China Caucus Blog

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | September 18, 2015

Editor's Note: Congressman Forbes recently led a bipartisan letter to the President on China's behavior in the South China Sea. See here for a copy of the letter.

U.S. commander backs challenging China over disputed islands “The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said ahead of a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Washington that America should challenge China's claim to territory in the South China Sea by patrolling close to artificial islands built by Beijing. Admiral Harry Harris told a Senate hearing on Thursday that China's building of three airfields on the islands and their further militarization was of "great concern militarily" and posed a threat to all countries in the region. Pressed by members the Senate Armed Services Committee on whether U.S. forces should challenge China by sailing within 12 nautical miles of the islands, Harris replied: "I believe that we should exercise - be allowed to exercise, freedom of navigation and flight - maritime and flight - in the South China Sea against those islands that are not islands." Asked if this meant going within 12 miles, he answered, referring to the artificial islands: "Depending on the feature." He added: "Conducting that kind of ... freedom-of-navigation operation is one of the operations we're considering." Committee chairman Senator John McCain criticized the Obama administration for failing to challenge China by sailing within 12 miles of the artificial islands, saying this "dangerous mistake" amounted to de facto recognition of Chinese claims. Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear told the committee that such patrols had not been conducted since 2012, but were among an "array" of future U.S. options.”

China wins the gray zone by default “China is beating the United States in the “gray zone,” where a state attempts to make gains at the expense of a strategic competitor by using tactics that, while aggressive, remain below the level that usually triggers conventional military retaliation. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of US strategy in the 1950s under the Eisenhower administration. Washington attempted to deter the Soviet Union with the doctrine of “massive retaliation,” which served notice that the US might respond disproportionately to an adversary’s conventional military challenge by launching a strategic nuclear attack. The premise was that the threat of all-out war would intimidate the Soviets from starting a fight at a lower rung of the escalation ladder. The obvious problem was credibility. If an adversary did not believe Washington was willing to invite nuclear war over a relatively minor and peripheral conflict, overreliance on massive retaliation had the effect of leaving the US vulnerable to a salami-slicing policy. Thus in 1961 the Kennedy administration shifted to the “flexible response” strategy, which aimed to establish US superiority at multiple levels of potential conflict short of nuclear war. A similar adjustment appears necessary today. The US armed forces are clearly better equipped than any other military for a major war. This capability, however, is largely sidelined as Beijing demonstrates its skill at finding ways of advancing the Chinese strategic agenda – and undercutting US interests – that are well short of crossing red lines. The Chinese, whose civilization produced Sun Zi’s Art of War, are huge fans of the idea that clever strategy can deliver victory over a materially stronger opponent. The South China Sea dispute provides several examples of China’s gray zone prowess. In 2012, the Chinese established a permanent presence on previously unoccupied Scarborough Shoal. This disputed feature is well within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, a US ally. China’s action violated an agreement between Beijing and Manila brokered by Washington. Beijing, however, suffered no consequences beyond diplomatic protests. China has implemented the tactic of ordnance-free naval combat in the South China Sea. This was evident in 2014 when a large flotilla of PRC escort vessels protected a large Chinese oil rig deployed into a disputed area by ramming Vietnamese boats, sinking one and forcing others to retire for repairs. To ward off close maritime surveillance, the Chinese have used cost-exchange ratio as a weapon against the United States. Fishing boats intentionally maneuvering to create the risk of a collision drove off the high-tech but unarmed US surveillance ship Impeccable in 2009. The same Chinese tactic worked in 2013, when an LST played chicken with the US cruiser Cowpens in international waters and forced the US warship to abandon its observation of a Chinese naval exercise involving China’s newly-deployed aircraft carrier. The Chinese ship was probably worth about $200 million, the Cowpens about $1 billion.”

US Hasn’t Challenged Chinese ‘Islands’ Since 2012 “Defense officials acknowledged today that the US has not directly challenged the sovereignty of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea for at least three years. US aircraft have not flown over the artificial islets. Nor have US ships sailed within 12 nautical miles of one since 2012 — when most of the current crop weren’t even built. That seemed to raise the question of whether Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s pledge earlier this month was a hollow one. “The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” even in Chinese-claimed waters, Carter said Sept. 1st. These declarations are particularly pointed, and the discussion relevant, because Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Washington at the end of this month. That 12-mile limit is a big deal, because it’s the extent of the territorial waters the Chinese claim to control around their new constructed “islands.” The US argues an artificial “feature” built over a submerged coral reef grants no legal rights to the surrounding waters or airspace. China actually claims almost the entire South China Sea, based on an infamous “9-dash line” on a World War II-era map, and the US rejects that claim. This morning’s exchange between Sen. John McCain, who has bipartisan support for his view that China must not be allowed to build and operate these structures without being challenged, was dramatic. “We sail and we fly and we operate within that area on a daily basis,” said David Shear, assistant secretary of defense for Asia-Pacific security, including “freedom of navigation” operations to assert our rights to free passage as recently as April. “But you haven’t operated within 12 miles of these reclaimed features, have you?” asked McCain. “We have conducted freedom of navigation operations….” Shear began. “Have you gone within 12 miles of a reclaimed area?” McCain interrupted. “We have not recently gone within 12 miles of a reclaimed area,” Shear acknowledged. So when was the last time? McCain demanded. After some pushing and prodding, Shear said that “I believe the last time we conducted a freedom of navigation operation within 12 nautical miles of one of those feature was 2012.” “2012,” McCain said grimly. “Three years ago.” Under questioning from McCain’s Democratic counterpart, SASC ranking member Jack Reed, Adm. Harris added that “we have not conducted a flyover” over Chinese-reclaimed land masses, either. Even as purely physical structures, the artificial islets are affecting the balance of power. China is building deep-draft harbors suitable for warships and three 10,000-foot runways that can handle any aircraft short of the Space Shuttle, the chief of US Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. If the US refuses to challenge the islets’ legal status by sailing or flying within 12 miles, they effectively become bubbles of Chinese sovereign territory in disputed and strategic waters. “If you respect the 12-mile limit, then that’s de facto sovereignty, agreed to tacitly,” the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, John McCain, argued at today’s hearing.”

AVIC markets upgraded Wing-Loong UAV “Chinese manufacturer AVIC has provided details about its new Wing Loong II unmanned air vehicle, which is larger and can carry more payload than the Wing Loong I. In a flyer distributed at the China Aviation Expo event in Beijing, AVIC illustrations show that Wing Loong II has three hard points under each wing, with each capable of carrying two air-to-surface missiles, for a total of 12. The Wing Loong I, by contrast, has just one hardpoint per wing, with each carrying a single weapon. There are no photos of the new type, however, so its stage of development as unclear. The Wing Loong I appeared at Airshow China in Zhuhai in 2012, and has also been filmed fly and destroying targets with missiles. As with the Wing Loong I, the II’s layout is similar the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. The flyer lists its length at 11m, 2m longer than its predecessor. The Wing Loong II also has a much broader wingspan of 14m, compared with 9m with the Wing Loong I. Maximum takeoff weight is listed at 4,200kg. Endurance is listed at 20h, with a maximum altitude at 9,000m - 50% better than the Wing Loong I. AVIC lists the UAV’s standard payload as an electro-optical sensor/targetting system, synthetic aperture radar, radar warning equipment, and laser-guided missiles and bombs. Optional payloads include systems for electronic reconnaissance, electronic countermeasures, communications relay, photo reconnaissance, and other intelligence collection payloads.”

Chief designer reveals data on China's new Luoyang PL-10 AAM “The Luoyang Electro-Optical Research Institute (LEOC) has largely competed development of its fifth-generation PL-10 short-range air-to-air missile (AAM), according to comments by the missile's designer on a Chinese TV show broadcast in late August. The PL-10 AAM was first seen on Chinese websites in 2013 being carried on a retractable/covered pylon on the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) J-20 fifth-generation fighter. More recently it has been seen on the wingtip pylon of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation J-11 fighter. The TV report featured an interview with the PL-10's chief designer, Liang Xiaogeng. According to Mark Stokes of the Project 2049 research institute, Liang also served as the deputy chief designer of LEOC's PL-9C infrared/helmet-sighted AAM and as chief designer of the PL-12 self-guided medium-range AAM. The report was unusual in that it provided significant historic and performance data about a new weapon before its unveiling at a major arms show or exhibition. For example, the report noted that the PL-10 weighs 89 kg, has a length of 3 m, and a range of 20 km. It has been in development for seven years, a prototype was completed in 2013, and since then has been test-fired 30 times. The report also noted that the PL-10 has "world class" capabilities that include a "multi-element imaging infrared seeker with anti-jamming capabilities" and indicated that it is capable of high off-boresight attacks and has super manoeuvrability. Images from 2013 and more recently confirm that the PL-10 uses thrust vectoring vanes in its motor exhaust. These, plus unique large aft fins with a slight forward sweep, likely confer super manoeuvrability. Like comparable AAMs, the PL-10 probably also uses a new helmet-mounted display (HMD) sighting system.”

Japan ruling party in final push to expand role of military “Japan’s parliament is moving toward final approval of legislation that would loosen post-World War II constraints placed on its military, an issue that has sparked sizeable street protests and raised fundamental questions about whether the nation needs to shift away from its pacifist ways to face growing security challenges. Opposition parties, in a last-ditch show of resistance, were delaying a vote on the bills by introducing a series of no-confidence measures against government ministers and parliamentary leaders on Friday. They were destined to fail, but ate up hours of time to debate and vote on each one. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made expanding what the military can do one of his legislative priorities in the face of North Korean missile tests, Chinese challenges to Japanese sovereignty over remote islands, and Middle East terrorism. One major goal of the legislation is to allow the military to work more closely with its most important ally, the United States. The public, while recognizing the threats, remains uncomfortable at best with the changes. Those opposed outnumber supporters by a wide margin in media polls, and rallies against the bills and Abe himself have swelled into the tens of thousands in recent months, unusually large for Japan. Japan’s post-World War II pacifist constitution restricts the military to defending itself and the country. It’s officially called the Self-Defense Forces, or SDF. The change that has gotten the most attention allows the military to defend allies under a concept known as collective self-defense, which previous governments have considered unconstitutional. For example, Japan would be able to intercept a missile flying over Japan and headed for U.S. territory. Currently it can shoot down a missile only when fired at Japan. Or, if an American warship came under attack, Japanese forces could come to its defense. Farther afield, Japan would be able to carry out minesweeping in Mideast waters.”

Obama Blocks Navy from Sailing Near Disputed Chinese islands “The Obama administration has restricted the U.S. Pacific Command from sending ships and aircraft within 12 miles of disputed Chinese-built islands in the South China Sea, bolstering Beijing’s illegal claims over the vital seaway, Pentagon leaders revealed to Congress on Thursday. “The administration has continued to restrict our Navy ships from operating within 12 nautical miles of China’s reclaimed islands,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said in opening remarks criticizing the failure to guarantee safe passage for international commercial ships in Asia. “This is a dangerous mistake that grants de facto recognition of China’s man-made sovereignty claims,” he said. The South China Sea is a strategic waterway used to transport $5 trillion annually in goods, including $1.2 trillion in trade to the United States. David Shear, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific affairs, sought to play down the restrictions on Navy ship transits close to the islands. According to Shear, a regional freedom of navigation exercise took place in April and the tactic is “one tool in a larger tool box … and we’re in the process of putting together that tool box.” Shear acknowledged that “we have not recently gone within 12 miles of a reclaimed area,” noting the last time a Navy ship sailed that close to a Chinese-built island was 2012. The disclosure undermines statements made Wednesday by Defense Secretary Ash Carter who said the United States would not be coerced by China into not operating ships or aircraft in Asia. Carter said the United States “will continue to protect freedom of navigation and overflight.””

