Welcome to issue 69 of U.S.–China Week. President Barack Obama and Premier Li Keqiang were scheduled to meet today alongside the UN General Assembly meetings, and may have done so already, but details are not yet available at time of writing. A Xinhua photograph shows Li being met at the airport by Ambassador Cui Tiankai and others.
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Japan’s defense minister suggests ‘joint’ activity with U.S. in South China Sea; U.S.–Philippines joint patrols in question
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada devoted a full quarter of her speech (text/video) on “the evolving U.S.–Japan alliance” to China-related issues. Inada called Chinese acts in the East China Sea and South China Sea “coercive attempts to change the facts on the ground and upend the prevailing norms,” in addition to calling them attempts to “change the status quo.” She listed Chinese government ships’ activities near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and called them an “unprovoked escalation.” She continued: “In this context, I strongly support the U.S. Navy’s Freedom of Navigation operations, which go a long way to upholding the rules-based international maritime order. Japan on its part will increase its engagement in the South China Sea through, for example, Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy, bilateral and multi-lateral exercises with regional navies, as well as providing capacity building assistance to coastal nations.” / Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, reportedly said the Philippines would stop participating in joint patrols with U.S. forces “to avoid being involved in a ‘hostile act.’ ‘I just want to patrol our territorial waters,’ he said.” Duterte also said the Philippines would consider buying arms from China and Russia. / A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson respomded to questions about Inada’s statements with comments that framed Japan as using “all means to disorder the [South China Sea] region” and launching a “publicity campaign to stir up troubles in the South China Sea while claiming to represent the ‘international community.'” When asked directly about aGlobal Times editorial (zh/en) that suggested a South China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should be announced “if the joint patrol intensifies or involves more countries and severely disturbs regional order,” the spokesperson referred a reporter to the prior remarks.
ANALYSIS: Inada’s remarks provide little surprise, devote so much of the speech to China issues at minimum indicated an emphasis. Those noting her government’s support for U.S. FON operations might ask when the next such operation might occur. It is unclear how Duterte’s words will translate to actions, but it would be remarkable and unexpected if Philippine forces kept only to within territorial waters, as opposed to patrolling the EEZ. China’s reaction to Inada’s remarks is really puzzling to me. Isn’t it the United States that has been accused of undertaking a “campaign to stir up troubles”?
Top admiral favors China engagement, downplays A2/AD, says regional security architecture must include China
In a speech and Q&A at the Center for American Progress, Admiral John Richardson, the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, painted a relatively positive picture of U.S.–Chinese military relations. Excerpts from his remarks, per a transcript: “I think we have got to continue to engage [with the PLA Navy]. … On the other hand, there are these destabilizing provocative types of behaviors in the South China Sea, areas where we don’t necessarily agree. And in those areas, we’ll conduct the relationship such that we can continue to move towards some kind of a compromise resolution and, as we move there, do everything we can to minimize the risk involved in the relationship as we work these things out.” Speaking about his several meetings with counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli: “You know, the two leaders can get things done, they can come to an understanding, and then exercise their authorities and responsibilities through the whole force to make sure that, you know, everybody gets the word, if you will.” On anti-access/area-denial: “So this anti-access/area-denial phrase, you know, I’m having some fun with that phrase this summer in fact. Because it really describes sort of an aspiration, rather than any kind of strategy. … What has really come to bear though is that there is a near ubiquitous ability to detect things further and further away. Right? So now the [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] problem has been really transformed by the introduction of certain technologies. … And so this anti-access/area-denial, A2/AD, is something that we’ve got to [be] careful, this isn’t some kind of a panacea or, you know, a system that we have no answers to. We have a number of answers to these things.” On Asia-Pacific regional security architecture: “I think that any regional security architecture in the Pacific that excludes China is one that we would just have to go back and readdress. You know, to just sort of pretend that China’s not going to be there is, I think it’s just unrealistic. I think it must include China.” / Meanwhile: Josh Rogin reports a top Navy contractor, Ingalls Shipbuilding, was shopping in China for help building a new facility.
ANALYSIS: The excerpts I’ve included here from Richardson are those that stood out for their relatively calm and conciliatory tone, as compared with rhetoric from Defense Secretary Ash Carter or Pacific Command Commander Harry Harris. The use of the word “compromise” is likely to rankle some observers, as is the flat observation that an Asia-Pacific security architecture that doesn’t include China is “unrealistic.” A Chinese audience is likely to read the architecture comments as a willingness to move beyond a policy predicated predominantly on U.S. alliances. The implication that the A2/AD efforts often attributed to China’s military do not severely limit U.S. maneuver runs counter to a great deal of public commentary on the need for new U.S. capabilities. These comments came with relatively calm expressions of concern on all the standard bilateral maritime issues.
