TBD Studio: Video By Dissenting Overseas Chinese Students

A still image from a TBD Studio video of songs dedicated to those suffering from the Chinese Communist Party, uploaded April 3, 2020. Another of their videos is a COVID-19 timeline, uploaded May 6, 2020.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 2020

By TBD Studio

TBD Studio is a group of Mainland Chinese students who are studying abroad. TBD stands for “The Big Dipper.” The names they have chosen below preserve their anonymity.

Since the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949, millions of Chinese people have been persecuted to death in numerous political movements. From the Cultural Revolution to the Tiananmen Massacre, to the persecution of religions and political dissidents, and to the oppression against freedom-fighting students in Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never ceased to persecute the Chinese people. Its tyrannical control is second to none. In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak is tearing up families and inducing chaos worldwide — all because of the CCP’s suppression of freedom of speech. As overseas Mainland Chinese (海外中國人), we have no right to indifference or silence, but the responsibility to speak up for the voiceless and the powerless. This is why we began making videos. Here are our stories.

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Revisiting Grand Strategy

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 2020

John T. Kuehn, Ph.D.,  Professor of Military History
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

The General Board of the U.S. Navy meets in 1932 in Washington D.C. This board existed as an advisory body to the Secretary of the Navy from 1900-1950, and was involved in long range strategic planning focused on the maritime security component of U.S. grand strategy. Its members included the Chief of Naval Operations, President of the Naval War College, Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of naval intelligence. Source: Naval Historical Center.

A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Daniel W. Drezner, Ronald R. Krebs, and Randall Schweller hoisted the white flag: “The End of Grand Strategy: America Must Think Small.”   The article implies that an American attempt to develop a grand strategy, or to support the current grand strategy in vogue, are both vain pursuits.

One reaction to prescriptions of this sort, or rather proscriptions, is to examine what the authors mean exactly by “grand strategy,” what is their definition?

Perhaps their definition is so different from other accepted definitions of this concept that there is no need to worry, maybe they are talking about something else.  After all, this author wrote on the topic ten years ago, bemoaning that the problem was rooted in, although not limited to, a general lack of understanding of the meaning of the term, especially by military professionals in the nation’s service and war colleges.   It might be useful to compare my definition with that consigned to the dust bin by the FA authors.

Carl von Clausewitz has written that as military campaigns proceed, the war as a whole replaces the campaign, and the whole country the theater of operations. In other words, grand strategy is “the next stage,” which encompasses the strategic considerations for “the whole country.”

But the authors argue that, “A grand strategy is a road map for how to match means with ends.”

That settles nothing, although I prefer mine to theirs, which could apply at just about any level of conflict, from a platoon fight in Helmand Province to a 40-year Cold War.  So what do the authors think the “wrong” grand strategy — or whatever it is the US executes as policy—might be?  The authors characterize the current American grand strategy as to “…sustain and expand a global order that promoted open markets, open polities, and multilateral institutions.”   These flowery words have been characterized by MIT political scientist Barry Posen as “liberal hegemony.”  Hegemony infers a hegemon, and that hegemon, of course, is supposedly the United States—the actor employing the verbs of this approach. The authors’ real complaint is with that grand strategy—liberal hegemony—and its state of disrepair under the current administration of the United States.

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The Recurring Intellectual Plague of Globalization

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 2020

By William R. Hawkins

A rear view of a businessman as he tries to sort out the mess of geopolitical events. Map source material courtesy of https://images.nasa.gov/ Getty

In the public mind, the outsourcing of jobs to China, which built the conveyer belt that carried Covid-19 from Wuhan to the world, was the fault of soulless transnational corporations. Greedy business tycoons were willing to deal with anyone in the pursuit of profit, regardless of larger consequences (of which the current pandemic is not the most dire). What cannot be overlooked, however, is that these private actors were given moral cover by intellectuals who assured them that they were fulfilling a higher purpose by spreading liberal values and promoting peace in a new era of globalization. As late as 2011, President Barack Obama could tell American and Chinese business leaders, meeting on the edge of his January summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao, that he depended on them to keep good relations between the two powers. This was in the wake of the military confrontations that had dominated the second half of 2010 after a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean warship. Major naval shows of force were conducted by the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia around the volatile peninsula. President Obama thought container ships could calm the waters.

