Friday, April 29, 2005

Well, it looks like India’s going to get a security council seat.

Hot on the heels of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi showed up in New Delhi. India and Japan then issued a statement that they would support each other’s bids to become permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. As Reuters reports,

"They reiterated their support for each other's candidature, based on the firmly shared recognition that Japan and India are legitimate candidates for permanent membership in an expanded Security Council," the two sides said in a joint statement.

I assume that China, in order to keep from pushing India into Japan’s arms, will chime in and wholeheartedly support India’s candidacy.

As for Japan—ain’t gonna happen.

Am I the only one in America who is amazed that, with everything else on his plate, Prime Minister Koizumu is running around Asia trying to counter Chinese influence?

Well, I shouldn’t be.

Here’s an interesting pair of quotes from TimeAsia:

Koizumi's major legacy will likely be building Japan's influence across Asia and the rest of the world to a level commensurate with its economic might. Naturally, that campaign is generating intense friction with Beijing. "The dispute reflects the anxiety that both sides feel over China's role as a rising power in the region," says Philip Yang, professor of political science at National Taiwan University in Taipei. As this plays out, "we will see a lot more cool issues become hot."


Some of Tokyo's actions that might seem hamfisted—the timing of announcements, the decisions on when to escalate—are in fact highly deliberate, argues a Western diplomat in Tokyo. "The Japanese government is not looking at these issues in terms of next week or even next month," he explains. "They are looking 30 years ahead. They believe that if they back down on many of them now, their leverage and initiative will be lost forever."

For "Western diplomat", I read "some U.S. government hardliner plugged into--and promoting--the whole 'contain China' strategy".

When you consider that Japan has either been selected as, or volunteered to be, our proxy in Asia in confronting China—and Tokyo (and probably Washington) feels we have to move quickly before China gets too strong, you get an idea how the Chinese are probably freaking out--and how quickly things could turn "hot".
The same week the head of the KMT goes to Beijing to make nice with the Communists, a millionaire basketball player in the United States—Yao Ming, of course—is acclaimed a Chinese model worker.

Quite a week.

Lien Chan’s meeting with Hu Jintao is a bittersweet enactment of the quasi-state visit that might have been if Lien hadn’t lost the 2004 presidential election by 30,000 votes out of 13 million.

Instead, the KMT and the CCP will have to deal with a reality in which the political initiative lies with President Chen Shui-pien and the DPP.

The last election may have been a squeaker, but the salient statistic is this: Chen’s take of the vote swelled from 39% in 2000 (when the anti-independence elite, with preternatural sagacity, ran two candidates against him and split the vote) to 50% in 2004.

Chen can now claim to be able to express the aspirations of indigenous Taiwanese who make up 80% of the population and at the same time point to his success as a legitimate leader who kept the island from getting blown up by the People’s Republic of China.

He’s redefined the status quo—the magic circle of safety that Taiwanese are loath to abandon for any political extreme—as rule by indigenous, independence-minded Taiwanese in spite of Chinese hostility.

Now, from a position of advantage, Chen can play the wedge politics of bentuhua, indigenization, to coin an awkward phrase.

He can play the bentuhua card early and often. Appealing to Taiwanese pride, he can strip away support from the KMT, whose demonstrated ability to cozy up to the Chinese Communists may invite increasing derision and suspicion, instead of respect and political clout.

The Chinese Communists don’t have a lot of cards to play.

If DPP’s “Taiwan pride” degenerates into overt Min chauvinism, an opposition party representing the aspirations of the indigenous Hakka minority—which makes up 24% of Taiwan’s population—might stop the DPP’s momentum.

If the mainland-friendly KMT and PFP parties are progressively marginalized, China’s ostentatious hostility toward Chen and the DPP will simply make Chen stronger as the voice of a united pro-Taiwanese, anti-mainland block.

Otherwise, China is pretty much a paper tiger as far as actual intentions to invade Taiwan in the face of Taiwanese, U.S., and Japanese military opposition is concerned.

Now China has to consider how to handle its worst-case scenario: how to avoid military disaster and at the same time handle the internal political fallout if Taiwan declares independence—both the disappointment of Han Chinese, and the energizing of separatist sentiment in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

According to Asia Times, in the jostling over the eastward movement of Russian crude oil “China beats Japan in Russian pipeline race

Declarations of Chinese victory are perhaps premature.

After all, in January 2005, the headline read:

Russia orders oil pipeline to the pacific

Some background:

Russia originally considered two alternative eastern outlets for its crude oil surplus, China via an overland pipeline and Japan via pipeline and a Pacific Ocean terminal at Nakhodka.

The China pipeline would be cheaper, quicker, and fit well with the current disposition of Russia’s oil reserves. As such, it was championed by the Khodorkovsky-era Yukos as a “good for stockholders” transaction.

The Japan via Nakhodka option would require a much longer and more expensive pipeline. Its primary economic attraction was that it would in theory give Russia flexibility to export its oil to Japan, South Korea, and China via sea at the best free-market price, instead of locking Russia into a single-customer/preferential price deal with China.

Aside from that, Nakhodka is a big geopolitical boondoggle with dubious economics and suppliability. Since the numbers are big (maybe $18 billion for oilfield development and pipeline construction) and the reserves iffy, the Japanese government would step in and arrange the financing.

On the surface, this project looks like a throwback to the heyday of the 1960s and 70s, when the Japanese negotiated huge resource projects throughout Asia on a government-to-government basis, arranged preferential financing, and let Japanese contractors and trading companies enrich themselves by building the projects and marketing the output.

Viewed more closely, it looks more like a tactic I once heard described by a Japanese gentleman as “spitting on the cookies” i.e. getting involved in a project solely to deny a rival—in this case, China--the opportunity to participate. In order to tie up the project, extravagant promises would be made, subject to feasibility studies and imposition of-- possibly intentionally--onerous terms concerning consortium structure, government guarantees, and the price of the output from the project that might lead the project to come to naught a few years down the road.