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 | September 17, 2015

Carter Calls For ‘Immediate & Complete Halt’ To South China Sea Island Building “Just as the White House confirmed Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit at the end of this month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter issued a clear call for “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants” in the South China Sea. China, of course, has done the vast majority of the island-building. “We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features. We all know there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes. Right now, at this critical juncture, is the time for renewed diplomacy, focused on a finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and the interests of all,” Carter told a standing room only audience at the Air Force Association’s annual conference. We hear that these territorial disputes — and the related issue of US rights to travel wherever and whenever it wishes in international waters and airspace — will be high on the agenda during Obama’s discussions with the Chinese president. Also, there are conflicting reports about whether the US tacitly observes a 12 nautical mile limit around the islands, which would seem to raise questions about the vigor with which the US rejects the Chinese claims. One well informed source says US forces are operating under orders to grant the 12-mile limit. But a second source adamantly denies this. “After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit,” Carter said. In a clear signal to American allies who have worried that the United States is not sending clear unmistakable messages to Xi and his increasingly assertive country, Carter said that, “China is out of step with both the international rules and norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus that favors diplomacy and opposes coercion, including bilateral and multi-lateral exercises, joint operations, and the new US Maritime Security Initiative.” Carter grouped Russia and China together as countries “pursuing military modernization programs to close the technology gap with the United States. They’re developing platforms designed to thwart our traditional advantages of power projection and freedom of movement.” My colleague Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg, acknowledged as the Budget King by most defense reporters, broke the news yesterday that the Pentagon is reshaping its 2017 budget to meet the threats from Russia in particular.”

China's island airstrips to heighten South China Sea underwater rivalry “China's apparent construction of a third airstrip on its man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea could fill a gap in Beijing's anti-submarine defenses, complicating operations for the U.S. Navy and its allies, Chinese and Western experts said. While most attention has been on the power projection China would get from its new islands in the Spratly archipelago, China could also use them to hunt rival submarines in and beyond the strategic waterway, they said. Possessing three airstrips more than 1,400 km (870 miles) from the Chinese mainland would enable Beijing to extend the reach of Y-9 surveillance planes and Ka-28 helicopters that are being re-equipped to track submarines, the experts added. A Pentagon report in May noted China lacked a robust anti-submarine warfare capability off its coastline and in deep water. Strengthened anti-submarine capabilities could also help China protect the movements of its Jin-class submarines, capable of carrying nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and which are at the core of China's nuclear deterrence strategy, said Zhang Baohui, a mainland security specialist at Hong Kong's Lingnan University. "That would provide greater security for China's nuclear submarines to survive ... and if necessary to execute their orders in wartime," Zhang told Reuters. "They would be safer than in open oceans where China cannot provide adequate support." The artificial islands, built on seven reefs over the last two years, will be high on the agenda when Chinese President Xi Jinping has talks with President Barack Obama in Washington next week. Washington has criticized the reclamation and construction. China, increasingly confident about its military firepower, has repeatedly stressed it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the entire Spratlys, saying the islands would be used for civilian and undefined military purposes. Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday said "necessary" construction work would improve conditions on the islands.”

Obama Hints at Sanctions Against China Over Cyberattacks “President Obama warned on Wednesday that his administration was ready to take action against China over online attacks carried out by Beijing or its proxies, publicly raising the specter of sanctions a week before President Xi Jinping arrives in the United States for a state visit. “We are preparing a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on the bilateral relationship if not resolved,” Mr. Obama said in a question-and-answer session with business leaders on economic issues. “We are prepared to take some countervailing actions in order to get their attention.” “My hope,” Mr. Obama added, “is that it gets resolved short of that.” The remarks seemed calibrated to pressure Mr. Xi to agree to address online security concerns, which Mr. Obama said would “probably be one of the biggest topics” of the talks next week. President Obama speaking to troops at Fort Meade, Md., home of the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command.News Analysis: Cyberthreat Posed by China and Iran Confounds White HouseSEPT. 15, 201 They also seemed to suggest that while sanctions are unlikely to be imposed on China before the summit meeting, it is increasingly likely that some penalties will be imposed afterward. The public threat of sanctions represented an intensifying of what has until now been a quiet, although increasingly intense, effort to warn the Chinese that the administration will not tolerate recent breaches and thefts of intellectual property, including one at the Office of Personnel Management. That breach, revealed this year, compromised tens of millions of security files of federal employees. Mr. Obama has faced a difficult problem in deciding whether and when to apply sanctions. Some administration officials are concerned about poisoning the atmosphere for Mr. Xi’s visit and some believe that the threat of such penalties could help extract concessions. “They’ve just run out of time to deal with sanctions before this top-level meeting,” said Patrick M. Cronin, the director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “The administration is, on the one hand, looking for as much cooperation as they can get from Xi Jinping and China’s leadership and, at the same time, saying: ‘Here is the stick of sanctions. We’re not going to use it right now; we’re going to wait to see what you say at the summit about good-faith progress on cyber rules of the road, but if we’re not satisfied, sanctions will follow,’ ” Mr. Cronin said. The breaches were a source of friction last month when Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, traveled to Beijing to meet with top Chinese officials. And the White House said on Saturday that Meng Jianzhu, a Communist Party envoy, spent much of last week in Washington meeting with American security and intelligence officials on online security issues, including a session with Ms. Rice that involved a “frank and open exchange.”

Carter: Russia, China Closing Tech Gap “Russia and China continue to close the military technology gap with the United States, Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned Wednesday. While the US remains ahead, that lead is imperiled by slow innovation and a lack of consistent budgets, Carter said in a speech at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside of Washington. “Our technology remains the best," Carter said. "At the same time, we can’t ignore the overall trend: High-end military technologies long possessed by only the most advanced foes are finding their way into the hands of both non-state actors and previously much less-capable militaries.” “It’s evident that nations like Russia and China have been pursuing military modernization programs to close the technology gap with the United States,” he continued. “They’re developing platforms designed to thwart our traditional advantages of power projection and freedom of movement. They’re developing and fielding new and advanced aircraft and ballistic, cruise, anti-ship and anti-air missiles that are longer-range and more accurate.” Carter’s comments reflect concerns the secretary has raised since coming to office at the start of the year. But they take on a new dimension given events in the last week, as Russia appears to be moving military forces into Syria to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.”

For China's Xi Jinping, strong trade ties ensure a warm welcome in Seattle “When President Xi Jinping arrives in the Emerald City on Tuesday to mingle with aerospace and tech titans, he will complicate matters for the Obama administration, which has been weighing sanctions against China for various cybercrimes. But don't expect to hear much about the Asian powerhouse's misdeeds during Xi's three-day visit to the Puget Sound region. China and Washington state have a 35-year economic and cultural relationship, and the welcome here is expected to be warmer than in Xi's other U.S. destinations. Washington exports more to China than the other 49 states; in 2014 trade between the two exceeded $29 billion. Former Gov. Gary Locke, who co-chaired the welcome committee for Xi, estimates that exports to China in 2014 supported "close to 90,000 jobs in our state." The outlines of Xi's itinerary, announced by current Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday, include a visit to Microsoft's main campus and Boeing's Everett, Wash., factory. Xi will deliver the only policy speech of his U.S. trip at a Seattle banquet — all before heading east to meet with Obama and visit the United Nations. "In my view, the best thing President Xi can do when he visits here is address uncertainty," said John Frisbie, head of the U.S.-China Business Council. That uncertainty includes the Chinese government's response to the country's economic slowdown and "uncertainty on strategic issues, too, including cybersecurity." Xi will be the fourth consecutive Chinese leader to visit Seattle, a record that elected officials here boast about. He also will be the fourth to call on Boeing, underscoring a relationship that began when then-President Nixon arrived in Beijing in 1972 on Air Force One, a Boeing 707. China is the aerospace giant's largest international market, the company said, and so far in 2015, Chinese customers have taken delivery of a quarter of Boeing's commercial airline production.”

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 | September 16, 2015

Editor’s Note: Congressional staff may be interested in the Congressional Research Service's briefing on Xi Jinping's upcoming visit. Please see more details here.

Cyberthreat Posed by China and Iran Confounds White House “A question from a member of the Pentagon’s new cyberwarfare unit the other day prompted President Obama to voice his frustration about America’s seeming inability to deter a growing wave of computer attacks, and to vow to confront the increasingly aggressive adversaries who are perpetrating them. “Offense is moving a lot faster than defense,” Mr. Obama told troops on Friday at Fort Meade, Md., home of the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command. “The Russians are good. The Chinese are good. The Iranians are good.” The problem, he said, was that despite improvements in tracking down the sources of attacks, “we can’t necessarily trace it directly to that state,” making it hard to strike back. While young people at other summer camps were enjoying weeks of swimming, crafts and more, the participants at this N.S.A.-sponsored camp in Arlington, Va., were learning tools and rules for cybersecurity.N.S.A. Summer Camp: More Hacking Than HikingJULY 17, 2015 Then he issued a warning: “There comes a point at which we consider this a core national security threat.” If China and other nations cannot figure out the boundaries of what is acceptable, “we can choose to make this an area of competition, which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to.” If Mr. Obama sounded uncharacteristically combative on the topic, it is because finding a way to deter computer attacks is one of the most urgent and confounding problems he faces in his last 16 months in office. The problem is all the more pressing because it is where the high-tension diplomacy surrounding the state visit of President Xi Jinping of China next week merges with the challenge of containing Iran in the aftermath of the recently completed nuclear agreement with Tehran. Mustering the leverage to deter attacks is exactly what Mr. Obama is struggling to accomplish in the days leading up to Mr. Xi’s visit. For six weeks, American officials have warned that they are preparing sanctions against Chinese hackers, telling Chinese officials in private meetings that the combination of intellectual property theft and espionage on an unprecedented scale — the theft of the 22 million security dossiers from the Office of Personnel Management, for example — cannot go unanswered. But an argument has broken out within the administration over whether to invoke those sanctions now and risk a blowup with Beijing before Mr. Xi’s arrival, or use the threat of them to try to extract something from the Chinese. The White House revealed late Saturday that a high-level Communist Party envoy sent by Mr. Xi, Meng Jianzhu, spent four days in Washington last week meeting with intelligence and law enforcement officials in an effort to create some “rules of the road” for Internet actions between the United States and China before they derail an already fraught relationship.Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, described the talks with the Chinese as “pretty blunt,” and one of the officials who met with Mr. Meng, China’s domestic security chief, was less diplomatic, calling the talks “pretty ugly.” The day Mr. Meng returned home, China’s official state news media quoted him as saying that the Chinese government would crack down on criminal hackers, though the statement was vague about what would happen to those acting on behalf of the Chinese government. In classified sessions, American intelligence agencies have told members of Congress that while computer attacks on the United States emanating from Iran decreased during the negotiations over the nuclear accord, they believe that an Iran stymied in developing a nuclear ability over the next 10 to 15 years is likely to pour more resources into cyberweapons. Such weapons have already been used against the Navy, American banks, a Las Vegas casino and Saudi Arabia’s largest oil producer, without setting off significant retaliation.”

Japan to Give Vietnam Boats, Equipment Amid China's Buildup “Japan will extend 100 billion yen ($832 million) in infrastructure aid to Vietnam and provide patrol boats as the two countries vow to expand ties amid growing concern over China’s muscle-flexing in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Japan will supply Vietnam’s coast guard with 200 million yen ($1.7 million) worth of used ships and equipment, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after meeting with Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in Tokyo on Tuesday. Japan’s aid to Vietnam and commitments from both countries to increase security and defense cooperation signal a new alignment of interests among Asian nations that increasingly view China as an economic and military threat. Closer relations between Vietnam and Japan, a close U.S. ally, will be viewed suspiciously by Beijing. “Japan wants to give the Southeast Asian states resources so they are not totally victimized by China,” Zachary Abuza, principal of Southeast Asia Analytics, said by phone from Boston. “Chinese assertions of sovereignty in the South China Sea scare Japan more than any other country. Almost all of its energy comes through there.” Competing territorial claims between Vietnam and China in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes have strained relations between the two countries. China placed an oil rig in waters near the contested Paracel Islands last year, triggering clashes between Vietnamese and Chinese boats and anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam. Tensions have also risen over China’s reclamation of reefs in the South China Sea, even as its Communist neighbor remains by far Vietnam’s largest trading partner.”

