China Caucus Blog

Posted by Alex Gray | April 28, 2016

China And Russia To Increase Number Of Military Exercises In 2016. Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat. “China and Russia are planning to deepen military cooperation and increase the number of joint military exercises in 2016, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Defense Minister Gen Chang Wanquan, said in a meeting in Moscow on April 27, TASS reports. “We highly appreciate a high level of Russian-Chinese contacts both at the state and defense levels. This year we are going to hold more exercises and events than in the past years,” the Russian defense minister said. ”Here I would like to underscore that we will conduct both ground and naval exercises,” Shoigu added. “Certainly, the aim is to strengthen mutually beneficial relations of partnership.” The largest scheduled Sino-Russian military exercise this year will be the Joint Sea-2016 naval drill, hosted by China. Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan, who is in Moscow to attend the Fifth Moscow International Security Conference, emphasized that “opinions should be shared and watches synchronized.” In addition, he stated: “Thanks to personal efforts of the two heads of state over the past year, the relations between Russian and Chinese armed forces have been developing at the high level. The sides have been implementing agreements and working side by side in all spheres.” Last week, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov in an interview with Xinhua explained: “Military cooperation between the two countries is highly diverse and has improved significantly over the last three years. The sides are conducting many events between their general staffs and exercises that are broadly stirring up interest and even anxiety among certain countries.” Speaking about the multilateral dimension of the partnership Antonov noted: “A more tight interaction between the military departments corresponds to the national interests of all the SCO member countries, and we expect this interaction to proceed.” China and Russia have steadily increased the number of military exercises over the past year. In 2015, both countries held naval and amphibious assault exercises in the Sea of Japan, a smaller naval drill in the Mediterranean, among a number of other bilateral military exchanges. Both countries have also participated in trilateral, and multilateral exercises, for example, under the umbrella of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Russia and China do not have a formal military alliance and, as a consequence, do not practice complex integrated military operations on the scale NATO countries would. Joint military exercises still provide several benefits to both countries, in particular for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Navy, and Air Force given that China has not fought a full-scale war in decades. Next to serving a confidence building function, the drills help improve Chinese and Russian tactical and operational capabilities. In addition, they send a signal to third parties (e.g., the United States) that both countries have an enduring security partnership.”

Lawmakers To White House: Get Tough With Beijing Over South China Sea. Dan De Luce, Foreign Policy. “Dismayed at China’s tactics in the South China Sea, U.S. senators from both parties on Wednesday demanded the White House show more resolve with Beijing and ratchet up U.S. naval patrols near disputed islands in the strategic waterway. With President Barack Obama due to travel to Vietnam next month, four senators introduced legislation that calls for bolstering security assistance to allies in Southeast Asia and expanding U.S. military operations meant to uphold the right of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. “For too long as China continues its aggressive and expansive policies, the United States has played the role of observer, or perhaps protestor, but not yet actor,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement announcing the bill. Over the past two years, China has aggressively moved to expand its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a hugely important waterway rich in resources and a highway for trillions of dollars in trade. Chinese tactics have included coercion of other states, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the installation of advanced military hardware on disputed reefs and atolls hundreds of miles from the Chinese coast. The Obama administration has consistently called for China to respect international law and forswear coercion, but to little avail. Last fall, Chinese president Xi Jinping promised in a visit to Washington to halt so-called “militarization” of the region, but instead has only ramped up the dispatch of advanced radars, air defense systems, and even military aircraft to islands claimed by neighboring states. The broader U.S.-China relationship, which requires cooperation on issues ranging from the global economy to North Korea, makes it hard for Washington to push back too hard on Beijing’s moves in the region — but that tread-softly approach is wearing thin with lawmakers. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday featuring Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, some lawmakers blasted the administration’s policies on the South China Sea as weak and lackluster. The Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said that “freedom of navigation operations that happen once a quarter are viewed as nothing but symbolic” and that the U.S. Navy should be carrying out the patrols every week or every month. For years, the United States has routinely sailed through areas it considers part of international waters to assert the principle of freedom of navigation. But the patrols have taken on heightened importance and political weight in the contested South China Sea, where tensions have mounted due to Beijing’s elaborate island-building campaign and its expansionist territorial claims. The U.S. military has conducted two freedom of navigation patrols near artificial islands or features claimed by China since October 2015. Pentagon officials say the military has been ready to carry out operations more frequently within 12 nautical miles of man-made islands, but the White House so far has chosen to take a more cautious approach. The proposed legislation is aimed in part at influencing the Obama administration’s policies before the president’s scheduled visit to the region next month, congressional aides said, amid concern among some lawmakers that the United States needs to do more to check China’s assertive moves in the South China Sea. The bill “encourages them to take a more robust, forward leaning position” and is meant “to put a little steel in their spine,” a Senate staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Foreign Policy.”

Storm Clouds Gather Over South China Sea Ahead Of Key U.N. Ruling. Simon Denyer, The Washington Post. “Signs that China may be contemplating another bout of island-building in the South China Sea ahead of an important U.N. ruling on the issue have provoked the United States to step up its vigilance in the region in recent days. Twice last week, and again Tuesday, the U.S. Pacific Command said it sent warplanes close to Scarborough Shoal, a triangular chain of coral reefs, sand and rocks close to the Philippines coast. In Beijing, the response was sharp. The shoal is the latest point of friction between China and the United States and nations that ring the South China Sea over Beijing’s moves to build maritime outposts and other installations that could have a potential military use. “Thunderclouds are gathering over the South China Sea, and China is the lightning rod,” said Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at the University of New South Wales in Australia. China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012 and appears to be considering whether to build an artificial island there, experts say. It has already constructed or reclaimed seven islands in the nearby Spratly chain. Work on the shoal would be another major step in China’s apparent drive to cement long-term control of the South China Sea and would significantly heighten regional tensions. It would also bring China’s military close to U.S. military bases in the Philippines. A key ruling on the Chinese action by a panel of jurists at a U.N.-appointed tribunal in The Hague, expected in coming weeks, is driving the unease in Beijing, experts suggest. “It’s believed that the rulings will be unfavorable to China, and there are concerns that other countries like the United States and Japan will take this opportunity to further challenge China’s territorial claims in the area,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing. Shi predicts that China could respond by starting dredging work this year on the shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island; circumstantial evidence backs up that argument. In February, a plan to expand the shoal into an island with a runway, harbor, town and resort surfaced on a Chinese website dedicated to military issues. Although a similar, albeit less-detailed, image circulated in 2012, some observers took its reappearance as a sign the issue was under consideration. In March, the U.S. Navy chief, Adm. John M. Richardson, told Reuters that the military had observed Chinese shipping activity around the shoal, including possible survey work, suggesting that it could be “the next possible area of reclamation.” On Monday, the South China Morning Post quoted an unnamed source “close to” the Chinese navy as saying Beijing would carry out “land reclamation” on the shoal this year. None of this is conclusive, experts warn. Mira Rapp-Hooper, of the Center for a New American Security, said intense efforts were underway to dissuade Beijing from taking a step that Washington could see as “very escalatory.” It would also constitute a significant violation of a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, experts said, although that agreement between China and rival Asian claimants has often been ignored. “It would be the final nail in that agreement’s coffin,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and insists that all disputes with rival claimants must be settled bilaterally. But the Philippines took Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague after the seizure of Scarborough Shoal, insisting that China had breached international law. It also argues that China has unlawfully blocked Philippine fishermen from the shoal’s vicinity and has failed to preserve the marine environment there. In anticipation of the ruling, China has been active diplomatically, enlisting Russia’s support for its position and reaching an accord Tuesday with Indonesia on enhanced security and marine cooperation. On Sunday, China also reached what it called an “important consensus” with Cambodia, Laos and Brunei that the dispute should not affect its relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.”

China Says Australia Sub Deal Strengthens U.S., Warns Canberra To Keep Out Of Regional Disputes. Jesse Johnson, Japan Times. “Chinese state-run media said Wednesday that Australia’s choice of France to build its next-generation fleet of submarines avoided a “worst-case scenario” by not choosing Japan but issued a warning to U.S. ally Canberra not to upset the shifting security balance in the region. The editorial, published on the website of the English-language Global Times, slammed the sub deal, which it said would “beef up the U.S. strategic strength in the Western Pacific, negatively affecting China’s strategic security.” On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Japan — the onetime front-runner in the multibillion-dollar tender to build the subs — had lost out to France’s state-controlled naval contractor DCNS. While China may be pleased that Japan was unsuccessful, “it was not overly concerned about the decision itself,” analyst Nick Bisley of Australia’s La Trobe University wrote in an online commentary. “Its concerns remain with what it perceives to be a regional order stacked against its interests.” Indeed, China has cast a wary eye on the sub deal as strategic ties between the United States, Japan and Australia continue to grow and as Washington seeks to offload some of the security burden for the Asia-Pacific region on to its allies there. “Canberra needs to know that its submarine plan, be it independent or not, is part of the geopolitical game in the Asia-Pacific and will be used as a bargaining chip for the regional strategic wrestling,” the Global Times editorial said. It added, increased military pressure on China would ultimately run “counter to the national interests of Australia.” Australia, one of the United States’ closest allies in the region, has joined Washington in speaking out against China’s increasingly assertive moves in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing’s massive land-reclamation program has seen it create outposts in the waters — islands that the U.S. and others fear could be militarized and used to cement its position there. The U.S. has conducted what it calls “freedom of navigation operations” near the disputed islands, much to the dismay of China. Beijing has called such fears groundless, and accused Washington and Tokyo — which are not a claimants to the South China Sea — of working to contain China. In its editorial Tuesday, the Global Times urged U.S. allies who are not party to the maritime row, including Australia, to refrain from “fanning the disputes from outside.” In what appeared to be a veiled threat, the editorial also noted the “great importance” of Australia’s economic ties with China, its biggest trading partner, while also offering “more support to U.S. military deployment . . . that targets China.”

China Drone Maker Says It May Share Data With State. Paul Mozur, The New York Times. “DJI is the Chinese company that took drone technology — long the purview of major military forces — and made it cheap and accessible enough for ordinary people. But as the technology is put into the hands of consumers, it raises new questions for DJI and others in the industry: What should be done with the information those drones gather? The little pilotless flying machines typically carry cameras, GPS sensors and other devices that can tell interested parties where they have been and what they have seen. How much of that information should be shared with local governments? That question is especially important in China, where regulators have looked askance at drones while tightening their hold over civil society. In a briefing for Chinese and foreign journalists at DJI’s headquarters in Shenzhen on Wednesday, Zhang Fanxi, a spokesman for the company, said it was still working out how to deal with the data it collects in China. But for now, he said, DJI is complying with requests from the Chinese government to hand over data. Adam Najberg, another DJI spokesman, said DJI evaluated each request and complied if it decided that request was legitimate. DJI could also give the government data from flights in Hong Kong, Mr. Zhang said. That could raise eyebrows among drone users in the city, a semiautonomous Chinese territory with its own laws that guarantee freedom of expression and its own independent judicial system. Protests in Hong Kong that shut down parts of the city in late 2014 were prompted in part by concerns that Beijing was interfering in local affairs. For the moment, Mr. Zhang said, DJI was uncertain what the industry would decide to do with the data. “This data, exactly how we use it, when we use it and which government departments we give it to” is a continuing discussion, he said. DJI also sells drones in the United States. Mr. Najberg said DJI did not have a way to see video or images from drones beyond those that users upload themselves via a company social-media app. He also said that the company’s phone app uploads flight data to its servers, though consumers can use third-party apps that do not. DJI is not alone in cooperating with Chinese authorities when they request data, which is required of all companies doing business there. In its most recent report on government requests for information, Apple said it received about 1,000 requests for data in the second half of last year from Chinese authorities and supplied data about two-thirds of the time. Apple said this week that it had never handed encryption keys over to the Chinese authorities, which would give Beijing direct and broad access to communications on Apple’s products. (Over the same period, Apple received about 4,000 requests from the United States authorities and handed over data four-fifths of the time, according to its report. Access to encrypted communications on Apple devices has become the subject of a fierce American political debate.) But China has been seeking more ways to tap into electronic communications. Two years ago, it proposed a law that would require foreign companies to turn over encryption keys for security reasons, though the final version dropped that language. Officials have cited rising online crime in China, worries about terrorist attacks and disclosures by Edward J. Snowden, the former United States government contractor who revealed that American intelligence agencies sometimes used American technology products to gather information. Mr. Zhang said DJI did not give Chinese authorities direct access to drones unless requested. “If the government says it wants this data, we will tell the user,” he said. “We communicate all of this.” Still, China has not formalized rules over drones, so the industry’s obligations are unclear. Already, DJI’s user agreement flags the possibility that whoever flies a drone may not be flying it alone. It reads: “Please note that if you conduct your flight in certain countries, your flight data might be monitored and provided to the government authorities according to local regulatory laws.” In other areas, relations with Beijing remain untested. The company has had numerous requests from local governments in China to work with and train the military police and other security forces to use its drones for surveillance and to track criminals, Mr. Zhang said.”

Congress Takes On China’s Propaganda Machine. Claire Chu, The National Interest. “The Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S.2692) was introduced in the Senate on March 16, and has since been read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT), the new bipartisan legislation is intended to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation operations. The bill recognizes that foreign governments, including the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, have engaged heavily in sophisticated, comprehensive and long-term efforts to manipulate and control information, to achieve national objectives at the expense of U.S. allies, interests, and values. While the U.S. has a long history of legislation countering Russian propaganda, which traces back to the “war of ideas” that underpinned the Soviet clash with the West, this is the first time Congress has introduced policy measures to directly address the threat of China’s aggressive comprehensive information operations doctrine. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) combines psychological warfare, media warfare and the manipulation of legal arguments (lawfare) with more technical aspects of information operations to not only disrupt enemy information control capabilities (while maintaining its own), but also to influence both domestic and international audiences’ decision-making processes in ways that build support for China’s military operations. This scope of information operations is used to undermine technologically superior adversaries, such as the United States, by transcending the normal spectrum of conflict. In the Chinese strategic tradition, this achieves ideals of nonviolence and subduing the enemy without fighting at all. Given U.S. reliance on a high-performance, networked information infrastructure and dependence on precision-strike and conventional warfare capabilities, there has been increasing concern in Washington about the national-security impact of China’s unconventional use of manipulative political and ideological activities that target the United States. Overseas Chinese state-media broadcasting and paid newspaper inserts regularly contribute to perception management of the Chinese Communist Party’s one-party rule and military operations. Recent maritime incidents and military exercises serve to divide U.S. alliances and undermine any justification for U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific. In a set of remarks delivered at the Atlantic Council, Senator Portman explained: “China spends billions annually on its foreign propaganda efforts…Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea is another recent example of how effective disinformation operations can be used to seize the initiative and catch the United States and its allies off-guard and unprepared.” The Pentagon has been aware of China’s expanding information warfare capabilities for over a decade, yet currently no single U.S. government organization takes on the role of developing a whole-of-government strategy to combat the threat of information warfare. Interagency groups have had a checkered performance record; the Active Measures Working Group that was established to counter Soviet disinformation is one of few examples of past success. In general, the United States today is afflicted with a systemic lack of interagency coordination and support mechanisms with respect to countering unconventional threats. Our federal institutions are like the blind men in the old tale, and the defense strategy process is the elephant. By contrast, China has created a formal mechanism to coordinate General Staff Department (GSD) liaison work with not only civilian bureaucracies but also the PLA Air Force, Navy, Second Artillery, and military regional commands. Within the PLA’s national power arsenal of party and state organizations, there is an interlocking set of non-governmental platforms that attempt to direct influence through civilian and business means.”

South China Sea: Bracing For Beijing’s Next Move. Wallace C. Gregson, The National Interest. “Exercise Balikatan 2016, a joint U.S. Pacific Command exercise with the Philippines that ended in mid-April, demonstrated important elements of an effective strategy to counter Chinese expansion across the South China Sea. And it’s certainly not too soon. China is expected to take preemptive action in the South China Sea before the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration announces its verdict in the Philippines v. China case, anticipated in late May or early June. Much has been done, and much remains. Balikatan (meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder”) demonstrated U.S. and allied capability to operate ashore in a widely distributed, operationally resilient posture, employing aviation and ground weapons with the range needed to support forces operating at sea and in the air. The presence of Australian participants, and observers from Japan and other Asian countries, signals rising interest in the collective protection of accepted international law that governs access to international sea and air space. Secretary Carter’s visit and remarks to the forces ashore, followed by his visit to the USS John C. Stennis with Philippine defense minister Voltaire Gazmin, reinforced the potential of air-land-sea allied force integration. U.S. forces, including an A-10 “Warthog” element, along with Pave Hawk helicopters and associated capabilities, will remain. Joint U.S.-Philippine patrols began last month, and continued into this month. Hopefully, this heralds the beginning of a sustained U.S. presence embedded with its allies. The ability to operate highly mobile, widely distributed forces, able to integrate long-range fires in support of naval and air forces well out to sea, is vital to the defense of extensive littoral areas along the first island chain. Mobility within a widely distributed posture offers a constantly changing target picture, despite the pervasiveness of surveillance means. A widely distributed and mobile posture also provides a response to weapons that are accurate at distance. Japanese observers undoubtedly drew conclusions, validating their current plans for a “western wall” and integrated air-land-sea maneuver capability in the Ryukyus. This posture is also ideally suited for long-term U.S. presence to help enhance Philippine capability in a politically acceptable—even welcome—manner. There is no faster way to overcome cultural barriers than by having our young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines live and work with their counterparts, sharing bivouac, local food and capability development over an extended time. This is underway in Japan, and needs to be expanded, as recommended in the recent CSIS report “Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025.” One recommendation, the creation of collocated Japanese and U.S. joint task-force headquarters elements in Okinawa, would greatly improve the development of alliance capabilities. Such a structure may also prove helpful in the Philippines. Surveillance, particularly in the maritime domain, must be increased and expanded. Intelligence sharing, and the creation of a combined common operating picture, are closely related. Fishing vessels and other craft must be tracked, in addition to traditional naval and military vessels. The ability to police fishing areas, despite the presence of Chinese coast guard and maritime surveillance craft, must be developed and deployed. The United States must have solid means to enforce jurisdiction and administration of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones at the law-enforcement level, to help prevent escalation. The widely publicized remarks of Secretary Carter and Lt. Gen. John Toolan, Marine Corps Forces Pacific Commander and U.S. Balikatan Exercise Director, show that candor is making a comeback. The United States should continue this trend by serving notice to the Chinese, privately at first, then publicly, that unless they can help in reducing tensions in the region (including restraining North Korea and lowering anxiety in the South China Sea), they will leave U.S. leaders with no choice but to reinforce their alliance capabilities. Then, the United States should do exactly that. Military assistance is certainly needed, but reinforcing capabilities must also include building infrastructure along the South China Sea littoral. Ports and airfields are particularly needed for commercial and business development. These facilities are also available in the event of a contingency. Japanese investment in this area is now a prominent element in the region’s collective and common security.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 27, 2016

China Successfully Tests Hypersonic Missile. Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon. “China successfully flight tested its new high-speed maneuvering warhead last week, days after Russia carried out its own hypersonic glider test, according to Pentagon officials. The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test. The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country. It was the seventh successful flight test of the revolutionary glider, which travels at speeds between 4,000 and 7,000 miles per hour. U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that China plans to use the glider to deliver nuclear weapons through increasingly sophisticated missile defenses. The DF-ZF also could be used as part of a conventional strategic strike weapon capable of hitting targets around the world within an hour. Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban declined to comment on the latest DF-ZF flight test. “But we do monitor Chinese military modernization carefully,” Urban said. Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower, said China’s hypersonic missile tests are a concern. “China’s repeated test of a hypersonic glide vehicle demonstrates Beijing is committed to upending both the conventional military and nuclear balance, with grave implications for the stability of Asia,” Forbes told the Washington Free Beacon. Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said Jan. 22 that the new hypersonic glide vehicle is among an array of high-technology missiles and weapons, both nuclear and conventional, being developed and deployed by Beijing. China “recently conducted its sixth successful test of a hypersonic glide vehicle, and as we saw in September last year, is parading missiles clearly displaying their modernization and capability advancements,” Haney said. China has kept details about the DF-ZF program secret. In March 2015, a Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed one of the hypersonic missile tests after the test was reported in the Free Beacon. The spokesman said the missile test was not aimed at any country and was done for scientific research. Earlier DF-ZF tests were carried out Nov. 23, Aug. 19, June 7, and on Jan. 9, 2014, Aug. 7, 2014, and Dec. 2, 2014. During at least one test, the maneuvering glider conducted what a defense official said were “extreme maneuvers” at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10. All the tests were first disclosed by the Free Beacon. Extensive testing and reported successes are indications the new weapon is nearing initial operating capability, although deployment may be years away. The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its most recent annual report that the hypersonic glide vehicle program was “progressing rapidly” and that the new strike weapon could be deployed by 2020. A powered version also is in development and could be fielded by 2025. “The very high speeds of these weapons, combined with their maneuverability and ability to travel at lower, radar-evading altitudes, would make them far less vulnerable than existing missiles to current missile defenses,” the commission report said. Li Bingyan, a researcher at China’s National Security Policy Committee, stated in a defense industry journal article published Jan. 27 that hypersonic weapons offer increased speed of attack. “Only by matching the real-time information with the zero-time firepower can one achieve the operational result of destruction upon detection,” Li stated. China also is taking steps to strengthen its underground missile silos and facilities to withstand precision strikes by hypersonic missiles, such as those planned under the Pentagon’s Prompt Global Strike program. The latest Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle test was conducted three days after Russia carried out a flight test of its experimental hypersonic glide vehicle. That glider test involved the launch of an SS-19 ballistic missile fired from a missile base in eastern Russia.”

U.S. Sees New Flashpoint In South China Sea. Gordon Lubold and Jeremy Page, Wall Street Journal. “A new potential flashpoint has emerged in the standoff between China and the U.S. over disputed areas of the South China Sea amid concerns that Beijing is considering expanding the area where it is seeking to reclaim islands and extend its influence. China has been expanding and developing islands in the Spratly Islands chain. But the U.S. military about a month ago observed Chinese ships conducting survey work around a clump of rocks, sandbars and coral reefs known as the Scarborough Shoal, far from the Spratlys. Scarborough Shoal is 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines, a close U.S. ally, and just 200 nautical miles from its capital Manila. It is around 470 nautical miles from the closest point on the Chinese mainland. Signaling its concern, the U.S. flew three different air patrols near Scarborough in recent days, including on April 19 and 21, according to U.S. defense officials. The first of the flights, in a message to Beijing that the shoal is central to maritime security in the region, came just four days after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a series of joint patrols with the Philippines. The U.S. Air Force disclosed the April 19 flights in a news release. “Our job is to ensure air and sea domains remain open in accordance with international law. That is extremely important, international economics depends on it – free trade depends on our ability to move goods,” said Col. Larry Card, Commander of Pacific Air Force’s Air Contingent, which conducted the patrols. “There’s no nation right now whose economy does not depend on the well-being of the economy of other nations.” Beijing on Monday condemned the U.S. flights, saying the shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island, is China’s “inherent territory.” In recent weeks, the U.S. had sought to “lower the temperature” over Scarborough, a senior U.S. official said. According to other U.S. officials, that included canceling one “freedom of navigation” patrol in the South China Sea that had been planned for this month. But last week’s U.S. air patrol has heightened tensions once again, and could lead to more Chinese activity in the area, according to Chinese security analysts. China’s defense ministry responded on Monday with a statement on its website expressing “concern and opposition,” and accusing the U.S. of militarizing the South China Sea. “The Chinese military will take all necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and security,” it said. There is no sign yet of any land reclamation at the Chinese-held atoll, which sits some 250 nautical miles northeast of the artificial islands Beijing has built in the disputed Spratlys archipelago over the past two years. Even so, there is growing concern among U.S. and Philippine officials that Beijing plans to begin such work at the shoal, possibly in response to a ruling on its territorial claims by an arbitration panel in The Hague, expected this summer. Any such work would come close to a red line for the U.S. and the Philippines, given the proximity to the country and to Philippine military bases where U.S. forces were redeployed this month. Washington and its allies also would consider it a major escalation. Beijing seized control of the shoal from Manila in 2012, whereas the artificial islands in the Spratlys were built on rocks and reefs already controlled by China. Last week, Mr. Carter, visiting the Philippines, announced a number of initiatives aimed to “modernize” the U.S.-Philippines alliance, including a rotating deployment of U.S. military aircraft at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The six U.S. aircraft that flew near Scarborough Shoal on April 19 are based at Clark. The four A-10 Thunderbolt fighters and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicoptersy “conducted a flying mission through international airspace ... providing air and maritime situational awareness,” the U.S. Air Force statement said. None of the U.S. flights flew to within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough, according to a U.S. official, which would have amounted to a legal challenge to China’s claims on the shoal, but the proximity of the flights was clearly intended to send a message to Beijing.”