Though the term globalization originated earlier, it became popular in the 1990’s during the post-Cold War euphoria that spawned hopes of a “new world order” devoted to economic development. The ideals of democracy and free enterprise promoted by the victorious United States would envelope the entire world and set humanity on a progressive course. The collapse of the Soviet Union and a wave of economic reforms in China seemed to confirm that the values of the West were becoming universal. The threat of large-scale conflict was no more. Yet, these sentiments were not new. They were rooted in the school of classical liberalism which had gained influence in another post-war era nearly two centuries earlier at the end of the decades-long conflicts of the French Revolution and Napoleon. Continue reading

The “We Chinese” Problem

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 4, April 2020

By Conal Boyce, Century College

Eighth century poem by Li Bai 李白. Source: Baidu.

It’s just the evil Chinese Communist Party (CCP), right? Not so fast. It has been said that we Americans ‘deserve the government we have’; but could it be that the Chinese, similarly, deserve the government they have? Let’s have a look at a phenomenon that I call the ‘We Chinese’ syndrome. It speaks of a psychic illness that runs far deeper than any one regime, such as that of the Pooh-Bear.

In the Chinese media and in Weibo tweets, the phrase ‘Wǒmen Zhōngguórén 我们中国人’ (“We Chinese”) occurs often. By convention, it is translated blandly as ‘[the] Chinese [people]’ but what it actually says is this: ‘We Chinese’. Lest you imagine that ‘We Chinese’ is a term focused on things primarily cultural rather than racial or jingoistic, please consider this closely related phrase that occurs with equal frequency:

Zhōngguó tóngbāo 中国同胞

This latter phrase is regularly translated as ‘overseas Chinese’, but what it really says is the following:

“[Those of us] Chinese [from the] same womb
[who are temporarily abroad, not on the mainland of the Chinese motherland, hence ‘overseas’].” Continue reading

Canary In The Coal Mine: The US Navy’s Dilemmas As An Indication Of A Culminating Point In National Grand Strategy

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 4, April 2020

By Captain Robert C. Rubel USN (Ret)


June 20, 2000 – The U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln Battle Group and ships from Australia, Chile, Japan, Canada, and Korea steam alongside one another for a Carrier Battle Group Photo during RIMPAC 2000. US Navy.

From a resource point of view, the US Navy has not been doing well lately, its program to expand fleet size to 355 ships, a number that seems to be accepted by the Administration and Congress, has been suffering a series of setbacks.  Whether being raided for money to build a border wall, forced to fund the replacement ballistic missile submarine program or constricted due to the need to bolster current readiness, the Navy’s shipbuilding budget is under tremendous pressure, and Congress, despite a desire for a bigger fleet, has not increased the Navy’s top line sufficiently to accelerate ship construction.  Moreover, and perhaps worse, the Navy has been unable to produce a fleet structure assessment (FSA) that passes muster with the Secretary of Defense, who doubts the validity of a key assumption that underpins the study.[1]

Many, including a number of my colleagues, feel that the answer is a significantly increased Navy budget, as if the only problem is money.  While there is no doubt that a bigger budget would lubricate shipbuilding, it would not necessarily solve the bigger problem of fleet structure analysis and fleet design; how many of what kinds of ships should the Navy have in the future and the uses of each kind.  But more money does not seem to be in the cards, and correcting assumptions about the effectiveness of the Navy’s principal force generation process, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) does not bode well for what an adjusted FSA would reveal.  The Navy is facing a no-win situation, and to find a way out, we have to engage in a deeper strategic diagnosis of the problem. Continue reading

Defeating China: Five Strategies

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 4, April 2020

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Fighter jets of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels demonstration squadron fly over the Lincoln Memorial during the Fourth of July Celebration ‘Salute to America’ event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 4, 2019. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Since 1989, when China massacred thousands of its own people in Tiananmen Square to stop a pro-democracy protest, the country has arguably grown into the world’s most powerful and centralized state. China’s GDP by purchasing power parity (PPP) is approximately $25.4 trillion, while the U.S. GDP PPP is only about $20.5 trillion.[1] One man, Chinese President Xi Jinping, has almost total control of China’s economy and a leadership position for life. China’s authoritarian system, most recently, allowed the COVID-19 virus to become a pandemic. By the time it is controlled, it may have killed up to millions of people.

Compared to Xi Jinping, political leaders in democracies have comparatively little economic power. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, has only partial control of the smaller (by purchasing power parity when compared to China) U.S. economy, and must be reelected in 2020 to continue his tenure for a maximum of an additional four years.