Proceeding with the Nakhodka pipeline would require extensive feasibility studies to ascertain whether or not sufficient Siberian reserves existed to keep the pipeline filled; negotiation of Japanese participation in those fields; and volume and price guarantees for Japan once the pipeline was completed. Particularly, Japanese insistence on getting most or all of the oil according to some preferential price formula would remove the only attraction of the line and be a kiss of death for the project from the Russian point of view.

Transneft had vehemently opposed the Yukos China pipeline project in the past and voiced support for the Nakhodka pipeline. However, Transneft was mainly concerned with asserting national control over petroleum transportation and export—a sentiment that Putin heartily endorses. Now that Yukos is out of the way, Transneft might be re-examing the economic basis for the China line and finding it more feasible than the Nakhodka line.

Indeed, a report by John Daly of Jane’s Intelligence stated in 2003:

Russia's pipeline monopoly Transneft concluded that the [Nakhodka] project would be unprofitable. Transneft CEO Semyon Vainshtock said the company's feasibility study for a 2,361 mile (3,800 km) proposed pipeline "left no room for doubt."

Even so, I suspect that Putin is loath to abandon the Nakhodka pipeline. He would love the flexibility, selling power, and regional clout a pipeline to the Pacific would give Russia, if the Japanese would pay for it.

And only if the Japanese would pay for it, since the pipeline looks like economic suicide and makes sense only as a desperate act of geopolitical will by Japan (possibly with Washington’s encouragement).

The path for the first stage of the eastern pipeline has been swung to the north, to the inland terminal of Skovorodino, away from China, to preserve the feasibility of an extension to Nakhodka—an indication to me that Transneft is planning to keep its options open, and both China and Japan on the hook.

So the backgrounders Transneft gave to the Asia Times Moscow correspondent are probably just a case of admonitory cage-rattling, alerting Japan that Russia is not foreclosing its China option and Japan had better start making good on its engagements if they hope to obtain access to the 50 million tons per year of oil that is supposed to flow to Nakhodka—and keep it from going to China.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Matthew Yglesias strives for clarity on Taiwan but seems to come up a little short.

Here’s another try.

Taiwan receives unequivocal U.S. protection as long as it eschews independence.

Full stop.

I agree that the time for strategic ambiguity is past. It’s a holdover from the first era of U.S.-PRC relations, which began in 1979 when America abruptly dropped Taiwan, signed onto a one China policy, and thereby implied that the fate of Taiwan was something that the United States might not concern itself about.

Since giving a green light to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan was politically and strategically unsound even then, the U.S. fudged the issue in order to create the impression that, our formal diplomatic policy in support of China’s position on Taiwan notwithstanding, we and our 6th Fleet might still step in on Taiwan’s behalf.

A few things have happened since then.

Taiwan revised its constitution and abandoned the lethal fiction that it had a legitimate claim on the mainland. It democratized after decades of dictatorship, creating a de facto sovereign state instead of a rump KMT regime.

Then the PRC fumbled the ball politically, first with Tian An Men in 1989 and then with the clumsy resumption of Hong Kong sovereignty in 1997.

The Hong Kong failure was almost as damaging as Tian An Men.

Hong Kong was supposed to be a showcase and a celebration, a trial run for an early political integration of Taiwan and China. But China’s execution, from the deliberately and tortuously unrepresentative constitution it forced on Hong Kong to its installation of proto-stooge Tung Chi-hwa, and its ham-fisted approach to the judiciary excited outrage and suspicion instead of admiration.

Hong Kong demonstrated that even under the most favorable circumstances of a co-opted local elite and British support, the PRC couldn’t engineer an enthusiastic popular consensus in favor of its rule.

Taiwanese looked at what the Chinese did in Tian An Men and Hong Kong and said, no thanks. So did the rest of world opinion.

Economically, China is a juggernaut. Politically, it's a train wreck nobody wants in their backyard.

U.S. acquiescence to the Chinese removal of a ridiculous and embarrassing KMT regime occupying Taiwan in the 1980s was conceivable. But the U.S. accepting the destruction of a democratic Taiwanese government by a clumsy, brutal communist dictatorship today is not.

No ambiguity, strategic or otherwise, needed here.

Abandoning the doctrine of strategic ambiguity and promising to defend Taiwan as long as it doesn’t declare independence should simply acknowledge a geopolitical reality that China, Taiwan, and the United States can all accept.

For a variety of political, military, and strategic reasons I don’t believe that the Chinese need or want to invade Taiwan. The current PRC regime is rational, not suicidal, and relies on regional stability and economic growth to sustain its political fortunes.

Unambiguous U.S. support of Taiwan--with the indispensable caveat that Taiwan abandon its aspirations to formal independence--appears to me to be the only way to take the Taiwan issue off the table.

Therefore, I don’t really understand Mr. Yglesias’ preoccupation with increasing Taiwan’s defense budget in order to make it worthy of American protection.

American deterrence is the sin qua non of Taiwan’s security. Demanding that Taiwan pay an increased tariff in gold, blood, and iron before the U.S. military guarantees its safety is, I think, cruel and unnecessary and creates exactly the state of tension and instability in the area that a new policy of strategic clarity would avoid.

Thickening the Taiwan tripwire would perversely reinforce the Chinese impression that the U.S. wants Taiwan to make a go of it alone, and Uncle Sam might withhold its support if Taiwanese resistance collapsed too quickly and unheroically.

Worst of all, heating up the Straits arms race would catapult the current democratic Taiwan into the front-line role of incipient enemy of the PRC, and work to foreclose what should be the most feasible and desirable outcome we can hope for in the middle to distant future—a Greater China partnership between Taiwan and a politically more mature mainland.

I’ll return to the issue of the powerful, emotional response of people on the Chinese mainland to the Taiwan issue, and what it means for PRC and U.S. policy, in subsequent posts.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Premier Koizumi issued the boilerplate apology for Japanese aggression as Japan and China sought to paper over their rift.

