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03 Apr 20. Australian Government’s Defence Export Controls Changes Operations in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis. The Australian Government’s Defence Export Controls has posted on its website a notice that it continues to operate during the COVID-19 crisis, but in line with government directives and advice on social distancing, DEC has adopted new ways of working to ensure it can continue to process your applications. This may mean there is some disruption or impact on processing timeframes. DEC’s referral agencies are in a similar situation and experiencing similar disruption, which means if your application is complex there may be further implications for processing times. DEC will endeavor to minimize this where possible, but it asks for your understanding throughout this process. If your application is urgent, DECS asks that you outline your particular circumstances, and it will endeavor to meet your requirements where possible. You can continue to contact DEC by phone at 1800 66 10 66 and via email at ExportControls@defence.gov.au. (Source: glstrade.com)
02 Apr 20. Germany Sells Arms to Members of Saudi-Led Yemen Coalition. Since 2019, Germany’s government has approved arms exports worth over €1bin to members of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Critics says this exacerbates the fighting. Citing new figures from the Economic Affairs Ministry that show that sales are up, Left party disarmament specialist Sevim Dagdelen told DW that promises that Germany would be highly selective about weapons exports to avoid complicity in atrocities in Yemen are “nothing but hot air.”
Since early 2019, German arms manufacturers exported over €1bn ($1.1bn) worth of weapons to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen as part of the Saudi-led alliance.
In 2019, Germany’s government gave the go-ahead for arms exports to the UAE worth more than €257 million. Dagdelen said this had exacerbated the war in Yemen, which has been raging for five years now. “The UAE and Saudi Arabia are to blame for the biggest humanitarian catastrophe of our times,” she said. Dagdelen has called for Germany to immediately halt weapons exports to the UAE.
Egypt also remains a major buyer of German military and naval equipment. The country, which dispatched war ships to join the Saudi-led naval blockade of Yemen, recently purchased a frigate and submarine from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. And, in 2019, Germany’s government approved arms exports worth over €800m to the country. Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait, which have all participated in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, are also customers of German arms manufacturers.
Marius Bales, an arms expert with the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), said the latest figures made clear that “Germany’s arms exports are driven largely by economic considerations and are not at all selective.” Demand in Middle Eastern countries for German military equipment has always been high, in part because national arms industries are not as advanced as Germany’s.
Bales said exporting military equipment and arms to countries involved in the war was “utterly deplorable.” Doing so violates the 2018 decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to stop selling weapons to countries “directly participating in the Yemen war.” Preapproved arms exports were exempted from the policy, provided that they “remain in the recipient country.” The investigative journalism consortium #GermanArms, of which DW is a member, found that weapons produced by German companies are being used to wage war in Yemen.
Following the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, Germany adopted a moratorium on arms exports to the Gulf monarchy that November. The government recently extended the ban on sales through December 31, 2020.
The figures from the Economic Affairs Ministry show that armored all-terrain vehicles were exported to Saudi Arabia nonetheless. The Left’s Dagdelen deems this a “blatant violation” of the ban. She also wishes to see the “export moratorium applied to all countries who are part of the coalition fighting in Yemen.” (Source: (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German Radio)
03 Apr 20. Japan knocks back global foreign plans for next-gen fighter. Japan’s pursuit of a leading-edge, air dominance fighter appears to have taken several steps forward and a few back amid revelations that the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) is planning to proceed with a Japanese-led development program.
The current global and regional transition from fourth to fifth-generation fighter aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms, is reshaping the role of fighter fleets and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Designed to establish and maintain air superiority or air dominance, fighter aircraft have evolved from relatively simple wood and canvas airframes during the First World War to the highly manoeuvrable long-range aircraft that dominated the skies of Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War. The latest two generations of fighters are the pinnacle of these earlier designs.
Driven largely by advances in the capabilities fielded by both a resurgent Russia and a rising China, both of whom are increasingly eager to exercise their influence over strategically vital areas, like the East and South China Seas in particular.
Increasingly advanced, highly capable fourth, 4.5 and fifth-generation fighter aircraft that combine low observable coatings and airframes, increased aerodynamic performance, advanced sensor suites and computational power like the air dominance/air superiority specialised F-15 Eagle series, F-22 Raptor, Russian Su-57 and Chinese J-20 are at the pinnacle of the contemporary airpower hierarchy.
In response to these challenges, the Japanese MoD launched the development of the X-2 Shinshin, a technology demonstrator that proved Japan’s domestic aerospace industry could produce an indigenous stealth fighter design capable of competing with the world’s best.
To support the development of a Japanese air superiority fighter, the Japanese government and Japanese Defense Ministry have kicked off the Future Fighter Development Office to begin operations in April 2020.
The planned Future Fighter Development Office was first mentioned in the 30 August budget request for FY2020. In the budget request, the Japanese Defense Ministry urged the Japanese government to approve the launch of a Japan-led aircraft development program that can play a crucial role in the development of the country’s next fighter aircraft.
It has been revealed that the JASDF and MoD will determine a preliminary partnership framework for the development of the F-X fighter aircraft. While details remain light, it is expected that the formal draft will be finalised by December 2020.
Additionally, it has been revealed that funding for the F-X development program will reach about ¥28bn (US$256.5m) in FY2020.
A total of ¥16.9bn of this funding (60 per cent) will be spent on “F-X related research projects”, said the spokesperson, with the remaining ¥11.1bn (40 per cent) allocated for “conceptual design in Japan-led development” activity.
It was long believed that Japan would draw on international experience and relationships with the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman and British titan, BAE Systems to develop the next-generation fighter and spread the development costs.
However, it has recently been revealed that the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s ATLA is placing preference on a local-centric development and design phase.
As reported by Janes, an ATLA spokesperson said, “Based on previous discussions, the option of ‘developing derivatives of existing fighters’ cannot be a candidate from the perspective of a Japan-led development, and the MoD has come to the conclusion that we will develop a new model, and also this has been communicated to Lockheed Martin.
“We recognise we have built up enough technology to make a fighter development project possible domestically,” spokesperson added, pointing out, however, that, as mentioned in the MoD’s Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP), the project includes the possibility of international collaboration.
Both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have a history of developing highly capable fighter systems; Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor is the world’s premier air superiority and air dominance fighter aircraft, while Northrop Grumman, largely famous for its UFO-like B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the new B-21 Raider bomber, competed with the Raptor design during the competition to replace the F-15 Eagle in the early ’90s with the YF-23 Black Widow.
The Black Widow, although unsuccessful in the competition, presented the US Air Force and now Japan with an incredibly stealthy, fast and manoeuvrable air frame.
