Tag Archives: China

Cybersecurity and Economic Espionage: The Case of Chinese Investments in the Middle East

cybersecurity

By Sharon Magen, a master’s student at SciencesPo in the field of International Security.

Introduction

The recent usage of emerging technologies for purposes of cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-espionage and the subsequent threat posed to the national security interests of governments in the economic sphere specifically is the cornerstone of this paper. Although many have referred to cyber security risks that are directly connected to the security sphere, national security threats posed by cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-espionage in the economic sphere have not been dealt with to the same extent, a rather puzzling state of affairs.

As cyberspace is increasingly utilized for espionage purposes in various areas, it is imperative to further study the possibility of exploiting cyberspace for intentions of espionage in the international economic arena specifically; far-reaching economic globalization has made the international economic scene vastly interconnected, thus intensifying the world economy’s vulnerability to possible cyber security breaches and intensifying the repercussions of a possible breach on national security interests on a wide scale. It is this lack of contemporary research regarding the utilization of cyber means in order to conduct economic espionage and the subsequent consequences regarding national security that has driven me to further examine this subject in this paper.

The growing importance of further observing this phenomenon, where cyber means may be utilized by foreign entities in order to conduct economic espionage so as to achieve strategic goals, has provided for the incentive of this research. The growing risk to national security posed by economic espionage by cyber means, coupled specifically with China’s economic and political rise, rather intensifies the importance of dealing with this issue. As a country seeking to become a game-changer in the global arena, it is plausible that China, significantly more than other countries, makes use of economic espionage through cyber means to the fullest extent, so as to achieve its goals in other spheres, such as the security and political spheres. It is therefore my belief that this issue should be further studied, in order to assert whether cyber espionage in the economic sphere is a threat posed by China especially, and should therefore be taken into consideration while assessing economic integration which Chinese entities.

During the past few decades, cyber interconnectedness and vast economic integration have transformed the global marketplace into an arena in which state actors and others may utilize cyber means to conduct economic espionage and advance other strategic goals. The current global reality of international cyber and economic interconnectedness presents a new type of threat to national security, as these cyber means may be utilized by foreign actors as vessels for conducting harmful economic espionage. In this case, foreign governments, through private or state-owned companies, may choose to target certain economies or foreign companies in order to make an investment which will inter alia allow that government to conduct cyber espionage in the economic sphere, such as obtaining new technologies, an act that may tip the scale in favor of the investing country, that otherwise would not have been able to receive these technologies.

This phenomenon cements cyber espionage in the economic arena as an undeniable threat to national security nowadays. This accusation is mostly directed today towards China by the United States, as Chinese companies, whom are mostly state-owned, are suspected of utilizing global cyber and economic integration as a vessel for conducting economic espionage. However, it is contended by some that China in fact is not the sole committer of cyber espionage in the economic sector, and therefore should not be targeted as such.

All countries today engage in economic espionage through cyber means to a certain degree, and therefore the question in this paper will deal with the reason for the behavior of the United States, spearheading the notion that China conducts gross economic espionage through means of cyber, whilst it is maintained that other countries do so as well. This research underlines the imperativeness of further study of world cyber integration and the economic espionage risk it entails. Although international cyber integration may present an opportunity for growth, countries must take into consideration the risk of exposing their economy to economic espionage via cyber means.

Past Research Pertaining to Cyber Economic Espionage

According to Mary Ellen Stanley, technological advancements and economic integration have vastly altered the perception of national security in the intelligence sphere, due to wide-ranging cyber economic espionage.[i] Similarly, Matthew Crosston argues that typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure through means of cyber, meant to aid as an added aspect of military might enhancement.[ii] Alongside these assertions, Souvik Saha specifically stresses the United States’ standpoint which emphasizes the Chinese encompassing involvement in economic espionage, and the undeniable national security threat it poses.[iii] Furthermore, Magnus Hjortdal stresses that cyberspace is a pivotal element in China’s strategy to ascend in the international system, and that one of the key reasons for this is conducting economic espionage to gain strategic advantage.[iv]

However, Ibrahim Erdogan argues that cyber economic espionage is an immensely lucrative industry in which all countries participate,[v] and therefore cannot be attributed to one specific country. Furthermore, when it comes to the United States specifically, Duncan Clarke contends that even allies of Washington, such as Israel, have been committing acts of economic espionage against the United States for years. According to Clarke, Israeli intelligence units continue to utilize existing networks for collecting economic intelligence, including computer intrusion,[vi] thus rendering the argument maintaining that cyber economic espionage against the United States is an act of war spearheaded by its foes, redundant. The assertion that many other countries, apart from China, commit cyber economic espionage acts against Washington, including allies, and are not reprimanded, weakens the severity of China’s acts and the argument made against it by the United States intelligence community, that it is indeed the forefront of the cyber economic espionage.

Regarding the integrity of the American intelligence agencies’ assessments, John Yoo contends that intelligence and national security agencies in the United States do not always depict an accurate portrayal of national security threats.[vii] In other words, it is plausible that the United States uses untruthful means to protect the nation’s security, thus arguably sacrificing the integrity of the government’s efforts. Robert Bejesky similarly throws into question the reliability of these organizations’ assertions; according to Bejesky, allegations maintaining that executive encouragements may induce intelligence assessments to support the position preferred by the executive branch are not without basis. The CIA for instance has a long history of politicizing intelligence, and at a 2001 panel held at a Harvard conference deliberating the account of the CIA, it had been maintained that the agency does not conduct its role faithfully when it comes to sharing unpleasant truths with the executive branch.[viii]

If so, it is feasible to comprehend that although cyber economic espionage may pose a national security threat, the United States’ formal accusation of China being the main committer of cyber economic espionage may be biased. Although China may be committing acts of economic espionage through means of cyber, it cannot be confirmed at this point that it spearheads this area more than any other country.

Growing Interconnectedness

During the past few decades, technological developments have immensely changed today’s governments’ perception of national security. Conventional acts of espionage which can be traced to a certain perceptible entity have merged significantly with cybersecurity, thus rendering the identity of the intelligence threat ambiguous, and exposing new domains in which harmful data collection may occur, such as the global marketplace.[ix] Today, the world is moving towards a single global economy, due to financial integration.[x] This current reality of cutting-edge technology and worldwide economic integration, has changed the face of espionage, and has created a world in which national security can be harmed, inter alia, via cyber means in the global marketplace.

Today there currently is a necessity to balance a nation’s economic affluence and its national security, as economic globalization may become a vessel for espionage through means of cyber, the bedrock of connectivity in today’s international market. The key methods through which international economic integration may enable cyber economic espionage, are when a foreign state-owned or government associated body conducts business in the host country, or when a foreign entity acquisitions a local business within the country.[xi] It can be contended that this type of activity is not merely a manifest of economic policy, but also functions as a well-planned intelligence collecting scheme intended to serve as an additional facet to military rivalry.[xii] Although it cannot be affirmed that cyber espionage intentions are the main incentive for economic integration, it can be asserted that economic integration enables the possibility of conducting cyber espionage activities. Countries may abuse economic integration in order to conduct cyber economic espionage so as to enhance military might.

In this regard, many claim that China is currently spearheading the sphere of cyber economic espionage.[xiii] According to this approach, China intends to harness today’s worldwide market espionage possibilities in order to enhance its regional and global supremacy. Washington especially perceives Beijing’s intention to commit economic espionage through cyberspace as a dire national security hazard, as China’s success in conducting effective economic espionage may translate into a sharp increase in China’s power potential relative to the United States. China’s current investment policy in economies such as the United States consists of mergers and acquisitions which enable opportunities for undesirable proliferation through means of cyber of intellectual property and trade secrets to Chinese firms.[xiv],[xv]

This type of activity is particularly problematic when Chinese multinational corporations, which are mostly government owned, attempt to purchase American companies with strategic significance or deal with critical infrastructure and assets. According to most recent assessments from the United States intelligence community, there is a heightened assertiveness within China’s international policies, and as part of this it has resorted to massive cyber economic espionage.[xvi] Moreover, according to Pentagon reports, China will continue to aggressively collect sensitive American technological information through cyberspace espionage.[xvii]

However, it can be contended that this assertion, that China is the main global conductor of cyber economic espionage, is meant to serve certain political policies in the United States, rather than represent an accurate status of global cyber economic espionage. Although FBI Director James Comey had stated in May 2014 that the Chinese government blatantly seeks to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries, Robert Gates, then former United States Secretary of Defense, openly stated that as much as 15 countries at that time were conducting economic espionage in order to take possession of American trade secrets and technology,[xviii] thus shifting the focus from China being the sole leading committer of this act. Furthermore, it has been contended that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) itself had committed cyber economic espionage activities against France.[xix]

Given the circumstances, the main question that arises in this regard is why the vast majority of official American security and intelligence bodies spearhead the notion that China is currently the worldwide main conductor of economic espionage through cyberspace, whilst it is maintained by other sources that other countries are committing cyber economic espionage acts as well, including the United States itself. It can be asserted, that though China does not actually head the world cyber economic espionage sphere, leading security and intelligence institutions in the United States promote this assertion in order to support political needs and policies towards China, who’s growing regional and world dominance is perceived as a threat to the continuation of Washington’s own world dominance and strategic might. In other words, it can be asserted that China’s rise poses a political threat to the United States, a fact which leads to American prosecution of Chinese interests in the economic sphere.

Therefore, another question that arises in this regard is whether other countries similarly argue that China is the global forefront of cyber economic espionage. If it is asserted that other countries equally claim that China is indeed the global leader of cyber economic espionage, another question that would arise in this regard would refer to the reasons supporting this argument. If other countries contend that China is the world leader of cyber economic espionage, despite it being asserted that many other countries in fact participate in cyber economic spying, the question is why they do so. It is my assumption that this is due to security motives, having to do with China’s rise and the security threat it poses via economic growth. This would assist in asserting the assumption that China’s rise de facto poses a threat to American strategic interests.

That being the case, it can be argued that the vast majority of official American security and intelligence bodies currently head the notion that China is the forefront of global cyber economic espionage in order to serve political and foreign policy purposes, and do not therefore portray an accurate assessment of the global cyber economic espionage scene. According to other sources there are a number of global actors that currently take part in cyber economic espionage, therefore not leaving the field for any singular country to spearhead. However, I contend that it is possible that the formal approach of the vast majority of the American intelligence institutions towards China in the cyber economic espionage sphere is intended to serve the United States’ grand strategy towards China’s rise, as they hold the belief that China’s rise may pose a threat to American strategic interests.

