The 9 Scariest Things That China Could Do with the OPM Security Clearance Data

The theft of the SF-86 security clearance records of millions of current, former, and prospective U.S. government employees and contractors from the Office of Personnel…


How Hypersonic Missiles Push America and China towards War

Eleni G. Ekmektsioglou


“Hypersonic weapons add to the complexity and elusiveness of the escalatory dynamics and this is something both sides will need to plan for.”

Hypersonic weapons can achieve speeds over five times faster than the speed of sound (Mach 5) and they are the latest version of precision guided munitions (PGM) that make up part of the larger family of long-range strike weapons systems.

In the United States, hypersonic weapons are pursued in the context of the conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) commonly defined by officials as a technology of “high-precision conventional weapons capable of striking a target anywhere in the world within one hour’s time.” Outside the United States, states such as China or Russia have been pursuing this promising technology in secrecy. Therefore, we have little information regarding the stage of development the Russians or Chinese have achieved.

Nevertheless, what became evident from the short period that separated the two Chinese tests is the emphasis given to a rapid-paced development and the strategic value of the new weapon for China. Shorter-range hypersonic weapons appear to be a more feasible technology, while global-range weapons are a goal that is still far from being reached. Nevertheless, states invest heavily in both variants, and it looks like operational capability is only a question of time. That said and given the technology’s almost disruptive potential in terms of both range and speed, can we really claim that we have a deep understanding of the drivers as well as the consequences—operational and strategic—of hypersonic weapons? Probably not.

(Recommended: Welcome to Hypersonic Weapons 101)

Starting from the drivers in the United States, the idea of developing a conventional global strike goes back to a RAND report from the 1970s that suggested the mating of conventional warheads to nuclear delivery systems (ICBMs). The program gained traction again during the Bush administration in the highly uncertain strategic environment after 9/11, while the Obama administration has appeared to be equally eager to invest in the new weapons system.

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Are China and America Destined to Clash?

Jennifer Lind, Daryl Press

Security, Asia

Almost all of China’s foreign-policy options would lead to more conflict with America—and vice versa.

The paramount question looming over twenty-first century international politics is: will the United States and China get along?

Most national-security experts express guarded optimism. Although rising powers have historically clashed with their established rivals—adopting revisionist foreign policies to secure more influence, territory, or status—this time, people say, is different. China is a major stakeholder in the current economic order and has no reason to overthrow the very system that has allowed it to grow rich and powerful. The regional maritime disputes that do exist—over small uninhabitable islets—may arouse emotions but do not demonstrate a deep revisionist streak in Beijing. In short, a status quo Washington and a status quo Beijing need not clash.

But pondering the future of East Asia—and great power relations—in terms of whether China will adopt a “status-quo” or “revisionist” grand strategy obscures the real sources of Sino-American conflict. It ignores the range of options available to Beijing, and it pins the future on China’s strategic decisions alone.

In reality, the tenor of great-power relations in the coming decades will depend on the interaction of U.S. and Chinese foreign policies—which collide to a far greater degree than is frequently acknowledged. In fact, smooth relations between the United States and China will only be possible in the unlikely event that China adopts an extremely docile national-security strategy, or in the equally unlikely event that the United States cedes its dominant position in the Western Pacific.


Beijing has a broader array of options than the categories “status quo” or “revisionist” imply. What is striking, however, is that all but one of its options put Beijing and Washington on a collision course.

At one extreme, China might continue its rise as an economic powerhouse without substantially enhancing its military might, and without seeking to alter the international order in East Asia or the world.

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Eyeing China, US allies in Asia join naval drills in disputed waters

Japan and the Philippine are engaged in war games in the South China Sea. The US is at odds with China over land reclamation projects on disputed islands and reefs. 


Has Obama’s China Strategy Failed?

China and the United States are a bit like squabbling family members: Whatever their differences, they still find a way to get together. These regular gatherings are generally a promising sign for the future of U.S.-Chinese relations, even if the summits themselves often achieve little of substance.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew will carry on this tradition, meeting with their Chinese counterparts Wang Yang and Yang Jiechi in the seventh Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. The two-day gathering comes shortly after revelations that Chinese hackers pulled off a massive breach of U.S. government files, gaining access to sensitive information including the Social Security numbers of government personnel. The Chinese government claims it didn’t orchestrate the cyberattack, though it has long accused the United States of staging similar attacks on Chinese infrastructure. The official denial has done little to tamp down mutual suspicion in the Sino-American relationship.

Overall, U.S.-China ties are currently stable, a point reiterated by Chinese President Xi Jinping after Kerry’s visit to China in May. But the U.S. government’s long-term strategy on China appears to be adrift. Over the last two decades, America’s China policy has consisted of two major goals: integrating the Communist Party-ruled country into the U.S.-led global economic order, and maintaining American hegemony in the western Pacific Ocean. Both goals now seem to have stalled.