The Japanese requests for information (RFI) identify that the program would be worth approximately US$40bn for up to 100 new stealth fighters and would see increased global industry participation.
It is understood that Northrop provided a suite of technologies that could be incorporated into the Japanese F-X project. Meanwhile, Boeing and European conglomerate BAE Systems have also been invited to contribute to the program in an attempt to spread development costs and burdens. Tokyo aims to replace the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Mitsubishi F-2 fighter aircraft with a future fighter in the 2030s. (Source: Defence Connect)
02 Apr 20. Iran / Iraq – US military deploys Patriot air defence systems to Iraq amid heightened tensions with Iran. Statements on 1-2 April by the US military indicate that US-made MIM-104 Patriot conventional surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and Counter Rocket, Artillery & Mortar (C-RAM) systems have been deployed to protect US-led coalition forces in Iraq, with two of the likely deployment locations being Ain Al Asad Air Base (ORAA/IQA) in Anbar Province and Erbil International Airport (ORER/EBL) in the Kurdistan Region. On 1 April, US President Trump stated: “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq and if this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed”. Previously, Iran launched 16 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) targeting US military sites at Ain Al Asad Air Base and Erbil International Airport on 7 January. In addition, Iranian-backed Iraq Popular Mobilisation Unit (PMU) militias have conducted well over 30 rocket attacks on bases in Iraq where US military advisers are present since October 2019, to include indirect fire events at Baghdad International Airport (ORBI/BGW) on 8 & 11 December 2019. Iranian military forces also conducted attacks targeting two major oil facilities in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, involving 18 military-grade weaponised drones and seven cruise missiles launched from southwest Iran which overflew both southern Iraqi airspace and Kuwait on 14 September 2019. Both the US & Canada have issued NOTAMs during March stipulating aviation operators registered in their countries defer conducting flights within FIR Baghdad (ORBB) at all altitudes (CZYZ G0280/20, KICZ A0036/20). EASA along with the UK, French and German civil aviation authorities each issued stringent guidance to operators during 2020 regarding the persistent threat to flight operations within Iraq at altitudes primarily below FL320.
It remains a credible, likely scenario in the weeks ahead that PMU militias will launch additional kinetic attacks against US interests in Iraq and/or eastern Syria. Additional indirect fire attacks via rockets targeting bases in Iraq and eastern Syria where US military advisers are present remain the most likely scenario in the near term. The US-led coalition deployment of C-RAM systems is assessed to be an effort designed to counter attacks such as these at specific locations in Iraq going forward. Credible reporting from 2018-2019 indicates Iran has delivered SRBMs to several Iranian-backed Iraqi PMU militias. In addition, Iraqi PMU militia possession of military-grade drones provided by Iran has been documented since at least 2014. On 10 March, the US military stated that Iranian-backed Iraqi PMU militia forces had “conducted scores of unmanned aerial system reconnaissance (drone) flights near US and Iraqi security force bases” since May 2019. Specifically, a PMU militia reportedly launched multiple military-grade weaponised drones from southern Iraq targeting two oil pumping stations west of the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on 14 May 2019. If PMU militias were to conduct high impact attacks via SRBMs and/or drones, military facilities, air bases and/or airports across Iraq (or eastern Syria) where US military advisers are present are assessed to be targets of significance under this scenario. The confirmed Patriot deployment by the US-led coalition is assessed to be an effort to counter potential attacks such as these as well as any similar strikes launched by the state of Iran involving ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and or drones. However, such an attack by the state of Iran remains less likely in the near-term. The Patriot has the capability to engage air targets at altitudes up to FL800 and at ranges out to 100 miles (160 km). We continue to assess the entirety of Iraq and Iran to be EXTREME risk airspace operating environments at all altitudes.
Risk area recommendation: Defer all flights subject to an operation specific risk assessment
Approvals: As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for flight schedules with planned stops at aerodromes in the country or with overflight of the airspace. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to or over the country in the near term are fully aware of the latest security situation.
Missile Launches: Unannounced rocket and missile launches that transit airspace used by civilian aircraft pose a latent threat to operations at all altitudes. The country has a history of not issuing adequate notice of activities in its airspace that could affect flight safety. Multiple safety of flight concerns emanate from a situation where a missile malfunctions during the boost, mid-course or terminal phases of flight. Such an event would cause the missile to fly an unplanned trajectory and altitude profile which could expose overflying aircraft to mid-air collision, route diversion and or debris splashdown issues. Leading civil aviation governing bodies have standing notices advising operators of the threat to civil aviation in the airspace due to unannounced military activity, rocket test firings and or missile launches.
Shoot-down Policy: The country has an aggressive air intercept and shoot-down policy which allows air and air defence forces to intercept and disable aerial targets violating airspace regulations. Military air and air defence assets may be employed to down aerial targets under the auspice of the policy. While legal civil aviation flights are unlikely to be directly targeted, there remains a latent but credible risk of misidentification and interception by military air and air defence assets. (Source: Osprey)
01 Apr 20. Shader Centurions. The Royal Air Force is now flying Eurofighter operations over Iraq and Syria in full Project ‘Centurion’ standard. Jamie Hunter reports from RAF Akrotiri on a textbook transition to assume the full range of missions. Working six days straight in the heat of a Cyprus spring takes its toll on people and equipment alike. Fortunately, the two rows of protective shelters — knows as RESs (Rapid Erect Shelters) provide some respite from the glare of the Mediterranean sun’s rays for the teams that keep the resident fighters poised and ready for action. At RAF Akrotiri, on a small peninsula of British Sovereign territory on the southern tip of Cyprus, the Royal Air Force operates a pivotal element of its Operation Shader, the UK spearhead for missions to eliminate so-called Islamic State (IS, also known as Daesh) since August 2014.
Eurofighter Typhoons have operated here constantly since December 2015, with the RAF’s front-line squadrons rotating to man the detachment for a four-month period. They initially operated alongside Tornado GR4s on this particular mission for just over three years, then the arrival in May of six F-35Bs from No 617 Squadron took the RAF’s combat air interoperability to a new level.
RAF Typhoons initially flew missions here carrying four Paveway IV bombs, plus AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) for self-protection, working in concert with the proven Tornado GR4s. However, as retirement loomed for the combat veteran Tornados, attention turned to the Typhoons assuming the full range of combat air roles for the diverse Shader requirement.
Enter Project Centurion, which essentially provided a suite of capabilities for the Typhoon under an ambitious programme run concurrently by the RAF and industry as a ‘Whole Force’ concept that included the partnership of BAE Systems and weapons manufacturer MBDA.