China’s accelerating economy has fueled its military spending, which increased approximately three-fold since 2008 to $177.5 billion in 2019,[2] not including substantial programs hidden from public sight. Military and political analysts estimate that in the South China Sea and environs, China’s military capabilities already match or exceed those of the United States in many respects, as does China’s diplomatic influence. This puts pressure on the U.S. military to withdraw from the region, claimed as territory by Beijing. Over the next 30 years, China’s global military capabilities could exceed those of the United States, which would make it difficult for the U.S. to pose a credible threat against China’s already ongoing territorial expansion. Europe and Japan are similarly militarily weak when compared with their near competitors, Russia and China respectively. [3]

China’s actions are now indistinguishable from those that would serve a goal of China’s global rule in perpetuity. Hopes for engagement as a strategy to turn China into a democracy have now been dashed. Instead of us changing them, they are changing us through influencing our own political and economic leadership. There is a danger that as China ascends to the world’s most powerful nation, other nations will follow its lead through bandwagoning. The dual and increasing danger of bandwagoning and China’s influence means that a shift in strategy is needed.

Engagement should give way to a more aggressive strategy against China in order to defend freedom, democracy and human rights globally, and to incentivize allies and potential allies to declare themselves on the right side of the dispute before they enter the gravitational field of China’s economic influence.[4]

As argued below, this should include labeling China as not just a competitor, which would imply that all play by the same rules, but as an adversary or even an enemy. Strategies must be calibrated accordingly to defeat the country, and more specifically, its guiding organization, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

There are at least five interrelated and overlapping strategies required to defeat the CCP: 1) Defend, 2) Ally, 3) Contain, 4) Divide, and 5) Democratize. Many of these strategies are overlapping, and have been proposed previously by a range of authors, cited here. They are all underway to some extent in various countries, however they are not being implemented at the scale and intensity needed to win. That should change now, or we risk continued relative weakening against the enemy.

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Holding Beijing Accountable For The Coronavirus Is Not Racist

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 3, March 2020

By Ho-fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University

Digital generated image of macro view of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Getty Images/Andriy Onufriyenko

As the coronavirus global pandemic is unfolding and deteriorating, an age-old racial stereotype that associates contagious diseases with Asian/Chinese people reemerged. Reports about Asians being beaten up and accused of bringing the disease to the community are disheartening. The use of the phrase “sick man of Asia” in connection to the outbreak and calling the disease “Wuhan pneumonia” or “Chinese virus” invoked accusations of racism. We in higher education kept hearing episodes of Asian students harassed by comments from fellow students or faculty that associate them with the virus.

This racial association of contagious diseases often surfaces with epidemics in history. During the SARS epidemics of 2003, Western media was full of articles, images, and cartoons that explicitly characterized the diseases as an Asian one, as my research documented. In medieval Europe, the spread of epidemics like bubonic plagues often triggered harassment or even massacre of ethnic minorities such as Jewish people. Perennial as it is, this racial association is not only harmful but is also counterproductive to the effective containment of the disease. Epidemics know no ethnic boundary. They always spread beyond ethnic lines very quickly. The racial association of disease makes us overlook carriers who happen to be not among the stereotyped groups. We have to combat xenophobic racism at the time of an epidemic as hard as we can. Continue reading

Time To Bring Taiwan In From The Cold: Start Working Towards A Normalization Of Relations

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 2, February 2020

By Gerrit van der Wees

Taiwan into the UN rally held in front of the PRC Mission to the UN in New York City, September 22, 2018. Photo: Gerrit van der Wees.

A recent episode in Prague illustrates in two important ways that China’s relations with the West are changing fast.  It shows the need for the US and Western Europe to reimagine relations with Taiwan, bring Taiwan in from the cold of political isolation, start working towards a normalization of relations, and find a rightful place for that democratic country in the international family of nations.

A Prague Spring in the offing?

First, consider that policymakers in the Czech Republic are increasingly pushing back against the way China has been attempting to isolate Taiwan internationally. Led by the new mayor of Prague Zdeněk Hřib, elected in November 2018, and his up-and-coming Pirate Party, the city last year broke off sister-city ties with Beijing – which had imposed unacceptable “One China” conditions on the arrangement – and established ties with Taiwan’s capital Taipei.

To be sure, at the national level, key policymakers like President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, both associated with the right of center business community, are still very much in Beijing’s pocket. But observers in Prague indicate that a new Prague Spring is in the offing. Continue reading

The Karakax List: Dissecting the Anatomy of Beijing’s Internment Drive in Xinjiang

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 2, February 2020

Dr. Adrian Zenz [1]
Senior fellow in China Studies
Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation 

Abstract

Figure 1. The first (redacted) page of the 137-page PDF. Source: Uyghur Human Rights Project.

