China Caucus Blog

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 18, 2014

The Real Reason China Wants Aircraft Carriers. “Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was the guest of honor for a tour of China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, an event that once again raised U.S. media interest in China’s navy, its aspirations, and the role this carrier and others may someday play.  It is not clear how many or what kind of carriers China will eventually build—whether they will more closely resemble Liaoning or be somewhat more modest in design, akin to U.S. Wasp-class amphibious assault ships.  The former point China toward grander power projection missions; the latter toward the more immediate goal of establishing hegemony over its neighbors, many of whom have territorial disputes with China in the South and East China Seas.  But it does appear that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has the aircraft carrier “bug” and the implications for the United States are large, whichever course Beijing takes. Several commentators were quick—and correct—to observe that the PLAN aims to deny the U.S. Navy and American seapower in general access to the Western Pacific.  This sensible observation, however, overlooks the strategic objectives China seeks to accomplish by turning to carrier aviation. For example, Bloomberg’s editors penned an editorial using China’s secondhand carrier to argue that the PLAN is decades behind the U.S. Navy and therefore not much of a threat. The editors’ failure to confront the larger strategic picture belittles the threat that China poses. It’s these kinds of arguments that insist that the rebalance to Asia is unwise, and that continued deep budget cuts to the U.S. naval and aerospace forces are warranted.”

 Can Obama Save His Mighty Pivot to Asia? “Peace in Asia is slowly slipping away. America’s closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, are barely talking to each other. Nor are Japan and China, which are locked in a bitter territorial dispute involving the regular deployment of military and paramilitary assets to a contested area of the East China Sea. North Korea is lobbing missiles into the Sea of Japan and threatening to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test while Chinese forces in the South China Sea attempt to starve out marines stationed on a Philippine-held reef. Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement has shown Beijing that its efforts at peaceful unification are making scant headway. The list goes on. President Obama’s upcoming trip to the region, then, comes at a crucial moment. And yet the Asia-Pacific’s numerous challenges are heightened by perceptions of America’s waning determination to stand by its commitments. U.S. allies see the Asia “pivot” as being strong on rhetoric but lacking in content. For starters, difficult U.S.-Japan negotiations are holding up the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which in any case would have a difficult time making it through the U.S. Congress. Concerns that America’s military is being starved of resources are more pressing. Following North Korea’s recent test launch of two medium-range missiles, Chuck Hagel announced that the United States would deploy two more missile-defense destroyers to Japan…by 2017. In testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee, PACOM commander Samuel Locklear explained that, due to “budget uncertainty,” over the past year PACOM has had to prioritize the readiness of forward-deployed forces “at the great expense of the readiness of the follow-on force and the critical investments needed for these forces to outpace emerging threats, potentially eroding our historic dominance in both capability and capacity.” General John M. Paxton, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, speaking about the pivot to Asia, recently asked, “Do we have enough people and enough ships to do it?” He pointed out that while 54 amphibious ships are needed for the Marines to carry out their global responsibilities, only 38 are planned for, and that number is likely to shrink. The current inventory stands at a mere 29.”

China Boast: U.S. Marines Would Be Like ‘Marching Band’ in All Out Fight.
“A casual remark by a U.S. general during a breakfast has made China mad, really mad, and Beijing’s response is far less than civil and humble. On April 11, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commander of the 18,000 Marines in Okinawa, Japan, told reporters at a Washington breakfast meeting that the Marines in the Pacific would quickly retake the Senkaku island group and return it to Japan if China were to invade it. The statement was nothing new, as U.S. officials from the president on down repeatedly have told the Chinese that the United States would fulfill its defense treaty obligations to help Japan militarily in any conflict with China over the islands. What apparently incensed the Chinese was what Gen. Wissler said next: “You wouldn’t maybe even necessarily have to put somebody on that island until you had eliminated the threat, so to speak.” The Chinese military is supremely confident of its invincibility in the Pacific and is taking Gen. Wissler’s remark as a great insult. The first return salvos were fired by the Communist Party-owned and operated newspaper Global Times. “These U.S. warships roaming around here [in the East China Sea] are slowly being considered by us Chinese as our moving targets right in front of our eyes, and the [U.S.] bases in Okinawa as a whole are also no longer a big deal [to us],” said the newspaper in an April 15 editorial. “When facing China, these U.S. soldiers are really not worth anything,” the Global Times said. “If China and the U.S. were to start an all-out fight, these American Marines would be more like a marching band, charging with others, but with their musical instruments in hands.” “Wissler seems still living in the 20th century. In the new century, he and his comrades in arms should see their own reflections in the water with which they use to wash their own feet,” said the Global Times.”

 Japan To Arm Remote Western Island, Risking More China Tension. “Japan is sending 100 soldiers and radar to its westernmost outpost, a tropical island off Taiwan, in a deployment that risks angering China with ties between Asia's biggest economies already hurt by a dispute over nearby islands they both claim. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera will break ground on Saturday for a military lookout station on Yonaguni, which is home to 1,500 people and just 150 km (93 miles) from the disputed Japanese-held islands claimed by China. The mini-militarization of Yonaguni - now defended by two police officers - is part of a longstanding plan to improve defense and surveillance in Japan's far-flung frontier. Building the radar base on the island, which is much closer to China than to Japan's main islands, could extend Japanese monitoring to the Chinese mainland and track Chinese ships and aircraft circling the disputed crags, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China. "We decided to deploy a Ground Self-Defense Force unit on Yonaguni Island as a part of our effort to strengthen the surveillance over the southwestern region," Onodera said this week. "We are staunchly determined to protect Yonaguni Island, a part of the precious Japanese territory." The 30 sq km (11 sq mile) backwater - known for strong rice liquor, cattle, sugar cane and scuba diving - may seem an unlikely place for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to put boots on the ground. But Yonaguni marks the confluence of the Japanese defense establishment's concerns about the vulnerability of the country's thousands of islands and the perceived threat from China.”

 Chinese Strategists Reflect on the First Sino-Japanese War. “China is gearing up for the 120th anniversary of the First Sino-Japanese War, which began in 1894 and ended with China’s defeat in 1895. The war was a devastating blow to China’s then-rulers, the Qing dynasty, as China had always considered Japan a ‘little brother’ rather than a serious competitor. The war is often seen as the defining point when power in East Asia shifted from China to Japan, as Tokyo claimed control of the Chinese territories of Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula (site of the port city of Dalian) as well as Korea (which changed from being a Chinese vassal to an officially independent state under Japanese influence). To commemorate the 120th anniversary of the war,Xinhua published a special supplement to its Reference News newspaper. The supplement consisted of 30 articles by members of the People’s Liberation Army “analyzing what China can learn from its defeat” in the Sino-Japanese war. Summing up the articles, Xinhua said that “the roots of China’s defeat lay not on military reasons, but the outdated and corrupt state system, as well as the ignorance of maritime strategy.” This conclusion has obvious modern-day applications, as China’s leadership is currently emphasizing both reform and a new focus on China’s navy.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 16, 2014