China, Indonesia To Boost Security Ties Despite South China Sea Spat. Megha Rajagopalan, Reuters. “Chinese and Indonesian officials pledged to boost security ties, marine cooperation and infrastructure investment, state media reported on Tuesday, after a diplomatic spat over what Indonesia called a breach of its sovereignty by the Chinese coastguard. The report came after a meeting between Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who outranks the foreign minister, and Indonesia's chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan. Pandjaitan is visiting China this week. The two countries will strengthen defense ties including in anti-terrorism, law enforcement, curbing narcotics, as well as "marine cooperation,” according to the official Xinhua news agency. Jakarta and Beijing will also work together in the fields of railway, electric power, mining, aerospace, agriculture and fisheries, Xinhua added. Indonesia attempted to detain a Chinese trawler it accused of fishing in its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, prompting the Chinese coastguard to intervene last month. China has said its vessels were operating in "traditional fishing grounds.” Indonesia is not embroiled in the rival claims with China over the South China Sea and has instead seen itself as an "honest broker" in disputes between China and the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Pandjaitan has previously said Indonesia would maintain good relations with China but "without sacrificing Indonesia's sovereignty,” and had urged Chinese ships not to enter Indonesia's maritime territory near the northern Natuna Islands, where Indonesia said the incident took place. China's increasingly assertive military posture in the South China Sea, a strategic shipping corridor that is also rich in fish and natural gas, has rattled the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia.”

Majority Unclear On ‘1992 Consensus’: Poll. Stacy Hsu, Taipei Times. “Despite President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) frequent reference to the so-called “1992 consensus,” a significant majority of respondents to a poll published yesterday said they are unaware of the contents of the “consensus.” The telephone-based survey, conducted by the Taiwan Brain Trust on Wednesday and Thursday last week, sought to gauge the public’s perceptions of the “1992 consensus” and their national identity. The “1992 consensus,” a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means. Of those polled, 76.2 percent were unclear about the main appeal of the “1992 consensus,” with 18.2 percent saying they had a clear understanding of the content of the “consensus.” Asked whether they supported letting the “consensus” be the foundation of cross-strait interactions, more than half, or 52.3 percent, of the respondents opposed the idea, compared with 33.3 percent who supported it. In addition, 62.1 percent of those polled said they cannot accept Beijing’s repeated attempts to pressure president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) into accepting the “consensus” and make it a prerequisite for cross-strait exchanges. “It is apparent that Taiwanese do not want to see the continuation of President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration’s China-leaning stance, as evidenced by the fact that 58.2 percent of the respondents said they are dissatisfied with Ma’s cross-strait performance in the past eight years,” Taiwan Brain Trust chairman Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) told a news conference in Taipei. With regard to the issue of national identity, 84 percent of those polled identified themselves as Taiwanese. Only 6.9 percent said they considered themselves Chinese, while 9.1 percent declined to express their opinions. A cross-analysis of the results found that even among pan-blue respondents, 65.3 percent considered themselves Taiwanese, the survey showed. The poll also suggested a growing Taiwanese identity among the nation’s young people, as 91.8 percent of the respondents aged between 20 and 29 identified themselves as Taiwanese, the highest among the age groups. Meanwhile, the percentage of people regarding Taiwan as an independent country has climbed to 74.4 percent, from 68 percent in April last year and 57.6 percent in March 2014. About 80 of those polled agreed with the notion that cross-strait interactions should be conducted under the premise that the relationship between Taipei and Beijing is “state-to-state,” rather than that both sides belong to “one China.” The poll found 85.1 percent of the respondents said that both sides of the Taiwan Strait should jointly shoulder the responsibility of facilitating peaceful cross-strait development after Tsai takes office. The poll collected 1,068 valid samples from Taiwanese aged 20 and above. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.”

How To Get Tough With China. Grant Newsham and Kerry Gershaneck, The National Interest.  “The United States’ approach to dealing with China from the Nixon-Kissinger era onwards resembles a forty-five-year science experiment—an experiment that has failed. The underlying hypothesis was that an accommodating approach to the PRC would inevitably lead to a more liberal China that followed the established rules of the international system. It seemed so logical, as it was under that system that China would so handsomely benefit. After four-plus decades, there is scant evidence this hypothesis is correct. In fact, the PRC’s relentless effort to create what might cheekily be called a “Greater South China Sea Co-Prosperity Sphere” belies any notion this view was ever correct. China’s island-building expansion across the South China Sea is just the latest evidence that most of the “experts” got China wrong. Fortunately, the South China Sea is now properly getting attention. But the PRC’s objective is, at a minimum, regional hegemony. While the United States must hold the line in the region and make clear it won’t be bullied out of East Asia, the South China Sea problem will not be resolved in the South China Sea itself. Rather, a successful approach must also involve simultaneously applying pressure elsewhere on the PRC—and particularly on the ruling elite in the Communist Party of China (CPC). Ultimately, the United States must take the lead and develop a comprehensive strategy, similar in its broad scope to the strategy used to protect U.S. interests when dealing with the Soviet Union. Although it will be useful to involve other countries in this effort, there is no single country or combination of countries in Asia that by themselves can restrain the PRC. Like it or not, it’s up to the Americans, and an effort to hold the line might include the following components. Just as China demands respect for its “core interests”—as if stating them as a core interest automatically makes them unassailable—the United States should declare publicly and privately that it possesses its own core interests in Asia, and will defend them. This requires more than just talk and furrowed-brow pronouncements of concern—or even of “grave concern.” U.S. forces need to maintain a constant, credible, and obvious presence on, below and above the South (and East) China Sea, regardless of cost. There should be no more half-hearted FONOPs broadcast in advance, as if seeking Chinese acquiescence. This sheepish approach has had minimal effect. The United States should broadly publicize and criticize Chinese military provocations. Don’t hush them up, always respond and be prepared to “bump back” when Chinese vessels use a favored method to impede U.S. ships. Solidly link U.S. and Japanese forces, with the “unsplittable” political linkage that comes with it. This linkage will present People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planners with their most difficult challenge. Neither the United States nor Japan can maintain its position in the Asia-Pacific without the other’s fullest support.


The United States and Japan should continue to better integrate their military capabilities, to include contingency planning, joint training and patrols, and interoperable command-and-control systems. Build camaraderie and interoperability along the lines of the U.S.-UK military relationship, back when bilateral relations were at their peak. A compelling reason for Japan to seek this interoperability is that, once China has the South China Sea “locked up,” the East China Sea is next. Better alignment of U.S. forces and Japan Self-Defense Forces will also have a bracing effect on other regional nations that are nervously watching the PRC—and just as nervously watching whether the U.S. can and will still lead. Although ASEAN will never take a unified stance toward PRC territorial aggression, it is possible to encourage a handful of ASEAN nations to do more. For those countries, doing more includes joining multilateral patrols and exercises in the South China Sea and surrounding waters. This, of course, requires convincing these nations that they will not be left hanging due to the United States once again displaying temerity and ambiguity about challenging PRC domination of the region.”

Connecting The Dots: Will Xi Stay The Course? June Teufel Dreyer, Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Distinguishing trend lines from temporary phenomena in Chinese policies has never been easy, but recent events have made it even harder to connect the dots. Simply put, the public face that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership has heretofore presented to the world has developed visible cracks. By the dawn of the 21st century, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) seemed to have evolved into a collective decision-making system in which the Standing Committee of the Politburo formulated policy under the leadership of the party’s General Secretary, who served as a kind of primus inter pares, functioning as well as president of the PRC and, typically, head of the Central Military Commission.  The underlying assumption was that members of this elite, who did not necessarily share the same preferences for economic and social development, feared the emergence of a strong leader such as Mao, several of whose initiatives such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, had had disastrous results for the country.  At the same time, there were concerns that only a strong leader could overcome systemic inertia and powerful vested interests to implement the far-reaching reforms that are considered necessary to keep the PRC on the path to continued growth.  A World Bank report issued in early 2012 predicted that without a drastic restructuring, China risked becoming stuck in a middle-income trap, or worse. Xi Jinping had for several years been recognized as the heir apparent to the triumvirate of party, government, and military positions when the incumbent, Hu Jintao’s, second five year term ended in fall 2012.  Doubts about Xi’s ability to lead began to be voiced after a 2009 visit to Mexico City, when he delivered what was described as an outspoken rant against “foreigners with full bellies who have nothing better to do than try to point fingers at our country…China does not export revolution, hunger, poverty, nor does China cause you any headaches. Just what else do you want?”  Chinese censors immediately deleted his address from websites and news reports, as well as posts by bloggers who had commented on it before the deletions. Soon thereafter, South Koreans reacted badly to Xi’s mention, while in Pyongyang, that the Korean War had been a glorious page in the history of Sino-North Korean friendship. These doubts about Xi’s capabilities as a leader were reinforced when, three years later, the 18th Party Congress, at which Xi was to be formally anointed, was twice postponed and Xi himself mysteriously disappeared for ten days.  Chinese social media reacted with skepticism to the official explanation that he had injured his back playing soccer, again prompting action from censors. References to the abbreviated form of the 18th Party Congress, shi-ba-da, were blocked, only to be circumvented by copious references to the identically pronounced, but written with different Chinese characters, Sparta. When the conference took place, an apparently fully recovered Xi was designated the party’s new General Secretary and head of its Central Military Commission. In March 2013, the National People’s Congress would name him president of the PRC, thereby consolidating his primacy in the country’s three top positions.  Immediately, Xi took steps to be a strong leader, thus confounding the pundits’ predictions. Foreign analysts abruptly changed their opinions, noting, among other factors, that Xi, unlike his predecessor, who had never seemed to have the military firmly under his control, would have strong ties with the People’s Liberation Army PLA.  As perhaps less than convincing evidence, they noted that Xi had served as personal secretary to a former defense minister, Geng Biao, and that his wife, Peng Liyuan, held the rank of major general as a result of her performances of Chinese folk songs in the military’s arts troupe. In further refutation of the theory that China would continue to be ruled by consensus decision-making within the elite, Xu assumed control of numerous policy “leading small groups,” some of them newly founded. The latter included a national security commission that seemed as much aimed at internal social control as at external defense.  An anti-corruption campaign brought down numerous potential rivals in both. A leading target in the domestic sphere, Zhou Yongkang, was a former Politburo member who oversaw the country’s security apparatus and had been ranked the ninth most powerful man in China. He was sentenced to life in prison for accepting bribes and channeling lucrative contacts to family members and close associates.”

China As A Responsible Stakeholder? A Decade Later. Julia Bowie, Project 2049. “In a 2005 speech, then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick used the term "responsible stakeholder" to address how China should wield its growing power and influence. Zoellick stated that after a 30-year policy of integrating China into the international system, "we now need to encourage China to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system. As a responsible stakeholder, China would be more than just a member--it would work with us to sustain the international system that has enabled its success." In his remarks, Zoellick classified the U.S.-China relationship as one that must be built on both shared interests and values. In light of China's increased assertiveness and challenges to U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific over the past ten years, it is necessary to assess the success of the responsible stakeholder model by examining whether China has met U.S. expectations and contributed positively to the international system. The Project 2049 Institute conference, "China as a Responsible Stakeholder? A Decade Later," brought together experts on Chinese politics and foreign policy to identify and assess areas where China challenges the existing security and economic order, and to offer recommendations regarding potential U.S. responses. Discussing the historical context of the responsible stakeholder speech, one presenter noted that the early 2000s were an important inflection point in China's history. From the 1960s to the 1970s, China opposed many of the international institutions that made up the liberal order in the post-war period, but it nonetheless slowly began to open and change. In 1979, the U.S. officially recognized the PRC government and normalized relations. From the 1980s to the 1990s, integrating China into the international system became a central objective of U.S. engagement with China. By the 2000s, however, China had joined many of the institutions it once opposed, essentially becoming a member of the U.S.-led world order. Zoellick's speech in 2005 thus marked a necessary transition in the focus of U.S. policy away from integration and toward shaping China's behavior within the international system in a way that aligned more closely with U.S. interests and values. Embedded in the responsible stakeholder concept is the expectation that China would become a status quo power. Speakers agreed that despite its increased integration into the international order, China has consistently demonstrated dissatisfaction with the status quo. One panelist discussed China's attitude toward the Asian regional security order, where Chinese assertiveness targets the United States, as an area where this has been particularly visible. While the U.S. has maintained its alliances and military presence in the region, China has expressed hope the U.S. will disengage, allowing China to become the preeminent power in the Asia Pacific. When Chinese assertiveness began to spike in 2009, China's strategy appeared to be to induce Washington to choose to opt out of engagements in the region by making U.S. operations riskier. The U.S. has since demonstrated its resolve to continue operating, and China has switched its focus to regional actors. However, China's objective appears the same: to signal that, as China rises, the U.S. will either accommodate its preferences or risk conflict. International institutions are another area in which China does not accept the status quo. According to one speaker, even if China accepted the international order exactly as it is today, it would still want to reweight institutions and governance mechanisms to give itself a greater voice and greater influence over outcomes. China is joined in this objective by other rising powers, who are attempting to change the dynamics of international institutions in Asia. This speaker posited that as Asia becomes more interconnected, the U.S. may be unable to prevent Asian regionalism and the formation of Asian institutions that do not include the U.S. Another panelist argued that Chinese historical memory and the narrative of victimhood further shape China's relationship to the existing international order. A central claim to CCP legitimacy is the idea that, after 150 years of humiliation by foreign powers, the CCP's role is to return China to its former stature. The CCP cherry-picks moments from the Qing and Ming dynasties when China's power had reached an apex, and presents them as the natural state from which China was toppled, promising a return to these moments. This narrative drives China's foreign policy and creates a divide between U.S. and Chinese strategic goals. While the U.S. seeks to preserve the prevailing post-WWII regional order in East Asia, China seeks to return to the order in place before WWII.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 26, 2016

U.S. Challenged China, 12 Others On Navigation Rights Last Year. David Alexander, Reuters. “The U.S. military conducted "freedom of navigation" operations against 13 countries last year, including several to challenge China's claims in the South and East China seas, according to an annual Pentagon report released on Monday. The operations were against China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, the Philippines and Vietnam, the report said. It did not specify how many such operations were conducted against each of those countries. The U.S. military carried out single operations against Taiwan, Nicaragua and Argentina, for a total of 13 countries, the department said in the two-page report. The freedom of navigation operations involve sending U.S. Navy ships and military aircraft into areas where other countries have tried to limit access. The aim is to demonstrate that the international community does not accept such restrictions. The U.S. military has repeatedly conducted operations disputing China's maritime claims in recent years and did so again in 2015, a year in which Beijing's island-building activity in the resource-rich areas of the South China Sea led to rising tensions in the region. A U.S. guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation patrol near one of China's man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago in October. U.S. military flights near the islands have been warned off. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Navy would continue to operate in the region despite China's condemnation of the patrols. China's Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website late on Monday that it was deeply concerned by such operations. "The United States carries out militarization in the South China Sea in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight, threatens coastal nations' sovereignty and security and destroys regional peace and stability," the ministry said. It made the comment in response to what it said were reports of recent U.S. military flights near Scarborough Shoal – known by Beijing as Huangyan Island – an area China seized control of after a stand-off with the Philippine coast guard in 2012. Admiral Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, said this year the Navy would step up the freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea because of concerns China is attempting to assert its dominance by building military facilities there. U.S. freedom of navigation operations last year also challenged China's claims of jurisdiction in the airspace above its maritime Exclusive Economic Zone as well as restrictions it has tried to impose on aircraft flying through an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea. The number of countries the United States challenged last year was down from 2014, when it targeted 19 countries. That was the largest number in more than a decade. Iran and the Philippines have been the most frequently challenged countries over the years, mainly because they sit astride busy sea lanes whose use they have tried to limit or govern.”

Pentagon Report Shows Key International Waterways, Airspace Under Threat. Russ Read, The Daily Caller. “The Department of Defense’s Freedom of Navigation (FoN) report for 2015 shows that adversaries restricting access to key waterways and airspace poses a direct challenge to both the U.S. and international law. Among the 13 top violators mentioned in the report are countries like China and Iran, but there also some unexpected additions that control key sea lanes like the Phillipines, Indonesia and Nicaragua. The range of violations spans from restrictions on the routine passage of warships to international navigation through excessive territorial sea claims. According to the DoD, the FoN program exists to ensure the “rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace available to all nations under international law.” To accomplish this task, U.S. forces “challenge excessive claims asserted not only by potential adversaries and competitors, but also by allies, partners, and other nations.” The program serves a crucial purpose in upholding the rights and international laws afforded by the Law of the Sea Convention. Typically, a country is permitted to establish rules for navigation of sea and air up to 12 nautical miles from the end of its landmass, but the convention sets up the rule of freedom of navigation, which essentially lets any ship enter territorial waters peacefully. Maintaining respect for this rule globally is crucial to international maritime trade, transportation and the global economy itself. Given recent disputes over China’s militarization of the South China sea, it is not surprising that it was the worst violator of international norms in 2015. Among its listed transgressions are “excessive straight baselines,” which define the territorial waters of a country’s coast if it is especially indented or has several islands off its coast. Additionally, China is accused of overly strict control over aircraft flying in certain zones around the country. Of particular note was a law that makes it illegal for any foreign country to survey what is called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the area 200 nautical miles from a country’s coastline in which it has exclusive rights for various activities such as energy production. China has also been accused of requiring “prior permission” for foreign military ships to cross through its territorial waters, which could be considered a violation of the convention. Iran’s violations are not as wide-spread as those of the Chinese, but they are highly concentrated in the key Strait of Hormuz waterway. The Strait of Hormuz is crucial to U.S. and international interests as 18% of the world’s oil supply depends on it. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has referred to it as “the world’s most important chokepoint.” In the last year, Iranian naval forces have harassed civilian shipping, challenged foreign military ships and apprehended a group of U.S. Navy sailors who had drifted into Iranian waters. Included in the release of the report, the DoD noted that it “transparently demonstrate[s] the U.S. non-acquiescence to excessive maritime claims, while still protecting the operational security of U.S. military forces.”

Chinese Navy In South China Sea Draws U.S. Admiral’s Praise. Rosalind Mathieson, Bloomberg News. “Standing on a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier the length of more than three football fields as it plows through one of the world’s most contested seas, Rear Admiral Marcus Hitchcock has only high praise for the navy of his biggest military rival: China. Around 125 nautical miles from the Malaysian coast in the South China Sea, Hitchcock, the newly-minted commander of the carrier strike group led by the USS John C. Stennis, says his ships have been engaged on almost a “twenty four-seven basis” with a “completely professional” People’s Liberation Army Navy.  “We have had nothing but professional interactions,” he said on Monday on the flag deck of the John C. Stennis, over the near-constant roar of fighter jets taking off and landing. “The ocean is a very connected environment, and the sailors that are on it, the navies that are on it are very connected, no matter what their nations are going through diplomatically.” Those diplomatic issues are, however, increasingly bleeding into the military sphere, amid accusations by the U.S. and China that the other is militarizing the South China Sea, a key shipping lane that’s the subject of overlapping territorial claims by China and Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam. The deployment of the carrier comes against the backdrop of tensions over China’s land reclamation that has enabled it to build airstrips and base missiles in the area. Flanked by three destroyers, and with a guided missile cruiser also in the strike group, the John C. Stennis doesn’t need to venture into waters claimed by China to send a message. China currently has just one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, commissioned in 2012 and built in a hull purchased from the Ukraine. It is building a second one domestically. The two countries’ navies have been abiding by a code they set up for unplanned encounters at sea, Hitchcock said. The code is “going very well.” But it doesn’t extend to groups including the coast guard, and with China increasingly using its coast guard in the South China Sea as a de facto navy, security analysts have warned of the increased risk of a clash. In March, an Indonesian patrol ship was caught in a scuffle with Chinese coast guard vessels over a fishing boat that was snared inside Indonesian waters, and the country has now pledged to deploy F-16 fighter jets to the area. Hitchcock is among the senior navy officers urging coast guards to develop a similar code. “It’s an absolutely reasonable way to make sure we are number one understanding each other and communicating our intent,” he said. “Once people understand each other and communicate their intent, I think you find reasonable people make reasonable decisions to go about their business in a responsible fashion.” The presence of the John C. Stennis and a recent visit to the region by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter – including a trip to the carrier – coincided with a ramping up of activity by China. Central Military Commission vice chairman Fan Changlong, second-only in military rank to President Xi Jinping, made a visit this month to Fiery Cross Reef. A PLA plane also landed on a reef this month in what the official Xinhua news agency described as a medical rescue mission. On Monday China’s defense ministry said in a statement it was concerned by news that six U.S. Air Force planes flew in international airspace in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal on April 19. “The Chinese military will take all necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and security,” the ministry said. Hitchcock said the increased U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia did not risk making things worse. Last year, the U.S. began to challenge China by sailing warships near its reclaimed reefs in so-called freedom of navigation operations. “This is a routine, scheduled deployment,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve committed to unimpeded commerce in this region.” The resumption of freedom of navigation operations in the area is not a challenge to sovereignty, he added. “They are challenges to excessive territorial claims. We take no position on sovereignty other than to say we hope there is a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to sovereignty challenges here in this region.”

President Xi Jinping’s Most Dangerous Venture Yet: Remaking China’s Military. Jeremy Page, The Wall Street Journal. “China’s stock market was swooning. Investors were panicking. Yet when Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke that first Monday in January, he didn’t address the global angst about the world’s second-largest economy. Clad in an olive-green Mao suit, he was talking instead to Chinese troops about another challenge that consumes his time and political capital: the biggest restructuring of the People’s Liberation Army since the 1950s, a plan that unnerves America and its Asian allies and could upset the global balance of power. “We must emancipate our minds and change with the times,” he told troops of the 13th Group Army on Jan. 4. They should not, he said, “wear new shoes to walk the old road.” Four days earlier, Mr. Xi had started to implement a plan to transform the Soviet-modelled military, long focused on defending China from invasion, into a smaller, modern force capable of projecting power far from its shores. The plan, to be implemented by 2020, is one of Mr. Xi’s most ambitious and politically risky undertakings yet. If it succeeds, it could lay the ground for China to conduct combat operations as far afield as the Middle East and Africa. That would mark a milestone in the nation’s emergence from a period of isolationism that began under the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. It could enable China not just to challenge U.S. military dominance in Asia, but also to intervene militarily elsewhere to protect its shipping lanes, resource supplies and expatriates, as other world powers have. While an expeditionary Chinese military could help in humanitarian and counterterror operations, the concern for the U.S. and its allies is that Beijing might use force in ways that conflict with Western interests. The challenge for Mr. Xi is that his overhaul strikes at the core of one of China’s most powerful interest groups, an institution that swept the Communist Party to power in 1949 and enforced its rule against Tiananmen Square’s pro-democracy protests 40 years later. The president’s plan is “much more complex and disruptive than previous military reforms, which just tinkered within the existing system,” said Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel and military analyst. “If the reforms fail, you could lose popularity and have to take responsibility and resign, so there’s a big political risk,” he said in an unusually stark warning from a Chinese military figure about the high stakes involved. China’s State Council Information Office, the government’s official mouthpiece, referred inquiries to the defense ministry, which responded in a faxed statement saying The Wall Street Journal’s queries contained “pure speculation and did not correspond to facts” without specifying what points were inaccurate. The ministry said military and civilian authorities had done “intensive studies” to “ensure the smooth transition from the old system to the new one and also the security and stability of the troops.” The PLA had begun taking tentative steps abroad even before Mr. Xi’s plan. It has sent ships and submarines into the Pacific and Indian Oceans, installed military equipment on reclaimed land in the South China Sea and challenged U.S. naval forces around China’s coast. Internally, though, the PLA has been hobbled by a structure and mind-set rooted in the revolution and dominated by the Army, which before the overhaul accounted for some 70% of troops and seven of 11 officers on the Central Military Commission that commands China’s armed forces. Under his new plan, Mr. Xi, who heads that commission, is trying to shift power to naval, air and missile forces, which are vital for his ambitions to enforce territorial claims in Asia and protect China’s swelling economic interests elsewhere. He is doing that by forming new service branches and downgrading the status of the Army. He is wresting power from senior generals by dismantling command structures including the PLA’s seven “Military Regions” and four “General Departments,” through which its officers have for years wielded authority, resisted central oversight and sometimes lined their pockets. He is taking direct command of combat operations: Official media named him for the first time as “commander-in-chief” of a new joint battle command center that he visited on Wednesday in a rare appearance in camouflage fatigues and combat boots. And he is trimming 300,000 of the PLA’s 2.3 million troops, a move he announced last year, the biggest cut in two decades. That means putting out of work large numbers of soldiers experienced with weapons, just as the state sector, which absorbed previous troops cuts, also plans to lay off millions.”

Taiwan’s Premier Scolds Japan Over Detention Of Fishing Boat. C.F. Bian and Flor Wang, Focus Taiwan. “Taiwan's Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said Tuesday that Japanese coast guard had no right to detain a Taiwanese fishing boat in waters off Japan's Okinotori coral reefs the previous day. “Okinotori is just two coral reefs measuring nine square meters, the size of three tatami mats, and does not have a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone under international law," Chang said. The Pingtung-registered fishing vessel and its crew were detained early Monday by Japanese coast guard 150 nautical miles off Japan's Okinotori coral reefs. Japan has demanded that Taiwan pay NT$1.7 million (US$52,527) for the release of the ship and its 10 crew members by Tuesday noon. Chang, however, took issue with the action, questioning how "Japan, as a world power, could behave in such a manner." He said that as premier and a soon-to-be member of Taiwan's public when he steps down on May 20, he thinks it was an "unreasonable" move by Japan. "Japan had no right to board the Taiwanese fishing boat and detain it while it was operating in international waters," the premier said. After learning of the incident Monday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) called a national security meeting and asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lodge a protest with Japan and demand the release of the ship and its crew. He said there is a great deal of controversy over whether the Okinotori two reefs can be defined as an island under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and therefore are entitled to an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles. Ma's call for the immediate release of the "Tung Sheng Chi No. 16" was supported Tuesday by Legislative Speaker Su Chia-chuan (蘇嘉全).”

