rapid decisions," said Fallon, who met defence minister Arun Jaitley earlier in the day. 

The UK is also pushing for revival of the stalled $885 million deal for 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, which are manufactured by British multinational BAE Systems, between India and the US. It also wants India to soon ink the contract for 20 additional British Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs) as well as contemplate the lifting of the ban on AgustaWestland helicopters, which are enmeshed in the VVIP choppergate scandal. 

The Eurofighter, backed by UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, however, will find it difficult to fly back into the MMRCA project. 

Both Rafale and Typhoon had passed the extensive technical trials held by the IAF, while the American, Russian and Swedish jets were ejected out of the race. 

In January 2012, Rafale was declared the winner or "L-1 (lowest bidder)" over the Eurofighter, even though the final negotiations since then have progressed at a glacial pace. The defence procurement policy as well as CVC guidelines do not provide for any "comebacks" in such a defence project.

Fallon, however, is hopeful. "We are ready and waiting for the follow-through after the Germans recently made an offer (a cheaper proposal for the Eurofighter) to the Indian government," he said. 

Airbus Defence and Space and Tata Advanced Systems bid for the Indian Air Force’s Avro replacement programme

28 Oct , 2014

Companies will offer Airbus C295 under new teaming arrangement.

Airbus Defence and Space and Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) have submitted a joint bid to replace the Indian Air Force´s fleet of Avro aircraft with the market-leading Airbus C295 medium transport.

The teaming follows a detailed industrial assessment and stringent evaluation of the Indian private aerospace sector by Airbus Defence and Space, which concluded with the selection of Tata Advanced Systemsas the Indian Production Agency (IPA) exclusive partner for this prestigious programme.

A total of 56 Avro aircraft are to be replaced. In the event of contract award,Airbus Defence and Spacewillsupply the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its own final assembly line.The subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems in India. This will include undertaking structural assembly, final aircraft assembly, systems integration and testing, and management of the indigenous supply chain.

Airbus Defence and Space Executive Vice President Military Aircraft, Domingo Ureña Raso, said: “We firmly believe that, in the C295, we have clearly the best aircraft to replace the IAF Avro fleet and, in Tata Advanced Systems, we have secured the cream of the Indian private aerospace sector as our partner for this project.

“The C295 is a superbly reliable and tough aircraft with outstanding economics which is proven in the most difficult operating conditions all over the world. It has already been ordered by 19 countries, many of which have placed repeat orders. And just this year it has dominated the market with orders for no fewer than 20 aircraft from five countries.”

Mr. S.Ramadorai, Chairman,Tata Advanced Systems, said, “We are extremely pleased to announce our partnership with Airbus Defence and Space for the Avro replacement programme for the Indian Air Force. It is a landmark for the development of aircraft manufacturing capability in India, now that Tata Advanced Systems is poised to take this step toward building entire aircraft in India. The selection of Tata Advanced Systems by Airbus demonstrates the confidence that has been built in our ability to undertake this complex programme.”

The Air War Against the Islamic State: The Need for An “Adequacy of Resources”

OCT 29, 2014

The United States has stated from the start that it is conducting an air campaign to degrade the Islamic State, not to change the military situation in Syria or to substitute for Iraqi political unity and the eventual use of Iraqi ground forces. This, however, raises several key questions:

What level of effort will be required over time to achieve that goal, and how will the air campaign have to change? So far, the air campaign has been minimal by any recent historical standard, and so limited that it is hard to see how it can be effective in either protecting Iraq from further gains, critically degrading the Islamic state in Syria, or providing humanitarian relief to threatened minorities like the Kurds..

Can Iraq build the needed level of political cooperation and effective ground forces? There has been some Iraqi political progress, but no clear progress in bringing Sunni tribes and faction back into active political or military support of the central government, creating effective unity and cooperation with the Iraqi Kurds and Pesh Merga, or producing a greater capability on the part of the Iraqi Army.

Can the US avoid intervening in the civil war in Syria either against Assad, or avoid conducting a major air effort to protect the Kurds, moderate rebel groups, and the Sunni civil population? The US has certainly tried to limit its targeting and the size of its air strikes, but so far has not demonstrated that the current level of air and cruise missile strikes has halted Islamic State gains against the Kurds in Syria or in Anbar in Iraq. The start of such strikes has led to Turkish and Syria Kurdish pressure to intervene at much higher levels and expand the air campaign to secure zones and other efforts designed to remove Assad.