China and Japan Seek Détente? “A number of signs suggest that Japan and China are cautiously trying to improve relations. Perhaps most notably, Hu Deping, the son of former reformist General Secretary of the CCP, Hu Yaobang, visited Tokyo earlier this month. Hu, who is a close confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was in Japan from April 6 to April 14. The trip was organized by Japan’s Foreign Ministry and approved by the Chinese Communist Party. During the trip, Hu was scheduled to meet with a number of Japanese officials including: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Yohei Kono, a former speaker of the Lower House. Hu’s meeting with Kishida supposedly took place in the offices of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; however, Prime Minister Abe was not expected to attend. On Tuesday, though, Asahi Shimbun reported that Hu had secretly met with Prime Minister Abe himself during the trip. According to the report, Hu and Abe “talked about Tokyo’s stance toward Beijing, and discussed the future of Japan-China relations. During the meeting, Abe is believed to have told Hu that Tokyo is ready to hold dialogue and make efforts to mend bilateral relations.” The report went on to say that the CCP had approved the meeting because of its apparent desire to improve relations with Japan before it hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November of this year. Similarly, earlier this month former Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda attended the Boao Forum in southern China. Fukuda is the chairman of the board of the Boao and played an integral part in starting the forum. Both Fukuda and Chinese Primer Li Keqiang attended and addressed the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum. Chinese State Councilors Yang Jing and Yang Jiechi were also present at the opening ceremony. There were no reports about whether Fukuda met personally with any of these Chinese leaders although he did hold a brief meeting with President Xi on the sidelines of the Boao Forum last year. The fact that there were no reported meetings between Fukuda and Chinese officials this time around could be interpreted as a positive sign, as it means they might have discussed more sensitive issues.”

 China, Russia Seek ‘Enhanced Mutual Political Support’. “Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, was in China Tuesday. During his visit, Lavrov held meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as well as President Xi Jinping. According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lavrov’s visit was primarily designed to “lay the groundwork” for President Vladimir Putin’s scheduled visit to China in May. In addition to paying an official state visit, Putin will also attend the quadrennial Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Summit, to be held in Shanghai. China and Russia have been working hard to tighten their relationship, especially since Xi Jinping assumed the presidency in March 2013. Since then, Xi has visited Russia three times, most recently to attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. Russia was, in fact, the destination chosen for Xi’s very first trip abroad, symbolizing the importance Xi and China’s government place on ties with Moscow. During his meeting with Lavrov, Xi Jinping said that relations between China and Russia “are at their best” and have played “an irreplaceable role in maintaining world peace and stability.” China’s Foreign Ministry dubbed China-Russia ties the “major-country relationship that boasts the richest contents, the highest level and the greatest strategic significance.” Of course, China’s other main “major-country relationship” is with the United States—spokesperson Hua Chunying was implicitly contrasting the progress in China-Russia relations with recent tensions in the China-U.S. relationship. In terms of moving the relationship forward, Xi called for “enhanced political mutual support” between China and Russia.”

 China Angered by U.S. Environment Chief’s Visit to Taiwan. “China said on Tuesday it had lodged a protest with the United States over a visit by Washington's environmental protection chief to self-ruled Taiwan this week. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy's visit is the first by a cabinet-level official since 2000, according to Taiwan's presidential office. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou met her on Monday. McCarthy was visiting to highlight environmental cooperation between the United States and partners in the Asia-Pacific region. China's foreign ministry said the visit to Taiwan, which China considers a rebel province, violated promises Washington had made to Beijing and that China was "resolutely opposed" to it. "No matter what goal the U.S. EPA administrator has in visiting Taiwan, she has violated ... the promises made by the United States to China on the Taiwan issue," spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing. "China expresses resolute opposition and strong dissatisfaction with this, and we have launched serious representations to the U.S. side. We urge the U.S. to prudently and appropriately deal with the issue in an effort to avoid doing further damage to the U.S.-China relationship." China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the communists in 1949. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.”

 Chinese Military Newspaper Likens Lost Jet to Pearl Harbor. “Throughout the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, commentators have groped for analogies to convey the enigma of how a Boeing 777-200 could disappear without a trace. China’s official military newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily, may well be the first to liken the aircraft’s loss to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On Tuesday, a commentary in the newspaper sought to draw military lessons from the loss of the plane, which investigators believe went down in the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia with 239 people on board. If even in this age a large aircraft can just vanish, it said, planes could still be used to mount surprise military attacks, like the 1941 strike by Japanese forces on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The commentary said China and other countries could use the search to improve international cooperation for dealing with such incidents. But China’s armed forces, it suggested, needed to learn the importance of vigilance from Malaysia’s failure to respond promptly when the plane veered wildly off course on March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. “The most famous surprise attack was when the Japanese forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor,” the commentary said. “It has been widely believed that so long as you establish a relatively comprehensive defensive system of three-dimensional information monitoring, then it would be very difficult for traditional surprises to succeed,” the commentary said. The author’s name was given as Fang Xing, but his or her identity was not described, and the name may be a pseudonym.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 15, 2014

Taiwan Cuts Back Order For Secondhand U.S. Warships. “Taiwan reduced an order for secondhand warships from the U.S. because of budgetary constraints, despite China's growing military clout in the region. Defense Minister Yen Ming told lawmakers that Taiwan had requested more than four Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates from the U.S., and Washington had proposed to sell four. But Taiwan decided to buy only two. Last week, the U.S. House agreed to authorize the sale of four used missile frigates to Taiwan as part of the country's obligation to help Taiwan defend itself under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. Washington's offer, which will need final approval by the Senate, had already angered China, which said arms sales to Taiwan interfered in China's internal affairs. The world's second-largest economy claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has said it would reclaim the island by force if necessary. Taiwan and China split in 1949 after civil war. But tensions have eased since President Ma Ying-jeou took over in 2008, and economic ties are stronger. Lawmakers and academics in Taiwan said that apart from the island's tight defense budget of around $10 billion for this year, the missile frigates aren't very advanced and Taiwan is capable of building its own. They also said the growing military imbalance between China and Taiwan wouldn't be significantly corrected by the purchase. "It's not ideal for us to buy warships that are too old," said Lin Yu-fang, chairman of the Taiwan legislature's diplomacy and national defense committee.  "Taiwan is now adjusting and streamlining its troops, and purchase of warships also involves budget issues, so we have our own considerations."

 The Chinese Military Can ‘Fight Any Battle And Win’. “U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's whirlwind tour of China in early April saw a tense exchange with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan over the United States' pivot to Asia. China would "make no compromise, no concession, no treaty," Chang said, adding, "the Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win." Hagel, for his part, said that the United States was "fully committed" to is treaty obligations with the Philippines and with Japan -- which administers the Senkakus, the disputed islands which China claims and calls the Diaoyu. In the days leading up to U.S. President Barack Obama's late April trip to the region, where is visiting Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Malaysia -- and pointedly not China -- there is a worrying amount of strain among China, Japan, and the United States. Are temperatures running so high that China might actually seize the Senkakus by force? Or are these worries overblown?  We asked contributors to assess the risks in relations among China, Japan and the United States.”

 China Denies Naval Snub for Japan Over Fleet Review. “China's navy on Tuesday denied, in a roundabout way, that it snubbed Japan by not inviting it to join in a naval fleet review as part of an international symposium, saying the two events had never been linked in the first place. U.S. officials have said the United States was invited to join the parade of ships as part of activities linked to the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, which is being held this month in Qingdao, an eastern port city. Japan said it would participate in the regular symposium, but confirmed it had not been invited to the fleet review. But China's navy appeared to dispute the view that the fleet review had been scheduled as part of the symposium, in a statement on its official website ( The fleet review and a multinational naval drill had both been organized to celebrate the founding day of China's navy, it said. "This joint naval drill is not an activity within the framework of the symposium, but to mark the founding day of the Chinese navy," the statement said, referring to what it called foreign media reports about Japan not being invited. "For this, China invited countries participating in the symposium, and also countries not participating were invited to send ships," it added. It gave no further elaboration. In any case, the fleet review has been canceled because of the "special situation and atmosphere" surrounding the continuing search for a Malaysian airliner that went missing last month, with 239 aboard, on its way to Beijing, the navy said.”