A Scarborough ‘Shoaldown’: An Opportunity To Push Back Against Beijing. Harry Kazianis, Asia Times. “Over the last few weeks any lingering doubts have surely been erased when it comes to China’s so-called ‘intentions’ in the South China Sea. There is clearly only one goal, a single strategic objective: to dominate this important body of water and ensure Beijing holds de-facto sovereignty from the waves that move from Malaysia all the way to the shores of Taiwan. Indeed, recent events prove that Beijing is not only consolidating its claims but now acting in a way that demonstrates China will utilize the South China Sea however it wishes, or, as reports declared a few years back, as “Lake Beijing.” As first reported in The Washington Free Beacon, China has tested its new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile. Such tests, while certainly provocative but by now routine, come with an interesting twist: the missiles were fired over the South China Sea. Beijing pushed back on the report in almost comedic fashion, with a spokesperson explaining, “It is normal for China to execute scientific experiments within its territory [emphasis mine], and these experiments are not aimed at any specific country nor target.” Clearly the only “science experiment” that China was conducting was to measure the lack of international outrage over such an action – and Beijing has to be happy with the results. But should we be all that shocked anymore? Such actions build on Beijing’s strategy to slowly change the status-quo one small move at a time. Each action is carefully crafted – nothing is ever done that would create a crisis that leads on a path towards kinetic conflict or war, however, over time, the cumulative impact puts Beijing in the driver seat with a clear course towards regional hegemony in the South China Sea. So is there any place on the map where China could be challenged, a spot where Washington and its regional partners could turn the tables, making their intentions known that Beijing’s coercive actions will now come at the steepest of costs, and that they will no longer be able to so easily disrupt the status-quo? Enter Scarborough Shoal. Essentially stolen from The Philippines back in 2012 after the U.S. helped broker a de-escalation of tensions – sitting clearly in Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – could be the place where America could slow or possibly halt China’s dangerous ambitions. So why pick Scarborough Shoal to make a stand and why now? Because according to various reports, it seems likely to be Beijing’s next island reclamation project. A report in The Diplomat explains that, “China is poised to take “decisive and provocative action” in the Spratly Islands. These sources report that China may dynamite Scarborough Shoal to build an artificial island to house military facilities...”

Chinese Hypersonic Weapons Development. Erika Solem and Karen Montague, The Jamestown Foundation. “China’s military is reorganizing itself to be a more modern, effective force. On January 1, 2016, the Second Artillery Force (第二炮兵部队) (responsible for China’s nuclear and conventional ballistic missile arsenals) was reorganized into the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF; 火箭部队), elevating it to a service (军种) fully on-par with the Navy, Army and Air Force (Sina, January 1). As China streamlines its military and works to improve the quality of its personnel, several cutting edge projects are in the works to provide the People’s Liberation Army with advanced weapons. One of these is the PRC’s hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), called the DF-ZF in China and designated by U.S. defense officials as the Wu-14. The development and testing of this new class of hypersonic weaponry in China has been extremely secretive. However, its eventual operational deployment will represent a significant improvement in the PLARF’s conventional and nuclear arsenals, as it has the potential to penetrate even the strongest layered anti-missile defenses of the United States and its allies. In addition to China, the United States and Russia are pursuing various iterations of HGVs and all three have developed prototypes of this high-tech weapon. The X-51A, Yu-71, and DF-ZF are the current HGV prototypes for the U.S., Russia and China, respectively. This new class of weapons has prompted each nation to adopt different approaches, with each model using a different engine, fuel type, and delivery method, but all HGV weapons’ core characteristic is sustained and controlled Mach 5 (3,836 mph) flight. The variation in each country’s testing of their respective HGVs provides a glimpse into their motives for pursuing this costly technology. It is speculated that the United States hopes to improve the speed of its Prompt Global Strike capability (which would enable to hit a target anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour), while both Russia and the PRC want the ability to pierce U.S. missile defenses. The competition between the three countries is resulting in both a new arms race fueled by ambiguous goals and a lack of transparency on all sides. To understand China’s progress toward an operational HGV, an examination of the U.S. military’s hypersonic projects is important. The United States has been researching and developing hypersonic technology since the early 2000s under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Force Application and Launch from Continental United States (FALCON) Project. Since then, the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Boeing, and many others have collaborated on the X-51A Waverider HGV. The Waverider uses a B-52 bomber as a launch platform, is intended to be capable of Mach 5+ speeds, and is equipped with a scramjet engine that uses high speed to pressurize the air-to-fuel mixture, allowing more efficient combustion and greater speeds. The first Waverider test took place on May 26, 2010, and set a record with a 200-second burn, beating out the 12-second burn of NASA’s X-43 in 2004 (Edwards Air Force Base News, May 26, 2010). In contrast, Chinese media reports that its military has the capability to launch its HGV from a variety of types of ballistic missile models. Among these are the DF-11B, DF-15B, DF-15C, DF-16, DF-21C, DF-21D, DF-26 (rumored), and the M-20/DF-12 (Sina Military, June 18, 2015). When comparing HGV technology, the U.S.’s delivery method and intended range appear to be more ambitious. However, the U.S. program has had a much lower test launch success rate (25 percent), compared to China’s 83 percent. Despite its recent advances with its HGV program, the United States has not conducted a Waverider test in the past two years, which makes the Chinese program appear more advanced.”[tt_news]=45313&no_cache=1#.Vx9f_XrAN4w

Chinese Signaling In The South China Sea. Peter Wood, The Jamestown Foundation. “The recent landing of a Y-8X maritime surveillance aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef (永暑礁) in the South China Sea in response to an emergency is further evidence that China has made its presence in this contentious region routine (People’s Daily Online, April 17). Earlier in the same week, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Central Military Commission (CMC) Vice-Chairman Fan Changlong (范长龙) visited Fiery Cross Reef as part of a review of the island and infrastructure-building progress in the southern reaches of the South China Sea (Reference News Online, April 16; Global Times Online, April 18). The fact that the landing was publicized is meant as a message, likely for Washington policymakers, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter who recently visited the region, as part of a tour that included meetings with U.S. allies and partners to which the U.S. is looking to help balance China’s growing power. China’s actions form an important addendum to the endless repetition of China’s position: due to historical reasons, it has absolute claim and sovereignty over a vast portion of the South China Sea. When articulated by Chinese diplomats, the historical record of what China has done in the area and how its current moves fit into the pattern of previous military deployments and modernization is blurred. Recent moves such the deployment of surface-to-air missiles and combat aircraft to the Paracel Islands have been a continuous focus of media attention. However, it is important to note that China has been making such deployments (though at much lower frequency) for over 30 years, and these form an important part of China’s signaling strategy. Declassified U.S. intelligence assessments from as early as 1984 predicted that China could oust Vietnamese forces from islands closer to the Chinese mainland (such as Bach Long Vi, see map) via amphibious assault. The year 1983 also saw the introduction of tanks and armored vehicles into China’s then-nascent Marine force. Force now regularly practices joint landings (China Brief, August 4, 2015). China is rapidly addressing another deficiency noted 30 years ago by the intelligence assessment—a lack of ship-borne air defenses. As noted in a recent article in China Brief, China is building and commissioning destroyers with advanced anti-air capabilities into the South Sea Fleet, as well as upgrading land-based mobile air defense systems on Hainan and Woody Island (China Brief, March 28). According to the assessments, on November 8, 1980, Chinese bombers flew from over Northeast Cay (北子岛), part of the Spratlys, while Chinese fighters patrolled the Paracel Islands (see map). Similar demonstrations followed in October 1983 over Malaysian-occupied Swallow Reef, this latter exercised paired with a navy frigate and supply vessel. At that time, such an operation would have been a “one-off” to demonstrate political will to Vietnam. China had no real ability to sustain combat operations at such a distance. Chinese capabilities have improved enormously in the intervening three decades. Long-range bomber patrols through the Miayko Strait and into the Western Pacific are now routine (, November 27, 2015). The Chinese Air Force and Naval Aviation branch now possess advanced, long-range fighters (and even better Sukhoi jets are on the way). This means they are not limited—as they were in 1983—to patrolling closer to shore. When challenging U.S. surveillance aircraft in the South China Sea, they are fully armed with PL-7 and PL-12 air-to-air missiles, a statement in itself. The recent appearance of Su-27 variants better suited to anti-shipping, air-to-ground, and electronic roles at Ledong/Folou airbase on Hainan Island further suggests that the days of the PLA Naval Aviation Force being limited to interception and air superiority roles may be at an end. ndeed, in the beginning of April, eight fighters of the South Sea Fleet’s 9th Air Division participated in a drill practicing hitting “enemy” targets at sea (Chinese Navy Online, April 18).”[tt_news]=45338&no_cache=1#.Vx9gB3rAN4w

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 25, 2016

China To Build Up Atoll In Contested South China Sea, Source Says. Minnie Chan, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong). “China will start reclamation at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea later this year and may add an airstrip to extend its air force’s reach over the contested waters, a military source and mainland maritime experts say. A source close to the PLA Navy said Beijing would ramp up work to establish a new outpost 230km off the coast of the Philippines as the U.S. and Manila drew their militaries closer together. An upcoming ruling on territorial claims by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, widely expected to go against China, would also accelerate the plan, the source said. Manila wants the court to declare that Beijing’s claims must comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the decision could come next month or in June. “Beijing will take action to carry out land reclamation at Huangyan Island within this year,” said the source, who requested anonymity, referring to the shoal. “China should regain the initiative to do so because Washington is trying to contain Beijing by establishing a permanent military presence in the region.” The U.S. and the Philippines began joint patrols in the South China Sea in March, U.S. defence chief Ash Carter revealed during his latest visit to the region. U.S. forces will also have access to at least eight military bases in the Philippines, with two air bases in Pampanga, 330km from Scarborough Shoal. The atoll is a potential flashpoint in the disputed South China Sea and is claimed by Beijing, Manila and Taipei. Chinese coastguard ships took control of the area after a tense stand-off with Philippine vessels in 2012. With a new outpost in the shoal, Beijing could “further perfect” its air coverage across the South China Sea, the source said. The PLA can already land planes at Woody Island, and two additional airstrips are believed to be under construction at Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs. Subi Reef could also support a landing strip. Last month, the head of U.S. naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, said Chinese activity had been observed around the shoal. “If China finishes land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal, it can install radar and other facilities for 24-hour monitoring of the U.S. Basa air force base on Pampanga,” Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said. U.S. defence officials have confirmed China deployed two J-11 fighter jets and bolstered its advanced surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island. Four of the eight HQ-9 launchers were operational, according to U.S. Fox News. Professor Jin Yongmin, director of the Ocean Strategy Studies Centre at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said an airstrip at Scarborough Shoal would extend China’s air force reach in the South China Sea by at least 1,000km and close a gap in coverage off Luzon, a gateway to the Pacific. Beijing had been placed under “extreme duress” by the intensified U.S.-Philippine cooperation and impending ruling by The Hague, Jin said. Another driving factor was Manila’s outpost at Thitu Island in the Spratly chain, Professor Wang Hanling, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said. It is home to an unpaved landing strip, which the Philippines has said it will repair, although the work allows for the facility to be upgraded. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in February that Beijing halted reclamation work in the Spratlys last August, but other countries continued with their projects.”

Japan: China’s Military Buildup Is Making The World ‘Greatly Worried.’ Reuters for Business Insider. “Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, speaking ahead of a visit to Beijing, said on Monday China was making the world "worried" with its military buildup and maritime expansion in the East and South China Seas. Ties between China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies, have long been plagued by a territorial dispute, regional rivalry and the legacy of Japan's World War Two aggression. China and Japan dispute sovereignty over a group of uninhabited East China Sea islets, while in the South China Sea, Beijing is building islands on reefs to bolster its claims. China has rattled nerves with its military and construction activities on the islands in the South China Sea, including building runways, though Beijing says most of what it is building is for civilian purposes, like lighthouses. "Candidly speaking, a rapid and opaque increase in (China's) military spending and unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas under the aim of building a strong maritime state are having not only people in Japan, but countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the international community worried greatly," Kishida said in a speech to business leaders. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year. Kishida plans to visit China as early as Japan's "Golden Week" extended holiday, which starts on Friday. "Through candid dialogue with the Chinese side, I want to get the wheel turning to create the Sino-Japanese relations that are suitable for a new age," he said.”

U.S. Warplanes Conduct Operation Near Key Chinese-Held Reef In South China Sea. Jesse Johnson, Japan Times. “A contingent of six U.S. military aircraft that were left behind in the Philippines after the conclusion of joint exercises this month have conducted their first air and maritime situational awareness flights near disputed territory in the South China Sea. U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement released Friday that four A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, commonly known by the nickname of “warthogs,” and two HH-60G Pave Hawks departed from Clark Air Base on Luzon island on Tuesday, flying through international airspace in the vicinity of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, just 230 km west of the Philippines. “Our job is to ensure air and sea domains remain open in accordance with international law. That is extremely important. International economics depends on it — free trade depends on our ability to move goods,” said Col. Larry Card, the air contingent commander. The flights come as the focus in the South China Sea — where Beijing has ramped up its massive land-reclamation program — has shifted to the tiny triangular shoal. The Philippines’ ambassador to the United States said earlier this month that a top U.S. Navy official had reported what was believed to be a Chinese survey ship in the vicinity of the shoal. Officials in Manila reportedly fear Beijing may be taking steps to turn the Chinese-held shoal, which is also claimed by Manila and Taipei, into another man-made island. China has maintained a steady presence at the reef, which is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile (370-km) economic exclusion zone, since it seized it more than four years ago. In the event of a crisis, any deployment of missile batteries would put at risk not only the Philippine military, but also U.S. forces in the country. In response to China’s moves in the waters, the U.S. has stepped up what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, including one in October and another in January. Media reports have said that another such operation could come as early as this month. The moves come ahead of an eagerly anticipated ruling on China’s claims to the South China Sea in an arbitration case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that is widely expected to go in favor of the Philippines. A ruling that sides with Manila is likely to further exacerbate tensions in the strategic waterway, through which $5 trillion in global trade passes each year. China has declined to take part in the case. A ruling is likely to come in the next several weeks.”

China Says Brunei, Cambodia, Laos Agree Sea Dispute Must Not Hurt Ties. Matthew Miller, Reuters. “China has agreed with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the South China Sea territorial dispute should not affect relations between China and the Association of South East Asian National (ASEAN), China's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Four members of the 10-member ASEAN – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – have rival claims to parts of the South China Sea with China, which says virtually the entire sea belongs to it. China is the biggest trade partner of many ASEAN nations. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to reporters in the Lao capital, Vientiane, on Saturday and was quoted by his ministry as saying China had reached "an important consensus" with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos. The South China Sea problem was not a China-ASEAN dispute and it "should not affect China-ASEAN relations,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to their agreement. China's maritime claims are ASEAN's most contentious issue, as its members struggle to balance mutual support with their growing economic relations with China. The grouping, which also includes Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar, expressed in February its serious concern about growing international tension over the disputed waters. Land reclamation and escalating activity has increased tension and could undermine peace, security and stability in the region, ASEAN said in a statement at that time. The United States has criticized China's building of artificial islands and facilities in the sea and has sailed warships close to disputed territory to assert the right to freedom of navigation. China seeks to keep the South China Sea off of the agenda at multilateral forum, but other claimant countries, such as the Philippines, have sought to raise the issue at ASEAN summits. The dispute has been divisive for ASEAN. Cambodia, a close Chinese ally, was accused of driving a wedge in the bloc in 2012 when its refusal to be drawn on China's actions in the sea resulted in a customary communique at the end of an ASEAN summit not being issued for the first time.”

Chinese Incursions Spark More Fighter Jet Scrambles From Japan. Stars and Stripes. “The number of sorties needed to ward off Chinese aircraft infringing on Japan’s airspace has hit an all-time high, Japanese officials say. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled its jets 571 times to intercept the Chinese in fiscal 2015, which runs through March 31. That number is up from the record 464 set the previous year, JASDF said in a statement. The increases have been seen mostly in the Southwestern Composite Air Division, which includes Okinawa and the Senkakus, a southern island chain whose ownership is disputed by China. Other air regions in central and northern Japan either flew approximately the same number of sorties or saw numbers drop off. While the number of sorties needed to check the Chinese went up dramatically, the overall number of JASDF sorties decreased as Russia’s interest in the region appeared to wane, the statement said. There have been 873 overall sorties in fiscal 2015, with 288 targeting Russian aircraft. In the previous fiscal year, Japan scrambled jets 943 times, 473 of which were in response to Russian incursions.”

Indonesian Navy Impounds Chinese Trawler For Illegal Fishing. Agence France-Presse. “Indonesian warships have detained a Chinese trawler allegedly operating illegally in Indonesian waters, just weeks after a confrontation between vessels from the two countries stoked tensions, the Southeast Asian nation said ¬on Sunday. The trawler was intercepted by two navy ships on Friday after receiving information that a ship wanted by Interpol in Argentina had been spotted in Aceh, in the northwest of Sumatra, navy spokesman Edi Sucipto said. The boat has been taken to a naval base in Belawan, North Sumatra for investigation. “We are currently questioning the crew to find out more about the case,” Sucipto said, adding that one of them had a gunshot wound to his leg. “It was not our officers who shot him; he was probably shot by the Argentinian authorities,” he said. The Chinese trawler was previously reported to have been fishing illegally in Argentine waters in late February. Argentinian forces in March opened fire on and a sank a Chinese boat illegally fishing in the South Atlantic after it tried to ram a coastguard vessel. Indonesian media reported that the Chinese trawler Hua Li-8 was wanted by Interpol in Argentina for illegal fishing and “illegal trade” earlier this year. Indonesia in 2014 launched a tough crackdown on illegal fishing which involves sinking foreign vessels caught fishing without a permit after impounding the boats and removing the crews. Its foreign minister protested to Beijing after the Chinese coastguard last month stopped an Indonesian patrol boat from detaining a Chinese trawler. Beijing also voiced concern last year after Indonesia destroyed an impounded Chinese fishing vessel. Last month, about 100 China-registered boats were detected encroaching into Malaysian waters near the Luconia Shoals in the South China Sea. China’s fishing boats have sailed into international waters as its appetite for seafood soars and catches plummet in waters closer to home due to pollution and overfishing.”

How An Email Sparked A Squabble Over Chinese-Owned Lenovo’s Role At Pentagon. Hayley Tsukayama and Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post. “Ever since Chinese computer maker Lenovo spent billions of dollars to acquire IBM’s personal-computer and server businesses, some lawmakers have called on federal agencies to stop using the company’s equipment out of concerns over Chinese spying. This past week, those lawmakers thought the Pentagon finally heeded their warnings. An email circulated within the Air Force appeared to indicate that Lenovo was being kicked out. “For immediate implementation: Per AF Cyber Command direction, Lenovo products are being removed from the Approved Products List and should not be purchased for DoD use. Lenovo products currently in use will be removed from the network,” stated the message. The apparent directive was generally welcomed as it circulated around Capitol Hill. Then the Pentagon’s press office weighed in. Not so fast, it said. Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the message was mistaken, “not properly coordinated” and should not have been sent. Neither the Air Force nor the rest of the Defense Department has banned Lenovo products, she added. In fact, the “Approved Products List” referenced in the Air Force message focused on communications equipment such as routers, rather than personal computers, for which Lenovo is known. Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Lenovo has never been on that list. Those statements to The Washington Post did not go over well with lawmakers such as Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), who is working on two proposals that would severely limit the use of products from any Chinese company on U.S. government computer systems. “My office received verifiable evidence that the Air Force intended on removing Lenovo as a supplier,” Pittenger said. “However, the Defense Department is now claiming this Air Force directive was unapproved and inaccurate.” “Should the Air Force have legitimate concerns with Lenovo, I am troubled that the Defense Department would not take swift action in support of that evidence,” he added. The squabble comes amid heightened tension between the United States and China over cybersecurity. The Obama administration accused the Chinese of a massive hack in 2014 of the Office of Personnel Management, which exposed the personal data of 22.1 million federal workers, including some Defense Department personnel who had gone through background checks. Meanwhile this week in China, Apple confirmed that its iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services were disrupted, just two months after they were launched there. The move, some analysts said, was part of a broader tightening of the country’s control of the Internet. “China’s cyberespionage continues to grow and puts America’s economic and national security in jeopardy,” said Mike Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission who also saw the Air Force Cyber Command message. “Putting Chinese-produced and controlled equipment on some of our most sensitive networks is a recipe for disaster.” Worries over companies’ ties to foreign governments have been aired before — other Chinese firms, including telecom equipment makers ZTE and Huawei, have been the subject of probes by the Treasury Department and Congress. Lenovo has repeatedly denied any link to state-sponsored cyberespionage. In a statement, the company said: “Lenovo has been a trusted supplier of information technology in the US since 2005 when it bought the IBM ThinkPad PC business. Every single company selling technology to the US government — including HP, Dell, Cisco, Apple and Lenovo — use foreign components in their products. So it’s critical that the US continue to follow a standards-based process that allows for procurement of technology that is both cutting edge and totally secure.” In 2004, when Lenovo bought IBM’s PC business, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — a Treasury Department body that routinely examines transactions and investments that foreign companies make with U.S. firms — launched a probe of Lenovo. Another followed when Lenovo bought IBM’s server business in 2014. One of the main concerns that surfaced in the 2014 review was over the maintenance of Lenovo servers. Lenovo had agreed to contract IBM to service U.S. government servers. Still, some questioned whether Lenovo workers would have to be called in for support either remotely or on-site, should the contract with IBM lapse — a scenario some U.S. officials deemed unacceptable.”

A Third Of Panama Papers Shell Companies Set Up From Hong Kong, China. Yasuo Awai, Nikkei Asian Review. “Intermediaries located in Hong Kong and China have established roughly 30% of the offshore firms exposed in the massive document leak known as the Panama Papers, an analysis by the organization behind the revelations shows. Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the epicenter of the scandal, opened up a Hong Kong office in 1989, then established eight more units on the Chinese mainland. Through the end of last year, those affiliates oversaw and earned fees from 16,300 active offshore companies, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports. Hong Kong's British-style legal system has been largely preserved under the "one country, two systems" style of governance put in place after China reclaimed the city. Western financial institutions have operated in Hong Kong providing professional services for the wealthy. The ICIJ calls the city the law firm's busiest hub in the world due to its role connecting China with the global tax avoidance network. Top Chinese government officials, corporate bigwigs and other well-to-do figures would carry funds to Hong Kong, which would then be channeled to shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens. Through those vehicles, clients could skirt China's strict currency controls and anonymously invest funds in real estate and other assets. The U.S. is a popular destination for that capital due to the view that Washington will resist political pressure from China, said Bill Majcher, a former inspector for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who is well-versed in financial crimes. Some of the funds even find their way back to the mainland in the form of illicit investments. The Tax Justice Network, a tax haven watchdog, says that Chinese investors would use the offshore accounts to make it look like their funds came from foreign corporations in order to take advantage of tax incentives offered by the government. On the other hand, Chinese enterprises often register their headquarters at tax havens when they list on Wall Street or other stock markets outside the Chinese mainland. For example, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. According to an expert, Chinese Internet companies often find themselves re-registering home offices to offshore locations as a way to raise foreign capital, which is normally banned by Chinese law.”   