The hypothesis claiming that the United States leads the global notion that China is the current forefront for international cyber economic espionage due to political, foreign policy and security reasons can assist in understanding the gap between the popular claim within the American intelligence community and other entities regarding China’s role in the current cyber economic espionage arena. Many contend that China’s vast economic growth coupled with its enhancing military capabilities places it on a collision course with the United States.[xx] It can be asserted that in order to battle against China’s rise, the United States advocates an argument which depicts China as a country with minimal respect for intellectual property, sovereignty, and other critical factors that comprise the bedrock of global trade. International trade serves as China’s bread and butter, fueling its growth and ability to expand its military capabilities. If the United States can damage China’s ability to conduct global trade by asserting that it promotes cyber economic espionage, it would thus damage Beijing’s capabilities in the security sphere.

 My methodology for examining this theoretical assumption entails the assessment of other countries’ approach to China’s supposed cyber economic espionage intentions. If other countries similarly claim that China is the main conductor of global cyber economic espionage, despite the fact that it has been asserted that other countries take part in such espionage acts as well, it would be vital to assert what are the reasons for this type of behavior. In order to assess the approach of other countries towards Chinese cyber economic espionage, I contend that it would be most affective to focus on countries that are not western, such as the Middle East countries. This in my opinion may contribute in portraying a more balanced assessment of other countries’ approach towards China’s cyber economic espionage intentions.

Consequently, in this paper I examine the approach of select Middle East countries to China’s massive involvement in world trade and the possibility of its gross cyber economic espionage activities, in order to assess Washington’s claim. To this end, I examine the cases of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The rationalization for choosing these two countries is such; the main nexus that binds Beijing to the Middle East region concerns economic security, as more than half of China’s oil and natural gas imports are sourced from the countries of the region.

However, in contrast to the majority of other actors in the region, hydrocarbons do not play a big role in Turkey’s relations with the China, thus making Ankara a meaningful choice for a study of relations with China within the Middle Eastern context. If so, an outtake on the Turkish possible responses to Chinese alleged cyber economic espionage may provide an original contribution on investigating this matter. Regarding the UAE, it is important to note that the federation is only the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. Being a source of oil and natural gas imports for China, but not one of China’s principal suppliers, the UAE represents a significant case study in this sense, as it cannot be characterized as being overly essential to Chinese interests. Therefore, the UAE’s approach to Chinese cyber espionage intentions will not be tilted in favor of Beijing.

If proven that these two Middle Eastern countries have taken action against Chinese economic transactions, it can be affirmed that this is due to the national security threat posed by cyber economic espionage. The apprehension that through cyber economic espionage China could access key economic interests in a host country’s economy and realize its interests regardless of the host country’s interests could in my opinion propel them into taking action against Chinese economic transactions, thus initiating the suspension or cancellation of Chinese backed investments and so on.

 In order to measure these Middle Eastern countries governments’ approach to possible Chinese cyber economic espionage through, I will examine possible objections and restrictions made at a government level towards Chinese economic transactions and Chinese funded projects within the country. I contend that upon presenting a consistent trend of government level objections to projects funded by the Chinese, it can be affirmed that this is due to the fact that there is a tangible threat to national security posed by cyber economic espionage, enabled by economic integration.

Turkey

Although more than half of China’s oil and natural gas imports are sourced from the countries of the Middle East region, thus deepening Beijing’s dependence on the region, hydrocarbons do not play a pivotal role in Turkey’s relations with China. Nonetheless, Turkey is a rising power in the region, and has not directly experienced the upheavals felt in the Arab world in the past few years, a fact which still places Ankara as a pivotal partner of Beijing in the region, in the economic and political spheres alike.[xxi] Regarding the Turkish government’s stance on possible Chinese cyber economic espionage activities, it is important to note that in November 2015, Ankara had cancelled a 3.4 billion dollars long-range missile defense system tender provisionally awarded to a Chinese state owned firm in 2013.[xxii]

Turkey had originally entered negotiations in 2013 with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) to finalize the billion dollar contact. Even though French-Italian consortium Eurosam and US-listed Raytheon had also submitted offers, the Turkish government had preferred talks with the Chinese company, a fact which raised serious concerns over the compatibility of CPMIEC’s systems with NATO missile defenses, as Turkey is a member. In its official statement given by a representative from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office, the Turkish government had declared that it had cancelled the deal with China mainly because Turkey had decided to launch its own missile project.[xxiii]

Though the Turkish government officially maintained that the core reason for its cancellation of the multi-billion dollar deal with the Chinse frim had been its decision to self-develop the long-range missile defense system, it can be contended that this was actually done because of concrete concern within the Turkish government regarding Chinese cyber economic espionage. As previously asserted, Turkey had led a comprehensive process in order to decide on a foreign company to lead this project. If Turkey had indeed wished to self-develop this defense system, it would have done so from the beginning, and would not have conducted a complete procedure so as to choose a foreign firm to conduct this project.

In other words, it can be argued that after Turkey had decided to continue with CPMIEC in order to further this project, serious concerns had risen within the Turkish government and out of it regarding subsequent possible exposure of sensitive NATO systems to Chinese eyes. Although the deal did not explicitly determine the direct exposure of critical and classified systems to the Chinese, this transaction could have enabled Chinese access to systems through which harmful data collection could be conducted. Transactions such as this may inadvertently permit foreign penetration through means of cyber, as foreign firms gain access and exposure to computerized systems through which such infiltration may be conducted. Such harmful data collecting activities through means of cyber that are enabled by seemingly innocent business transactions are especially perilous when these transactions involve critical infrastructure of the host country.

If so, it is significantly plausible that Turkey had canceled this multi-billion-dollar deal with China due to cyber economic espionage concerns. Although it can be contended that other motives had brought the Turkish government to the decision to call-off the collaboration with the Chinese state-owned firm, such as the formal Turkish response that contended that Turkey had decided to self-develop the long-range missile defense system, this, as stated, is problematic to comprehend as Turkey had initiated a long process of selecting a foreign contractor. If so, it can be contended that the Chinese cyber economic espionage threat was a pivotal motive in Turkey’s decision to call-off the deal, as it is perceived as a real danger by the Turkish government to its national security.

UAE

The UAE is a federation comprised of seven separate emirates, which together represent the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. The UAE has the seventh largest proven reserves in the world of both oil and gas, and in 2010 China imported 64,500 tons of liquefied natural gas from the UAE valued at more than 23 million dollars. Furthermore, the China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Corporation (CPECC) assisted with the construction of the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline Project, which now enables the transport of 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day from Abu Dhabi’s collection point at Habshan to the export terminals at Fujairah. Oil transported through the pipeline bypasses the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to block if it is attacked militarily. However, it is imperative to point out that the 3.3-billion-dollar project had experienced repeated delays, initiated by the UAE.[xxiv]

Although it had been officially stated that The UAE has been forced to delay the construction of a pipeline allowing oil to bypass the Strait of Hormuz due to construction problems,[xxv] according to industry sources close to the project, the reason for the delay was that although CPECC was already preparing to commission the pipeline, the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations (ADCO) was not involved in this initial preparation process, a rather perplexing situation, as ADCO would first have to make sure that the commissioned pipeline design suited its standard prior to commencing the production procedure.[xxvi]

The Chinese commencement of designing the pipeline without the participation and involvement of ADCO, the UAE state firm in charge of the project, plausibly points to the fact that there was a Chinese intention to commit an act of sinister nature, regarding the construction of the pipes; such pipelines include highly sophisticated control software that can be hacked and even manipulated prior to its assembling. In 2004 for instance, Thomas C. Reed, an Air Force secretary in the Reagan administration, wrote that the United States had effectively implanted a software Trojan horse into computing equipment that the Soviet Union had bought from Canadian suppliers, used to control a Trans-Siberian gas pipeline.[xxvii]

If so, it is quit plausible that the Chinese had begun the UAE commissioned pipeline design without involving ADCO because they had something to hide, such as the insertion of cyber espionage measures. This would not be an isolated incident for the Chinese, as in 2013 The former head of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Michael Hayden, contended that it is clear that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei spies for Beijing,[xxviii] a fact which rather solidifies the argument that China indeed utilizes business transactions in order to conduct cyber espionage. In the case of the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline Project, the numerous delays due to Chinese repetitive exclusion of ADCO from the pipeline design process can be explained by the fact that CPECC had engaged in illicit activities concerning the manufacturing of the pipeline, namely the insertion of cyber espionage measures. However, it is important to note that in this case, although it can be contended that China had engaged in cyber economic espionage, the UAE had only delayed the project, and had not opted to cancel it entirely.

If so, it is apparent that although these two Middle East countries do not share Washington’s vehement stance towards the Chinese cyber economic espionage threat, there is an understanding of the possible threat, reflected by their cancellation or delay of business transactions with Chinese firms. Although none of these Middle East countries have gone out and exclaimed, as the Americans have, that China makes use of cyber means in order to conduct economic espionage, their behavior towards major Chinese investment points to a government level comprehension that Chinese economic conduct differs from that of other countries, due to a heightened threat of cyber economic espionage.

These two Middle East countries, as others, are not cemented in great power politics such as the United States, and therefore lack the incentive, as well as the protective means, to denounce Chinese economic conduct due to Beijing’s use of such demeanor in order to conduct cyber espionage and enhance its strategic might. Therefore, although it is possible to witness a government level resistance to major business transactions with Chinese firms, it is mainly done so through inconspicuous ‘soft’ methods such as project suspension. However, project suspension coupled with cancellation of business transactions with Chinese firms in my opinion forms a stable foundation for the argument that Chinese business transactions specifically are not treated the same as transactions done with firms from other countries, therefore pointing to the fact that they pose a threat.

However, due to the fact that the anti-China steps taken in the economic sphere are mostly discreet, it is speculative to assume that these steps were taken in light of Chinese cyber economic espionage intentions. Even when publically announcing the suspension or cancellation of Chinese funded projects, those governments do not state that this is due to misconduct rooted in cyber economic espionage. That being said, it can be conferred from their actions that Chinese economic conduct is in fact treated differently than economic transactions originating from other countries, a fact which perhaps further solidifies the American notion that China’s economic behavior is not innocent, for if it were so, there would be no publically announced suspension or cancellation of major Chinese funded projects in both countries.

