Thursday, February 28, 2013

Richard Fisher Presentation on Taiwan Defense Posture

Mr. Richard Fisher

  Richard Fisher Presentation on "Reassessing Taiwan's Strategic Position"

          On January 23rd, George Washington University hosted a Taiwan round table regarding the state of Taiwan's strategic position in the East Asian region.  During the event, there was an unexpected interruption (false fire alarm), and as a result Mr. Richard Fisher, a Senior Fellow of Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center was unable to give his presentation.  Fortunately, the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at GW was kind enough to send out Mr. Fisher's planned remarks to those who attended.

     The following remarks are from that presentation by Mr. Fisher:

     In addition to calling for sustained, large ROC ground forces, Fisher also advocates for robust development of Taiwan's indigenous surface-to-surface missile program. He notes that Taiwan's surface-to-surface missiles can be armed with sensors to create Sensor Fused Munitions (SFMs), a type of weapon that has the potential to destroy as many as thirty tanks or thirty invasion ships through the shooting of explosive metal disks. Fisher argues Taiwan's possession of SFMs would allow it to confront most PLA invasion forces in a cost-effective manner: for the cost of 15 new F-16 C/D fighter jets, Taiwan can pay for up to 1,000 SFMs.

Text from Mr. Fisher's Powerpoint Presentation (Pictures added by blog author) 

 The Advantages of Missiles For Taiwan

Taipei does not need to be sold on the advantages of having its own attack missile force.  Since the late 1990s Taiwan has been developing the HF-2E land attack cruise missile, the HF-3 supersonic anti-ship missile, and according to recent reports, the 1,200km range Yunfeng/Cloud Peak missile.

The US has aided the development of Taiwan’s Ray Ting RT2000 artillery rocket system, which can fire a 240 mm rocket to 45km.  This is similar to the early M26A1 version of the Lockheed-Martin M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).  The U.S. has also sold Taiwan over 300 of the ship-launched124km range RGM-84 and the185km range air-launched AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.  However,  until recently the U.S. considered that longer-range missiles did not fall under the TRA definition of “defensive” weapons.  But this is a semantic luxury as the PLA’s overall military advantages increase.  


MTCR compatible (300km range) missiles offer numerous asymmetric advantages:  1) cost much less than combat aircraft; 2) are difficult to detect and shoot down;  3) attacking missiles can overwhelm missile defenses at less expense; 4) can produce strategic results with tactical means—short range attack missiles can degrade the PLA’s SAM belt near Taiwan, allowing the Taiwan Air Force to fly more missions; and can be configured to carry scores of warheads to start to regain the advantages of “mass” versus the PLA; plus 5) they can also force the PLA to stage its invasion forces further from Taiwan, which will have the effect of greatly increasing the operational risks to these invasion force. 

The U.S. could opt to sell the 90km range version of the M270 artillery rocket, that would give the Taiwan Army far greater depth from which to counter PLA invasion forces.  From Penghu this missile could cover many PLA SAM bases opposite Taiwan.  In addition, the US could also sell the 300km range Lockheed-Martin MGM-140 ATACMS short-range ballistic missile (@ $1 million each). This missile could also be configured with many accurate submunitions that could be used to attack more SAM sites in Fujian Province or to counter invasion forces gathering in Fujian Province, and is survivable by virtue of its being land-based and highly maneuverable for a missile. Boeing’s concept for a Joint Air Breathing Multirole Missile (JABMM-on the right), offers to greatly reduce the cost for anti-air, anti-ship and ground attack missiles.  

  Missile Technology Taiwan Could Use:  Sensor Fused Munitions

If the U.S. opts not to sell Taiwan 300km range missiles or Taiwan opts to develop its own class of long range interdiction missiles, the U.S. can also consider selling Taiwan a new class of submunition that would greatly enhance the lethality and asymmetric advantage of its missiles:  Sensor Fused Munitions (SFMs).

SFMs offer the potential to give Taiwan the kind of “mass” that the PLA cannot defeat.  In 2010 the U.S. decided to sell India over 20,000 Textron SFMs  (500+ CBU-105 bombs with 40x SFMs each) for a cost of about $300 million, or less than the cost of 4x F-16C/D fighters.  SFMs can be delivered by air-dropped bombs, artillery rockets, artillery shells, SRBMs, cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft.   