Apple Suspends Online Book And Movie Services In China. Eva Dou and Daisuke Wakabayashi, The Wall Street Journal. “China shut down  Apple Inc. ’s online book and movie services in the country, suggesting an intensifying campaign to bring Web content in line with Beijing’s stringent guidelines for traditional media. The shutdown rippled through the U.S. high-tech sector, which has long seen Apple as a China success story. The brand’s popularity in China has helped it maintain strong growth there in the past two years, even as Beijing’s buy-local push has crimped sales for many U.S. electronics makers. “It feels like the Chinese government is flexing its muscles and reminding Apple that it’s in charge,” said  Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “Despite Apple’s success in China, it can’t count on doing business in an unfettered way.” Apple suspended its iBooks and iTunes Movies services in China last week after meetings with the country’s video and publishing regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, two people familiar with the matter said. The case highlights the challenges of navigating China, where laws are often vaguely worded and clarified later. In last week’s meetings with Apple, officials pointed to broad new rules issued in February that ban companies with any foreign ownership from engaging in online publishing, one of the people familiar with the talks said. They also cited a 2008 provision that requires companies to get a license to broadcast videos on the Internet and limits license eligibility to Chinese companies, the person said. People in China’s entertainment industry have long wondered why this provision hadn’t prevented Apple from operating its movie service in China. An Apple spokeswoman declined to say what Chinese licenses the company holds and how it hopes to restart its book and movie services. The regulator didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment. In the short term, the impact on Apple’s business is limited. It only started offering books and movies in China in September, and charging for content there is challenging, particularly because of piracy. For now, China hasn’t banned other Apple services, such as the App Store, Apple Music or Apple Pay. However, the shutdown crimps Apple’s plans to leverage its strong position in iPhones to sell services—an area of focus for the company as its smartphone sales slow. In the past, Apple has been willing to remove content that the Chinese government finds objectionable. Inside China, its App Store doesn’t carry apps involving the Dalai Lama or certain apps from free-speech activists. China has sought control over new-media formats similar to its control over traditional media. President  Xi Jinping summoned regulators and technology-industry executives to Beijing on Monday to call for tighter Internet regulation. The Chinese Communist Party’s leading newspaper, the People’s Daily, said in an editorial this week that regulators must scrutinize new media more strictly as its influence grows. Industry insiders say other U.S. technology companies are assessing whether they could face a similar crackdown. “It’s a big and successful pattern for regulators to claim big targets at the outset and scare everybody else,” said one Beijing-based lawyer. “Apple won’t be the only one.” The suspension appeared to have taken Apple by surprise. The company Friday still listed a Beijing-based “Studio Relations” job on its website. “The key responsibility is to grow iTunes’ movie business in Greater China,” reads the posting, which dates back to December.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 22, 2016

China Confirms Another Test Of New Long-Range Missile. Ben Blanchard and David Brunnstrom, Reuters. “China's Defence Ministry on Thursday indirectly confirmed a report it had carried out another test of a new intercontinental missile. The Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday reported that China had on April 12 again tested a new long-range missile called the DF-41. It did not say where the test took place but noted it came ahead of a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the aircraft carrier USS Stennis in the South China Sea. The Chinese Defence Ministry in a statement on its website in response to the report said that routine research tests on Chinese territory were normal. "These tests are not aimed at any set country or target," it said. The Washington Free Beacon news website said it did not know where the test happened, though the Defence Ministry said reports said it had happened in the vicinity of the South China Sea. "Media reports about the test location are pure speculation," it said, without elaborating. The U.S. Defense Department declined to comment, but Eric Lund, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, said it was aware of reports of the missile launch, and added: "We continue to call on China to be more transparent with regards to the scale and scope of its intended missile and nuclear modernization programs." The Chinese defense ministry confirmed in December that China was testing the missile. The Washington Free Beacon said in a report at the end of December that U.S. intelligence agencies had recently monitored a test of the DF-41, which can be mounted on a train. Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing an ambitious military modernization program, including developing stealth fighters and building China's own aircraft carriers. This has rattled Beijing's neighbors, several of which are engaged in territorial disputes with China, as well as Washington. China says it has no hostile intent and that it needs a modern military to protect its legitimate security needs as the world's second-largest economy.”

China Could Build Nuclear Plants For South China Sea, Paper Says. Ben Blanchard, Reuters. “China is getting closer to building maritime nuclear power platforms that could one day to used to support Chinese projects in the disputed South China Sea, a widely-read state-run newspaper said on Friday. China has rattled nerves with its military and construction activities on the islands it occupies in the South China Sea, including building runways, though Beijing says most of what it is building is for civilian purposes, like lighthouses. The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said the nuclear power platforms could "sail" to remote areas and provide a stable power supply. Liu Zhengguo, head of the general office of China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, which is in charge of designing and building the platforms, told the paper that the company is "pushing forward the work.” "The development of nuclear power platforms is a burgeoning trend," Liu said. "The exact number of plants to be built (by the company) depends on the market demand." Demand is "pretty strong" he added, without elaborating. The paper quoted a January report from the China Securities Journal that a demonstration platform is expected to be completed by 2018 and put into service by the next year. Chinese naval expert Li Jie told the newspaper the platforms could provide power for lighthouses, search and rescue equipment, defense facilities, airports and harbors in the South China Sea. "Normally we have to burn oil or coal for power," Li said. "Given the long distance between the Nansha Islands and the Chinese mainland and the changing weather and oceanic conditions, transporting fuel could be an issue, which is why developing the maritime nuclear power platform is of great significance," he added, using the Chinese name for the Spratlys. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, and is building islands on reefs to bolster its claims. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year. Visiting Brunei, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi repeated China's stance that disputes should be resolved peacefully through negotiation between the parties directly concerned, China's Foreign Ministry said late on Thursday. China has been angered by a case bought by the Philippines in an international arbitration against China's South China Sea, and says it will neither participate in the case nor accept it.”

China Needs Friends In South China Sea Not Enemies, U.S. Says. Diep Pham, Bloomberg News. “Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea is more likely to create adversaries who would unite against China rather than advance its interests, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told university students in Hanoi on Thursday. “Often what happens in history when one nation emerges and rises is that other nations get very nervous,” Blinken said. When the rising nation “uses its size and strength, not its ideas, to advance its interest, it’s going to create adversaries” and other countries will get together to prevent its rise, he said. China’s claims to more than four-fifths of the South China Sea and the ongoing militarization of its land reclamation projects have sparked tensions with other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam. The U.S. contends that the militarization of the islands may hinder navigation in waters that carry more than $5 trillion of seaborne trade a year. On a visit to the Vietnamese capital ahead of a state visit there by President Barack Obama next month, Blinken emphasized that U.S. policy in the region was not about containing China. "On the contrary, it is to welcome its emergence as a strong and important participant in the international system, one that meets its responsibilities as a leading member of that system," Blinken said. "And that’s why we work to deepen our own cooperation with China in many different areas. But with the emergence of China as a leading nation comes responsibilities and that’s what we also care about." Following last week’s announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that U.S. and Philippine forces had already begun joint naval patrols in the South China Sea and would immediately begin air operations over the area, Blinken said the U.S would "defend our national interest and support our allies and partners in the region. We are not looking for bases but we will continue to sail, to fly, to operate anywhere that international law allows.” Calling on China to draw inspiration from the example set by the U.S. following World War II, Blinken said he hoped China would “uphold, respect, and even add to” international rules and institutions and “resolve disputes peacefully, not corrosively." Blinken, who received a standing ovation from the audience inside a packed auditorium at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said the outcome of the November presidential election was unlikely to affect his country’s engagement and focus in the Asia-Pacific region, which he said would continue no matter who was president. Citing areas including regional security, military cooperation, trade, business, human rights, education, and peacekeeping, Blinken said the U.S. relationship with Vietnam – war adversaries only four decades ago – was about “deepening and broadening ties in areas that we couldn’t even imagine that we could even talk about much less do together just a few years ago." Nevertheless, Blinken said the U.S. urged the Vietnamese government to “release all political prisoners, cease harassment, arrest, and prosecution of anyone – journalists, bloggers, civil society activists or students – for exercising their internationally recognized rights," adding that "no one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing political views.” He said the U.S. also encourages Vietnam to “quickly and impartially investigate allegations of police abuse, which aggressively feeds a sense of injustice and erodes social stability.”

In China’s Shadow, SE Asia Looks To Replace Aging Fighter Jets. Siva Govindasamy and Joseph Sipalan, Reuters. “With an eye on China's more muscular stance in the South China Sea, Southeast Asian governments are stepping up efforts to replace aging fighter aircraft fleets, paving the way for multi-billion dollar deals in a boon for warplane makers. Despite tight budgets across the region, sales executives say they are busier than ever after a five-year lull – and both industry and government sources say the next months could see several multi-billion dollar deals from Malaysia to Vietnam. A trade conference held in Kuala Lumpur this week thronged with would-be buyers and salesmen from Russian, French, British, Chinese, Pakistani and American firms. Held every other year, attendees reported it was busier than ever. A prime drawcard was one of the region's biggest prizes: Malaysia, which is set to finally replace its Russian 1990s-era MiG-29 fighters after several years of delays. Industry sources say Kuala Lumpur could buy up to 18 jets, a deal potentially worth more than $2.5 billion. Options include the Saab Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian Sukhoi Su-30, and the Sino-Pakistani JF-17. France is optimistic about winning an order for Dassault-built Rafales but other bidders are also hopeful. "We are hoping to make Malaysia the ninth country to buy the Typhoon," said John Brosnan, who heads the Asian business for BAE Systems, one of the partners in the Eurofighter consortium. Malaysia's defense ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the talks. Vietnam, eyeing options beyond traditional supplier Russia, is among those next on the buyers list. It has had preliminary talks with Saab and France's Dassault to purchase at least 12 fighter jets, industry sources and a separate source familiar with the government talks said. "They seem to be keen on moving away from Russia, but it has been dormant so far," said Kaj Rosender, regional director for Gripen exports at Saab. "It looks like the next call will be on Vietnam." Industry sources say Vietnam is also in talks with Moscow over several Su-35s. Officials at Rosoboronexport, Russia's arms export agency, declined to comment on any negotiations. Vietnamese officials rarely comment on procurement matters, and did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment. While reluctant to comment publicly, officials in countries including Indonesia and Vietnam privately say their renewed interest in new fighter jets is driven in large part by China's growing presence in the disputed South China Sea. Chinese state media reported this week that a military plane had landed on Fiery Cross Reef, one of a number of new runways on reclaimed artificial islands, fuelling expectations that China will soon deploy fighter jets at the doorstep of many of the Southeast Asian claimants. "Rising tensions in (the Asia Pacific region) have seen a long overdue process of military modernization move up the political agenda in a number of countries," Craig Caffrey, principal analyst at IHS Jane's said in a report. "The Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam are all following China’s lead and we see no sign of this trend coming to an end." Beijing for its part says it needs the facilities for self-defense and says the United States and others are militarizing the region, not China. By rights, U.S. defense firms should be benefiting as the region renews and revamps – they were a heavy presence in Southeast Asian sales 1980s and 1990s. But they now they face tough competition, as well as tighter purse strings. Thailand, which has Northrop F-5s and Lockheed Martin F-16s, has bought the Saab Gripen and could order more from the Swedes, say industry sources familiar with the negotiations. "We do want new jets, we have long-term plans, but we don't have the money for it," Major General Kongcheep Tantrawanit, Thai defense ministry spokesman, said. "There are no deals in the making right now." Boeing executives had been plugging their F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to Malaysia, which operates the older Boeing F-18 Hornet variants. But Kuala Lumpur appears to be leaning towards the Europeans, say industry sources. Boeing's only presence at this week's show was to promote its unmanned systems. Boeing officials did not respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, Indonesia, which operates older Lockheed Martin F-16s, is close to an order for Russian Su-35s to supplement its Su-30s, industry and government sources said. It is also a partner in the Korean Aerospace Industry KF-X fighter jet program, which Lockheed is helping to develop. Lockheed did not respond to requests for comment. For U.S. players, that leaves the list of likely partners at Singapore, which operates only U.S. fighters jets and is a partner in the Lockheed F-35 program. The region's other supplier, of course, is China itself. Its JF-17, which it developed with Pakistan is a being marketed as a viable low-cost option for air forces, including Malaysia and Myanmar.”

Amid Tensions Over East China Sea Military Patrols, China Accuses Another Citizen Of Espionage. Lydia Tomkiw, International Business Times. “The Chinese government has jailed a man for seven years for passing information to an unidentified foreign government about Beijing’s military patrols in the East China Sea. Chinese state media said a foreign government had recruited a man named Chen Wei to take photographs of islands claimed by both China and Japan known as the Diaoyu islands by Beijing and the Senkaku islands by Tokyo. China has increasingly signaled it has growing concerns about espionage. State media reported Tuesday that for the first time since 2008 a man named Huang Yu was sentenced to death for selling approximately 150,000 classified documents to foreign spies. Meanwhile, warnings over foreign spies took a strange tone earlier this week with reports cautioning women to be wary of accepting roses from attractive foreigners because they could be dealing with spies. Reports said Chen was caught in 2013 raising questions about the timing of the state media reports amid a new push from Chinese President Xi Jinping to combat foreign threats and bolster the country’s security agencies. Increased warnings over espionage come as Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have claimed parts of the South China Sea while China and Japan have disputed claims in the East China Sea. Over $5 trillion worth of trade passes through the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea annually. American officials have questioned China’s militarization in the region as well as its land reclamation. As part of a trip to support regional allies, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday Washington would continue to support regional allies and defend its own interests in the region. “United States and Vietnam are sharing interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region, so is China,” Blinken said speaking at a university in Hanoi. “But its massive land reclamation projects in the South China Sea and the increasing militarization of these outposts fuels regional tension and raises serious questions about China’s intention.”

Chinese National Arrested For Carbon Fiber Theft Attempt. Wendell Minnick, Defense News. “The US government has arrested a Chinese national for allegedly attempting to export, without a license, high-grade carbon fiber used primarily in aerospace and military applications. According to a US Justice Department criminal complaint, since 2011, Fuyi “Frank” Sun had attempted to acquire Toray M60JB-3000-50B carbon fiber from an undercover entity created by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative arm of the US Department of Homeland Security. Sun allegedly instructed HSI undercover agents to use the term “banana” to refer to carbon fiber in their communications. On April 11, Sun traveled from China to New York to purchase the carbon fiber and told HSI agents that the fiber was for the Chinese military. Sun also told agents that he had worked in the Chinese missile program as an employee of the China National Space Administration in Shanghai and had a close relationship with the military, according to the charge sheet. “Sun paid the undercover agents $23,000 in cash for the carbon fiber. He also paid an additional $2,000 to undercover agents as compensation for the risk he believed they were taking to illegally export the carbon fiber to China without a license,” the government document says. The HSI undercover operation included the creation of a front company with an online “showroom” of various products for sale. The “UC company” was not identified, but government documents indicate the front is in New York City. Sun allegedly suggested several third countries to make the transaction, including Australia, Belgium and South Korea. Sun described a prior transaction in which he had acquired carbon fiber from a Korean supplier and in order to defeat Korean export controls, Sun and the Korean company had arranged to intentionally mislabel the carbon fiber as “acrylic fiber,” which was difficult to visually distinguish from carbon fiber. Sun instructed the undercover agents to “destroy the barcodes on every bundle … they won’t be able to trace where the merchandise … is really coming from,” the documents say. Andrea Stricker, senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said the sting operation was a “positive event for preventing the proliferation of missile and military-grade carbon fiber and enforcing export controls.” She further said that carbon fiber with a rating at or above T300, M60 fiber, or M-fiber with a lower rating, can be used to make carbon fiber rotors for gas centrifuges. “This case shows that traffickers in China continue to operate unimpeded by government enforcement efforts and in some cases China directs their efforts.” During prior communications with UC agents, Sun also expressed an interest in procuring Toray M55JB-6K carbon fiber from a “friend in the United States.” The Justice Department announced Sun's arrest April 13. Chinese traffickers have made numerous attempts over the years to acquire weapons-grade carbon fiber from the US. In 2013, the US government sentenced Chinese national Ming Suan Zhang to 57 months for attempting to export carbon fiber. That US undercover operation was also conducted in New York. According to a US Justice Department news release, Zhang came to the attention of US government authorities after two Taiwanese buyers, acting on his behalf, attempted to procure several tons of carbon fiber, including Toray M60. Zhang stated it was for use in a “new fighter aircraft” being developed by China North Industries Corp. (NORINCO), which produces high-end military equipment. Carbon fiber factored in the conviction of Chinese national Lisong Ma in 2014 for allegedly attempting to export “weapons-grade” Toray-type T800-HB12000-50B carbon fiber to China, according to US government documents. Ma received 46 months for procuring a sample of T800 from US undercover agents in New York and attempting to ship it Shanghai. Ma stated he would need 5 tons of the fiber. The HSI Office of Terrorism and International Narcotics and Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Units is handling Sun’s prosecution.”

Law And Order Is At The Heart Of The China-Taiwan Deportation Dispute. Charlie Campbell, Time. “Cloaked in jet-black hoods and wearing green bibs scrawled with marker pen, 77 alleged members of a telecoms-scam ring arrived in Beijing earlier this month after their forced deportation from Kenya. But less than half of the group were mainland Chinese; 45 held Taiwanese passports, and their deportation to the mainland incensed officials in Taipei, who denounced the move as a serious infringement of Taiwanese sovereignty. China may regard Taiwan as a renegade province, but Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation. On Friday, Chen Shiqu, a deputy inspector with China’s Public Security Ministry’s criminal-inspection bureau, told state media that all the Taiwanese had “admitted their guilt” under questioning. “They will thus be investigated, prosecuted and tried in accordance with mainland law,” he added. Commentators have leaped on the affair as a challenge to cross-strait relations for Taiwan’s President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the Beijing-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who takes office May 20. Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou, of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party), spent his two terms attempting to build closer ties with Beijing in the hope that a cozy relationship with the world’s second largest economy would boost Taiwan’s own, which hasn’t been performing. This failed, and the landslide win for the DPP in January’s general elections was deemed a clear indictment of his policy and the assertion of a distinct Taiwanese identity. Many in Taiwan, wary of China’s historic claim over the island despite the its effective split from the mainland in 1949, and Beijing’s loathing of the DPP, saw the repatriation of their citizens to China as a sinister provocation. Taiwan’s parliament released a joint statement, endorsed by all party caucuses, denouncing the “forced deportation” that “seriously infringed upon the basic human rights and the nation’s sovereignty.” However, the real situation is more nuanced. Way before President Ma’s attempts to chummy up to Beijing, the greatest cooperation between these two longtime foes had been in organized crime, with gangsters operating cross-strait syndicates — in drugs, gambling, protection and prostitution — virtually since the end of China’s civil war. Triad gangs in semiautonomous or autonomous Chinese-speaking territories such as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are unerring backers of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Taiwanese gangsters frequently flee to China when the heat is on. One of the most notorious is Chang An-lo, the Bamboo Union gang boss better known by his nom de guerre the White Wolf, who spent seven years living freely in Shenzhen despite being wanted on organized-crime charges in Taiwan. He was arrested upon his voluntary return to Taipei in 2013 and remains on police bail. (He has also formed his own pro-Beijing political party.) More recently, Taiwanese criminals operating in China have become a real headache for the mainland authorities. China’s Public Security Ministry says some $1.5 billion is lost annually to scammers posing as police, government officials, banks or insurance firms, and conning ordinary Chinese out of large sums of money. The alleged criminals apprehended in Kenya are alone accused of $93 million worth of fraud. But when crime rings, which typically operate in third countries to evade law enforcement, are broken up, Taiwan’s legal penalties are weak — not least because no crime occurred on Taiwanese soil or targeted Taiwan’s citizens.”

Water Wars: China Moves To Retake The High Ground. Chris Mirasola, Lawfare. “In a widely anticipated visit, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sailed aboard the USS Stennis for two hours as the vessel made its way through the South China Sea. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin accompanied Secretary Carter on the trip. The joint appearance came on the heels of last week’s US-Philippine joint military exercises and newly announced plans to enhance bilateral security cooperation throughout the South China Sea. PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang asserted that the visit proved Washington “was the real promoter of the militarization of the South China Sea.” Anticipating this pushback, Secretary Carter noted that, “We have been here for decade upon decade” and that, “Chinese behavior” was the cause of heightened regional tensions. The PRC, not to be outdone, also announced that Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission General Fan Changlong led a contingent of senior military and civilian officials on an inspection tour of Chinese construction in the Spratly Islands. It is unclear when or exactly where in the region this visit took place. General Fan is the most senior Chinese military official known to have visited the disputed islands. A Defense Ministry report of the visit also noted that five lighthouses have been built in the region, four of which are in operation. Deputy Secretary General of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies Peng Guangqian said that the visit was necessary to show “our determination, resolution and capability to protect our nation.” PRC officials retook control of the news cycle this week after spending much of the past month reacting to a rising tide of discontent in the South and East China Seas. First, the PLA Navy announced that it conducted advanced training drills that resemble actual combat conditions in the South China Sea. It is unclear where these exercises occurred, though they were reported to have started on April 7th. The Ministry of Defense also confirmed that it tested intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on April 12, just ahead of Secretary Carter’s visit to the region. American reports indicate that these ICBMs (road-mobile DF-41 missiles) are part of China’s long-running plan to “re-engineer[] its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads.” The DF-41 was previously tested in August and will be able to reach the United States in 30 minutes. The Ministry of Defense, however, insisted that the experiment “did not target any country.” Following on civilian flights starting in January, Chinese military aircraft landed on Fiery Cross reef to evacuate three ill construction workers. This is the first time that PRC officials have publicly announced a military landing on the disputed maritime feature.  Retired Major General Xu Guangyu argued that the rescue mission “would not have been possible without the expanded naval capacity and facilities built on the island in recent years.” PRC naval analyst Li Jie further said that this “proven capacity” would allow China to expand Fiery Cross reef into a logistics base for forces in the region. American officials wasted no time in condemning the news. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that it was “difficult to understand” why China needed military aircraft for the evacuation. Department of Defense spokesman Commander Gary Ross also urged “China to reaffirm that it has no plans to deploy or rotate military aircraft at its outposts in the Spratlys.” PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang, however, said that the landing was “nothing to be surprised at on Chinese soil” and Spokesperson Hua Chunying asked “why the US used military planes and vessels to advocate navigation freedom, instead of civilian ones.” A Ministry of Defense press release further asserted that American concerns were both “irrational and merciless.” A Beijing-bound trade delegation led by New Zealand Prime Minister Key also became contentious after a Xinhua editorial (now deleted) said that any attempt by Prime Minister Key to take sides on the South China Sea “would risk complicating . . . flourishing trade ties.” The Prime Minister, undeterred, said that the issue would “get raised in terms of the overall discussion.” PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying also condemned UK Foreign and Commonwealth Minister Hugo Swire’s statement that any arbitral decision should be binding on both China and the Philippines. Finally, President Xi Jinping picked up a new title, Commander in Chief, this past week as he inspected the newly established Central Military Commission Joint Battle Command Center. This new command center is part of an effort, announced in February, to centralize and regroup China’s military structure into five theater commands. President Xi is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission.”

What Are Mil-Mil Ties Between The U.S. And China Good For? Roy D. Kamphausen and Jessica Drun, War on the Rocks. “Senior Defense Department leadership clarified this week that China’s invitation to the 2016 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises still stands, despite calls from Capitol Hill for its withdrawal. Opponents to Chinese participation argue that the United States should impose costs for China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. However, military-to-military (mil-mil) – which include multilateral and bilateral exercises but encompass a wide range of activities that serve as confidence-building and deconfliction measures – play an important role in the broader U.S.–China relationship, serving as a channel for sustained dialogue and conflict management. Former head of U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Samuel Locklear, during a keynote address at an event this Tuesday co-hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research, advanced this view, noting that China’s participation in RIMPAC 2014 was a “very big success” and that Washington “should do all that [it] can to keep the PLA engaged in international military forums.” His comments come at a time where mil-mil relations between the United States and China are growing ever more consequential, in light of recent developments in the Asia-Pacific. Increasing militarization in the region and Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea heighten the need for mil-mil contacts as a way to manage tensions, ensure stability, and communicate each sides’ respective interests to avoid miscalculations. Both Washington and Beijing have acknowledged the importance of the U.S.–China relationship for maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific. Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping jointly advocated for a more mature and robust mil-mil relationship during respective state visits in November 2014 and September 2015. Clearly both sides want to avoid military tensions and armed conflict because they recognize that conflict would be disastrous for both countries and catastrophic for the region. However, the United States and China share a long history of highs and, more frequently, lows in the mil-mil domain, given its correlation to overall political ties. The mil-mil relationship took root during the Sino–Soviet split. But mil-mil relations fluctuated in the following years, subject to the ripple effects of the Tiananmen Square incident, the cross-strait crisis in 1995 and 1996, NATO’s accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the EP-3 incident, and arms sales to Taiwan. Mil-mil ties were always reestablished after these crises subsided. All the more, the type and sophistication of mil-mil ties have markedly increased, to include a first-ever naval exercise involving cross-deck helicopter landings in 2013, the completion of an air annex, and an increase in the number of high-level exchanges, among others. The adaptability to change and fluctuations in the strategic environment reflects an overall maturation of the bilateral relationship and should signal confidence going forward, not cynicism. In particular, there is now a heightened awareness about the need for more restraint in suspending ties. For example, Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, was welcomed in November 2015 by Chinese counterparts, despite the USS Lassen’s freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea a few days earlier. A new round of arms sales to Taiwan late last year also did not result in suspension of mil-mil activities, serving as another solid indicator. Yet the mil-mil program between the United States and China could be further optimized in the near term through collaboration in areas of shared interests. This includes enhancing communication mechanisms to reduce miscalculations and assuage differences. For example, they could mutually determine the correct mix of mil-mil activities or clarify interests to the other party.” 