China needs third runway in Spratly Islands to break US grip in South China Sea if tensions escalate, experts say “Beijing needs to build a third airstrip in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands to meet its long-term strategic goal of being a true blue-water navy, Chinese military experts say. Their remarks came after the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in the United States said satellite imagery taken on September 8 showed China appeared to be carrying out preparatory work for a third runway, this time on Mischief Reef. Mischief Reef is one of seven artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago. Greg Poling, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said the latest images showed a retaining wall around an area 3,000 metres long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs in the Spratlys - at Fiery Cross and Subi. A retired Chinese naval official who requested anonymity said the airstrips would help the navy to break the stronghold the US military maintained in the South China Sea, with help from regional allies like the Philippines and Australia. "If the PLA wants to achieve its naval supremacy over the South China Sea [in case there is a war], it's a must for the navy to get air control over the Spratly Islands, which is the sole gateway for the Chinese navy to enter the Western Pacific," the retired naval officer said. On June 28, satellite imagery showed China had almost completed construction of a 3km airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef, which China calls Yongshu. The retired Chinese naval official said airstrips would provide comprehensive support for the navy's complex in Sanya on Hainan. Security experts say 3km airstrips are long enough to accommodate both military and civilian aircraft, giving Beijing greater reach into the heart of maritime Southeast Asia, where it has competing claims with several countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.”

Friends Don’t Let Friends… “Recent leaks reporting that the United States might sanction China reflects growing – but not universal - agreement in Washington that the United States needs to respond forcefully to rampant Chinese cyber espionage and that the authorities established by April’s Executive Order on cyber sanctions are the best option. There are several reasons for this. First, nothing has worked when it comes to economic espionage. According to data collected by the FBI and NSA, China is responsible for more economic espionage directed at U.S. companies than any other country – perhaps more than all other countries combined. This has been true for years. The amount of economic espionage is troubling, but even more troubling is China’s decision to ignore hints, suggestions and direct requests from the United States. This indicates a certain disrespect and is a disturbing indicator for the bilateral relationship. Cyber espionage has been raised at senior levels repeatedly since 2009. President Obama made it agenda item number one at the Sunnylands Summit. The Chinese ignored all this. The only U.S. action that got their attention was the indictment of five PLA officers in 2014. Some Americans greeted the indictments with misgiving (and other with confusion), but the indictments remain the most effective public action the United States has taken to date. The chief criticism of the indictments is that the United States has been slow to follow up. If any sanctions are a “one-off,” not followed with concrete proposals for reducing tensions, we will not gain much at all. Sanctions can be a tool to restore leverage in discussing an intractable problem where the other side seems to have all the cards. Three concepts explain why sanctions would be useful: costs, deterrence and incentives. The goal is not to punish China or to name and shame (an amateurish concept), but to change China’s analysis of the costs of ignoring the United States. So far, cyber espionage has been costless for China. Sanctions that hit Chinese actors who benefit from cyber espionage in the bank account will create a cost for cyber espionage. The Chinese believe the United States will not penalize them. A close watcher of China’s military says that the PLA’s assessment of U.S. cyber policy is "amazing capabilities, no will." This idea, not unique to China, explains why cyber deterrence hasn’t worked. Our primary opponents do not believe we will do anything in response to their actions in cyberspace. The last year saw North Korea, Iran, and China use cyber attacks for coercive effect against American companies. These actions went well beyond espionage. The Presidential statements and Executive Order on sanctions announced after Sony are intended to make clear to other nations that these actions unacceptably crossed a threshold and the U.S. will respond. Credible threats, including sanctions, strengthen deterrence.”

North Korea Says It Has Restarted Its Main Nuclear-Bomb Plant “North Korea said it restarted its main plant for producing nuclear bombs, backing experts’ assessments that satellite imagery shows the facility to have been at least partly active for about two years. Tuesday’s report from North Korea’s state media adds to concerns that the isolated nation is pressing ahead in sharpening its nuclear threat. A day earlier, Pyongyang indicated it may soon launch a long-range rocket. The U.S. and other countries view such launches as tests of missile technology that could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear bomb as far as the continental U.S. Any new rocket launch would also likely undermine a recent warming of ties with South Korea. The two Koreas agreed in August to hold a reunion of families separated by their shared border in October. A spokesman for South Korea’s foreign ministry said Seoul would consult with the United Nations Security Council on a response to a launch if one takes place. Under dictator Kim Jong Un, North Korea has rejected all approaches from Washington and Seoul to discuss its atomic-weapons program and instead pursued a policy of developing its “treasured sword” of a nuclear threat. Its leaders say it needs nuclear weapons to prevent an invasion by the U.S. and South Korea. “We continue to call on North Korea to refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions, and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a regular press briefing 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 | September 15, 2015

Defiant Chinese Admiral’s Message: South China Sea ‘Belongs to China’ “In a rare appearance together, American and Chinese admirals sat alongside one another to present their views on maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region. The audience came to hear about one thing, the South China Sea, and China’s commander was clear: “It belongs to China.” There was political theater and a few one-liners, as the panel remained cordial and the admirals were all smiles during handshakes before and after. But the tension was real and the messages direct. “The South China Sea, as the name indicated, is a sea area. It belongs to China,” said Vice Adm. Yuan Yubai, who commands the North Sea Fleet for the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Yubai said China is working with the U.S. military on a code of conduct for aircraft encounters, which he hoped would help avoid conflict among the five nations with claims in the South China Sea. “I believe after this code of conduct is successfully passed, all the neighboring countries around this area will have good communication with each other whenever such unexpected encounters occur,” Yubai said. The exchange came at London’s Defence & Security Equipment International, or DSEI, conference, which gathers naval leaders from around the world. Yubai sat with U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jeff Harley, assistant deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, and Vice Adm. Umio Otsuka, president of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Command and Staff College. Yubai spent most of his speech talking about the Maritime Silk Road, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s concept of creating ports along global trade routes. But the real point of interest was the South China Sea, where U.S. and Japan have protested China’s island-building. U.S. Adm. Harry Harris, Pacific Command commander, has said the islands are clearly intended for military use as forward operating bases. China has been rapidly building a giant airstrip Fiery Cross Reef. The U.S. Navy has released video of the islands by a P-8 spy plane. The Navy also released audio radio calls of the Chinese Navy telling the American plane to get lost.”

Taiwan-China tensions on the rise as elections draw near “The Presidential Office Building in Taipei isn’t easily mistaken for other buildings – it’s an ornate Baroque-style structure that dates back to 1919 and is capped by a 200-foot-tall tower. In July, China held a military exercise that included an assault on a building that – based on video from the mainland – closely resembled the presidential offices in Taipei. Overnight, the anxiety thermostat in Taiwan spiked. Many saw it as evidence that a real military invasion of their island could be in the works. “There was a building that looked exactly like our president’s office!” Hsia Li-yan, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said in a recent interview. “What else could I think?” Relations between Taiwan and China are less volatile than they were a decade ago, and strong economic ties serve as a hedge against hostilities. Yet the status quo could be shaken as soon as January, when Taiwan voters elect a new president. Recent polls indicate a possible landslide victory for Tsai Ing-wen, who heads the Democratic Progressive Party and is far less friendly to Beijing than Taiwan’s current president, Ma Ying-jeou of the Chinese Nationalist Party. On the mainland, China’s leaders already have made clear that they would treat Tsai’s election as an affront. “All things we have achieved now could collapse,” Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said earlier this year. Tensions between Taiwan and China used to be one of the world’s dominant concerns, with the United States vowing to thwart any effort by China to capture the final outpost of the Chinese Nationalist leaders who fled here from the mainland in 1949 after the civil war with the Chinese Communist Party.”

China Ponders: Does the Iran Nuclear Deal Mean North Korea is Next? “As new in July of the freshly brokered multilateral plan on Iran’s nuclear program, some observers began to speculate that a North Korean nuclear deal might come next. Analysts pinned their hopes on China, as in past moments of optimism, when they suggested that the North Korean ally might be able to help reanimate the Six Party process. As China joined with Iran and five other powers in Vienna to unveil the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the culmination of years of painstaking diplomacy, Beijing appeared to encourage these expectations. In comments following the announcement, Chinese officials not only highlighted Beijing’s crucial role in bringing the talks to their successful conclusion, but they also suggested that the success of the negotiations held lessons for a new round of nuclear talks with Pyongyang. In an exchange with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after the Iran deal’s announcement, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly described the Iran talks as “a positive reference for coping with other international and regional hot spot issues, including the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.”[2] Wang’s comments were echoed in a People’s Daily commentary—published under the name “Zhong Sheng” (“Voice of China”), a pseudonym often used to convey official Chinese positions on foreign policy—which described the deal with Iran as a “message of hope” to the world. Should official Chinese statements be understood as a signal that new nuclear talks with its neighbor and ally are on the horizon? The South Korean and US envoys to the Six Party process both visited Beijing in the week or so following the adoption of the agreement by the United Nations on July 19, and their trips could be read as promising signs. But in both Chinese universities and government-affiliated think tanks, Chinese experts who focus regularly on North Korea’s nuclear program have not aligned behind their government’s propositions: that the Iran agreement provides an opening for nuclear negotiations with North Korea, and that the Iran process holds lessons for reaching a deal with Pyongyang. As informed opinion, analyses by Chinese experts offer insights into how Beijing may assess the challenges and opportunities presented by international developments, or they may even be indicative of internal policy debate. Commentaries by elite observers may also be seen as policy tools in the sense that they can be used to help set public expectations for policy outcomes.”

The U.S.-China Military Scorecard (Research Report) “Over the past two decades, China's People's Liberation Army has transformed itself from a large but antiquated force into a capable, modern military. Its technology and operational proficiency still lag behind those of the United States, but it has rapidly narrowed the gap. Moreover, China enjoys the advantage of proximity in most plausible conflict scenarios, and geographical advantage would likely neutralize many U.S. military strengths. A sound understanding of regional military issues — including forces, geography, and the evolving balance of power — will be essential for establishing appropriate U.S. political and military policies in Asia. This RAND study analyzes the development of respective Chinese and U.S. military capabilities in ten categories of military operations across two scenarios, one centered on Taiwan and one on the Spratly Islands. The analysis is presented in ten scorecards that assess military capabilities as they have evolved over four snapshot years: 1996, 2003, 2010, and 2017. The results show that China is not close to catching up to the United States in terms of aggregate capabilities, but also that it does not need to catch up to challenge the United States on its immediate periphery. Furthermore, although China's ability to project power to more distant locations remains limited, its reach is growing, and in the future U.S. military dominance is likely to be challenged at greater distances from China's coast. To maintain robust defense and deterrence capabilities in an era of fiscal constraints, the United States will need to ensure that its own operational concepts, procurement, and diplomacy anticipate future developments in Chinese military capabilities. Although China's capabilities fall behind those of the United States, it is now able to pose significant challenges to U.S. Operations. China has made tremendous strides in its military capabilities since 1996. It is not close to catching up to the U.S. military in terms of aggregate capabilities, but it does not need to catch up to challenge the United States on its immediate periphery. Despite U.S. military improvements, China has made relative gains in most operational areas, in some cases with startling speed. However, trends vary by mission area, and even in the context of difficult scenarios, U.S. forces retain some important advantages.”

China's Military Modernization: Eric Heginbotham and Michael Chase in Conversation “The unprecedented buildup of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) over the past 20 years has pushed Chinese military modernization to the forefront of discussion among U.S. policymakers. We asked RAND senior political scientists Eric Heginbotham and Michael Chase to discuss their recent assessments of Chinese military modernization and its implications for U.S. interests in Asia. Heginbotham is the lead author of U.S.-China Military Scorecards: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996-2017. Chase is the lead author of China's Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).”