Meanwhile, Hu Jintao took his lumps in a Philip Pan article in the Washington Post entitled "Hu Tightens Party's Grip On Power: Chinese Leader Seen As Limiting Freedoms". The article describes crackdowns on dissidents, and ends with the telling quote:

"The party's authority is gradually declining, and as a result, Hu is less confident and more insecure than the leaders before him," said a former provincial party chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "When a leader feels insecure, he tightens controls."

Fair enough.

However, I think the article veers off course in one area by implying that Hu’s hard line on dissent springs from some sort of perverse nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution:

The party's reformist wing has been especially alarmed by Hu's penchant for using hard-line rhetoric from the Cultural Revolution, the devastating political movement that rocked China in the decade before Mao's death in 1976.

And in blunt language that party veterans said recalled Mao Zedong's destructive Cultural Revolution, he urged the leadership to be alert to the danger of subversive thinking.

The article clearly seeks to link Hu’s rhetoric to the universally deplored fanaticism of the Cultural Revolution, with a little bit of editorializing overkill in applying the adjectives “devastating” and “destructive” to the two references to the GPCR, to ensure that today’s historically challenged reader gets the message.

Hu’s rhetoric does appear old school, but it’s not Cultural Revolution old-school.

The GPCR talking points covered counter-revolution and restoration of capitalism.

Hu is responding to the contemporary rhetoric and reality of the Bush administration’s regime-change campaign against Communist regimes.

It’s described plainly enough in the body of the article:

Hu warned that "hostile forces" were trying to undermine the party by "using the banner of political reform to promote Western bourgeois parliamentary democracy, human rights and freedom of the press," according to a person given excerpts of the speech.

Hu said China's enemies had not abandoned their "strategic plot to Westernize and split China." He blamed the fall of the Soviet Union on policies of "openness and pluralism" and on the efforts of "international monopoly capital with the United States as its leader

Chinese reformers—whose views are reflected in Pan’s article—may wish that the clock were turned back to 1976, when a successful alliance of pragmatists and intellectuals deposed the Gang of Four and introduced a new post-Cultural Revolution social dispensation that moved beyond the rhetoric of revolution.

But Hu’s rhetoric draws on the experience of a different time and a different crisis to respond to current challenges to Communist Party control.

It evokes 1989 and Tian An Men, when a portion of the Chinese political and intellectual leadership believed that the key to reform and progress for China was a convergence with the political as well as economic institutions of the West.

We know who won that argument. It wasn’t the liberal reformers.

That’s the source of Hu’s anti-reform rhetoric—opposition to what was then, in the Reagan years, called the Western tactic of “peaceful evolution”.

Now that the Bush administration’s participation in the democracy movements that pepper the ex-Communist bloc have become remarkably open, the source of Hu’s anxiety—and severity—should be readily apparent.

Consider Secretary Rice’s recent involvement in the Belarus democracy movement:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Belarusian dissidents Thursday she thinks an end to authoritarian rule in their country is within reach…

After meeting with the seven dissidents, Rice said next year's presidential election in Belarus offers "an excellent opportunity" to focus on the need for credible elections in the country, a pro-Russian former Soviet republic led since 1994 by President Alexander Lukashenko. On Wednesday, Rice had said it was "time for a change" in Belarus…

Greeting the dissidents Thursday at a hotel, Rice said, "While it may be difficult and long and at times even far away, there will be a road to democracy in Belarus. We admire your courage, and we admire your dedication and we want you all to know you are in our thoughts."

After the meeting, the dissidents told reporters they hoped to organize mass anti-government protests this fall.

Rice, at her own news conference, said the United States does not offer advice to opposition movements on tactics. "These are the people who know what's best to do," she said. …

The 2004 Belarus Democracy Act mandates U.S. assistance for Belarusian political parties, nongovernmental organizations and independent media. It also bars U.S. aid to the Belarus government, except for humanitarian assistance.

One of the by-products of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been a devaluation of the concept of national sovereignty, at least when it applies to countries other than the United States. With remarkably little objection from the rest of the Western world or the U.N., the U.S. has appointed itself judge, jury, and executioner of regimes it deems beyond the pale.

With the repackaging of regime change as a generic freedom crusade in 2005, the Bush administration can move against offensive regimes without the need for casus belli and evidence that pre-emptive anti-WMD war demand. A country need not be regarded a state sponsor of terrorism and thereby represent a direct threat to the United States in order to attract the open and active hostility of the American government—it need only hurdle the much lower bar of being deemed “undemocratic”.

As a result, U.S. regime change activity seems to have become so routine and universalized the American public doesn’t even question it anymore, and our Secretary of State can openly meet with dissidents and promote regime change in Belarus, a country which threatens the interests of the United States only in the most indirect and abstract ways imaginable.

Given this sort of American activity, and the apparent precedents in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, don’t look for Hu Jintao to give dissidents a platform or the United States an opening by allowing democratic reforms any time soon.

It’s not 1976 in China. It’s not even 1989. And it is unlikely that China will respond to the rhetoric of freedom in the way that the reformers and the Bush administration hope.

Tian An Men is now viewed with an equivocal and bitter nostalgia.

The tragic, bloody collapse of the 1989 protest movement, which had in some part arisen in response to encouragement by then-premier Zhao Ziyang, is now contrasted in Chinese perceptions with the concurrent collapse of the Soviet Union into an economic and political kleptocracy and the subsequent rise of a thriving, apolitical Chinese economic juggernaut under Communist direction.

China’s 1989 brush with political liberalization now seems to a certain portion of elite Chinese opinion (not only within the higher reaches of the party) to have been a dangerous, futilely naïve exercise in political recklessness.

To them, the turn away from democracy took China to wealth, power, and pride--and a leading position on the world stage that makes the United States regard it as a threat.