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 21, 2016

China Deploying Troops Along North Korea Border. Elizabeth Shim, UPI. “China is deploying troops along its border with North Korea, as Pyongyang could be preparing a fifth nuclear test ahead of its Seventh Party Congress in May. The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a nongovernmental organization in Hong Kong, announced Wednesday that Beijing has dispatched 2,000 soldiers along the border, South Korean news service Newsis reported. China has previously deployed troops along its border with North Korea. In January after Pyongyang announced a "successful" hydrogen bomb test, China reportedly sent 3,000 soldiers to its northeastern region, and also sent troops during the North-South land mine provocation last August. In late 2013, China also dispatched troops in response to the execution of Kim's uncle-in-law, Jang Sung Taek. The center also said more Chinese military personnel were stationed at two major observation posts, and the guards are acting as lookouts 24 hours a day. Some of the troops are responsible for measuring the radioactive material that could be emitted in the event of a North Korea nuclear test, the Center said. Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have deteriorated since Kim Jong Un fully assumed power in 2012. North Korea has continued to announce tests of nuclear weapons even as Beijing has repeatedly urged the country to work toward denuclearization. According to the Hong Kong-based organization, the fraying ties could have been a driving force in a Chinese decision to stop providing fossil fuels to the North. That decision was made around the same time North Korea's Moranbong Band canceled its tour of China in December. Kim had ordered the band's return in response to Beijing, the center stated. North Korea movements at its Punggye-ri nuclear site have raised concerns regarding Pyongyang's plans for a test. In Seoul, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Cho Tae-yong, deputy chief of South Korea's presidential national security office, agreed to strengthen pressure along different dimensions to force North Korea to change its nuclear strategy, Yonhap reported.”

China Flight Tests Multiple Warhead Missile Capable Of Hitting All Of Us. Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat. “Last Tuesday, China conducted a flight test of its newest road-mobile intercontinental missile (ICBM), the DF-41 (CSS-X-20), according to information obtained by The Washington Free Beacon. The test involved the launch of a missile equipped with two multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), which were tracked in flight by U.S. military satellites and other U.S. tracking devices in the Asia-Pacific region. The exact location of the launch is unknown; however, previous tests of the DF-41 took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) southwest of Beijing, in July 2012, December 2013, and August 2015. On December 5, China conducted its latest DF-41 test, which involved a new rail-mobile version of the missile. The December 2015 test, however, was not a full test since the missile’s engine was allegedly not ignited. Rather, the ICBM was “cold launched” from a canister with a gas charge. “Development of the missile reportedly started in 1986 but was abandoned in the early 2000s. According to unconfirmed media reports, the program (Project 41H) was only relaunched in 2009. Nevertheless, most details about the DF-41 program and the missile’s true capabilities remain cloaked in mystery,” I wrote last year. The latest test appears to confirm that the missile is nearing operational status and could be deployed within the next three years. “U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that the DF-41 can carry up to ten 150-300 kiloton yield thermonuclear warheads per missile and that it is capable of targeting the entire continental United States. It is solid fueled, road mobile and has an estimated range of between 12,000 and 15,000 km (6,835 miles and 7,456 miles),” I reported in August 2015. There has also been repeated speculation that the DF-41 could be  armed with a DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). As I explained previously, hypersonic glide vehicles are ”carried to the boundary between space and Earth’s atmosphere, approximately 100 kilometers above the ground, by a large ballistic missile booster.”  Once the HGVs reach that height, they begin to glide in a relatively flat trajectory by executing a pull-up maneuver and accelerate to speeds of up to Mach 10. The gliding phase enables HGVs not only to maneuver aerodynamically – performing evasive actions and evading interception – but also extends the range of the missile. A DF-41 equipped with the DF-ZF could hit any target in the United States within 30 minutes, according to some estimates. The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) is also in the process of upgrading its older liquid-fuelled, silo-based Dongfeng 5A ICBM with MIRVs containing three (some sources say eight) warheads. However, these missiles will eventually be phased out and replaced by the DF-41.”

Russia, India, China Address South China Sea In Trilateral Statement. Ankit Panda, The Diplomat. “Two days ago, in Moscow, the foreign ministers of India, Russia, and China released a joint communique outlining areas of trilateral agreement between the three countries. As I discussed in The Diplomat, the three countries have met annually since 2002 to discuss issues of regional and global importance. While the trilateral hasn’t addressed the issue in the past, this year, the three foreign ministers included the South China Sea disputes in their joint communique. Specifically, the portion of the communique on the maritime disputes there said the following: “Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.” The statement is notable as the first mention of the South China Sea disputes in a Russia-India-China trilateral statement. Last year, at their 13th annual meeting, the foreign ministers omitted any mention of the disputes, despite the fact that China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands was already beginning to raise red flags in the international press. This year, however, with a decision looming at at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the case Philippines v. China – a decision that is likely to not go in China’s favor by most counts – Beijing is looking to shore up its position on the disputes. Namely, the statement that “All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned” is nearly verbatim lifted from China’s frequent foreign ministry statements on the South China Sea disputes. China opposes the internationalization of dispute resolution in the South China Sea, and has said it does not recognize the authority of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in its disputes with the Philippines. Moreover, last week, before the trilateral meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued similar remarks. ”I am convinced that they (attempts to internationalize the issue) are completely counterproductive,” Lavrov said at the time, according to Xinhua. ”Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN are pursuing, can bring the desired result, namely, mutually acceptable agreements.” The alignment of Russia’s position with China’s came shortly after the G7 group of nations – a group that formerly included Russia as the G8 – issued a forceful declaration on the South China Sea. Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said that China appreciated Lavrov’s comments. Finally, what’s striking about the Russia-India-China trilateral joint communique this year is that India was willing to sign on to the statement. Since 2013, New Delhi’s language on the South China Sea has matched that of the United States, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, and Japan – all stakeholders in the persistence of the regional status quo, which values a rules-based order privileging international principles such as the freedom of navigation. The Indian decision to acquiesce to the trilateral communique doesn’t suggest a change of policy, but it will frustrate regional states and muddy India’s position on the South China Sea. Just days before the trilateral communique was released, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had released a joint statement that: “...reaffirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, including in the South China Sea. They vowed their support for a rules-based order and regional security architecture conducive to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean, and emphasized their commitment to working together and with other nations to ensure the security and stability that have been beneficial to the Asia-Pacific for decades.” The bilateral U.S.-India statement and the Russia-India-China trilateral communique speak to opposing sides of the same issue. As I said, India’s policy almost certainly hasn’t shifted, but it’s still curious that it would acquiesce to a trilateral communique with Russia and China that runs counter to its previously stated positions on how the international community ought to treat the South China Sea disputes.”

China’s Xi Moves To Take More Direct Command Over Military. Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press. “Bolstering his status as China's most powerful leader in decades, Chinese President Xi Jinping has assumed a more direct role as head of the country's powerful armed forces with the new title of commander in chief of its Joint Operations Command Center, state media and analysts said Thursday. Xi's new position was revealed in news reports that featured prominently on national news broadcasts Wednesday and Thursday in which he appeared publicly for the first time in camouflage battle dress wearing the joint center's insignia. During his Wednesday visit, Xi called on the center's staff to "closely follow the trends of global military revolution and strive to build a joint battle command system that meets the need of fighting and winning an informationized war," the official Xinhua News Agency said. Officers should "change their ideas, innovate and tackle difficulties, in a bid to build a joint battle command system that was absolutely loyal, resourceful in fighting, efficient in commanding and courageous and capable of winning wars," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. Battle command capacities should be measured by "the standards of being able to fight and win wars," Xi said, stressing the need to prepare for conflicts, analyze possible security risks, and handle effectively "all sorts of emergencies." The joint center, reportedly located underground in the western outskirts of Beijing, is under the direct supervision of the ruling Communist Party's Central Military Commission, which is headed by Xi and oversees the 2.3-million-member People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing armed forces. Xi was accompanied on his visit by the commission's two vice chairmen, Gen. Fan Changlong and Gen. Xu Qiliang. Among his several other titles, Xi is also leader of the ruling Communist Party and chair of a recently created National Security Council, which gives him greater control over the domestic security services. As head of the military, Xi has overseen a reorganization of the PLA's command structure into five theater commands aimed at better integrating the different services. He has ordered a 300,000-person reduction in forces that will see the elimination of many outdated and non-combat units, and shift the emphasis further from ground forces to the navy, air force and missile corps. Xi's appearance in battle dress with insignia Wednesday emphasized his more direct role in military affairs. When appearing simply as head of the Central Military Commission he routinely wears olive green tunics, shirts and trousers without insignia or decoration, as did his predecessors. Xi's new choice of apparel "indicates that he not only controls the military, but also does it in an absolute manner, and that in wartime, he is ready to command personally," said Ni Lexiong, a military affairs expert at Shanghai's University of Political Science and Law. Three years since taking on the presidency, Xi is widely seen as having accumulated more power and authority than any Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s. A cult of personality has also sprung up around him to rival that of the founder of the communist state, Mao Zedong, with his slogans, sayings and signature political themes widely disseminated in the media. Yet his reputation has also been called into question by anonymous letters, allegedly from Communist Party members, calling for his resignation. Revelations in the international media about vast wealth accumulated by members of his extended family have meanwhile flown in the face of his relentless campaign against corruption in the party, military and state industries.”

China Steps Up Pressure On Taiwan Ahead Of President’s Inauguration. Ben Blanchard and J.R. Wu, Reuters. “China is stepping up pressure on self-ruled Taiwan a month ahead of the inauguration of a president from a pro-independence party Beijing distrusts, signaling a rocky start for the leader of the island elected on a wave of anti-China sentiment. In the past few weeks, China has established ties with former Taiwan ally Gambia, sent a top general to inspect troops based in a frontline province and scooped up dozens of Taiwanese from Kenya wanted in China for fraud - a move denounced by Taipei as being more about politics than crime. And Taiwan said a hotline meant to expedite direct communication between the top government officials dealing with each other's affairs had not been answered by China twice at critical times of late. China regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary and wants the new government to stick to the "one China" policy agreed upon with the outgoing China-friendly Nationalist government. Only 22 countries recognize Taiwan as the "Republic of China", with most, including Kenya, having diplomatic relations with the "People's Republic of China", with its leaders in Beijing. Taiwan is one of China's most sensitive political issues, and a core concern for the Communist Party, trumping even Beijing's claims in the South China Sea. Since Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party won Taiwan's presidential and parliamentary elections by a landslide in January, Beijing has repeatedly warned it will be watching closely what she does. Tsai takes office on May 20. At risk are ties that had warmed considerably when Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalists was elected Taiwan president in 2008, ushering in regular high-level exchanges and overseeing the signing of a series of landmark economic deals. China's Communist Party-controlled state media has not minced its words about what is at stake. Chen Qinhao, a Taiwan expert at Beijing's elite Tsinghua University, wrote in the official People's Daily this week that Tsai risks ending lines of communication between China and Taiwan if she does not explain her policy on China. "It won't be a matter of there being a 'high season' or a 'low season' in cross-Taiwan Strait relations," Chen wrote. "When it comes to the authoritative consultation mechanisms between the two sides, I fear it will totally shut down." In Taipei, officials are reading the tea leaves, too.  The island's normally secretive top security agency said the Gambia move was to pressure Tsai to "fall in line with China's expectations" once in office. Throughout, Tsai, who has said she wants peace with China and to maintain the status quo, has spoken only via her Facebook or through her party.  "Beijing has no right to represent us on matters involving the deportation of Taiwanese," she wrote on Facebook last week about the forcible deportation of Taiwan nationals to China from Kenya, even as her top national security adviser called China's move "completely unhelpful" for ties between the two sides.”

China Is Seeking Deeper Military Ties With Afghanistan. Ben Blanchard, Business Insider. “China wants to have deeper military ties with Afghanistan, including counter-terrorism intelligence cooperation and joint drills, a senior Chinese officer told a visiting Afghan envoy. China is working with Pakistan and the United States to broker peace talks to end a Taliban insurgency that has raged for 15 years in Afghanistan, but last month the militants refused to take part. The U.S.-led NATO mission ceased combat operations at the end of 2014, and has withdrawn most of its forces. China says it does not seek to fill a void left by their withdrawal. But, it has promised to play a "huge" commercial role in helping rebuild the country, where the Taliban seek to re-establish their Islamist regime. China is very nervous at the prospect Islamist militants from its restive far western region of Xinjiang getting support from the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia. Fang Fenghui, a member of the powerful Central Military Commission which controls China's armed forces, told Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the Afghan president's national security advisor that their two armed forces had always had good relations, China's Defence Ministry said late on Wednesday. China is willing to "deepen counter-terrorism intelligence, joint drills, personnel training and other areas of practical cooperation", the ministry cited Fang as saying. China wants to promote a regional counter-terrorism mechanism to "jointly protect regional peace, stability and development", he added. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which prizes its long-time alliance with China, have been fraught with mistrust in the past. For year, Afghan leaders repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants and covertly supporting their cohorts. But, the Taliban's recent refusal to join a peace process and ongoing offensive has raised doubts over how much influence Islamabad still exerts over the militants. Atmar told Fang Afghanistan was willing to work with China to fight terrorism, and explained the Afghan role in combating the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing blames for much of the violence in Xinjiang, the ministry said. China's official Xinhua news agency said Atmar also met China's domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu, where they discussed counter-terrorism too. China's vice president last year pledged infrastructure and security support for Afghanistan, signing several deals during a rare high-level Chinese visit to Kabul.  China has become increasingly concerned about what it calls extremists and separatists Xinjiang, where violence has killed hundreds in recent years, and sees security in Afghanistan as key to stability at home. Rights groups, however, blame unrest in Xinjiang on the frustration of the largely Muslim Uighur people from the region over China's controls on their culture and religion, charges Beijing denies.”

China Exporting Military Drones Worth Millions Of Dollars. Vishakha Sonawane, International Business Times. “China exported military drones worth hundreds of millions of dollars to over 10 countries, state-run media said Thursday. The Asian powerhouse also plans to sell unmanned aircraft capable of launching laser-guided bombs. Chinese drones “have bigger payloads, which means they can carry more weapons” than their rivals, Shi Wen, chief drone designer at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told the China Daily newspaper. Shi did not name the countries that bought the drones, the numbers of drones sold or the exact deal value, but said that the academy’s most valuable sale was worth “hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.” The report added that the drones are named Cai Hong, which means rainbow. CH-3 is a popular model, capable of firing missiles at a distance of six miles from its target and flying for over 10 hours. The academy is also planning to get an export license for the new CH-5, which made its first test flight last August, and can launch air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs, Shi said. China has become the third-largest exporter of arms in the world, ahead of France and Germany, with its exports rising  88 percent in the 2011-2015 period, compared to the previous five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. SIPRI said Chinese weapons were mainly bought by other Asian countries, and named Pakistan as the biggest buyer.”

Forecasting The Aftermath Of A Ruling On China’s Nine-Dash Line. Jerome A. Cohen, Foreign Policy. “The arbitration tribunal of five impartial experts that has been considering the Philippines suit against China under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will soon hand down its final decision. Although the tribunal will not decide territorial sovereignty questions or set maritime boundaries, it may well determine, among many other issues, whether there is a legal basis for China’s notorious “Nine-Dash Line” that ambiguously claims over 85 percent of the South China Sea and whether any of the islands in dispute are entitled to a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. If, as it promises, Beijing rejects the outcome, it will harm the UNCLOS system that Beijing, which has ratified the agreement, played a significant role in negotiating. It will also hurt Beijing’s own interests by reinforcing the image of lawlessness that it has acquired by its expansive territorial claims and assertive maritime actions – including a relentless drive to convert disputed submerged features, low-tide elevations, and rocks into islands, airfields, and ports. There is still hope that Beijing might change course, but it will require a recommitment to UNCLOS principles from affected Asian nations, and from the United States. It will also require other major countries increasing pressure on China, such as the G-7’s surprisingly strong April 11 statement of support for the arbitration. In January 2013, the Philippines’ stunning initiation of UNCLOS arbitration against China brought the system of third-party dispute resolution into the world of Beijing’s maritime disputes. China insisted then that the UNCLOS tribunal lacked jurisdiction, but refused to submit its jurisdictional objections for the tribunal’s impartial decision. In October 2015, the tribunal ruled that it did have jurisdiction over certain issues and postponed determination of its jurisdiction over other issues until it issued its decision on the merits of the Philippines’ claims. That decision is now imminent. But this is preeminently about politics, not only law. Beijing’s opposition reflects the current primacy of highly nationalistic elements within China’s military and political leadership over those Chinese international law experts, both within and outside government, who believe that China should test its challenges to the tribunal’s jurisdiction and to the Philippine claims before the tribunal itself – regardless of whether or not it’s legally obligated to do so. Under the fear-inspiring command of President Xi Jinping, it requires an act of courage for any international law or foreign relations specialist within the government to contradict prevailing policy, although academic debate continues to be allowed. What will Beijing do in response to the tribunal’s impending final award? Ignoring it in silence does not appear to be a feasible option. Some have speculated that a largely adverse decision might lead China to dramatize its protest by withdrawing from the UNCLOS system, as permitted upon one year’s notice. Yet denunciation of the treaty could not occur in time to relieve China of its obligation to comply with the arbitration award, and such an extreme reaction to a judgment of the world community would cause China even more long-lasting damage to its reputation than failure to comply. China would also be surrendering its future opportunities to influence the development of UNCLOS as it relates to many other issues important to Beijing. It seems more likely that Beijing will continue to disparage the decision through official and unofficial statements, contesting its validity on both jurisdiction and the merits. Also, although Beijing chose not to participate in organizing the proceedings, it has already sought to discredit the process by which the tribunal was constituted, even attacking the independence and impartiality of the arbitrators. Its Foreign Ministry recently condemned the arbitration as “a political provocation in the guise of law.” Such attempts, of course, only further harm China’s quest for so-called soft power.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 20, 2016

U.S. To Sail Submarine Drones In South China Sea. Geoff Dyer, Financial Times (UK). “As it watches China build up its presence in the South China Sea, one reclaimed island at a time, the U.S. military is betting on a new technology to help retain its edge – submarine drones. During the past six months, the Pentagon has started to talk publicly about a once-secret programme to develop unmanned undersea vehicles, the term given to the drone subs that are becoming part of its plan to deter China from trying to dominate the region. Ashton Carter, U.S. defence secretary, made special mention of drone subs in a speech about military strategy in Asia and hinted at their potential use in the South China Sea, which has large areas of shallower water. The Pentagon’s investment in subs “includes new undersea drones in multiple sizes and diverse payloads that can, importantly, operate in shallow water, where manned submarines cannot,” said Mr. Carter, who visited a U.S. warship in the South China Sea on Friday. By lifting the veil on new technologies such as drone subs, some of which it hopes will be operational by the end of the decade, the Pentagon is trying to deter potential rivals such as China and Russia by pointing to its continuing military superiority. The drones are part of a push by the U.S. military into robotics as it tries to keep one step ahead. “The idea is that if we were ever to get into a bust-up in the South China Sea, the Chinese would not know for sure what sort of capabilities the U.S. might have,” says Shawn Brimley, a former White House and Pentagon official now at the Center for a New American Security. “This might have some deterrent impact on the potential for provocative behaviour.” Mr. Carter’s trip to the USS Stennis on Friday was part of a visit to the Philippines aimed at expanding military co-operation between the two countries that is partly aimed at checking China’s growing influence. The Philippines, which will now host U.S. fighter jets, is one of the countries that has contested claims with China for some of the land features and islands in the South China Sea. “Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarisation in the South China Sea,” Mr. Carter said in Manila on Thursday. As military competition intensifies in the western Pacific between the U.S. and China, submarines have become one of the key areas. China’s heavy investment in missiles has put at risk U.S. land-based forces in the region and some of its surface vessels. As a result the U.S. is investing $8bn next year in submarines to “ensure ours is the most lethal and most advanced undersea and anti-submarine force in the world,” as Mr. Carter put it last week. Small, remotely operated subs have been used for some time in search and rescue and the Navy has been using Remus drones to search for mines. The new investments are in more autonomous vessels that might eventually carry weapons. Last autumn, the U.S. Navy unveiled a 10-foot, semi-autonomous sub drone known as the large displacement unmanned underwater vehicle , which is due to conduct its first test voyage in open seas in the summer. Officials hope that a squadron will be operating by 2020 if tests go well. As well as being able to operate for 30 days at a time, other distinguishing features of the submarine include being yellow. The initial function of sub drones is expected to be surveillance, however naval planners believe there are endless potential uses. One model is what one official calls a Russian doll approach – with a mother sub or surface vessel that can then release a series of much smaller drones that could be mines or used to track subs or even launch their own missiles. Small sub drones would be much harder to monitor using sonar systems that are designed to find large objects in deep waters. It might be possible, for instance, for a vessel to enter an enemy harbour unobserved.”

China Should Confirm No Plans For Military Planes In Spratlys: U.S. David Brunnstrom and Ben Blanchard, Reuters. “The Pentagon on Tuesday called on China to reaffirm it has no plans to deploy military aircraft in the Spratly Islands after Beijing used a military plane to evacuate sick workers from a new airstrip on an island it has created in the disputed South China Sea. China's Defence Ministry earlier dismissed U.S. queries as to why China had used a military aircraft rather than a civilian one in Sunday's evacuation from Fiery Cross Reef. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a regular news briefing it was "difficult to understand" why China would have had to use a military aircraft for the evacuation. He also said it was "a problem" that the workers had apparently been working on "infrastructure improvements of a military nature." A Pentagon spokesman, Commander Gary Ross, called on China to clarify its intentions. "We urge China to reaffirm that it has no plans to deploy or rotate military aircraft at its outposts in the Spratlys, in keeping with China's prior assurances," he said. Ross also called on all rivals in the South China Sea to clarify their claims in accordance with international law and "to avoid unilateral actions that change the status quo." China's Defence Ministry said Beijing had indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the United States had no right to comment on Chinese building works and defensive facilities there. It said it was Chinese military tradition to "wholeheartedly serve the people" and help those in need. "In sharp contrast, the U.S. side is expressing doubts about whether it's a military or civilian aircraft at a time when somebody's life is in danger," it said. "We cannot but ask: if a U.S. citizen suddenly took ill on U.S. soil, would the U.S. military look on with folded arms?" Chinese activity in disputed waters of the South China Sea, including the construction of islands by dredging sand onto reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago, has alarmed rival claimants, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam. The United States has repeatedly criticized the construction of the islands and worries that China plans to use them for military purposes. It worries that trade in what is one of the world's busiest waterways could be threatened, but China says it has no hostile intent. The runway on the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China has been building in the archipelago. Civilian flights began test runs there in January but Sunday's landing was the first China has publicly reported by a military plane at Fiery Cross Reef.”

Chinese State Media Journalists Barred From Vessel During Australia-Japan Navy Event. Danuta Kozaki, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “A disagreement appears to have caused confusion during a media briefing for a Japanese fleet's visit to Sydney's Garden Island naval base, with two Chinese journalists blocked from boarding a vessel. Two Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force destroyers, JS Umigiri and JS Asayuki, were berthed in open view, with one Soryu class submarine, JS Hakuryu, nearby but out of sight to the gathered civilian media. It was part of the week-long bilateral maritime exercise between Japan and Australia, "Nichi Gou Trident". Just prior to the start of a dockside press conference featuring senior Japanese and Australian naval personnel, one Japanese official (pictured) asked a pair of journalists from the official Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, who had invited them. The journalist replied: "We received a media release yesterday." The pair were then told: "You will not be able to come aboard the destroyers." A spokesman for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) this afternoon said the Xinhua pair had not registered "in accordance with the requirements laid out in the Japanese Embassy's media release". The Japanese Chief of Staff and the Commander Fleet Escort Force, Rear Admiral Ryo Sakai, described the visit to Australia by a Japanese submarine as historic. "I can say with confidence a Japanese submarine's first visit to Sydney in 74 years is proof that the relationship between our two navies has fully developed into a mature, trusting one, that our predecessors would never have expected 74 years ago," he told reporters. "I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the RAN for accepting our ships, and hosting the annual bilateral exercise, Nichi Gou Trident." The RAN's exercise director, Captain Brian Schlegel, said this was about the two navies working together. "The visit covers two main phases, the harbour and the sea. It enhances our ability to work together [and make] sure all the data systems and so on work together." The RAN said the exercise had been conducted between Australia and Japan since 2009. "It is an opportunity to develop and enhance the bilateral naval relationship by practising maritime skills and improving levels of interoperability," it said in a statement. "This is the first opportunity to conduct the exercise off Sydney." The ships are due to set sail tomorrow for the sea phase of the exercise, which finishes at the end of this week.”