Sensor Fused Munitions (SFM) 

Developed by the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s (and by Russia at the same time, and then by the PRC in this last decade), SFMs are small air-delivered projectiles that combine a “smart” sensor (laser , infrared, millimeter wave radar) able to find a target and its heat source, and then fire an explosively formed metal disc, copper or tantalum, at a high supersonic speed so that it can slice through a tank engine.  If accurately placed a SFM could also disable a ship.  The only defense against this weapon is to attack its carrying platform in the air or on the ground.   Defeating launched SFM munitions would require a laser-based system that may not emerge for many years.  The PLA’s SFM program was led by Yang Shaoqing, a 1984 engineering graduate of Texas A&M University (picture on bottom right).  

20,000 SFMs would have the potential to destroy most of a 1,000+ ship PLA invasion fleet and most of the heavy armored vehicles that would succeed in landing on Taiwan.  Would such a capability then deter a PLA attack for many years into the future?

     US Options To Deter China In The Medium Term

If the U.S. is going to continue to deter China, there must be consideration of not just the adequate funding of currently planned force and modernization levels, but there must also be consideration of significant new capabilities.  But in doing so, the U.S. must also consider the value of current policies of restraint, such has its adherence to the INF Treaty, and restrictions on the sale of new weapons systems and also what it sells to Taiwan.  But by significantly raising the cost of aggression it is possible to show Beijing the advantages of wider negotiated regimes of assurance.  

New Regional Sensor Network

A network of long-range APAR and OTH radar, with inputs from 
satellites and ELINT/SIGINT , that due to its central location would
also include Taiwan,  could potentially give network contributors a 
total view of most observable PLA activities.  This enhances deterrence 
by providing warning and some assurance of sensor coverage in case
of attack.

New intermediate-to-short range ballistic missiles
The PLA’s ever increasing arsenal of theater missiles has made reliance
on “anti-missiles” insufficient.  Consistent with the emphasis on “payloads,”
there is now a need for a new U.S. and Allied network of intermediate-to-short
range ballistic missiles that can assure significant destruction of the PLA Navy, 
PLA invasion forces, space, and critical coastal region targets.  Initially this 
should be a non-nuclear armed missile network.

A Chance to Strengthen U.S.-Taiwan Relations

A Chance to Strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan Relationship

Perhaps the most difficult period for a country that is making a transition from an authoritarian form of government to one of democratic principles, is the time in which the dust has settled, and the hard work must truly begin. After the euphoria of taking off the yoke of an oppressive government has subsided, the building of both a responsible government and civil society must take place in order for such a transition to be truly successful. Taiwan is currently in this “adolescent” period of its development. Although Taiwan has become increasingly isolated diplomatically over the past several decades, the people and government of Taiwan have continued to maintain a special and unique relationship with another state that has had its share of growing pains over the centuries: The United States.

The Ambassador Program, which is sponsored by the American-based Formosa Foundation, has looked to strengthen this relationship between the two countries by educating college level students about issues that effect both the United States and Taiwan, and then challenging these students to enter into the American political system with the role of advocating such issues to members of the United States Congress.

This two week “political boot camp” first educates the participants by introducing them to guest speakers who are among the best in their respective fields in order to give the students the knowledge and tools necessary to advocate for issues that are of mutual interest to Taiwan and the United States. In 2012, students had the opportunity to meet and engage with a number of experts on US-Taiwan relations. A few of these people included recently retired Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, long time Taiwan supporter Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Project 2049 CEO and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Randy Schriver, former Director of AIT Dr. Richard Bush, and former Legislative Yuan representative Winston Dang.

During the second week of the program the students will use their enhanced knowledge of current issues that are important to US-Taiwan relations and advocate for these issues with members of Congress and their respective staffs. The promotion of democracy, human rights, free media and press within Taiwan, as well as their importance to American interests are discussed, as well as issues of Taiwan's security agreements with the United States, enhanced trade among the two countries, and the overall improvement of relations. Last year students met with over 176 members of Congress and their staff with the goal of the strengthening of ties between the two countries. The program ended last year with students pressing for members of Congress to sign a letter that was to be delivered to President Obama, urging the resumption of talks between the two countries regarding a free trade agreement: talks that have now been scheduled to resume. There is a great sense of pride when one completes this program: I felt it last year as a participant.

