An Asian Power Web Emerges

ASIAWhen President Obama met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in California last week, it is doubtful that either leader focused on the growing ties among countries like Singapore, India, South Korea and Vietnam. Perhaps they should have. The Burgeoning security cooperation among such nations represents untold story of a region on move. Asia has undergone decades of economic deepening, and complemented by years of diplomatic integration. Now, countries across region are building on this foundation, engaging in unprecedented forms of military cooperation. In many cases these deepening ties include neither the United States nor China, and they are supplementing traditional U.S.-led “hub and spoke” system of alliances that has marked regional security for decades. This emerging power web will have deep implications across the Indo-Pacific region. It should also affect American strategy, because, played correctly, the United States is poised to be leading beneficiary of growing network of relationships. The network is marked by a proliferation of government-to-government security agreements, including recent pacts inked between Singapore and Vietnam, Japan and Australia, India and South Korea. Variable in scope, these accords promote ability of Asian nations to train and operate together, conduct joint research and development, service each other’s ships and aircraft. To be sure, these are not mutual defense treaties, but they point to ever-closer military cooperation among key countries in the region. Similarly, there is an upsurge in the joint military training. Japan and India conducted their first bilateral maritime exercise in 2012, the same year that saw joint field exercises between India and Singapore, Australia and South Korea, Japan and Singapore. The intra-Asian arms trade is also heating up like never before, and even a country like Japan, which has long placed stringent restrictions on export of weapons, is taking steps toward supplying Asian nations. While many of these relationships are developing outside the ambit of China or United States, Washington-Beijing dynamic remains a primary driver of them. Asian countries are diversifying their security ties in order to hedge against the possibility China’s rise will turn threatening and American presence in the region will decline. What all this means for the regional stability remains undetermined. An increasing inter-connectivity in Asia could act as a restraint, making countries more reluctant to engage in provocations as they calculate the costs to their flourishing ties. But a more militarized region could also devolve into rival blocs characterized by arms races and heightened insecurity. Stronger security relationships in Asia could heighten regional competition, particularly if are divisive, perceived as aimed at China, which is predisposed to see regional security enhancements as containment (…..)



Disunited Kingdom: Crisis Leaves Britain Deeply Fractured

The Shard - London, UK(…) Great Britain is currently undergoing a shift. There is growing distance between the periphery and the center, among the individual parts of the kingdom and between the top and the bottom of society. It has never taken as much money as it does today to make it onto the Times list of the 100 wealthiest Britons. Irvine Sellar’s cocktail skewer and all the other towers in London seem even taller and more imposing in eyes of those who stand at the bottom, whom lost a great deal when England was betting on financial industry and neglecting everything else. Society is becoming unravelled at its fringes. Information age has been slow to arrive in Bangor, in northern Wales. “They say we’ll be getting faster Internet soon,” says Bryn Lewis. “They’ve been promising us that for a long time.” Lewis is 23, unemployed, one of about a million Britons between 16 and 24 who are out of work. He writes about his life in North Wales, a remote corner of the country, on the blogs and in Internet forums. Like many of his generation, he would rather do without running water than the Internet. Nevertheless, the Internet is sometimes down for days, he says while sitting in a café in Bangor. Local public transport isn’t in much better shape. Lewis doesn’t have a driver’s license, and there is only limited bus service into the city after 6 p.m. Lewis is one of many who are too clever for the provinces and too lazy for London. His native Wales has seen better days. Its mines stopped supplying fuel for England’s industrial revolution long ago. Nowadays, a young person in Wales has 2 choices: to be unemployed or to move away. Two businesses that still work are health clubs and illegal amphetamine and steroid trade. For years, Lewis has been stumbling between a mentoring program and courses for young entrepreneurs. He was studying chemistry until a year ago, when he dropped out because he could no longer afford the tuition. He is paid a small fee for his blog posts, and occasionally writes articles for the local newspaper. He earns the equivalent of €230 ($310) a month. He saves rent by living alternately with his father and his girlfriend. People who grow up in Bangor waste their youth on the steps of the Costa Coffee Shop or on a bench at the beach. The theater was torn down years ago, the movie theaters have been closed for a long time. You figure out how to get booze without an ID card at early age, says Lewis. He and a teacher recently founded The Bangor Youth Group, which hosts movie nights and lectures. But the group lacks money and space of its own. They are hoping to receive funding from Prince Charles’ foundation. In the meantime, Lewis and his friends get together at Skerries, where a pint of beer costs 1.80. Like in every pub on the entire island, air smells like urinal cake. Johnny and Gaz, who are playing a round of billiards, cook burgers in a fast-food restaurant during the day. Huw is studying creative writing. And Arwel is 21 and stocks supermarket shelves. He has had the words “born free” tattooed onto his knuckles. His daughter Summer has just turned three, but he is no longer with her mother. She is now Lewis’s girlfriend. “It’s all pretty complicated here,” says Lewis. He has just started writing his first novel, which takes place in a desert. Lewis doesn’t want to move to a big city, London included. It’s much too far away. Sometimes it seems to him that London is the capital of a different country.