THE LEGAL RATIONALE FOR GOING INSIDE 12 “While China conducts innocent passage around real U.S. islands of Alaska, the U.S. is apparently unable to do so around China’s fake islands in the South China Sea. The transit by Chinese warships in innocent passage through the territorial sea of Attu Island in the Aleutian chain has added an additional wrinkle to U.S. policy in the South China Sea. On May 12, the Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had asked his staff to “look at options” for exercising the rights and freedom of navigation and overflight in the EEZ, to include flying maritime patrol aircraft over China’s new artificial islands in the region, and sending U.S. warships to within 12 nautical miles of them. Later that month, a P-8 surveillance aircraft with a CNN crew on board, was repeatedly warned to “go away quickly” from Fiery Cross Reef, even as it flew beyond 12 nm from the feature. Fiery Cross Reef is a Chinese-occupied outcropping that has been fortified by a massive 2.7 million square meter land reclamation into an artificial island with a 3,110-meter airstrip and harbor works capable of servicing large warships. Warships and commercial vessels of all nations are entitled to conduct transit in innocent passage in the territorial sea of a rock or island of a coastal state, although aircraft do not enjoy such a right. Ironically, the website POLITICO reported on July 31 that the White House blocked plans by Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, to send warships within 12 nm of China’s artificial islands – features that may not even qualify for a territorial sea. By blocking such transits, military officials apparently suggest that the White House tacitly accepts China’s unlawful claim to control shipping around its occupied features in the South China Sea. Senator John McCain complained that the United States was making a “dangerous mistake” by granting de facto recognition of China’s man-made “sovereignty” claims.”

China appears to be working on third airstrip on disputed South China Sea islets: expert “China appears to be carrying out preparatory work for a third airstrip in contested territory in the South China Sea, a U.S. expert said on Monday, citing satellite photographs taken last week. The photographs taken for Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank on Sept. 8 show construction on Mischief Reef, one of seven artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago. The images show a retaining wall around an area 3,000 meters (3,280 yards) long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs in the Spratlys, Subi and Fiery Cross, said Greg Poling, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). Poling said the work "more likely than not indicates preparations for a runway" on the reef. Satellite photographs from late June showed China had almost finished a 3,000-meter airstrip on Fiery Cross. Poling said other satellite photos from last week showed work was advancing at Subi Reef, where "clearly, what we have seen is going to be a 3,000-meter airstrip and we have seen some more work on what is clearly going to be some port facilities for ships. "Asked about Mischief Reef on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated China's claim to "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly islands and its right to establish military facilities there. Security experts say 3,000-meter airstrips would be long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft, giving Beijing greater reach into the heart of maritime Southeast Asia, where it has competing claims with several countries. News of the advancing work comes ahead of a visit to Washington next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. worries about China's increasingly assertive territorial claims are expected to be high on the agenda. A spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department, Commander Bill Urban, declined to comment specifically on Poling's assessment, but repeated U.S. calls for a halt to land reclamation, construction and militarization of South China Sea outposts to "ease tensions and create space for diplomatic solutions. "China's stated intentions with its program, and continued construction, will not reduce tensions or lead to a meaningful diplomatic solution," he added. A new airstrip at Mischief Reef would be particularly worrying for the Philippines, a rival claimant in the South China Sea. It would allow China to mount "more or less constant" patrols over Reed Bank, where the Philippines has long explored for oil and gas, Poling said. Three airstrips, once completed, would allow China to threaten all air traffic over the features it has reclaimed in the South China Sea, he said, adding that it would be especially worrying if China were to install advanced air defenses.”

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 | September 14, 2015

China’s Enron moment? “If only the market would recover in time and bail out the company from the risk it’s been taking on to survive! These are the famous last words in 2001 of the legendary “smartest guys in the room” from Enron Corp. It is also the mantra of China’s governance since the 2008 financial crisis that I contend was a crisis not of capitalism but of socialism – and triggered by China itself. As former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin Yifu has put it, China’s socialist market economy has been a combination of low-input-cost “policy” industries at the core of China’s economy (socialism) and the “tradeable sector” (export and retail) driven by marketization. “Low” basically meant “subsidized,” and “input” basically meant commodities, many of them imported, like oil, to the tune of half of China’s need. Subsidization meant excess or artificial demand when China accounted for half the world’s new demand for oil, which sets the world price for everyone. If China had not subsidized oil products, I reckon the world price would have peaked at $100 instead of $150 per barrel of crude. Thus, artificial Chinese demand prompted the inflation fear that drove the tightened Fed policy that made subprime mortgages with interest rates reset annually suddenly unaffordable and trigged the 2008 financial crisis. Nobel Laureate Sir James Mirrlees stated at the time that the commodities market drove the 2008 financial crisis. In its resolutions for remedying the financial crisis, the September 2009 G20 Pittsburgh Summit specifically called on China to quit subsidizing energy usage, the world’s only net oil importer to be doing so. China has used credit to keep the economy going ever since, with diminishing return, and now overcapacity and over-indebtedness. China has been a low-labor-cost construction economy, with usage an afterthought, a concept deeply embedded in the post-War “China Reconstructs” mantra, a kind of “build it and they will come” mentality. In this sense, some of China’s economic growth has been artificial. Payback time has come for the artificial portion of GDP growth to be recognized by writing off bad debt and deducting it from lenders’ income and, so, from GDP. When China was in supergrowth mode, debt writeoffs were affordably swamped by new lending, somewhat Ponzi-like, with income from new loans more than making up for losses from old ones. By the same token, ending commodity price subsidies means lower demand and output than otherwise until greater efficiency restores output.”

China developing new attack helicopter with stealth abilities “China has begun developing a new generation of attack helicopter which will have stealth abilities and should start deliveries to the Chinese armed forces by about 2020, the official China Daily newspaper said on Friday. The helicopter is being developed by Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), one of the country's leading arms manufacturers, the state-run English-language publication said. Its stealth capabilities will "reshape the combat patterns" of the People's Liberation Army, company chairman Lin Zuoming was quoted as saying. "It is a trend that the ground force will become increasingly dependent on helicopters because they have better strike capability and mobility than armored vehicles, and transport supplies to frontier troops," Lin said. The company's chief helicopter designer, Wu Ximing, said the aircraft would have "supreme maneuverability in complicated environments, outstanding survivability and joint operation ability", the report added. It provided no other details. President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen and modernize the country's 2.3 million-strong armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in the region, particularly in the South China and East China seas.”

Report: Guam is crucial to evolution of bombers “The smartphone has come a long way since the public first became aware of it as a word in 1995, according to a defense think-tank. Using the smartphone as a takeoff point, Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies’ new report, “Beyond the Bomber,” argues for the development of a new “Long-Range Sensor Shooter” aircraft, or LRSS, and notes the critical importance of military bases in Guam. The LRSS must be developed as a smarter, tech-savvier aircraft than the B-2 stealth bomber, according to the report. The Defense Department recently announced the deployment of three B-2 aircraft to Guam as part of a rotational presence of bomber aircraft to the island, which includes B-52s. The report also includes analysis that says, with the South China Sea as a potential hot spot, military bases on the island may become more crucial to U.S. national security. U.S.-friendly countries such as Japan and South Korea host U.S. military airfields and aircraft shelters. However, Mitchell Institute’s report points out: “they’re so close to China that they would be exposed to large-scale air and missile attacks if China decided to launch them.” Guam also is believed to be within range of some of China’s missiles, including one displayed in a recent Chinese military parade. One of the paraded missiles has been nicknamed “the Guam killer” because of its potential reach, CNN and other international media reported last weekend.”

Pacific partnerships evolve during Exercise Dawn Blitz “The troops coming ashore during Dawn Blitz displayed national flags on their sleeves not often seen along the beaches here. The coalition landing force participating in the multinational amphibious training exercise represented several key U.S. allies in the Pacific: Mexico, Japan and New Zealand. Each country's military is bolstering its amphibious capabilities and tactics, and their participation in the Navy-Marine Corps brigade-level exercise helped them hone their skills. It was the first time Mexican marines participated in Dawn Blitz, which ran through Sept. 10. The Mexican navy sent a tank landing ship, a patrol ship, several patrol boats, two helicopters and a 134-man naval infantry company. Japan, which is in the midst of modernizing its naval forces to defend the remote islands, sent three ships, helicopters, an air-cushioned landing craft and members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. The Kiwis sent 102 members of Victor Company, 1st Battalion, with the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. Logistics troops also flew to California and joined Marines on Navy ships. They went ashore for amphibious, urban, weapons and live-fire training here and on San Clemente Island. The troops formed “Amphibious Force 3,” led by 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and San Diego-based Expeditionary Strike Group 3. Amphibious assault ship Boxer was the flagship for the task force that included seven Navy ships and observers from Colombia, Chile and Australia. As Japan continues to grapple with disputes with China over claims to islands in the South China Sea, Lt. Gen. Koji Yamazaki, Japan's vice chief of staff, said the training during Dawn Blitz helps his force prepare for a possible attack.”

Chinese activity in South China Sea poses complications for Obama “China appears to be taking new steps to lay down airfields on two reefs in a disputed area of the South China Sea on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Sept. 24 arrival in Washington for a state visit. Commercial satellite photos taken Tuesday for the Center for Strategic and International Studies show that China is flattening, rolling and putting gravel on an area the size of a military runway on Subi Reef, a once-submerged shoal that Beijing has built up into an area suitable for a military base. The flattened area is about 200 feet wide and nearly 1.4 miles long but is expected to grow and be covered with asphalt, say China experts who have examined the satellite photos. On Mischief Reef, China has also completed, and started pouring fill into, a retaining wall in a space nearly two miles long — part of a process that is identical to what was done earlier on Subi Reef and Woody Island, where an airfield has been completed, the experts say. The new construction seems certain to strain the meeting between Xi and President Obama, whose national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was recently in Beijing. The United States has urged China to stop work in the region, and Beijing said in August that it would halt reclamation. But the satellite photos show that construction continues. While the Tuesday commercial satellite photos were taken for CSIS, a separate Sept. 3 satellite photo posted on the Diplomat news Web site Thursday evening showed the same developments. “When the Chinese government said it had mainly finished the work, it clearly hadn’t,” said Michael J. Green, a senior vice president at CSIS and former senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.”

DIRECTING CHINA’S “LITTLE BLUE MEN”: UNCOVERING THE MARITIME MILITIA COMMAND STRUCTURE  “While Russia has employed “Little Green Men” surreptitiously in Crimea, China uses its own “Little Blue Men” to support Near Seas claims. As the U.S. military operates near Beijing’s artificially-built South China Sea (SCS) features and seeks to prevent Beijing from ejecting foreign claimants from places like Second Thomas Shoal, it may well face surveillance and harassment from China’s maritime militia. Washington and its allies and partners must therefore understand how these irregular forces are commanded and controlled, before they are surprised and stymied by them. China has long organized its civilian mariners into maritime militia, largely out of necessity. Recent years have seen a surge of emphasis on maritime militia building and increasing this unique force’s capabilities; however it is difficult to ascertain who or what entity within China’s government has ordered such emphasis. One can point to Xi Jinping’s visit to the Tanmen Maritime Militia in 2013, after which maritime militia building oriented toward the SCS has seen growth in places like Hainan, Guangdong, and Guangxi. Yet local militia training and organization plans prior to this date had already emphasized the training of maritime militia units.”

China, a wounded tiger, could lash out “The Chinese Communist Party's power has long rested on four pillars: economic growth, nationalism, repression and communist ideology. The last of these withered away almost entirely as China liberalized its economy, with slogans such as "Long live the invincible Marxism-Leninism theory" replaced by "To get rich is glorious." Now the first pillar is unstable too. All eyes are on the gyrating Chinese stock market. Its precipitous decline and the surprise devaluation of the renminbi have been roiling world markets and stoking fears of currency wars and beggar-thy-neighbor trade policies. Given that only about 1% of our gross domestic product comes from trade with China, the U.S. economy is hardly at risk. Yet this summer's upheaval may accelerate developments that threaten the peace of Asia and pose a strategic challenge to the West. China's economy has been slowing for a while. In this century's first decade, 10%-plus returns were the norm; lately the growth rate has hovered around 7% — if official figures are to be trusted, which they are not. The Chinese people have begun to feel the effects, and so has the government, with its reputation for sound economic stewardship declining in parallel with the downward-sloping GDP growth charts. Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 determined to burnish the leadership's credentials in this all-critical area. His efforts have taken two forms. The first has been an anti-corruption campaign that plays to popular sentiments but has doubled as a vehicle for a purge of political opponents. Three years into the campaign, China's president has a large number of very bitter and well-placed enemies, whose family fortunes and lives are on the line.”

