There appears to be more than one side to the story regarding China’s new defense white paper, which omitted a chapter that in recent years outlined the no first-use policy. The argument that the policy has not really changed seems plausible (or at least logical in the CCP’s universe), but overall trends may indicate an eventual shift:
Nevertheless, although no first use remains a central part of China’s approach to nuclear weapons, a certain and perhaps growing ambiguity surrounds the policy. As the Chinese debate indicates, under some set of extreme but nevertheless not implausible conditions, the policy might not serve as a constraint on first use even if China overall postures its forces primarily to deter a nuclear attack. Likewise, in the heat of a crisis, actions taken to deter a nuclear strike against China, such has placing forces on high alert levels, might be seen as indicating a preparations to launch first and invite a pre-emptive strike.
Thus, I agree with Acton’s policy recommendation about the need for a U.S.-China dialogue on nuclear weapons even though I disagree with his argument about China’s nuclear doctrine. More dialogue on strategic issues is needed at the highest levels between the United States and China, an area is prone to misperception and miscalculation. The ambiguity and uncertainty about the no first-use policy should be discussed. Indeed, General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should the issue of nuclear dialogue when he visits China this week.
Yun Sun’s new article on China-Myanmar relations is a comprehensive summary of the key issues in that relationship right now—definitely worth a read.
Something we haven’t heard before is this paragraph on “encirclement” regarding U.S. support given to anti-dam organizations:
Chinese leaders firmly believe the US rebalancing to Asia is aimed at encircling China and curtailing China’s regional influence. In this vein, they reason that US President Barack Obama’s engagement with Burma, as a part of this rebalancing, must likewise be hostile to China. Leaked diplomatic cables about US government funding for anti-dam organizations before the suspension of Myitsone project have been cited as evidence of a US attempt to “sabotage” Chinese interests in Burma.
I don’t know the specific organizations involved in the protests, but they probably received some grants from USAID, etc., and then started protesting later on. Of course, from China’s perspective this is further evidence of U.S. government collusion to encircle the PRC.
Former premier Frank Hsieh is coming to Washington next week. During an event hosted at his Taiwan Reform Foundation on Monday, he said:
The DPP should conduct a thorough review of its China policy and think about how it could possibly return to power with an unchanged cross-strait policy…. Has the DPP given Taiwan more bargaining chips [through its China policy]? Did the US support the DPP during the 2012 presidential campaign? If not, why? I think those are the questions we should think about.
I’ve written on this topic before—I think the DPP’s success in 2016 will depend in part on its approach to cross-Strait relations. With an approval rating hovering between 10 and 20% for Ma Ying-jeou, 2016 is a great opportunity for the DPP to come back to power. But some innovation on cross-Strait policy is needed for the DPP to succeed at the polls.
Sorry for the recent hiatus—it’s that time of the semester again. Here’s an article on China’s diplomatic response to recent shenanigans by North Korea:
“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain,” Mr. Xi said in a speech at an annual regional business forum in Boao, China. Mr. Xi did not single out any countries or disputes, but in separate remarks, China’s Foreign Ministry repeated its “grave concern” over the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
I’ll try to take a look at the Chinese-language articles to see if any interesting tidbits emerge, but the use of the word “chaos” (should be 乱 here) is not insignificant, as the fear of chaos or upheaval is a key theme in Chinese domestic politics and society. North Korea’s actions could lead to deleterious effects on the ground for China, particularly along its border with North Korea (such as refugee spillover in China).
My sources—and by sources I mean people who have a subscription to the NYT and can get beyond its newly strengthened pay wall—are bemused by a proposed Chinese investment deal in Iceland that would build a golf course and resort hotel in the snowy tundra. Beyond the unlikely prospect that rich Chinese vacationers want to play snow golf (I thought only college fraternities from central New York were into this), Andrew Higgins writes:
Such bafflement has stirred much speculation about what the Chinese tycoon and perhaps the Chinese authorities are up to. A proposal by the Zhongkun Group to renovate a small landing strip in the Grimsstadir area and buy 10 aircraft led to anxious talk of a Chinese air base. The area’s relative proximity to deep fjords on Iceland’s northeast coast near offshore oil reserves fueled speculation about a Chinese push for a naval facility and access to the Arctic’s bountiful supplies of natural resources. Far-fetched rumors about Chinese missiles and listening posts led to worries about military personnel pouring in disguised as hoteliers and golf caddies.