 China Stresses Need for Stability At First Meeting of New Security Council. “Chinese President Xi Jinping held the first meeting of a new national security commission on Tuesday, saying China needed a coordinated approach to domestic and foreign challenges, including social unrest, in "the most complex time in history". China announced the formation of the commission in November at the end of a key party meeting to map out reforms. Experts say it is based on the National Security Council in the United States and will increase coordination among the various wings of China's security bureaucracy, split now among the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services. Possible international flashpoints for China include Japan, North Korea and the South China Sea. China says it also faces considerable threats at home, pointing to continued unrest in two regions heavily populated by ethnic minorities which chafe at Chinese rule - Tibet and Xinjiang. Xi told the commission's first meeting that China faced the "most complex time in history" at home and abroad when it came to its security, the official Xinhua news agency reported. China must "implement and put into practice an overall national security view, paying attention to external as well as internal security", Xi was cited as saying. While Xi listed areas ranging from economic to nuclear security, he also said the commission had to "take political security as its base" and "seek stability", references to protecting the ruling Communist Party's hold on power and dealing with domestic unrest.”

 China’s President Xi Urges Greater Military Use of Space. “Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media on Tuesday called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others. While Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China's increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis. Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007. A detailed analysis of satellite imagery published in March provided additional evidence that a Chinese rocket launch in May 2013, billed as a research mission, was actually a test of a new anti-satellite weapon. Visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi, who is also head of the military, told officers "to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities", Xinhua news agency said late on Monday. It gave no details of how China expects to do this. China has to pay more attention to its defensive capabilities in space, the official China Daily said on Tuesday.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 14, 2014

China Mixing Military Modernization, ‘Tailored Coercion’. “China’s military modernization efforts over the past 20 years have been marked by broad efforts, according to an expert, as opposed to focusing on specific services. “So, we see new naval forces, air forces, ground forces and missile forces,” said Dean Cheng, a China military specialist at the Heritage Foundation. That level of wide-ranging spending, combined with aggressive regional moves — dubbed “tailored coercion” — is what is putting neighbors on edge, experts say. In March, China announced it was spending $131 billion, up 12.2 percent from the 2013 budget of $119 billion. This year marks 17 straight years of near-double-digit increases in defense spending. The Chinese Air Force boasts new fighters, upgraded strike aircraft and new surface-to-air missile systems. The Navy has new surface combatants in serial production, new nuclear and diesel-powered submarines, a refurbished aircraft carrier with new ones under construction, amphibious assault ships, and the expansion of its naval infantry. The Second Artillery Corps has a variety of new missiles, including a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-41, capable of carrying several nuclear warheads. Cheng said other new capabilities include advancements in C4ISR support systems, such as new airborne early warning aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, additional tankers, new command-and-control systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and space systems that include small satellites and anti-satellite warfare systems.”

 China Protests After Japanese Minister Visits Shrine for War Dead. “China's foreign ministry lodged a protest with Japan on Saturday after a Japanese minister visited a shrine which is seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo's wartime aggression. China, as well as South Korea, has repeatedly expressed anger in the past over Japanese politicians' visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honored along with those who died in battle. China's foreign ministry said the visit by Yoshitaka Shindo, Japan's internal affairs minister, once again showed that Japan's cabinet had the "wrong attitude" when it came to facing up to history. "China has already lodged solemn representations and protest with Japan," the ministry said in a statement. "We urge Japan to adopt a correct attitude on questions of history, earnestly face the calls for justice from its Asian neighbors and the international community, and end all provocative acts which run counter to the tide of the times." Shindo is a relatively minor figure in the government and a frequent visitor to the shrine. Japan's foreign ministry said Shindo's grandfather had fought in the war, and that he had no intention of hurting the feelings of people in China and South Korea. "His visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which is a matter of his heart and conscience, and the government of Japan's policy are two totally separate matters," it said. "The government of Japan's diplomacy and its recognition of history remain unchanged."

Chinese Signaling in the East China Sea?
“The dispute between Japan and China over the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is one of the most volatile flashpoints in East Asia today.  After the Japanese government purchased three of the contested rocks from a private Japanese citizen in September 2012, China began to use its coast guard to conduct regular patrols within the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters around the islands.  These patrols have contributed to frictions in the Sino-Japanese relationship because they directly challenge Japan’s claim to sovereignty and administrative control.  By increasing the number of ships in contested waters, China’s patrols also increase the risk of a collision or other accident that could escalate into an armed conflict between the region’s largest economies. Daily records published by the Japanese Coast Guard on Chinese patrols suggest an intriguing change in the pattern of Chinese behavior since last fall.  Although we are reluctant to infer too much about China’s bargaining strategies from these data alone, China’s history of crisis management and coercive diplomacy suggest that tactical, on-the-ground behavior offer one important means for signaling either escalation or de-escalation. As Figure 1 shows, since October 2013 there has been a substantial decline in the frequency of Chinese patrols within the territorial waters of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Prior to that China conducted as many as four patrols per week within the islands’ territorial waters.  Yet in October, more than three weeks passed in which no patrols occurred in the 12-mile zone (Oct. 2-27).  Since then (our data is current as of April 4), the frequency of patrols has dropped and maintained a fairly steady average of about one patrol into the 12-mile zone every couple of weeks.”

 After Taiwan Protests, Chinese Leaders Stress Continued Cross-Strait Ties. “This week, Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement protestors left the Legislative Yuan after a three-week sit-in. While the most eye-catching part of the Sunflower Movement has ended, the next phase could have much longer-lasting implications for Taiwan, and for cross-strait relations. The Sunflower protestors have promised to continue their campaign to safeguard Taiwan and its people from what they see as overstepping by the KMT-controlled government. And their influence on politics, should the movement keep its momentum, will naturally affect the future of cross-strait ties. One of the protestors’ major demands, a legislative mechanism to oversee cross-strait agreements, has the potential to alter the way Taipei and Beijing interact. Previously, agreements such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and its controversial follow-up, the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), were negotiated jointly by the semi-official bodies that handle cross-strait relations, the Straits Exchange Foundation in Taiwan and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait in China. In Taiwan, the ECFA was then approved by the Legislative Yuan—the CSSTA, due to the Sunflower Movement, has not yet been approved. In the future, according to the Sunflower plan, such deals will face more intensive legislative oversight, throwing a democratic wrench into cross-strait negotiations. Despite the potential for a shift in cross-strait ties, Beijing and Taipei have both decided to carry on as usual. China and Taiwan had a chance to return to normalcy somewhat this week, with former Taiwan politician Vincent Siew in Hainan for the Boao Forum for Asia.  Siew, who served as Vice President during Ma Ying-jeou’s first term, met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Zhang Zhijun, the director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. The meetings attempted to convey an image of ‘business as usual’ for cross-strait ties.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 11, 2014

