China geopolitical strategy 2019

Written by  //  June 4, 2019  //  China, Geopolitics  //  No comments

Cleo Paskal: China forcing a shift in strategic map
China is building new islands in the South China Sea, and equipping them in ways resembling military bases.
Our strategic map is changing. Literally, as China tries to “break out” of the three island chains that Beijing thinks constrain it.
In the South China Sea, massive Chinese dredgers are building new islands and equipping them in ways that make them look an awful lot like military bases.
Beijing calculates this will help China project power beyond the First Island Chain—islands (including Taiwan and Okinawa) that form the first barrier between China and the wider Pacific Ocean.
Just beyond that, in the Second Island Chain (including Saipan and Guam), China’s engagement approaches vary, from becoming a major investor (and so gaining political leverage) in Saipan, to announcing it has “Guam killer” missiles in an effort to turn locals against the onsite US military bases.
The Third Island Chain, a vast amorphous area roughly between Hawaii, Japan and New Zealand, is also of interest to China. This is the historic maritime front line between Asia and the Americas. It is the extent of Japanese expansion during WWII and these islands were the sites of many of the most brutal battles of that war. It is now home to well over a dozen independent countries, including Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and many more.
Here China uses its usual multifaceted approaches to deepen ties, including investment, migration, loans, scholarships, medical support, military-to-military cooperation and much more. But it also has the ability to bring something unique to the region that could be a dramatic game changer.
The biggest stated concern of many island nations is climate change. Many regional leaders consider it an existential threat. The fear is sea level rise, coastal erosion, increasingly intense cyclones, saltwater intrusion into fresh water systems and more will make their islands uninhabitable.
… Once China’s “magic island-maker” ship completes its primary tasks closer to the coast of China, it can be offered to some of the affected nations of the Third Island Chain to reinforce their shores against erosion.
As a result, China would look like a hero in the battle against climate change—a partner that takes seriously the concerns of the people of the Pacific Islands. Though of course, in the end, Beijing might ask for some rights to a small island of its own (that it could even build for itself) in return for its friendship. And maybe some EEZ access. And so on. And the strategic map changes. (23 February 2019)
Grow Green China Inc,
How China’s epic push for cleaner energy creates economic opportunity for the West
By Jeffrey Ball, Nonresident Senior Fellow – Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate
(Brookings) A view gaining ground in the West holds that China’s determined dominance of a range of low-carbon industries, from more-efficient coal combustion to solar and wind power to electric vehicles, threatens the national security of developed nations and the fortunes of their firms. That view is outdated, ill-advised, and overdue for a rethink. China’s clean-energy juggernaut—call it Green China Inc.—is growing up. The West, for its own economic good, should grow up too in its approach to Green China Inc.
Green China Inc. is maturing both because the Chinese economy is maturing and because the global push for cleaner energy is as well. The upshot is a global shift to greener growth, with China leading the way.
To be sure, the geostrategic kernel of the Western worry about Green China Inc. contains grains of legitimacy. But the West’s anxiety about Green China Inc. is prompting a variety of wrongheaded responses. One is a trade war in which the United States imposes tariffs on imported Chinese clean-energy products and China retaliates with tariffs against U.S. goods. As of this writing, in mid-2019, the tariff fight between the two countries is intensifying.
The Western attempt to quash Green China Inc. is problematic for at least three reasons: It’s environmentally dangerous, geopolitically moot, and, even when viewed purely through the lens of Western self-interest, economically counterproductive. (May 2019)

