Monday, March 07, 2011

Experts Talk US-China Security Issues, Part 1

Several weeks ago I attended an outstanding one day conference by the Jamestown Foundation titled China Defense & Security 2011. The conference consisted of a series of speakers discussing various aspects of US-China national defense and security.

Only one speaker concentrated on digital (or "cyber," love that word) items. The rest dealt with a wide range of topics.

I took two pages of notes that I thought my benefit those not in attendance. I did not take notes on the one session that was considered "off the record."

In this post I will summarize one page of notes.

For the second page please see Experts Talk US-China Security Issues, Part 2.

  • Arthur Waldron cited three ways to view events in China: 1) nothing new is happening; 2) something is happening, but if we had an "expert" in the White House we would be able to deal with it better; or 3) something is happening, but because we're not sure exactly what, it doesn't matter who is in charge. Mr Waldron advocated option 3. He emphasized that China sees itself as "country #1. China has no concept of 'equal states.'" When talking with Chinese leaders one will hear them mention "those little countries" like Indonesia (population 230 million)! China likes to use "disciplinary action" with its neighbors, and usually creates "an environment" for action with "statements, complaints, etc., followed by instantaneously decisive force." In fact, China has a "highly optimistic view of using force," meaning they act when they believe victory is guaranteed.

  • Willy Lam noted China saw the global economic crisis as "a strategic window of opportunity" to assert Chinese values and power. He cited a number of Chinese leaders and thinkers.

    • Yuan Peng says "China wants to change the rules of the game" of global interactions.

    • Liu Jiahua says "As America shrinks, China expands." The US increasingly needs China as the US' ability to "contain" China decreases.

    • Dai Bingguo says China must "maintain socialism, national security, government and territorial integrity, and sustain economic and social development."

    • Han Xudong recommends only "advertising" national interests and capabilities as the Chinese military develops their ability to defend them.

    • General Yang Yi sees a "zero sum game in the military sphere." This helps explain why the Chinese see no value in military-to-military relationships with the West.


    Xi Jinping (the next president) has closer ties to the PLA than his predecessors. The PLA, in fact, is the power base of the "Gang of Princelings" gaining power in China. Mr Lam worried that Chinese development interests remind him of pre-war Germany's "lebensraum," with Chinese interests stated as ranging from the South China Sea to the Yellow Sea, and even into outer space (i.e., mineral development on other planets.) Mr Lam also noted China's tendency to play countries and regions against each other (e.g., the US vs the EU), to pit companies against each other (e.g., Boeing vs Airbus), and increasing use of "rare earth diplomacy" (e.g., with Japan) in order to get its way. Mr Lam dismissed notions that President Hu was ignorant of the J-20 stealth fighter test, partly because he is one of the 12 members of China's Central Military Commission.

  • Michael Green discussed international relations. China has been surprised in 2010 to learn that "Asia has an appetite for a balance of power." Mr Green said 2010 was the "worst year in Chinese diplomacy since 1989." In fact, Japan started the year with its new government trying to cozy up to China, only to end the end closer to the US after numerous debacles. South Korea was similarly upset after China failed to condemn North Korea's shelling of Southern territory and killing of Southern citizens. The ASEAN forum transformed from an exceptionally boring event (minus the dress-ups and skits) to a complaint shop against China. Even outside Asia, China is seen as dangerous: more Europeans than Americans feel threatened!

    Mr Green is worried about the rise of the PLA. He said it operates without oversight, very differently than the US military. Chinese civilian leaders don't see what the Chinese military does at sea or in the air. Mr Green concluded by noting Asia's growing trade dependency on China and security dependence on the United States. He recommend a rebalancing act led by US-Asia trade.

  • Shuai Hua-Ming, Legislator, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Republic of China (Taiwan) could not get his .pdf slide presentation to work. It kept crashing Acrobat 9 on Windows XP. Yes, you know what I'm thinking. On the policy front, he advocated the US holding the Chinese government accountable for PLA actions. He was not optimistic about US-Chinese military discussions, calling them a "secondary tool."


In my next post I'll summarize my second page of notes.

1 comment:

gunnar said...

Who is China's largest trading partner? By far, its the US.

China is the US' second largest trading partner after Canada and ahead of Japan, UK, S Korea, Mexico and Germany.

China holds the second largest total amount of US Treasury bills (they were first until the US Fed recently passed them), their future is directly linked to ours.

Think tanks opining on "security" do their listeners a profound disservice when they dont discuss economic realities.

Indonesia should replace Russia in BRIC to make BIIC Brazil, India, Indonesia, and China emerging markets.