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China and Georgia

On 08/08/08, as the Olympics began, Russian tanks moved into Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. China’s position on the Georgian situation is interesting to consider since China has several provinces that suffer ethnic unrest (re: T###bet and Xinjiang.) Even more important, China has a breakaway province it would like to recover- Taiwan. The aftermath of the Georgian situation could have harsh consequences for international law. China has a vested interest in opposing breakaway provinces, but it also has diplomatic interests with Russia. Below, I analyze why and how the Georgia situation may significantly affect Sino-Russian relations and China’s future foreign policy.

China’s Territorial Philosophy

Due to China’s territorial worries about T$$$bet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and other minority-zones, it might be suspected, by a casual observer, that China would reflexively support Georgia taking a hard stance against Georgia’s breakaway provinces. However, the situation in Georgia is more complicated.

China could take the “obvious” route, and side with Georgia that the breakaway provinces should hold fast to the country. Since China has significant interest in a good relationship with Russia, perhaps the “obvious” route is to side with Russia? Or maybe China’s best decision is to try to maintain neutrality and let the problem resolve itself?

China’s Direct Foreign Policy

Prof. Robert Ross, who has written significantly about Chinese security, thinks the Chinese could support Russia if Russia’s plans are for eventual subsumation of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. China could base their support on old USSR claims of influence (Bloomberg).  If the provinces eventually join Russia, China’s claims on Taiwan could still be justified.

What if the provinces ultimately want real independence? Beijing might tacitly support Moscow if a back-door deal details a plan for the provinces to ultimately reunite with Russia (as S. Ossetia appears to be planning). But what if Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia’s independence is genuine? That sets a dangerous precedent for would-be breakaway provinces in China.

China has remained silent on the matter at the UN and on its Foreign Ministry website, merely calling for a “peaceful resolution.”

Hu Jintao and Putin met on August 9. The leaders could have discussed the developing Georgian situation, but press releases make no mention of that topic being discussed.

When the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) met, Russia would have liked for SCO member-states to endorse the breakaway provinces. Instead, the SCO “called for respect for the concept of “territorial integrity,” which implies that the SCO opposes the provinces’ independence. However, the SCO may support the provinces’ eventual subsumation into Russia… Which may very well happen

China And Georgia- What You May Not Have Known

China and Georgia have a relatively “long” and apparently relatively stable history. On April 9, 1991, Georgia declared independence.  From 1992-1995, Civil War wreaked havoc in Georgia. China was one of the first countries to recognize Georgia’s independence. On “December 27, 1991, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen sent a message to Georgian Foreign Minister, informing him that the Chinese Government formally recognized the independence of the Republic of Georgia” (China Foreign Ministry).  In June 1992, diplomatic relations began between the nations.

Comparatively, Australia did not recognize Georgia as a country until March 29, 1992. Recognition by the United States came only in April 1992, despite Georgia sending delegations to the United States from as early as 1991.

China and Georgia Trade, Compared to China and Russia Trade

China has little economic interest in supporting the tiny Caucasus country. Although ties between China and Russia might strain over the Georgian situation, China is likely to ultimately bend toward support of Russia.

The volume of China-Georgia trade has been relatively inconsequential. “In 2001, bilateral trade volume between China and Georgia stood at US$7 million, of which China’s export was US$3.71 million and import US$3.29 million” (China Foreign Ministry).

“The trade volume between China and Georgia in 2002 amounted to US$11.51 million, of which China’s export was US$8 million and import US$3.51 million” (China Foreign Ministry).

Comparatively, Sino-Russia trade was $48 billion in 2007, up 44% from 2006 (HERE).

Alternatively: Additional information is in the following articles: A short (2 page) and balanced overview of strategic possibilities of the China-Russia relationship, given by a CSIS/Peterson Institute sponsored project; China and Russia: Partners with Tensions, by Nicklas Norling for the Silk Road Studies Program which gives a more indepth (16-page) view. Jamestown’s Russell Hsiao briefly discusses China and Russia’s military relationship (Interestingly, Hsiao notes a “62 percent drop in Russian arms sale to China last year”.) And finally, Xinhua’s take on the Sino-Russian relations (In May).