Centurion was broken down into two main elements: Phase 2 Enhancement (known as P2E), which added the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and the Storm Shadow standoff cruise missile. It was then followed by P3E, which added the Brimstone 2 ground-attack missile.
The counter-IS mission has evolved significantly over the past five years, as the RAF continues to work closely with coalition partners. Gp Capt Jonny Moreton is the current 903 EAW commander at Akrotiri. He said: “From a mission perspective, we are now flying mainly overwatch in support of coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. We’re still flying [six Typhoons] at the same rate, but it’s not as kinetic now.”
Typhoons have flown a range of roles in both air-to-air and air-to-ground to help ensure 24/7 air coverage of the theatre.
For the front-line squadrons, Operation Shader is a four-month rotation, involving up to nine Typhoon pilots, plus operations staff and around 70 engineers at any given time. The Typhoons essentially act as non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) platforms that can ‘swing’ into a kinetic role if required.
Wg Cdr Jim Lee is Officer Commanding No II(Army Cooperation) Squadron and led the debut ‘Centurion’ Shader deployment. “The ‘Centurion’ rollout began for the frontline RAF squadrons at the start of 2018 with Meteor followed by Storm Shadow as part of P2E,” he explained. “My squadron took on the Brimstone portion,” which followed under P3E.
The squadron participated in Exercise Saif Sareea in Oman as part of their workup for the deployment but they were still flying P2E-standard jets and Paveway IV.
“We returned home in November  and focused on Brimstone and the P3E,” said Lee. “We received a really good package in terms of the aircraft and procedures, which was good because we didn’t have long to train with it.” Lee was quick to praise the combination of industry and No 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES), which worked in concert to deliver the capability as well as tactics to the front line.
“Brimstone is a laser-guided weapon, so you have to see the surface in order to employ it,” Lee continued. The challenging part of certain target sets – especially if they’re moving – is using the Litening pod. You can practise the mechanics of the mission set in the simulator as that’s more about the fingers and thumbs, making sure you can track the target with the pod. With Brimstone you support the weapon all the way to impact.”
Clearly, porting Brimstone to the single-seat Typhoon needed a seamless human-machine interface to avoid overloading the pilot. In its previous integration on Tornado, the pilot would fly the aircraft while the weapon systems officer (WSO) executed the attack.
“Our training was critical,” said Wg Cdr Lee. “My biggest concern was making sure pilots could use Brimstone safely, repeatedly and that we wouldn’t make any mistakes. Our delivery profiles are designed to maximise employment of the autopilot and the auto-throttle and we make use of that a lot more now because when the weapon is in the air you’re staring at the pod imagery.”
Wg Cdr Lee’s detachment assumed responsibility for the Shader mission on February 1, but rather than bring its own aircraft, the unit inherited the in-theatre assets from No XI (Fighter) Squadron, upgraded at Akrotiri with the new [P3E] software standard. The day No II(AC) Squadron took over the detachment they were flying in the new Brimstone fit.
First Brimstone missions
The initial combat use of Brimstone from Typhoon came in February, when the RAF was called upon to attack a small boat that was being used by IS fighters to cross the Euphrates River. Wg Cdr Lee says: “The first Brimstone attack was by a junior pairs leader and he’d never fired a Brimstone before. It wasn’t our QWI [Qualified Weapons Instructor], he flew the profile perfectly, which was a ringing endorsement of the training and the overall package that we received from No 41 TES and industry. We trust the system and it works.”
On March 12, the Syrian Democratic Forces came into contact with IS forces in dispersed positions, and two Typhoons conducted a series of three attacks. In addition, a large number of vehicles had been abandoned in the area of the fighting, and one large truck was identified as having been booby-trapped with an improvised explosive device (IED). The Typhoons engaged the truck-bomb and destroyed it with a single Brimstone 2. Flt Lt Philip, a junior pilot, conducted that Brimstone firing. “I completed my combat ready workup in around six months and went straight into the Brimstone upgrade.” Referring to the specific engagement, he added: “A JTAC talked us onto the area. My flight leader only had Paveways, so it was down to me to prosecute the attack.”
It was a ringing endorsement of both the effectiveness of the cockpit avionics and the integration of this new weapon that both initial firings – by relatively junior pilots – were conducted accurately and professionally. It came as a clear illustration of the end-to-end success of Project ‘Centurion. (Source: ASD Network)
02 Apr 20. Karnataka exempts aerospace and defence firms from Covid-19 lockdown. Indian aerospace and defence firms believe that uninterrupted and timely supply remains critical for their credibility
to protect Karnataka based companies that manufacture parts and systems for the assembly lines of global aerospace and defence (A&D) majors like Boeing and Airbus, the state government has exempted local A&D manufacturers from the nationwide anti-Covid-19 lockdown and permitted them to resume manufacturing activities with immediate effect.
“…The State Government hereby [exempts] industries supplying to Defence & Aerospace manufacturing… from the purview of the Lockdown and further to relax the restrictions imposed on the movement of workers and staff working in these industrial units,” stated a circular issued on Wednesday by Gaurav Gupta, the principle secretary in Karnataka’s commerce and industries department.
It is unclear whether the Karnataka government’s action will be emulated by the governments of Telangana and Maharashtra, where A&D firms also have a significant presence. Tamil Nadu had declared A&D industries to be “essential public utilities” on March 24.
This comes as a relief to Karnataka’s A&D manufacturing firms, consisting mostly of medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) such as Dynamatic Technologies, Rossell India Ltd and Sasmos, who are, for certain components and systems, the sole suppliers to Boeing production lines in the US and the Airbus assembly line in Toulouse, France.
For example, Dynamatic builds “flap track beam assemblies” for all 58 single-aisle airliners that Airbus assembles each month. Without the on-time delivery of this crucial system, Airbus’ assembly of A-318, A-319, A-320 and A-321 airliners in France (54 per month) and China (four per month) would grind to a halt.
Indian A&D firms believe that uninterrupted and timely supply remains critical for their credibility. In the US and France, A&D production continues, even as other factories and shops have been shuttered to stop the spread of Covid-19. The US federal government has ordered the A&D industry’s 2.5 million employees to continue reporting for work, after the defence industry lobbied Congress and the Pentagon for a special dispensation on the grounds of national security.
In France, too, Airbus was closed for four days last fortnight, but then resumed production and assembly activities with the government’s encouragement.
In these circumstances, Indian A&D firms are experiencing strong pressure to adhere to contracted supply schedules. This was highlighted over the weekend, when the highway police stopped a container truck transporting an Apache helicopter cabin, manufactured in Hyderabad by Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL), to Mumbai for onward shipment to Boeing’s Apache helicopter assembly facility in the US. Eventually, the Union government was requested to intervene to allow the truck to proceed to Mumbai, where the cabin was shipped to the US.