4 June
Ethiopia and Kenya are struggling to manage debt for their Chinese-built railways
(Quartz Africa) In the wake of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum in Beijing six weeks ago, Ethiopia gained another Chinese debt-concession. China’s second-largest African borrower and prominent BRI partner in infrastructure finance also received a cancellation on all interest-free loans up to the end of 2018. This was on top of previous renegotiated extensions of major commercial railway loans agreed earlier in 2018.
These concessions highlight the continuing debt-struggles that governments have in taking on Chinese large infrastructure projects. But they also demonstrate the advantages and flexibility, that African governments can gain in working with China—if they can leverage it.
It has been over a year since the Chinese-built and financed Addis-Djibouti standard gauge railway (SGR) opened to commercial service in January 2018. A flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Horn of Africa, and constructed in parallel with Kenya’s showy Chinese-built SGR, the project was Ethiopia’s first railway since a century ago (another urban-rail project, the Addis light-rail transit (LRT) was completed earlier in 2015), as well as being the first fully-electrified line in Africa.
Costing nearly $4.5 billion, the SGR was partly financed through $2.5 billion in commercial loans from China Eximbank, according to figures from SAIS-CARI with further loan packages dedicated to transmission lines and the procurement of rolling stock and locomotives. Part of China’s wider ‘export-supply chain’ strategy, the railway uses a package of Chinese trains, Chinese construction companies, Chinese standards and specifications—and is currently operated under a six-year contract by a joint venture of the two Chinese contractors, CREC and CCECC, who built it.

29 April
China’s Risky Middle East Bet
By Brett McGurk
(Carnegie) China is making a risky bet in the Middle East. By focusing on economic development and adhering to the principle of noninterference in internal affairs, Beijing believes it can deepen relations with countries that are otherwise nearly at war with one another—all the while avoiding any significant role in the political affairs of the region. This is likely to prove naive, particularly if U.S. allies begin to stand up for their interests.
In meetings I attended earlier this month in Beijing on China’s position in the Middle East, sponsored by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, Chinese officials, academics, and business leaders expressed a common view that China can avoid political entanglement by promoting development from Tehran to Tel Aviv. China may soon find, however, that its purely transactional approach is unsustainable in this intractable region—placing its own investments at risk and opening new opportunities for the United States.
China’s interests in the Middle East are both structural and strategic. Structurally, China needs the natural resources of the region, whereas the United States—now the world’s largest oil producer—does not. China is also seeking new markets to absorb its excess industrial capacity, and sees the Middle East poised for growth after decades of wars, woeful infrastructure, and popular discontent. Strategically, together with Russia, China is taking advantage of the uncertainty produced by ever-shifting U.S. policies, including zero-sum prescriptions for Iran and Syria that are unlikely to produce desired outcomes anytime soon. Regional governments in turn have welcomed China’s embrace, and its offer of investment without pressure to politically reform or respect human rights.
… As the United States questions Chinese investment and intentions, particularly in the areas of technology and ports such as Israel’s Haifa, it can also challenge traditional allies as to whether they are granting China a free ride on what remains a largely U.S.-led security architecture. Such an arrangement should be as unacceptable to American partners in the region as it is to Washington. At the very least, these partners, together with Washington, can demand that Beijing utilize its emerging influence—particularly with Tehran and Damascus—to pursue measures that promote longer-term stability.

25 April
How Are Various Countries Responding to China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
By Paul Haenle, Dmitri Trenin, Alexander Gabuev, Tomáš Valášek, Darshana M. Baruah, Feng Yujun, Ma Bin
(Carnegie) Pitched as a new Silk Road sweeping from Asia to Europe, China’s enormous Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious, multinational infrastructure project. Experts from four Carnegie global centers explain other countries’ perspectives.
What is Russia’s strategic approach to the BRI? Dmitri Trenin and Alexander Gabuev say Russia sees advantages in nurturing its relationship with a powerful neighbor.
Russia certainly does not want to offer its resources and territory for China-led projects that would make Moscow more dependent on Beijing. It is particularly careful not to incur too much Chinese debt. Moscow does not want Beijing to own any projects: they must be joint ventures, over which Russia exercises ultimate control.
Has the mood in Europe changed toward the Belt and Road Initiative?
Tomáš Valášek claims Europe is hardening its stance on China and the BRI.
the mood in Europe has turned against China, and it is likely to last for two reasons. First, there is growing concern that China’s industrial policies are no longer just stymying European business in China; they are now beginning to pose a threat to European business in third party countries, as a recent paper by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) points out.
How is India responding to the inroads China is making in its neighborhood?
Darshana M. Baruah illustrates India’s concerns about the BRI and how New Delhi is responding by partnering with its neighbors.
India has eyed the BRI with suspicion since its announcement. … it has made pointed statements about transparency and debt burdens. India’s biggest objection is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a section of the BRI that runs through the disputed territory of Kashmir. New Delhi views this as a violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. While acknowledging the need for infrastructure projects, India is acutely aware of a growing Chinese presence in its neighborhood. And China’s lack of support for India on the global stage – such as through blocking New Delhi’s efforts to place sanctions on a Pakistan-based terror outfit – has also deepened strategic mistrust.
As a result, India is trying to improve business relationships with its Asian neighbors, with multiple new projects.
What is the United States getting right and wrong about the BRI?
Paul Haenle argues that the United States should develop its own strategy, rather than only criticizing the BRI.
Beijing has stressed time and again that there are no geopolitical calculations behind the BRI. Yet the initiative’s massive scale means that it will necessarily have geostrategic ramifications. Given the rising tensions between the United States and China, more skeptical observers in Washington view the BRI primarily as a Chinese strategy to alter the geopolitical landscape in China’s favor.
Washington must develop a strategy that recognizes the BRI’s positive impact, mitigates its negative aspects, and promotes U.S. interests abroad. At the same time, the United States and other countries should be more proactive in addressing global development gaps. It is not enough simply to point out the BRI’s flaws. Washington needs to put forward its own ideas and initiatives
How is China trying to influence other countries’ understanding of the BRI?
Feng Yujun and Ma Bin explain that China is refining its BRI communications strategy.