The 2013 program is scheduled to take place from June 17th-28th, and I would encourage all interested students to apply at The deadline to apply is March 25th.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CIA video from 1960 showing Taiwan as "Free China"

Hard to find footage from old Taiwan.  One should pay attention to some of the language used in the documentary.  For example, Taipei is referred to as the "Provincial capital of Taiwan", as well as the current location for the ROC government.  Sounds eerily similar to the thoughts of some government officials in Taiwan today.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Interview with North Korean Expert & Author Bradley K. Martin

Mr. Bradley K. Martin 

    For decades,  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK--aka North Korea)  excelled at keeping its secretive society locked far away from the eyes and ears of the outside world. While North Korea's former benefactors The Soviet Union and China moved away from their respective interpretations of Marxism and integrated into the global economy to varying degrees, The DPRK has continued to not only remain isolated  from the global economic system; it has successfully controlled the vast majority of its citizenry from obtaining information from outside its borders.  Yet times are changing in the hermit kingdom.  While its nuclear ambitions are well-documented, perhaps an even more important story is currently developing in North Korea: The increasingly important black market in North Korea is not only creating a new economic class within the country, it is allowing for information to flow both inside and out of the country that is growing beyond the government's control to contain.

     In order to place the myriad events currently taking place in the DPRK, and their potential ramifications, I spoke with one of the world's most respected experts on North Korea, Mr. Bradley K. Martin.  He is the author of "Under The Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader", a brilliant work that covers the complex history of the reclusive state, as well as analysis of modern North Korea, including several interviews with North Korean defectors from a wide range of social classes: from farmers to military officers.  Mr. Martin has also covered East Asian news for over 30 years for Newsweek, Bloomberg News, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Asia Times, and the Baltimore Sun.  

If the primary reason that the DPRK is conducting nuclear testing is to force the United States into bilateral talks over its nuclear program, what is it trying to gain from such talks if it would not agree to cease its nuclear program?

BM: "The North Korean goal is not mere regime survival but victory. They want a peace treaty and removal of the U.S. troops so they can then attend to the next step: conquest of South Korea."

Do you see any likely change in China's policy towards dealing with North Korea's nuclear program in the near term future? 

BM:"Still watching that one but I was impressed by an analysis I just saw that suggested the Chinese are not on board for rescuing the North Korean regime from coup or popular uprising. As long as the regime isn't attacked from abroad, it's on its own, according to that view. If it's correct, the North Koreans may have gotten themselves into a deep hole indeed."

How secure do you think (current DPRK leader) Kim Jong-un's power base is at the moment? How much influence does his Uncle Jang-Song taek have over Jong-un in terms of influencing his decision making?

BM: "I'm still watching that and don't have an answer yet."

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un

Nearly all trips to North Korea are carbon copies, in which North Korean guides and "minders" show the group the standard monuments, museums, and sights around Pyongyang, with little interaction granted to citizens of the country.  What can you learn about the country from such visits? 

BM: "The trips are indeed limited but I've never failed to learn from even the shortest and most restricted visit. See one of my shorter trips as reflected in an Australian TV documentary at then watch parts 2 and 3, also on YouTube."

 It seems that the black market economy has exploded in recent years in the DPRK, and some reports even state that many Korean families see those who work within the black market as highly desirable in terms of potential marriage matches for their children, in some cases even more so than members of the military.  Can the DPRK government reign in this aspect of its society? Or is it here to stay.  Also, should this "new economy" be seen as a threat by the government, or perhaps a stabilizing force, as many people will find some level of financial  stability within the system, as well as providing additional hard currency circulation within the DPRK?

BM: "The regime from time to time attempts to slow this trend but in the long run it will continue. The stability argument has some merit. After all, most Chinese, as they gain prosperity, are not agitating to change their government. But the regime no doubt fears development of a middle class that would be a competing force, as it has throughout modern history wherever it arose -- and we don't yet know the end of the China story. 

The Beijing regime often shows that it has similar worries, and we never know whether single-party control by the princelings ultimately will breed a scandal so massive and disgusting that it turns ordinary Chinese into anti-government activists. My experience watching the Kims suggests they will not put their faith in the free-enterprise equals prosperity equals stability argument. They are control freaks."