Washington’s Chance to Back Up Rhetoric in Asia. “April is turning out to be a month of the U.S. trying to calm nerves in Asia. The president, members of Congress and other officials are visiting everywhere from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur at almost an unprecedented rate. Many, especially liberal states, are looking for signs of American resolve on these visits in light of the administration's hesitant response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and China's continued regional aggression. However, signs of American indecisiveness in the face of increasing global instability will ruin any attempts at rhetorical reassurance. Mr. Obama's vacillating response to the Syrian civil war, China's behavior and Ukraine instill a sense of pessimism. With a weak West, revisionist, authoritarian nations have successfully kept democracies off balance and violated international norms. Regardless of whether the Russian-Ukrainian crisis will repeat itself in Asia, instability is spreading. Combating both that reality and the fear of it may well prove to be the next great American challenge. Mr. Obama has his work cut out for him in Asia, where tensions between China, Japan and South Korea are heating up. His secretary of defense was just lectured by China's defense minister, who told the Americans to restrain their ally, Japan, as though Tokyo were a wayward child. Vice President Joe Biden's December visit to northeast Asia painted a picture of the U.S. as weak and less than candid. He told officials in Tokyo one thing and those in Beijing and Seoul another, and was unwilling to challenge the Chinese over their controversial air defense zone. Despite last month's brief meeting between the leaders of Japan and South Korea, the two still barely speak to each other and have a mutual, monumental trust deficit. According to Japanese sources, the president will "reaffirm" the importance of the U.S.-Japan relations during his visit to Tokyo late this month, but little concrete is expected. If Mr. Obama attempts to pander to all sides during the visit, as his vice president did, his influence will be even further eroded.”

 China Might Actually Seize Japan’s Southern Islands. “In a speech in Tokyo on April 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a not-so-subtle reference to China's aggressive behavior in the disputed Senkaku Islands, warning that countries cannot "redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation," whether that be "small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe." Two days later, Hagel's Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan fired back: China, he said, has "indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu" -- as the Chinese call the islands -- while noting that the "Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win." Beijing's position on the islands is clear. But are the Senkakus dessert, or are they an appetizer? If Chinese troops were to seize the Senkakus, might they also wrest the nearby Ryukyu Islands from Japan? It's not so far-fetched: Japanese strategists fret about how to forestall a doomsday scenario in the Ryukyus, the southwestern island chain that arcs from Japan's home islands southwest toward Taiwan. Americans should worry as well. The southern tip of the Ryukyu Islands sits only about 80 miles east of the Senkakus. Unlike the uninhabited Senkakus, the Ryukyus host not only roughly 1.5 million Japanese residents, but also the U.S. Marine and Air Force bases that anchor the U.S. presence in the East China Sea. Occupying the Ryukyus would fracture the U.S. strategic position in East Asia -- separating U.S. forces based in Japan (to the north) from those at Bahrain, the other permanent U.S. hub in Asia, far to the west. At a bare minimum, U.S. ships and aircraft would have to detour around Chinese-held islands, waters, and skies -- incurring the additional time and costs longer voyages entail.”

 During Hagel Visit, China Showed Its Military Might, and Its Frustrations. “When Robert M. Gates visited China in 2011 as the United States defense secretary, the military greeted him with an unexpected and, in the view of American military officials, provocative test of a Chinese stealth fighter jet, a bold show of force that stunned the visiting Americans and may even have surprised the Chinese president at the time, Hu Jintao. When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China this week, the military greeted him with a long-sought tour of the country’s lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in what many American officials interpreted as a resolve to project naval power, particularly in light of recent tension between Beijing and its neighbors over disputed islands in the East and South China Seas. The displays of China’s military power reveal some dividends from years of heavy investments, and perhaps a sense that China is now more willing to stand toe-to-toe with the Americans, at least on regional security issues. But American officials and Asia experts say the visits also showed a more insecure side of China’s military leadership — a tendency to display might before they are ready to deploy it, and a lingering uncertainty about how assertively to defend its territorial claims in the region. Mr. Hagel encountered both combative warnings in public forums and private complaints that Beijing felt besieged by hostile neighbors, especially Japan and the Philippines, which it asked the United States to help address. The impression for some American officials was that China still has not decided whether it wants to emphasize its historical status as an underdog or adopt a new posture as a military powerhouse. On the tough side, China’s minister of defense, Gen. Chang Wanquan, announced that his country would make “no compromise, no concession, no treaty” in the fight for what he called its “territorial sovereignty.”

 Overseas Chinese and the Crimea Crisis. “As I noted last week, one of the more interesting aspects of the international response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea was the reaction of emerging powers like China and India. Despite the importance they have long placed on respect for sovereignty, all the emerging nations refused to criticize Russia’s seizure of territory belonging to Ukraine. Some, most notably India but also China to a lesser degree, came out in strong support of Russia. As I pointed out last week, this support was all the more surprising given that most of the emerging powers have potential secessionist groups within their borders. Why would China support Russia when Crimea declaring independence from Ukraine might inspire China’s Uyghurs, Tibetans and even people in Hong Kong? As The Naval Diplomat and others have pointed out, Russia’s annexation of Crimea also could also benefit China in its territorial disputes throughout the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, there has been a lot of concern among U.S. allies and partners in the region that Russia’s seizure of Crimea will embolden China. This concern grew so vocal that a number of American officials have now openly warned China against trying to use the Russian model to advance its claims vis-à-vis Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands or in the South China Sea. To my mind, this concern is largely overblown. True, Russia’s seizure of Crimea could weaken the supposed long-standing international norm against realigning one’s borders by force, which China could someday use to its advantage.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 10, 2014

China Reveals New Carrier Jet Prior to Hagel Visit. “China’s military has allowed the public release of the first photographs of a warplane variant deployed on the Liaoning — the aircraft carrier that saw its first visit by U.S. officials this week. The new Shenyang J-15, also known as the Flying Shark, is based on the Russian SU-33 design and was disclosed on an official Chinese website. Several photos of the J-15 revealed its tail hook used for carrier deck landings. The photos were posted on the Global Times website March 31. The news outlet is part of the official Communist Party newspaper group. “The existence of the J-15 mystery is finally revealed,” the news outlet reported, noting the imperative of training carrier jet pilots for the Liaoning. Hagel and China’s Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan verbally sparred over China’s threats against Japan and the Philippines over disputed islands in the East China and South China Seas. Chang asserted that China would not be the first to use military force in the islands’ disputes, but blamed Japan for causing trouble. At a press conference, Hagel wagged his finger and said “the Philippines and Japan are longtime allies of the United States. We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those countries” and the United States is “fully committed to those treaty obligations.” Rick Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military said China’s development of the J-15 “will enable the [People’s Liberation Army’s] PLA Navy to train carrier-based pilots more efficiently, but it will also form the basis for a carrier strike-fighter to attack naval and land-based targets.” The J-15 and a new J-16, also a twin-seat jet and copy of the Russian SU-27 will be outfitted with new active phased array radar and thus are more capable than the U.S. F-18 jets, which need to be upgraded, said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.”