“For Indian firms supplying global majors, Covid-19 is both a threat and an opportunity. We could shelter behind force majeure clauses in our contracts to justify failure in meeting supply obligations due to the pandemic. On the other hand, we could demonstrate that, despite serious difficulties, Indian firms will deliver on time,” says Udayant Malhoutra, chief of Dynamatic Technologies.
With this motivation, Malhoutra petitioned the Karnataka government to allow A&D production as a special exemption from the lockdown. “Karnataka’s reaction was swift and decisive. The state government took just five days to issue the exemption order. Now it is up to us to resume production quickly,” he said.
A&D firms such as Dynamatic have already implemented enhanced separation norms between workers and sophisticated Covid-19 awareness and prevention programmes. However, their workers, many of whom live within walking distance of the production plant, will have to obtain curfew passes from the police to travel to work.
Indian A&D firms are carving out a steadily growing space as suppliers to global “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs) such as Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopters and others. Last year, Boeing sourced over Rs 7,000 crore worth of components and services from over 200 Indian companies, while Airbus sourced over Rs 4,500 crore worth of components and services from some 45 Indian companies. (Source: Google/https://www.business-standard.com/)
30 Mar 20. China is Willing to Negotiate on Nuclear Arms, But Not on Trump’s Terms. Here are four steps that might bring Beijing to the table. President Trump announced to the world in a March 5 tweet that he would propose “a bold new trilateral arms control initiative with China and Russia.” China immediately rejected the idea the very next day. It would be wrong, however, to infer that Chinese leaders are opposed to nuclear arms control. They are not. They are just not interested in what Trump appears to be offering.
There are good reasons for China to suspect Trump’s motives. He used China as a scapegoat when withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, for example, and he may be using this vague new initiative to justify allowing the New START Treaty to expire. China was not a party to either agreement. Walking away from treaties with Russia and blaming China for it is unlikely to encourage Chinese leaders to come to the negotiating table.
Trump premised his announcement of this new initiative with a questionable claim that China will “double the size of its nuclear stockpile” before the end of the decade. That sounds ominous, but in fact China has only about 300 warheads and barely enough plutonium to get to 600. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia each possess more than 6,000 warheads. Any new agreement based on parity among the three states would require steep U.S. and Russian cuts even if China did indeed double its arsenal.
China certainly would welcome major U.S. and Russian reductions. But there is no sign either nation is willing to make them. On the contrary, Trump and President Putin have announced ambitious nuclear modernization programs that dwarf China’s. Since neither of the two countries are planning to reduce their arsenals, it is difficult for Chinese leaders to understand what Trump wants to discuss. Neither the president nor his aides have provided a tentative agenda or cited desired outcomes.
Despite Trump’s apparent failure to engage China, if he or his successor wants to bring China to the negotiating table, there is a path to follow. Below are four steps the United States can take to convince Chinese leaders to negotiate on nuclear arms.
Step 1. Pursue International, not Multilateral, Negotiations
There is a marked difference between international and multilateral negotiations, and it matters to China.
Chinese leaders perceive multilateral agreements negotiated by a few powerful nations, including bilateral agreements such as New START, as hegemonic—or dominant—behavior. Since the beginning of the nuclear arms race, China has opposed allowing decisions about nuclear weapons to be made without the participation of non-nuclear weapons states.
Conversely, Chinese leaders see international agreements negotiated in the United Nations, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or CTBT, as more inclusive and equitable. Their outcomes are more stable.
In the past, Chinese communist leaders were skeptical of international nuclear arms control agreements. They described the Partial Test Ban Treaty as an attempt to “consolidate the nuclear monopoly.” They believed its true motivation was to prevent non-nuclear weapons states, such as China at the time, from joining the nuclear club.
Chinese communist leaders’ views on nuclear arms control evolved after their government obtained a seat at the United Nations in 1971. Familiarity with the organization led to a better understanding of how it works, who it represents, and what it does. China joined the NPT in 1992 and signed the CTBT in 1996. The test ban treaty was the first international nuclear arms control agreement China had a hand in writing. It was an empowering experience that made China willing to take the next step and negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, or FMCT, that would ban the production of uranium and plutonium for use in making nuclear warheads.
The entry into force of the CTBT and the FMCT would prevent China from developing new types of nuclear warheads and producing the fissile material it would need to further expand its small stockpile. Working with China in the United Nations to complete those two treaties is the most effective way a U.S. president can verifiably cap the size and sophistication of China’s nuclear arsenal.
Step 2. Accept Mutual Vulnerability
Accepting mutual vulnerability sounds defeatist. But all it means is that no one can win a nuclear arms race. The United States cannot prevent China from being able to retaliate and deliver some number of nuclear weapons if the United States should ever choose to use nuclear weapons first during a war.
Unfortunately, the United States refuses to acknowledge its vulnerability to Chinese nuclear retaliation. From China’s point of view, that means the United States is still seeking invulnerability.
China maintains a comparatively small nuclear force. It has about 300 nuclear warheads and enough weapons-grade plutonium to produce several hundred more. The United States has around 6,000 nuclear warheads and enough weapons-grade plutonium to make about 5,000 more. China’s small nuclear force encourages U.S. war planners to imagine they could wipe it out at the beginning of an armed conflict.
Chinese war planners calibrate the size of their nuclear arsenal based on their assessment of whether such a disarming first strike is likely. The more the United States appears to invest in trying, the larger China’s numbers will become. U.S. dreams of invulnerability also encourage China to develop less vulnerable nuclear forces, including mobile missiles and submarine-based missiles.
Unlike the former Soviet Union, China is not overly concerned about the huge disparity in nuclear forces. Chinese leaders do not appear to believe a massive U.S. nuclear first strike is likely. But they are very worried about a highly accurate conventional first strike that could threaten China’s nuclear weapons. The United States currently deploys very large numbers of precision-guided conventional munitions on China’s periphery. As the quantity and quality of those munitions increase, so does the level of China’s anxiety about the survival of its nuclear weapons.
This concern encourages China to add to its small nuclear force. At the same time, the Trump administration is increasing the already overwhelmingly superior U.S. nuclear force. If the goal is to stop China from building more nuclear weapons, it would be much more effective, and far less expensive, to look for ways to assure Chinese leaders that unless China uses nuclear weapons first, the United States will not attack China’s nuclear forces in the event of war. If the U.S. goal is instead to seek invulnerability to Chinese nuclear retaliation, Chinese leaders will continue to enlarge their arsenal.