A New Perspective On Taiwan-China Relations. Gerrit van der Wees, The Diplomat. “Much is being written these days on whether tensions between Taiwan and China will increase come May 20. On that date, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who won an overwhelming landslide victory in January, will be inaugurated as Taiwan’s president. Conventional wisdom has it that during the past eight years, the China-friendly policies of Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma Ying-jeou led to an accommodation, resulting in a reduction of tensions. Ma has prided himself on his approach, which resulted in some 22 cross-Strait agreements, mainly focusing on trade and investment. A fundamental problem with this perception is that this rapprochement across the Strait was built on quicksand: Ma’s policies gave Beijing the impression that Taiwan would gradually drift into China’s embrace, and that it would eventually lead into some sort of unification. Ma’s approach was perhaps understandable from his point of view: his family was part of the Chinese Nationalist elite that came over with Chiang Kai-shek after World War II and governed Taiwan under authoritarian rule from the late 1940s through the late 1980s.  It wasn’t until the early 1990s that democracy set in under native-born President Lee Teng-hui. But that China-focused narrative has now run headlong into Taiwan’s vibrant democracy. This became quite apparent already in March/April 2014, when the Sunflower student movement blocked Ma’s attempt to push through his ill-fated Service Trade Agreement with China through the Legislative Yuan. The push-back against the rapprochement envisioned by Ma became even more obvious in the November 2014 local “nine-in-one” elections, when the opposition DPP swept the KMT out of a large number of local offices. And it culminated in the overwhelming victory in the January 2016 presidential and legislative elections, which gave Tsai’s DPP control of both the executive and legislative branches of government. So, what would be a viable way forward for Taiwan? What do the people of Taiwan want for their future? In this context it must be emphasized that the rejection of Ma’s policies was not per se an anti-China movement: it was much more of a pro-Taiwan movement dedicated to preserving the hard-won freedom and democracy in Taiwan. First and foremost, people in Taiwan are looking for a better, more effective and transparent government; they want to move away from the “black box” operations so symptomatic of the KMT years. They also want an accountable Legislative Yuan, not shady backroom dealings so prevalent in the past eight years. Secondly, in terms of Taiwan’s place in the international community, the people of the island want their country to be treated as a full and equal member. In particular the young people resent the international isolation imposed on their country by the “One China” legacy dating back to Chiang Kai-shek. The main drivers behind this new political landscape in Taiwan are twofold: it is the culmination of the transition to democracy in the late 1980s, and the subsequent strong shift to a new “Taiwanese” identity. In the 1970s, when the current “One China” policies came into being, the choice was between two authoritarian regimes that both claimed to represent the “real” China. That contest was won by the CCP in Beijing: it is in de facto control of China, although — despite hopes of a liberalization in the 1990s and 2000s — its rule is still highly repressive. But Taiwan went into a very different direction: in the 1980s and 1990s it morphed from being the seat of a repressive Chinese Nationalist regime into being a vibrant and even rambunctious democracy. The Taiwan of today thus has very little to do with the old Chinese Civil War. Its people want to leave the dark legacies of that conflict behind them and work toward a new future.”

Trouble At Sea For The U.S. And Its Asian Allies. James Curran, East Asia Forum. “In the capitals of America’s Asian allies, two phenomena are combining to intensify already uneasy relations with Washington. The first is China’s continued assertiveness in the South China Sea. Beijing’s militarisation of these contested territories – transforming rocks and reefs into artificial islands with runways and radars – has driven already close U.S. allies more tightly into the American embrace. Even old adversaries, like Vietnam, now discuss the possibility of welcoming American naval visits to Cam Ranh Bay. The two countries have also agreed to expand defence trade and joint military operations. Meanwhile, American troops are due to rotate through the Philippines’ military bases – a colony that banished the U.S. Navy from Subic Bay nearly a quarter of a century ago. Yet as these countries inch closer to Washington, they also express doubts over America’s staying power in Asia. And while they deliver forceful rhetorical rebuttals of Chinese activities in the South China Sea, not one U.S. ally has decided to follow Washington in conducting a freedom of navigation exercise within the 12 nautical mile zone around these territories. Into this already febrile strategic environment has come a second, no less turbulent force: the decades’ old spectre of a U.S. withdrawal from Asia. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has expressed a desire to virtually overturn America’s postwar regional ‘hub and spokes’ alliance system. In interviews with the Washington Post and the New York Times, Trump spoke about his willingness to reconsider America’s alliances with both Japan and South Korea if they did not increase their financial contributions to the cost of feeding and housing U.S. troops stationed there. He foreshadowed not only a complete drawdown of these garrisons but even suggested that both Seoul and Tokyo also consider developing their own nuclear weapons. These events have caused significant doubts about both China’s long term intentions and the future of the U.S. ‘pivot’ to Asia. In the case of the South China Sea, Washington’s allies face a dilemma. Nervous about Beijing’s attempts to skim influence from the United States in the region, many are eager to see a reaffirmation of American commitment to Asian security. But few are ready to do anything to oppose Chinese adventurism, taking only to the microphone – or in the case of the Philippines the international court of arbitration – rather than the high seas. There can be no doubt that U.S. officials are disappointed at the distinct lack of preparedness on the part of regional allies to be more assertive in challenging China’s claims. Among commentators in Japan there is broad agreement that a freedom of navigation patrol is not the litmus test for alliance unity in Asia. They stress that Japan’s contribution to regional peace lies in strengthening maritime capabilities, not being a naval loudmouth. Distinguished analyst Funabashi Yoichi has cited domestic pressures that might limit Japan’s ability ‘to live up to its expanded commitments’. There is a ‘real risk’, he adds, ‘that expectation gaps could develop as a permanent feature of America’s relationships with its allies’. While most official regional reactions to Trump’s remarks have been muted, some have not held back. A major South Korean newspaper described his views as ‘shocking’, since they corrode the ‘mutual trust’ that is ‘the most pivotal element in the alliance’. In Australia, the head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Peter Jennings, said that if Trump’s vision was enacted ‘you’d have that sense of U.S. disengagement – not going any further west than Hawaii’. Such comments carry some of the alarm that gripped Australian policymakers when Richard Nixon enunciated his Guam doctrine in July 1969, which stipulated that America’s Asian allies needed to assume more of the burden for their own self-defence.”

Do The Obama Administration And PACOM Disagree On The South China Sea? Robert Farley, The Diplomat. “Over the past week, the apparent conflict between PACOM and the Obama administration has generated a pool of digital ink big enough to build a Chinese island in. The apparent disinterest of the Obama administration in entertaining the more aggressive navigation and flight operations proposed by PACOM commander Admiral Harry B. Harris has produced a great deal of criticism, even as both sides sought to quiet the conflict. It’s worthwhile at this point to stop and think through the practical limits on what the United States can do. The dirty little secret of politics in the South China Sea is that the United States can really do very little to prevent China from building islands. The USN can demonstrate its contempt for Chinese construction by sailing near the islands; the USAF can fly over them. But unless American ships and planes directly fire upon Chinese forces, the latter can continue construction after the U.S. passes by. As long as it remains unwilling to fire guns and missiles at Chinese ships, or to facilitate the illegal construction of China’s regional competitors, the United States can only express its displeasure, albeit at a variety of volumes and frequencies. Does This Mean Giving Up on the Pivot to Asia? No. Any strategic shift as large as the Pacific Pivot contains numerous smaller-scale options, means of modulating tension and pressure in order to secure long range goals. Indeed, any strategic approach must have a degree of flexibility in order to manage unexpected actions and events. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Obama administration has abandoned the idea that the rise of China represents the central strategic problem faced by the United States, or that tempered regional engagement is the best way to meet this problem. The road to hell is paved with efforts to reassure sketchy clients. Most of the claimants to the South China Sea fear Chinese power and aggression, and have become interested in preventing China from making more aggressive claims to the South China Sea, or at least protesting those claims. U.S. freedom of navigation operations play well in this context. But all of the claimants also enjoy strong, robust commercial relationships with China. None benefit from an increase in tension, or from a confrontation caused by a miscalculation. The U.S. Navy is left in a position where it seems it must embrace a more aggressive posture than any potential ally is willing to embrace, simply in order to reassure potential allies. Moreover, there is precious little to indicate that these allies are attentive to or impressed by the details of U.S. freedom of navigation operations as the U.S. Navy seems to believe. Here’s what the United States can do: use Chinese aggression to leverage the development of multilateral partnerships and institutions that include and privilege the United States. And this, in fact, is what the United States is doing, and what it continues to do. Lost in the headlines about the deployment of the latest patrol aircraft to a man-made island, or the latest set of sandbags to a previously uninhabitable rock, has been the long-term, fruitful efforts to establish the United States as the hub of a multilateral system of maritime maintenance and Chinese containment in the South China Sea. Whether or not the U.S. Navy conducts a patrol or an “innocent passage,” and whether President Obama solicits the advice of PACOM on operational minutiae, is quite frankly trivial in comparison to this larger project. The core of U.S. strategy in the South China Sea, and more broadly in East Asia, is to ensure that China continues to have few allies, and that those few allies are of poor quality. Disputes over the ownership of man-made rocks are secondary to this broader goal, a fact which Beijing seems not to understand.”

China’s Mediterranean Odyssey. Elodie Sellier, The Diplomat. “Let the ship sail and bring the Golden Fleece,” said China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) Chairman Xu Lirong on April 8, after the state-owned shipping giant sealed a deal to purchase the Greek port of Piraeus, southwest of Athens. Beyond the romantic evocations of Greek heroes such as Jason and the Argonauts, this “made in China” golden fleece amounts to no less than a 368.5 million euro (around $420 million) deal, signed by COSCO with Greece’s privatization agency, and the promise of another 350 million euros in investment over the next decade. China is increasingly sailing West, multiplying offers to European partners under its grand strategy of reviving the Silk Road routes. To Beijing’s eyes, the purchase of Piraeus is a major leap forward in its “Belt and Road” project, a sprawling network of infrastructure development and investment that aims at building “a new bridge of friendship and cooperation across the Eurasian continent,” as President Xi Jinping has put it. Ultimately, China aspires to tie together the dynamic economies of the two extremities of the Silk Road, East Asia and Western Europe. Strategically located at the other end of the Maritime Silk Road, Greece could be China’s “gateway to Europe,” Premier Li Keqiang stated in 2014. But how realistic are China’s projects in the Mediterranean Sea? Can China pursue its “Mediterranean Odyssey” and enter the European market while maintaining a “hands-off” approach to the political and security challenges that undermine the stability of the region? So far, the Piraeus adventure has been a success story for China. Since 2009, when COSCO obtained a concession to operate a two-container terminal for a period of 35 years, its container throughput has increased five-fold and business activity has tripled, laying the ground for the transformation of the port into a major hub in the Mediterranean. In 2014, the Greek port handled no less than 16.8 million passengers and 3.6 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers. With the purchase of Piraeus, Beijing seeks to increase the synergies with the terrestrial belt of the Silk Road, which stretches from China to Central Europe through Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe. Ultimately, Beijing aims to knit together all the countries along the Belt and Road through a complex network of roads, rails, and pipelines. The new ports built in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kenya, which form part of the “string of pearls” spreading from the coast of mainland China through the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and into the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf, not only operate as strategic outposts along major sea lines of communication (SLOC), but also provide the basis for the construction of new railways that extend from these ports into the interior of the host countries. China’s modernization program at Piraeus follows a similar logic. The successful growth of the Piraeus container port led by COSCO has created the basis for developing infrastructure connections with other parts of Europe, from Athens to the Balkans and Central Europe. In the words of Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli, the raison d’être of the Sino-Greek collaboration is “to build the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route to connect the maritime Silk Road with the Silk Road on land.” China has already expressed deep interest in investing in Greece’s national rail network TRAINOSE, and has recently floated the idea of purchasing the port of Thessaloniki, which is scheduled to be privatized in 2017. China’s enthusiasm echoes that of a crisis-ridden Greece bending over backwards to meet the demands of international creditors, and in desperate need for some short-term cash to offset an unemployment rate at 24.4 percent. “I hope that this deal is just the beginning for many more investments to come to Greece,” said Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on April 9, expressing the belief that Chinese investments will help the country alleviate its enormous debt.”

Chinese Economy: Back To The Future. Anthony Fensom, The Diplomat. “In a bid to revive its flagging economy, China has gone back to its old ways, with rapid credit growth sparking a pick-up in the “old economy” sectors of construction, housing and manufacturing. However, keeping the good times rolling by delaying reforms could yet bring bigger problems for the world’s second-largest economy, according to analysts. On Friday, Asia’s economic heavyweight reported a 6.7 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter compared to a year earlier. Despite being its slowest expansion in seven years, the rise was in line with economists’ median projections and in range of the government’s stated target of 6.5 percent to 7 percent GDP growth for the full year. Industrial production expanded by 6.8 percent, retail sales by 10.5 percent and fixed asset investment by 10.7 percent, all exceeding the previous quarter’s results and beating analysts’ forecasts in what economists described as a “stabilization of the old economy.” The housing market has responded accordingly, with property sales up 54 percent by value in the first quarter and investment rising by 6.2 percent. The GDP data also followed stronger-than-expected trade data released earlier in the week, with exports rising by nearly 19 percent in March compared to the previous quarter’s 20 percent fall, while imports improved from an 8 percent drop in February to only a 1.7 percent decline in March. “The economy has stabilized thanks to a flood of liquidity and improved sentiment in the property market,” Credit Suisse economist Tao Dong told Bloomberg News. “It is not clear whether the momentum is sustainable. So far, the government seems to be the solo singer. It is critical to re-engage private investment.” China’s credit binge has reportedly reached the same levels as during the heights of the global financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund’s former chief representative in Beijing, Jonathan Anderson. Anderson told the Australian Financial Review that total credit growth was expanding at an annual rate of 21 percent, far higher than the reported 14 percent growth, with the extra credit disguised via “debt-like instruments funneled through China’s non-bank lenders.” “This is still an economy in the throes of an extraordinary and massive credit bubble,” Anderson told the Australian financial daily. “During the past calendar year China has added just as much debt relative to underlying activity [as] it did during its massive post-crisis 2009 stimulus boom.” In March, new yuan-denominated loans grew by 89 percent from the previous month to 1.37 trillion yuan ($211 billion), while government spending also increased by 20 percent to 1.68 trillion yuan. Total social financing, a credit measure that includes both bank and nonbank lending, hit a historical high of 6.59 trillion yuan in the first quarter, while corporate bond issuance rose to nearly 700 billion yuan compared with around 550 billion yuan for January and February combined. The extra credit has provided a welcome boost for China’s battered steel sector, which has enjoyed a 25 percent price rise since the start of the year, while the iron ore price has jumped by 37 percent to around $60 a ton, aiding miners and boosting budget coffers for exporters such as Australia. The oil price has also surged 60 percent higher, with the Brent crude price climbing to $44 a barrel compared to its level below $30 earlier in the year.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 19, 2016

U.S. Protests After Chinese Military Jet Lands On South China Sea Island. Jamie Crawford, Jim Sciutto and Tim Schwarz, CNN. “China's apparent landing of a military jet on a man-made island in the disputed waters of the South China Sea drew a protest from the U.S. military Monday. The Chinese military aircraft landed on Yongshu Reef, also known as Fiery Cross Reef, to give emergency assistance to three severely ill civilian workers, said Lu Kang, spokesman with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The three construction workers were airlifted Sunday to a hospital on Hainan island, according to Xinhau, the Chinese state-run media. But U.S. officials had some questions. "We're aware that a Chinese military aircraft landed at Fiery Cross Reef on Sunday in what China described as a humanitarian operation to evacuate three ill workers," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told CNN in a statement. "It is unclear why the Chinese used a military aircraft, as opposed to a civilian one." The United States, along with the Philippines have voiced continued concern over China's establishment of man-made islands in portions of the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest sea lanes for commerce, in areas claimed by the Philippines and thousands of miles from the Chinese mainland. There has been particular apprehension over Fiery Cross Reef – one of China's man-made islands in the Spratly Island chain – after the Chinese constructed a runway long enough to accommodate large military aircraft. It was unclear whether this was the first landing by a Chinese military jet on the new airstrip. The airstrip, which extends 1.8 miles, was completed this year on reclaimed land around the reef. So far, two civilian aircraft made test flights to the airstrip in January. China described the latest landing as a rescue mission that are part of the military's "fine tradition" and said that the action was "not at all surprising" since they had conducted it on the country's own territory, said Kang at a briefing Monday. China claims the reclamation project is permitted by international law, but the United States and nearby countries like the Philippines and Vietnam fear China will use the islands to project their military might and upset the balance of power further from their shores. "We urge China to reaffirm that it has no plans to deploy or rotate military aircraft at its outposts in the Spratly's, in keeping with China's prior assurances," Davis said in his statement. The United States continues to perform "freedom of navigation" operations in close proximity of the Chinese islands to challenge Beijing's territorial claims. During a visit to the Philippines last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was aboard the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier as it conducted one of those operations in the South China Sea. "In the South China Sea, China's actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions," Carter told sailors aboard the ship. "In response, countries across the Asia-Pacific, both long-standing allies and new partners, are reaching out anew to the United States, to uphold the rules and principles that have allowed the region to thrive. And we're answering that call."

China Flight Tests New Multiple-Warhead Missile. Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon. “China conducted another flight test of its newest and longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile last week amid growing tensions with the United States over the South China Sea. Pentagon officials told the Free Beacon the flight test of the new road-mobile DF-41 missile took place Tuesday with two multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, that were monitored in flight by U.S. military satellites and other regional sensors. Officials did not say where the test took place. Past DF-41 launches were carried out from the Wuzhai Missile and Space Test Center in central China. The latest flight test followed an earlier, rail-based canister ejection test of a DF-41 on Dec. 5. U.S. Strategic Command commander Adm. Cecil Haney said Jan. 22 that China’s multiple warhead missiles are part of a significant investment in both nuclear and conventional forces. “China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads,” Haney said in a speech. The flight test came around the same time that a high-ranking Chinese general made an unusual visit to a disputed South China Sea island. Also, the missile test occurred three days before Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the aircraft carrier USS Stennis as it sailed in the South China Sea. Pentagon officials said the visit to Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands by Gen. Fan Changlong was timed to the Carter visit to the region. Fan is vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the most powerful military organ under the ruling Communist Party of China. The Pentagon has said China is covertly building military bases on disputed islands in the sea. Beijing has accused Washington of militarizing the sea by deploying warships and bolstering regional alliances. Disclosure of the DF-41 test follows a newsletter report last month that stated China is nearing deployment of the new ICBM. Kanwa Asian Defense reported last month that the new ICBM is in the final testing phase, and its expected deployment area will be near Xinyang in Henan province, in central China. From that location, the missile would be capable of striking the United States in around 30 minutes, either through a polar trajectory or over the Pacific. An earlier flight test of the DF-41, also with two dummy warheads, was carried out Aug. 6. The new missile poses a significant strategic threat because it is larger than other road-mobile ICBMs and the new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile. The DF-41 is assessed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be powerful enough to deliver between six and 10 warheads up to 7,456 miles—far enough to reach every corner of the United States from launch areas in eastern China. Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst, said the latest launch is the seventh reported flight test of the DF-41, an indication the ICBM will soon be deployed with the newly-renamed PLA Rocket Forces. “As with previous MIRV tests, the PLA has used a small number of reentry vehicles to mask the real capability of the DF-41, which is estimated to be able to loft up to 10 warheads,” said Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its most recent annual report that China is developing maneuvering re-entry vehicles, or MARVs, in addition to multi-warhead missiles.”

SECDEF Carter: China Still Invited To RIMPAC 2016 Despite South China Sea Tension. Megan Eckstein, USNI. “The United States has not revoked its invitation to China to participate in this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise despite increasingly aggressive behavior towards its neighbors in the South China Sea because the U.S. hopes China may still participate in a “system of cooperative nations,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said April 15 aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). During a question and answer session with sailors, Carter was asked why China would still be allowed to join the multinational exercise despite “China’s misbehaving.” “You’re right to use the word ‘allow,’ because actually we issued the invitations, and we have not taken the step of disinviting them,” Carter explained. “And I’ll give you some of the logic behind that. Our approach to security in the region, as I indicated there, has always been to try to include everyone, so that’s our basic approach. So even as we stand strong and improve all of our systems and stand strong with our allies – and develop new partnerships with countries like India and Vietnam that we don’t have decades of experience with, like the Philippines; they’re all coming to us, in part because they’re concerned about China – but we’re still taking the approach of, everybody ought to work together here. So if the Chinese want to participate, I think it’s the right place for us to be. Come on, and instead of standing apart from everybody and isolating yourself and excluding yourself, try to be part of the system of cooperative nations that have made, as I said, the Asian miracle possible.” The U.S. invited China to participate in RIMPAC for the first time in 2014 – and China, in addition to bringing its four invited warships and auxiliary ships, also staged a surveillance ship right at the edge of U.S. territorial waters to gather electronic and communications data from nearby ships and aircraft. Chinese officials said the ship’s presence near the exercise was within its rights to operate in the region. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was invited during RIMPAC 2014 to participate in RIMPAC 2016, and that invitation has not been revoked despite ongoing aggression and militarization in the South China Sea, Carter said. Since the last RIMPAC exercise, however, the South China Sea has seen some tense moments. There have been numerous allegations of PLAN ships harassing Vietnamese fishing ships in Vietnamese waters, an incident where a Chinese Coast Guard cutter rammed a Chinese fishing ship that was seized by Indonesian law enforcement inside Indonesian waters, and claims that Chinese fishing ships entered other nations’ territorial waters. China has also built up reefs so aircraft can land, ships can pull into port and radars and weapons could be deployed to these artificial islands. China has acknowledged deploying military assets on the islands – such as anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody Island – though officials insist the weapons are for self-defense purposes only. During his troop talk aboard Stennis, Carter said that “in the South China Sea China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.” Still, China’s RIMPAC invitation stands, he said. Also during the question and answer session, Carter was asked about China’s role in cyber attacks and how the U.S. government could better protect itself. “China is one of actually many countries that we have found engaging in cyber misbehavior,” Carter said. “We may have made some progress forward, because when the two presidents were together now six months ago or so, they reached an agreement to stop doing that, and we’re watching and seeing if that agreement is honored,” he said of a September 2015 meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. “We’ve got to be good at defending our networks, but you can’t count on anybody not to try to exploit networks as a way of creating vulnerability for you,” he said of the more general global threat of cyber crime, adding that the Defense Department is investment money and people in protecting the networks that warfighters use to do their jobs. “Some of this is just from pranks. Some of it is from companies trying to steal their secrets, and some of it is by people who want to do damage, including governments that want to have the ability to do damage,” Carter said. “So wherever it comes from, we’ve got to be able to defend ourselves in the first instance, and then people ought to know that if you attack us – I don’t care how you attack us; cyber or whatever, an attack is an attack – we’re going to respond. Not necessarily in cyber, but we’ll respond in the way we choose. But you’ll be sorry you did it.”

Britain Says South China Sea Arbitration Ruling Must Be Binding. David Brunnstrom, Reuters. “Britain said on Monday a ruling expected in the next few months in an international arbitration case the Philippines has brought against China's South China Sea claims must be binding. Hugo Swire, British minister of state responsible for East Asia, also said Britain saw the ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague as an opportunity for China and the Philippines to renewed dialogue over their territorial disputes. China claims virtually all of the South China Sea and rejects the court's authority in the case, which is widely expected to go in favor of the Philippines, significantly raising tensions in the strategic waterway. The court is expected to rule in late May or early June. Swire said that although Britain's relations with China had warmed and it was keen to attract Chinese investment, this did not mean "we suspend our critical faculties" over Beijing's human rights abuses or its assertive pursuit of territory in the South China Sea. "We make it clear to the Chinese that we can only do these kinds of deals in an open and transparent way under an international rules-based system," he told Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. "Under the international rules-based system on which the world depends, we would expect the ruling from The Hague to be adhered to by all parties concerned, whichever way it goes and we would stand by others, including the United States, whichever way that ruling goes." In February, the United States and the European Union, of which Britain is a part, warned China it should respect the ruling from The Hague. The court has no powers of enforcement and its rulings have been ignored before. Washington has expressed concerns that China may use a negative ruling as a pretext to declare an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, which would require notification when passing through the airspace of one of the world's busiest trade routes. Swire said Britain considered freedom of navigation and overflight "absolutely non-negotiable." Britain has prioritized developing economic ties with China and welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping on a state visit in October, leading critics to accuse it of placing short-term financial gain above human rights and security interests. It also upset the U.S. administration when it became the first non-Asian country and the first member of the Group of Seven advanced economies to join a China-backed development bank for Asia seen by Washington was an unwelcome rival to Western-led institutions, such as the World Bank.”

U.S. To Give Philippines Eye In Sky To Track South China Sea Activity. Manuel Mogato, Reuters. “The United States will transfer an observation blimp to the Philippines to help it track maritime activity and guard its borders amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, a U.S. diplomat said on Monday. Philip Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, said Washington would give Manila, its oldest Asia-Pacific security ally, $42 million worth of sensors, radar and communications equipment. "We will add to its capability to put sensors on ships and put an aerostat blimp in the air to see into the maritime space," Goldberg said in an interview with CNN Philippines. The blimp is a balloon-borne radar to collect information and detect movements in the South China Sea, a Philippine military official said. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the Philippines last week to reaffirm Washington's "ironclad" commitment to defend Manila under a 1951 security treaty. China has been expanding its presence on its seven artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago and on Monday landed a military plane for the first time on one of them, Fiery Cross Reef. It comes ahead of a planned U.S. freedom of navigation patrol this month near the Spratlys. Carter's visit also signals the start of U.S. military deployment in the Philippines, with 75 soldiers to be rotated in and out of an air base north of Manila. Goldberg said the two allies had agreed to set up a system for "secure and classified communications" as part of a five-year, $425 million security initiative by Washington in Southeast Asia. Manila will receive some $120 million in U.S. military aid this year, the largest sum since 2000 when the American military returned to the Philippines for training and exercises after an eight-year hiatus. They signed a new deal in 2013 allowing increased U.S. military presence on a rotational basis and storage of supplies and equipment for maritime security and humanitarian missions.”