In the literature review section of this paper, I have noted Crosston’s approach, which states that typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure, meant to aid as an added aspect of military might enhancement. Additionally, according to Saha, recent assessments from the United States intelligence community contend that there is an intensified decisiveness within China’s international policies, and as part of this it has resorted to substantial cyber economic espionage. China’s focus on the infrastructure, energy and telecommunication sectors in terms of business transactions, which are all considered critical to national security, may suggest that the Chinese indeed intend to utilize information gained by means of cyber through economic integration in these sectors for strategic purposes. The suspension and cancellation of key Chinese funded projects, prima facie due to technical reasons, suggests that these governments see Chinese further economic involvement in their countries as a threat.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is feasible to comprehend the vast impact of global cyber interconnectedness and economic integration on the perception of a country’s national security. Whilst pertaining to be of economic nature only, typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure through cyber means, meant to aid as an added aspect of a nations’ power enhancement. International economic conduct may permit opportunities for proliferation of economic intelligence through means of cyber into the investing country’s hands, thus compromising the receiving country’s national security. The American claim that China currently spearheads cyber economic espionage worldwide by means of economic integration seems to be sustained by other governments as well, further to the reaction of the governments of Turkey and the UAE to business transactions with Chinese firms. Although these countries’ reaction is not as intense and straightforward as that of the American government, it is nevertheless apparent that they are striving to restrict or monitor it, at the very least.

In regards to the main question of this research, dealing with the reason for the official American intelligence bodies approach, claiming that China is currently the worldwide main conductor of cyber economic espionage, whilst it is maintained by other sources that other countries are committing economic espionage acts as well, in light of the findings regarding the two previously examined Middle East nations, it can be contended that the United States does so because Chinese investments in particular are conceived as a national security threat, a notion shared by other countries. As seen in the cases Turkey and the UAE, the suspension or suspension of Chinese projects, point to the fact that business transactions with Chinese firms are indeed looked upon, not only by the United States, as a source of peril. Although some sources may maintain that China is no different than any other country when it comes to cyber economic espionage, it is in fact proven that other countries, and not only the United States, perceive China specifically as an ominous threat when it comes to economic integration and possible cyber economic espionage.

Even though the global market place is becoming increasingly interconnected via cyber means, countries must take into consideration the risk of exposing their country to national security risks, due to the fact that international economic integration may prove to be a vessel for cyber economic espionage. Indeed, in this research it has been asserted that the United States is not exaggerating in its description of the cyber economic espionage intentions of the Chinese; rather, as a superpower, it is one of few countries that have the prerogative to openly state their opinion on the matter. It is critical therefore, to assess Chinese business transactions differently than those originating from other countries, in light of the fact that the Chinese specifically use economic integration means in order to conduct cyber espionage and enhance Beijing’s military and strategic might on the path of its rise.

Bibliography:

[i] Mary Ellen Stanley, “From China with Love: Espionage in the Age of Foreign Investment,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law 40, no. 3 (2015): 1033-1079.

[ii] Matthew Crosston, “Soft Spying: Leveraging Globalization as Proxy Military Rivalry,” International Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence 28, no. 1 (2015): 105-122.

[iii] Souvik Saha, “CFIUS Now made in China: Dueling National Security Review Frameworks as a Countermeasure to Economic Espionage in the Age of Globalization,” Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business 33, no. 1 (2012): 199-235.

[iv] Magnus Hjortdal, “China’s use of Cyber Warfare: Espionage Meets Strategic Deterrence,” Journal of Strategic Security 4, no. 2 (2011): 1-24.

[v] İbrahim Erdoğan, “Economic Espionage as a New Form of War in the Post- Cold War Period,” USAK Yearbook of International Politics and Law no. 2 (2009): 265-282.

[vi] Duncan Clarke, “Israel’s Economic Espionage in the United States,” Journal of Palestine Studies 27, no. 4 (1998): 20-35.

[vii] John Yoo, “The Legality of the National Security Agency’s Bulk Data Surveillance Programs,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 37, no. 3 (2014): 901-930.

[viii] Robert Bejesky, “Politicization of Intelligence,” Southern University Law Review no. 40 (2013): 243-551.

[ix] Mary Ellen Stanley.

[x] Lucyna Kornecki and Dawna Rhoades, “How FDI Facilitates the Globalization Process and Stimulates Economic Growth in CEE,” Journal of International Business Research 6, no. 1 (2007): 113-126.

[xi] Mary Ellen Stanley.

[xii] Matthew Crosston.

[xiii] Stuart Malawer, “Confronting Chinese Economic Cyber Espionage with WTO Litigation,” New York Law Journal, December 23, 2014.

[xiv] “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” The Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, April 14, 2016, https://www.ncsc.gov/publications/reports/fecie_all/Foreign_Economic_Collection_2011.pdf

[xv] Souvik Saha.

[xvi]  Ibid.

[xvii] Geoff Dyer, “China in ‘Economic Espionage’,” Financial Times, May 19, 2012.

[xviii] Zachary Keck, “Robert Gates: Most Countries Conduct Economic Espionage,” The Diplomat, December 17, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/robert-gates-most-countries-conduct-economic-espionage/

[xix] “WikiLeaks Reveals NSA’s Economic Espionage against France,” Progressive Digital Media Technology News, Jun 30, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1692699265?accountid=14765

[xx] Souvik Saha.

[xxi]Altay Atli, “A View from Ankara: Turkey’s Relations with China in a Changing Middle East,” Mediterranean Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2015): 117-136.

[xxii] “Turkey Says ‘yes’ to China’s Trade Initiative, ‘no’ to its Missiles,” South China Morning Post, November 15, 2015, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1879097/turkey-says-yes-chinas-trade-initiative-no-its-missiles

[xxiii] “Turkey Cancels $3.4 Bln Missile Deal with China,” The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, November, 15 2015, http://www.ccifc.org/fr/single-news/n/turkey-cancels-34-bln-missile-deal-with-china/

[xxiv] Manochehr Dorraj and James English, “The Dragon Nests: China’s Energy Engagement of the Middle East,” China Report 49, no. 1 (2013): 43-67.

[xxv] “UAE Delays Project to Bypass the Strait of Hormuz,”. Al Bawaba, January 9, 2012,

http://www.albawaba.com/business/uae-delays-project-bypass-strait-hormuz-408210

[xxvi] “UAE Delays Oil Pipeline to Bypass Hormuz to June,” Oil & Gas News, January 16, 2012,http://search.proquest.com/docview/916274658?accountid=14765

[xxvii] John Markoff, “Old Trick Threatens the Newest Weapons,” The New York Times, October 26, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/science/27trojan.html?_r=2&ref=science&pagewanted=all

[xxviii] “Huawei Spies for China, Says Former NSA and CIA Chief Michael Hayden,” Business Insider, July 19, 2013,http://www.businessinsider.com/huawei-spies-for-china-says-michael-hayden-2013-7

 

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Are they MAD to deploy THAAD?

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By William Reynolds, a 2nd year undergraduate studying War Studies. From a British Armed Forces background, William follows the military capabilities of the West and the security issues in the Middle East with great interest, placing special emphasis on COIN and the experiences of individuals on the ground. William has worked as a Research Fellow for Dr Whetham in the Centre of Military Ethics and is a spammer of many articles on the King’s Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENA).

East Asia has seen a significant deployment of military hardware by the US and its allies in response to increasing military activity on the part of the Chinese. The deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) systems in South Korea and the planned deployment of the Japanese Izumo class Helicopter Destroyer in disputed regions have certainly raised the ire of the Chinese. Whilst one could speculate what the Chinese response to such activities will be, this piece will simply focus on why said deployments have taken place, and what about them has provoked the PRC.

THAAD

THAAD is one of the most modern Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) systems available to the US in the short to intermediate ranges. The system operates by destroying an incoming missile via the kinetic energy of its own missile system. However, the drawback to the device is that it can only target the incoming weapon system once it is in its terminal phase of the flight. Essentially, the incoming missile is on its final approach when THAAD is finally able to identify, lock on and attempt to destroy the target.

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Therefore, its deployment in South Korea (it should be operational by April according to PACOM sources) is clearly a result of North Korean missile testing. Assuming Mr Kim finally decided to watch the peninsula burn, THAAD would operate as South Korea’s very best hope of knocking out any incoming North Korean nukes.

So with THAAD only able to knock out intermediate missiles, and therefore unable to touch China’s ICBM’s, why does China view the deployment as a threat? There are two possible theories at this time. The X-band radar, which tracks targets for THAAD, is a powerful piece of kit. If it were to be turned westwards and pointed at Mainland China it could penetrate deep into Chinese territory. Naturally China is not particularly keen on US SIGINT monitoring Chinese airspace, where their own missile tests could be at risk. However, this assumes that the radar will be pointed that way. As the diagram highlights, pointing X-band westwards completely neutralises its primary task of watching North Korea for possible threats. It would be easier for USPACOM (United States Pacific Command) to deploy submarines or additional ISTAR (Information, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) assets to watch the Chinese rather than waste expensive BMD systems on simple surveillance.

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The second, and far more likely, possibility is Chinese fear of containment. China has always viewed the Korean peninsula a vital security interest and the threat of a US, RoK and Japanese integrated missile defence system is intolerable. Regional missile defence complicates much of China’s military planning and security interests as THAAD operates as an area denial system for much of China’s hardware. A common phrase in any military is ‘move to live’. Area denial weapons hamper and restrict options for the Chinese military if the region did indeed come to blows. Just as NATO worries about the A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) systems in Kaliningrad, so does China worry about such systems on the Korean Peninsula.

This fear of containment influences much of China’s actions in the region. If one were to stand in Beijing, they would see the RoK and Japan to the East, Taiwan to the south and an increasingly US friendly Vietnam to the southwest. Whilst none of these countries operate as one single unit, the real possibility that these states, with US backing, could act to prevent Chinese movement clearly permeates Chinese policy. THAAD, as of this time, cannot be deployed on such a regional scale under one system. However, technology improves and the Americans have become quite adept at innovation when it comes to war.

This is not to say that China is justified in its opposition. Unable or unwilling to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, China has little right to interfere in the sovereign security decisions of the RoK. Indeed, it was China’s own policies that brought THAAD closer to the RoK. One cannot also help but view said opposition to a Korean BMD as hypocritical. After all, China is developing its own BMD system.