Step 3. Take No-First-Use Seriously
China is serious about not using its nuclear weapons first in an armed conflict. In a statement after its first nuclear test in 1964, the Chinese government declared it will “never at any time and under any circumstances be the first to use nuclear weapons.” It also stated that China did not develop nuclear weapons because it intends to use them, stating, “China’s aim is to break the nuclear monopoly of the nuclear powers and to eliminate nuclear weapons.”
That logic is hard for many Americans to understand. But it is the same logic that underpins the Non-Proliferation Treaty. U.S. commentators frequently overlook it, but the NPT requires nuclear weapons states to disarm. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate their nuclear weapons because they were afraid many other nations, such as China, would acquire them.
Chinese leaders see no-first-use as prerequisite for elimination. They believe the only legitimate purpose of nuclear weapons is to free a country from the fear of being attacked with nuclear weapons. From China’s point of view, any nation that imagines nuclear weapons can be used to fight and win wars can never be genuinely committed to nuclear disarmament.
U.S. officials in successive administrations have not considered China’s no-first-use pledge to be credible, and they have spent the last several decades testing China’s resolve during bilateral discussions. For example, they have asked what China would do during a war if the United States did something like blow up the Three Gorges Dam, destroy Chinese nuclear power plants, or take out China’s nuclear weapons with high-tech conventional bombs. Regardless, China regularly reaffirms its commitment to what it deems a core principle.
China has never required other states to commit to no-first-use as a precondition for negotiations. But a U.S. no-first-use commitment would dramatically alter U.S.-China nuclear relations for the better. It would greatly increase Chinese confidence in U.S. intentions. And it would cost the United States next to nothing, since there is no imaginable circumstance that would require the United States to use nuclear weapons first.
Step 4. Discuss Limits on Missile Defense
When the United States and the Soviet Union finally realized that no one could win a nuclear arms race, they decided to talk. Negotiators quickly discovered that limiting offense was impossible without limiting defense as well, since an effective way to counter defenses is to build more offensive weapons. That is why on the same day President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, or SALT, agreement, they also signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, Treaty, which put strict limits on missile defenses. Unfortunately, the Bush administration pulled the United States out of the treaty in 2002.
Limiting missile defense is even more important to China today than it was to the former Soviet Union. The huge disparity between U.S. and Chinese nuclear forces and China’s vulnerability to a U.S. conventional first strike make even a marginally effective U.S. missile defense system appear to be a problem because it would be more effective against a small retaliatory strike following a U.S. first strike. It is not unreasonable for Chinese leaders to worry that a U.S. president who believes the United States is protected from Chinese nuclear retaliation might be more willing to risk using nuclear weapons against China first. Investing in more offensive missiles, and new missile types that might defeat the U.S. defense system, are understandable Chinese responses to U.S. missile defense expansion.
There is no existing proposal for international negotiations on missile defense. But there is a proposal in the United Nations for negotiations to prevent an arms race in outer space. Since long-range missile defense interceptors also can be used to attack satellites in orbit, missile defense is a topic that should be discussed in such negotiations. The United States refuses to consider such a treaty despite serious concerns about space security. Some observers think it is because talks at the United Nations on this topic would lead to international discussions on missile defense. The United States should embrace rather than avoid that opportunity. Joining UN discussions on missile defense would significantly increase Chinese confidence in U.S. intentions to negotiate on nuclear weapons.
The Bottom Line
The first two steps listed above are prerequisites for getting China to the nuclear negotiating table. The Chinese leadership’s distaste for multilateral rather than international negotiations is deeply rooted in Chinese communist ideology and unlikely to change. And if the United States is unwilling to accept vulnerability to Chinese nuclear retaliation, what is there to discuss? What is the point of negotiating with a more powerful nuclear rival that believes that it is invincible?
The next two steps are not required but are highly recommended. Why does the United States insist on maintaining the option to use nuclear weapons first? It is difficult to imagine an answer that would not undermine Chinese confidence in U.S. intentions. And negotiations that begin with a refusal to discuss the age-old battle between offense and defense are unlikely to get very far. China, despite considerable progress, still sees itself as scientifically and technologically inferior to the United States. Chinese leaders understand that a reliable defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles is still out of reach, but they worry about an unforeseen breakthrough.
China is willing to negotiate on nuclear arms, but the United States cannot expect to dictate the terms. There is no need for what President Trump calls “bold new” initiatives. There already is a formidable set of essential tasks waiting to be addressed. If Trump really wants to do something to avoid a new nuclear arms race, pressing the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and starting negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty are two bold initiatives he can accomplish right now. (Source: Defense One)
01 Apr 20. Opportunity knocking: Rising from the ashes of COVID-19. It will be the defining point of this decade and for many nations coronavirus is revealing a startling level of vulnerability, however it isn’t all doom and gloom. While responding is taking priority, now presents the perfect opportunity to rise like a phoenix and reinforce Australia’s national independence and resilience.
Australia is unlike virtually every other developed nation, it has enjoyed a record near three decades of economic prosperity and stability, buoyed by the immense mineral and resource wealth of the landmass and the benevolence of the post-Second World War political, economic and strategic order.
However, all good things must come to an end, as the perfect storm of both devastating bushfires locally, and now the global recession triggered by the outbreak of the coronavirus has shattered any pretense Australia had to being an ‘advanced economy’ and ‘developed country’.
We are, however, not in this alone, many nations throughout the ‘developed’ world have found themselves similarly isolated and exposed, despite the promise of cheap, ‘reliable’ access to trade as a result of the post-Cold War global supply chains, which have seen industries and economies hollowed out and sensitive, nationally critical manufacturing sent offshore.
Nowhere is this more evident then in the cannibalism emerging among the European Union member states, as larger nations like Germany and France ‘requisition’ resources and key supplies including masks, respirators and medical supplies, while also providing limited, hands-off approach to providing direct support to the likes of pandemic ravaged Italy and Spain.
Despite these examples, the spirit of international co-operation remains somewhat alight, as hosts of scientists around the world rush to find a cure or vaccine to save lives and some nations actively provide support in a limited capacity.
As national government and populations struggle to contain the outbreak and minimise the impact to their respective economies and standards of living for the public, it raises the question, was our access to cheap goods worth trading our national security and economic prosperity?
This is something many political commentators, both locally and around the world, have expanded on in recent weeks, particularly following the blatant misinformation and disregard for global health the Chinese government has inflicted upon the world.