Norling’s piece had a provocative statement; “To put it bluntly, Russia needs China more than China needs Russia and Russia’s main problem in maneuvering the relation is its weakness not China’s strength. The only lever that Russia possesses over China is energy but it is reluctant in playing this card prematurely. This is why Russia delays pipelines, does not fulfill reached agreements, and is obstructive in its energy engagements with China” (Norling, 43).

 China’s Lessons

* China has an opportunity to flex its soft power, stepping in as a peacemaker and a deal maker, according to Huang Jing, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute (HERE). Russia, however, seems to have blown China’s opportunity by recognizing the breakaway provinces. Will negotiations continue behind-the-scenes as China might encourage South Ossetia to be subsumed into Russia. Abkhazia, however, is a thornier issue. The Abkhazians seem to be enjoying their independence.

* China’s soft power may already be in full force. Russia’s ally Kazakhstan didn’t automatically recognize the breakaway regions and is instead calling for a multilateral solution. An article by Farkhad Sharip of the Jamestown Foundation wonders; “But would or would not Nazarbayev have bowed to pressure from Medvedev if it had not been for Chinese leader Hu Jintao who rejected outright Russian attempts to impose recognition of the separatist regions as independent territories?”

* China may be best served by neutrality. China stands to lose potential trade and access to energy resources if it opposes Russia. And China would gain relatively little from helping tiny US-ally Georgia, so it is unlikely China will push for the provinces to return to Georgia. But, by waiting, China can gain influence (IHT) in Central Asia (Financial Times) and elsewhere as planned foreign investments are diverted (WSJ) from Russia to a China that is willing to engage the world instead of to belligerently confront it.

* The situation is dangerous for China’s territorial ambitions. China may take Georgia’s ethnic unrest and splittism as a justification for acting even harsher to quell ethnic separatist dissent. This could lead to frentic pushes to bring Taiwan back and increase restrictions in T$$$bet and Xinjiang. According to Professor Robert Ross, “`the lesson for China in this is that we must be all-the-more sure that we control our ethnic groups’”  since the separatist conflict “‘is all the result of the inability of Russian leaders to control their country, and allowing ethnic divisions to dominate” (Bloomberg). 

Others believe the US’ lackluster defense of Georgia’s provinces could embolden China to push more against Taiwan, if China believes the military risks of intervention and “punishment” would be minimal.

* China must be watching Russia’s stock market, which took a tumble in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia (Also). China values its economy and an unstable economy could lead to internal chaos. How Russian stocks rebound in coming months will certainly determine, to some degree, China’s risk-calculus in pushing against Taiwan. The less Russia is “punished” for its invasion, the less risk China will see in placing military pressure on Taiwan.

Conclusion

It is a little early to say which of “China’s Lessons” will become the most prevalent. I would like to review this situation again in a month. Preliminarily, I would postulate that China will try to leverage this situation into a soft-power net bonus, working behind-the-scenes to promote Russia subsuming the provinces and promoting themselves as a stable destination for investment. Please feel free to discuss what you think in the comments section.

Miscellania

* Foreign Policy wrote the MOST authoritative article explaining how the Georgia situation could backfire against Russia. Not all of its assertions may happen, but Foreign Policy compiles many thoughtful ideas. (Jamestown further examines the mystery of Belarus’ limited support for Russia’s actions, and the Financial Times discusses more.)

* An interesting article on Bloomberg about China’s reaction to the Georgia situation. Prof. Robert Ross is a prime source.

* The Jamestown Foundation has their own take on the lessons to be learned from the Georgia situation (Link added September 6th).

* Georgia’s lessons for Taiwan. (Link from Brookings added September 6th).

* US Dept. of State background notes on Georgia.