CHINESE AND RUSSIAN CYBER ESPIONAGE: THE KAISER WOULD BE JEALOUS “After the OPM hack, there were suggestions that the Chinese might be building digital dossiers on every U.S. government official, or even on all Americans. More recent reports have the Russian and Chinese intelligence services exploiting personally identifiable information about Americans from security clearance databases, airline records, medical records and many other sources on a massive scale. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the head of the National Counterintelligence Executive has confirmed that foreign powers are doing these things. Other, anonymous sources told the Times that “at least one clandestine network of American engineers and scientists who provide technical assistance to U.S. undercover operatives … overseas has been compromised as a result.” It has even been suggested that the Russian and Chinese services are throwing data from the Ashley Madison breach into the mix. This is not the first time that the U.S. government has feared that the nation’s adversaries were building large numbers of dossiers on its officials. Documents held in the National Archives give us a tantalizing glimpse of a similar round of concern a century ago. Back then, however, the cutting edge information technology was the card file, not the computer.”

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 | September 11, 2015

Chinese Citizen Held by ISIS Poses Test for Beijing “In the advertisement he is known by a number, 05675, which appears above the pocket of his yellow jumpsuit. He stares somberly into the distance, his left eye swollen and disfigured. His price is not named, but his captors describe him as a “limited-time offer.” Fan Jinghui, 50, was once a middle-school teacher in Beijing who called himself a “wanderer.” Now he is in the hands of the Islamic State, which published an ad recently in its online magazine Dabiq demanding a ransom for his release. A Norwegian citizen, Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, 48, was featured in a similar ad. The capture of Mr. Fan, the first Chinese citizen known to have been kidnapped by the Islamic State, has intensified pressure on Chinese leaders to more aggressively counter the spread of Islamic extremism in the Middle East. Some foreign policy experts said the government now had a reason to speak out more forcefully against the Islamic State. Others hoped Mr. Fan’s capture would prompt Beijing to consider sending military resources to the Middle East to help reclaim territory held by Islamic militants, who have taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq. “This group is against humanity,” said Pan Zhiping, a professor at Xinjiang University in western China. “If we are all indifferent, it will only grow stronger and inspire extremist forces around the world.” On Thursday, Chinese officials gave no sign of taking action beyond condemning violence. Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it was working to verify details of the kidnapping.”

Forbes To Press USAF On Bomber Cost Discrepancies “An influential congressman added his name to the growing list of members calling on the US Air Force to explain how the service managed to botch cost estimates for its next-generation bomber program two years in a row. Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, told Defense News in a Wednesday night interview that his subcommittee will hammer the Air Force on the importance of accuracy and transparency when it comes to the Long Range Strike-Bomber program. "I think it's going to be important that the Air Force get its numbers right," Forbes said. "The accuracy is going to be the most important thing because if you are not accurate, you are not going to sell these members on these platforms, because they are going to think you are not telling them the truth." orbes' remarks show the Air Force is still facing backlash after acknowledging massive discrepancies in 10-year cost estimates for LRS-B late last month. Senior Air Force leadership has since said the true cost estimate over a 10-year period should be $41.7 billion, rather than $33.1 billion for FY2015-2024, and blamed the inaccuracies primarily on human error.”

America's F-35 vs. Russia or China's Best Fighters: Who Wins? “Recently, there has been much debate about how well or how poorly Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) would fair against other fighters—particularly against high-end Russian and Chinese aircraft. It’s a debate that won’t be settled until the F-35 and J-20, J-31, PAK-FA or Su-35 meet in combat for the first time—and there are numerous other factors involved besides the aircraft themselves. It’s also largely a moot point. The Pentagon will likely end up buying thousands of F-35s, so like it or not, we are stuck with the “Lightning II” for good or ill. The F-35’s detractors point to the fact that the stealthy single-engine jet didn’t fair very well against a relatively elderly two-seat Block 40 F-16D that was carrying two external fuel 370-gallon fuel tanks. The F-35A, which is the most agile of the three versions of the jet, was decisively shown to be less nimble than the older aircraft. But for most people who have been tracking this program, that’s not particularly unexpected. Meanwhile, proponents of the F-35—primarily Lockheed Martin and the JSF program office (JPO)—tried to dismiss the results—aggressively calling out the War is Boring outlet by name. The company and the Pentagon claimed that the tests were not truly representative because the F-35 test article involved in the trial versus the F-16 was not equipped with a full set of avionics, didn’t have its stealth coatings, and did not use the jet’s helmet-mounted display and, moreover, was not equipped to simulate high off-boresight missiles like the AIM-9X Sidewinder. Besides, the F-35 was designed to fight from long-range—the JPO and Lockheed claimed. Both sides of the debate are correct—but neither side is telling the whole story. As a good friend on the Hill recently told me:  “In political communications, facts are an interesting aside, but are completely irrelevant. What we do here is spin.” That’s exactly what’s happening here—both sides are selectively cherry picking facts to make their case—spin.”

Understanding China’s Eurasian Pivot “The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Eurasian frontiers have once more emerged as major factor in Beijing’s foreign policy. Indeed, President Xi Jinping’s recent enunciation of China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) strategy, comprising an initiative to enhance Eurasian economic connectivity through the construction of a Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and a Maritime Silk Road (MSR), has placed Eurasia “front and center” in China’s contemporary foreign policy. This has led some to argue that Beijing is in the process of its own “pivot” to Asia that will have far-reaching strategic consequences. Matthew Burrows and Robert Manning recently argued that this “pivot west to Eurasia seeks to turn its vulnerability – a border with fourteen nations – into a strategic asset. Together they seek to realize Mackinder’s vision of a Eurasian heartland unopposed.” The success of this Eurasian pivot may well prove to be a “nightmare” for the United States as Beijing’s economic and strategic heft attracts a weakened Russia into a partnership to stabilize and modernize Eurasia on the basis of “authoritarian state-centric capitalism.” In contrast, Jeffrey Payne responds that such fears “should be pushed aside,” as Beijing will not only have to confront a region of unpredictable and uncontrollable political forces but also latent, and mutual, Sino-Russian suspicion. Such views however do not provide an adequate account of either the underlying motives for Beijing’s “Eurasian pivot” or the wider regional context in which Chinese policy is operating. Two factors are central in this regard. First, the OBOR can in part be seen as China’s response to the “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia under U.S. President Barack Obama and to Russia’s relative decline in Central Asia. Second, the OBOR (and the SREB component especially) is as much about Beijing’s domestic concerns as it is about its grand strategy priorities. Of major concern here is China’s hold on its major and often restive Eurasian frontier regions, such as Xinjiang and Tibet. While the relative decline of U.S. and Russian influence in Central Asia has provided Beijing with strategic opportunities to expand its reach, the intensification of Uyghur and Tibetan opposition to ongoing Chinese rule since 2008 has underlined for Beijing the need to accelerate the economic development/modernization of these regions as the primary means of achieving their integration into the modern Chinese state. Geopolitics and domestic state-building imperatives are thus interwoven in Beijing’s Eurasian pivot.”

U.S. Policy Towards China: Imposing Costs Doesn't Mean Ending Engagement “Discussing U.S.-China relations is almost a recipe for misunderstanding, even among people who ostensibly speak the same language. Some misunderstandings are deliberate to discredit the advocate; some are simply inadvertent because of the emotional charge of the issue. The United States and China once cooperated and saw each other as useful strategic partners, but much of that changed after end of the Soviet threat and Beijing’s violent crackdown on demonstrators in 1989. The desire to return to that kind of camaraderie, to prevent the emergence of another Cold War, and to find some way to avoid history’s repeated and tragic tale of great and rising powers coming to conflict necessarily makes the public discussion heated. The potential consequences are catastrophic. The idea of imposing costs or forcing China to face consequences for its actions is easily misunderstood as abandoning the carrot for the stick as a matter of U.S. policy toward China. On some issues and for some analysts, moving from a cordial to an adversarial approach may well be the case in areas such as South China Sea or cyber. Even these, however, are selective, based on Chinese actions in particular areas, and focused on continuing the basic U.S. policy of shaping the choices Beijing can make while encouraging a positive course. Shaping Chinese choices necessarily requires a mix of incentives and disincentives, but the latter can only be as strong as the will to act upon them. It is worth noting that even Michael Pillsbury in his harshly critical book on U.S.-China relations, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, does not advocate replacing the carrot with the stick. His policy proposals deal most strongly with better assessing China, dealing with Beijing as it is run under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and avoiding being duped. They boil down to how President Barack Obama characterized the way to run foreign policy: “Don’t do stupid stuff. The idea that imposing costs and consequences on China for actions inimical to U.S. interests means abandoning incentives to browbeat Beijing seems premised on the assumption that such consequences mean the beginning of a containment strategy and the end of engagement.” 

Taiwan Practices Repelling PLA Invasion as China Conducts Firing Drills in Taiwan Strait “China’s military will hold live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, the government announced. There were no further details given on the drills, only that they would take place off the coast near Quanzhou, a port city in Fujian province directly across the Strait from Taiwan. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday that it was aware of the upcoming PLA drills. Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he said that the exercise was a routine part of China’s annual training. Luo said PLA ground forces in the area conduct regular artillery firing drills. The drills by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will begin on Friday, just as Taiwan’s own military drills come to an end. The annual Han Kuang exercises prepare Taiwan’s military to face an attack from the PLA. The exercises are held in two parts: computer-aided war games and live fire drills. This year, the computer simulations took place in May; the live-fire portion began on September 7 and will conclude on Friday. This year’s Han Kuang exercises, Han Kuang 31, are larger than last year’s and include Taiwan’s army, navy, and air force in joint operations. Maj. Gen. Zhong Shu-ming said that Taiwan’s navy would conduct five additional drills compared to last year and the air force will hold six more drills. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Han Kuang 31 will also feature new weapons systems, including the P-3C anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft, the Tuo Jiang (Taiwan’s first indigenously-designed stealth missile corvette), the Cloud Leopard armored vehicle, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Taiwan also deployed an indigenously developed radar system, the Point Defense Array Radar System (PODARS), for the first time during the drills. One of the showpieces of Han Kuang 31 was an anti-amphibious landing exercise, held Thursday in northern Taiwan. That drill saw Taiwan’s soldiers simulate the repelling of an amphibious invasion attempt. The drill incorporated 800 Taiwanese soldiers, 18 8-inch M110 self-propelled howitzers, and 20 M109 self-propelled 155 mm howitzers.”

Maritime Autonomous Systems Driving the Biggest Advancement in Maritime Security in Over a Century “The growing importance of Maritime Autonomous Systems will characterise naval activity of the future, according to the Global Marine Trends 2030 (GMT 2030) report launched today. Written and researched jointly by Lloyd's Register, QinetiQ and Southampton University, the report looks at how future naval operations will be conducted, considering the application and integration of emerging technologies over the next two decades across maritime security, warfighting and humanitarian operations. Networks of unmanned surface and underwater vessels are set to radically change the nature of maritime operations, and will become integral to naval capability programmes from mine hunting and augmenting submarine operations to supporting humanitarian efforts by delivering vital aid safely; however, many of the naval vessels in service in 2030 have already been commissioned, and were designed without these concepts in mind. The principal challenge will therefore be the integration of these autonomous systems into current force structures and vessels. The advancement in technology development is as much an opportunity for navies as it is a threat. Cyber and electronic are warfare technology development will continue at pace. Advanced materials and advanced manufacturing are key enabling technologies. Trials are already underway to conduct 3D printing on board ships, enabling the 'printing' of autonomous vehicles to suit specific mission needs in situ. However, the proliferation of disruptive technologies driven by demand in major consumer electronics markets will increasingly empower malicious individuals, terrorists and non-state actors to utilise these technologies as weapons, posing an increasingly serious threat to sophisticated naval forces. The growth in interconnected intelligent systems will require personnel to learn to work seamlessly with robotics systems. Crew members of the future will become 'data warriors' rather than equipment operators, creating the need for a new training paradigm and skill set. The potential for the command and control to be geographically displaced from the vessel will also require behavioural and cultural changes within the military communities. QinetiQ Maritime managing director Sarah Kenny commented: "The rate at which technology is advancing is simply unprecedented. Navies now face the challenge of the capabilities of existing vessels whilst transitioning to new systems and concepts of operation to exploit and defend against both evolutionary and disruptive technologies. "This will require significant levels of integration, testing and evaluation in order to ensure that they work as expected and are reliable and effective."