 Can the Chinese and US Air Forces Get Along? “Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s visit to the PLAN aircraft carrier Liaoning has received a great deal of attention in the last few days.  As Shannon Tiezi points out, Hagel will struggle to improve ties with Beijing while also increasing coordination with Tokyo. And yet the project of engaging with the Chinese military is not the same as making friends with it. Because effective communication requires shared priors, China and the United States both have an interest in developing a common understanding of military problems and capabilities. U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh and General Hawk Carlisle displayed a deft understanding of this dynamic in an article in the January-February 2014 issue of Air and Space Power Journal, which recounted the two officers’ recent visit to China. The visit was conducted mostly at the strategic and institutional level, giving the USAF leaders an appreciation for how the PLAAF understood the role of airpower in Chinese history.  While the visit displayed only some of the PLAAF’s most modern technologies, it did serve to highlight the institutional reforms that drive improvements in Chinese capabilities. The history of the relationship between the PLAAF and the USAF is complex.  The Korean War looms large in the history of both services, representing the first real test that either faced. The relationship eased after Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, with the USAF supplying update kits for several older Chinese fighter types and exchanging intelligence with the PLAAF on Soviet dispositions and capabilities.  Also in the 1970s, China exported a group of J-7 fighters to the United States in order to support the latter’s “Red Eagle” MIG squadron.  These fighters so faithfully copied their Soviet models that they reproduced several production errors that American engineers later had to correct. As the Cold War faded, the security relationship between the USAF and PLAAF deteriorated, even as Chinese capabilities increased. But as Welsh and Carlisle suggest, it remains possible to envision a positive-sum outcome to building a cordial, communicative relationship between the services.”

 Japan Scrambles More Jets As Regional Tensions Rise. “As territorial tensions flared in East Asia, Japan’s air force scrambled jets against Chinese and Russian planes far more often during the year that ended in March than in recent years, pushing the total number of such maneuvers to the highest since the end of the Cold War. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces said Wednesday it scrambled jets against foreign aircraft 810 times during the year ended March 31, breaking the 800-mark for the first time since the year ending March 1989. The latest total was a 43% increase from 567 a year earlier. Bumping up the number was increased activity against Chinese planes, with the two nations playing cat-and-mouse games involving ships and planes as tensions persisted over a group of contested islands in the East China Sea. Sorties against Chinese planes soared to 415, compared with 306 a year earlier, and just 38 in the year ending March 2010. China wasn’t the only concern. The Japanese air force scrambled 359 times against Russian planes last year, up from 248 a year earlier.”

 US House Approves Frigate Sale to Taiwan. “On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing the sale of four U.S. frigates to Taiwan, while also officially reaffirming U.S. support for the Taiwan Relations Act days before the 35th anniversary of that legislation. The bill, HR 3470, began with a section underlining the importance of TRA before moving on the specifics of the latest arms sale to Taiwan. “The Taiwan Relations Act has been instrumental in maintaining peace, security, and stability in the Western Pacific since its enactment in 1979,” says the bill’s first clause. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, passed with “overwhelming bipartisan support,” according to a Foreign Affairs Committee press release. In a statement, Royce said that “America’s support for Taiwan has allowed this island nation to realize its full potential.” He added, “It is now more important than ever that we reaffirm our strong commitment to Taiwan and the Taiwan Relations Act.” Accordingly, the newly-passed bill contained a clause wherein Congress “reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act.” HR 3470 also authorized the sale to Taiwan of four decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates, the USS Taylor, USS Gary, USS Carr, and USS Elrod. The four vessels, commissioned in 1984 and 1985, can support both surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. Before the transfer of these vessels becomes official, however, the House bill will also need to pass the Senate and be approved by President Obama. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the passage of HR 3470 in a statement, expressing its gratitude for the move. The statement said the bill displayed Congress’ bipartisan support for “trust and friendship” towards Taiwan. The opposition party DPP also weighed in, with Chariman Su Tseng-chang calling the U.S. security commitment to Taiwan and U.S. human rights advocacy “indispensable beacons of hope to Taiwan.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 09, 2014

Hagel Spars With Chinese Over Islands and Security. “The United States and China clashed over Japan on Tuesday as the Chinese defense minister asserted that Beijing had “indisputable sovereignty” over a group of islands in the East China Sea and that his country’s military stood ready to protect its interests in territorial disputes. The minister, Gen. Chang Wanquan, said that China would not be first to launch an attack over the territorial dispute. But he accused Japan of “confusing the right with the wrong” in its assertion of control over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are known as the Senkaku in Japan and as the Diaoyu in China. “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands,” General Chang said. He added that on the issue of what he called “territorial sovereignty,” China would “make no compromise, no concession, no treaty.” He continued, “The Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.” General Chang made his comments at a news conference with the United States defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after a morning of meetings at the Ministry of National Defense. It is Mr. Hagel’s first trip to China as defense secretary. While both men sought to present their meetings as constructive, they espoused divergent views on a number of issues, particularly the territorial dispute in the East China Sea, and a similar dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. At one point, Mr. Hagel appeared impatient, wagging his finger. “The Philippines and Japan are longtime allies of the United States,” he said. “We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those countries,” he continued, adding that the United States was “fully committed to those treaty obligations.” Mr. Hagel accused China of adding to tensions in the region by declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea with “no collaboration, no consultation.” Such moves, he warned, could “eventually get to dangerous conflict.”

 China Angered By Latest U.S. Arms Sale Plan for Taiwan. “China's defense ministry expressed anger on Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to authorize the sale to Taiwan of four second-hand U.S. warships, saying the United States had ignored Chinese protests. China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the communists in 1949. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. The U.S. legislation also reaffirmed the Taiwan Relations Act, which obligates the United States to come to Taiwan's aid in the event of an attack, and was enacted in 1979 when Washington severed formal ties with the island in favor of recognizing the People's Republic of China in Beijing. China's defense ministry said it was resolutely opposed to all arms sales to Taiwan, saying it was an interference in China's internal affairs. "The U.S. side ignored China's strong opposition, and insisted on passing the bill pushing weapons sales to Taiwan," the ministry said in a statement on its website. "This act is highly damaging, and doubtless will seriously interfere in and damage the development of Sino-U.S. military ties and the peaceful development of cross-strait relations." The Taiwan issue concerns China's territorial integrity and core interests, the ministry added. "China demands that the U.S. side fully recognize the high sensitivity and serious harm of this bill, earnestly respect China's core interests and important concerns ... and stop selling weapons to Taiwan."

 Mr. Rao Threatens Hong Kong. “Since its handover from Britain in 1997, Chinese officials have argued that Hong Kong should remain a commercial city and not become politicized. But by refusing to honor promises to allow democratization, they have radicalized the population. Confronted with rising local anger and the prospect of protests this summer, Beijing is now resorting to veiled threats. Rao Geping, a law professor at Peking University and government adviser on Hong Kong's Basic Law, suggested in a recent interview that if the territory further delayed passing an antisubversion law, the central government could pass one for it, or force local courts to start enforcing the state security laws found on the mainland. In other words, opposition figures such as Martin Lee, labeled a "traitor" by the mainland media, should toe the line or they might find themselves in a Qinghai prison camp. While this threat didn't come from a top official's mouth, Mr. Rao is known to represent China's views on Hong Kong legal matters. Last month he stated that after 2017 the role of nominating candidates for chief executive could not be left to the public. The local government's No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, described Mr. Rao's judgment as "definitive."