What type of economic  reforms do you think the government would consider implementing that would actually benefit the DPRK citizens? 

BM:  "Even the modest agricultural reforms that some reports said last year were on the horizon would help people live better. Those reports more or less dried up but maybe there's some experimentation going on somewhere and we'll hear more later." 

From your experience in speaking with numerous DPRK defectors, is there a common thread among their stories about life in the DPRK?  How much did most of them actually believe the state ran media, and did they really have the affection for Kim Il-Sung, and Jong-il that the DPRK claims, or was there a high level of  doubt within them? 

BM: "The defectors I talked with for my book typically didn't turn against the regime until they realized that the way it operated would ensure they could not realize their dreams -- usually rather modest dreams  -- if they stayed. Typically they continued to be in awe of Kim Il-sung, at least, although not a few of them noticed that life in North Korea had started down the tubes around the time Kim Jong-il took over as day to day boss." 

"That's unfair to Jong-il in a way, since those were his father's policies he continued to enforce -- but he could have done more to change the policies as his father aged and particularly after he died. The current Kim will not be cut much slack in popular opinion if, as he appears currently to be doing, he sticks with the very same policies overall."

What type of foreign policy do you foresee incoming  South Korean President Geun-hye taking towards North Korea? It seems that neither sticks or carrots have worked towards the DPRK in various South Korean Administrations recently. 

BM: "I won't predict but recommend: Don't go back to the Sunshine policy or any variation of the same. Stand up to the North's provocations, routinely, and without a lot of rhetoric and hysteria. Count on information leaking into the North to continue weakening the Kim regime's hold on the people."

If the North Korean state were to collapse in the near future, what would be your predictions regarding the geopolitical landscape of the Korean peninsula following such a major event?  How would China, Japan, and the United States react? 

BM: "They all need to be thinking about that, and talking with one another, much as such talk infuriates the North. If the big event were a coup or other internal upheaval I'd hope they would all watch and try to be helpful, starting with food aid to show neighborliness to the new regime. There would be little benefit for anyone in rushing troops in, in the most likely circumstances at least."

Feel free to add anything else that you would are the expert!

BM: "Watch for my novel Nuclear Blues, which takes my North Korea analysis into futurology to some extent. Prospective agents and publishers in New York are currently looking at the manuscript."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Developments in East Asia

Developments in East Asia 

*It was announced today that Taiwan plans to withdraw its military troops  from the Jinmen islets of Tatan and Ertan.  The announcement was made on Wednesday, and officials also stated that the islands will be opened to tourists.  The islets were both part of a fierce battle in 1950, where Chinese PLA made a failed attempt to capture the islands from the ROC.  

* Philippines President Benigno Aquino's chief aide, Mr Rene Almendras stated that his country was on the "right track" to having a United Nations tribunal strike down China's claim to ownership of most of the area within the South China Sea, after the PRC publicly rejected the notion earlier in the week.  Almendreas stated that case could proceed without China's approval.  China and the Philippines both continue to lay claim to the Scarborough Shoal , an area that is coveted by both countries' fisherman, with the dispute leading to a trade war between the two countries last year. 

Ariel image of the Scarborough Shoal (Wiki) 

* In January,  United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay  unveiled a  proposal   would investigate long-reported human rights violations in North Korea.  The Washington Post reported today that although the measure has support from many within Washington, the idea is not universally supported in South Korea.  The level of pressure placed on North Korea has long been debated in South Korea, with many conservatives in the country favoring a hard-line approach with its neighbor to the North, while more liberal members of the South Korean government seeing a "softer" approach as the ideal way to successfully engage the DPRK.  Incoming South Korean President Park Geun-hye has stated that she desires to engage North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, but fears that outside pressure towards the DPRK could make it less likely to sit down to talks with her new government.

Kim Il-sung statue in Pyongyang, DPRK (Wiki) 

North Korea State Media has reported that personnel involved with the country's Third Nuclear Test will be invited to the capital Pyongyang, "enjoying the privileges and preferential treatment".  The story also includes an interesting animation from a DPRK media outlet, showing a tunnel, a nuclear device, and detonation that looks to show the sequence from the DPRK's recent underground nuclear test. 