Can the US and its allies find ways of dealing with the steadily growing humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq?Strategic goals are of critical importance, but so are ethics and morality.

These questions have become steadily more important over the last few days. Until very recently, the air campaign has had some effect but was clearly doing too little and too slowly, failing to have the impact needed in Iraq, and drifting towards major mission creep in Syria. Each of the major risks that it was intended to help address, remained as serious, or more serious, than when it began. The creation of a US, Arab, European alliance has only had marginal impact.

The Burke Chair is developing an analysis of the campaign that address all of these issues as it as it progresses. This analysis is based on comparisons with past campaigns, summaries of the problems in the unclassified data now being released, and summaries of the emerging problems in the campaign. It is now issuing the third major update, revision and expansion of that analysis. It is entitled The Air War Against the Islamic State: Operation Inherent Resolve and The Need for An “Adequacy of Resources", and is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/141016_air_war_against_islamic_state.pdf

The analysis compares the level of effort in the air war against the Islamic State with the air wars in liberating Kuwait n 1991, Kosovo in 1999, invading Iraq in 2003-2011, and Afghanistan in 2001-2014 to illustrate these limits. The numbers and trends in past conflicts strongly suggest that the current effort in Iraq will be too small and too slow to achieve its desired result and address any of the questions and risks listed above.

It also, however, raises other issues. The unclassified data on air campaigns also raise major questions about the way in which the US is approaching air power. In a number of cases, the only unclassified totals and figures seem to be those for the USAF. There are no directly comparable summary data for the US Army, US Navy, and US Marine Corps. Moreover, the data on USAF strike sorties is provided in forms that do not break out the sorties for IS&R, UAVs, UCAVs, cruise missile, airlift, and refueling by campaign. Data on allied sorties is also not reported.

Quest for a new Asia

Nov 01, 2014

Modi’s visit to the US was the final step in outlining an unstated quasi-alliance with democracies of the Asia-Pacific, on the Chinese periphery, as well as with nationalistic resistors of Chinese dominance

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to India on October 27-28 elicited muted interest in Indian media, pre-occupied with state election results and the uproar over accounts of Indians in foreign banks. Call it coincidence, but as Prime Minister Dung arrived in India, his foreign minister back home was receiving the Chinese foreign policy czar — state councillor Yang Jiechi. This was a reverse replay of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee being on a state visit to Vietnam mid-September as President Xi Jinping of China arrived in India on September 17-19. Vietnam was both attempting to contain China and engage it. This will be a drama frequently re-enacted by others in Asia in coming decades.

While the “Look East” approach was crafted by the government of P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991, to cope with the post-Cold War world, the basic theme of connecting India to the rapidly developing economies of the Asean continued under successive governments, fructifying in an agreement on the Asean-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) in 2009. Chinese assertiveness since 2009 vis-a-vis its maritime neighbours fractured the 10-member bloc’s unity, forcing some to seek separate solutions to their security dilemmas. Thus, a strategic dimension was added to Indian engagement with some of the Asean nations. India began replicating the Chinese approach, gradually enhancing its economic and security footprint in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Burma. What is new with the Modi government is its bolder execution.

The joint statement at the end of the Vietnamese Prime Minister’s visit reiterates the “strategic partnership”, intended to lead to peace and prosperity in the region. Bilateral trade, gaining from the $100 million line of credit announced during President Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam, is expected to double by 2020 from the current $7 billion per annum. Cooperation in oil and gas, dating from 1988, is to be enhanced. Some of the designated fields may well be in the nine-dash zone claimed by China. A good part of the joint statement thus emphasises the freedom of navigation in the East and South China Seas besides upholding the supremacy of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Seas, called UNCLOS. It also declared that bilateral disputes must be resolved peacefully. India, in fact, operates from high moral ground, having submitted to arbitration under the UNCLOS in its dispute with Bangladesh and accepting an award largely in favour of the latter.