The Izumo

The JS Izumo represented a significant maritime development for the JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force). In the same class as the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, the ‘helicopter destroyer’ Izumo allows Japan to project power with both its helicopter detachment and on-board marines. Indeed, the designation ‘helicopter destroyer’ (DDH) is a somewhat new concept. Most destroyers in fleets around the world have the capacity to house one or two helicopters in order to conduct anti-submarine warfare or stop and searches. However, no known destroyers have the capacity to house such a vast quantity of aircraft. It is simply safer to ditch the political narrative and refer to the Izumo as what it truly is: a light aircraft carrier.

It is this designation that concerns China. Aircraft carriers are the offensive weapons of the fleet. Able to deploy air assets over large areas, carriers can project the power of its nation right into your city. Even if they have no airbases nearby. Thus, the deployment of one into the South China Sea, where Japan has no stakes or claims, is a worrying turn of events for China. Officially, the deployment is to test the ship on long duration operations. But it’s list of visits: Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, infer a different story. One could argue that this is a statement from the Japanese. That they are willing to leave their own waters and interests in order to support other Asian states in their quarrels. With the Izumo, they now have the capacity to do so.

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Conclusion

China’s concerns with recent military activity are indeed justifiable. The deployment of THAAD and the Izumo show a significant jump in the ‘West’ orientated states security policies and manoeuvring. However, what China fails to realise is that it was through its own actions that such policies were brought about. A muscular belligerence concerning the ‘Nine-Dash’ line and the Senkaku Islands has forced states to respond in kind. To many it may be viewed as the US asserting its hegemony in what should clearly be China’s region. However, China has failed to pick its fights well and has done more to unite the East-Asian states than anything the US could come up with. With President Trump we cannot be sure what US policy will continue to be. But Japan, and many other states in the region, has taken up the baton. We may very well see a more assertive collection of East Asian states on the horizon.

Bibliography:

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockheed/data/mfc/photo/thaad/hr/mfc-thaad-info-web-page-intercepting-hr.jp

 

 

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The day Australia woke up Asian.

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By Pierre Dugué, a second year BA War Studies student with specific interest in the strategic policies of the United States and its closest allies, particularly the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Pierre is a former intern at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and has most notably written for ‘Atlantic Community’, a NATO-sponsored think tank based in Berlin.

Last week, distinguished former diplomat and first Australian Ambassador to Beijing Dr. Stephen Fitzgerald overtly stated that Australia should drift away from the United States and seek an ever-increasing rapprochement with China. ‘We are living in a Chinese world’, he said. This controversial statement revives a cultural, political and strategic debate in Australia: where does this country belong? What should its role be?

Australia is not an Asian country, and should not become part of the Asian regional order. Rather, it should seek to play the role of a balancer between Washington and Beijing while asserting its influence and interests in Asia.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s argument does have certain legitimacy. In fact Australia’s current relationship with the United States is dangerously undermined. Australia has recently been tough on border issues, passing restricting laws for illegal migrants coming from neighbouring countries. In the last months of his presidency, Mr. Obama committed America to taking more than 12.000 migrants to relief Australian detention areas. This agreement has been questioned by President Trump, whose endeavour to protect American border from potential terrorists led to diplomatic tensions with PM Malcom Turnbull in late January. Likewise President Trump’s decision to void the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been a great source of friction. Now looking to Asia, Australia finds in Beijing its most reliable commercial partner. Exports to China are a high source of revenue that represents five times the income of trading with the United States. Furthermore, access to the Chinese market is essential to the maximisation of Australian goods and culture. Besides, Chinese tourists come to Australia en masse and grandly contribute to the economy. This, nonetheless, is far from being enough to engage in a diplomatic rapprochement.

Australia’s Anglo-Saxon identity has pushed it towards the Western world, fighting in two world wars alongside the ‘free world’ and contributing to keeping the Soviet Union at bay through the Five Eyes program during the Cold War. Today it remains one of the key NATO partners. Australia has, nonetheless, remained committed to regional issues in South Asia, but only under security imperatives. In fact the attack on Darwin by the Japanese Empire in 1942 – whose cultural impact equals that of Pearl Harbour – has framed Australia’s strategic principles in the long term and created a historical inertia whereby the stability of Asia remain paramount to Australia’s security. The recent emergence of China is not without reminding policy makers of the existing threat from the North, as highlighted in Australia’s 2013 White Paper on Defence. China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea and disregard for international law clearly undermine Australian national interests and core beliefs. The expansion of China’s sphere of influence threatens Australia’s power in the region and ultimately its territory. The current defence policies and the purchase of $40bn submarines show Canberra’s commitment to countering China and asserting its dominance over South Asia through the deployment of a power-projecting Navy. Australia cannot side with a threat to its security.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s argument is too engrained in a ‘rise-and-fall’ reading of history and assumes Australia’s passiveness at a time where great powers scramble for control in Asia. Australia does not have to be a second-hand buffer power stuck between China and the United States, facing the dilemma of who to side with. In fact, the picture should neither be black nor white but a shade of grey whereby Australia should stand as an equal third party in the struggle for power in Asia.

On the one hand, Australia should seek a strategic partnership with China that would ensure access to the Chinese market, and freedom of navigation for Australian ships in the South China Sea. This claim should be backed by a mighty Navy as to impose Australia’s monopoly and polarization of the most Southern part of South Asia and set the tone of regional interactions in the face of China’s expansionist doctrine. On the other hand, Australia should champion human rights and Western liberal values alongside the United States, condemning China’s rejection of the ICC rule on the South China Sea’s islands and opposing China’s order in Asia. Sustaining friendly relations with the United States is vital to Australia’s security, America being a nuclear power and militarily the most powerful country in the world by far. However, Australia should not completely fall into the realm of the United States and should, rather, prevent America from intervening in Australia’s potential sphere of influence. Canberra should instead encourage a regionalisation of the dispute in lieu of interference from Western great powers. Australia should distance itself from isolationist policies and start shaping the South Asian order according to its own principles as to maximise its interests.

Australia does have a unique cultural, political and strategic identity, halfway between Asia and the West. It should continue to play on that pivotal role in Asia-West relations with the grand strategic objective of controlling regional issues in mind. China might be gaining extensive power, however, one can doubt Australia will ever stand by a power with which it shares no ideological ground.

Picture Copyright: Alan Moir, Sydney Morning Herald.

 

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The Crowded Sea: Taiwan and the Nine-Dash Line

by Lily Hess, a 2nd year student, studying for a BA International Relations in the War Studies Department at King’s College London.

 

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(http://www.bricplusnews.com/affairs/this-is-why-the-south-china-sea-dispute-is-way-more-important-than-people-realise/)

 

The Permanent Court of Arbitration recently issued a ruling in the case of The South China Sea Arbitration, in which the Court largely sided with the Philippines and against China’s claim to most of the South China Sea from its “Nine-Dash Line”, which it asserts that it is based on historic rights [1]. This was seen as a victory for nations in the South China Sea against an increasingly aggressive China, who however rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the court proceedings [2]. Yet China was not the only nation that rejected the Court of Arbitration’s judgment: Taiwan also rejected the ruling, even though it is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – or indeed, a member of the United Nations at all. Taiwan also claims most of the South China Sea, using the same Nine-Dash Line as China [3]. However, Taiwan would benefit from dropping the Nine-Dash claim, which encompasses around 90% of the South China Sea [4].

 

To clarify, this is not an argument that Taiwan should give up all its islands in the South China Sea. Islands like Itu Aba and Pratas Island are already administered by Taiwan, although the Court ruling found that Itu Aba does not count as a habitable island and does not warrant a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone [1]. What this article addresses is Taiwan’s blanket claim over the South China Sea, including the Spratly islands, Paracel islands, and Scarborough Shoal. Taiwan holds very few of these disputed islands, and probably never will. Most of the islands within the Nine-Dash Line are also hotly disputed between Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei [5]. It is impractical to conceive of defending the islands in the South China Sea against all these navies, not to mention China’s navy as well. The Taiwanese army and navy have a huge disparity against the sheer size of the Chinese military [6]. By proclaiming their right to everything within the Nine-Dash Line, Taiwan faces a battle it cannot win.

 

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(http://onehallyu.com/topic/360250-is-the-nine-dash-line-in-the-south-china-sea-legal/)

 

Taiwan has existed in a politically delicate situation for decades, with the threat of military conflict constantly looming from the other side of the Taiwan Strait. As a nation it has few formal friends, and its main guarantor of security – the United States – is so inextricably tied to China’s economy that its commitment to protecting Taiwan from a potential Chinese invasion is questionable. While some would argue that closer relations between Taiwan and mainland China are the best hope for peace, it is in Taiwan’s interest to maintain close relationships with its neighbors regardless. The new Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, announced a “New Southbound Policy”, which intends to strengthen cultural and economic ties between Taiwan and ASEAN countries [8]. If this policy is to succeed, dropping the Nine-Dash claim would take away a source of discord.

 

Disagreements between ownership of tiny rocks and boundaries of exclusive economic zones may seem like an obscure reason for heightening diplomatic tensions, but recently these disputes have been used to stoke nationalism within these countries. In 2013, relations between the Philippines and Taiwan suffered when the Philippine coast guard fired at a Taiwanese fishing vessel it insisted was inside its exclusive economic zone. This incident soured relations for around two months and caused the Philippines to place sanctions on Taiwan for a time [7]. These minor territorial disputes can escalate quickly, with Taiwan’s claims putting the United States in an awkward position – them being the only country that could really protect Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. However, the United States wishes to facilitate free navigation in the South China Sea and is allied with the Philippines. Claiming most of the South China Sea causes tension between Taiwan and its usually-friendly neighbors, at a time when Taiwan cannot afford to alienate them.

 

As a nation with few formal diplomatic ties with other countries, Taiwan faces the challenge of staking a separate identity from mainland China. However, ironically, by sticking with its Nine-Dash Line, Taiwan is lumping itself with China. When the government of Taiwan protested against the Court ruling, China used Taiwan’s protest to bolster its own stance [3]. Dropping its Nine-Dash Line claim would not necessarily be a concrete step towards independence, but a symbolic step – a measure that Taiwan can afford for now.

 

Renouncing the Nine-Dash Line would hand Taiwan a legitimacy win as well: it is not a part of the UN, and hence is not a party to UNCLOS; but by dropping the Nine-Dash Line it can present itself as adhering to international law more than China. Adhering to international law would not only strengthen its case for international recognition, but also put pressure on China to follow international law as well. After all, what Taiwan should fear the most is an aggressive China that sees itself as above laws and norms – but conversely, by asserting the validity of its territorial claims up to Nine-Dash Line, it is validating China’s right to ignore the Court as well.