 Interesting Links: 
Remnants of the KMT in Laos  : An interesting paper regarding holdouts from the defeated ROC army that moved into Laos and caused headaches for the new People's Republic of China in the 1950s-60s, as well as dabbled in the opium trade.  To make matters more interesting, the CIA is believed to have dabbled in the situation as well.

A Former North Korean Intelligence Agent Opens Restaurant in DC: While this story was printed in 2011, its a fascinating read.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Examining the claims of Japan, China, and Taiwan in the Senkaku-Diaoyutai East China Sea Territorial Dispute

     The territorial dispute in the East China Sea has been the source for recent  increased tension in the region between The People's Republic of China, Japan, and The Republic of China (Taiwan) in recent months.  In order to gain a perspective into the diplomatic rationale behind each respective states' claims, it is vital to examine each claimant's argument from a historical perspective.

     In January, the American Congressional Research Service published a report   titled "Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress", in which various claims throughout the region were examined; including the East China Sea island dispute.  The report did an admirable job in laying out the rationale behind the three claimants arguments over sovereignty of the islands.  Below is verbatim text taken from page 15of the report.

China and Taiwan:  "China and Taiwan assert that the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) considered the islets part of its maritime territory and included them on maps and documents of areas covered by Ming Dynasty coastal defenses. China claims that the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) went further and placed the islands under the jurisdiction of Taiwan, which was a part of the Qing Dynasty. The PRC
contends that upon Japan’s surrender in World War II in 1945, Japan gave up Taiwan and should
have also given up the Diaoyu Islands. Geographically, China also argues that the Okinawa
Trough in the ocean floor separates the Senkakus/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai and China’s continental shelf
from Japan’s Ryuku Islands
." (CSR)

Taiwan:  "The ROC maintains that it “regained” sovereignty over Formosa (Taiwan) upon Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II in 1945 and also should have regained what the ROC calls the
Diaoyutai Islands. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has asserted that the Diaoyutai Islands first
appeared in China’s historical records as early as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). 

President MaYing-jeou, in an August 2012 speech, argued that various international agreements after WorldWar II “confirmed that Taiwan has been returned to the Republic of China.” He added that “the Diaoyutai Islands, an island group part of Taiwan prior to World War II, naturally should have
been returned to the Republic of China along with Taiwan after the war.”20 (Taiwan was a colony
of Japan from 1895 to 1945. The ROC was set up in 1911.)"

Japan: "Japan, which maintains that there is no territorial dispute over the Senkakus, laid claim to the islands in January 1895, when the Japanese Emperor approved an Imperial Ordinance annexing
them to Japan.17 Before then, Japan argues, the islands were uninhabited (Japan uses the term
“terra nullis”) and “showed no trace of having been under the control of China.”18 In April 1895,
Japan and the Qing Dynasty government of China signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki ending the
Sino-Japanese war that had begun the previous year. Under the Treaty, China ceded Taiwan
(Formosa) to Japan “together with all the islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of
Formosa.” The Treaty did not specifically mention the Senkakus (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai), and the
islands were not discussed during the negotiating sessions.

Japan has claimed from this that its incorporation of the Senkakus (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) was an act
apart from the Sino-Japanese War. In contrast, China and Taiwan argue that Japan used its victory
in the war to annex the islands. They also argue that the intent of the Allied declarations at Cairo
and Potsdam during World War II was to restore to China territories taken from it by Japan
through military aggression.19 In October 1945, when Japan relinquished authority over Taiwan,
the disposition of the Senkakus/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai was not explicitly resolved.
" (CSR)

It is also important to note that the CRS stated that:

" From the early 1950s until 1972, the United States administered the islets, under the terms of the
1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan.21 Administration was then turned over to Japan in 1972, after
the signing of the U.S.-Japan Okinawan Reversion Treaty, under which the United States returned
Okinawa and other nearby islands to Japan. China has described the U.S.-Japan understandings
related to the islands as “backroom deals” that are “illegal and invalid.”"