 Why Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement Will Fail. “The ongoing protests in Taiwan against a trade pact with China seem to demonstrate clearly that China’s economic engagement policy toward Taiwan has serious limits, thus marking a turning point in cross-strait relations and taking peaceful unification off the list of options. Such views are flawed. On the contrary, this movement might actually facilitate the unification process. Why? Let’s first look at the central goals of the Sunflower Movement. This movement has three main goals (possibly not shared by all members and at all times): 1) eliminate the “black box” decision-making process by the Ma administration; 2) reject the service trade pact with mainland China; and 3) fight back against the capitalist system controlled by big tycoons in Taiwan. There are good reasons to believe that the movement will not achieve any of these three goals. To be sure, this Sunflower Movement is successful in that it has generated strong support to review Taiwan’s democratic system and raised serious issues about the true relationship between mainland China and Taiwan. Beyond these minor successes, the movement is a failure. First, the anti-black box movement will not succeed. Research has found that even in the U.S., an advanced democracy, policy changes are usually a result of insiders’ actions rather than public pressure. In the case of Taiwan, both the KMT and the DPP prefer to cut deals behind the doors in the Legislative Yuan led by Mr. Wang Jin-pyng, i.e., the infamous “consultation among parties system (朝野协商制度).” Does the Sunflower Movement have the will and capacity to overthrow such institutions that are deeply rooted in Taiwan’s political culture? Mission impossible. Unless somehow the Sunflower Movement can turn into an independent political force in the future, there is little hope that the black box culture will disappear from Taiwan’s politics.”

 China Not Full of Raging Nationalists. “Are China’s leaders really being pushed around by a nationalistic, rowdy public? On March 25 at the Jamestown Foundation’s annual conference on Chinese defense and security issues, Australian analyst Andrew Chubb made a provocative presentation that challenged the official narrative that they are. Chubb presented survey results from five Chinese cities on how ordinary citizens view the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. Startlingly, in an era of social media and mobile Internet access, most people still get their news from CCTV—not the fiery commercial news outlets—and agree in principle that the government should seek compromise over China’s maritime territorial disputes.Chubb, a PhD student at the University of Western Australia, has been analyzing Chinese propaganda and the influence of popular opinion on China’s foreign policy on the blog South Sea Conversations. He has been a frequent challenger of the conventional wisdom on variety of topics, such as the role of PLA commentators and propagandists, with sound data-driven analysis of Chinese sources. Commensurate with his previous work, Chubb’s presentation at the Jamestown Foundation offered the same high quality of analysis based on recent survey research involving roughly 1500 respondents in five cities—Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai—in March 2013.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 08, 2014

Can China Rise Peacefully? “With the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, the United States emerged as the most powerful state on the planet. Many commentators said we are living in a unipolar world for the first time in history, which is another way of saying America is the only great power in the international system. If that statement is true, it makes little sense to talk about great-power politics, since there is just one great power. But even if one believes, as I do, that China and Russia are great powers, they are still far weaker than the United States and in no position to challenge it in any meaningful way. Therefore, interactions among the great powers are not going to be nearly as prominent a feature of international politics as they were before 1989, when there were always two or more formidable great powers competing with each other. To highlight this point, contrast the post–Cold War world with the first ninety years of the twentieth century, when the United States was deeply committed to containing potential peer competitors such as Wilhelmine Germany, imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. During that period, the United States fought two world wars and engaged with the Soviet Union in an intense security competition that spanned the globe. After 1989, however, American policymakers hardly had to worry about fighting against rival great powers, and thus the United States was free to wage wars against minor powers without having to worry much about the actions of the other great powers. Indeed, it has fought six wars since the Cold War ended: Iraq (1991), Bosnia (1995), Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001–present), Iraq again (2003–11), and Libya (2011). It has also been consumed with fighting terrorists across the globe since September 11, 2001. Not surprisingly, there has been little interest in great-power politics since the Soviet threat withered away. The rise of China appears to be changing this situation, however, because this development has the potential to fundamentally alter the architecture of the international system. If the Chinese economy continues growing at a brisk clip in the next few decades, the United States will once again face a potential peer competitor, and great-power politics will return in full force. It is still an open question as to whether China’s economy will continue its spectacular rise or even continue growing at a more modest, but still impressive, rate. There are intelligent arguments on both sides of this debate, and it is hard to know who is right.”

 China Attempts Military Transparency…And Fails. “If the PLA is serious about transparency, it will have to do more than allow Chuck Hagel to tour its symbolic aircraft carrier. At first I thought it was an April Fool’s joke–then I realized the date. Then I realized there was no reason to even get excited in the first place. The reason for my initial excitement: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. While certainly a milestone in allowing access to one of Beijing’s most prized naval acquisitions in recent times, it actually shows how far China needs to go when it comes to being more transparent in all aspects of its military (this includes its budget, procurement, strategic doctrine etc). First, for the good part of this story. Hagel, according to various reports, was the first foreigner to go aboard the much discussed vessel, and apparently at Washington’s request. While Flashpoints readers know the story of this vessel quite well, the visit adds another interesting historical tidbit to the former Soviet, former Ukrainian vessel. According to the DoD’s website, the tour lasted approximately two hours. It began with a briefing discussing the vessel, its various capabilities and its operating schedule. The briefing was led by the carrier group commander and the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Zhang Zheng. “We didn’t see every space aboard the ship. But, yes, we felt this was an honest, genuine effort to be open about this brand new capability that they’re trying to develop,” noted a U.S. official in a report for Reuters. Besides Secretary Hagel, new U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus was also aboard the pride of China’s growing navy. My question: Why now? One possible explanation: Beijing was returning the sentiment.”

 China Calls on U.S. to Restrain Ally Japan As Tension Simmers. “China called on the United States on Tuesday to restrain ally Japan and chided another U.S. ally, the Philippines, at the end of talks between American and Chinese defense chiefs that showed the strain of regional territorial disputes on Sino-U.S. ties. The forceful comments by Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan came just a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel toured China's sole aircraft carrier, in a rare opening by Beijing to a potent symbol of its military ambitions. Chang and Hagel spoke positively about improving military ties and announced steps to deepen them further. But the effort could do little to mask long-standing tension over of a range of issues, including in cyberspace but focused mainly on the two U.S. allies locked in territorial disputes with China. China claims 90 percent of the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) South China Sea, where the Philippines, along with other countries, stake claims. China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea over uninhabited islets that are administered by Japan. Chang asked the United States to "keep (Japan) within bounds and not to be permissive and supportive", and railed against the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who Hagel met in Tokyo last weekend. "It is Japan who is being provocative against China," Chang told a news conference after talks with Hagel. "If you come to the conclusion that China is going to resort to force against Japan, that is wrong ... we will not take the initiative to stir up troubles." Chang called the Philippines a nation "disguising itself as a victim" and renewed its opposition to Manila's pursuit of international arbitration in its festering territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Hagel, who met the defense minister from the Philippines last week, said he raised U.S. concerns in Beijing over the tension in the South and East China Sea in Beijing.”