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 | September 10, 2015

China recreating the American “hub-and-spoke” system ““Everyone’s security is important, not just the (alliance-based) security of a few countries”; “Asian nations should fully support such initiatives as ‘One Belt, One Road’”; “Considering that the UK and other Western countries have joined the AIIB, this is a great success. Following the Chinese example, if we can narrow our differences at the regional level through development, it will help us significantly as we tackle the issue of terrorism”; “China cannot become a regional leader only on the basis of its economic power. It needs a political instrument such as the CICA that has already been well established and is supported by Asian countries.” These remarks are by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, and others at the first round of the Non-Governmental Forum of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) which was held May 25-26 in Beijing. The conference was full of praise for China. Foreign participants, without exception, spoke of successful cooperation between China and their respective countries or regions, while also touching upon future developments. In turn, Chinese participants emphasized the need for strengthened cooperation. The CICA Non-Governmental Forum was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2014 CICA summit and the Chinese government prepared for it thoroughly. The event was attended by a host of luminaries. Yu Zhengsheng, current Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), delivered a keynote address that reaffirmed Xi’s security proposal. Also in attendance were four head-of-state level participants (from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Israel, and Pakistan) and four former foreign ministers (from Cambodia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey).”

Anti-Submarine Operations in the Indian Ocean “As India and Australia prepare to embark on their first-ever bilateral naval interaction in the Bay of Bengal this month, reports suggest the exercises will focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW). This is being seen as evidence of a growing regional consensus on the threat posed by Chinese undersea operations in the Asian littorals. Australia is reported to be sending a Lockheed Martin’s P-3 anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft, a Collins-class submarine, and ASW frigates, while India will be deploying a P-8 long-range anti-submarine aircraft, along with other surface assets. Over the past two years, China’s submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean have been a source of worry for Indian analysts. Since May this year, when a Chinese Yuan-class submarine visited Karachi, there has been growing unease in New Delhi over the possibility of greater Chinese submarine presence in India’s maritime neighborhood. Indian analysts say the sudden rise in submarine visits suggests a larger game-plan for the expansion of the PLA-N’s operational footprint in the Indian Ocean. In the garb of anti-piracy operations, Chinese submarines have been performing specific stand-alone missions – a process, China skeptics  contend, meant to lay the groundwork for a rotating but permanent deployment in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).”

Fleet Readiness Plan Could Leave Carrier Gaps, Overwhelm Shipyards “The Navy is nine months into its new deployment model – the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) – designed to keep carrier strike groups from unexpectedly long deployments and allow time for needed ship upkeep. The plan promises to make life more predictable for sailors and maintainers, but service officials are already running into roadblocks that, if not addressed by Navy leadership and Congress, could exacerbate gaps in overseas carrier presence and further burden the maintenance community. Under OFRP, an aircraft carrier is tied to the guide missile cruisers and destroyers it will deploy with, and the whole battle group goes through a 36-month cycle of maintenance, training, deployment and sustainment together. Then- U.S. Fleet Forces commanding officer Adm. Bill Gortney rolled out the plan in January 2014 as a way of protecting sailors from the growing length of CSG deployments and ensuring the ships would have enough time for the maintenance the ships need.”

Confident China moves to challenge U.S. in Beijing's backyard “It is the near future, and China prepares to strike back after being attacked, loosing off ballistic missiles to take out an aircraft carrier and destroying an airfield as a fighter jet takes off. The enemy is not named in the animation, released late last month by Chinese internet giant Tencent, but the ship looks a lot like a U.S. Nimitz-class carrier, while the destroyed fighter is clearly a Lockheed Martin Corp F-22. It may be fantasy, but the clip - viewed more than 60 million times so far - reflects a mood of rising nationalism and confidence among the Chinese public and military. An assertive China under President Xi Jinping now believes its military has the technology to at the very least make the United States think twice before undertaking any military adventures in what China sees as its backyard. "Can the United States be certain of getting the upper hand in the event of a showdown with China?" retired Major-General Luo Yuan, now a widely followed military commentator, wrote in June. "China is preparing every day to win a modern war." Xi visits the United States at end of this month. Analysts see three potential arenas for such a showdown - the South China Sea, where China has a series of overlapping territorial disputes with its neighbors, the East China Sea, where remote islets are a source of friction between Beijing and U.S. ally Japan, and any conflict over self-ruled Taiwan.”

China to hold live-fire drills in Taiwan Strait “The Chinese military will hold three days of live-fire drills in the sensitive Taiwan Strait starting from Friday, the government said in a notice issued to warn shipping away from the area. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its rule. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war with the Communists in 1949.Ties have generally improved under Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who has signed a series of landmark trade and economic pacts with China, but deep suspicions remain on either side. In a brief statement on Thursday, China's Maritime Safety Administration gave coordinates just off the coast of the Chinese port city of Quanzhou for the exercises, which will finish on Sunday. It gave no other details. Taiwan's Defence Ministry said they were aware of the annual drills, which the ministry described as routine. Quanzhou lies between two small groups of islands, Kinmen and Wu-chiu, that have been controlled by Taiwan since 1949. Another group, the Matsu islands, are slightly further up the coast near the Chinese city of Fuzhou. The Taiwan-controlled islets were once heavily fortified and at the frontlines of the cold war between China and Taiwan. Troop numbers have been cut drastically in recent years as cross-strait ties have improved. Taiwan's military began five days of drills this week, including on Kinmen. On Tuesday, the exercises simulated Chinese submarines attacking Kinmen but being repelled by Taiwanese amphibious forces.”

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 | September 09, 2015

The China Challenge: The weapons the PLA didn’t show “The Chinese military parade last week that was part of the anti-Japan propaganda campaign coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, showed off a number of Beijing’s strategic and conventional weapons, including several never seen or officially acknowledged before. The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency closely monitored the parade looking for clues to the secretive Chinese military buildup and the new high-technology arms it is producing. A Pentagon official said the carefully choreographed military parade through Beijing’s Tiananmen was notable for the weapons that were not shown. They include China’s growing cadre of cyber warfare forces; its ground launched anti-satellite missiles and its new ultra-high-speed maneuvering hypersonic glide vehicle, known as the DF-ZF. All three programs remain tightly guarded secrets for the Chinese government and details about them are unlikely to be made public any time soon. For its cyber warfare capability, the vast majority of China’s cyber espionage and cyber reconnaissance activities are secret and unacknowledged activities carried out by the PLA’s Technical Department 3PLA, formally the 3rd Department of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department, a kind of Chinese version of the US National Security Agency. A recent NSA briefing slide disclosed by NBC News in July identified Chinese cyber exploitation and attack units as under the Central Military Commission, and the military’s General Staff Department. They include 28 separate 3PLA hacking units, the military intelligence service known as 2PLA and another military group called 4PLA that responsible for electronic countermeasures and radar. The civilian Ministry of State Security also carries out cyber attacks with an estimate 28 units. The 3PLA is in charge of the Shanghai-based Unit 61398 that was targeted by the Justice Department’s 2014 indictment of five PLA hackers charged with cyber attacks on US companies.”

The Iranian Missile Threat to Air Bases: A Distant Second to China’s Conventional Deterrent “This article presents an operational analysis of the ability of Iranian and Chinese conventionally armed theater ballistic missiles (TBM) to threaten air bases that might be used by the United States in the event of war. The analysis demonstrates that the political and military geography of Southwest Asia (SWA) lessens the potential impact of the already weaker Iranian TBM capabilities. An examination of each country's TBM capabilities and doctrine reveals that many of Iran's claims are bluff. Unlike the US situation in East Asia, distinct basing strategies are available to the United States in SWA to address the Iranian TBM threat. These differences have significant consequences for American military power, force posture, and force structure.”

China’s Military Modernization: The Legacy of Admiral Wu Shengli “Earlier this month, Caixin reported on another round of Chinese military promotions, highlighting the youth and operational experience of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) newly minted generals (Caixin, August 12). Moreover, in roughly two years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will hold its 19th Party Congress, a critical time to enact important military and civilian leadership changes. One change that is all but certain to occur as the PLA continues to promote a new generation of leaders is the appointment of a new PLA Navy (PLAN) commander. While rumors swirled in the Hong Kong press before the 18th Party Congress in 2012 that long-tenured PLAN Commander Admiral Wu Shengli might retire or be appointed Defense Minister, neither of those scenarios occurred (China Leadership Monitor [CLM], January 14, 2013). Instead, Admiral Wu remained PLAN Commander, becoming the oldest member of the Central Military Commission and one of the longest tenured commanders in China’s naval history. With no more than two years left before his likely retirement, it seems appropriate to begin looking back on the career of one of the PLAN’s most influential and successful commanders. This article attempts to begin that process. The challenges Wu faced and overcame in his early career provide insights into his leadership as PLAN commander. Additionally, Wu’s career has spanned the largest and fastest buildup in the PLAN’s history. Examining the Chinese Navy’s greatest accomplishments under his tenure may therefore help point toward future directions the PLAN could take under the possible candidates to succeed him in the post-Wu era.”

China Flexes Tech Muscles Before a State Visit “As President Xi Jinping of China prepares for his first state visit to the United States this month, Washington has warned that it could hit Chinese companies with sanctions over digital attacks for trade secrets. Beijing is now pushing back in an unorthodox way: by organizing a technology forum to demonstrate its own sway over the American tech industry. The meeting, which is set to take place Sept. 23 in Seattle, is planned to feature China’s Internet czar, Lu Wei, the overseer of China’s restrictions on foreign technology companies. A number of Chinese tech executives, including Robin Li of Baidu and Jack Ma of Alibaba, along with executives from top American tech companies including Apple, Facebook, IBM, Google and Uber, have been invited, according to people familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the meeting. Some invitees, including Apple’s chief, Timothy D. Cook, plan to attend, according to one person. The forum is being co-hosted by Microsoft, said another person with knowledge of the matter. The meeting is rankling the Obama administration by veering off the script agreed to for Mr. Xi’s carefully stage-managed visit, two American officials said. There are also concerns the meeting could undercut President Obama’s stern line on China by portraying its leadership as constructively engaging American companies about doing business in China, even as the administration suggests American companies are hurt by anti competitive Chinese practices. For many American tech companies, the invitation is hard to turn down because of the vast opportunities of China’s tech market. Google and Facebook are among those blocked by China’s web filters from doing business in the country, which is the world’s biggest Internet market. While the tech companies have not taken positions opposing American sanctions and some are conflicted about how to approach China, their appearance at the meeting would signal how much leverage China wields.”