     In analyzing the United States position, although it has stated itself to be "neutral" regarding the disputed territories, it is essentially taking the position tacitly that the islands are in fact Japanese administered.  This can be assumed for a number of reasons:

* In administering the islets from 1951-1972, the United States was the occupier of the territory as a result of being the victorious military force over the Empire of Japan, as acknowledged in its post-war treaties between the two states.  By handing over the territories to Japan in 1972 following the U.S.-Japan Okinawan Reversion Treaty, the United States acknowledged Japan as the administer of the islands.  There have been no additional treaties signed by the government of Japan regarding the Senkakus since 1972, therefore there is no reason for the American government to change its position on the legal ownership of the islands.

* Although the United States government has repeatedly stated that its returning of the islands to Japan does not invalidate the claims made by other states,  "the United States agreed in the
Okinawa Reversion Treaty to apply the Security Treaty to the treaty area, including the Senkaku
(Diaoyu/Diaoyutai). During a 2010 worsening of Japan-PRC relations over the islets, Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton summed up the U.S. stance by stating, “... with respect to the Senkaku
Islands, the United States has never taken a position on sovereignty, but we have made it very
clear that the islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations, and the obligation to defend
Japan.”" (CSR)

     Recent Developments in the East China Sea Dispute

While some observers have stated that any form of joint-cooperation between the PRC and Taiwan regarding the dispute could be seen as a single joint claim (as this author stated in a previous article,), the Ma Administration in Taiwan has looked to distance itself from such a perception.   On Monday, Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Steve Hsia (夏季昌), stated that due to the PRC's derecognition of the Sino-Japanese Treaty (The Treaty of Taipei, which was signed by Japan and the ROC in 1952),   “there is no basis for cross-strait cooperation".

     One of the primary arguments that is made by President Ma regarding the Treaty of Taipei and ownership of the islands is Article 4 of the treaty:

"It is recognized that all treaties, conventions and agreements concluded before December 9, 1941, between China and Japan have become null and void as a consequence of the war."

There are two issues regarding this specific article of the treaty:
* The ROC (Taiwan) contends that by becoming a signatory to this treaty, Japan agreed to nullify prior treaties between the two parties.  Under international law, the ability to abrogate prior treaties that have acknowledged previously  by both parties does not fall under accepted international law

* Nowhere in the treaty does it specify a transfer of the Senkaku islands to another sovereign state

* Even if the treaty did state a transfer of the islands, Under the Treaty of San Francisco signed in 1951 between the United States and Japan, Japan renounced control of Taiwan and various territories, therefore rendering the Treaty of Taipei to be little more than a document that affirms an official ceasing of hostilities between the two states, and not a territorial transfer.

* Previously, both the PRC and ROC (Taiwan) have stated that prior treaties between the prior government of China (The Qing Dynasty) and Japan are invalid due to the documents being signed by the Qing government "under duress".  It would be interesting to how both China and the ROC would categorize the state of Japan during the time in which they signed post-war treaties.

*Additionally, following the same practice of abrogating treaties, the Japanese government did as much with the Treaty of Taipei in 1972, following its diplomatic switch in recognition from the ROC to PRC.

*Finally, one of the core beliefs that is stated by both China and Taiwan is that the Diaoyutai islands were ceded to Japan in 1985 under the Treaty of Shinmoneseki (which as previously stated was illegally declared invalid by both the ROC and PRC).  However, the islands themselves were not specified in the treaty, and Japan claimed the islands in 1885 under the notion of terra nullius (unclaimed territory).




Monday, February 18, 2013

Straight Shooter: Interview with Gordon Chang

Mr. Gordon Chang
     Years ago while browsing in the bookstore, I came across a book titled "The Coming Collapse of China" by Gordon Chang. As someone who has a deep interest in not only politics, but a particular one in the East Asian region, I could not resist opening it. I gave it my normal twenty second inspection test to see if it caught my attention enough to read it a bit longer; and perhaps even purchase it.  I turned to the first chapter and read the first few sentences, 

"They will move Mao Zedong's body soon; it lies on hallowed ground.  When the Communist Party of China falls, when the third Chinese revolution succeeds, they will move him from Tiananmen Square, the center of Beijing and the heart of China.  So much history has occurred in Tiananmen, and so much more has yet to happen."  