And they don’t want to turn back, either to the Cultural Revolution or to the 1989 democracy movement.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

China Provides More Grist for the White House Political Mill

Via Brad DeLong, The Financial Times reports that the decision for a more public, confrontational approach to pressuring China to revalue the RMB was made in the White House, which has taken over direction of the China exchange rate initiative from the Treasury Department:

The Treasury's policy - widely supported by China experts who say Beijing is less likely to move in the face of public hectoring - was overturned because of White House concern at rising protectionist pressure in Congress.

The sharp change was the clearest sign yet that economic policy in President George W. Bush's second term is going to be led firmly from the White House. A tight team of close associates of the president is calling the shots, say current and former administration officials.

This group consists of Dick Cheney, vice-president, Andrew Card, the president's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Karl Rove, the president's political adviser who has assumed a broader co-ordinating role, including overseeing economic policy.

It was expected that in Bush’s second term the White House—with political guru Karl Rove assuming an official role as policy advisor--would be even more dominating and less consultative on setting policy than it was in the first term.

At the State Department, this transition was symbolized by the appointment of Secretary Rice, who sees her job as enabling the President’s wishes and overcoming professional resistance in the State Department, in contradistinction to Colin Powell, who considered it his job to provide objective advice and at times dissent, and assert the prerogatives of the experts and professionals at State.

It was also feared that putting the White House staff in charge of setting policy would make the process more political, with policies chosen and pushed primarily on the basis of the political imperative of helping President Bush maintain his domestic political standing.

It remains to be seen whether or not China will be adopted as the latest foreign object to demonstrate the righteousness, courage, and invincibility of President Bush, regardless of the diplomatic, economic, and perhaps military consequences for America or the rest of the world.

But the first sign—using an overt attack on China’s foreign exchange regime to deflect the political pressure caused by America’s yawning trade deficit—is not encouraging.

Friday, April 22, 2005

John Bolton's Taiwan Connection

Inside the Beltway, you can hear senators grunting “This one’s for Colin” as they take their whacks at the John Bolton nomination piñata.

Senate resentment at the Bush administration’s coercive and abusive style approach to policy and management that treated Senate-friendly Colin Powell—and the Senate itself-- with such ostentatious contempt appears to have crystallized around the easy-to-dislike figure of John Bolton.

Perhaps, if the nuclear option wipes out the filibuster and the legislative branch turns into just another drum on the White House steamroller, humiliating John Bolton might turn into the last exercise of the Senate’s independent advise and consent powers during this Congress.

Which perhaps explains why the objections to Bolton look unlikely to go beyond the gratifying airing of his personal failings as a decent human being and Gotcha! parsing of his previous testimony before the offended Solons of the Senate.

I have to admit I’m an agnostic on the John Bolton nomination. Part of me says that the best way to hinder President Bush’s confrontational foreign policy agenda and short circuit war against Iran is to send Mr. Bolton to the U.N. Mr. Bolton’s backstabbin’ wiretappin’ ways are sure to alienate the U.N. and most of its members and turn it into a center of opposition to whatever he’s trying to accomplish.

Certainly the Chinese wouldn’t trust him.

Since the current sentiment seems to demand examining Mr. Bolton’s lapses under a microscope, I hope that the issue of his ardent support of the Taiwanese government will be examined in minute detail, instead of excused and swept under the rug during his somewhat less contentious nomination hearings in 2001.

Up until now, there hasn’t been much interest in the media in going into Mr. Bolton’s Taiwan connection.

Only David Corn of The Nation and Tom Barry of the International Relations Center try to keep the flame alive.

Some background:

In 1993 and 1994, while a private citizen, Mr. Bolton wrote a series of research papers on U.N. readmission for the Taiwanese government in return for payments totaling $30,000.

Embarrassingly, the payments came from a secret, oversight-free $100 million slush fund that the Taiwan government used to purchase influence and support.

As reported by John Pomfret of the Washington Post in 2001 , other recipients of the slush fund’s largesse were Nicaragua ($16,000,000) Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress ($10,000,000; in return, according to Taiwan, South Africa postponed recognition of the People’s Republic of China by two years), and the fund’s crooked accountant, Liu Kuan-chun, whose disappearance with $5.5 million of the fund’s money triggered the closing of the fund and the subsequent revelations.

The money was carefully laundered through seemingly bona fide organizations like the Taiwan Research Institute. When the scandal broke, backgrounders from “former Taiwanese officials” sought to disarm the American media with flattering reassurances:

One former Taiwanese official involved in U.S.-China relations described Taiwan's payments to U.S. academics and former administration officials as "an insurance policy."
"We did not generally believe that you could buy Americans," he said.

And, he said, it tried to maintain good relations with people who had been sympathetic to Taiwan while they were in government.

"We know there is a revolving door in Washington," he said. "So we follow the careers of people and hope we can cooperate."

Just move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

When Mr. Bolton was nominated Undersecretary of State for Nonproliferation in 2001,
Walter Pincus reported Bolton had received an ethical clean bill of health both in 1994 and at his confirmation hearings in 2001:

A source close to the State Department said a Justice Department official then told Bolton that he was exempted from registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act because he was "providing legal services."

Bolton has said he will not speak directly to the press while his nomination is pending. At his March 29 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said the payments "have been disclosed and vetted in the ethics clearance process . . . [T]he Office of Government Ethics, [and] the State Department Legal Advisor's office have imposed no ethical constraint on my decisions on these [Taiwan] matters."

Given today’s dust-up in l’affaire Bolton—in which our ex-Ambassador to Korea claimed that Mr. Bolton misrepresented his horrified dismay at Mr. Bolton’s Kim Jung-il bashing speech as a ringing endorsement--whether Mr. Bolton accurately and completely recalled the remarks of the ethics watchdogs bears reviewing.

Mr. Bolton can draw consolation from this endorsement at the time of his 2001 confirmation hearing:

Marc A. Thiessen, spokesman for the Senate committee, said: "We know all about [Bolton's fees from Taiwan and House testimony] and it raises no concerns with the committee. He did absolutely nothing wrong. He did no lobbying for Taiwan."