4 September, 2008 Posted by | China Diplomacy, China Future | , , , , | 3 Comments

Sudan and China (Guest)

 by: Danny J. (Guest Contributor)

The following piece does not necessarily reflect the views of chinacomment. However, it is interesting, so I hope you will find it enjoyable. Once again, I thank Danny very much for his contribution.

Last month, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was recommended to be arrested by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Days before the actual announcement, China’s UN ambassador expressed concern, arguing Bashir’s indictment could hurt possibilities for peace in Darfur, a western region of Sudan. Sudan’s UN ambassador responded similarly, saying the arrest would lead to ‘grave consequences’. ICC judges are not expected to make a ruling on Bashir’s arrest until October or November, so it is not an imminent threat. (Note: There are currently no Darfur peace processes on the table.) 

Sudan and China have a fairly good relationship, but during much of Sudan’s North-South civil war, Sudan and China only had limited ties. 

Even after al-Bashir came to power in a June 30, 1989 coup, Sudan’s primary business during its Civil War period was with Western countries. It was not until the late 90’s and early 2000’s that American and European companies, for the most part, pulled out due to domestic human rights lobbying and Sudan’s internal unrest. Talisman Oil, a Canadian Company completely left Sudan in early 2004 following several pipeline bombings – it was one of, if not the last remaining Western oil interests in Sudan. 

As the West was pulling out, China dedicated more and more to Sudan, and Africa. Currently, China has large investments in Sudan, both commercially and politically. Regarding Oil, China is ‘leading developer of reserves in Sudan,’ and currently takes between 40 to 80 percent of its production, or about six percent of China’s total oil imports.

 

The Indictment and China’s Policies

 Once al-Bashir’s indictment was officially announced, the Sudanese UN ambassador is said to have sought help with Security Council members China and Russia. By July 13, both UNSC members informally pledged support to Sudan’s government. As of July 31, China urged the UN to suspend the indictment of Bashir.

 The African Union, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of Islamic Conference have all called for invoking ‘Article 16,’ a measure that allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC proceedings for 12 months, renewable indefinitely. The US, on the other hand, is firmly against freezing the indictment.

 Even with an arrest warrant, it is unlikely that Bashir would be easy to get, considering that two other arrest warrants were issued last year, and both targets still remain at large. Yet, the warrant on al-Bashir may result in positive action toward resolution of the Sudanese situation. ‘Western diplomats say Mr. Bashir could escape indictment if he ended what they see as impunity for two men the ICC charged last year over Darfur.’ This presents a way out for Bashir, but should he do so, the move would probably be viewed as bargaining sovereignty for safety.

 So, why do Russia and China support Bashir and Sudan? The main reason is Sovereignty. Internationally, China acts in a ‘treat others how you would like to be treated’ sort of way. It has done this in two ways over the years.

 First, imagine what China would do if a high ranking Party member were indicted by the ICC. A member would more than likely never get to that point, since China possesses a UNSC veto, but in the current situation, China can even avoid the potentially embarrassing situation of having to cast a UNSC veto. In this way, the Party solidifies the power it holds over its people, ensuring that there can be no one above the state, in much the same way the USA’s refusal to join the ICC protects its sovereignty. The state has the last word.

 A second example of this type of action regards how China previously addressed Sudan’s problems in Darfur and the civil war in the South as issues Sudan must deal with alone. Think of southern Sudan and Darfur as provinces in China like Xinjiang, Tibet, or Taiwan. China occasionally has problems with these regions. If secession by these regions were to happen to China, it would want support for its policy of ‘unifying’ itself. Therefore, China argues that Sudan’s internal ‘territorial problems’ should be ‘solved internally.’

 

 Military Aid to Sudan? (Where Exactly is it Coming From?)

 For a time, this meant even militarily helping Sudan. The BBC reported that ‘Dong Feng Military Trucks,’ ‘Chinese anti-aircraft guns,’ and ‘Fantan fighter jets’ have been sold or given to Sudan by China, in possible violation of a UN arms embargo. The BBC believes that some equipment arrived before, and some after the embargo, and that the Chinese are training Sudanese to pilot the jets (yet another breach of the sanctions).