In fact, Chris Ulhmann in a piece for The Sydney Morning Herald titled, ‘It’s certain COVID-19 will change everything but this needs to change most of all’, articulates Australia’s growing need to re-establish certain supply chains, while minimising its concerning dependence upon the economic might and prosperity of a totalitarian regime in President Xi Jinping’s communist China.
Ulhmann encapsulates this in identifying the core lessons for both the Australian government in public in the aftermath of this, stating: “But it’s a fair bet that the bulk of the population has got some key messages: that this threat came from China, that its totalitarian regime’s first reaction was to lie and that Australia is far too reliant on an unreliable nation.”
This galvanising of the Australian public presents an opportunity for the nation’s political leaders to chart a path forward in the aftermath and get the public reinvested in the nation’s future in the aftermath of the pandemic and the ensuing economic devastation.
Ulhmann identifies this potential to a degree by identifying the potential outcome if we don’t embrace the opportunity, stating: “The crushing recession spawned by the deliberate radical shutdown of our economy by our governments is just beginning. Because the rest of the world is applying the same medicine this could evolve into a second Great Depression that will take many more lives than the disease; through war, civil disorder, murder, suicide, domestic violence and lives shortened by poverty and despair.
“This virus offered us no good choices, only the bad and the worse. What matters now is the choices we make about our future because only one thing is certain, everything changes from here.”
Ulhmann expands on this, stating: “The government has used its balance sheet to put the economy on life support. It will have to do much more. No strategically important business can be allowed to fail and new industries must be built here and stay here. At the top of the list must be medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.”
No point shifting from China only to replace it with even more dubious suppliers
Ulhmann’s assessment is partially correct, identifying that “no strategically important business can be allowed to fail and new industries must be built here and stay here”, where he comes unstuck is advocating for the broadening of our supply chains to focus on other developing economies like India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the like.
“We should deliberately diversify our suppliers away from China. Every dollar spent building capacity in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and India is a dollar well spent. Their progress is our progress,” Ulhmann states.
This is only part of the solution. Helping these nations to economically develop is in Australia’s best interests and should be pursued, as the Australian government is actively pursuing and has been doing, however swapping these nations in for China only serves to repeat the same mistake as doubling down on China as we have done since the late-1980s.
So let us learn from our mistakes, rather than repeating them. In this instance it means ensuring that while small, cheap, easily replaceable consumer goods, which these developing nations use as their ‘bread and butter’ go-to for economic development should remain just that, leveraging Australia’s raw resources, energy and agricultural capacity to support their economic development.
What this does mean is that the larger, more complex industries of national significance and strategic importance must be developed and adequately nurtured by successive Australian governments, leveraging public policy initiatives devoid of ideological bias and bent, combined with the growing public support to secure Australia’s national security and resilience.
Time for a National Strategic Industries Act
In mid-2019, Defence Connect presented the broad strokes for the development and introduction of a National Strategic Industries Act to be developed and introduced to the public debate.
Certain industries, including heavy manufacturing like steel production, shipbuilding, auto-manufacturing, aerospace and chemical engineering, pharmaceutical and medical industry, resource and energy exploitation and agricultural output, serve core components of any strategic industry development policy.
Meanwhile, the growing complexity of the regional and global strategic paradigm supports the necessity for a cohesive industry development strategy.
Recognising the opportunities and potential challenges facing Australia – how does the nation respond to the rapidly evolving regional environment, while also identifying and supporting the development of critical national strategic industries in an increasingly competitive era?
Australia as a nation, like many Western contemporaries, has been an economy and nation traditionally dependent on heavy industries – capitalising upon the continent’s wealth of natural resources including coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, rare earth elements and manufacturing, particularly in the years following the end of the Second World War.
However, the post-war economic transformation of many regional nations, including Japan, Korea and China, and the cohesive, long-term, nation-building policies implemented by these nations has enabled these countries to emerge as economic powerhouses, driven by an incredibly competitive manufacturing capability – limiting the competitiveness of Australian industry, particularly manufacturing.
Recognising this incredibly competitive global industry and the drive towards free trade agreements with nations who continue to implement protectionist policies buried in legislation, Australia needs to approach the development of nationally significant heavy industries in a radically different way, recognising the failures of the past and the limitations of Australia’s past incarnations of heavy industry.
Identifying these industries is the first step in building a cohesive, long-term plan as part of a broader National Strategic Industries Act – using the legislative power of government to counter-balance industry development policies of allied, yet still competitor nations like South Korea.
Such policies leverage the industrial development policies of export-oriented industrialisation (EOI) to develop its economy into a major economic and modern, advanced manufacturing powerhouse.
Game, set, match
The outbreak of the coronavirus and the ensuing political, economic turmoil has revealed albeit reluctantly the willingness of the Australian government to directly intervene and support the nation’s vulnerable economy, even if only for a short period of time.
So, why not leverage the policy apparatus to rebalance the scales and establish a fair environment for Australian industry to compete within?
Despite Australia’s widely recognised position as providing a world leading research and development capacity – supported by both private and public sector research and development programs driven by organisations like the CSIRO.
Traditional areas of high wage costs and low productivity in Australia’s manufacturing industry exemplified in the failure of Australia’s domestic car industry and in the series of cost overruns and delivery delays on both the Collins and Hobart Class programs have characterised Australia’s reputation as a manufacturing economy.
Enter Industry 4.0 – the combination of additive manufacturing, automated manufacturing and data sharing, with a coherent National Strategic Industry development policy can compensate and in some cases overcome the traditional hindrances faced by the Australian economy.
Further supporting this with public-private collaboration essential to ensuring the long-term sustainability and success of Australia’s defence industrial base and broader manufacturing economy.
While industry largely provides the technological expertise, government policy provides the certainty for investment – particularly when supported by elements of Australia’s innovation and science agenda combined with grant allocation and targeted, contractual tax incentives (signed between the Commonwealth and the company as a memorandum of understanding).
In order to maximise the domestic benefits any such policy should equally be linked to a combination of long-term, local job creation, foreign contract success, local industry content, and research and development programs, which are critical components that can be used to empower and enhance the overall competitiveness.
Despite the nation’s virtually unrivalled wealth of natural resources and agricultural and industrial potential, there is a lack of a cohesive national security strategy integrating the development of individual, yet complementary public policy strategies to support a more robust Australian role in the region.
This is done through a range of government-driven incentives for industry, including corporate tax incentives, employment incentives and payroll tax incentives.
Establishing and implementing a cohesive, innovative and long-term vision for Australia’s sovereign industry capability can also serve as the basis for developing, and in some cases redeveloping, a robust, advanced manufacturing economy taking advantage of Australia’s unrivalled resource wealth – supporting the broader national security and interests in the Indo-Pacific.