China would also note that India may finally be selling its cruise missile BrahMos to Vietnam, apparently having obtained the concurrence of its joint developer, Russia. This capacity-building of Vietnam, to strengthen its access denial capability in its legitimate waters, is part of a larger maze of similar moves by others to enhance capabilities of other Asean members affected by Chinese unilateral claims in the South China Sea. Japan and the US are building up the defensive capability of the Philippines, with the latter signing an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. The US, meanwhile, deployed its state-of-the-art littoral combat ship in Singapore.

Prime Minister Modi has adopted a complex strategy towards China, built on foundations laid long ago by his predecessors. He met President Xi before engaging the US and Japan, on the sidelines of the Brics Summit in Brazil. He accepted the Chinese proposal for a Brics bank and has now let India join the new Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite the US and its allies boycotting it. But he then visited Japan and demonstrated growing convergence of Indo-Japanese interests by mutual bonhomie and expansive rhetoric. His visit to the US was the final step in outlining an unstated quasi-alliance with democracies of the Asia-Pacific, on the Chinese periphery, as well as with nationalistic resistors of Chinese dominance, like Vietnam.

But glaring is the unwillingness so far to engage with equal alacrity a country like Indonesia the largest Islamic country and a democracy which too has issues with China’s cartographic aggression as the economic zone around its Natuna Islands also falls in the nine-dash Chinese line. Indonesia’s newly elected President Jokowi needs to be drawn into helping shape a new security order for Asia. Henry Kissinger, in his new book World Order, dissects the challenges besetting the nation states. He concludes that the contemporary quest will require a “coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions and to relate these regions to one another”.

Russia, China & Mongolia Begin Trilateral Talks

October 31, 2014

The first round of talks will take place at the deputy foreign minister level and focus on transit corridors.

Following up on Vladimir Putin’s September invitation for trilateral talks, Russian, Chinese and Mongolia deputy foreign ministers met in Ulaanbataar for the first-ever Russia-Mongolia-China trilateral consultation. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov kicked off the talks by remarking that the three countries share “vast borders, rich historic traditions, firm friendship of peoples, huge potential and vast prospects for practical cooperation, as well as closeness of approaches to international affairs,” according to Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency. He added that Russia sees China and Mongolia “not only as close neighbors, but also as time-tested and reliable friends.”

According to ITAR-TASS, trilateral talks will likely focus primarily on economic matters, with an supplementary focus on humanitarian and foreign policy issues. Given that the talks are in their initial phase, no major agreements are expected to result from this first trilateral consultation.

The trilateral arrangement carries more meaning for Russia and Mongolia than it does for China. Russia, which faces alienation from Europe on its West, is increasingly looking at Mongolia and China as major economic partners. Earlier this year, Russia signed a major natural gas agreement with China, demonstrating the Kremlin’s eastward economic gaze. Similarly, Russia and Mongolia are working to integrate their national rail networks, increasing connectivity between the two neighbors.

For Mongolia, this trilateral arrangement fits perfectly with its greater international aspirations. As I’ve noted on The Diplomat before, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj has almost single-handedly transformed the country’s foreign policy. Under Elbegdorj, Mongolia has grown increasingly activist in the region. Mongolia’s eagerness for this trilateral arrangement should be unsurprising as it remains sandwiched geographically between two behemoth neighbors. In order to realize its international aspirations, Mongolia necessarily needs to coordinate with both China and Russia.

China can’t have it both ways

Frank Ching
The Statesman
30 Oct 2014

An increasingly self-confident China is now seeking to reshape the world through playing leadership roles in international organizations, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum next week in Beijing. This is a rare opportunity, since APEC members take turns hosting the annual meetings, with China last playing host in 2001.

The Chinese government is taking steps to ensure that Beijing, which has been choking under thick layers of smog, will enjoy acceptable air quality during the week-long meeting by shutting down factories and cutting the number of cars on the road.

More importantly, China is acting to ensure political tranquility with its neighbors. The last thing it wants is a flare-up over disputed territory with countries such as Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, India and others.