 China maintains it does not sell weapons to countries on the ‘embargo list.’ However, a new report was just released naming China as the top violator of the Sudan embargo.

 One problem with this report was that it just names ‘China’, not differentiating whether the actor violating the embargo is official government policy, the military acting of its own accord without the Center noticing, or the embargo is being broken by smuggling of Chinese Arms.

 It is possible the Chinese government (like other weapon-producing countries) sold the Sudanese government arms legally before the embargo, then other sales were made after the embargo (with or without official permission) by people and groups with access to the equipment.

 

 Chinese Peacekeepers … Demonstrate Beijing is Honoring its Commitments

 Still, China has helped make some positive action in the last two years. Last year, China began pestering Bashir into accepting UN troops and other decrees to prevent further problems in Darfur. The UN peacekeeping troops are foundering, but not because of China. It is because other countries fail to send the number of troops they pledged. (The current number of peacekeepers is around 9,100, with a pledged total of 26,000.)

 China has sent most, if not all, of the troops it committed. Considering how understaffed the peacekeeping force currently is, China’s fulfillment of its promises is more than many other countries can say.

 

 Concluding Remarks

 As with everything, the relationship between Sudan and China is complicated. For both countries, the positives are great: Beijing gets more oil and another African supporter of ‘One China’; Khartoum gets money, at least some of which goes into modernizing the city and to a much lesser extent the country.

 Unfortunately, weapons sales also play a part in the relationship, whether official or unofficial. This has helped exacerbate the conflict in Sudan (to be honest, even without Chinese arms, Sudan still would have gotten guns and Darfur would still be a problem) and made China lose some international face.

 Sure, China dragged its feet in the beginning of the UN peacekeeping process, but that is the general nature of Chinese foreign policy: wait until you have to act, then act. In this case China balanced and preached noninterference, but changed position and acted when negative international PR threatened China’s face/image.

 Still, it is important to commend the Chinese for convincing Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops, and for sending many troops themselves. There have been successes and failures, but China’s interaction with Sudan demonstrates how China is beginning to accept international responsibilities while maintaining dialogue, economic relations and involvement with its Sudanese friends.

Guest Contributor Danny J. has a BS in Political Science and International Studies with a focus on China and its politics. He lived a year in China and visited places, from Urumqi to Beijing to Yunnan, to list only a few.

(Note: Chinacomment is currently on vacation and without constant access to computer until the beginning of September; however, updates will continue at the pace of 1-3 a week since Chinacomment does have a sizable backlog of relevant material to post.

Also: Happy 08-08-08 08:08!)

8 August, 2008 Posted by | China and Africa, China Diplomacy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Border Incursions Tied to Lama Support?

The Asia Times reported recent border incursions by China’s troops into Indian territory in the area of Sikkim on June 16. Troops moved nearly one kilometer into the territory, then departed. There have been over 70 Chinese incursions into Sikkim since January 2008.

It is interesting these incursions happened in Sikkim, which China has acknowledged as part of India as recently as May 2004, rather than in Arunachal-Pradesh and Aksai Chin which are territories still under dispute- of course, incursions are still ongoing in Arunachal-Pradesh.

It is odd, but it appears the major Western news sites have oddly enough not yet picked up on this issue. Perhaps this is because India’s foreign ministry is “playing down” the news.

Sudha Ramachandran, writing for the Asia Times, has many ideas for why China increased its belligerence. Chief among his ideas is that the Chinese are using incursions in Sikkim to encourage India to give concessions in Arunachal and Aksai. Also in agreement is a China expert at an Indian think tank who argues China might be backing off recognition of Sikkim as part of India. The Chinese foreign minister, however, recently reiterated China recognizes Sikkim as part of India.

An increased show of force is likely to cause the Indian populace to dig in and oppose India ceding land. Since the Chinese are not led by foolish military leaders (one would presume),  perhaps the increase in incursions is due to something else.