     Sold.  I plowed through the book in a mere two days and never looked at China the same again.  Although the collapse of China that Mr. Chang spoke about in the book has yet to occur, his reasoning behind his thinking  is still apparent today: Corruption within the government, The intermingling of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and business, the lack of transparency in the Chinese banking system,  the internet age, and the fact that communist ideology and its doctrine restrain social and political progress.

 While many in the media and government often  speak of China's ever-enlarging economic and military clout, Mr. Chang uses an alternative lens when viewing China.  A lens  that looks underneath its meticulously  crafted image of a politically stable state that desires a "peaceful rise" into the realm of global powers, and often reveals unpleasant truths that many would rather ignore or discard.  In this interview we discussed various aspects of China's foreign policy. 


What are your predictions on Chinese foreign policy during the first 5 years of Xi Jinping?
(Xi Jinping ascended to become the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in November 2012, as well as the Chairman of the Party Central Military Commission.  He is expected to take the title of President (head of state) next month during the next session of the National People's Congress)
GC: "Chinese foreign policy will only become more aggressive under the nationalist Xi Jinping.  As it does so, China will lose even more friends.  Already, we see nations on its periphery begin to band together to protect themselves.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a leader in this regard as he tries to stitch together a coalition of the region’s democracies.  The Ma administration should be fully supporting this effort, but of course it is not.
These days, Beijing seems aggressively determined to pursue self-marginalizing, self-containing, and ultimately self-defeating policies.  This suggests, at a minimum, that there is something very wrong in the Chinese capital.
 At this time, the most hardline elements in Beijing are now setting policy.  And in a time of political transition, it is difficult for Xi and other Chinese officials to climb down.  Therefore, it looks like Beijing in the near future will miscalculate and overstep.  The consequences could be historic."

 What are the diplomatic options for China and Japan over the Senkaku-Diaoyutai island dispute? 
GC: "China does not appear to be thinking of diplomatic options over the islands it calls the Diaoyus.  It might accept a Japanese rhetorical concession that there is in fact a dispute, but Beijing does not look like it will be happy to then drop the matter.  The Chinese leadership almost always presses an advantage and demands more.  This tendency, unfortunately, is part of the DNA of militant regimes."

How much autonomy do regional authorities in provinces (ie. Hainan province) have in authorizing vessels into intercepting foreign vessels in the South China Sea, and how much of their decision making actually comes from Beijing?

GC: "At the moment, it appears that important tactical decisions are being made at the fleet level.  Overall direction, of course, is set at the center.  Various sources say Xi Jinping is directing policy on the East China Sea dispute with Japan, and that means he is probably also making decisions on South China Sea matters."

What is the probability that China will allow full election in Hong Kong in 2020, as the CCP has previously stated that it would? 

GC: It is unlikely that Beijing will ever allow full elections in Hong Kong.  Beijing-backed candidates would not be assured of winning in open contests, and that would be considered unacceptable.  Hong Kong is becoming unmanageable from China’s perspective, so real elections look most unlikely.

Will there likely be any concrete actions taken by China towards curbing North Korea's nuclear and long range missile development? 

GC: "Beijing is unlikely to take strong measures to stop the North Korean missile and nuclear weapons programs.  It has not done so up to now, and there is no consensus in the Chinese capital to change long-held pro-Pyongyang policies.
 Most Chinese policymakers know that Beijing’s North Korean policy is not in China’s long-term interest—it is driving Japan and South Korea closer to the United States, for instance—but in the short-run Beijing derives much advantage from its support of the Kim regime.  Every time Kim engages in a provocation, Washington asks for Beijing’s help and Beijing extracts concessions from America.  Chinese leaders find this dynamic to their liking.  Why should Beijing give up such a good arrangement?"

  How does China plan to deal with an increasingly strong and overt Taiwanese self-identity? Does China still think that it can peacefully bring Taiwan into the PRC? 
GC: "Beijing has few options when it comes to growing Taiwan identity.  The more it presses, the more people push back and declare they are not “Chinese.”  We see the same dynamic in Hong Kong and even inside the People’s Republic, especially in Tibetan and Uighur areas.  The more Beijing demand conformity, the more people take refuge in what sets them apart from the Communist Party.

Beijing is trying to absorb Taiwan through economic ties, but that shows how little Chinese leaders understand human nature.  Culture and identity almost always trump economics, but it is hard for Marxists to understand that."

