China’s response to B-52 overfly of the senkaku/Diaoyu Islands

China has not responded with one voice after the US sent planes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. But of the mix of reactions, one stands out to me. The WallStreet Journal ChinaRealTime blog contains a post called “Chinese Bloggers Turn Fire on Beijing Amid U.S. B-52 Challenge

The blog notes the criticism of the PLA by China’s legion of bloggers on Weibo. Of those reactions, two quotes are the most intriguing.

“The immediate reaction (from U.S.) with both words and action shows the adventurism in China’s decision over the air defense zone, and the passive and embarrassing consequence resulting from that,” Pan Jiazhu, a well-known columnist on military issues who goes by Zhao Chu on his verified Weibo account, wrote.


So China is embarrassed by the B-52 flyover. But it’s “military hardliners” who made the decision on the no-fly zone.

“Military hardliners created this situation and made a no-fly zone, thinking they can play with little Japan, which has brought out U.S. bombers and slapped hardliners in the face,” art and culture critic Wu Zuolai wrote. “Where’s the hardliners’ spokesman? How do we end this?”

And it points to this split within China between the civilian and military rule. Surely, a decision as provocative as the creation of the air defense identification zone would be flagged to leaders outside the military. But maybe it wasn’t. And if it wasn’t, it suggests that Xi doesn’t have complete control over the military. Parts of the military can still freelance on these territorial issues. Hence, the confusing decision to spring the ADIZ on the world as well as the conflicted response from China in its aftermath. 

I think this is at the heart of the US unease about China’s power in Asia. It’s not necessarily that China is going to supplant the US as the world’s number one economy. Rather it’s that China remains a developing country riven by internal divisions, making its future course at home and in the region incredibly difficult to predict.

A US-Soviet analogy for the Asia-Pacific situation

A really disappointing piece by an American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Auslin on China’s regional aggression. But before I proceed, recall that the AEI was a real hotbed of thinking behind the disastrous Iraq War – so treat thinking about war from this group with great caution.

With that warning on the table, Auslin gives some background to the Chinese military build up in Asia, and what a looming threat it’s going to be for US allies – as evidenced by China declaring its air defense identification zone and its plans to “reportedly” purchase Russian Su-35 fighters, “among the most advanced in the world.” He then goes on to lament the effect budget cuts are having with military planning. Note to Auslin, you might want to have a look around the AEI for the austerity hawks and ask them if budget cuts aren’t the solution to Obama’s America.

Auslin bemoans the cutbacks and the questions the US military’s ability to respond to China’s assertive/reckless behavior in the Pacific. It’s debatable if China’s air defense zone (already ignored by the US) is the opening move of a new Pacific War. But Auslin already has a solution for the US challenge in Asia. What’s the fix? Why spend up on the military, of course. He quotes US Air Force General ‘Hawk’ Carlisle discussing the readiness of US pilots in the region:

Perhaps Gen. Carlisle’s biggest concern is the reduction in flying hours. Regular training keeps U.S. pilots the best in the world. In 2014, however, the Air Force plans on cutting flying hours by 19%. With sequestration and budget cuts, American combat air forces currently are getting only between five and eight hours of flying per month. “That’s unacceptable,” Gen. Carlisle says, noting that the U.S. is approaching the training level of Soviet forces in the Cold War, which hampered their flying ability.

Yes, but General Carlisle and Mr Auslin, it wasn’t the Soviet pilots’ readiness that brought down that Communist country; it was the fact the Soviets spent so much on their military they failed to properly invest in and fund a livable, viable society. Today, there is a risk that China successfully leads the US toward a costly and risky arms race in which China fakes large military expenditures that the US actually makes. (links) And there is a real opportunity cost involved with these kinds of choices.

Analogies between the fortunes of the US and Soviet Union are inevitable. But one the most worrying parallels is of a country on such perpetual war footing that it can’t focus on keeping its own people clothed, fed and employed.

But don’t expect the military geniuses at the AEI to tell you this.

China-Japan East China Sea tensions to escalate after China declares an air defense zone over the sea

Expect tensions between China and Japan (as well as tensions between China and the US ) after China declared an air defense zone over a large chunk of the East China Sea, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are administered by Japan. 

The US has responded, the Japanese have lodged a protest with the Chinese, and apparently the Chinese have already dispatched patrols. Some have predicted an Asian war in 2013 because of this ongoing issue.

This is coming as the US tries to tie a bow in the Iran nuclear saga. The US’s Asia pivot means turning away from the Mid-East as the prime-time event of US foreign policy and spending more time on Asia. That’d because in 2013, events in Asia pose a bigger threat to US national security. 

Attached, a map of the overlap between courtesy M. Taylor Fravel Embedded image permalink

Here is the map China released.


Germans to beef up counterintelligence – resolution to Snowden spying revelations

(German spy: Marina Lee)

This action may mark the effective conclusion to the US-German dispute over spying, all declarations and agreements aside.

Basically, Germany will begin spying on the US and stepping up its defence from US spying. Or as the Reuters story puts it:

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has until now only systematically observed countries of concern, while allies in the European Union and NATO were observed only if there was a concrete suspicion, such as that they were spying on Germany or recruiting spies in the country, the official said.

But given the NSA revelations, the agency will in future need to have a 360-degree view which will include friendly countries, the official said.

The US won’t be able to complain. They wouldn’t have much right to complain. The Germans, since the end of WWII (back then-the West Germans, of course) have been under a protective bubble of the US and one of these elements of the bubble was the freedom from making huge expenditures on their own security, either through the military or elsewhere.

Now Germany will have to increasingly have to bear those cost. Possibly the bigger toll may be on the slightly innocent, slightly priggish worldview many Germans have somehow maintained since reunification. Now it looks like they’re going to have to shoulder more of the costs and responsibility. But with the freedom will come a fuller self-sufficiency they haven’t had since before WWII.