The “Karakax List”, named after the county of Karakax (Qaraqash) in Hotan Prefecture, represents the most recent leaked government document from Xinjiang. Over 137 pages, 667 data rows and the personal details of over 3,000 Uyghurs[2], this remarkable document presents the strongest evidence to date that Beijing is actively persecuting and punishing normal practices of traditional religious beliefs, in direct violation of its own constitution.

Specifically, the Karakax List outlines the reasons why 311 persons were interned and reveals the cognition behind the decision-making processes as to whether individuals can be released or not. Based on the principles of presumed guilt (rather than innocence) and assigning guilt through association, the state has developed a highly fine-tuned yet also very labor-intensive governance system whereby entire family circles are held hostage to their behavioral performance – jointly and as individuals. Ongoing mechanisms of appraisal and evaluation ensure high levels of acquiescence even when most detainees have been released from the camps.

The detailed new information provided by this document also allows us to develop a more fine-grained understanding of the ideological and administrative processes that preceded the internment campaign. In particular, this research paper carefully reviews the sequence and timing of events during Chen Quanguo’s first seven months in the region. It is argued that Chen must have been installed by the central government, possibly during a meeting at the Two Sessions in Beijing in March 2016 where Xi Jinping, Chen, and Chen’s predecessor in Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, were all in the same place. It is argued that Chen’s role in Xinjiang has not so much been that of an innovator as it has been that of a highly driven and disciplined administrator, with a focus on drastically upscaling existing mechanisms of investigation, categorization and internment.

More than any other government document pertaining to Beijing’s extralegal campaign of mass internment, the Karakax List lays bare the ideological and administrative micromechanics of a system of targeted cultural genocide that arguably rivals any similar attempt in the history of humanity. Driven by a deeply religio-phobic worldview, Beijing has embarked on a project that, ideologically, isn’t far from a medieval witch-hunt, yet is being executed with administrative perfectionism and iron discipline. Being distrustful of the true intentions of its minority citizens, the state has established a system of governance that fully substitutes trust with control. That, however, is also set to become its greatest long-term liability. Xinjiang’s mechanisms of governance are both labor-intensive and predicated upon highly unequal power structures that often run along and increase ethnic fault lines. The long-term ramifications of this arrangement for social stability and ethnic relations are impossible to predict.

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Plutocrats Are Only Part Of A Larger Problem

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 2, February 2020

By William R. Hawkins

BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 18: Apple CEO Tim Cook (R) attends China Development Forum 2017 – Economic Summit at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on March 18, 2017 in Beijing, China. The forum sponsored by Development Research Center of the State Council centers on “China and the World: Economic Transformation through Structural Reforms”. Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images.

I ran across a review of the Plutocratic Insurgency Reader in an unusual place. Not in the usual left media outlets, like Jacobin, Dissent or The New Republic as its title would seem to fit, but in Parameters, the quarterly journal of the U.S. Army War College (AWC). This is because the book is not edited by the usual “progessive” activists, but by Robert J. Bunker, adjunct research professor at the AWC Strategic Studies Institute and his wife, Pamela Ligouri Bunker, a specialist in counter-terrorism. And the book is published under the auspices of the Small Wars Journal (SWJ), not known for leaning left.

The book collects 31 short essays by 15 authors, six of whom have ties to either the AWC or the SWJ, thus giving a high expectation that national security would be its primary concern. Its self-avowed purpose is to present the core of a scholarly movement that originated in 2012 from correspondence between Robert Bunker and Nils Gilman of the Bergguen Institute concerning how the wealthy “opt out of participation in the collective institutions that make up society.” The Bergguen Institute was founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and Gilman’s interest is apparently reshaping the relationship between globalized capitalism and national sovereignty. As one reads through the essays, there is a tension that undermines the national security side of the discussion in favor of a domestic policy focus on income inequality and a radical desire to transform property rights that leaves the welfare state in the dust. Gilman is not an editor, but I would argue, his is the stronger voice.

The Parameters book reviewer, José de Arimatéia da Cruz, is another AWC adjunct professor attracted by the insurgency part of the title. He argues, “The end of the Cold War and the ‘end of history’ have led to a more interconnected and globalized world in the twenty-first century. At the same time, the democratization of technology has created a new environment in which previously suppressed actors can exercise greater power via the internet in a dark, deviant globalization. When corrupt politicians join forces with plutocratic insurgents, nation-states pay the price because corruption threatens national and global security.”

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