The China Factor In U.S. Foreign Policy. Mercy Kuo, The Strategy Bridge. “China is strategically positioned to expand its influence in Asia and the global arena. Expanding economic and political influence allows Beijing to facilitate the emergence of a Sino-centric Asia in which China is the center of gravity in all major regional issues–economics, finance, trade, security, and diplomacy. How will China exercise its growing influence–whether as a responsible consensus-builder or an assertive system-changer–and to what end? The question for strategists is how to ascertain Beijing’s strategic orientation through its decisions, actions, and public statements. Beijing’s ability to mitigate domestic vulnerabilities; manage strategic relationships with Japan, India, Pakistan, and the United States; and resolve crisis situations, such as tensions in the Korean peninsula and South China Sea, will test the potency, or lack thereof, of its power.  China measures its great-power capabilities in the context of its sectors of influence and defines its sectors of influence in terms of global and systemic influence. Specifically, Beijing pursues the internationalization of the Chinese currency (renminbi) and monitors exchange rates and trade balances to influence the global trading system. Beijing attempts to regulate market access to facilitate acquisition of technological innovation, intellectual property and capital, as evidenced with the Chinese government’s recent passage of China’s national security law that could impact foreign technology. China enhances cross-strait dominance with short-range missile capabilities, combined arms operations including special operations, psychological and information technology capabilities, proven ability to interdict U.S. carrier battle groups and deploy increasingly accurate cruise missiles, and a potential willingness to employ tactical nuclear devices to defend national sovereignty issues. China’s exercise of power is manifested in ten areas: Demographic weight as the world’s most populous country world’s second largest country in terms of sheer physical terrain; world’s largest armed forces (2.33 million in active service) and the world’s fourth-largest nuclear weapons capabilities; a United Nations Security Council permanent member with veto power; membership in virtually all the major global institutions, including the WTO, IMF, G-20, etc.; world’s largest economy per purchasing power parity; world’s largest generator of carbon dioxide emissions; world’s largest oil importer; world’s largest manufacturer; and world’s largest foreign exchange reserve holder. Beijing weighs the domestic impact and international consequences that frame its strategic choices and factor into maximizing material capabilities to maintain a power advantage in each category. While China’s developments in each area merits in-depth, separate analysis, a few examples underscore the sheer magnitude of China’s expansive reach. As the world’s most populous country, China with 680 million internet users accounts for 40% of the world’s e-commerce retail sales. With the world’s largest terrain, China’s mega-infrastructure projects traverse the country and the globe. As the world‘s largest reserve currency holder, China’s influence in global currency markets is growing. China’s power leverage could affect international security and economic norms and practices for better or for worse. Moreover, as China’s influence and confidence grow, it could position itself as a counterweight to the United States–witness its launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), promulgation of the Asia Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea (ADIZ), “One Belt, One Road (OBOR)” economic initiative, and reclamation advances in the South China Sea.”

Reefs, Rocks, And The Rule Of Law: After The Arbitration In The South China Sea. Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper and Harry Krejsa, CNAS. “This spring, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea under the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague will issue a ruling in the case that has become known as Philippines v. China. The case, which was brought before the court in early 2013, will make headlines due to the significant spike in South China Sea tensions that has occurred since it began. It will also make history as perhaps the most ambitious and farthest-reaching case ever to have been heard pursuant to the Law of the Sea. The decision is likely to clarify several important issues at the heart of the South China Sea disputes as well as reduce the scope of the disputes. The tribunal will not, however, adjudicate questions of sovereignty – indeed, disputes over which country holds the title to which land features are likely to persist for years to come. Nonetheless, the case may set a new international precedent and impose reputational costs on China. The ruling may usher in a period of increased regional tensions in already hotly contested waters, but could also provide opportunities to defuse these long-standing maritime conflicts in the longer term. Major milestones in the Philippines v. China case have been widely reported. The esoteric law that governs the proceedings and their nonpublic nature mean that the potential outcomes of the case and their political and legal implications are, however, not terribly well understood. The Tribunal’s award will be legally binding on the Philippines and China, but will also reverberate throughout the region and the world. This CNAS brief looks ahead to the Tribunal’s ruling, assesses the range of prospective decisions, and evaluates their broader implications.”

China’s Military Has A New Enemy: Disney’s ‘Zootopia.’ Jonathan Kaiman, The Los Angeles Times. “China’s Communist Party has long preached resistance to Western values, such as democracy and freedom of speech. Now, according to a Chinese military newspaper, these values are infiltrating China via an unlikely Trojan horse: the Disney animated movie “Zootopia.” The People’s Liberation Army Daily recently branded the cartoon — a computer-animated buddy-cop film set in a city populated by animals — an instrument of American propaganda. The film has earned more than $230 million in China, ranking it among Disney’s top-grossing films in the world’s second-largest market. “Hollywood has long been an effective propaganda machine — it has a deep understanding of the U.S.’s [political] strategies” said the commentary, written by Wang Chuanbao, a professor at the military-backed Nanjing Institute of Politics. “Many Hollywood blockbusters will carefully select a topic or theme, and spare no efforts to promote America’s values and its global strategy.” The commentary claimed that the filmmakers intended to telegraph subtle messages about the “American Dream” via the role reversal of its animal characters — the film is about a rabbit and a fox attempting to track down predators who have gone missing. The culprit is a diminutive sheep. “If one thinks carefully about it, if a rabbit can strike back, are there any ‘American Dreams’ ordinary people cannot realize?” it said. “In cruel reality, it is always wolves that eat lambs, not lambs that eat wolves.... Hollywood easily reversed a thing so simple that even kids know it, and thus attracted a huge audience.” The commentary was headlined, “How can a sheep be turned into a ‘crazy’ scapegoat?” In recent years, President Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping ideological campaign to restore legitimacy to the Communist Party, partially by keeping Western influence at bay. In January 2015, education officials banned textbooks deemed to endorse Western values in university classrooms. Last month, China’s Civil Affairs Ministry banned foreign names for places such as “roads, bridges, buildings, and residential compounds,” explaining that they are “not a true reflection of the history and culture of this vast nation,” according to the official New China News Agency. In March of last year, the Global Times, a nationalistic state-run tabloid, blamed Western values for sparking the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the "Arab spring,” and called them a “ticket to hell” that “can only bring disaster to China.” The People’s Liberation Army Daily commentary also called American video games such as "Call of Duty 8” and “Battlefield 4” a propaganda vehicle, as they make the U.S. military appear sleek and sophisticated, while “countries America would like to contain” — Cuba, Russia, China — are portrayed as backward and crude. “Comparing to [other] cartoons and video games, ‘Zootopia’ is more subtle,” it said. “It has no obvious hostile propaganda, no deliberate distortions, which makes it easier to lose one’s vigilance,” the commentary said. Chinese Internet users widely lambasted the commentary; many noted that until China’s film industry truly stacks up to Hollywood, their viewing habits won’t change. “What else is there for us to watch if we are not allowed to watch ‘Zootopia’ — your brain-damaged Chinese cartoons?” wrote one user of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. “Because the box office is high and everyone likes it, they are jealous,” said another. “Why can’t you reflect on what you can do [yourselves]? Why do we all like foreign programs?”

Editorial: American Self-Censorship Association. The Wall Street Journal. “The American Bar Association is bowing to China again. Last year it barely mumbled condemnation after Beijing rounded up more than 200 lawyers and legal activists across China. Now comes news that it also nixed a book deal with a leading human-rights lawyer for fear of “upsetting the Chinese government.” Teng Biao is a hero of China’s weiquan rights-defense movement who repeatedly faced arrest and torture for counseling clients such as AIDS activist Hu Jia and blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng. In 2014, as China’s legal crackdown intensified, he left for exile in the U.S. and a post at Harvard Law School. The ABA soon commissioned him to write a book tentatively titled “Darkness Before Dawn,” an allusion to the anti-Stalinist classic “Darkness at Noon.” A month later the ABA changed its mind. “I have some bad news,” an ABA official wrote to Mr. Teng in a January 2015 email he revealed Friday via Foreign Policy magazine. “There is concern that we run the risk of upsetting the Chinese government by publishing your book, and because we have ABA commissions working in China there is fear that we would put them and their work at risk.” The ABA doesn’t deny the authenticity of the email but claims this is all a misunderstanding. “The decision not to proceed with publication of the book” was “made for purely economic reasons, based on market research and sales forecasting,” Robert T. Rupp, an ABA associate executive director, told Foreign Policy. “Unfortunately, the reasons resulting in the decision were miscommunicated to Mr. Teng.” Uh-huh. The ABA represents some 400,000 American lawyers and commits in its mission statement to “advance the rule of law” both “at home and throughout the world.” In China it runs a Rule of Law Initiative for local bar associations, legal aid groups and law schools. But if the price of running such programs is self-censorship regarding Beijing’s worst abuses, the ABA risks enabling more harm than good.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 18, 2016

China Dispatches Military Plane To Disputed Man-Made Island. Associated Press. “China's navy dispatched a military plane to one of the country's manmade islands in the disputed South China Sea, the Defense Ministry said, in what is believed to be the first openly acknowledged mission of its kind. A brief statement on the ministry's website said the plane was on patrol when it was diverted to Fiery Cross Reef on Sunday morning to pick up three injured construction workers. The plane then flew to Sanya on China's southernmost island province of Hainan where it landed at Fenghuang International Airport, the ministry said. Details about the plane and where it was based were not given, although a photo accompanying the report showed a four propeller Y-8 transport being met by an ambulance. The Global Times newspaper said Sunday's flight marked "the first time a Chinese military plane has openly landed on Yongshujiao," using the Chinese name for Fiery Cross Reef. The speed with which the mission was accomplished was a testament to China's long-term policy of patrolling over the South China Sea, said the paper, a nationalist tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily. China completed the runway on Fiery Cross Reef last year and in January flew three commercial jets to the island as a test. That move drew complaints from Vietnam, which along with four other governments is enmeshed a heated dispute with Beijing over large parts of the South China Sea. Hanoi accused China of threatening the safety of civilian flights by failing to properly inform its aviation authorities of the flights beforehand. The U.S. also complained that the flights raised tensions and reiterated its calls for a halt to land reclamation and militarization of outposts in the area. The Philippines, which also claims islands and reefs controlled by China, criticized the move. Tensions have risen in the last two years after China transformed Fiery Cross and other coral reefs in the Spratly Island chain into islands that could be used to project its military might far from the Chinese mainland. Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim territory in the South China Sea that China says belongs to it. The new islands in the South China Sea have become a source of tension between Beijing and Washington, which refuses to view them legally as islands entitled to territorial seas and special economic zones. While the United States is not a claimant state, it says it has a national interest in the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and in freedom of navigation in waters that are critical for world trade.”

U.S. Reveals South China Sea Joint Patrols With The Philippines. Prashanth Parameswaran, The Diplomat. “On Thursday, the United States finally revealed that it had been conducting joint South China Sea naval patrols with its ally the Philippines. As I indicated in a previous piece for The Diplomat, Washington and Manila had already been discussing the potential for such patrols, including at their “2 + 2” ministerial meeting this January in Washington, D.C., between their defense and foreign affairs officials. Indeed, when I asked U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg about these joint patrols during the U.S.-Philippine Strategic Dialogue in March, he said that the United States announces those operations after they occur, not before. Sure enough, on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter publicly revealed for the first time while on a trip to the Philippines that U.S. ships had already been conducting patrols with Manila in the South China Sea. Carter disclosed this during a news conference with his Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin. The first joint patrol, Carter said, was carried out in March, while the second was done in early April. Both Carter and Gazmin also stressed that plans were in the works for these patrols to occur regularly in the future. Carter also reinforced this announcement with a visit to a U.S. aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. Predictably, China said Carter’s announcement on the patrols, coupled with an enhanced U.S. presence in the Philippines and increased maritime security assistance, as further evidence that Washington is militarizing the South China Sea, with the implicit message that Beijing is merely reacting to the actions Washington is taking. In reality, joint patrols should be viewed as a consequence, rather than a cause, of Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. Chinese maritime assertiveness in recent years – which has included seizing Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines back in 2012 as well as repeated harassment of Filipino fishermen, vessels, and aircraft – has pushed Manila closer into Washington’s embrace, leading to developments unimaginable just a decade ago including the inking of a defense pact as well as a new maritime security initiative. In this vein, as expected, Carter’s visit also included other announcements including more maritime security assistance, and further progress on the implementation of the new U.S.-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Meanwhile, Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea shows few signs of easing. As I’ve noted previously, U.S. defense officials have already confirmed that Beijing has deployed a surface-to-air missile system and fighter jets to the Paracel Islands and has been building new radar facilities in the Spratlys. This week, Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, also visited China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea to observe the very construction work that has raised regional tensions, a move that could be a precursor for the violation of President Xi Jinping’s pledge not to militarize the Spratlys. There have also been renewed concerns about rising Chinese activity in Scarborough Shoal, a feature which has additional significance for both the Philippines and United States because of its proximity to military facilities. All this comes ahead of an upcoming verdict on the Philippines’ South China Sea case against China expected in May or June. The Diplomat understands that preparations are already being made by U.S. and Philippine officials for various moves Beijing might undertake after the ruling, which it has already said it will not comply with.”

China Launches Upgraded Drills For South China Sea Fleets. Ben Blanchard, Reuters. “A Chinese military aircraft has for the first time publicly landed at a new airport on an island China has built in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Monday, raising the prospect that China could base fighter jets there. The United States has criticized China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and worries that it plans to use them for military purposes, even though China says it has no hostile intent. The runway on the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China has been building for more than a year by dredging sand up onto reefs and atolls in the Spratly archipelago. Civilian flights began test runs there in January. In a front-page story, the official People's Liberation Army Daily said a military aircraft on patrol over the South China Sea on Sunday received an emergency call to land at Fiery Cross Reef to evacuate three seriously ill workers. They were then taken in the transport aircraft back to Hainan island for treatment, it said, showing a picture of the aircraft on the ground in Hainan. It was the first time China's military had publicly admitted landing an aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef, the influential Global Times tabloid said. It cited an military expert as saying the flight showed the airfield was up to military standards and could see fighter jets based there in the event of war. The runways would be long enough to handle long-range bombers and transport aircraft as well as China's best jet fighters, giving it a presence deep in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia that it has lacked until now. More than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Besides China's territorial claims in the area, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.”

China’s Island Building Hurts Environment, U.S. Report Says. David Tweed, Bloomberg News. “China’s reclamation work in the South China Sea may have destroyed coral reefs, damaged fisheries in a region heavily dependent on seafood and breached international law on protecting the environment, according to a report to U.S. Congress. “The scale and speed of China’s activities in the South China Sea, the biodiversity of the area, and the significance of the Spratly Islands to the ecology of the region make China’s actions of particular concern,” an April 12 report prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said. China reclaimed about 3,000 acres of land on seven features it occupies in the Spratly islands of the South China Sea between December 2013 and October 2015, the report said. Vietnam has reclaimed about 80 acres, Malaysia 70 acres, the Philippines 14 acres and Taiwan eight acres, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The findings by Matthew Southerland, a policy analyst for security and foreign affairs at the Commission, comes as an international tribunal nears its ruling on a Philippine challenge to China’s claims in the South China Sea, including that it violated obligations under the United National law of the Sea to protect the marine environment. Southerland’s report cites sources including marine scientists and the Philippine government. China claims more than four-fifths of the South China Sea and its actions have sparked tensions with other claimants as well as the U.S., which contends that the potential militarization of the islands may hinder navigation in waters that carry more than $5 trillion of seaborne trade a year. The reclaimed reefs host radar facilities, lighthouses and airfields that can land military aircraft. An “unfair ruling” by the tribunal may threaten peace and stability in the waters and prompt China to take measures to defend its sovereignty, Wu Shicun, president and senior research fellow at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said at a briefing in Beijing Wednesday. “It’s impossible for the tribunal to reach a fair and objective ruling,” Wu said. “If it is a very unfair ruling, or the U.S. uses the ruling to support the Philippines to take some action in the South Sea, then it may threaten peace and stability. I believe China has to take measures to protect its interests and its image as a major country.” China’s dredgers have deposited sand and gravel on about 13 square kilometers (5 square miles) of reefs, destroying the coral beneath, according to the report. Dredgers also stir up plumes of sand and silt that damage coral tissue and block sunlight from organisms such as reef-building corals, which cannot survive without it, it said. The sand and gravel would have either killed fish or expelled them from the reefs, the report said, citing John W. McManus, professor of marine biology and ecology in the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. The damage also could hurt the health of fisheries in coastal areas, it said. Chinese officials previously have said the country needs to build facilities on reclaimed reefs to protect them. They’ve also said the construction of lighthouses was in part to assist in rescue operations and gather meteorological data. The director-general of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in May the island building project had “gone through science-based evaluation and assessment, with equal importance given to construction and protection.” China hasn’t published enough information about its assessment of the environmental impact of the program “to ensure the truth of that assertion, nor does it appear China has provided additional information to any international organization,” the Commission report said. The Commission was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to investigate and submit an annual report on the national security implications of trade with China. Posting of the environmental report on its website doesn’t necessarily imply an endorsement, it said.”

Former Seventh Fleet Commander Touts Navy’s Role As ‘De-Escalator’ In Western Pacific. Otto Kreisher, Seapower Magazine. “– A former Seventh Fleet commander discounted the idea that the U.S. Navy is going to have to fight the Chinese Navy, suggesting that, instead, the U.S. Navy can play a crucial role in the Western Pacific bringing regional navies, including China’s, together for peaceful purposes. “This notion that the PLAN and the U.S. Seventh Fleet are going to go toe to toe anytime soon, I think, is mistaken,” Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas Jr. said April 14, referring to the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the formal title of the Chinese force. “I think we will obviously meet our treaty obligations. But we have a very, very important role to be the de-escalator, for our allies, partners and friends, not the escalator,” Thomas, currently the Navy Staff director, told a forum at the Navy Memorial. Recalling his time as Seventh Fleet commander, until seven months ago, and earlier commands of naval task forces within the Seventh Fleet, Thomas said he spent a large amount of his time on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, in cooperation with other navies, because of the frequency of typhoons and earthquakes in the region. “Yes, we can go conduct war at sea, the U.S. Navy. I’m fully confident in our ability to do sea control. But this humanitarian assistance, disaster response effort, that can bring a lot of navies together in short order,” he said. Thomas also recalled his good personal relations with the commander of China’s Northern Fleet, but somewhat less cordial ties with the Southern Fleet commander, who was “under a lot of pressure,” because of Beijing’s focus on asserting its authority over the South China Sea. “I’m much more concerned about the skirmishing of fishing fleets and coast guards” in the contested area, he said, adding, “I think there are opportunities, military-to-military, to get things done.” Thomas was the final speaker at a conference held by the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to roll out a new interactive web portal called the Maritime Awareness Project. Officials of the two organizations showed off the extensive collection of maps, showing the conflicting territorial claims, the intensely worked fisheries, the suspected and proven oil and natural gas fields, and pages of statistics, academic papers and other sources of information on the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and the East and South China Seas. Thomas said he wishes he had “had this web portal available for my Sailors prior to coming out to the region. What a fantastic device for them to understand, not just the political-military landscape, but the fisheries landscape, the energy landscape, just the asymmetry involved in the maritime domain, because I think that’s very, very important to mariners.” He also said “this kind of tool is an important avenue for us to try to get closer in the U.S. to ratification of our signature on UNCLOS [the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea].” Developed in 1982, the treaty establishes detailed rules for territorial rights to ocean areas and the resources and for peaceful transit through the maritime commons. At least 166 nations and the European Union have signed the treaty, including China. But the U.S. Senate has repeatedly refused to ratify it, even though every president since Ronald Reagan has endorsed it. Without ratification, the United States has no voice in decisions made by the governing bodies created by the treaty. “It is unconscionable to me that we haven’t gotten that done. Everybody is very clear on the Navy and the U.S. government’s position on where we should be. It’s frankly embarrassing that we don’t have a seat at that table,” Thomas said.”

China Steps Up War Of Words With Taiwan Over Fraud Suspects. The Straits Times. “China stepped up its war of words with Taiwan on Monday (April 18) after Taipei freed 20 suspects in a telecom fraud case linked to China, with state media accusing Taiwan of tolerating crime and being taken hostage by anti-Chinese forces. Malaysia had deported the 20 people, who were part of a group of 53 Taiwanese it arrested in March on suspicion of fraud, according to Taiwan's foreign ministry. But their release has prompted anger from Beijing. Taiwan, for its part, has been infuriated by the forcible deportation of more than 40 Taiwanese to China from Kenya, also on suspicion of telecom fraud. China says they are wanted for crimes committed against Chinese people in China. Such telecoms fraud typically involves calls from people pretending to be law enforcement officials or companies saying money is owed to them, China says. In a strongly worded editorial on Monday, the influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said Taiwan's release of the 20 had disgraced the island's rule of law and politicised what should be a normal legal case. It accused the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which won presidential and parliamentary elections by a landslide in January, of manipulating public opinion and stirring anti-China feeling. "The key is that the mainland should stick more firmly to its principles, and resolutely resist the rascally demands by Taiwan's twisted politics," it said. "Western democratic politics can easily provide a hotbed for radicalism and extremism. Taiwan and Hong Kong both have demonstrated this tendency," the paper added, referring to recent protests in the former British colony. The DPP did not respond to a request for comment. Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau says the 20 were freed as there was insufficient evidence to detain them. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang would not directly say whether China had lodged a protest with Malaysia about the case, saying only that China and Malaysia are developing relations in many areas and they had a mutual interest in cross-border law and order cooperation. "The one China principle is an important political pre-condition for China to develop relations with countries around the world," Lu told a daily news briefing. China claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if needed. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war to the Communists in 1949. China says the cases of the fraud suspects, whether from Kenya or Malaysia, should be a simple criminal matter. China's official Xinhua news agency on Monday published fraud victims' denunciations of the release of the suspects by Malaysia. "When we saw that Taiwan gang had been caught we felt relieved. Now they've been released this is a covert toleration of their crimes, which is hateful!" said one 67-year-old victim, surnamed Liu. China's Ministry of Public Security says Taiwanese people have been heavily involved in telecom fraud in China and had caused huge losses, with some victims killing themselves.”

Obama’s Hollow Peace In The South China Sea. Daniel Wei Boon Chua, The National Interest. “Territorial disputes in the South China Sea – involving China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines – are destabilizing the region. Although not a claimant, the United States has a vested interest in the outcome. The U.S. Seventh Fleet has been operating in the area since the Cold War, and the maritime disputes involve the Philippines, a close American ally. In fact, far from being a peripheral interested party in the South China Sea, Washington plays a key role in determining the course of the disputes. Both government officials and academic observers have asserted that smaller states with interests in the dispute would have to rely on a resolution brokered by China and the United States. Although the prospect of resolving the South China Sea disputes hinges on U.S.-China relations, an agreement orchestrated by Washington and Beijing could be highly problematic. As pointed out by Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan in a March 2016 public lecture, what Beijing and Washington agree on may not necessarily serve ASEAN or Southeast Asia's interests. Furthermore, the disputed maritime zone is but one of several areas of contention between the two major powers. A rising concern among Southeast Asian states holds that the Obama administration has fallen into the trap of maintaining peace at any price. This mode of thinking is not new. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger identified this fallacy during the Cold War when President Dwight Eisenhower conducted U.S.-Soviet relations based on the slogan "there is no alternative to peace." The context is different but the concept is the same. Because war seems no longer to be a conceivable instrument of policy, at least as observed by the Obama administration, any act of aggression short of war becomes acceptable. Unfortunately, such a fragile peace not only threatens the interests of smaller U.S. partners but also erodes America's credibility in the Asia Pacific. When the United States places disproportionate emphasis on avoiding war and conflict, a few scenarios can occur; some have already been set in motion. First, it emboldens China to change the status quo of the dispute and establish a fait accompli of its territorial claims. Since the U.S. response to China's intensification of reclamation works in the South China Sea has been limited to rhetoric and unprovocative freedom of navigation operations, China can continue to push the envelope. Nothing Washington has done so far has slowed down Beijing’s pace of reclaiming artificial islands and deploying military assets in the disputed maritime area. It has become increasingly likely that Beijing will declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the South China Sea. Second, it forces Southeast Asian claimants to resort to self-help and trigger greater military buildup in the region. Vietnam and the Philippines have already begun improving their naval capabilities. At the same time, maritime law enforcement agencies have also seen an upgrade in equipment and increase in budget. Recent statistics released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reveal that defense expenditure in Asia and Oceania increased by 5.4 percent in 2015 while the global increase was 1 percent. This increase includes China's defense spending, which then fuels the spending spree of the region. If the U.S. security umbrella refuses to open in anticipation of dark clouds, Southeast Asian states must beef up their own militaries. Third, extraregional powers feel the need to step in before China asserts its claims further. Australia and Japan have political, economic and strategic interests in the South China Sea and have recently announced their intentions to deploy some of their military assets and participate in military exercises with the Philippines. Japan recently amended its constitution and joins the United States and the Philippines in their annual major bilateral exercise, “Balikatan,” in April 2016. Australia's Defense White Paper, announced in February 2016, indicates its growing concern over developments in the South China Sea. With more parties involved in the disputes, the situation could become more complicated, making a resolution even more unattainable.”