On the other hand:

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a member of the foreign relations panel, said last week he had not known of Bolton's House committee appearances. He said they "raise a number of very serious questions that have to be answered before anything further is done about his nomination."

All from the same 2001 article by Walter Pincus. He also reports:

Nearly two months after that first payment, Bolton was invited to appear at a hearing before two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Bolton, who had been assistant secretary of state for international organizations during the Reagan administration, opened his statement by saying, "I believe that the United States should support the efforts of the Republic of China on Taiwan to become a full member of the United Nations."

That sounds like lobbying to me.

Mr. Bolton was not promoting his own point of view or even pro-Taiwanese positions. He was regurgitating the talking points of Lee Teng-hui, President of Taiwan at that time, whose newly-minted strategy of “pragmatic diplomacy” was designed to wrong-foot the PRC and at the same time create a legitimate political space for a more indigenously Taiwanese political movement based on de facto independence than the mainlander-dominated KMT.

The circumstances of how, when, and why the American conservative movement vaulted neatly from the KMT/anti-Chicom horse they had been riding for the 45 years, and landed in the saddle of the Taiwanese independence movement is an untold and probably fascinating story.

In any case, by actively advocating Taiwan’s readmission, it looks to me like Mr. Bolton was lobbying—for something that would further the political fortunes of Lee Tung-hui and his party, not necessarily the interests of Taiwan, and certainly not the interests of the United States at the time.

Fast-forwarding to 2005, some may be inclined to grant Mr. Bolton the Lloyd Armstrong defense: that Mr. Bolton was paid to advocate policies he would have advocated anyway, and the fee was a reward rather than a payoff:

Provable quid quo pro is not the issue in this case, as it might be in the domestic payola case of Mr. Armstrong.

A lobbyist for a foreign power—a distinction that Mr. Bolton, as champion of unalloyed American unilateralism, might be anxious to avoid—is required to register with the government.

Perhaps today, with the growing hostility to all things Bolton, the Committee on Foreign Relations may be inspired to examine the articles Mr. Bolton and consider if they merited a $30,000 payday (and qualified as legal advice), confirm, revisit, and review the clearances Mr. Bolton claims he received from the Office of Government Ethics and the State Department’s Legal Advisory Office, and decide if he really was lobbying for Lee Teng-hui’s administration after all.

Finally, in the midst of the important investigation of Mr. Bolton’s abusive management style, perhaps the committee might take time to consider whether America’s interests at the United Nations in these increasingly tense times would be best served by sending a paid anti-China advocate to deal with the People’s Republic of China on the Security Council.
A Christian Science Monitor article concerning China’s need to make nice with Koizumi at the non-aligned nations meeting in Jakarta gets most things right and one thing wrong.

From China tries to patch its torn image:

In recent days, prominent authorities such as Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing have appeared on state TV, urging the People's Liberation Army and rank-and-file Communist Party cadres to trust the government's handling of the dispute, and to cease activities leading to protest. Earlier in the week, an editorial in People's Daily, the party mouthpiece, took what some analysts described as a "worried tone" - saying the time for criticism of Japan had ended, and that the time for "economic construction" and the building of a "harmonious society" was at hand.

On Wednesday, pressure on Beijing was ratcheted up further when a group of Asian foreign ministers, as well as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, urged the two sides to talk. At a minimum, experts say, allowing conditions between Japan and China to fester in Jakarta would spoil the meeting.

"How do you hold an important international meeting on ways to promote Asian-African dialogue if China and Japan aren't talking and relations are tense?" asks a foreign diplomat in Beijing. "Can Africa be engaged in a discourse on Asia's economic success if all this clash is taking place? You've got [Pakistan President Pervez] Musharraf hugging [Indian Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh, but Japan and China can't talk?"

Leading up to the meeting, I think China has made the best it can of an awkward and potentially dangerous situation.

Official Japanese antipathy is now a given of Japan-China relations now that Koizumi has signed on to the U.S. containment strategy. The Chinese government had to make sure that its domestic political flank was guarded, and the U.S. and Japan would not repackage the dispute as democracy vs. tyranny and, potentially, Chinese government vs. its own people. Now, as the massive anti-Japanese popular demonstrations have shown, the confrontation will instead be in terms of nationalism: China vs. Japan (and the United States).

The Chinese are certainly watching Secretary Rice’s blatant encouragement of regime change in Belarus and want to make sure that there is no legitimized domestic opposition for the United States to exploit when the pushing and shoving starts over strategic dominance in East Asia.

The Chinese demonstrations showed not only Chinese government displeasure but displayed (and deepened) popular Chinese anger toward Japan that the Chinese government can reliably draw on when tensions reappear, as they inevitably will.

That being settled, now it’s probably time to make nice. Because the true battle for hearts and minds is—thankfully--diplomatic and international, instead of military. And that involves China’s concerted effort to reach out not only to Asia and Africa but also Europe as a counterweight to U.S. and Japanese hostility.

Something the CSM gets plain wrong is the EU’s retreat from lifting the arms embargo, no doubt China’s sorest disappointment:

Beijing was certain early this winter that a European Union arms embargo against China would be lifted (a move ardently opposed by the Pentagon). But last week, the EU said it no longer had a consensus to lift. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, in a frank interview with German media, even mentioned a possible need for a form of containment of China, until its social, political, and military direction became clearer.

Getting the EU to back away from lifting the arms embargo was one of John Bolton’s major achievements, accomplished with the help of a House of Representatives resolution and intensive lobbying of the European powers by both the United States and Japan—something the Chinese are well aware of.

John Bolton’s Feb. 25, 2005 speech in Tokyo laid out the position for and rationales for America and Japan’s joint approach to quarantining China, including scuttling the EU’s plans of lifting the arms embargo:

Similarly, we are having discussions with other governments about existing arms embargoes against China and about our concerns that others--such as the EU [European Union]--may lift their embargoes and thereby negatively impact the security of America, and its friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

The EU responded to vociferous and orchestrated U.S. opposition, not to perceived dangers to the strategic balance in Asia.