How Chinese Strategists Think

CHINAToshi Yoshihara joins me (or I join him) over at the Investor’s Business Daily to refocus attention on human dimension of U.S.-China strategic competition. Followers of these pages pixels know that Toshi and I are true believers in the idea competition is a human enterprise. As Colonel John Boyd liked to say, people, ideas, and hardware, in that order, are determinants of competitive endeavors like power politics. People, not stuff, fight. That’s not to say hardware is un-important. Not for nothing did author Hilaire Belloc ascribe British imperial dominance over subject peoples to the fact that “we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not.” Too great a material advantage, then, can translate into an insurmountable competitive advantage. This mismatch holds true beyond colonial wars against outgunned antagonists. World War I proved that there were limits to men’s capacity to stand against fire, even when peer army faced peer army. But human ingenuity is crucial even in the material dimension, isn’t it? It’s the common denominator among all of John Boyd’s elements of competition. People with ample resources concoct gee-whiz engines of war. People not blessed with abundance can work around material shortcomings, devising asymmetric tactics, weaponry to get more bang out of scarce materiel. Look no further than the improvised explosive device, a homemade landmine has given high-tech militaries fits in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Only expensive countermeasures have kept IED menace at bay, imperfectly so at that. Which is roundabout way of getting back to China. As red-blooded ‘Mercans, my wingman and I have little sympathy with Beijing’s goals. As professors we’ve come to admire how assiduously our Chinese counterparts do their homework. They look to history, and to the greats of strategic theory, to guide their thinking and illuminate their strategic discourses. Mahan is a fixture in debates over sea power, however improbable that might seem. Corbett puts in the odd appearance. And, unsurprisingly, Sun Tzu and Mao are regulars. In a sense Chinese scholars are running a Far Eastern campus of our Strategy and Policy Department. We read theory with our students, use strategic precepts to evaluate history, and see where the analysis takes us. Strategists in China read theory, apply it to history, as in the Rise of the Great Powers books and TV series, and see where the process takes them. In short, these are strategic competitors worth taking seriously. And their playbook is strikingly similar to ours. Western commentators err badly if they reduce the U.S.-China competition to GDP figures, numbers of ships, warplanes, other widgets, or other quantitative measures. Colonel Boyd would disapprove, rightly so. (source: James R. Holmes – The Diplomat – 19/06/2013)  