Thus, China's top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, was scheduled to visit Vietnam this week (Oct. 27) for talks and to co-host a meeting of the China-Vietnam Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation. China has also agreed to hold talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on a code of conduct for the South China Sea, despite having dragged its heels for more than a year. Beijing is also sending conciliatory signals to Japan, and a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now seems likely, despite years of public dueling over the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands.

The 69th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations this month provides another occasion for China to proclaim its peaceful nature. Normally, China observes major anniversaries every five years, or every decade, but a 69th anniversary is not marked in a major way.

In 2010, to commemorate the 65th United Nations Day, a human rights forum was held in Beijing. But no event was held to commemorate the 66th, 67th or 68th anniversaries.
This year, however, to mark the 69th anniversary, Foreign Minister Wang Yi published a major article describing China as a “staunch defender” of rule of law both domestically and internationally and calling on the international community to “reject the law of the jungle.”
This sentiment is admirable, coming as it does from a country that is growing stronger by the day, admired by some and feared by others.

Foreign Minister Wang asserts that “China has consistently upheld international rule of law in its diplomatic practice.” This is odd since it is common knowledge that when Mao Zedong was in power, his top priorities were class struggle and world revolution. This constituted the background to Mao's famous saying, “There is great chaos under heaven — the situation is excellent.”

Mr. Wang surely knows that, at least in the 1970s, China practiced a duplicitous policy under which the Chinese government would proclaim friendship with a foreign government while the Chinese Communist Party worked hand in glove with insurgent groups seeking that government's overthrow.

One such example was Malaysia. When China and Malaysia established diplomatic relations in 1974, Beijing solemnly declared in a joint communique that “China recognizes the Government of Malaysia and respects the independence and sovereignty of Malaysia.”
And yet, this pledge was clearly violated since China continued to support the illegal Communist Party in that country, whose goal was the overthrow of the government of Tun Abdul Razak, who had signed the communique with China's premier, Zhou Enlai.

Deadly Lessons: The Last Time China and America Went to War

October 29, 2014

There was nothing good about the last Sino-American War, or what we today call the Korean War. The experience of this war, now nearly forgotten, should serve as a grim lesson for policy makers in both Washington and Beijing.

In November 1950, China and the United States went to war. Thirty-six thousand Americans died, along with upwards of a quarter million Chinese, and half a million or more Koreans. If the United States was deeply surprised to find itself at war with the People’s Republic of China, a country that hadn’t even existed the year before, it was even more surprised to find itself losing that war. The opening Chinese offensive, launched from deep within North Korea, took U.S. forces by complete operational surprise. The U.S.-led United Nations offensive into North Korea was thrown back, with the U.S. Army handed its worst defeat since the American Civil War.

The legacies of this war remain deep, complex and underexamined. Memory of the Korean War in the United States is obscured by the looming shadows of World War II and Vietnam. China remembers the conflict differently, but China’s position in the world has changed in deep and fundamental ways since the 1950s. Still, as we consider the potential for future conflict between China and the United States, we should try to wring what lessons we can from the first Sino-American war.


In early 1950, the politics of the Cold War had not yet solidified around a pair of mutually hostile blocks. Nevertheless, the contours were visible; the Soviets had spent several years consolidating control of Eastern Europe, and the Chinese Communist Party had ridden the victories of the People’s Liberation Army to power in Beijing. The stage was set for a zero-sum interpretation of the global struggle between Communist and non-Communist powers. It was just such an interpretation that dominated Washington’s thinking as North Korean forces escalated the Korean civil war with a massive invasion across the 38th parallel.

Inside the United States, tension over the collapse of Nationalist China remained high. The Nationalist government possessed an extremely effective public-relations machine in the United States, built around the Soong family’s relationship with Henry Luce. This influential domestic lobby helped push the United States towards both intervention and escalation, while at the same time undercutting the advice of experts who offered words of caution about Beijing’s capabilities and interests.

The initial Chinese victories in late fall of 1950 resulted from a colossal intelligence failure on the part of the United States. These failures ran the gamut from political, to strategic, to operational, to tactical. The politicization of American expertise on China following the establishment of the PRC meant that U.S. policy makers struggled to understand Chinese messages. The United States also misunderstood the complex relationship between Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang, treating the group as unitary actor without appreciating the serious political differences between the countries.