New missile gap leaves U.S. scrambling to counter China
Under Xi Jinping, Beijing has elevated its missile forces to a point where many rockets in the Chinese arsenal now rival or outperform those of the United States. This dramatic shift could render American carriers – the backbone of U.S. military supremacy – obsolete in a conflict with China
(Reuters Special Report) China has also seized a virtual monopoly in one class of conventional missiles – land-based, intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.
Under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era agreement aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear conflict, the United States and Russia are banned from deploying this class of missiles, with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). But Beijing, unrestrained by the INF Treaty, is deploying them in massive numbers.
This includes so-called carrier killer missiles like the DF-21D, which can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers, according to Chinese and Western military analysts. If effective, these missiles would give China a destructive capability no other military can boast. China’s advantage in this class of missiles is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in February to withdraw from the treaty in six months.

8 April
The Belt and Road Initiative: Views from Washington, Moscow, and Beijing
Feng Yujun, Alexander Gabuev, Paul Haenle, Ma Bin, Dmitri Trenin
Despite the BRI’s prevalence in discussions of China’s global engagement, many experts are divided on how to interpret it. Is it a global strategy or just an interregional initiative? How can countries and international companies participate in its growth and development?
(Carnegie) The BRI now covers over seventy countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania. Future plans are even more ambitious, with planned expansion into the Arctic, cyberspace, and even outer space. The initiative’s scale and ambition have garnered immense attention, capturing headlines around the world. Specialized institutes, publications, consultancies, and investment firms seeking to analyze and capitalize on the BRI have sprung up at an astonishing rate.
Increased attention has also led to heightened scrutiny of the BRI. New questions about the initiative’s transparency and sustainability have arisen as BRI projects have matured. Countries are increasingly concerned that China’s soft power push through the BRI might soon transform into hard power. In China, some complain that the country has overreached and expanded the initiative too quickly, ignoring domestic problems in favor of overseas development and business opportunities.
These questions and concerns all bear directly on the initiative’s future. This working paper brings together perspectives from scholars across three different research centers to examine some of the most pressing issues surrounding the BRI. The aim is to shed light on differing views and to identify areas of consensus and divergence on major issues surrounding the BRI, summarized in the joint conclusion.

24 March
Italy joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Italy is the first G7 country to sign up to the scheme, in a move that has caused upset in Washington and Brussels
(Al Jazeera) Saturday’s accords were wide-ranging, covering cooperation in the banking sector, a partnership between a Chinese construction company and Italian ports and the export of fruit from the Mediterranean country to China. The agreements also hinted at collaboration between media outlets, as well as in the spheres of science and technology,
… BRI projects are financed by Chinese state-owned enterprises that offer participating countries inexpensive loans and credit. Analysts at Morgan Stanley predict China’s investments in BRI countries could reach $1.3 trillion by 2027. The scheme has drawn fire from critics who accuse Beijing of engaging in so-called “debt-trap diplomacy” and potentially masking military endeavours as commercial enterprises.
… Italy’s decision to defy the recent backlash and join the BRI comes at a time when the potential to boost Italian exports to China and pump money into crumbling Italian infrastructure is an especially alluring proposition. Italy has an onerous public debt and it fell into recession at the end of last year.