Blaming the Chinese for screwing up the EU initiative to lift the arms embargo is the mistake in the CSM article. And it disturbs me because it fits into an inaccurate narrative of the Chinese as irrational, deluded, and driven to the point of self-destructive behavior. That’s not the preconception that should be driving the debate in our emerging confrontation with a China that is rational, risk-averse, and trying to find ways to deal with the gradually increasing stress of dealing with the United States.

I hope it’s just a simple flub by the Monitor, and not the appearance of the same kind of dismal reporting that twisted or ignored facts that didn’t fit into the preconceived good vs. evil narrative that had been constructed to reconcile America the world to the impending Iraq war.

I expect the Europeans beat a retreat on lifting the arms embargo when they realized that America’s post-9/11 engagement with China beyond the most cosmetic gestures is dead. Rather than try to welcome China’s post Tian An Men return to full membership in the family of nations with a few juicy arms deal, it was better to back off and avoid getting tangled up in another U.S. scorched earth foreign policy crusade.

Those with long memories will recall that the sanction regime against Iraq was weakening because of European indifference and impatience before the Bush administration stepped in with its anti-Saddam campaign and made it clear that it would not permit Saddam’s Iraq to regain the measure of legitimacy and protection under international law that status as an unsanctioned, member-in-good-standing of the nation-state club bestows.

With that background, it must be especially disturbing to China that the U.S. wants to maintain an explicit sanction and embargo regime against China, with the implication that China is prone to devious, dangerous pariah-state behavior that the leadership and force of the United States-and Japan-- is needed to check.

Again, from John Bolton’s speech in Tokyo:

The second reason we oppose the lifting of the EU arms embargo against China was very well stated by our friend Foreign Minister Machimura, when he noted that "We are against a lifting of the arms embargo. The matter of the lifting of the arms embargo is one of great concern not only for Japan but for the security of East Asia as a whole."

Our respective government’s positions on resolving the Taiwan-China Cross-Strait issue are well-known. Suffice it to say, though, we are concerned that any measures that allow China to significantly improve its coercive capabilities could make fostering a peaceful resolution of this issue less likely. We concur with Foreign Minister Machimura that it will contribute to regional instability. Moreover, as I highlighted above, no adequate mechanism currently exists to prevent China from transferring technology and lethal weaponry to other, less stable regions of the world, including rogue states, or to use it for the purposes of internal repression.

That’s why China will be playing its good-guy cards at the Non-aligned summit, and will continue its diplomatic/economic/multi-lateral outreach to Asia and Europe. Its most important job in the next few months is to resist Saddam-style demonization and give the rest of the world enough political leeway to avoid being forced to line up behind the United States unequivocally if another nasty spat involving the U.S., Japan, and China erupts.

For Americans who don’t relish confrontation with China, denying John Bolton a U.N. platform to seek to provoke China, manufacture an Iraq-style “existential crisis”, and polarize the international community might be a good reason to deny him the ambassadorship.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

It’s indicative of the post-9/11 tunnel vision afflicting the American policy debate that the main China news coming out of the John Bolton confirmation hearings doesn't concern the marked pro-Taiwan tilt of his political views. Instead, it relates to another alleged incident of Mr. Bolton bullyragging an out-of-step intelligence analyst.

Via Laura Rozen:

A fourth case of Bolton berating an intelligence analyst, whose skepticism about a report on Chinese WMD outraged Bolton. From Newsweek:
Congressional sources say the Democrats are already examining at least one new case in which Bolton became angry after a State Department analyst raised questions about an alarming CIA report about Chinese WMD. The report had so interested Bolton's aides that they quickly sent a copy of it to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Before the report reached Armitage, however, sources tell NEWSWEEK, an intelligence analyst attached a note to both Armitage and the CIA questioning its accuracy.Capitol Hill investigators now are trying to verify allegations that either Bolton or people in his office inappropriately berated the analyst for his action.

Mr. Bolton’s past role as paid cheerleader for Taiwan’s readmission to the U.N. is perhaps more relevant to the issue of his fitness and effectiveness as U.N. ambassador than his gonzo Godzilla management style. More on this tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


From London's Daily Telegraph:

"The balance of power is changing in favour of mainland China," said Masahi Nishihara, president of the National Defence Academy, Japan's equivalent of Sandhurst. "If there is a conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan, Japan would be almost immediately involved."

Mr Nishihara raised the prospect of a China mounting a Pearl Harbour-style surprise attack on the US military base in Okinawa to stop America coming to the rescue of Taiwan.

Ah, Mr. Nishihara? If any country should know that Pearl Harbor-style surprise attacks don’t work, it’s…Japan.

I think the Chinese understand that an attack on a U.S. base would elicit a powerful American military response. And an attack against Okinawa would lead to war with Japan.

The idea that China would initiate total war with Japan and the United States while China’s forces are bogged down in an invasion of Taiwan appears absurd.

The fact that upper-tier Japanese defense types are retailing this nonsense—and the reliably-plugged-into-the-conservative-network Telegraph is publicizing it without a raised eyebrow—is more serious.

It looks to me like Japan is taking a front line position in shaping a more menacing perception of China: China as a nation that is hostile, aggressive, and possibly irrational.

A danger that must be confronted and contained.

Is Japan marching to its own right-wing drummer as Koizumi tries to reshape Japanese culture and politics with Bush-style us vs. them, Koizumi or the abyss nationalism?

Is Japan acting as public relations proxy for a United States that is as yet unwilling to enter into open confrontation with China?

Or both?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Matt Yglesias links to a 2001 investigative report on the Heritage Foundation in The New Republic. It suggests that financial pressures and fundraising opportunities in Asia caused the foundation to adopt a soft-on-China stance that was anathema to the hard right.