Consider the objective of exerting American influence in the South and East China Seas. China believes it is entitled to a vast swath of the western Pacific. The United States and many other Asian countries disagree. In recent years, Beijing has tussled with its neighbors over the sovereignty of numerous island chains, such as the Spratly and Paracel, in waters that are believed to contain vast fossil-fuel deposits. Last month, a surveillance aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy uncovered purported Chinese dredging vessels operating near the Spratly Islands, an archipelago claimed by China as well as Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. An annual report released by the Pentagon in May revealed that China has begun developing its own islands in disputed waters, constructing over 2,000 acres of land for potential military use.

According to the Financial Times, the Pentagon has prepared options for retaliating against China. But “such proposals are not universally supported within the [Obama] administration” since some officials are “wary of a confrontation” with Beijing. When asked about China’s island policy last week, Daniel Russel, an assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, told Reuters that the United States had an “unwavering determination … to avoid military confrontation, including with China.” Such a position might head off a major military confrontation, but it might also fail to compel Beijing to retreat from its maritime claims.

On the economic front, China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 was considered a major coup in Washington’s attempt to fold Beijing into U.S.-dominated financial institutions. Now China is starting institutions of its own. Last October, China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a financial institution akin to the World Bank with a total authorized capital of $100 billion. As the new bank gobbled up prospective members, the United States vigorously tried to dissuade its allies from joining. It didn’t work. While Japan and Canada have thus far refrained from joining, Australia and the United Kingdom deflected U.S. pressure and became prospective founding members earlier this year, embarrassing the Obama administration in the process.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s major initiative in the region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), recently suffered a significant setback when members of the president’s own party gutted it in the House of Representatives. If passed, the TPP would remove trade barriers between the United States and numerous allies in East Asia, including countries, like Japan and Vietnam, that are embroiled in territorial disputes with China. The Obama administration is trying to work with its recalcitrant allies in Congress to salvage remnants of the TPP, but its failure to push the whole initiative through the legislature stands in contrast with China’s efficient assembly of the AIIB.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced its intention to shift, or “rebalance,” U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaiming “America’s Pacific Century.” Now, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wrote last week, The repudiation of the TPP … would leave the grand strategy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia with no meaningful nonmilitary component.” And that military component, as discussed above, isn’t going so well either.  

China and the United States do have constructive items on this week’s agenda, including work on a long-overdue bilateral investment treaty and a climate-change deal announced last November during Obama’s visit to China. But the formal meetings obscure a messier reality: Do U.S. officials have a clear and coherent vision for what to do about China? For the past few decades, successive American presidents have argued that by giving its competitor a place in the U.S.-led international order, China would come to act more in concert with American interests. Has that really happened?

“The consensus of 35 years and five administrations about how to deal with China is fraying so severely that we have lost confidence in the fundamental underpinnings of U.S.-China policy,” Frank Jannuzi, a former Asia advisor to John Kerry and the head of the Mansfield Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, told the Financial Times. It’s a challenge that yet another Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the two countries is unlikely to resolve.

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China “unwilling” to accept Hong Kong’s bid for democracy

BEIJING — China on Thursday expressed regret over the defeat of Hong Kong’s controversial Beijing-backed electoral plans, saying the result of the vote was something it was “unwilling to see.”

However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated Beijing’s support for the proposals, saying it remained the best hope for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s continued prosperity.

“That the chief executive of the Special Administrative Region’s government should not be elected as such in 2017 is a result we are unwilling to see,” Lu told reporters at a regularly scheduled news briefing on Thursday.

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Since Hong Kong was a part of China, the reforms were a domestic matter with no other countries permitted to intervene, Lu said.

Following a lengthy debate, 28 lawmakers voted against the proposals, which had sparked huge street protests in the southern Chinese city last year. Eight others voted in favor.

The proposals would have allowed Hong Kong residents to vote directly for the chief executive in 2017, but only after candidates had been vetted and approved by Beijing. Opponents said that fell short of Beijing’s pledge of true universal suffrage.


China will likely never get rich — and what that means for America

Since World War Two, South Korea is the only large country to get rich for the first time. The rest are microstates. Once promising strivers like Argentina and Thailand have all fallen victim to the “middle-income trap.” And China is a likely addition to that list, according to AEI’s Derek Scissors: “It would not be unusual if there were cities in China with income levels similar to, say France. It would be highly unusual for China as a whole to reach French levels of income. … The single most likely result is that China will share the fate of many other economies and fall far short of being wealthy.”

It’s not just that China is aging rapidly. Beijing has increasingly favored state intervention over market reforms as its path to greater national prosperity. The result is an economy where debt is high and productivity may be flat or falling. Here is Scissors on possible actions and implications if the stagnation scenario plays out:

An indispensable, if perhaps boring, step is to avoid making the same mistake made with the Soviet Union, whose decline was missed until very late. The U.S. needs a concerted effort to compile statistics on the Chinese economy that are as independent as possible of those published under the Party’s auspices. This will help explain Chinese behavior that will otherwise seem mysterious or, worse, surprising.