On an operational level, advancing U.S. forces paid little heed to warnings of Chinese intervention. The United States failed to understand the importance of the North Korean buffer to Beijing, failed to detect Chinese preparations for intervention, failed to detect Chinese soldiers operating in North Korea and failed to understand the overall strength of the Chinese forces. This lack of caution stemmed from several sources. The U.S. military, having had experience with Chinese Nationalist forces during World War II, had little respect for the capabilities of the PLA, especially outside of Chinese borders. Americans overrated the importance of air superiority at the tactical and operational level, not to mention the relevance of nuclear weapons at the strategic level.


The People’s Liberation Army appreciated the significance of U.S. air superiority over the battlefield, as well as the effectiveness of U.S. armor and artillery. The PLA (or PVA, as the expeditionary force in North Korea was dubbed) attempted to fight with the hybrid insurgent tactics that it had used to prevail in the Chinese Civil War. This involved using light infantry formations, designed to move and attack at night, in order to avoid U.S. airpower and concentrated American firepower. These tactics allowed the PLA to surprise U.S. forces, which were uncertain of the magnitude of Chinese intervention until it was too late to do anything but retreat.

US-China Need a Missile Launch Notification Deal

By Nicholas Cosmas, Meicen Sun, and John K. Warden
October 27, 2014

The United States and China should establish an advance launch notification agreement for long-range missile systems.

In his July call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Barack Obama again called for an improved U.S.-China relationship defined by “increased practical cooperation and constructive management of differences.” But between territorial issues, cyber espionage, air-to-air standoffs, and countless other flare ups, there are few reasons to be optimistic about U.S.-China relations in the short or medium-term.

One area where progress has been particularly slow is the strategic relationship. Throughout the Obama administration, Washington has called for an official, Track-I discussion centered on nuclear weapons and strategic capabilities—to include nuclear weapon posture, missile defense, and long-range conventional strike—but Beijing has declined. Chinese interlocutors maintain that China, as the weaker power, has not reached the point where such discussions with the United States are appropriate.

Yet both sides acknowledge that the United States and China have a shared interest in improving strategic communication. In April, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan proposed a “military notification mechanism of major military activities.” Advance notification would allow the two countries to avoid misperception, miscalculation, and inadvertent escalation in times of crises.

Under the broader military notification umbrella, the United States and China should establish a reciprocal advance launch notification agreement for long-range missile systems. Such an agreement would serve two purposes. First, it would establish the foundation for a broader military notification mechanism. Second, it would serve as a test case for informal arms control arrangements.

Fortunately, both the United States and China have experience with launch notification agreements. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to the first such agreement, the Accident Measures Agreement, as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in 1971. At the 1988 Moscow Summit, they signed the more expansive Ballistic Missile Launch Notification Agreement, which for the first time required prior notification for all strategic ballistic missile launches. China and Russia negotiated a separate bilateral ballistic missile launch notification agreement in 2009. This was the first time that China agreed to share information about its ballistic missile launches. However, despite these parallel agreements, the United States and China have been unwilling to share information with each other about strategic capabilities.

Testing of China’s New DF-31B ICBM Accelerating

October 29, 2014

Another New Chinese ICBM

On September 25th, for the second time in the last three months, China test fired one of its new DF-31B ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles). This missile has a max range of 10,000 kilometers. The DF-31B is a minor upgrade of the DF-31A and both of the recent tests were apparently successful. This is all part of a two decade effort to produce a Chinese ICBM that is competitive with the American Minuteman.

In the early 1990s China put the first DF-31 into service, sort of. The DF-31 only had its first successful launch in 2000. It’s now believed to have a reliableand accurate guidance system, as well as a third stage that carries three 50 kiloton warheads. Only about a dozen DF-31s are in service, plus about a dozen DF-31As and a growing number of DF-31Bs. For a long time most of these appeared to be aimed at European Russia but now the main target is the United States at least according to Chinese media, which keeps repeating this.

