China begins charm offensive in South America amid controversy over Amazonian railway

Beijing denies that Li Keqiang’s eight-day visit to South America, which begins in Brazil, means China is muscling in on the United States “backyard”


China’s Not Backing Down in the South China Sea

Chinese military officials say their massive land reclamation in the South China Sea is all about establishing peace and stability. Washington isn’t buying it.


Vietnam buys submarine-launched land attack missiles to deter China

Vietnam is arming its expanding submarine fleet with land attack missiles that could be capable of reaching Chinese coastal cities, a choice of weapon likely to be seen as provocative by China in the ongoing South China Sea dispute.


Photo shows China’s Air Force One escorted by 8 Pakistan Air Force JF-17 jets

China's AF1 and Jf-17

You don’t see such kind of escort flights every day.

Chinese President Xi Jinping received a very warm welcome on his arrival for a two-day state visit in Pakistan on Apr. 20. A formation of eight JF-17 Thunder jets intercepted and escorted the presidential Boeing 747-400 as it entered Pakistan’s airspace in bound to the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi, Punjab province.

The impressive escort was rather symbolic: the JF-17 is a light, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft jointly manufactured by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. It represents one of the most evident signs of the strong ties between Beijing and Islamabad.

The Pakistan Air Force plans to operate 160 JF-17 multirole jets about one-third of those are already in active service.

Image credit: AP via Sobchak Security

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Beijing’s growing missile arsenal has Washington worried.


Taiwan’s Master Plan to Defeat China in a War

J. Michael Cole


China could get more than it bargained for…

A consensus seems to have developed among a large number of defense analysts in recent years arguing that despite the balance of power having shifted in China’s favor, Beijing has no intention to use its military to invade Taiwan and thus resolve the Taiwan “question” once and for all. Doing so would be too costly, some argue, while others contend that Beijing can accomplish unification by creating enough economic dependence and incentives to convince Taiwanese over time of the “inevitability” of a “reunited” China.

Although these factors certainly militate against the desire to go to war over the island-nation, we cannot altogether discount the probability that the Chinese military would be called into action, especially if the rationale for launching an attack were framed in terms of a defensive war—China being “forced” to take action because of changing and “untenable” circumstances in its environment.

Therefore, despite the relatively low probability of war in the Taiwan Strait in the immediate future, Taipei cannot afford to be complacent and must actively pursue an effective defense strategy.

The first component of such a strategy is for Taipei to clearly define what the mission is, and just as importantly, what “victory” would look like. Given the quantitative and qualitative differences that exist between the two militaries, it is clear by now that victory for Taiwan can no longer be defined in maximalist terms: the total destruction of enemy forces.

Moreover, Taiwan does not have the means, nor does the intent, to take the fight to China to annihilate People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces stationed on Chinese territory. Therefore, with a few—and important—exceptions that will be discussed below, the military area of operations in a war scenario would be the Taiwan Strait, and in a full invasion, the Taiwan side of the median line that divides the Strait.

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The Real Reason for China’s Massive Military Buildup

Harry J. Kazianis

Security, Asia

History haunts China—and could be driving its A2/AD strategy. 

Over several different articles, I have been exploring the dynamics of the budding U.S.-China security dilemma—a high-tech drama pitting anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) against what we used to refer to as Air-Sea Battle (ASB)—and have offered several different ways to lessen the possibility of such a dynamic from becoming cemented into the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture. However, China’s development and implementation of A2/AD clearly has various origins. One such origin that deserves to be explored is the “historical nightmare” of China’s subjugation at the hands of various colonial and Asian powers.

In many respects, China is trying to solve a centuries-old problem that never went away: how to defeat in battle military forces that are at least in a symmetrical sense superior to its own and will be for some time to come. If we alter our perspective and take a much longer view of Beijing’s own military obsolescence, a strategy that emphasizes anti-access makes tremendous sense. According to Admiral Wu Shengli, former commander of the PLA Navy, “in China’s modern history, imperialist and colonists initiated more than 470 invasions of China, including 84 large ones, from the sea.” If China’s military were to deter or halt the deployment of superior military forces into areas of Chinese territory or areas Beijing perceives as a core interest, another period of what leaders in China might see as a new form of subjugation could theoretically be avoided. A2/AD allows Beijing to compete with the United States asymmetrically—an important point when one thinks through how many years away China is from competing with America ship for ship or plane for plane.

The following serves as an account of what many Chinese consider their own historical nightmare at the hands of foreign forces and why A2/AD would protect China from being subjugated yet again.

A Lost Opportunity

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China’s Weapons of Mass Consumption

In August 2014, China’s state-owned Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Co. launched a new frigate, a small warship often used for submarine warfare or coastal defense, into Shanghai’s Huangpu River. As the frigate slid into the water, a casual passerby might have assumed that it was simply another ship in the Chinese Navy’s rapidly growing fleet. Yet its intended recipient was not China’s navy, but Algeria’s — the first of three that Algeria had ordered from China at a Malaysian arms expo in 2012.

China has long been one of the world’s leading suppliers of small arms, but its sale of the frigates was not an anomaly. As the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported in mid-March, China is now the world’s third-largest arms exporter, having overtaken France and Germany, and trailing behind Russia and the United States. In 2010 to 2014, not only was China’s share of global arms sales nearly double that of the previous five-year period — 5 percent as against 3 percent in 2005 to 2009 — but its exports of major weapons platforms rose by 143 percent compared to the previous half-decade.

Over the next decade, advanced weapons platforms — once the purview of Western and Russian defense industries — will flood the arms market as China, and to a lesser degree India, become global suppliers. Developing countries that once could only afford secondhand Cold War-era weapons will soon be able to acquire everything from modern fighter aircraft and warships to precision-guided munitions, all without breaking the bank. And not unlike with consumer electronics, the quality of these platforms will increase over time, even as their prices fall.