Finally, as part of developing a broader National Security Strategy, the introduction of a National Strategic Industry Act that designates and through the machinery of public policy supports and sustains the development and competitiveness of industries deemed ‘critical to national security’ to avoid the failures of the past, which has resulted in costly project delays, price increases and capability gaps.
In order to maximise the nation’s position, prosperity and security, is it time to introduce a role of a Minister for National Security or special envoy role to support the Prime Minister and respective ministers, both within the traditional confines of “national security” or “national resilience” like Defence and Foreign Affairs, to include infrastructure, energy, industry, health, agriculture and the like? (Source: Defence Connect)
30 Mar 20. Does COVID-19 provide an opportunity for further geo-strategic disruption? The advent of COVID-19 has presented a major challenge to the established global economic, political and strategic order, revealing the fragility of many nations and their traditional metrics of national power. For former US Marine officer and US diplomat Grant Newsham, this presents some serious challenges for the liberal-democratic world order.
Intelligence analysts generally reckon there are some things that could happen but that won’t happen. A Chinese attack on US forces or friends in Asia was one such thing. But COVID-19 might make analysts rethink.
However, there was always a limit. The PRC actually attacking someone – going kinetic? They wouldn’t do that – despite frequent blood-curdling rhetoric. The economic and political costs would be too high – or so it was thought. Rather, Beijing’s main efforts were on the economic and political fronts.
Has COVID-19 emboldened the Chinese?
But something about Chinese behaviour seems different – indeed scarier – following the COVID-19 outbreak in central China in late 2019.
A forceful Chinese move against US forces or partners suddenly doesn’t seem so farfetched.
The US and its allies had better be ready.
Assume that Beijing’s so-called “scientific” decision-making is based on a rough equation including military capability, motivation, and a belief it can “get away with it.”
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is now strong and competent enough to give US forces all they can handle in certain circumstances.
Motivation? China has long sought to displace the US in the Asia/Pacific – a region China believes it should rightly dominate. And the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s “Great Rejuvenation” strategy to restore an imagined territorial integrity is on a timeline – not merely aspirational.
Beijing might be thinking its opportunity is slipping away owing to the effects of COVID-19.
As for “getting away with it:”
When the only country that can stop China is in self-quarantine and its economy shuddering to a stop, and in political turmoil with a difficult election coming up – one might fairly say America is distracted.
So, Beijing just might conclude the time is right.
Indeed, put yourself in President Xi Jinping’s position and you might feel compelled to do something big.
First, COVID-19 hit China far harder than Beijing is letting on. And if the economy does not recover soon mass unrest is possible. Keep in mind that the PRC’s internal security budget is reportedly higher than its “regular” defence budget.
And that was before COVID-19 hit the country.
The CCP kept the virus outbreak under wraps – allowing it to brew up – and then bungled the response. Thousands died and more were sickened – and hundreds of millions forced into “lock-down”. That tends to create resentment against the Chinese leadership – even if it’s dangerous to say so.
Adding to the trouble, export markets are drying up as the virus spreads worldwide and demand for Chinese exports – evaporates.
But remember that President Xi and the CCP already faced plenty of challenges to their self-image as all-powerful leaders of a regime destined for global supremacy.
For starters, Taiwan refused to bow to intense PRC pressure. President Xi couldn’t even bring Taipei to heel. The island nation recently re-elected – by a large majority – a President opposed to unification with the mainland. Even the opposition KMT realises its “soft on PRC” platform is a loser with most of Taiwan’s electorate.
Taiwan’s effective COVID-19 virus response further humiliates President Xi and the CCP.
Meanwhile, the US government gradually increases its support for Taiwan – and does not hide the fact.
Hong Kong is still rebellious and stared down the CCP’s “front” government last year via massive pro-freedom protests. That must sting. And the US and other countries enacted laws to punish Beijing if it cracks down on Hong Kong. That stings too.
US trade pressure hurts, embarrasses and infuriates Beijing as it exposes China’s economic dependencies. Washington’s efforts to take down Huawei, China’s flagship telecom company, add to Beijing’s resentment.
And China’s claims to the South China Sea (SCS) are not respected. The Americans, Australians, Japanese, Canadians, British, French and others challenge PRC ownership claims – and regularly conduct military operations in the SCS. The PLA orders foreign warships and planes to leave, but they still go about their business.
Moreover, the US is bolstering its military position and alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. And the US is finally improving weaponry and tactics to counter Chinese advantages. The PLA is still excluded from the RIMPAC exercise.
So, along comes COVID-19 – hammering the Chinese economy and the CCP’s reputation – and tarnishing the PRC’s image overseas.
Viewed from President Xi’s perspective this is getting dangerous. And the US just might appear as an existential threat to a CCP-run China – and requiring desperate measures.
What is China doing now? It’s doing what it has always done.
First, however, it is helpful to divide PRC activities into several distinct categories: “soft power” – economic and cultural influence; “sharp power” – manipulative diplomatic and economic policies to influence the political system or behavior of a target country; “hard power” – using military force or coercion, or the threat of it.
These “power”’ are intended to be mutually supportive and are wielded simultaneously.
Once the PRC caught its breath, its main soft power push was to make flashy offers of aid to countries hit by the virus. These include Italy, Spain, Serbia, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and others. Chinese government spokesmen and media are also pushing the line that the PRC sacrificed its citizens to save the rest of the world – and thus deserves praise. Along these lines, the PRC message is that its “system” is superior.
Irony aside, the aid is effective publicity – while distracting attention from where the virus originated. It also tends to split or reduce potential political opposition or criticism of the PRC. And it can evoke gratitude as evidenced by the Serbian PM’s comment:
“The only country that can help us is China. By now, you all understood that European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper. I believe in my brother and friend Xi Jinping, and I believe in Chinese help.”
Venomous even by Chinese standards, Beijing has launched a propaganda campaign asserting the US put the COVID-19 virus into China. Chinese ambassadors worldwide and other government representatives are hammering this line.
US officials including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced this calumny and the PRC ambassador in Washington was called in for a dressing down (not that it mattered). The Chinese simply doubled down, repeating the lie and crying “racism”.
Why is China doing this? It’s partly to limit domestic criticism for mishandling the COVID-19 outbreak. And it even deflects overseas criticism as some people will believe the charges, or else blame Washington for challenging (and upsetting) the PRC. Indeed, Beijing would like to be rid of President Trump – the first US President in 40 years to stand up to the PRC.
Elsewhere in the Chinese media, there have been threats to dump US Treasury bonds, or to cut pharmaceutical exports to the US and put America “awash in coronavirus”.