DF-31 was China’s first solid fuel ICBM (and had a range of over 8,000 kilometers) and roughly equivalent to the 30 ton Minuteman I (entered service in 1962 with a range of 9,900 kilometers). The DF-31 weighs about 41 tons and is 20 meters (62 feet) long and 2.25 meters (7 feet) in diameter. It was designed for use on submarines, land silos, and mobile launchers. The mobile version would halt at those “parking lots in the middle of nowhere” visible in satellite pictures of Qinghai province. These pictures show the DF-31 stored in a TEL (transporter, erector, launcher) vehicle. Driving these vehicles along special highways in remote areas provides more protection from counterattacks than using a reinforced silo. Eventually the improved DF-31A appeared, with multiple warheads and more range. which enabled it to cover most of the United States).

China is believed to have over 400 nuclear warheads, most of them installed on ballistic missiles. Only a few dozen of these missiles can reach the United States. These include the older (and about to be retired) DF-5, plus the newer DF-31A/B and DF-41. About two thirds of Chinese nuclear warheads are believed to be in missile warheads, most of them DF-21s and these will be replaced by DF-26Cs. Normally the nuclear warheads are stored separately and mated to the missiles only for actual use or the occasional training exercise. In 2009 China announced that its nuclear armed ballistic missiles were not aimed at anyone. Like most countries, China has long refused to say who its nuclear armed missiles are aimed at. Most of those missiles only have enough range to hit Russia or India, or other nearby nations. For a long time most were very definitely aimed at Russia, which had rocky relations with China from the 1960s to the 1990s. But after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the new and much smaller Russia became friendlier with the wealthier (more capitalist but still run by communists) China. Relations between China and India also warmed up, then went into a deep freeze during the past decade.

How China Sees America's Moves in Asia: Worse Than Containment

October 29, 2014

"For American strategists, the realization that rivalry discourse has become conventional wisdom and even modish in China may prompt some due self-reflection." 

Editor’s Note: The following is part three of a new occasional series named “Dragon Eye” which seeks insight and analysis from Chinese writings on world affairs. Part one of the series, “What Does China Really Think About the Ukraine Crisis?” can be found here. Part two of the series, “The World’s Most Dangerous Rivalry: China and Japan” can be found here.

As President Obama prepares to embark once more on a trip to the Middle Kingdom, it will be worthwhile to reflect on the condition of this all-important bilateral relationship. Specialists and senior diplomats are fond of discussing the tremendous breadth of U.S.-Chinese interactions, most of which are not in the military sphere and are generally positive. This is, needless to say, the most massive trading relationship on the globe, after all. Then, there are American NBA teams playing exhibition games in China and getting plenty of attention from an adoring Chinese fan base. Less glamorous, but likely of much greater significance is the very extensive set of scientific collaborations that has been initiated in the domain of green energy.

And yet, we should all be amply disturbed by the obviously unstable military competition now coming into full view in U.S.-Chinese relations. It’s all well and good to describe the relations as having cooperative and competitive dynamics—akin to a couple of scrappy boys on the playground, right? Wrong. As these two “chums” are playing the “game” of geopolitics, one of them could easily brandish a switch-blade with untold consequences for international security. As the Ukraine crisis starkly revealed earlier this year, international politics is not a playground.

Putting U.S.-Chinese relations on a stronger foundation—a conspicuous failure of the current administration’s foreign policy—will require a more thorough understanding of Chinese strategy and especially perceptions. This is not a matter of more dialogue, or of closely reading China’s defense white paper. Nor is the anodyne and ambiguous terminology employed by diplomats particularly helpful. Understanding the perceptions of Chinese national-security elites requires a frequent “look under the hood” of U.S.-Chinese relations.

Here, a single, representative Chinese academic article is discussed in detail for its utility in gauging the state of contemporary U.S.-Chinese relations. The article entitled “On the U.S. Restriction of Chinese Sea Power in the Post-Cold War Era” was published as the lead article in the summer 2014 edition of the journal 东北亚论坛 [Northeast Asia Forum]. This is hardly China’s most significant foreign-policy publication, and its authors cannot be counted among Beijing’s foreign-policy elite.

And yet that may suggest its potential to cut through the cloud of opaque argumentation that often envelops the Chinese capital. Two of the three writers are from prominent military academies (army and air force), while the third is a researcher at the prestigious Zhejiang University. As the lead article in the journal, it must be assumed that the editorial staff regarded the article as innovative and significant, suggesting even that these authors could be representative of China’s future national-security decision makers.