The China-Pakistan Axis Gathers Momentum. Harsh V. Pant, The Japan Times. “The recently expanded Gwadar deepwater port in Pakistan that is part of the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is nearing completion. According to Zhang Baozhong, chairman and CEO of China Overseas Ports Holding Company Ltd, “The port cranes are almost ready, and we are thinking that the port will be (at) full operation by the end of this year.” The port will process about 1 million tons of cargo next year, most of which will be incoming construction materials to be used in projects related to CPEC. The port city Gwadar, in southwestern Baluchistan province, is central to the CPEC. Pakistan’s army chief has accused regional rival India of attempting to undermine the $46 billion project with China. Speaking at a development conference on the impact of CPEC, Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, stated: “I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbor, has openly challenged this development initiative. … I would like to make a special reference to Indian intelligence agency RAW, which is blatantly involved in destabilizing Pakistan. Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of Pakistan.” Chinese-Pakistani collusion against India has taken new turns recently. Despite Modi government’s attempts to improve ties with Pakistan and China, both have responded negatively so far. The writing is very clear on the wall and has been for quite some time. The Pakistani military-intelligence complex has no interest in a rapprochement with India and they made it a point to scuttle the growing Sharif-Modi bonhomie. Last month, Pakistani authorities announced they captured a suspected Indian spy in Baluchistan, identified as Kulbhushan Jadhav. The military also aired video footage of Jadhav saying he was working out of his base in Chabahar in neighboring Iran. The Pakistani investigation team that visited Pathankot ended up suggesting that the Pathankot attack at the end of December was in fact staged by Indian agencies. This was followed by the Pakistani high commissioner announcing the suspension of Indo-Pakistani peace talks. China then turned the screws tighter and made it a point to scuttle the nascent counterterror cooperation between Delhi and Beijing. By insisting that designation of any individual as terrorist by U.N. is a “serious issue,” China blocked the U.N. from banning Jaish-e-Mohammad chief and Pathankot strike mastermind Masood Azhar by the global body. The Jan. 2 attack at Pathankot was followed by a raid on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan that has also been linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Army of Mohammad. Jaish-e-Mohammad militants were also behind the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. The Chinese-Pakistani relationship has now moved beyond the “higher than Himalayas and sweeter than honey” phase. Chinese strategists are openly talking of Pakistan as their nation’s only real ally. China’s submarine operations in the Indian Ocean and the Chinese-Pakistani naval cooperation are challenging naval supremacy and have the potential to change the regional naval power balance. China is also busy redefining the territorial status quo in the region. By deciding to construct major civil, energy and military infrastructure projects in the CPEC, which runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, China has accorded de facto “legitimacy” to Pakistan’s illegal occupation of these areas. China — the world’s third-largest weapons exporter — has Pakistan as the top recipient of its arms. By aiding Pakistan in setting up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, besides supplying conventional arms, Beijing had made sure that the Indian-Pakistani military balance is maintained. China is considered a reliable ally that has always come to Pakistan’s aid when India has seemed on the ascendance — so much so that China has even tacitly supported Pakistan’s strategy of using terror as a policy instrument against India. With India ascending in the global hierarchy and strengthening its ties with the United States, China’s need for Pakistan is likely to grow. This has been evident in China’s polices toward Pakistan on critical issues in South Asia. A rising India makes Pakistan all the more important in China’s strategy for the subcontinent. It is highly unlikely that China will give up playing the Pakistan card vis-a-vis India anytime soon. The Chinese-Pakistani partnership serves the interests of both partners by presenting India with a potential two-front theater in the event of war with either country. And for China, Pakistan is increasingly important to fend off a joint Indian-U.S. challenge. South Asia is emerging as an important new front in the power struggle between the U.S. and China as well as India and China, and the region’s importance is only likely to increase in the coming years. The Modi government needs to recognize that the challenges of a two-front adversarial strategic environment are only likely to intensify in the coming years. New Delhi needs to be prepared to take on this challenge head-on. Even as India reaches out to China in the next few weeks with the visits of the national security adviser and the defense minister, it should be clear that Chinese behavior is unlikely to change in the near future.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by Alex Gray | April 15, 2016

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter To Visit Ship In Disputed South China Sea. Reuters. “U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday he would visit a U.S. aircraft carrier transiting the disputed South China Sea, a move bound to anger China, which has been increasingly asserting its territorial claims. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion intrade is shipped every year. Carter, speaking at the close of joint U.S.-Philippines "Balikatan" military exercises in Manila, said he would visit the USS John C. Stennis after visiting another carrier in the region in November. "With each Balikatan and each cruise by the Stennis, with each new multilateral exercise and each new defense agreement, we add a stitch to the fabric of the region's security network," Carter said in prepared remarks. "This is the network - peaceful, principled, and inclusive - America continues to stand for, and stand with." Though not unprecedented, it was still a visit likely to inflame tensions with China, which says the United States is "militarizing" the South China Sea and endangering security. The United States has already conducted what it calls "freedom of navigation" patrols in the area, sailing within 12-nautical mile territorial limits around disputed islands controlled by China to underscore its right to navigate the seas. Plans announced in Manila on Thursday to deepen U.S.-Philippine military ties, including joint patrols in the South China Sea, reflect a "Cold War mentality", China's Defense Ministry said, pledging to oppose any infringement on the country's sovereignty. Carter said on Thursday the U.S. strategy was aimed at maintaining peace and lawful settlement of disputes, not provoking a conflict with a major world power. "Countries that don't stand for those things, or don't stand with those things, are going to end up isolating themselves. But that will be self-isolation, not isolation by us," Carter said. The carrier stop caps off a trip to Asia designed to highlight the expanding partnerships the United States is building with countries in the region, which Carter said had been asking for a greater U.S. role. "We will continue to stand up for our safety and freedoms, for those of our friends and allies, and for the values, principles, and rules-based order that has benefited so many for so long," Carter said. Hundreds of U.S. troops and some aircraft will stay behind in the Philippines temporarily, and on Thursday, the two countries revealed they had begun conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Beijing that economic gains in Asia had been based on a "foundation of peace and stability" and were the engine room of growth for the whole world. "So that is why, with respect to the South China Sea, we urge all claimants to settle territorial disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law."

Manila, U.S. Act To Counter China. Trefor Moss and Jeremy Page, The Wall Street Journal. “The U.S. will start stationing warplanes in the Philippines this week as the vanguard of a major deployment to the Southeast Asian country, as Washington and its allies mount a coordinated response to Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea. The U.S. and the Philippines began joint patrols of the South China Sea last month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday on a visit to the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally that is among the five governments whose territorial claims overlap with China's in those waters. Tensions have been escalating as a United Nations-backed arbitration panel in The Hague prepares to rule in a case brought by the Philippines against China's maritime claims. Mr. Carter's announcements came after he scrubbed a planned visit to Beijing as part of his Asian tour amid rising U.S. concerns over China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and its recent deployment of weaponry on another disputed island. China this week summoned diplomatic envoys from the Group of Seven nations to protest a statement they issued at a meeting in Japan opposing "coercive or provocative" action in the South China Sea and East China Sea. U.S. allies have been bolstering defense ties with the Philippines, with Australia sending troops to participate in joint exercises with U.S. and Philippine forces, and Japan sending a submarine and two destroyers to visit a Philippine naval base this month. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull plans to warn Chinese leaders during a visit to Beijing on Friday that their recent muscular posture in Asia risks harming China's economy and international relations, according to people familiar with his plans. China claims sovereignty over all South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters and has pledged not to "militarize" the structures it has built. But U.S. officials say it has recently deployed jet fighters and surface-to-air missiles on another disputed island to the north. There is also concern in Washington and Manila that China, having almost completed seven artificial islands in the disputed Spratlys archipelago, is planning to build a military outpost at a disputed reef less than 200 nautical miles from Manila. "In the South China Sea, China's actions . . . are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions," Mr. Carter told reporters at the Philippines' presidential palace, where he met President Benigno Aquino III. The U.S. deployment is designed "to tamp down tensions here" and wouldn't provoke a showdown with Beijing, he said. China's Defense Ministry strenuously objected, saying the latest U.S.-Philippines military cooperation would exacerbate tensions. It said the joint-patrol plan "promotes the militarization of the region" and called the strengthened military alliance and joint exercises "the embodiment of Cold War thinking and not conducive to peace and stability." The U.S. and the Philippines have been holding 10 days of joint drills that end Friday. Mr. Carter said five American A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack jets, three H-60G Pavehawk helicopters and one MC-130H Combat Talon special forces infiltration aircraft will remain behind at Clark Air Base north of Manila along with 200 crew members. Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he hoped the U.S. moves would "deter uncalled-for actions by the Chinese." Last month, the Philippines said it would make five bases available to U.S. forces under a 2014 defense pact. Earlier this week, Mr. Carter visited India, which is also upgrading its security ties with Washington. Since the start of the U.S. pivot to Asia early in the Obama administration, the Pentagon has moved to beef up its presence to counter China's rising military power. U.S. officials have said that by 2020, 60% of the Navy's ships and aircraft will be deployed to the Pacific, up from about half before the rebalance. Dismay about China's plans deepened last month when U.S. Navy Chief Adm. John Richardson said the U.S. was monitoring increased Chinese activity at Scarborough Shoal, a disputed cluster of reefs, rocks and sandbars that China has controlled since a standoff with the Philippines in 2012. China's maritime claims cover most of the South China Sea and overlap with those of Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.”

Carrier Group Returns To South China Sea Amid Tensions. David Larter, Navy Times. “The Stennis Carrier Strike Group is back on patrol in the South China Sea amid simmering tensions over China’s move toward building a man-made island within striking distance of the Philippines. The carrier John C. Stennis has been in the region for two weeks, conducing flight operations, training and working with partners, according to U.S. Pacific Fleet. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected soon to visit the Stennis on its patrol, which comes as the Obama administration grapples with how to respond to China's territorial grab in the strategically vital South China Sea. Details of these discussions emerged last week, when Navy Times reported that the military's top commander in the Pacific is pushing for more aggressive moves to signal that it doesn't consider the artificial islands as entitling China to territorial seas around them. As part of the ongoing effort, Carter announced Thursday that the U.S. and the Philippines would be conducting joint patrols of the South China Sea; the Philippines is one of the many nations bordering the South China Sea whose claims are in dispute with China. Experts and insiders say U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Harry Harris, who has testified that China is militarizing the South China Sea, has been lobbying for a stronger response to Chinese expansion there. That may include sending more U.S. warships to patrol within 12 miles of the artificial islands to launch aircraft and conduct operations, activities not allowed within a nation's territorial waters, as well as senior leader visits and stronger cooperation with allies in the region such as the Philippines, sources said. These islands could support China's claims to nearly the entire South China Sea. As much as 30 percent of global shipping passes through this sea, making it essential for all nations to have unfettered access to the sea lanes, the U.S. Navy’s top officer said Wednesday. “We have to provide a range of options that are credible, so we've got to be there in a way that is real, defendable,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in an exclusive interview with Navy Times. “We've got to be there or there's no options.” Asked whether he would support "a more muscular response" to China's island-building, Richardson pushed back on the phrase, saying the legal issues will be addressed by the international Permanent Court of Arbitration and that the U.S. Navy would provide policymakers with a variety of options. "We want to make sure we provide more options to our decision-makers, our leaders," he said in the interview. "It's complicated, we have to make sure we leave room for everyone to exercise their options as well." Richardson said that part of protracted great power competition is at times watching how you speak about moves to avoid boxing in others with inflammatory language. "When we use words like 'muscular' and those sorts of things, we need to be thoughtful in the way we describe this," Richardson said. "This is great power competition: These types of interactions, this sort of dialogue, is going to be more the norm going forward. So as we settle into this new normal, we want to make sure that we continue to open options for our leadership and others consistent with abiding by that rule set that allows everybody to operate and use those sea lanes." The Stennis patrol began March 31, according to PACFLT spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, who said: "In addition to routine operations, the strike group will conduct port visits, exercises and exchanges with regional partner navies. These cooperative engagements are part of an enduring commitment to regional security, stability and prosperity." Stennis made a South China Sea patrol in March ahead of a major exercise with South Korea. The carrier then sailed back to the South China Sea to continue presence operations. The South China Sea has become one of the world's foremost flashpoints. The latest evidence suggests China may try to perch an island atop the Scarborough Shoal, an atoll just 140 miles from the Philippines’ capital of Manila that would put U.S. forces there at risk in a crisis.”

Senior Chinese Military Officer Visited Strategic Island. Jeremy Page and Gordon Lubold, The Wall Street Journal. “China’s top military officer led a high-level delegation on a visit to a cluster of Chinese-built artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea in recent days, underlining the strategic importance of the structures at the center of a standoff between Beijing and Washington. The visit by Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed later on Friday by China’s Defense Ministry. It appears to be the highest-level official Chinese visit to the islands, whose construction over the last two years has raised concern in the U.S. and Asia that Beijing might use them to enforce its sweeping maritime claims around one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Confirmation of Gen. Fan’s trip came as U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited an American aircraft carrier transiting the South China Sea on Friday following a visit to the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally whose maritime claims overlap with China’s in those waters. The Chinese Defense Ministry issued a statement on its official microblog saying that Gen. Fan recently led senior military and civilian officials on a visit to the islands in the Spratlys archipelago, which China calls the Nansha, to inspect work and greet military personnel and construction workers there. The statement said the work included weather stations, marine-research facilities and five lighthouses, four of which were operational. It didn’t say when exactly the visit took place or whether Gen. Fan had departed. The Pentagon declined to comment. U.S. officials had said earlier that they believed Gen. Fan flew at the end of last week to an island built on reclaimed land around Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys. The U.S. officials wouldn’t say how they had concluded the general had visited. The U.S. conducts surveillance of the Pacific region in a variety of ways. It was unclear how long Gen. Fan stayed on Fiery Cross Reef, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, or whether he was still in the area, the U.S. officials said. The visit coincided with a tour of Asia by Mr. Carter, who scrubbed a planned stop in Beijing amid rising tensions over the South China Sea, although U.S. officials said the trip was postponed due to scheduling issues. Mr. Carter would likely have met Gen. Fan in Beijing had the visit gone ahead. Mr. Carter announced in the Philippines on Thursday that the U.S. will start stationing warplanes in the country this week and had begun joint patrols of the South China Sea with Philippine forces last month. On Friday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular news conference that the U.S. was militarizing the region and confusing the issues of civilian and military freedom of navigation. Fiery Cross is one of seven artificial islands that Beijing has built in the Spratlys in the last two years. China says it has sovereignty over all South China Sea islands and adjacent waters, and has pledged not to militarize the artificial islands. Zhu Feng, a security expert at China’s Nanjing University, said he hadn’t been aware of Gen. Fan’s visit but that such a trip would likely be designed to show support for Chinese personnel working in the Spratlys. “It’s also a way that China is trying to show the U.S. and the Philippines we’re not easily backing off,” he said. U.S. officials said there have been a series of flights to and from Fiery Cross since Friday. The planes are consistent with the kind that a senior Chinese official would use, including an Airbus 319 and a Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet, or CRJ. Planes landed and departed last Friday and then again on Sunday, according to U.S. officials. The two officials said they had concluded Gen. Fan was the visitor and that it was possible he was still in the archipelago, although his exact movements were unclear. Work was completed in the past few months on a 3,110-meter runway on Fiery Cross that is big enough to accommodate jet fighters, civilian jetliners and military transport planes, according to experts who have studied satellite images of the structure.”

Admiral: China Launching Cyber Attacks On Missile Defense Nets ‘Every Day.’ Bill Gertz, The Washington Free Beacon. “Chinese military hackers are conducting cyber attacks on the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency networks on a daily basis and will soon shift to hacking into networks of missile defense contractors, the admiral in charge of the agency told Congress on Thursday. Vice Adm. James D. Syring, the MDA chief who is in charge of building multi-billion dollar anti-missile defenses, told a House hearing that while his networks are successfully fighting off the cyber attacks, missile defense contractors need to improve their network security. The three-star admiral said the threat of Chinese cyber attacks was equal to North Korean and Iranian missile threats. “I view the cyber threat that I specifically face with MDA and the systems we are fielding on par with any ballistic missile threat that either Iran or North Korea possess,” Syring said. Asked by Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, if he is fighting off cyber attacks from Chinese military hackers, Syring answered: “Yes, sir.” He limited his comments and said he would provide details of the cyber threats during a later closed-door session of the subcommittee. “We have taken inordinate steps to protect both our classified and unclassified networks from attack, [with] constant 24/7 monitoring with teams in place plus good material protections of those systems,” he said. “My biggest concern remains in our cleared defense contractor base and their protections,” Syring added, noting that Chinese efforts to break into missile defense networks are relentless. “They are continuing to try and attack my government networks, every day, classified and unclassified,” he said. “But where they’re going next and we’ve gotten examples of this is to my cleared defense contractors with the unclassified controlled technical information.” Bolstering the network security of contractors is a high priority across the entire ballistic missile defense system, he said. Foreign states are seeking to penetrate missile defenses and other weapons systems to steal technology and data for use in their own weapons. They also seek to disrupt or destroy the systems in the event of a crisis or conflict. A report by the Defense Science Board warned in 2013 that critical U.S. weapons and other military systems are vulnerable to cyber attack. “The United States cannot be confident that our critical Information Technology (IT) systems will work under attack from a sophisticated and well-resourced opponent utilizing cyber capabilities in combination with all of their military and intelligence capabilities (a ‘full spectrum’ adversary,” the report concluded. Syring said in prepared testimony his agency is deploying upgraded command and control systems with better security against cyber attacks. Missile defense personnel also are being trained to prevent cyber intrusions. “We know that malicious cyber actors are constantly attempting to exfiltrate information from U.S Industry,” Syring stated. “We will continue to work with the defense industrial base, the FBI, and other partners to identify these issues and raise the costs of this behavior to those responsible, in coordination with national authorities and in accordance with national policy.” Syring said a key objective is hardening U.S. missiles defenses for future conflicts, which will likely involve cyber attacks against its networks. “We must build resilient cyber defenses that are capable of detecting and mitigating threats without impeding operations in order to ‘fight through’ the cyber threat,” he said. Two exercises simulating cyber attacks on missile defense networks were held last year. Another exercise is set for next month. To prevent cyber attacks through equipment and parts, MDA is tightening the security of its suppliers. “We also have a rigorous cyber and supply chain risk management inspection program to examine everything about our systems, from the truck to supply chain, to the fielded operational ability,” Syring said. Chinese agents were detected spying on the U.S. missile defense interceptor base at Fort Greely, Alaska, several years ago, according to defense officials. Barry Pike, executive officer for the U.S. Army’s missiles and space program, said during the House hearing that foreign military threats are growing with the emergence of synchronized air, missile, cyber, and electronic warfare attacks.”

Why Xi Is Purging The Chinese Military. Derek Grossman and Michael S. Chase, The National Interest. “Much has been made of the flurry of announcements in recent months by Xi Jinping—China’s president, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC)—signaling major structural reforms to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), scheduled for completion by 2020. Veteran China watchers have diligently catalogued what is known and unknown at this point from authoritative pronouncements, and what is speculated on the basis of unofficial sources. Observers, for example, have paid especially close attention to Xi’s establishment of the PLA Strategic Support Force and ruminated over its stature in the PLA vis-à-vis the services, as well as its precise role and mission. Analysts have also pondered questions such as the future membership of the CMC and how cooperative the traditionally army-dominated top levels of the PLA’s leadership will become under the reforms. While understanding the details of Xi’s reforms is critical to assessing the direction of PLA modernization going forward, it is also necessary to consider the broader implications of Xi’s apparent relationship with the military. Many observers have stated the obvious: Xi is as “large and in charge” in military circles as he is in Chinese politics generally. This is true, but his control over the PLA deserves more attention than it has received. That is the subject of this article. We argue that Xi is reviving Maoist-style tactics—including purges of corrupt officers, forced public displays of respect for Mao and support of Maoist thinking, and a formidable internal monitoring system—to ensure his personal dominance over the military. Xi’s leadership style vis-à-vis the military will have profound implications for civilian-military relations in China. When Xi assumed power in November 2012, he vowed to fight both “tigers” and “flies”—a reference to taking on corrupt leaders as well as lower-level bureaucrats engaged in corrupt practices throughout the Chinese system. The PLA would be no exception. The first warning shot was aimed toward the tigers. In 2014, Xi arrested a former CMC vice chairman, Xu Caihou, for participating in a “cash for ranks” scheme. After expelling Xu from the party, Xi followed up in 2015 with the arrest and purging of another former CMC vice chairman, Guo Boxiong, on similar charges. The arrests were unprecedented in that Xu and Guo were the two highest-ranking officers in China’s military when they served as CMC vice chairmen, and their arrests marked the first time the PLA’s highest-level retired officers faced corruption charges. As of early March 2016, Xi’s anticorruption campaign had resulted in the arrest of at least forty-four senior military officers, although the actual numbers could be higher. Xi did not forget about the flies, either. At least sixteen lower-level military officers are facing punishment for corruption charges as well. The military anticorruption drive is part of a much broader dragnet: all told, nearly 1,600 individuals throughout China’s government are either under investigation for corruption, or have been arrested, purged or sentenced since Xi came to power. The only other PRC leader that resorted to purges at such a high level—and so routinely—was Mao. After the establishment of the PRC in 1949, there were at least four major purges; two of these episodes involved military leaders. Mao first purged his defense minister Peng Dehuai in 1959 for questioning the disastrous Great Leap Forward. Peng’s purge was more about leadership politics than it was a struggle between Mao and the PLA, but Peng was also known as an advocate of Soviet-style military modernization and professionalization, which Mao believed ran contrary to his own emphasis on political indoctrination. Mao’s second purge of the PLA occurred in 1971, against the lieutenants of Peng’s replacement Lin Biao, who was widely viewed as Mao’s heir apparent during the tumultuous years of Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Although historical accounts differ on the details, it appears that Mao suspected Lin was involved in plotting a coup against him, perhaps impatient to replace the “Great Helmsman” as China’s supreme leader. Whatever Lin’s knowledge or involvement, he suffered the consequences when he died in a plane crash as he was supposedly fleeing China en route to the Soviet Union. A substantial number of Lin’s supporters were reportedly purged following his mysterious death. According to one recent assessment, Xi’s anticorruption campaign represents the largest systematic purge since Lin’s death and, according to new analysis from noted China scholar David Shambaugh, the largest in PRC history. Xi’s immediate predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, both used such purges sparingly. More to the point, neither Hu nor Jiang ever used them against the PLA in so daring a manner, probably because neither had the stature among top brass to do so. Even Deng Xiaoping, who like Mao was a paramount leader himself, never technically purged the PLA in the way Xi has done. It is often said that Deng “purged” fellow communist revolutionaries General Yang Shangkun and General Yang Baibing (the “Yang brothers”) after suspicions that they were trying to depose Jiang Zemin, who was then Communist Party general secretary. Deng forced Yang Shangkun to retire, and sidelined Yang Baibing by removing him from the CMC, in effect ending their influence over the PLA. But it is important to note that neither was arrested or expelled (i.e. purged) from the party. In fact, in the case of Yang Shangkun, he retained ceremonial honors until his death.”

The Bizarre Diplomatic Fight Between China And Taiwan Playing Out In Kenya, Explained. Jennifer Williams, Vox. “On Tuesday, Taiwanese media lit up with a video taken far away in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. It appears to show a group of 15 Taiwanese citizens inside a Nairobi jail cell, doing something that prisoners don't often do: barricading the door to keep themselves locked in. The video, apparently taken by one of the Taiwanese, cuts off after a few seconds. Shortly after, according to the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry, Kenyan police armed with assault rifles smashed through the door and used tear gas to retrieve the prisoners and deport them — putting them on a plane not to Taiwan but to mainland China. The incident has become a crisis of its own, but it's even more than that: the latest development in a growing diplomatic crisis that has put Kenya right smack in the middle of a decades-long fight between mainland China and Taiwan. Taiwan has accused China of conducting an "extrajudicial abduction" of Taiwanese citizens (one is reportedly a dual US-Taiwan citizen) and has accused China of committing a "gross violation of basic human rights." Here's what's going on, why it's unfolding in Kenya of all places, and why this may be about some deeper issues between China and Taiwan. The 15 in the video were part of a larger group of Taiwanese who were scheduled to be deported from Kenya following their acquittal in a telecommunications fraud case there (more on that in a minute). But instead of deporting them back home to Taiwan, the Kenyans apparently decided to send them — against their will — to mainland China. A group of eight had already been sent to China on Friday, and a second group of 37 Taiwanese were in the process of leaving on Tuesday, according to Taiwan's Foreign Ministry. Fifteen of those 37, who were awaiting deportation in the Nairobi jail, evidently tried to resist the Kenyan police's attempt to put them on the plane to China, which is the scene you see in the video. So why did Kenya deport them to mainland China rather than to Taiwan? The most immediate answer is simply that China asked Kenya to do so. Chinese state authorities claim they have jurisdiction over the Taiwanese group, whom they accuse of having participated in a telecom fraud ring that cost Chinese victims billions of yuan, and thus asked the Kenyans to send them to China to face investigation. Kenya obliged, perhaps in part because the country relies heavily on Chinese investment, or perhaps just because it didn't realize it was going to turn into a whole big controversy. But at its core, this story isn't really about Kenya. It's about the central dispute between China and Taiwan that goes back decades — and about a network of criminal gangs that spans both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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