A stalled China will be more a lost opportunity than a dangerous development for the U.S. economically. American financial exposure is comparatively minor. China’s trade role as a gigantic but low-margin manufacturer is a luxury, rather than a necessity; other countries played this role before and can again. The enormous opportunities many hoped for as China grew wealthy will not materialize but the country will still be very large and have nearly bottomless needs for elderly care and environmental technology, among other things. American companies will see fortunes shift, but government action is unnecessary.

An interesting twist is that stagnation could induce heavier Chinese investment in the U.S than if the country was thriving. Lack of opportunities at home could push Chinese firms and individuals to seek greener pastures elsewhere, forcing American policy-makers to decide how much Chinese investment is wanted and in what fields.

Some American friends and allies will suffer more from Chinese economic weakness; indeed, energy and metals exporters around the world already have. The obvious policy response is for the U.S. to try to build its trade and investment ties with countries such as Australia and Brazil, as well as large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In strategic terms, a stagnant China does not guarantee American global leadership. Instead, it guarantees that either the U.S. provides global leadership or there is none. The dollar provides the most prominent example. A China that does not fully liberalize capital movement is more likely to stall. The RMB will then fall well short of challenging the dollar and the dollar’s future as the world’s reserve currency will remain almost entirely in American hands. This implication applies broadly


China practices Taiwan invasion with civilian ferries, bomber flights in Bashi Channel

A series of Chinese military exercises between late May and early June showcased the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to project land, air, and naval power into the area around Taiwan.
While China has made no official connection, the exercises also coincided with the 29 May to 3 June


China has taken up Russia’s deepest fear

putin xi finger

President Xi Jinping wants his people to know that the greatest threat to China is an insidious export from the West — ideas that could lead to a color revolution.

“The one non-neglectable factor [in the development of] color revolutions in these countries is the spreading of Western ideology, especially from the US,” Xu Songwen of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences wrote Sunday in The People’s Daily (via the South China Morning Post).

The People’s Daily is a Chinese Communist Party paper known to reflect the sentiments of Xi’s regime.

Xu wasn’t alone either. In the same issue, four other academics also shared their thoughts on the dangers of color revolutions. The message was clear. There will be no nonviolent political movements in China. There will be no regime change. This will not be Lebanon or Ukraine in 2005. This will not be the Middle East in 2011.

Don’t even think about it.

That’s where the danger is, after all — in the thinking.

China has been systematically shutting out Western ideals from research centers, school curriculums, and higher learning for some time now, but it is rare to see these thoughts broadcast by a government mouthpiece.

The basic gist of all of the papers in Sunday’s People’s Daily is fairly simple. It’s like this: The proliferation of Western democratic ideals are a Cold War tactic that helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union.

The ideas bring unrest and discontent to populations and ultimately lead to bloodshed. They also tend to end in failure (see: Arab Spring). Those who foment this kind of unrest are enemies of the state.

There is “a high price to pay for nations that fall into the trap of color revolutions,” one article said, according to the South China Morning Post.

Besides, a People’s Daily commentary that ran Friday said, the Chinese Communist Party is “rigid enough to protect against threats, and resilient against internal problems and external shocks.”

So don’t even try it.

xi jinping vladimir putinChina is taking a play right out of Russia’s book with this one. In March, The Security Council of Russia railed against the US security strategy, writing: “In relation to Russia, there is a high probability of the US using extensively advanced means for ‘color revolutions’ to eliminate unwanted political regimes.”

So where do color revolutions start?

Aside from schools and research centers, they start on the internet. The People’s Liberation Army knows that all too well, having released a chilling memo last month that said “the internet has become the main battlefront for struggle in the ideological area.”

Western hostile forces and a small number of “ideological traitors” in our country use the network, and relying on computers, mobile phones and other such information terminals, maliciously attack our Party, blacken the leaders who founded the New China, vilify our heroes, and arouse mistaken thinking trends of historical nihilism, with the ultimate goal of using “universal values” to mislead us, using “constitutional democracy” to throw us into turmoil, use “color revolutions” to overthrow us, use negative public opinion and rumours to oppose us, and use “de-partification and depoliticization of the military” to upset us.

Hours after these papers appeared in The People’s Daily, Hong Kong authorities said they had taken nine people into custody for potentially attempting to plan an attack on a legislative building on the island. Officials think they may advocate “localism,” or the belief that the mainland should stay out of Hong Kong affairs, according to The New York Times.

Bad timing.

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China’s latest hypersonic vehicle test seen as ‘nuclear deterrent’ amid US interference

The defence ministry on Friday confirmed it had tested a supersonic nuclear delivery vehicle in a move the United States has called an “extreme manoeuvre” amid tensions in the South China Sea.