 

Whether or not the Taiwanese government’s goal is formal independence, it should not insist on unrealistic claims to the South China Sea, which could distance itself from the South-East Asian countries with whom it should be trying to create closer ties. With $5.3 trillion worth of trade passing through the area annually [9], upholding navigational freedom is crucial. The Court ruling presents a unique opportunity for Taiwan to reinforce its relations with its neighbors, and nationalism does not have to clash with the international community. The South China Sea is crowded, and everyone must share.

 

[1] Permanent Court of Arbitration. (2016). The South China Sea Arbitration: (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China) [Press Release]. Retrieved from https://pca-cpa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/175/2016/07/PH-CN-20160712-Press-Release-No-11-English.pdf

 

[2] Perlez, Jane. “Tribunal Rejects Beijing’s Claims in the South China Sea.” New York Times. The New York Times Company, 12 July 2016. Web. 14 July 2016.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/13/world/asia/south-china-sea-hague-ruling-philippines.html

 

[3] Ramzy, Austin. “Taiwan, After Rejecting South China Sea Decision, Sends Patrol Ship.” New York Times. The New York Times Company, 13 July 2016. Web. 14 July 2016.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/14/world/asia/south-china-sea-taiwan.html

 

[4] Hunt, Katie. “South China Sea: Court rules in favor of Philippines over China.” CNN. Cable News Network, 12 July 2016. Web. 14 July 2016.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/12/asia/china-philippines-south-china-sea/

 

[5] “China’s Maritime Disputes: A CFR InfoGuide Presentation.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, n.d. Web. 15 July 2016.

http://www.cfr.org/asia-and-pacific/chinas-maritime-disputes/p31345#!/p31345

 

[6] “A brief comparison between the military forces of Taiwan and China.” Taipei Times. The Taipei Times, 23 Sept. 2011. Web. 14 July 2016.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2011/09/23/2003513977

 

[7] Jennings, Ralph. “Common Threat to Cool Dispute Between Taiwan and the Philippines.” Forbes. Forbes Media LLC, 7 June 2015. Web. 16 July 2016.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2015/06/07/3177/#1478ec7a6565

 

[8] Jing, Bao-chiun. “Taiwan’s 2016 elections and relations with Asean.” The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 July 2016.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/taiwans-2016-elections-and-relations-with-asean

 

[9] Willard, Robert. “Press Briefing by NSA for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and Admiral Robert Willard, U.S. Pacific Command.” The White House. The White House, 13 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 July 2016.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/11/13/press-briefing-ben-rhodes-and-admiral-robert-willard#transcript

 

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Dear Hillary

by Jackson Webster, a Los Angeles native, currently in his final year of International Relations in the King’s College London Department of War Studies.

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Dear Hillary,

 

Congratulations. The Democratic nomination is all but yours, and the GOP faces an existential crisis which has caused its voters to choose a loud-mouthed human toupee as their nominee. You’re likely to take the reigns of power next January, and then it’ll be out with the campaigning and in with the governing. Here’s a few humble observations from yours truly about our broken yet salvageable national security strategy and how best to fix it. Let’s get down to business.

 

  1. Ok, so here’s what you have to do:
    1. maintain American pre-eminence through cooperation with new mid-level allies,
    2. establish connectivity with the global economy as our top national security priority,
    3. use of American military power to back the norms of the liberal world order when institutions fail to do so.
  2. And here’s why:
    1. unquestioned US dominance is fading, and this power is transferring to mid-level states,
    2. the global economy is increasingly interconnected,
    3. hundreds of thousands have died in Syria and territory has been annexed by force in Ukraine, and the UN Security Council has done essentially nothing about it.

 

OUR NEW PARTNERS

 

The unipolar global system created at the end of the Cold War, where the US’ power stood unchallenged, is no longer a realistic worldview upon which to base our strategy in the 21st century. Equally, American strategy has been bastardized over the past two decades into dealing with old rivals and old allies. We’d best heed Washington’s warnings against unconditional alliances, and revaluate the costs and benefits of our partnerships. Moreover, we have become distracted by threats which do not pose serious existential danger to the US or its interests, such as locally-focused religious extremism in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq. We have dangerously overplayed the importance of combating terrorism. This calculus must change to recognize the dynamic nature of power distribution in the 21st century.

 

American power projection is based in strong alliances backed up by material assistance. The US can be a regional kingmaker. This power is unique in political history. This ability of US patronage was used to create the regional powers of West Germany, Japan, and Israel during the Cold War. The US must be prepared once again to double-down on mid-level allies in this century, though the allies we must court differ from those of the last century. Such states include Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Argentina. Each of these states faces serious internal issues which would be best combatted with our assistance. Patronage for Poland can be used as leverage over the current government, which has spent its time in office thus far flouting the rule-of-law. Turkey faces a serious separatist and terrorist threat in its Kurdish southeast. Malaysia faces slow growth from falling oil prices and multiple regional refugee crises. Mexico is fighting well-armed and well-financed drug cartels. Nigeria faces an Islamist insurgency in its northern provinces, with spillover effects into the territories of other US partners like Mali and Chad. Argentina continues to face serious national debt problems. All these countries need assistance, and with our patronage comes an integration of American interests with these states’ interests. Through our aid, and through closer cooperation and inclusion in the liberal international order, we can ensure these states’ partnership for decades to come, just as Marshall reconstruction at the end of the Second World War solidified US partnerships with West Germany and with our East Asian allies.

 

While Russia has previously presented a geopolitical challenge to the US, and Moscow has successfully countered our interests in Syria and Ukraine, Russia does not present a serious long-term threat to American pre-eminence due to Russia’s own internal weaknesses. A kleptocratic political system centred around President Putin himself, combined with a gas-dependent and sluggish economy, do not provide strong nor stable bases for Russian power. In the short-term, Russian power can be best countered through existing alliances, namely with increased NATO armoured deployments in the Baltic States. A return to conventional deterrence is prudent in this instance. Indecisive acquiescence to Moscow is not. A strengthened American commitment to our allies in Eastern Europe will amply halt Russian ambitions in that region. Russia today is not what the Soviet Union once was: it is not a great power competitor on-par with the depth or breath of American power, despite Mr. Putin’s ego often arguing the opposite.

 

China, however, provides a direct revisionist threat to the liberal world order. The strength and diversity of the Chinese economy, combined with a decade of robust Chinese diplomacy in their near abroad and in Africa, have lead to extensive gains in Chinese economic and diplomatic influence. This influence is shown in the popularity of the Chinese-lead Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. However China, too, is best contained through existing institutions. China’s willingness to work within the international system allows its rise to be less conflictual than historical revisionist powers. China is not a rogue state. It seeks legitimacy as a member of the international community. The US must continue to place resources and faith into our alliances with Japan, Australia, and South Korea as the best regional counterbalances to Chinese ambitions, and must work to increase cooperation with and amongst these allies. Equally, the maritime stability provided by the US Navy will remain crucial to all East Asian export-based economies well into this century, including China’s.

 

IT’S THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, STUPID

 

At the creation of the American Republic, the only permanently standing element of the Federal military was the Navy. The Department of the Navy was created to maintain daily connectivity to the global economy, a lifeline the new Republic desperately needed. The US needs this lifeline today more than ever. Freedom of navigation maintains both current global order and US primacy, which are synonymous. The American Navy’s unquestioned dominance underwrites American hard power more than any other branch of the military. Equally, it ensures that American power can be projected anywhere in the globe within hours of a crisis.

 

Bill was right, when we’re talking about the bedrock of global order, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  The world’s economy is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s only getting more so thanks to the Internet. Global free trade remains the central priority of US national security strategy. For this reason, the US Navy will be the key branch of the armed forces into the 21st century in terms of power projection. Whereas investment in land-based counterinsurgency techniques and equipment has characterized the last decade, investment in naval technology, basing, and logistics must be the central priority of the national security budget in the coming decades. The American population no longer has the political will to launch large land-based occupations, and these kinds of actions can often be a poor long-term investment with very little stability produced in return. Investment in our Navy will ensure American dominance of the seas into the next half-century, will counterbalance China’s new blue-water navy, and will guarantee that global chokepoints of trade remain open to our nation’s imports and exports.

 

UNDERWRITING THE LIBERAL ORDER

 

America is not as all-powerful as she was when your husband took office, however the depth and breadth of US power still must not be underestimated. The American military outclasses all our competitors and our allies combined in every measure of strength, the American economy is still the largest in the world despite our relatively small population, and the US possesses a geographically advantageous location: we are literal oceans away from threats to the homeland.

 

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The US must use its power projection to be the guarantor of the liberal world order. This rules-based order is beneficial to the US economy, to our allies, to our continued primacy, and to our values. Supporting norms, weapons prohibitions, international treaties, free trade, and institutions of due-process upholds the liberal world order. As the US is the creator and natural leader of the liberal world order, the maintenance of this system is of paramount interest to the US. Even if this support comes at a cost and forces restraint on American actions abroad, the long-term benefits outweigh the short term shortcomings.

 

As was done in the Persian Gulf in 1991, the US must use our power to punish states who do not play by the rules. We must continue to use our overseas military deployments as guarantees to our allies, who must have no doubt we will defend their sovereignty. When states break international norms or violate the sovereignty of our allies, the US must have a credible threat of the use of force against these rogue actors. While not every violation of the system alone constitutes a direct threat to US national security, the maintenance of the global system of norms and institutions is a central priority of US national security. Therefore, a violation of these norms or a defiance of these institutions constitutes a credible threat to US national security and thus warrants decisive action.

 

Mrs. President, I wish you the best of luck in the next four (let’s be honest, with the current state of the GOP, probably eight) years. Here’s to hoping for an easy end to what was an excruciatingly long —though certainly unique— election cycle. I hope Bill doesn’t get into too much trouble as our nation’s first First Dude.

 

Respectfully yours,

 

Jackson Webster

Proud member of the California Democratic Party

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The End of Japan – and Why Nobody Gives a Damn

Kiyomi Ran is a first-year International Relations student at King’s College London. She is Chinese-Japanese-American by nationality.

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We live in a society that is dominated by western values, which means that we pay disproportionally more attention to current affairs of the Western world. The western media is obsessed with following the US Presidential Election or ‘Brexit’ which they have the right to do, but this leaves little space for what is happening elsewhere in the world – especially in Asia, arguably one of the biggest regions in the world – in whatever way you perceive it.