If Taiwan is becoming too dependent on China in terms of intertwining economic ties, what are Taiwan's alternatives? 

GC: "Taiwan should be looking to sign free-trade agreements with the United States and others.  It should, for instance, be working hard to get into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Taiwan in general should be trying to promote more consumer spending because its export-driven growth model is unsustainable in the current global environment.  Both Japan and South Korea, which are heavily dependent on sales abroad, are experiencing declining growth at this moment.  Not every country can expect to achieve export glory in the years ahead."

Let's play out a scenario.  Could you describe in detail what would take place if the following happend: 2016.  The DPP candidate wins the Presidential election in Taiwan, along with a majority of seats in the Legislative Yuan.  China sees its carefully plotted economic maneuvers towards Taiwan going to waste, as the country becomes increasingly wary of its ties with China.  Under a conjured threat of Taiwan preparing to declare its "de jure" independence, the PRC issues a naval blockade, along with a series of missile salvos at Taiwan, and with out American military support, Taiwan surrenders.  What would happen in the daily lives of Taiwanese citizens under this scenario, or a similar scenario in which the PRC is able to economically strangle Taiwan into forcing it into the PRC? 

GC: "The surrender scenario is most unlikely.  But if it were to happen, Beijing would probably have to face a hostile population and perhaps a guerilla war for as long as it rules the island.  Its victory will, at best, be temporary.  Just look at what is happening in Hong Kong these days."

What would the global implications be under one of these scenarios? 

GC: "Beijing will feel emboldened if it were to absorb Taiwan, just like Hitler felt after he took Austria.  The Chinese navy, from its bases in Taiwan, would be able to cut off Japan and South Korea, and the region would be plunged into turmoil.  Aggressors are never satisfied with their conquests."

Have you read the "Taiwan 21" proposal by Scott Bates, and if so what are your feelings on it? 
(The "Taiwan 21" Proposal is a series of ideas proposed by the president for National Policy, Scott Bates.  Among some of his proposals include  Taiwan renouncing the use of force on China's shores, even in the event of Chinese military action, reducing its armed forces from 130,000 to 65,000; and changing its primary mission towards becoming a regional disaster response team. The primary objective would be to give Taiwan a "moral high ground in any confrontation" with China. 
GC: "Scott Bates's proposals are based on the false premise that the People's Republic is gaining strength.  On the contrary, it is getting weaker."

What is your opinion about the possibility of  Taiwan acquiring submarines from the United States, either by sale or  American logistical and technological support? Should anything be read into a Congressional delegation, led by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce making  a stop in the southern Taiwanese Naval harbor of Tsouying during their visit?

GC: "There is a growing appreciation of the danger China poses to the stability of East Asia.  And more policymakers are beginning to see Beijing’s threat to the United States itself.  As China acts in more assertive and belligerent ways, Washington will react. 

At this moment, there is still no consensus in the American capital to change long-held “engagement” policies, and it is unlikely we will see across-the-board American support for Taiwan’s submarine program in the immediate future.  Yet as China continues to threaten its neighbors, eventually the United States will react positively to Taiwan’s hardware requests, including its request for submarines.  In short, Beijing is creating the conditions for the submarine sales.

Representative Royce’s tour of a Taiwanese submarine yard last month shows that at least some in Washington are thinking about the issue.  More will do so soon."

 Gordon G. Chang is the author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World, released by Random House in January 2006.  Showdown focuses on nuclear proliferation in general and the North Korean crisis in particular.  His first book is The Coming Collapse of China (Random House, August 2001). He is a columnist at and blogs at World Affairs Journal.

He has spoken at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale, and other universities, and at The Brookings Institution, The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, RAND, the American Enterprise Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, and other institutions.  He has given briefings at the National Intelligence Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the Pentagon.  He has also spoken before industry and investor groups including Bloomberg, Sanford Bernstein, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia.  Chang has appeared before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

 His writings on China and North Korea have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the International Herald Tribune, Commentary, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and Barron's.

 He has appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CNBC, MSNBC, PBS, the BBC, and Bloomberg Television. He has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent co-host and guest on The John Batchelor Show. Outside the United States he has spoken in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, The Hague, London, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver.

You can read more from Gordon Chang at:
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