 After Japan Visit, Hagel Tries to Improve China Ties. “U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrived in China today, and was granted a rare opportunity to tour China’s lone aircraft carrier. Hagel was reported to be the first foreign defense official to visit the Liaoning, stationed in Qingdao. A senior defense official told Reuters that the U.S. saw the gesture as “an honest, genuine effort to be open about this brand new capability that they’re trying to develop.” The tour of Liaoning was a bright spot of cooperation in what could be a rather rocky visit. Hagel comes to China with a wealth of issues to discuss, many of which see the U.S. and China increasingly entrenched on opposing sides. On the issue most ripe for cooperation, preventing North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, the U.S. and China have a fundamental disagreement on how best to proceed. Beijing is pushing for a return to negotiations, likely under the framework of the Six Party Talks, while the Obama administration has made clear it wants North Korea to take concrete steps to denuclearize before reentering negotiations. On other issues, the U.S. and China have even less in common. The U.S. is keeping a wary eye on China’s actions in the East and South China Sea, where U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines are two of the most vocal parties in maritime disputes with China. From China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last winter to the Philippines’ international arbitration case, the U.S. and China have consistently taken opposing positions on new developments in those disputes. Though both countries profess a desire to maintain stability and maritime security in East and Southeast Asia, it’s clear that (as with North Korea) the two countries have opposing ideas on how to achieve those goals. Still, Hagel traveled to China hoping to make some progress, if not on the issues, then on developing closer military-to-military communications and relations. Department of Defense Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters that Hagel “will emphasize the importance of building trust, increasing openness and transparency and upholding international norms throughout his trip.” Back in August, when China’s Minister of National Defense General Chang Wanquan met with Hagel in Washington, a senior DoD official told reporters that the U.S. “is looking for ways to sustain substantive dialogue on a range of issues between our two militaries where we can expand opportunities for practical cooperation.” Such mil-to-mil relationship building has been a priority for Obama, especially as the U.S. seeks to reduce tensions with China resulting from its rebalance to Asia.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 07, 2014

Inviting an Asian Crimea. “With Russia's seizure of Crimea, you would think the Obama Administration would be keen to deter similar revanchism by other ambitious autocracies. If recent testimony by the State Department's top Asia official is anything to go by, apparently not. Last Thursday Assistant Secretary Danny Russel backed away from the "six assurances" that for decades have been the pillars of U.S. policy toward Taiwan. First conveyed by the Reagan Administration in 1982, the assurances emphasized that Washington would continue selling defensive weapons to Taiwan without prior consultations with Beijing. They also stated that Washington wouldn't revise its position that there is only "one China" and that Beijing and Taipei should eventually settle their differences peacefully. These assurances—along with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and a set of three U.S.-China diplomatic communiqués—have helped Taiwan grow rich and democratic despite being increasingly vulnerable to aggression from a rising China. So it would seem wise for the Administration simply to reaffirm the policy. Yet when asked repeatedly by Senator Marco Rubio whether the Obama Administration is committed to the six assurances, Mr. Russel bobbed and weaved, characterizing them as merely "an important part" and "an element" of U.S. policy. Mr. Rubio asked again: "Why can't the answer be, 'Yes, we remain committed to all six of them.' . . . Why are you unable to say that?"

 U.S. Tries Candor to Assure China on Cyberattacks. “In the months before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s arrival in Beijing on Monday, the Obama administration quietly held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on a subject officials have rarely discussed in public: the Pentagon’s emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States — and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese.  The idea was to allay Chinese concerns about plans to more than triple the number of American cyberwarriors to 6,000 by the end of 2016, a force that will include new teams the Pentagon plans to deploy to each military combatant command around the world. But the hope was to prompt the Chinese to give Washington a similar briefing about the many People’s Liberation Army units that are believed to be behind the escalating attacks on American corporations and government networks. So far, the Chinese have not reciprocated — a point Mr. Hagel plans to make in a speech at the P.L.A.’s National Defense University on Tuesday. The effort, senior Pentagon officials say, is to head off what Mr. Hagel and his advisers fear is the growing possibility of a fast-escalating series of cyberattacks and counterattacks between the United States and China. This is a concern especially at a time of mounting tensions over China’s expanding claims of control over what it argues are exclusive territories in the East and South China Seas, and over a new air defense zone. In interviews, American officials say their latest initiatives were inspired by Cold-War-era exchanges held with the Soviets so that each side understood the “red lines” for employing nuclear weapons against each other.  “Think of this in terms of the Cuban missile crisis,” one senior Pentagon official said. While the United States “suffers attacks every day,” he said, “the last thing we would want to do is misinterpret an attack and escalate to a real conflict.” Mr. Hagel’s concern is spurred by the fact that in the year since President Obama explicitly brought up the barrage of Chinese-origin attacks on the United States with his newly installed counterpart, President Xi Jinping, the pace of those attacks has increased. Most continue to be aimed at stealing technology and other intellectual property from Silicon Valley, military contractors and energy firms. Many are believed to be linked to cyberwarfare units of the People’s Liberation Army acting on behalf of state-owned, or state-affiliated, Chinese companies.”

 The Cold War Rages in Hong Kong as Democracy Advocates Ask for U.S. Support. “In the global war of ideology that President Obama says is not happening, Hong Kong is on the front lines. Democracy in Hong Kong is increasingly squeezed by the autocrats of Beijing. It is a fight of ideas and power, but also of flesh and blood: Just ask truth-telling newspaper editor Kevin Lau Chun-to, who was savagely assaulted and nearly killed in February in what he believes was an attack on his journalism. Two of the most stalwart fighters on the side of democracy were in Washington last week, hoping for moral support. They made for an odd couple, though each has spent more than 40 years in the struggle: one is a consummate insider and the other has always battled from the outside.  The latter, lawyer Martin Lee, fought the British for more autonomy when they ruled Hong Kong. Since the British left in 1997, he has pressed Beijing to keep its word to allow Hong Kong to preserve its separate system of governance within China — the formula known as “one country, two systems.” Anson Chan, by contrast, rose through the prestigious Hong Kong civil service to the top appointed position of chief secretary, resigning in 2001 when she felt the chief executive was allowing Beijing to chip away at Hong Kong’s core values: rule of law, a level playing field and freedom of press, speech and association. Since then, she said, democracy’s hold has grown more precarious — “I’m quite frankly surprised at the rate of deterioration,” she said during a visit to The Post — and she is hoping the United States will speak out. Will it? Obama recently told an audience in Brussels that, though the future belongs to those who support freedom and democracy, “those rules are not self-executing” and “the contest of ideas continues for your generation.” Yet he also insisted that there is no new Cold War. “After all,” he said, “unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology.”

 Russia and Vietnam Team Up to Balance China. “Justified emphasis on the current Ukraine crisis should not lead us to make the mistake of overlooking Russia’s policies in East Asia. Normally Russia’s policies in Southeast Asia do not get much attention. But they reveal important motifs and themes in Russia’s overall foreign policy and its response to China’s rising power and to trends in Asian security. Examination of those policies reveals much about Russian policy in Asia and in general. In particular they demonstrate Moscow’s quest for total independence and tactical flexibility as well as its habitual reliance on energy and arms sales in strife-torn areas as the instruments by which it seeks to gain leverage on regional security agendas. Moreover, they also demonstrate that like other powers, Russia is pursuing what may be called a hedging strategy against China in Asia. On the one hand it supports China against the US and on the other works to constrain Chinese power in Asia. Southeast Asia’s importance to Russia has steadily risen due to Russia’s own pivot to Asia. As part of that pivot, Moscow recently proclaimed its intention to pursue negotiations for naval bases in the Seychelles and Singapore. This is on top of Russia’s previously overt efforts to attain basing at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Not surprisingly, these moves will not be welcome in China and they may be seen as representing (along with Moscow’s parallel rapprochement with Japan) Russia’s response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent invitation to join China “in guaranteeing security and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region.” In other words, even as Russo-Chinese cooperation against US power, interests and values continues on global issues and in areas of unimportance to China like Syria, Russia strives for geopolitical independence in Asia. Were Moscow to accept Xi’s offer, it would be admitting that it has become China’s “junior brother” in Asia; a role that Russia bridles at accepting.”