Koizumi: America's Marcos for the 21st Century

In an April 19, 2005 article entitled Japan Emerges as America’s New Deputy Sheriff in the Pacific, the Guardian reports on Japan’s deepening role as America’s key military ally—a development that has been largely ignored by the media in the U.S.:

Japan appears destined to supplant Australia as Washington's "deputy sheriff" in the Asia-Pacific region and become a pillar of America's 21st-century security architecture.

Among other things, the article reports that the command post for the U.S. Army’s 1st Corp., responsible for Asian, Indian Ocean, and Middle East operations, will be moved from the United States to Camp Zama, near Yokohama, Japan. Furthermore, the U.S. has proposed that command operations for the 13th Air Force, in charge of bombing missions as far away as the Middle East, currently on Guam, be moved to Yokata Air Base near Tokyo.

So think of Japan stepping up to take the Qatar role in the North Pacific, hosting the physical infrastructure the U.S. military needs to project power in the region.

Or, finally providing America with the successors to Subic Bay and Clark Field that the U.S. has been seeking so eagerly since being kicked out of the Philippines.

Let’s go to the pundits:

"The basic idea is that the US will gradually withdraw from the Eurasian landmass while assigning the two island nations at the east and west of Eurasia, Japan and Britain, even greater importance as strategic bases to ensure stability in Europe and Asia," Professor Sakamoto writes in the current issue of Japan Echo magazine.


"The ramifications of this would be that Japan would essentially serve as a frontline US command post for the Asia-Pacific and beyond," said Christopher Hughes of Warwick University in a paper published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Not going to make the Chinese happy, as the article points out.

I think the article errs in stating that “escalating tensions” with China are “pressur[ing]” Japan into this alliance. Koizumi started it.

Koizumi made his bed with the Americans by identifying Taiwan as a shared security concern. Now he’s going to have to sleep in it.

It will be interesting to find out if Koizumi was really that eager to stick his finger repeatedly in China’s eye. Maybe he was looking for a dignified FDR and Churchill (well, Blair and Bush) style of partnership and didn’t realize that signing on with Bush would mean getting U.S. bases and doctrine shoved down his throat and massive anti-Japanese demonstrations throughout China.

The U.S. military, of course, realizes that U.S. basing can get pretty unpopular in Japan and perhaps made the callous calculation that, since Koizumi had let the camel’s nose in the tent, they might as well go for as much as they could as fast as they could, in defiance of Chinese or Japanese sensibilities, before Japanese voters give Koizumi the boot.

As the Philippine precedent shows, it’s easier to keep bases out. Once they’re in, it takes a traumatic expression of national will to defy the U.S. and domestic economic interests to get them out. Fomenting this sort of national division will put Koizumi squarely in the Bush camp of leaders who govern polarized nations with thin majorities—a political style the proverbially consensus-loving Japanese may have trouble adjusting to.

The prestige of a permanent Security Council seat might be an empty consolation for Japan, if it means facing the implacable hatred of fellow veto-holder China at every session.

And Koizumi may end up being remembered as the Marcos of the 21st century, America’s despised proxy, instead of the leader of democratic Asia.

Monday, April 18, 2005

China's Dollar Peg

There’s been some discussion on Drezner, Yglesias , Delong and Atrios about the Schumer bill threatening 27.5% tariffs on Chinese goods as a club to get the Chinese to revalue their currency.

That idea doesn’t look like a winner, for political reasons.

Tariff increases are a classic tit-for-tat situation. If the U.S. raises tariffs on Chinese goods 27.5%, then the Chinese raise tariffs on U.S. goods 27.5% --U.S. goods like airplanes and automotive parts. And before you can say Smoot Hawley, Boeing and GM are pounding on the White House door pleading for relief.

Especially since the Chinese pay close attention to the geopolitical and diplomatic facets of trade, and make a point of doing business with large multi-nationals that are willing to wield serious political clout on China’s behalf if a trade war erupts.

Also, I’m not expecting Wal-Mart to lumber into the Oval Office and announce to an anxiously sweating George Bush that it’s ready to suck it up and accept a couple years of higher costs and depressed earnings for the sake of a Hail Mary attempt to wipe out the American current account deficit with a punitive tariff.

I don’t see the classic Econ 101 solution—adjusting the exchange rate through a genuine float—happening either.

The Chinese have an exceedingly clear recollection of the great Asian financial crisis of 1997 that devastated Thailand and Indonesia among others. China escaped it, because it had not opened its fragile financial markets to fickle, easily-repatriated foreign capital. The lesson learned: if the RMB floats, it will be a managed float, with enough liquidity and transaction restrictions to ensure that the Chinese government will be able to control the rate in times of need.

Adjusting the exchange rate as a political concession to the U.S. is unlikely for a couple reasons.

First, the 8.3:1 peg has been very, very good for China. The weak RMB keeps China’s economy humming and millions employed busily if not happily. Picture those millions of ex-peasants unhappily roaming the streets of Chinese cities without family assistance or a social safety net if the Chinese export machine slowed down. The local Chinese governments are seriously and understandably spooked by the danger of mass urban unemployment that they are ill-equipped to deal with.

Second, China doesn’t feel like doing America many favors right now.

Within China, comparisons between the U.S. demands to Japan to allow the yen to appreciate in the late 80s—presented as a catastrophe for the Japanese economy cynically orchestrated by the United States -- and current U.S. pressure on China are encouraged. (The Chinese export-subsidy-through-artificially-low-exchange-rate strategy is strikingly similar to what the Japanese used to do, so the search for parallels is understandable.)

Today, from Kyrgyzstan to Japan to Taiwan, China detects a pattern of aggressive U.S. encirclement. A currency revaluation that would weaken China, boost perceived U.S. power in Asia, and render China more vulnerable to U.S. pressure and possible destabilization, is unlikely to fly with the Chinese leadership.

G7 carrots and IMF sticks are unlikely to change this stance in the short term.