Microsoft and Huawei join in secure computing buyers guide; Schneier suspects nation state casing internet takedown
Microsoft and Huawei headlined the launch of a “buyers guide” for organizations in the market for information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, a product of an ongoing process convened by the EastWest Institute (EWI). Bruce McConnell, who leads EWI’s cyberspace program, told The Wall Street Journal the guide was designed to “create objective criteria for buying technology products and services.” Huawei’s Andy Purdy told the paper that a simple focus on country of origin would not protect technology customers. The guide advocates five principles, including maintaining an “open market that fosters innovation and competition and creates a level playing field for ICT providers” and “avoid[ing] requirements of behavior that undermine trust in ICT (e.g., by installing back doors).” On the same day the EWI-Microsoft-Huawei guide came out, Bloomberg reported on U.S. government concerns about Huawei as a possible supplier for wireless network upgrades. / Meanwhile: Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier writes that “someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. … China and Russia would be my first guesses.”
ANALYSIS: I find the cooperation between Microsoft and Huawei here to be heartening (and not only because, by way of disclosure, I worked at EWI from 2011–2012). The guide is a creative step and a potentially fruitful one, but follow-through and further creativity will be needed. (The broader group that developed the guide is therefore accepting comments for a version 2.0 to be published next year.) My main takeaway from the guide itself is that ICT customers should be intentional in managing security concerns, and that the questions they should be asking are hard for suppliers to answer in many cases at this stage. Trying to get governments to comply with the principle to “avoid requirements of behavior that undermine trust” will likely be even harder. But there’s little chance of avoiding what the recent U.S. Chamber report called “deglobalization” without accelerated efforts by customers, suppliers, and regulators on agendas including this one.
Kasich support for TPP by way of China scare; New U.S. WTO challenge on grains; Paulson explains Chinese investment
Ohio Governor John Kasich, speaking in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in a White House event, opened by implying that China and Russia are the main opposition to TPP and then noting “Xi has been very repressive,” among other things. He also implied that a U.S. failure to ratify TPP would deny other “nations in Asia” support that would “give them the courage and the strength to stand against a rising China.” / Reuters reports: “The United States on Tuesday launched a challenge to China’s price supports for domestic production of rice, wheat and corn at the World Trade Organization, charging that these far exceed limits that China committed to when it joined the WTO in 2001.” More from the USDA here. / In a report, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson makes the case for the benefits of Chinese investment in the United States: “Chinese investments have begun to sustain or have created local jobs across the United States. In some instances, Chinese investors can be a source of growth capital to help U.S. firms expand capacity. In other cases, establishing a strategic partnership with a Chinese investor can lead to new market opportunities in China.” Paulson also describes best practices for potential Chinese investors. / Meanwhile: Wang Wenliang, donor to the Clinton Foundation and Virginia governor, among those expelled from the National People’s Congress in a “vote buying” scandal.
ANALYSIS: On the Kasich remarks: The particular line of commentary delivered by Kasich on China is unusually disjointed and graceless for the White House Press Office, but it is by no means inconsistent with White House rhetoric that has sought to sell TPP domestically as a means to stop Chinese influence from spreading. The word “peril” and all its historical associations come to mind when I read the Kasich rendering of the longstanding White House talking points about who will “write the rules.” When the president holds up Chinese power as a threat to be dreaded and avoided, it’s a short step to much uglier rhetoric. More broadly: Could the contrast between Kasich’s pro-TPP rhetoric and Paulson’s optimistic advocacy for beneficial forms of Chinese investment be more stark?
‘Red China Charges New Intrusion by U.S. Plane’
“HONG KONG, Sunday, Sept. 18[, 1966]—A new clash between American and Chinese aircraft were reported by Peking today in the same general area where United States planes allegedly strafed Chinese peasants nine days ago. Hsinhua, the Chinese press agency, reported that an American military aircraft flew over the area of Lungchow and Tsungtso in the Kwangsi-Chuang Autonomous Region for ‘reconnaissance and provocation’ about 9 o’clock yesterday morning. This is just across the northeastern corner of North Vietnam’s border with China. Hsinhua said aircraft of the Chinese Air Force promptly took off to intercept the intruder. It added that the American plane was damaged and ‘fled southward in confusion.’ … ‘U.S. Has No Comment’ WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (AP)—The State Department had no immediate comment on the Peking allegation. Nor did a spokesman have any further information on China’s charge that a United States plane attacked a Chinese village Sept. 9.”
(Source: The New York Times. This entry is part of an ongoing feature of U.S.–China Week that follows U.S.–China relations as they developed in another era of change and uncertainty, 50 years ago.)
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Graham Webster is a senior research scholar, lecturer, and senior fellow of the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, where he specializes in U.S.–China diplomatic, security, and economic relations through research and Track II dialogues. His website is gwbstr.com.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are my own (and I reserve the right to change my mind).
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