20 March
Pakistan distances itself from China’s Belt and Road
Islamabad diverts $171m from CPEC to fund projects legislators want
(Nikkei) The funds were originally meant to go toward $62 billion worth of infrastructure projects to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a crucial leg of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. But since the change of government in August last year, both sides have not decided on a definite future course for CPEC.
While the amount of funds being diverted to other projects is only a fraction of the amount going into Belt and Road, the move highlights the tensions surrounding Chinese investment in the country.

14 March
There is a connection between Masood Azhar and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It is time to understand this.
Since both Pakistan and Turkey form key components of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, this might be a time to start speaking about the axis that is made up of China, Pakistan, and Turkey. This story would be straightforward—China as the main rising power in the world. There are two countries, with potential—demographically (Pakistan, population 200 million) and economically (Turkey, 17th largest economy in the world)—are perfectly poised to become client states. These two countries have beleaguered leaders—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Imran Khan lead governments that are suspect for their deep Islamist connections around the world. In Turkey, Erdoğan leads a violent dictatorship that has destabilised the Middle East; and Pakistan’s Imran Khan rules in a sense at the leisure of the Army, which is the real political power in that country.
Both Pakistan and Turkey hold key links in the Belt and Road Initiative.
But something more volatile is churning in this mix, which is less noticed than it should be. China’s concentration camps to ‘re-educate’ Chinese Muslims have spilled across the world. Chinese monetary power has not been able to stop the spread of this story. What is often forgotten in that the Uighurs, who are facing the brunt of this re-education in China, are a group with Turkic origins.
The suppression of information from the Uighur areas makes the full picture unclear, but there has been enough trickle out of the news that suggests violence is growing—how long before the jihad explodes in China with connections with Pakistan and even Turkey? Especially since – for instance – the Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan, called the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), starts from Kashgar, deep in the Uighur region of China

24 February
China’s military build-up just starting – a lot more to come, expert warns
Military watchers can expect ‘something new’ at this year’s National Day parade in October, Professor Jin Canrong tells forum in Hong Kong
As tensions rise over Taiwan, Beijing is building a naval and missile force as powerful as any in the world, he says
(South China Morning Post) Speaking at a seminar at the University of Hong Kong on Saturday, Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of the school of international studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said China had made great strides in expanding its military capability, but there was a lot more to come.

10 January
China’s Digital Silk Road Is Looking More Like an Iron Curtain
The funding of tech projects in dozens of countries may well divide the world.
By Sheridan Prasso
(Bloomberg) The first billboard that greets passengers arriving at the airport in Lusaka, before Pepsi’s “Welcome to Zambia,” is an advertisement for Bank of China. Nearby, a Chinese company is building a sleek terminal. On the road into the capital city, near the office of Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp., another billboard features surveillance cameras made by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. At the national data center built by Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese man in a bright orange vest walks toward a building that houses government servers.
This southern African nation, a former British colony rich in copper and cobalt, is spending $1 billion on Chinese-made telecommunications, broadcasting, and surveillance technology. It’s all part of China’s “Digital Silk Road,” a subset of its “Belt and Road” initiative that contributes an estimated $79 billion in projects around the world, according to RWR Advisory Group, a Washington consulting firm that tracks Chinese investment. That funding has boosted development in Zambia and many other countries, but it comes at a price.
Most of the digital infrastructure projects in Zambia, like the more visible airport terminals and highways, are being built and financed by China, putting the country at what the International Monetary Fund calls a high risk of debt distress. It’s also given rise to fears that what has long been a thriving and stable multiparty democracy is veering toward a Chinese model of repression.
What’s playing out in Zambia is part of a larger contest between the U.S. and China for dominance over the future of technology and global influence. Companies from both countries sell tech products around the world, but Chinese businesses are offering a wide range of gear and relatively cheap financing in countries from Zimbabwe to Vietnam. They have an advantage in developing nations such as Zambia, which are looking to modernize their technology infrastructure.

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