And, with the U.S. economy headed for a slowdown, every fiber of the Chinese mercantilist being will be shouting for their government to keep the 8.3 to 1 peg and not price Chinese goods out of the market.

Why the Anti-Japanese Rallies in China?

There is some puzzlement, typified by Praktike's post on Political Animal, as to why the Chinese are getting all worked up about the Japanese all of a sudden. If I may paraphrase his concern, World War II atrocities are so, well, 20th century, and an unworthy preoccupation for a gung ho, charging-in-to-the-future regional power.

Certainly, the Chinese government finds nationalist identity politics a useful outlet and unifying force in times of trouble. And the demonstrations no doubt enjoy the tacit approval and support of the Chinese government.

But there's more at work than vulgar atavism. And to believe that the Chinese government is whipping up these demonstrations just to distract attention from their domestic difficulties is to ignore current international conditions that are driving the protests.

Japan's recent decision to overtly identify "peace in the Taiwan Straits" as a joint security concern of Japan and the United States was a regional bombshell. It cannot be viewed as anything but a deliberate decision by Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to align himself with the United States and endorse a policy of China containment.

China, like Israel, has always mightily resisted attempts to internationalize its territorial disputes. Acknowledgement that Taiwan's reunification is China's internal matter has always been a prerequisite for friendly bilateral relations between China and other countries.

Koizumi has decided to abandon a policy of accommodation which acknowledges China as a dominant East Asian power, and instead has chosen to confront China under the aegis of U.S. military power.

Perhaps he feels Japan has more to gain--such as U.S. backing for access to Russian oil at China's expense--by serving as America's ally in the Pacific and not a Chinese client.

But the Chinese are reminding him there's a price to be paid for siding against China in China's back yard.

The size and vehemence of the demonstrations reflect two realities. First, that the Chinese government believes that the threat of an American encirclement campaign abetted by Japan is real and immediate enough that it must be confronted promptly and resolutely. Second, that the U.S.-Japan axis offers much potential for the polarization and destabilization of East Asia.

The roots of the current China-Japan crisis are probably a lot closer to Bush administration strategic doctrine than Chinese domestic politics.

What happens next in Asia, and why, has more to do with us, our actions, and our omissions than we'd probably care to consider.

Risks of U.S. and U.S. Intervention in Korean Peninsula Highlighted by Seoul's Rejection of Secret U.S. Plan

In an April 16, 2005 article entitled Korea Rejected U.S. Plan on North, the LA Times reports that South Korea rejected a secret security strategy that might have given United States forces the initiative in invading and occupying North Korea in the event of a political crisis.

In the words of the article,

South Korean officials apparently feared that the United States would take command in case of a power vacuum and that it would hastily send its troops toward Pyongyang, perhaps under the flag of the same U.N. command that waged the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The article goes on to describe the difference between South Korea's policy toward North Korea--promoting gradual, peaceful reunification--and the Bush administration's publicly stated hostility to the North Korean regime.

It implies that this fundamental disagreement about how to deal with Kim Jung-Il's regime is responsible for the dispute, quoting Derek J. Mitchell of the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

"In the aftermath of Iraq, I think they felt we might be too eager to go in there [North Korea" and take control and that perhaps the Bush administration is looking for an excuse to effect regime change," Mitchell said.

Perhaps the Bush administration's ostentatious hostility toward North Korea may be attributed to the perceived threat of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, and its anti-despot policy.

But U.S. policies that threaten to destabilize North Korea have an unavoidable China dimension--a dimension that White House strategists must be aware of.

China has considered the Korean peninsula part of its sphere of influence since imperial times, and fought two disastrous wars--against the Japanese in 1895 and the United States in the 1950s--in an attempt to exclude outside influences.

If the Chinese government fears that the United States would take advantage of turmoil within North Korea to send in a U.S. army of occupation that would be camped on China's Manchurian doorstep, it will inevitably consider a pre-emptive invasion of its own if the Kim Jung-Il regime totters.

And that would create a potential military confrontation with the United States on the Korean peninsula.

That's something the South Korean government would have a vested interest in avoiding--and would provide an incentive for rejecting the strategy and also leaking the rejection so the Chinese would be reassured.

The question that really needs raising--and cannot be answered at this point--is:

In what circumstances--political, economic, and diplomatic--would the Bush administration allow the North Korean crisis to escalate into an armed confrontation?

Today it is difficult to imagine the U.S.--embroiled in a difficult occupation/counterinsurgency operation in Iraq and trying to muster military and diplomatic resources for a confrontation with Iran--risking an overt challenge to China.

Nevertheless, a regime collapse in North Korea might create the once-in-a-decade instability--and opportunity--that the Bush administration might be unable to resist trying to exploit.

The conclusion to the LA Times article gives us something to chew on:

South Korean officials in recent months have also publicly expressed fears that the U.S. could drag the country into a conflict with China.

With this combination of North Korean instability, proactive and opportunistic U.S. foreign policy, and Chinese security concerns, foreign troops in North Korea might appear sooner than we realize.

Why China Matters

Today events occur and decisions are made that will determine the nature and outcome of the impending confrontation between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

Nevertheless, news and analysis about China receives relatively short shrift, as America's military and foreign policy resources--and the resultant political debates--are focussed on the Middle East.

But China is a major factor in the all the medium to long term global calculations that concern America's strategists.

As the world's most populous country and a regional military power, China is a challenge to the United States that our military, political, and economic leadership is already confronting.

As a major holder and purchaser of U.S. government debt, and a primary source of America's burgeoning trade deficit, China's financial policies could have a decisive impact on international markets, the U.S. economy, and U.S. foreign policy.

China's burgeoning imported oil habit is a key factor in the Peak Oil scenarios that attempt to explain and extrapolate U.S. energy, military, and foreign policy.

To date, America's China policy evolves with relatively little public information, insight, or debate.

In the Internet age, that's not desirable or justifiable.

So, China Matters.

The purpose of this site is to provide objective, authoritative information and comment on matters concerning the People's Republic of China.