Asia has gone through significant changes in the recent years. From China overtaking Japan as the country with the second highest GDP in the world to the territorial issues that have both emerged and been resolved. Its massive size makes it prone to cultural conflicts and natural catastrophes, and not a single day goes by without seeing some headline of grievance or suffering. The rise of developing countries is also striking, and we should prepare for a world where countries such as China and India hold the same power as the West. However, we often tend to look past a country that had been the center of Asia, a prominent member of the globalized world, and a miracle story of the past.

 

Japan.

 

In the decades after World War II, Japan experienced an unprecedented period of growth. Less than twenty years after the Japanese defeat, it was hosting the Summer Olympics. Within a few decades, Japanese products were exported all over the world, contributing to this astonishing and extraordinary achievement. The average life-expectancy went from war-time devastation to the highest in the world. Soon enough, it climbed to the top of the GDP rankings, surpassing every country except the US, becoming one of the global great powers and a regional hegemon.

 

But it doesn’t seem so anymore.

 

Japan’s growth has stagnated over the years. In many ways we should look at Japan as an athlete. One which consistently failed to make its mark on the international arena, failing over and over again. But one day, Japan discovered steroids called “US aid.” Well, they worked for Japan perfectly. They worked so well that Japan kept using them, until one day, Japan got caught, stripped away of all its past glories, forgotten forever. And it seems like it is trying to come back to redeem itself, but in all the wrong ways.

 

Don’t get me wrong – Japan is still a strong athlete like it once was, but it has lost its credibility, partly due the political leadership that cannot keep up with the new rules of the game and partly due to the rise of other competitors shining brighter than Japan ever did. Until recently, Japan had an average of one Prime Minister per year. Even the current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who broke the streak of one-year-souri, was a member of this clan who left his first term due to a stomach illness. He came back a few years later determined to bring change to Japan and to revive the economy from this period of stagnation. But like all athletes eventually realize, it’s not easy to come back from doping.

 

Shinzo Abe’s “fixes” have brought nothing but more resentment towards the Japanese government both domestically and internationally. His so-called “Abenomics” have had ambiguous effects. But more importantly, his social legislations will quite literally bring him close to the end. The government is old and backward-thinking, and cannot fit into the group of young and strong competitors. Rooted in the mindset of isolation or sakoku that Japan practiced for more than two hundred years between 17th and 19th centuries, Japan cannot seem to globalize socially. Economically, no one questions that it has opened up to the world, but just as when Matthew Perry first landed on the offshores of the present-day Tokyo, the government are again asking foreigners to leave.

 

Why shouldn’t Japan be able to practice Japanese policies? The answer is because it is slowly eating itself away by doing so. Japan’s population has been rapidly decreasing in the past few decades, with 40% of it now considered “aged dependents.” That means 60% of the population (including children) need to provide for the non-working rest of the population. The graying workforce has many implications for all the obvious reasons – low productivity, low consumption, and also high stress for the workers. Nonetheless, the Japanese have been reluctant to accept migrants or allow women to work – something engrained in the Japanese culture for centuries. It’s not an openly racist or sexist country; it’s just something that has been practiced for years. In fact, Japan has one of the lowest gender-gap index for a developed country, ranking in the bottom two-thirds, lower than Brunei that just passed law that made gay relationships punishable via death. Japan has been able to deal with everything until now, but as its precious performance-enhancing-drugs become older and ineffective, it is still trying to cheat the system, and not playing by the rules. The reluctance to accept foreigners or women in the workforce will have a detrimental effect on both the society and the economy. It won’t be long until Japan becomes the country fourth on the list of GDP – or fifth or sixth or even lower as other actors catch up to the goal line.

 

That leads to my second point – Japan cannot keep competing with rising athletes in a way it deems fit. Undoubtedly, China has caught up to Japan and maybe even beat it. The rise of other actors in Asia, including South Korea, India, and the ASEAN community will further jeopardize Japan’s tactics. In the recent years, the relationships between Japan and neighboring countries have become worse. Territorial disputes with both South Korea and China have created a larger xenophobic sentiment that again will not help with Japan’s future growth. While it was once seen as the helper of developing countries in Asia, Japan cannot afford to keep aiding the neighboring countries. It is also turning its eyes away from the possible positive-sum solution of bringing migrants to work in Japan to help both sides. Japan is going to fade away from the international arena and is only able to just keep up with the competition thanks to the US – the holder of the normative power in the federation.

 

The Japanese culture is one of those things that you really need to know to understand the country. But it’s not working and it is Japan that might really need to now know the culture of the globalized world. Even if Japan doesn’t have as much presence in the international arena anymore, its demise will still affect the whole world, especially economically. But as long as it pushes others away, from migrants to women, nobody is going to care if it falls.

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Counter-terrorism, Syria and Military Intervention: A Chinese Perspective

Dean Chen is a first-year BA International Relations student at King’s

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As the British Parliament has authorised air strikes in Syria, we are coming to a very interesting situation: four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are currently carrying out military action against a common enemy. The last time when this happened was during WWII. The only missing one, China, which was widely regarded as a rising world power, seems to be mute about the situation in Syria. This piece will try to offer readers a Chinese perspective on counter-terrorism and the situation in Syria. It believes that China is not ‘mute’, but rather playing a constructive role in these issues, although her ways and underlying logic might not be well understood by many. By the end of this piece, it is hoped that readers will have a more comprehensive understanding of China’s stance and policy concerning the above issues.

China is not immune to terrorist threat. In November 2015, a Chinese citizen was beheaded by ISIL. In 2014, a terrorist attack in Kunming (a city located in Southwest China) resulted in 33 deaths. In 2013, a suicide attack at Tiananmen Square in Beijing (widely regarded as the political heart of China) killed 5 people. Domestic terrorist organisations have long been present in China. The most famous ones are the ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement’ and ‘East Turkestan Liberation Organisation’ whose main sphere of activity is Xinjiang Province in Northwest China. Xinjiang has a large Muslim population and these organisations aim to establish a fundamentalist Islamist state in Xinjiang. Since their establishment, they have claimed responsibility for hundreds of terrorist attacks. In addition, it is believed these organisations have connections with Al Qaeda, and several hundred jihadist fighters from China have joined ISIL. The counter-terrorist situation China faces, is one that combines the threats of violent terrorism, religious fundamentalism and separatism, linked to international terrorism network.

The Chinese government is taking strong measures to combat terrorism. According to Chinese media, Chinese military and police have successfully destroyed 181 ‘violent terrorist groups’ in Xinjiang. [1] Actions are taken to cut connections between domestic terrorist organisations and international terrorist networks, especially stopping radicalised individuals from joining ISIL. By tackling domestic terrorist groups and stemming the flow of fighters joining ISIL, China is making her own contributions to international counter-terrorism. The underlying logic of China’s approach is consistent in her foreign policy: by solving her own problems and advancing China’s development, China is effectively contributing to solving international problems and fostering global development.

Needless to say, terrorism is benefiting from the chaos in Syria. If terrorism is to be eradicated, the coordination of counter-terrorism policy with conflict-resolving policy in Syria is essential. The following part of the essay will look at China’s policy regarding Syria.

Peaceful means of conflict-resolving, dialogue, political solution, non-intervention are key words of China’s policy towards the Syrian conflict. China vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions proposing sanctions and military intervention targeting Syria. China has consistently supported UN-led peace initiatives, including the Geneva Communique, the second round Geneva dialogue and the Arab League-UN joint special envoys. These actions are reflections of the stance that China has consistently upheld, which can be illustrated by the following statement:

‘Our fundamental point of departure is to safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter as well as the basic norms governing international relations, including the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in others’ internal affairs, to safeguard the interests of the Syrian people and the Arab states, and to safeguard the interests of all countries, small and medium-sized in particular. This is China’s consistent stance in all international affairs. It is not targeted at a particular issue or time.’ [2]

These actions and statements strongly suggest China’s highly principled views of resolving the Syrian conflict: (1) the conflict should be resolved through peaceful dialogue involving both sides, and military means should not be adopted; (2) the principle of non-intervention and sovereign equality should be the number one principle of international relations, and no other principle should be above it. [3]

In light of new developments of the Syrian conflict, especially the unexpectedly swift rise of ISIL, China’s attitude is undergoing changes. The beheading of a Chinese citizen by ISIL earlier this year has invoked louder calls for the Chinese government to adopt more proactive policy regarding Syria. On November 20th 2015, China voted in favour of UN Security Council resolution S/RES/2249 (2015) in support of UN member states’ action to ‘redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL’. [4] However, this change in attitude should not be exaggerated. The deep concerns of China have not yet changed: she is concerned that military intervention in Syria could establish a dangerous precedent for military intervention against sovereign states; she is also concerned about the abuse of power by certain states to promote regime change for geopolitical purposes. [5]

In conclusion, regarding counter-terrorism and the Syrian conflict, China adopts a relatively restrictionist policy: she is largely focused on tackling domestic terrorist threats, and consistently advocated the principle of state sovereignty and political solutions to the Syrian conflict. The underlying logic of China’s policy is that by solving her own problems and exercising restraint in international relations, China is effectively contributing to solving international problems and maintaining international peace. China is often criticised for dodging international responsibility, but perhaps her approach might provide different perspectives for considerations.

[1] See “新疆反恐:一年已打掉181个暴恐团伙” [Counter-terrorism in Xinjiang: destroying 181 violent terrorist groups in one year] November 20, 2015 http://mil.news.sina.com.cn/2015-11-20/1124844389.html

[2] Explanatory Remarks by Ambassador Wang Min after General Assembly Vote on Draft Resolution on Syria, Permanent Mission of the People‘s Republic of China to the UN, August 3, 2012, http://www.china-un.org/eng/hyyfy/t958262.htm

[3] Swaine, M.D., 2012. Chinese Views of the Syrian Conflict. [online] Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/swaine_clm_39_091312_2.pdf

[4] Security Council resolution, Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, S/RES/2249 (November 20, 2015)

Available at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2249(2015)

[5] Swaine, M.D., 2012. Chinese Views of the Syrian Conflict. [online] Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/swaine_clm_39_091312_2.pdf

 

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The Dragon visits the land of Uncle Sam

By Yiming Yu, a Shanghai native currently studying International Relations at King’s College London. 
Obama v Xi

When President Xi Jinping cited Sleepless in Seattle and The Old Man and the Sea in his inaugural visit to the United States, the kindness he portrayed attempted to wash over increasing hostilities in Sino-US relationship. Though Xi and Obama tried to create a façade of genuine friendship, the visit by the premier continues his predecessors’ concentration on the economy with little progress made in other areas. With solutions to issues such as cyber security and the South China Sea disputes yet to be found, along with US contempt for Xi’s authoritarian control over China there are question marks over whether these two super powers can live in harmony.