The authors argue that the United States has become the most significant factor restricting the further development of Chinese sea power. They explain that sea power is at the core of American grand strategy and that China’s rapid rise is perceived in Washington to threaten the U.S. position of hegemonic leadership in the Western Pacific. These perceptions have given rise to “doubts and wariness” regarding China’s naval development. 

For these authors, China does not just confront “遏制” [containment] by the United States, but something perhaps even more bellicose: “围堵”[a condition of being under siege] or even “掣肘”[a condition of being held by the elbows]. For the purpose of restricting Chinese naval power in the eastern, southern and western flanks, Washington is said to be constructing a “超长防线”[super long line of defense] that stretches from the Aleutian Islands to the Persian Gulf.

As noted above, this analysis puts a focus on three different vectors of U.S. activity. In the South China Sea, it is observed that over the last few years, the United States has begun to “directly contain” Chinese sea-power development. In that regard, the recent deployment of the new littoral combat ship (LCS) to Singapore is seen as deliberately aimed at countering China. These analysts outline the importance of Washington’s so-called “双锚”[dual anchor] strategy that seeks to facilitate enhanced military cooperation between Australia and Japan. Another vector of U.S. strategy, according to this analysis, concerns Taiwan. The island is said to form a critical strategic linkage to the South China Sea and its role in U.S. strategy is said to be increasing.


By Robert Beckman

Several of the reefs occupied by China in the Spratly Islands are being greatly expanded through land reclamation. China’s reclamation activities cannot enhance its claim to sovereignty over the reefs or change the legal status of the reefs under international law.

THE INTERNATIONAL media has reported that China is undertaking large-scale reclamation works on several of the seven reefs it occupies in the Spratly Islands. The 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea states that the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate the disputes in the area. Although reclamation works and the construction of installations and structures on occupied features would seem to be inconsistent with this provision, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have all undertaken such activities on the features they occupy and control in the Spratly Islands.

What is new is the scale of the reclamation works currently being undertaken by China. It has been reported that China is expanding Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef) so that it will be two square kilometres in size. This would be a very significant change, as that reef would then be as large as the combined size of the thirteen largest islands in the Spratly Islands.

Reefs occupied by China

China occupies and controls seven reefs in the Spratly Islands, the legal status of which are at issue in the case between the Philippines and China that is currently before an international arbitral tribunal established under the dispute settlement provisions in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Although China has decided not to participate in that case, the matter is proceeding without China’s participation as provided in UNCLOS.

In the arbitration case, the Philippines admits that three of the seven reefs meet the definition of an island, that is, they are naturally formed areas of land surrounded by and above water at high tide. If so, they are capable of a claim to sovereignty and to maritime zones of their own. However, the islands on the three reefs occupied by China are very small and contain little vegetation. Therefore, the Philippines maintains that they should be classified as “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own”. If so, they would be entitled to a 12 nautical mile (nm) territorial sea, but not to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or continental shelf of their own.

With regard to the remaining four reefs occupied by China, the Philippines maintains that they are not islands under UNCLOS as they are submerged at high tide. Therefore, they are not subject to a claim of sovereignty and are not entitled to any maritime zones of their own.


By Dr Subhash Kapila

The re-vitalisation of the US-India-Japan Trilateral is a contextual response lately to China’s conflict-escalation in the South China Sea primarily followed by military brinkmanship against Japan in the East China Sea region.

Underlying the very creation of the recently crafted US-India Strategic Partnership and the Japan-India Global and Strategic Partnership superimposed over and above the half a century old US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty was the strategic imperative of these three major nations to correct the strategic imbalance creeping in the Asian balance of power.

The South China Sea maritime disputes over sovereignty issues was generated by China decades back with the forcible military occupation of the Paracel and Spratly Islands from Vietnam’s lawful jurisdiction and sovereignty. Later the same brinkmanship strategies stand applied also in the Spratlys against the Philippines.

By China’s conflict escalation in the South China Sea maritime expanse the South China Sea as a whole has emerged as the most potent explosive flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific endangering not only South East Asian and ASEAN regional security but also Asian security.