US and China Explore New Relationship

An AcrobatIt will be some time before the full consequences of the California summit meeting between US President Barack Obama and China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, are revealed. Nixon-Mao it was not. Nevertheless, the well-timed + much-needed unscripted discussion focused on fundamental questions about the US-China relationship which has reached a new level of tension because of mutual distrust and suspicion. Xi rightly observed during a preparatory meeting with senior US officials that the US-China relationship, arguably most important bilateral relationship in the world, is at a “critical juncture.” But based on the 8 hours of meetings, “new model of relations” which both leaders pledged to create remains a largely aspirational goal. On the explosive issue of the cybersecurity, especially the cybertheft of US intellectual property, summit’s achievement was to stress to Xi the priority of the issue, and as outgoing US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told reporters, place it “at center of the relationship.” In what may prove most notable outcome of the meeting, Washington and Beijing appeared to move closer on North Korea, agreeing neither would accept a nuclear North Korea. Beijing is chief provider of energy and food to the North. Prior to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February, China has appeared to place stability on the Korean Peninsula above the nuclear issue. The Obama-Xi summit may have established a basis for closer coordination in managing nuclear problem and perhaps the eventual reunification of Korea as well. If so, such cooperation may help melt underlying mutual distrust that permeates the relationship. For Beijing, there is fear that the US posture in Asia is designed to “contain” a rising China; for the US, a fear that China seeks to deny the US a preponderant role in the Pacific, there is little evidence that the summit has put the relationship on a more positive path. Since 1972, eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Obama, have pursued a remarkably consistent policy toward China, cooperating where possible and in seeking to manage differences. But the relationship may be at tipping point: current bilateral relationship as presently constituted is no longer sustainable. Over the course of this decade it will almost certainly either tilt toward being more cooperative or more competitive, toward more collaborative efforts to address global problems and manage regional security in the Pacific or toward a confrontation. The direction it drifts toward will go a long way to determining the future shape of the global system. Can new equilibrium in US-China relations, what Xi calls “a new type of relationship between major countries in 21st century,” be attained? Shirtsleeves, schmoozing and long walks can help create familiarity between leaders could prove helpful in a crisis. Better communication at the top can minimize misunderstandings. But at the end of the day, it is interests and to some extent values, not personalities, that shape a relationship. The world’s two largest economies, the world’s largest creditor and its largest debtor, the two largest energy consumers and Pacific powers, are deeply intertwined. Yet the tensions over cybersecurity, trade, currency manipulation, China’s behavior toward territorial disputes in East Asia, not least, differences in values between a democracy and an authoritarian one-party state have steadily deepened mutual distrust and suspicion (…..)


Brasil protesta

BrasiliaLas manifestaciones que sacuden Brasil han sumido en desconcierto a políticos y sociólogos. Lo que comenzó como una pequeña protesta en São Paulo contra subida del billete de autobús equivalente a 7 céntimos de euro ha desembocado, en movilizaciones multitudinarias por todo el país. Hace apenas unos meses las encuestas mostraban a brasileños como una sociedad satisfecha y optimista, en puertas de grandes acontecimientos como el Mundial de fútbol y Juegos Olímpicos. Pero de pronto las calles se llenan como no se veía desde el final de la dictadura, a mediados de los ochenta. La presidenta, Dilma Rousseff, que goza de elevada aprobación en los sondeos, recibe abucheos. El Gobierno del Partido de los Trabajadores se pregunta qué ocurre y con quién negociar. Pero en las calles hay un movimiento sin liderazgo, el 80% de los participantes no milita en ningún partido, sin reivindicaciones unitarias. Los ciudadanos, sobre todo los jóvenes, están blandiendo frente a las autoridades su particular memorial de agravios. Desde la exigencia demagógica del “todo gratis” al hartazgo más que justificado con la corrupción política, la criminalidad y el pésimo sistema de transporte, o gasto en infraestructuras olímpicas. Es inevitable encontrar ciertos paralelismos con las protestas turcas. En ambos países la represión policial espoleó la indignación, las redes sociales han sido un instrumento clave en la propagación de las movilizaciones. A diferencia de lo que ocurrió en la primavera árabe, donde la población combatía dictaduras y reclamaba derechos básicos, en Brasil, como en otras democracias emergentes, ha estallado el descontento de una sociedad que ha accedido a mayores cotas de bienestar, está más informada y mejor educada, por eso tolera cada vez peor la desigualdad y los abusos de poder, exige unos servicios públicos, empezando por la enseñanza y la sanidad, acordes con la presión impositiva. Con crecimiento de apenas 0,9% el año pasado, elevada inflación y ciertos reflejos proteccionistas, el país se está descolgando de la vigorosa marcha de vecinos americanos del Pacífico. Malestar social que reflejan estas movilizaciones de las clases medias debería ser un real toque de atención para unos dirigentes que hasta ahora han sabido encarrilar el camino de éxito por el que ha discurrido Brasil. (Fuente: Editorial – El paí – 19/06/2013)