The economy appears to be the area where the most common ground can be found, something to be expected given the importance of these connections in the bilateral relationship. Indeed, just last year China’s trade with the US was almost 600 billion dollars1. Xi’s choice of Seattle rather than Washington as his first stop in the US demonstrates that he continue his predecessors’ focus on economic issues. However, this strategy may backfire for Xi as he must assure US entrepreneurs that the Chinese economy is suitable for investment and trade. The Chinese economy has been slowing down in recent months, and was confirmed by the decline of China on the official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) to a low of 49.82. To get an understanding of what this means a figure below 50 suggests that the manufacturing sector is contracting. While the government still maintain that they have met their growth rate target of 7%, this is doubted by many analysts who estimate that the figure is much lower3. Whether or not this statistic is correct, this is the slowest growing pace of the Chinese economy for over 25 years4. If Sino-US trade is indeed worth over 600 billion dollars to the two nations, Xi had to make sure that the Chinese economy is still an attractive option for American businesses which would strengthen the Chinese economy, and with it the ruling class who rely heavily on a strong economic performance.

There were other positive aspects to the trip with the most important being the climate change deal, where Xi announced that China would set up a cap-and-trade programme to control Carbon Dioxide emissions starting from 2017 and would allocate 3.1 billion dollars to help low-income countries6. In addition to this, the Chinese and the Americans showed that they have common interests in sectors including, but not limited to, nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan, peacekeeping and global sustainable development7 and 8. This shows China’s commitment to take the responsibilities of a great power and as David Shambaugh, a famous scholar on Chinese politics point out, this signals China’s willingness for more active cooperation with the US in global governance9.

However, despite many areas of progress, there is still no consensus on long-existing issues, issues that are crucial to the future dynamic of Sino-US relations such as cybersecurity and the South China Sea disputes. It must be noted that Obama clearly expressed dissatisfaction and concern over China’s cyber activities and showed contempt towards the construction of artificial airstrips in disputed territory while Xi denied and defended both of these activities as you would expect10. In the field of cybersecurity, there was little progress, though both parties nominally agreed to refrain from state-sponsored cyber theft for commercial gain. They also promised to establish a high-level dialogue mechanism between the two countries and to work on international rules of cyber conducts11 and 12. Nevertheless, it is noticed that the agreement left room for difference where Obama claimed stop of cyberespionage for commercial gains against companies while Xi only mentioned cybercrime13. Richard Bejtlich, a fellow at Brookings Institution, also points out that there are four ways to interpret this agreement, where China’s subsequent action may range anywhere from an authoritative robust policy restricting cyber theft on intellectual properties, to the continuation of hacking against US governmental departments as claimed by the US government recently14. At the same time as the visit, a high ranking Chinese official lambasted the US for a hypocritical cyber policy15 showing the conflict is not resolved yet, especially with rumours that the US could impose sanctions on China if the hacking continues. While it could be believed that China and the US have found some common ground on the cybersecurity issue, it seems that both sides refuse to compromise on disputes in South China Sea. Though both have signed the little-noticed Annex of the Rules of Behaviour for Air-to-Air Encounters to prevent potential collision and to show their determination to avoid conflicts16, there seemed to be no consensus in the joint press conference and more tension is expected to exist in South China Sea.
Following the end of the summit, there were questions raised as to whether this meeting was successful or not with conclusions ranging from success to failure to satisfactory. However, with so many uncertainties in the conflicted areas and even areas where progress has been made in the summit, it is safe to think it too early to conclude whether Xi’s visit was successful. After Xi took the throne, his assertiveness and revisionism satisfied the population’s ambition of ‘rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. This fervent nationalism is precisely the thing that keeps the Chinese Communist party in power.

When Xi met with American business leaders in Seattle to promote trade and Chinese economy, it should not be overlooked that favourability towards the Chinese investment markets  in the American business circles is reducing, creating an environment where only 24% of business executives surveyed felt optimistic about doing business in China. Comparatively, 5 years ago this figure was nearer 67% 17. The change of attitude could be largely attributed to the Party’s enhanced national security policies, which include the requirement of passing critical data and intellectual properties on to the authority18. It is believed by the US Chamber of Commerce that these laws would bar American businesses from fair competition with Chinese counterparts19. Also, the Chinese government’s heavy but failed intervention to stimulate stock market in August left a bad impression on these business leaders tarnishing China’s reputation20. Similarly, it is reported that between one fifth and one third of Chinese CO2 emissions are produced by export industries21. Although China is advocating reform of industry structures, considering the economy’s great importance to the Party’s ruling as well as local government officers’ position, would China be willing to potentially sacrifice the growth rate of the economy to fight against climate change, especially in the time of economy slowing down?

The phrase a ‘new type of great-power relations’ may be one of the most frequently quoted words in the Chinese statement on the Sino-US relationship. Domestically, this sentiment could be regarded as the effort to acquire the population’s confidence and support towards the ruling party Party as it recognises the peasantries dream to be a great power. This could explain why some media outlets allege that China took symbolic gestures as China’s primary goal as it ensures Xi’s security and dignity22, which could prove to domestic audience that China is a respected great power. Interpretations of this phrase vary from equal treatment and win-win cooperation to respecting each other’s interests as great powers to US’ accommodation of China’s core interests23. How both sides perceive this description of bilateral relationship may greatly decide progress of diplomacy in the future while also produce many uncertainties.

After all, no one wants to see China and the US walk into the Thucydides Trap which is another phrase used by Xi to explain conflicts between a status quo power and a rising power. Some commentaries claim that the Sino-US relationship has reached a tipping point and could be seen to start a new Cold War. However, when Xi’s predecessors met with the US leaders, despite conflicts over some issues, the bilateral relationship kept progressing24. With the foundation of economic connections and both sides’ willingness to continue diplomatic dialogues, it could be believed that Xi would not be an exception and there will still be a relatively positive relationship between two states. Nevertheless, a new US president will take office next year, which will potentially change their foreign policies towards China. Furthermore, with the Chinese economy in turmoil it may be less alluring to US businesses and Xi’s effort to consolidate the Party’s rule may mean a more assertive foreign policy and more restrictions on foreign business’ activities in China. These factors are likely to lead to more uncertainties in the future. How both sides deal with these uncertainties will eventually shape the future of Sino-US relationship.

  1. “Collision course? Rise of China a stress for the US,” BBC, accessed October 2, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-34368249
  2. “Chinese manufacturing continues to contract in September,” BBC, accessed October 1, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34409196
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. “Xi Jinping of China to Address Wary U.S. Business Leaders,” New York Times, accessed October 1, 2015, http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20150923/c23xijinping/en-us/
  6. “China takes a lead on global climate change,” Financial Times, accessed October 1, 2015, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2014-10-09/not-so-empty-talk
  7. “Collision course? Rise of China a stress for the US,” BBC, accessed October 2, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-34368249
  8. “FACT SHEET: President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the United States,” The White House, accessed October 5, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/fact-sheet-president-xi-jinpings-state-visit-united-states
  9. “Reserving differences while finding common ground,” New York Times, accessed October 3, 2015, http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2015/09/28-xi-us-visit-common-ground-shambaugh
  10. “Obama and Xi Jinping of China Agree to Steps on Cybertheft,” New York Times, accessed October 5, 2015, http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20150926/c26prexy/en-us/
  11. “Collision course? Rise of China a stress for the US,” BBC, accessed October 2, 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-34368249
  12. “FACT SHEET: President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the United States,” The White House, accessed October 5, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/fact-sheet-president-xi-jinpings-state-visit-united-states
  13. “Obama and Xi Jinping of China Agree to Steps on Cybertheft,” New York Times, accessed October 5, 2015, http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20150926/c26prexy/en-us/
  14. “To hack, or not to hack?,” Brookings Institution, accessed October 3, 2015, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2015/09/28-us-china-hacking-agreement-bejtlich
  15. “Chinese Official Faults US Internet Security Policy,” New York Times, accessed October 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/30/technology/chinese-official-faults-us-internet-security-policy.html?_r=0
  16. “Obama-Xi summit produces landmark deal to reduce dangerous military encounters,” The Interpreter, accessed October 5, 2015, http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2015/09/29/Obama-Xi-summit-produces-landmark-deal-to-reduce-dangerous-military-encounters.aspx
  17. “Xi Jinping of China to Address Wary U.S. Business Leaders,” New York Times, accessed October 1, 2015, http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20150923/c23xijinping/en-us/
  18. ibid
  19. ibid
  20. “A very long engagement,” The Economist, accessed October 4, 2015, http://www.economist.com/news/china/21665034-xi-jinpings-state-visit-washington-will-do-little-resolve-growing-tensions-very-long
  21. “China’s Exports Are Closely Linked to Its Emissions,” New York Times, accessed October 1, 2015, http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/chinas-exports-are-closely-linked-to-its-emissions/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=World&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body
  22. “Watching the signs: Can honesty and candour define Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the US?,” Financial Times, accessed October 4, 2015, http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1860413/watching-signs-can-honesty-and-candour-define-xi-jinpings
  23. “Not-So-Empty Talk,” Foreign Affairs, accessed October 3, 2015, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2014-10-09/not-so-empty-talk
  24. “Chinese state visits are always hard: A historical perspective,” Brookings Institution, accessed October 4, 2015, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/09/17-xi-jinping-state-visit-politics-bader
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Mullah Omar’s Death and the Next Chapter of Afghanistan’s Saga

by Kate Dinnison and Millie Radovic. Kate is an American second year student of BA International Relations at King’s, North America Editor of IR Today, and Academic Secretary of the War Studies Society. Millie, an Anglo-Serbian native, is also reading IR at the War Studies Department, the Chief Editor of IRT, and VP of the War Studies Society. Both hold acute research interests in Afghanistan, specifically its development in the 21st century: from invasion, to state building and counterterrorism.