These two warnings are familiar ones.
But one senses there is more to all of this.
Specifically, longtime observers note that it seems that the PRC leadership is conditioning the Chinese public to the idea that China is being bullied and insulted, and its “rise” obstructed. And thus a response – even a violent one – is required and justified.
This might resonate with the public, and even China’s leadership might talk themselves into a fight – as Imperial Japan’s leaders did in the 1930s and 1940s.
Further troubling behaviour includes Beijing’s recent expulsion of journalists from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and The Washington Post. This is arguably just a response to the Americans imposing limits on certain Chinese journalists in the US. But Beijing also picked a fight over a WSJ article whose headline – not the story – called the PRC the “Sick Man of Asia”.
Even by normal CCP standards, Beijing’s reaction seems dangerously thin-skinned. So, perhaps they don’t want witnesses for what is going on or coming next.
One observer who spent many years in China and felt the wrath of Chinese authorities first-hand noted:
“I think they are gearing up for big things. The expulsion of the journos is more than mere tit for tat.
“Same with the mass return of overseas Chinese. That’s not just fear of the WuFlu (COVID-19). Some message must have gone out.”
Maybe all these worries are overblown. Indeed, it could just be that this is only a more aggressive and more venomous than normal Chinese influence campaign — limited to “soft” and “sharp” power.
But here’s the problem with today’s PRC soft and sharp power approaches: They’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.
There isn’t much more China can do with these tools.
Soft power-wise: China has never had much to offer to advanced countries besides tourists and students (and their money). And COVID-19 has reinforced how fleeting these benefits can be.
The PRC is not as appealing as it was a few years ago. The COVID-19 response has highlighted the fundamental nastiness of the communist regime – and more people have noticed.
Although there are plenty of “accommodationists” around – especially in the US and Europe, more people and governments are not so willing to overlook concentration camps, Hong Kong crackdowns, organ harvesting, absurd territorial claims, and shrill belligerence.
Even spreading Chinese money around has its limits – besides the fact, Beijing has a lot less money after COVID-19. And in the developing world Chinese investments seem to provoke as much animosity as goodwill once a little time passes.
Sharp power-wise: Aggressive propaganda efforts to shift attention from questionable CCP behaviour are nothing new. China has done this for years – and did have considerable success conditioning US government officials, academia, businesses, the financial community, and others to avoid doing or saying anything that might offend China.
China also inserted “its people” into international organisations such as ICAO and Interpol. But the US and others are pushing back – as seen in the US’ successful effort, with considerable support, to put its own candidate in place at the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Beijing will keep trying and will find no shortage of foreign “useful idiots” to back its efforts. But the days of “Chimerica” and “PRC as responsible stakeholder” seem over. The longer the effects of COVID-19 remain and people stay indoors and jobless, their view of China will sour.
Chinese tycoon and Communist Party member Jack Ma’s recent promise to send facemasks and virus testing kits to the US in fact grates on many Americans.
So, if soft power and sharp power aren’t likely to prevail – as Beijing was hoping they would, that leaves “hard power”.
This writer thought that fear of massive economic damage, and decoupling from the world trade and financial systems, would restrain Chinese behaviour for perhaps another five to 10 years.
But the PRC has suffered unimaginable economic disruption owing to COVID-19 and may think it can absorb whatever the Americans (and the hapless Europeans) might hit them with.
Or Xi might feel he has little to lose.
Lashing out is a useful distraction domestically and might cause a popular rallying to the flag. And it would give the world something to think about besides how much trouble China has caused everybody.
The “event” just needs to do something that demonstrates and reasserts PRC power – both regionally and globally. And ideally, it causes a distracted US and the free world to think it must humour and not provoke the PRC – in order to avoid thermonuclear war.
The PRC has always hated the US military operating anywhere near the PRC but it wasn’t strong enough to push the issue. Now it is. And in east Asian environs it can muster far more ships than the US Navy, and its long-range missiles can make life difficult for US forces and partners throughout the region.
Even before COVID-19, a Chinese military officer called for sinking a couple of American ships and killing 10,000 US servicemen to teach the Americans a lesson. Recent articles in the Chinese press have talked about using lasers (more often) and electromagnetic weapons against US forces in the region.
This writer asked the US Navy’s former head of intelligence in the Pacific, retired Captain James Fanell, what he thought China might do?
“My sense is that Hong Kong may be the first physical target, followed by Taiwan,” he said.
Indeed, even in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chinese Navy and Air Force still ratchet up pressure on Taiwan with increasingly complex and provocative operations coming closer and closer to Taiwan. And, vitriolic propaganda and threats against Taipei are unabated.
CAPT Fanell added: “If I was the Pacific Fleet or 7th Fleet N2 again, I’d be advising the Flags (the Admirals) to watch for a possible incident within the 1st and 2nd Island Chains. Imagine if they (the Chinese) launched missiles and sank one of our ships in the SCS … and then provide some kind of bogus evidence that we had made the first shot … maybe an LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) like the Gabrielle Gifford and … smoke it, sink it and then claim the US started it and watch the pressure mount even more on the Trump administration where the Democrats join Beijing in condemning this administration for foolishly sparking a ‘wag the dog’ (event) to get attention off the virus.”
Such things are always hard to predict. But something seems different. This may not be the time Beijing acts, but having watched China for a few decades, what’s going on now makes the hair on one’s neck stand up.
Hopefully US leaders – military and civilian – are girding their loins even while busy with the Wuhan virus.
Forty years of accommodating China got us into this mess. It’s late in the day, but consider the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Grant Newsham is a Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies – particularly focusing on Asia-Pacific defence, political and economic matters. He is a retired US Marine Colonel and was the first US Marine Liaison Officer to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
He also served in intelligence and policy roles for Marine Forces Pacific headquarters, and was the US Marine Attaché, US Embassy Tokyo on two occasions.
Newsham lived in Tokyo for 20 years and worked for over a decade in executive roles at a Western investment bank and a major American high-tech firm. He is also a former US Foreign Service Officer – with work covering a number of regions – including east and south Asia, and specialising in insurgency, counter-insurgency and commercial matters.
Newsham is also an attorney with experience in international trade and public international law. He speaks regularly at a variety of forums on Asian affairs, and has published many articles in a range of periodicals such as Asia Times, The National Interest, USNI Proceedings, The Diplomat, Sankei Shimbun, and Kyodo News.
He spent 2019 in Taipei on a Ministry of Foreign Affairs fellowship researching how to improve Taiwan’s defence capabilities. (Source: Defence Connect)
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