The South China Sea disputes are no longer confined to bilateral disputes between China and Vietnam or between China and the Philippines or between China and the other ASEAN disputants like Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

The South China Sea conflict- escalation by China has resulted in its being thrust into the global strategic calculus as a flashpoint endangering global peace and security by virtue of the significant political and strategic stakes that other major non-South East Asian countries which have in the security and safety of the South China Sea maritime expanse.

If countries like the United States, India Japan and Australia and even the European Union countries were muted for varying reasons in their responses till lately on South China Sea conflict-escalation by China, it was so because all of them vainly hoped that China would respond to various conflict de-escalation and conflict resolution attempts by ASEAN and other countries.

On the contrary, China far from conflict de-escalation has till lately as May 2014 went on a further conflict-escalation spree in the South China Sea maritime expanse. Post-May 2014 conflict-escalation, China has given enough notice through its official pronouncements that it has no intention to submit to any multilateral conflict-resolution processes and that it reserves the right to militarise South China Sea islands and land-forms as they constitute Chinese territory.

The revitalisation of the US-India-Japan Trilateral which commenced earlier with the US Bush Administration was a natural contextual strategic response to China’s blatant defiance of international norms especially in relation to freedom of navigation through international maritime expanses and the defence, security and safety of global commons.

The short lull that took place in the reinforcing of the US-India-Japan Trilateral occurred with the advent of the Obama Administration which in its opening years was enamoured by China and could not see through the Chinese smokescreen of strategic duplicity. Subsequent Chinese strategies aimed at strategic devaluation of the United States forced a realisation on President Obama that China was not a benign actor in Asian security and hence the revitalisation process of the Trilateral.

The US-India-Japan Trilateral is a potent strategic coalition if fully and substantively revitalised combining the strategic weights of the United States as the global unipolar power and the power of Asia’s two emerging global powers in the form of India and Japan.

The Japan-China Defense Hotline’s Growing Importance

October 28, 2014

The Japan-U.S. defense guidelines update is necessitating dialogue in the East China Sea.

Japanese and Chinese officials are holding informal talks in Beijing this week, in an attempt to forge a framework for managing territorial disputes at sea, particularly around the Senkaku/Daioyu Islands. The meeting is timely, as Japan has sought better overall relations with China in the last few months and the two circle around the topic of whether their two leaders will meet on the sidelines of next month’s APEC summit, also in Beijing. These talks also occur as tensions between the two countries, which had heightened with frequent naval confrontations around the disputed islands, havenow eased noticeably.

A Japanese delegation of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, led by former officers of the Air and Marine Self-Defense Forces, are meeting with several Chinese defense specialists on Wednesday and Thursday, “to promote private-sector dialogue aimed at averting accidental armed conflicts,” according to sources who spoke with theYomiuri Shimbun. While current and former defense officials on both sides will be meeting, the talks are deemed a “private-sector effort,” in an attempt to facilitate the creation of a hotline between official defense authorities.The idea of a hotline, which was resurrected in September, would provide a direct link between Japanese and Chinese military officials in order to clear confusion and facilitate dialogue to contain the kinds of incidents that have occurred around the disputed islands for more than two years now.

A Japanese defense ministry official that spoke with the Yomiuri said that both governments hope to resume talks over the hotline by year’s end, while foundation officials have said “There will be two days of talks in the Chinese capital followed by two more meetings that will be held in Japan or China in the coming months, with a report expected early next year.”

These talks between defense officials are likely to be much more fruitful in terms of improving the tense maritime situation in the East China Sea than any quick meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping at the APEC Summit. The envisioned hotline might also help to prevent further near mid-air collisions between surveillance and fighter aircraft. The two countries’ overlapping Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ) have led to several close calls.

The stated timeline for the hotline will also likely occur roughly alongside the expected update to the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, which according to unofficial statements from both sides could now happen as late as next April. If so, then the hotline could prove to be increasingly useful, as Japan is seeking to enhance cooperation, particularly in relation to China’s growing military presence in the East China Sea. If Japan and the U.S. are set to better define and even increase Tokyo’s role in regional defense, then the ability to reach out to China and quickly deescalate unintentional conflict will become paramount.