741083-mullahomar-1406315124-483-640x480After almost 14 years of speculation on the whereabouts of the infamous Taliban leader, after he escaped ISAF’s grip on the back of a motorbike in 2001, the Afghan Government has now confirmed the death of Mullah Omar. Known for his cunning nature and religious rigidity, Omar’s grip was still felt by the Taliban from where he likely stayed in Quetta and Karachi over the years, until his death in Pakistan in 2013. The hunt for Omar had proven to be one of the most difficult on record for international intelligence agencies, some say because of Pakistani interference and support for Afghanistan’s insurgents among other factors that made Bin Laden easier to find in a suburban compound than this two meter tall, one eyed Mullah in urban Karachi. Now that the hunt for him is over, policy makers are questioning what this new information means for future peace talks and the strength of the Taliban without it’s long-time ideological leader. The full withdrawal of U.S. troops is now looming over the statesmen, insurgents and citizens of this long war-torn nation. What, in effect, is to become of Afghanistan?

Peace Talks & Power Brokers

One of Afghanistan’s greatest triumphs occurred in 2014 with the installation of President Ashraf Ghani via the largest and fairest election the country has ever seen, audited under UN supervision. His election marked the beginning of the long transition away from Hamid Karzai’s inefficient, corrupt and favouratist government, which had hindered the U.S. and it’s allies’ state-building efforts during the long fight against the Taliban. Prior to the announcement of Omar’s death, the Taliban orchestrated a statement that he supported the talks with the Afghan government in order to dispel any speculations of internal disconnect and conflict within the Taliban. A few weeks later, just days after the confirmed death of Omar, they released an audio recording of their new leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour – an inaugural address of sorts declaring “the jihad will continue until there is an Islamic system” in Afghanistan. What Monsour said about continuing Omar’s legacy was somewhat predictable, what he omitted, however, is promising for the path ahead. He did not use language suggesting the conquering of Afghanistan, rather the establishment of an “Islamic system.” Despite that he did not support the last round of peace talks hosted by Pakistan, he also did not rule out the possibility of future contact with the government that halted any progress in previous years. The planned peace talks were delayed with the announcement of Omar’s death and have yet to be rescheduled.

The imminent danger in fighting terrorism by eliminating High Value Targets (HVTs) is the inevitable power vacuum that ensues. The US and its allies have played a long game of Whack-A-Mole in the Middle East – one leader dies or one group loses power, another potentially more menacing one takes its place. Such is the fear of Monsour – while supposedly more open to peace talks as the new Supreme Leader, his controversial election could challenge the ideological structure previously set by the militant leaders. While this discord sounds ideal in the fight against the Taliban, behind closed doors, this rift could threaten the unity of the Taliban and cause it to break into smaller, but possibly more violent and extreme factions. This shift in central command could prove to be detrimental for both the Taliban as a unified entity, and for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and their allies if the peace talks prove to be unsuccessful. It is vital for the Afghan Government to utilize this window of opportunity while the Taliban is still somewhat unified and while they still have foreign military aid to strengthen their defenses in case of another bloody summer’s end.

China: losing a man on the inside

Meanwhile, not so much in the spotlight, China has actually been the most enthusiastic supporter of peace talks in Afghanistan. Why? As always, it involves  geopolitical and economic national interests. Its far west region, Xianjiang, has been dealing with civil strife for decades as a group of militant Uighur separatists claim that the region is not part of PRC, but that it is East Turkestan that was incorporated in 1949 and has since been under Chinese occupation. Now for China, the relationship between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban becomes important due to its small border Afghanistan (see picture below) that’s situated in the autonomous Xinjiang region. An unstable Afghanistan can become a safe haven for the muslim separatists and further destabilize an already fragile region. Meanwhile, what’s also at stake is China’s $40 billion Silk Road investment plan in Central and South Asia. Hence, it’s fairly obvious why for China, a stable Afghanistan is very important for both maintaining a hold on Xinjiang and securing its investments.

xinjiang 2

These vested interests, are set to cause a shift of foreign influence and involvement in Afghanistan. As the US led NATO mission winds down, it is the traditionally non-interventionist China that has been increasing its aid to Afghanistan. In October last year, when president Ashraf Ghani first visited China, he returned with promises from Beijing to provide $327 million in aid. Meanwhile, following the nation’s bloodiest day in years, August 8th, when over 50 died and 500 were wounded in three bombings in Kabul, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan called a “marathon meeting” with Afghan National Security Adviser where he said that China was ready to offer “equipment and support to Afghanistan’s security forces”. The extent of China’s involvement is also evident in that the recently postponed peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were originally set to be hosted in Xinjiang itself. With Mullah Omar’s death announced it will be important to keep an eye on China’s relationship with both the Taliban, and Pakistan. PRC had built a certain relationship with Omar based on the assurance (in 2000) that the Taliban would not allow the Uighur militant groups to launch attacks against China from Afghan territory. With the announcement of his death, and the unity of the Taliban at risk it is difficult to predict what it’s role in the Uighur conflict will be. Then again, it’s important to remember that Omar passed away not this July, but 2 years ago. If the Taliban were to keep its unity under the current leadership a similar understanding between the insurgents and China could continue to hold. Meanwhile, because of China even Pakistan, notoriously a safe haven for the Taliban, will not find it in its interest to support the Uighur militants. This is because their likely target will become the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a particularly important development for Islamabad’s weak economy and ties with China.

ISIS: a limited option for deflectors

Meanwhile to make the situation even more complicated and Afghanistan’s position ever more tragic, the Islamic State has made headway in Afghanistan in its global bid to great an Islamic caliphate. Even before the confirmation of Omar’s death by the Taliban, deflections to the IS were in motion. Now, with the unity of the organisation at stake, it is possible if not probable that certain hardliner splinters of the group will indeed deflect to ISIS.

There are several developments to consider here. Firstly, those related to Al Qaeda. AQ last year confirmed allegiance to Mullah Omar, stating in particular that if anyone should be the supreme “caliph” of the Islamic world, commanding the loyalty of jihadists everywhere, it should be Omar, and not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terror group. Meanwhile following the confirmation of Omar’s death, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was quick to pledge allegiance to the new Afghan Taliban chief in an audio message posted online. The pledge to Mullah Akhtar Mansour was Zawahiri’s first message since September last year. There has been speculation about whether Zawahiri is himself dead, and indeed this message isn’t a confirmation that he’s alive (terrorist groups aren’t exactly trustworthy with such information) – however the pledge is confirmation that AQ’s leadership stands with the Taliban, not ISIS.

While this may not lead to Al Qaeda affiliates switching over to ISIS, the disarray that Omar’s death may cause could lead to defections “down in the trenches.” This is particularly noticeable as the 31st of July, the day after the Taliban finally confirmed that their leader had passed was one of the most active days for ISIS on Twitter seen in months. The Islamic State formally announced its presence in Afghanistan in January, and its supporters have since been battling Taliban forces in Nangarhar province. The concern is that instability within the Taliban could soon mean they get a significant boost. Analysts are arguing that ISIS militants are benefiting from a steady influx of young, disaffected ex-Taliban recruits joining their ranks.There have apparently already been “a number of significant breakaways from the Taliban”, with people leaving because they didn’t believe former Taliban leader Omar was still alive. KCL’s very own Dr Rudra Chaudhuri has stated that “splinter groups have burst into the open since the death of Mullah Omar.”

However, in assessing the possibility of ISIS making recruitment gains from the Taliban’s apparent rough patch, it’s important to remember that the groups have differing ambitions. The Taliban is focused on creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan with defined borders, while ISIS is seeking to create a global caliphate and mega-state spanning across several continents. On one hand this makes ISIS seem more appealing – not only are they making gains, but their ambitious aims may appeal especially to the younger members of the Taliban. However, it’s also important to remember that the Taliban are deeply rooted in the local tribal culture of the region. This will always be difficult for ISIS to successfully challenge as it claims to be universal. Hence, those fighting for nationalist reasons are arguably not very likely to deflect from the Taliban (who see their struggle as being regionally limited) to a group that will not prioritise their cause.

Lastly, it’s also important to remember the role of Pakistan, especially as the Taliban’s lifeline. Pakistan has no leverage whatsoever over ISIS and while it has served its interests to support the Taliban and keep its neighbour relatively unstable (and thus less threatening), it would not serve its goals in Afghanistan in any way for the Taliban to be replaced by ISIS. The nation has proven more than competent in sustaining the Taliban against the odds of fighting the United States. Hence, there’s no reason to doubt that they have the capacity and motive to do so against the Islamic State.

The West’s War: Counterinsurgency in the Middle East

03-21_Ax_EditToon_Middle_East_Madness_t760x500

Notoriously criticised for their many mistakes in the invasion of and statebuilding in Afghanistan, the US and its allies face another difficult time now. Pulling out of Afghanistan has seemed to be a ‘no brainer’, especially with the arguably very impressive development of the Afghan National Army and the democratic election of the new president Ashraf Ghani. However, with the peace talks at risk, the unity of the Taliban in question, and the advance of ISIS, pulling out completely and for good will prove far more tricky than it had been planned. At the urging of the Afghan government, the deadline for taking the last NATO soldiers out of Afghanistan has been pushed back to December of 2016. But even meeting this will prove difficult. Moreover, with China’s interests in Afghanistan’s stability rising, and crises elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa multiplying it  looks so far like following the confirmation of Omar’s death, we’re set to see a shift in international presence and influence in Afghanistan. If China indeed steps closer to ensure its national interests are protected, and the West is looking to meet the December deadline, it must step up in dealing with the worldwide chaos that the Islamic State has caused: the migration crisis and militant clashes in Libya and Turkey in particular. Omar’s death and the scramble that has ensued could prove to be another fork in the road for the long-struggling Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; which path they’ll take will depend on the outcome of this transition period and the will of Ghani to do all in his power to succeed in the imminent peace talks.

SOURCES:

https://www.wash
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http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/201503/t20150330_669367.html

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http://www.dw.com/en/why-chinas-uighurs-are-joining-jihadists-in-afghanistan/a-18605630

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http://uk.businessinsider.com/taliban-leader-mullah-omars-death-is-a-gift-to-isis-2015-7?r=US&IR=T#ixzz3j5EzZZeV

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https://news.vice.com/article/the-taliban-tells-the-islamic-state-to-get-the-hell-out-of-afghanistan

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33154074

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/taliban-vs-isis-the-islamic-state-doomed-afghanistan-13153?page=21

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/30/asia/afghanistan-mullah-omar/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-3353

5905

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-could-mullah-mohammad-omars-death-mean-for-the-taliban-talk

IMAGES:

http://i1.tribune.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/741083-mullahomar-1406315124-483-640×480

http://christophgermann.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/chinas-central-asia-problem.html?m=1

http://www.columbian.com/photos/galleries/2015/mar/14/editorial-cartoons-march-15-21/

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