American businesses are growing wary of China—with good reason “Last spring, five women in China were arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” because they planned a sticker campaign on buses and subways to call attention to groping and other forms of sexual harassment. Lurking inside this political incident were two warning signs for foreign business—the increasing reach of Beijing’s cyber-spying (the women were caught while only in the planning stage) and the regime’s growing hostility to civil society, however benign. As the White House prepares for President Xi Jinping’s visit later this month, U.S.-China relations are being rattled by a regime that is flexing its muscle militarily, in cyberspace, and against dissenters inside its own borders. Those may be political and security issues, but they are now bleeding into the operations of Fortune 1000 companies. In the most recent episode of our CSIS iTunes podcast “Smart Women, Smart Power,” I discussed these disturbing trends—as well as Beijing’s military buildup in the South China sea—with Bonnie Glaser, CSIS’s senior adviser for Asia, and Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. You can hear the full conversation, recorded at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, here. “The American business community is very unhappy about the regulations and policies China is pursuing that favor Chinese companies and seek to give advantages to its own national champions at the expense of foreign companies,” says Glaser. Until recently, she notes, U.S. business “was the greatest supporter of closer US-China relations.” Now, a reversal of political reforms is making companies nervous. Which brings us back to the five women—and the state of civil society in China. Since that episode, Beijing has issued a draft law to police foreign nongovernmental groups. The draft provoked sharp objections from American industries ranging from technology to agriculture. While NGOs may seem tangential to business operations, industry groups cite everything from chamber of commerce exchanges to scientific gatherings as central to the foundation of $600 billion in annual U.S.-China trade. But under this regime, there is “extraordinary hostility to civil society,” says Richardson. The draft law “arguably poses the greatest threat to people-to-people diplomacy in decades.” President Xi, she adds, “looks at the world through the lens of national security. His perception of what constitutes a threat is unbelievably expansive.”  

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 | September 08, 2015

How the US and Chinese Navies Are Trying to Avoid Accidentally Starting World War III “As China celebrates its victory over Japan in World War II with a much-hyped Victory Day parade, it's continuing to drift toward a new conflict in the South China Sea. But promising new developments in the relationship between the US and Chinese navies appear to be keeping things calm — at least for the moment. Last year, China and the US brokered an agreement between 21 Pacific nations that set up guidelines for unplanned encounters between the countries' ships. As it turns out, one of the most contested bodies of water in the world had almost no well-defined rules. This left plenty of room for misinterpretations and overreactions. And in this precarious part of the world, a misinterpretation or overreaction could realistically spark World War III. Commentators have attributed the success of the deal to the amicable relationship between outgoing US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert and Admiral Wu Shengli, the commander in chief of the People's Liberation Army Navy. But it's important to note that their partnership is all business. "Americans in particular love to think that, 'Hey, I've created a personal relationship,' and as George W. Bush famously said about [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, 'I looked into his eyes and saw his soul,'" said Patrick Cronin, senior advisor and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. "We would like to think we do that, but even if we did see the soul of the other individual… Admiral Wu may be a fantastic individual, but he's not there as an individual. [T]his is not a free relationship." For example: Close friends tell each other when they're in the neighborhood. But that never happened Wednesday, when the Pentagon spotted five Chinese military ships sailing in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, during President Barack Obama's visit to the state.”

Cybersecurity: We Need a Chinese Snowden “Two issues have dominated the discussion of American-Chinese relations in recent months: the escalating war of words in the South China Sea and cybersecurity. Recently, clandestine hacking conflicts between the United States and China have increased in prominence. A bombshell report by internet security firm Mandiant in February 2013 claimed that a secretive Chinese military unit based out of Shanghai was responsible for a series of hacks on United States-based corporations. Another report a couple of months later showed that China was by far the largest source of international hacking attacks, with 41 percent of the world total (of course, the United States was number two on that list, but more on that in a bit); furthermore, the number of attacks originating in China was found to have drastically increased since the first quarter of that year. In the last few decades, it has been thought that China intentionally restricted its covert intelligence-gathering operations out of a desire to prevent diplomatic scandals from harming its burgeoning economic relationships; more recently, however, this consensus within the leadership appears to have dissolved, either as a result of a change in the balance of power among internal factions in the CCP leadership or because the leadership simply believes now that China is powerful enough to weather the diplomatic fallout from any such scandals. In any case, as evidenced by the devastating and brazen hack into Washington’s Office of Personnel Management this past June, if Beijing really is the culprit as is suspected, it clearly no longer cares about diplomatic fallout from flexing its cyber-muscles. Either way, actors within China have ramped up their cyber-attacks, both with new tactics like the so-called Great Cannon, an offensive cyberweapon that repurposes the traffic coming into Chinese companies’ servers for the use of DDoS attacks against foreign servers, and with good, old-fashioned hacking for the purpose of stealing information, as in the OPM incident. While the exact scope of state-sponsored hacks originating in China is unknown, the public knows a great deal more about recent American national security policy regarding electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering, thanks to the revelations of former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden in June 2013. This information regarding the American government’s broad and invasive surveillance tactics – which turned out never to have been legal in the first place – shocked the international community, including Americans. Spying is a fundamental part of statecraft and always has been, even between countries that are friendly to each other; many countries routinely spy on each other but pretend otherwise, insisting that spying is by nature unethical and illegitimate while engaging in it themselves all the while. This kind of doubletalk often ends up creating awkward situations for those concerned. For example, the United Kingdom, which is currently investigating measures in tandem with many other countries to keep authoritarian regimes from spying on domestic dissidents and human rights activists, was recently found to be spying on Amnesty International’s communications. Similarly, the German government initially expressed outrage at revelations that the American government had bugged Angela Merkel’s phone, only to be embarrassed when it came to light that Germany had been helping the NSA spy on other European allies and businesses.”

N. Korean long-range rocket launch in Oct. could spark a chain reaction “With South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s attendance at a Chinese military parade marking its victory over Japan in World War II sending shock waves through the diplomatic terrain in Northeast Asian, the big question is how this will affect the development of major pending diplomatic issues, such as trends in North Korea, the six-party talks about North Korean nuclear program, and trilateral cooperation between South Korea, China, and Japan. The main variable in future diplomatic trends is the question of whether North Korea will launch a long-range rocket. There has been discussion of the possibility of North Korea testing a long-range rocket on the pretext of putting a satellite into orbit on Oct. 10, the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean Workers’ Party. Indeed, a video was posted on Uriminzokkiri, a website that North Korea uses to send propaganda to South Korea, in which the anchor said, “South Korea’s opposition parties, press, and experts urged the government not to cast a chill on inter-Korean relations, which are starting to thaw at last, simply because North Korea launches a satellite.” Experts suspect that North Korea’s suggestive comments are intended to provide justification for the upcoming rocket launch. When North Korea decided during a meeting of the Political Bureau of the KWP Central Committee in February to hold a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the party‘s establishment, it emphasized the successful launch of a rocket in Dec. 2012 and the development of cutting-edge weapons technology. In May, North Korea also openly boasted of a successful underwater test of a submarine-launched ballistic rocket (SLBM). There are concerns that, if North Korea launches a long-range rocket, it could have a negative effect on South Korea’s relations not only with North Korea but also with China. If the international community - backed by the US - denounces such a rocket launch as a violation of the UN Security Council resolution that forbids the North from launching anything that relies on ballistic rocket technology and slaps more sanctions on the North, inter-Korean relations are sure to lose the momentum created by the Aug. 25 agreement and return to a state of tensions. This could also lead to renewed calls from the US and Japan to deploy THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) on the Korean Peninsula to defend against North Korean rockets. If South Korea is dragged into a discussion of THAAD, opposition from China could strain relations between the two countries.”

Australia Wants to Join India, US and Japan in Naval Exercises: Defense Minister “Australia is keen to join India, the United States and Japan in joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean amid China’s growing influence in the region, the country’s defense minister Kevin Andrews said Thursday. Australia was initially included along with Japan in the 2007 expanded edition of Exercise MALABAR – originally a U.S.-India bilateral exercise – prompting China to lash out at the so-called quadrilateral security dialogue or ‘quad’ designed to contain it (See: “India, Japan and Australia: A Trilateral in the Making?”). That had led to concerns in several capitals including Canberra that such arrangements may be too provocative. But Andrews, who was on a trip to India this week, told an audience during a question and answer session in New Delhi that it was “a mistake” for the then-Labor government under Kevin Rudd to pull out of the so-called quadrilateral defense dialogue and naval drill. The withdrawal, which occurred following a meeting between then foreign minister Stephen Smith and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in February 2008, was read by some as an attempt by the Rudd government to curry favor with Beijing. Andrews said the current Australian government would accept an invitation if it was invited by India to observe or participate in such an exercise. “It’s not the outlook of the current government,” Andrews said according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “If we were to be invited by India to observe or to participate in such an exercise in the future, it would be the clear disposition of both myself and the government to accept that invitation.” According to the newspaper, a spokesman for Andrews also said that quadrilateral exercises were later discussed in a meeting between him and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar.”

Russia’s turn to China: A gap between rhetoric and reality “Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping share a love of military parades. Both Russian and Chinese presidents appreciate the symbolic meaning of tanks and missiles rolling and soldiers marching through squares, showing their domestic and international audience that they are fully in control and their countries are superpowers. On Thursday, Putin visited Beijing to celebrate with Xi Japan’s defeat in World War II. He watched Russian soldiers marching together with Chinese, and Russia also staged its own parade – on a much smaller scale – on the same day in the far eastern city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Putin’s visit to Beijing is also symbolic as part of Russia’s declared pivot to Asia after its conflict with the West over Ukraine and Western sanctions. The sanctions “encourage our domestic business to develop stable business ties with China," Putin said in an interview with Russian and Chinese state news agencies before the visit. “Russian-Chinese ties have now probably reached a peak in their entire history and continue developing.” Putin brought several dozen officials and businesspeople to Beijing who signed contracts with Chinese companies. The head of the state-owned oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, said his company signed contracts with China worth $30 billion. It included an agreement on joint development of two oil fields together with the China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec). Sinopec also agreed on buying a minor share in the Russian petrochemical company Sibur. Russia is looking for new allies — political and economical — outside of Western countries. China has been treated as its most important strategic partner for more than a year, in hopes that Chinese investments and imports of Russian commodities would help the Russian economy survive under sanctions. "Moscow had excessive expectations," Alexander Gabuyev, a Russian expert on China from Carnegie Moscow Center, told The Washington Post. "They thought that the Chinese investors would come and flood Russia with money." The economic data show, however, that these hopes didn't play out.”

North Korean defector: Kim Jong Un's days are numbered “He's a fairly young man, wearing an ill-fitting suit. His thin neck is pronounced, giving way to an equally thin face and frame. We're meeting over a meal of sushi, something he specifically requested because it's rare for those trapped in North Korea. For his safety, I'll limit descriptions of this defector. We've agreed that I can say he worked among the elites in Pyongyang. He is by far, the most recent defector I've ever interviewed; he's only been in the free world for a year. CNN found him through university researchers, working in conjunction with the South Korean government, who verified his status as a North Korean defector. He stresses that revealing much more than these few details could endanger his family, still trapped in the Hermit Kingdom. He also fears North Korea could manage to hunt him down in his new life. But he's talking to me to get a message to the West out. He believes that among North Korea's dictators, the dynasty of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and now Kim Jong Un, "It is Kim Jong Un's regime that is the most unstable. And it is going to be the shortest. The defector begins to explain why he feels that way. In 2013, Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, died. Kim Jong Un took over and "tried his best," says the defector. He gave gifts, and in a public appearance, allowed his voice to be broadcast on North Korean state run television. The perception among the people was that life was about to improve inside North Korea. "It was a false image," he says. In December 2013, the regime announced the second most powerful man in North Korea, Jang Song Thaek, was being expelled from the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. Jang was accused of a litany of crimes, from obstructing the nation's economic affairs to anti-party acts. The allegations stunned for several reasons, primarily for who the regime fingered -- Jang is Kim's uncle. "Kim Jong Un revealed his true side," says the defector. Jang's arrest was broadcast on state television, followed by a statement calling him "despicable human scum, worse than a dog." State media then announced he was executed. The current Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, may have tossed his people into political prisons or allowed them to starve. But he didn't go on a murderous rampage of his own inner circle, says the defector. Kim Jong Un took the opposite approach with his elites. Jang was just one of a number of the ruling class Kim Jong Un began to purge, as the young leader flexed his dictatorial muscles. The outside world waited to see any fallout or any reaction among North Korea's people. There was nothing. But within North Korea's upper echelons, the defector says the reaction was silent but sweeping. "I can tell you for sure the North Koreans who are in the upper middle class don't trust Kim Jong Un. I was thinking about leaving North Korea for a long time. After seeing the execution of Jang, I thought, 'I need to hurry up and leave this hell on earth.' That's why I defected."”