I had to laugh at this, though:
“One thing the Chinese Communist Party never failed at since Mao is public relations, but the P.R. in this venture has failed miserably,” Iceland’s foreign minister said.
Burma’s government declared a state of emergency in Meikhtila on Friday afternoon as the central Burmese city was hit by a third day of clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.
In announcing the move, state-run television said that “Local security forces and authorities have to seek military help to restore order effectively,” suggesting that the government would send in troops to quell the ongoing riots.
Unofficial death toll estimates of the violence meanwhile continue to rise. A local hospital confirmed that 10 people had died, while an opposition lawmaker said at least 20 had been killed. The official government figure had not yet been updated by Friday evening and still stood at five.
Photo evidence of widespread carnage is also emerging, with news media websites and social media sites such as Facebook posting pictures that show numerous charred bodies and whole neighborhoods on fire.
Some local residents told The Irrawaddy that militant Buddhist monks and laymen went on a rampage through the city in Mandalay Division on Friday morning, destroying mosques and what they believed were Muslim-owned properties.
“It’s as if they are destroying the town. The situation is now out of control,” said a Pauk Chaung quarter resident, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of his safety.
Kurt Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has founded and heads The Asia Group, which “provides strategic and investment advice and problem-solving support to leading global businesses, government agencies, and civil society organizations across Asia.” The title of this post links to their website, and you can also check out their Facebook page here. Given Campbell’s work on improving U.S.-Myanmar ties during his time at State, it’s not surprising that one of The Asia Group’s first public moves has been to join a consortium that will bid on the planned upgrades to Yangon International Airport in Myanmar.
Apparently the censors at Weibo are still quite touchy about the recent “airpocalypse” in Beijing, when the U.S. embassy’s air quality monitor seemed to go off the deep end and reported record high levels of pollution in the city back in January. The above image was found in the latest roundup at FreeWeibo, which relies in part on data from Weiboscope, a University of Hong Kong tool that checks popular Weibo feeds to see what posts have gone missing (that is, deleted/censored). Weibo posts with these images have gone missing on a number of feeds (1, 2, 3). Apparently the combination of Mao + criticism of Beijing’s air quality are a no go.
Look at these two clever pictures! Haha. (看到两张神图！[哈哈])
Just as the great leader said: The people, only the people, are the driving force in the creation of world history. Netizens are truly gifted! So creative. (【正如伟大领袖所言：人民，只有人民，才是创造世界历史的动力！网民太有才了！太有创意了！】)
[Pitiful emoticon] [可怜]
Update 3/11: An anonymous tipster writes in to remind thatThe Economist ran a cover during the 2003 SARS crisis with Mao wearing a surgical mask. He notes that “the China chief was called in to the responsible party official, and told that ‘the highest levels’ of government were very displeased. Turns out it wasn’t because of the surgical mask, but because The Economist was using Mao to represent China.”
Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai is coming to town as China’s new ambassador to the United States. He also spent some time at SAIS back in the day; according to China Vitae, Cui studied at SAIS from 1986 to 1987. Thanks to Anne Gillman for the link.
Reports of hacking are the big news this week on the China front (although not new news—here’s one earlier report, for example), but the real story this week is that China almost sent an armed drone into Myanmar to capture drug lord Naw Kham, wanted for the killing of Chinese sailors in the Golden Triangle in 2011. Read more at the link and at this Global Times piece. The decision to not use the drone, apparently, was because Chinese authorities had orders to capture Naw Kham alive.