 U.S. Defense Chief, In First, Visits China’s Aircraft Carrier. “U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China's sole aircraft carrier on Monday in an unprecedented opening by normally secretive Beijing to a potent symbol of its military buildup. A U.S. official said the visit to the carrier the Liaoning, at a port in the northern city of Qingdao, lasted about two hours. No other details were immediately available. The official believed Hagel was the first official visitor from outside China to be allowed on board the Liaoning, although that could not be immediately confirmed. China's Defence Ministry confirmed the visit would happen but did not provide details. Chinese security experts said Beijing could be trying to quell U.S. criticism that it was not transparent about its military modernization. Hagel's carrier visit, at the start of his three-day trip to China, was quietly approved by Beijing at Washington's request, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The 60,000-tonne Liaoning, a Soviet-era vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-fitted in a Chinese shipyard, is seen as a symbol of China's growing naval power and ambition for greater global influence. The carrier has yet to become fully operational, however, and military experts say it could be decades before China catches up to the far superior and larger U.S. carriers - if ever. Hagel arrived in Qingdao after a trip to Japan. Reporters travelling with Hagel did not accompany him on the vessel, in what is a rare visit to a sensitive Chinese military site.”

 Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg. “If you pay attention, Chinese foreign policy rarely surprises. Of course there is the odd moment when Beijing catches the world unaware: for example, its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in late 2013. Generally speaking, however, the Chinese telegraph their long-term strategic intentions through their smaller tactical maneuvers. It is just that the rest of the world sometimes misses the signals or doesn’t know what to do with the information. Such is the case with China’s emerging play in the Arctic. Over the past several years, China has begun to stake out its claim to the Arctic. No part of China actually touches the Arctic, but as a recent International Institute for Strategic Studies commentary points out, Chinese scholars routinely describe their country as a “near-Arctic” state, and Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo has argued that the “Arctic belongs to all the people around the world, as no nation has sovereignty over it… China must play an indispensable role in Arctic exploration as we have one-fifth of the world’s population.” This is a signal of Chinese intent. There are a number of reasons for China’s interest in the region, but four stand out in particular. First, of course, the region is rich in resources: oil and gas, fish, and minerals among them. According to one estimate, the region holds one-third of the world’s natural gas reserves, and resource-hungry China has recognized the region’s potential. China is in talks with Denmark to take stakes in a copper mine in Greenland; China National Offshore Oil Corporation has partnered with Iceland’s Eykon Energy for oil exploration; and China’s Sichuan Xinye Mining Investment Company will be working with London Mining to exploit the country’s iron ore reserves. Uranium and rare earths are additional potential targets for Chinese investment; Greenland has enormous reserves of both, including the capacity to meet 25 percent of world demand for rare earths. China is also interested in the Arctic for trade reasons. As the climate changes and the Arctic ice melts, three new trade routes may open up that will dramatically reduce cargo transport time and help avoid the security challenges of traditional routes such as the Strait of Malacca. Already, Denmark and China are discussing cooperation to explore these new routes.”

 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.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | April 04, 2014

U.S. to Skip China Fleet Review After Japan Shunned. “The United States is scrapping plans for a Navy ship to join a fleet review in China after key ally, Japan, was not invited, U.S. officials said on Thursday, in a move that came just ahead of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's trip to Japan and China. The United States had been invited to participate in the fleet review - essentially a parade of ships - as part of activities linked to the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, which is being held this month in Qingdao, an eastern port city. The United States will still participate in the naval symposium and will observe the review, one official said. "We're not going to put a ship in the actual parade. We'll observe the parade," the U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding the decision was taken last week and came after a request by ally Japan. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a news conference on Friday that Japan would take part in the regularly held naval symposium but confirmed that it had not been invited to the fleet review. "Japan is responding calmly but it is unfortunate that China took such approach," he said. The U.S. decision was another sign of troubled Sino-Japanese ties, chilled by a territorial dispute over a group of East China Sea islets. It also shows the tricky balancing act facing Hagel over the next week as he moves to reassure Tokyo of Washington's commitment to its security while seeking better ties with Beijing. Hagel leaves on Friday on a trip to Japan, China and Mongolia.”

 Drive A Wedge Between Russia and China. “There’s no question that Russia’s annexation of the Crimea is a blatant violation of international law. However, talk of a new Cold War and of “containing” Russia take our eyes off of more pressing threats and potential opportunities, namely cutting a deal with Iran and driving a wedge between a (potentially) revisionist Kremlin and a rising China. The Obama White House should do three things. In the short-term, reach a settlement that Finlandizes Ukraine. Next, reassure NATO allies in Eastern Europe that Russia will be kept out of their backyards. Finally, reengage the Kremlin in order to prevent it from getting closer to Beijing. Obama got it right when he said that Putin’s behavior is driven by weakness. Russia is in a state of relative economic, military and demographic decline, having squandered the nearly decade-long oil boom to reposition itself on the international stage. The best and brightest that aren’t Kremlin insiders already voted with their feet and moved to the West—and show little interest in returning home. In prospect theory-speak, states that are in the domain of losses tend to be more risk acceptant, and, therefore more aggressive, than rising powers that have time on their side.”

 South Korea, China Condemn Japan Over Textbooks in Latest Fight. “South Korea and China on Friday condemned new Japanese textbooks that say that islands at the centre of separate territorial disputes belong to Japan, the latest in a series of disputes between Tokyo and neighbors Seoul and Beijing. The elementary school textbooks describe islands called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese as Japan's "sovereign territory" and say South Korean occupation is unlawful. The books also say China's claims to islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyus in China in the East China Sea are unfounded. South Korean First Vice Minister Cho Tae-yong called in Japan's ambassador to Seoul to protest and the ministry warned of worsening ties. "If (Japanese) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who declared just three weeks ago he stands by the 'Kono Statement' now tries to conduct education for elementary school children that distorts and hides its history of colonial invasion, he is not only breaking his own promise but also committing the mistake of isolating its next generation from international society," the ministry said. The statement refers to an apology made by former cabinet secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 which recognized the Japanese government involvement in taking women, mostly Korean, to work in military brothels as sex slaves during the war. Both China and Korea suffered under Japanese rule, with parts of China occupied in the 1930s and Korea colonized from 1910 to 1945. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Japan had to take a "sincere attitude" towards facing up to history.”

 China’s Former Leaders Tell Xi To Halt Anti-Corruption Campaign. “Xi Jinping’s much vaulted anti-graft campaign appears to have hit a major roadblock with China’s two living former presidents reportedly urging Xi to halt it. According to a report in the Financial Times, both President Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao have sent word to Xi in recent weeks telling him to rein in the anti-corruption campaign he has made a cornerstone of his presidency. Citing three sources with familiar with the matter, FT reported that President Jiang recently sent Xi a message warning him that “the footprint of this anti-corruption campaign cannot get too big.” The UK newspaper also cited a Chinese official implementing the anti-graft campaign as saying that former President Hu has expressed a similar sentiment to Xi. The report comes as speculation is intensifying that former domestic security czar Zhou Yongkang will soon be arrested and formally charged with corruption. Throughout much of Xi’s tenure in office, Zhou’s loyalists and family members have been arrested, while Zhou himself is reportedly being held under informal house arrest. According to Reuters, which cited two unnamed Chinese officials: “More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months.” The same report said that the Chinese government has also seized about 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from Zhou’s associates and family members. Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), China’s highest decision-making body, until stepping down at the 18th Party Congress. If formally charged, Zhou would be the highest-ranking official to be formally charged with a crime in the People Republic of China’s (PRC) entire history.”

 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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