Driving this change is the growth of the defense industries in not just China but also India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has prioritized reforming the defense sector to minimize reliance on foreign suppliers as well as to encourage exports. Initially unable to produce advanced weaponry on their own, yet aware of the risk of relying upon foreign suppliers, these countries have aimed to gradually attain self-sufficiency in defense procurement.

As a first step, they have been acquiring a wide variation of the same type of weapons over the past few decades. For example, among fighter aircraft, China acquired at least seven different types, while India acquired six different types. Although cost-inefficient and operationally challenging, such sampling allowed China and India to test and evaluate the technologies most appropriate to their operational needs.

They then poured considerable resources into reproducing these technologies by absorbing key foreign weapons technologies while investing heavily in indigenous weapons research and development programs. The result was the ability to produce technologies that, while perhaps not cutting-edge, were considerably more advanced than what they could have produced just a few years earlier. This strategy has enabled the Indian Navy to purchase heavily from domestic manufacturers. And the PLA Air Force now operates hundreds of indigenously developed J-10 fighter aircraft and is in the midst of testing prototypes of the J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters. If they are successful, China will join the United States as the only other country in the world with such capabilities.

Chinese weapons systems are often much cheaper than those of competing exporters. And while they’re not better than Russian or U.S. alternatives, they are often good enough. For example, in September 2013, Turkey surprised many observers by selecting the Chinese air and missile defense system over U.S., Russian, and Italian-French offerings. Although the Chinese system is less reliable than both the U.S. and Russian systems — and incompatible with other NATO systems — the price was right: At $3.4 billion, it was almost certainly priced considerably lower than its Russian and U.S. counterparts.

Since 2011, China has also sold the Wing Loong, an armed drone, to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. At an estimated $1 million per unit, it provides capabilities similar to that of the U.S. Predator drone at less than a quarter of the cost. As Marwan Lahoud, then the head of marketing and strategy at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, told the New York Times, “China will be competing with us in many, many domains, and in the high end.”

To be sure, China and India remain two of the world’s largest arms importers, accounting for 5 and 15 percent, respectively, of the global arms trade from 2010 to 2014. Neither country’s defense industry is capable of meeting all of the needs of its military, so for the foreseeable future, they will remain dependent on Russia and the West, especially with regard to complex platforms and technologies, such as anti-submarine warfare aircraft and jet engines. But their exports are part of a worrying trend.

What are the implications of the growing availability of modern weapons platforms? They will almost certainly disrupt the global arms market by providing cost-effective solutions for countries that do not need expensive, cutting-edge weapons. This will lead to a drop in orders for U.S., Western European, and Russian arms, as even more countries purchase more affordable Chinese and Indian alternatives.

The proliferation of these largely offensive weapons will also have a destabilizing effect on many regions where rivalries run deep. As countries equip their militaries with far more capable weapons, their neighbors may feel threatened and respond in kind, resulting in a ratcheting-up of tensions. This happened during the Cold War, when massive infusions of arms by the superpowers exacerbated existing disputes in the Third World. The Soviet Union’s arms sales to Egypt and Syria, for instance, fed Arab aggression and intensified the Arab-Israeli dispute.

The era in which the U.S. military has largely had uncontested freedom of action throughout the international commons is also ending. These weapons will enable even countries with limited defense budgets to acquire “anti-access/area denial” capabilities and make it more difficult for the United States to intervene militarily without suffering significant casualties.

U.S. and European policymakers must therefore be cautious in their decisions regarding arms sales, particularly to rising powers. Such lucrative deals are undeniably attractive, especially when defense manufacturers are scrounging for orders amid fiscal austerity in Western countries. However, these sales may eventually lead not only to the rise of competing defense industries, but also to greater instability worldwide.



In Security Meeting, Japan and China Inch Toward Mending Ties

The two nations, holding their first meeting on security issues in four years, discussed the creation of a hotline to ease tensions in the East China Sea.


America Is ‘Rooting’ for China

Ju-Yeong June Shin


The United States’ is rooting for China’s rise, a top State Department official has said.

The United States is “rooting” for China’s continued rise, a senior Obama administration official reaffirmed last week.

In a recent speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, gave a sweeping overview of U.S. policy towards Northeast Asia.

“Throughout the remainder of the Obama Administration,” Sherman told the think tank audience, “Northeast Asia will continue to be a major focus of U.S. foreign policy.”

That’s because, Sherman said, the Obama administration knows that international peace and prosperity increasingly hinges on this region.  “Events in East Asia will inarguably affect the future of us all,” she said.

Indeed, having recently traveled to the region herself, Sherman said she “returned with a strong sense that we are at a pivotal moment; amid chronic dangers, there are also opportunities for the region to reduce tensions and became one of the globe’s sturdiest platforms for international prosperity and peace.”

China will be crucial to whatever trajectory Northeast Asia takes in the coming decades. As a result, Sherman dismissed the “suspicion in some quarters that because of our differences, America is rooting against China.” Instead, “the reality is that the United States very much wants China to be stable and prosperous.”

Sherman noted that this is not motivated by altruism but rather by a cold-eyed assessment of America’s national interest. “Certainly there is no shortage of global problems,” the U.S. and China can work to address, Sherman said during the address, noting the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and China’s stepped up efforts in Afghanistan as examples. She later noted, “We all have an interest in developing rules of the road for cyber security.”

While these global problems are important, Sherman focused the bulk of her remarks on China’s own region: Northeast Asia. “China is not the only country in East Asia that has been rising,” Sherman noted, pointing out that Japan and South Korea have also enjoyed remarkable progress since WWII.

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