I would posit the main reason for the new incursions in a territory the Chinese already agree is part of India is to give the Indians a warning not to shelter and encourage the D*l*i L*ma of T&b&t&n Buddhism fame. China already warns countries not to receive the spiritual leader under threat of damaging relations. And the recent unrest unnerved Beijing. It reasonable to expect that China is willing to undertake drastic measures to limit the D*l*i L*ma’s influence in India.

The Chinese do not want their country to split because of tensions, and perhaps they see the Indians as encouraging those tensions. Thus, the border incursions are a warning among others that Bhaskar Roy of the India-based South Asia Analysis group describes, which are designed to modify India’s foreign policy behavior and its relationship to the D&l*i L&m&.

* An Economic Times article briefly explains the situation.

28 June, 2008 Posted by | China Diplomacy, China Military | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Off The Shelf: Futurecast 2020 (Part I)

Futurecast: 2020 argues that only the United States and China will be considered great economic and political powers in 10 to 20 years. Its author, Robert Shapiro (a former Clinton Administration advisor) reaches this conclusion primarily by arguments based on demographics (aging in countries), obligations (European social safety nets will drain their coffers and ability to produce), innovation (Shapiro argues America can uniquely benefit), and business development (Shapiro argues both China and the United States possess good capabilities and regulatory environments).

I will discuss Shapiro’s most provocative statements in an analysis of what the future holds for China and the United States in relation to the rest of the world.

MILITARY

* Shapiro gives a possible warning of future confrontation between China and the US. “Even deep economic relationships do not preclude wars between the parties, once they’re each other’s near peers in military power.” (20) For example, in the “calm” before WWI, world trade was at an all-time high. and yet that trade led to war, and an arms race rather than peace.

China’s military spending budget has increased by double [percentage] digits for 20 consecutive years, this year rising nearly 18% to at least $59.6 billion (There are many estimates of the precise amount of spending since China does not calculate its military spending the same way that other countries tend to calculate theirs; but the important thing is that China is spending AT LEAST this much.)

However, it is unlikely, even given current levels of assumed spending, that China will be able to challenge the US even on a regional scale until around the year 2020 (Zalmay Khalizad discusses it HERE; but Mulvenon, Cordesman of the CSIS, and others have discussed China’s military force at length in full-length books).

But being directly able to match the US tank for tank may not matter since the Chinese are investing a lot in asymmetrical warfare. The most famous book on China’s asymmetrical and military policy is China Debates the Future Security Environment, by Michael Pillsbury. It’s a little out of date (from 2000), but it’s free on the Internet so it is easy to check out. (A slightly alarmist report on Chinese cyberterror from The Guardian is also available.)

ECONOMIC SUCCESS

Shapiro argues that “demographics and globalization will intensify economic inequality almost everywhere” (22); but that the societies with the greatest inequalities will likely be the richest, like China and the United States, since globalization allows returns on investment to rise (22).

Shapiro discusses how China and the United States are best positioned to take advantage of globalization due to their “freewheeling market capitalism” (16) which allows for innovation and can help the countries escape the burdens of aging and social-welfare systems Shapiro argues will plague Europe and lead to a “geopolitical marginalization” (21)… since “Europe has steadily cut its defense capacities and commitments…[it is] likely to be preoccupied politically with the fierce domestic conflicts certain to erupt when that slow growth collides with the tax hikes and spending cuts requried to keep their pension and health-care systems going (21).

Due to these declines, Shapiro argues, Europe will by necessity grow closer to United States whose military can protect Europe and help ensure its steady flow of raw material resources.

OTHER DEMOGRAPHICS

Shapiro touches on China’s aging; but notes that its large population, if properly educated, can mitigate most of the troublesome effects of a declining workforce. Even if China grays, its population is not expected to begin aging until the late 2010s, and at least through the early 2020s, around 75% of the population will be working-age or younger.

Another factor explaining why China’s aging will not necessarily hobble the country, is that unlike most other aging countries; Japan, the US, and Europe, China has not yet reduced the size of its agricultural industy– it still represents around 43% of their labor force. China still has a long way to go on reducing agricultural employment and retooling that employment into more productive industries. Therefore, in terms of raw productive ability, China will be able to benefit from a continually expanding industrial-production pool as more agricultural workers shift into city employment.