Protests Expand in Brazil, Fueled by Video of Police Brutality

Helga y UzielAs my colleague Simon Romero reports from São Paulo, more than 200,000 Brazilians filled the streets in cities across the country on Monday to protest high cost of living and lavish spending on soccer stadiums ahead of next year’s World Cup. The Demonstrations have intensified as images of police brutality against peaceful protesters spread on social networks. While the dynamic of heavy-handed police tactics, like the use of pepper spray, tear gas and the rubber bullets on protesters echoes recent events in Turkey, not to mention those in the Unites States, Spain, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, one difference is that some of the images of the police crackdown in Brazil that stirred the most anger were captured by the reporters for local newspapers and television stations, not just protesters or foreign correspondents. One striking account of the violence used on protesters last week in Brazil’s largest city, captured in a video viewed more than a million times on YouTube was narrated by Giuliana Vallone, a reporter for the Web site of the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, who was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet at point-blank range by one of the police “shock troops” deployed against the protesters. The same newspaper posted the remarkable aerial views of Monday’s night’s protest in São Paulo on its YouTube channel. (Folha’s video journalists also produced excellent video report on protests in Turkey, with testimonies in English from the victims of police brutality there. Brazilian reporters covering the protests in Istanbul have also highlighted the fact that the tear gas used in Turkey is manufactured in Brazil.) Other images of the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters were shot on the phones and cameras of bystanders or demonstrators. One clip posted on YouTube by a blogger named José Almuiña, showing the sudden use of force against protesters kneeling in a street near recently renovated Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, has already been viewed more than 450,000 times. That attack, by the officers from the Batalhão de Choque on protesters singing the national anthem and waving Brazilian flags, came as the stadium hosted a match in the Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup. Similarly heavy-handed tactics were used against protesters who gathered outside the new national stadium in Brasilía before the opening match of the Confederations Cup on Saturday. Video of police officers using force against seated, placard-waving protesters, one read, “Saímos do Facebook,” or “We Left Facebook,” a reference to the fact protests were organized online, was captured by onlookers and posted on YouTube and Vimeo (…..)


China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities

China’s Urban Billion(…..) The Country’s new prime minister, Li Keqiang, indicated at his inaugural news conference in March urbanization was one of his top priorities. He also cautioned, however, that it would require a series of an accompanying legal changes “to overcome various problems in course of urbanization.” Some of these problems could include chronic urban unemployment if jobs are not available, more protests from skeptical farmers unwilling to move. Instead of creating wealth, the urbanization could result in a permanent underclass in big Chinese cities and destruction of rural culture and religion. Government has been pledging a comprehensive urbanization plan for more than two years now. It was originally to have been presented at the National People’s Congress in March, but various concerns delayed that, according to people close to government. Some of them include the challenge of financing the effort, of coordinating among the various ministries and of balancing the rights of farmers, whose land has increasingly been taken for urban projects. These worries delayed a high-level conference to formalize the plan this month. The plan has now been delayed until the fall, government advisers say. Central leaders are said to be concerned spending will lead to inflation and bad debt. Such concerns may have been behind the call in a recent government report for farmers’ property rights to be protected. Released in March, report said China must “guarantee farmers’ property rights and interests.” Land would remain owned by the state, though, so farmers would not have ownership rights even under new blueprint. On ground, however, the new wave of urbanization is well under way. Almost every province has large-scale programs to move farmers into housing towers, and with farmers’ plots then given to corporations or municipalities to manage. Efforts have been made to improve the attractiveness of urban life, but the farmers caught up in the programs typically have no choice but to leave their land. The broad trend began decades ago. In the early 1980s, about 80% of Chinese lived in the countryside versus 47% today, plus an additional 17% that works in cities but is classified as rural. The idea is to speed up this process and achieve an urbanized China much faster than would occur organically. The Skeptics say the government’s headlong rush to urbanize is driven by a vision of modernity that has failed elsewhere. In Brazil and Mexico, urbanization was also seen as a way to bolster economic growth. But among the results were expansion of slums and of a stubborn unemployed underclass, according to experts. “There’s this feeling we have to modernize, we have to urbanize and this is our national-development strategy,” said Gao Yu, China country director for Landesa Rural Development Institute, based in Seattle. Referring to the disastrous Maoist campaign to industrialize overnight, he added, “It’s almost like another Great Leap Forward”. Primary motivation for the urbanization push is to change China’s economic structure, with growth based on domestic demand for products instead of relying so on export. In theory, new urbanites mean vast new opportunities for construction companies, public transportation, utilities, appliance makers, break from cycle of farmers consuming only what they produce. “If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of Institute of World Economics + Politics, part of a government research institute. “They are living in rural areas where they do not consume” (…..)