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 | September 04, 2015

China Flexes Its Military Muscle at World War II Parade “many Western officials and analysts said it was the display of weaponry—including aircraft-carrier-based fighter jets and missiles they believe are designed to prevent the U.S. from intervening in a conflict in Asia—that defined the event, rather than the announcement of troop cuts. The parade also showed for the first time the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile, China’s first one capable of striking a U.S. naval base in Guam with a conventional warhead from a launcher on the mainland. Congressman Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican who heads a House committee on sea power, said in a statement after the parade: “It seems significant that while the United States marked the end of the war with a solemn ceremony, China chose to showcase its growing military might and the new weapons it has built to menace its neighbors. It seems increasingly clear that China intends to undermine the post-1945 order that has brought peace and prosperity to Asia.”

Taiwan and the Prospects for War Between China and America “For the United States and its allies and partners in Asia, China’s aggressive efforts to assert questionable claims in the South and East China Sea, enforce a disputed Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ),  build the rocket/missile and naval capabilities needed to invade Taiwan, and build a substantial ballistic missile capability all work to create a situation where conflict between the U.S. and the PRC could occur and rapidly escalate. Given that American political and military leaders have a poor understanding of Chinese ambitions and particularly their opaque nuclear thinking, there is ample reason to be concerned that a future conflict could escalate to a limited nuclear conflict. Thus, it is worth taking a look at the PRC with an eye toward offering insight into Chinese motivation and thinking when it comes to how a possible crisis over Taiwan could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. In their latest estimate, Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris assess that the Second Artillery Corps possesses forty long-range nuclear missiles that can strike the United States if fired from China’s eastern seaboard and an additional twenty that could hit Hawaii and Alaska. The challenge for China, is reaching the East Coast – home to the nation’s capital and largest economic centers. To overcome this challenge China is also developing its JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) which is a sea-based variant of the DF-31 land-mobile long-range missile that will go to sea on Jin-class submarines. China may also be developing a new mobile missile, the DF-41, which will carry multiple warheads, giving the Chinese a way to potentially defeat an American ballistic missile defense system. It is worth noting that the quantity, though not the quality, of China’s nuclear arsenal is only limited by its dwindling stock of weapons grade plutonium. This raises the question; to what end is China developing and deploying its nuclear arsenal? While there are several scenarios where conflict between the United States and China is possible, some analysts believe that a conflict over Taiwan remains the most likely place where the PRC and the U.S. would come to blows. Beijing is aware that any coercive action on its part to force Taiwan to accept its political domination could incur the wrath of the United States. To prevent the U.S. from intervening in the region, China will certainly turn to its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, beginning with non-lethal means and non-lethal threats to discourage the American public from supporting the use of force in support of Taiwan. If thwarted in its initial efforts to stop Chinese aggression against Taiwan, the United States may be tempted to resort to stronger measures and attack mainland China. A kinetic response to a cyber-attack, for example, although an option, would very likely lead to escalation on the part of the Chinese. Given the regime’s relative weakness and the probability that American attacks (cyber and conventional) on China will include strikes against PLA command and control (C2) nodes, which mingle conventional and nuclear C2, the Chinese may escalate to the use of a nuclear weapon (against a U.S. carrier in China’s self-declared waters for example) as a means of forcing de-escalation.”

China's troop-cut plan is more about modernization than peace, analysts say “President Xi Jinping's announcement Thursday that China will cut its military by 300,000 troops was couched in the language of peace. Yet analysts say that it was intended as a move to modernize and strengthen, not diminish, the country's armed forces. "War is the sword of Damocles that still hangs over mankind," Xi said in a speech at Tiananmen Square commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific. "We must learn the lessons of history and dedicate ourselves to peace." Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University, said however that Beijing may have planned the troop cut "in the name of efficiency and cost saving so that the defense budget can be reallocated to 21st century capabilities." "Infantry are no longer a measure of power," he said. "One metric to watch is overall military spending, which goes up in China by double digits each year — ahead of economic growth. Another metric to watch is the development of new and leading-edge technologies like cyber, hypersonic missiles and submarines." Xi's announcement came near the start of the highly choreographed ceremonies in central Beijing, which included a military parade showing off a slew of new armaments. Hours after the speech, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that Beijing would complete the troop cuts by 2017 "in its latest effort to build slimmer but stronger armed forces," according to the official New China News Agency. He added that the cuts would target "outdated armaments, administrative staff and noncombatant personnel." China has 2.3 million troops, compared with the 1.3 million members of the U.S. armed forces. Xu Guangyu, a retired Chinese military officer and a consultant to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Assn, said that Beijing has been attempting to rebalance its forces as it puts a new emphasis on air and sea operations. "The air force and navy have both made big gains in the last few years. But the balance of forces is still 70% army, 15% navy and 15% air force," he said, speaking before the troop cuts were announced. "My guess is that the PLA [the People's Liberation Army] will try to adjust that to about 50% army, 25% navy and 25% air force in the coming years." Pentagon officials warn that China's rapid military modernization is aimed at projecting power in East Asia and at raising the risks the U.S. faces if it intervenes in maritime hot spots, such as the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, where Beijing has long-standing territorial claims.”

Descendants of ex-US presidents speak of affinity for Taiwan “Descendants of former US presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower yesterday said that they felt a sense of affinity with Taiwan because of their grandfathers’ links to the nation during World War II and afterward. Mary Jean Eisenhower, Clifton Truman Daniel and David Roosevelt, invited by the government to participate in events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, said at a news conference in Taipei that it was a special experience for them to attend the events. “Each of our grandfathers played a vital and interesting” role in the war and the subsequent developments in Taiwan and the rest of the world, said David Roosevelt, a grandson of the former president. David Roosevelt said he was not invited to attend commemorative events in China, but if he had, he would still have chosen to accept Taiwan’s invitation because his grandparents had a close relationship with Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his wife, Soong Mayling (宋美齡). Mary Jean Eisenhower, a granddaughter of Dwight Eisenhower, said that given her grandfather’s love for Taiwan and her own love for the nation, there was no place she would rather be to commemorate the anniversary. “Taiwan almost feels like a second family to me, not only because of what my grandparents and my parents told me about the country, but also because of my own experiences,” said Mary Jean Eisenhower, who is on her ninth visit to Taiwan. “For me, it’s logical... to support the beginning of this friendship that happened so many years ago and several generations ago.” She said it is a special experience to attend the commemorative events in Taiwan, because “it represents to me the historical start of a friendship that has transcended generations.” Daniel, a grandson of Harry Truman, said he was honored to be able to help Taiwan remember the sacrifices and triumphs in the war. He said that even if he had received an invitation from China, he would have chosen to come to Taiwan because his grandfather had helped defend the nation’s sovereignty and had defended democracy.”

A New Class of Ship – 'Expeditionary Support' “There are different kinds of submarines, of destroyers and amphibious ships, of patrol and support ships. The US Navy’s unique designation system defines all of them, starting with a root type, like SS for submarine, adding an N for nuclear, adding a G for guided missiles or a B for ballistic missiles. Now there’s a new root designator – E for Expeditionary Support. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, working with Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations, signed off on the E plan and changed the designations of three kinds of ships to the new category:
     ·JHSV Joint High Speed Vessels will become EPF, for Expeditionary Fast Transport.
     ·MLP Mobile Landing Platforms are now ESD Expeditionary Transfer Docks.
     ·and AFSB Afloat Forward Staging Bases – currently included as MLPs – will become ESB, for Expeditionary Base Mobile.
The changes, announced Thursday by Mabus’ office, are in line with an effort begun by the secretary in 2013 to streamline some of the Navy’s ship designations, which some feel have become too disparate. The topic has been debated within the Navy’s command structure, where some argue the designators should reflect an acquisition program, while others think more traditional terms should apply. E is not a new designation, but has been used as a prefix – sometimes unofficially – to denote a vessel in experimental use. The Paul F. Foster, for example, is a former Spruance-class destroyer, hull number DD 964, that was reclassed in 2005 as experimental destroyer EDD 964. She remains in use as the Self-Defense Test Ship. Mabus kicked off the redesignations in January, when he announced the next LCS Littoral Combat Ships would become FF frigates. According to Navy sources, earlier iterations of a new JHSV designation included APF, for fast auxiliary transport; AKF, fast auxiliary cargo ship; or LPF, for amphibious fast transport. MLPs could have become LSV or LVD for vehicle landing ship. The discussion about AFSB designators included MCS, for mine countermeasures support ship, or AFSD, for multi-purpose replenishment dock.”

China's Parade Puts US Navy on Notice “China showcased its growing capability to deny the US Navy access to the maritime domain of both the East China Sea and South China Sea during a celebratory parade Thursday commemorating the 70th anniversary of its victory over imperialist Japan. Parade officials commented that 80 percent of the weapons on display had never been exhibited to the public before, and all the equipment was Chinese-made and operational. Though this is a fair statement, three fighter aircraft that took part in the parade are actually pirated copies of foreign fighter aircraft, including the J-11B (Sukhoi Su-27), carrier-borne J-15 (Su-33) Flying Shark, and the J-10 (Israeli Lavi). The parade showcased for the first time a variety of ballistic missiles under the command of the Second Artillery Corps. Mark Stokes, a China ballistic missile specialist at the Project 2049 Institute, said that leading each parade formation were corps leader grade officers – chief of staff, chief engineer or deputy commander. "It appears that each of the six missile bases were represented with a new missile system," he said. The ballistic missile line-up was impressive: DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missile, DF-15B short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), DF-16 medium-range ballistic missile, DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile with ASBM capabilities, and the DF-31A ICBM. The DF-5B is believed to be China's first nuclear-armed ICBM with multiple independent re-entry vehicles. Officially, the DF-5B can carry only three nuclear warheads, but there are suspicions it can carry as many as five.”

DF-26 IRBM may have ASM variant, China reveals at 3 September parade “One of the surprising revelations from Chinese television announcers during the 3 September military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War was that the newly revealed DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) may have an anti-ship variant. In addition to conducting "nuclear counterattack" missions, the DF-26 could also attack "medium-size ships at sea" as part of "conventional long-range precision strike", said the announcer. As the DF-26's estimated range is 3,000-4,000 km, this missile might enable the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to target US Navy formations in the "Second Island Chain" or out to Guam. The parade announcer's indication that it could target "medium-size ships" may mean the missile is accurate enough to attack destroyer-size ships in addition to aircraft carriers. The DF-26 could therefore be regarded as a second-generation anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) in addition to the DF-21D, which was also revealed on 3 September for the first time. The DF-21D has an estimated range of 1,700 km. The DF-26's appearance in the 3 September parade indicates that it is a deployed system. The television announcer's mention of an anti-ship version could mean this variant is also deployed.”

Regaining the Initiative in the South China Sea “On May 26, the State Council Information Office released an English-language version of the Chinese Military Strategy. Short, sweet, and immensely more readable than its American counterpart, the PRC’s military strategy is notable for its transition to an overt, “active defense” posture for Chinese military forces. Among the many salient points is the emphasis on gaining the strategic initiative, which is one of eight specified strategic tasks for the Chinese military.This is not a new development, but recent activities in the South China Sea (SCS) illustrate the reality that China has already seized the strategic initiative in those waters. Force dispositions in the SCS make it clear that the PRC has no intention of surrendering the initiative. A passive U.S. response will only continue to demonstrate to China the usefulness of its approach, while traditional flexible deterrent options are both unnecessarily provocative and likely to be ineffective. A comprehensive, long-term engagement and modernization strategy focused on Partner Nation (PN) and U.S. airpower may provide an opportunity for the U.S. to reverse PRC gains in the SCS and prevent further gains. Airpower, particularly airpower employed by partner nations, is the necessary backbone of a strategy to effectively neutralize the political effectiveness of the PRC’s island forts in the South China Sea. A robust engagement strategy, combined with a modernized American bomber force, will allow the United States to credibly project power or assist local defense efforts, even in cases where local basing for U.S. forces is unavailable. This proposed U.S. strategy has three elements; new defense relationships, a revised toolkit for building up partner nation air and seapower capabilities, and a modernized long-range bomber force.”

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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