However, Shapiro avoids a detailed discussion on China’s environmental or health problems. Considering how he allots much discussion arguing that China and America are strong countries with strong economies in part because they lack national health care, this is a bit confusing.

China’s environmental problems have gradually worsened; 16 of their cities are listed as the 20 most polluted in the world. The preponderance of pollution will lead to more chronic conditions, and more lost-days at work which can cut into productivity. When I lived in Beijing, every year we suffered a few “purple” level pollution days where the air quality index rated worse than 500 parts particulate matter pollution- the highest level measured.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Shapiro discusses the usual things about China developing massive amounts of infrastructure and still having a long way to grow. As a World Bank Report stated in regards to China’s massive infrastructure investments: “Annual capital expenditures for transport, electricity, piped gas, telecommunications, urban water supply and sanitation increased steadily from US$39 billion in 1994, to US$88 billion in 1998, and to US$123 billion (about 8.7% of GDP) in 2003.”

Infrastructure needs to be constructed rapidly to encourage continual expansion of China’s economy. According to the Economist “logistics costs… amount to 18% of GDP in China compared with 10% in America” and “between 2006 and 2010 $200 billion is expected to be invested in railways alone, four times more than in the previous five years. ” It will be interesting to see if China’s government can maintain those levels of investment, given the current global recession.

DIPLOMACY

Shapiro then explains how China’s growth and increasing relevance in international trade and resource transfers will encourage new diplomatic alignments. Shapiro argues that a China and Europe alliance or a China and Russia alliance could pressure America and cause it and its world financial institutions to alter policies (40).

PART II will discuss Russia and India, Recipies for Success, and Conclusions on the book.

Feel free to sound off in the Comments section of this post for your opinions on the book and my analysis.

Futurecast 2020

by: Robert J. Shapiro (Undersecretary of Commerce 1998-2001, Senior economic advisor to the Clinton, Gore, and Kerry Campaigns, cofounder of SONECON LLC.) 2007.

23 June, 2008 Posted by | Book Review, China Environment/Health, China Future | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

China’s Soft Power

I just found an intriguing report, put out by the United States government in April 2008, and available at the Federation of American Scientists’ website detailing China’s Foreign Policy and ‘’Soft Power’’ In South America, Asia, and Africa. The article is available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2008_rpt/crs-china.pdf

It makes several startling conclusions contrary to mainstream fears of China’s increasing soft power and influence in the developing world, including:

* “China has attempted to exploit its ‘‘no strings attached’’ foreign aid stance and its ability to deploy state-owned assets to reap softpower advantages. But CRS finds that China’s success has been mixed and its influence remains modest. Contrary to some projections of China’s ability to displace American influence through the use of soft power, the CRS report indicates that China must grapple with many limitations on its influence” (viii).

Is this wishful thinking on the part of the American defense and diplomatic establishment?

Britain’s The Economist partially concurs with the US government report, arguing that “concerns about the dire consequences of China’s quest for natural resources are overblown.” Also, it calls attention to assertiveness on the part of resource-owners in Gabon, Peru, and the Philippines where Chinese corporations were kept out of national parks and other companies were investigated for corruption– hardly the actions of countries coddling China or intimidated by its might.

Meanwhile, oil extraction agreements signed with African countries keep on coming with a June 5th $5 billion oil extraction deal in Niger.

* “And CRS found that China’s cumulative stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide amounted to just $73.3 billion at the end of 2006—0.58% of global FDI” (viii).

That is surprising. I will have to look into how they calculated the FDI.

* It also calls attention to blowback against the Chinese, particularly in Zambia.

I intend to pour through the report over the next few days and I’ll post more in-depth comments and analysis. For now, I thought you’d enjoy seeing the report and welcome any comments.

 

7 June, 2008 Posted by | China and Africa, China Diplomacy, China Future | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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