Incurring Strategic Risk in the East Asian Littoral: On What Basis?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 12, December 2018 

By Captain Robert C. Rubel USN (Ret)

The South China Sea (C) is seen on a globe for sale at a bookstore in Beijing on June 15, 2016. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. The Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbour significant oil and gas deposits. (Photo credit: GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Recently, two US Navy ships conducted a transit of the Taiwan Straits in an exercise of freedom of navigation.  Right now, US naval forces can conduct freedom of navigation exercises throughout most of the East Asian littoral, including the South China Sea (SCS) without serious fear that they will provoke open hostilities with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), but as the PRC builds up its forces and gains more confidence, such an escalation may become a distinct possibility.  China started building up its “islands” in 2014, and at the time the US did nothing to stop it.  The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in the Philippines’ favor in 2015 over the status of Scarborough Shoal and other SCS features, but China ignored the ruling and the US did nothing to enforce the ruling.  Now Beijing has its “great wall of SAMs” there and it will likely take war to change things.  If China decides in the future to threaten or use force to enforce its claims to the entirety of the SCS as sovereign territory, there will be considerable finger-pointing in Washington concerning “who lost the South China Sea.” US inaction concerning the buildup could be attributed to misdiagnosis of Chinese intent or even a desire to accommodate what was seen as strategically harmless initiatives; however one potential explanation that has implications for future decision making is that the Obama Administration did not feel it had the backing of the international community and more specifically the support of regional countries to take action that would risk war.

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Boycott the Chinese Language: Standard Mandarin is the Medium of Chinese Communist Party Expansion

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 11, November 2018 

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

These urban traffic signs in English and Mandarin are located in the Chinatown district of Seattle. Consciously preferring the use of traditional characters and Taiwanese Mandarin in the U.S. would be a statement against the Chinese Communist Party and its usage of Standard Mandarin and simplified characters. Interestingly, the characters in these street signs are the same in the traditional and simplified sets.

China is one of history’s most dangerous countries. In August, the United Nations reported that China is holding approximately one million minority Muslims in Xinjiang concentration camps. China supports anti-democratic regimes and terrorist groups worldwide. Its military is seeking to expand its territory in: Japanese and South Korean areas of the East China Sea; Philippine, Malaysian, Bruneian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese parts of the South China Sea; and Indian and Bhutanese territory in the Himalayan mountains. President Xi Jinping has since 2013 increased military spending, hyped China’s nationalism, repressed minorities and human rights activists, eliminated term limits on his increasingly personal form of rule, and extended the geographic reach and individual depth of state surveillance.

Average citizens in democracies who see this trend can feel powerless in response. But there are tools at the disposal of empowered citizens and social movements to encourage, complement and accentuate actions taken by our democratic governments. Both citizen and government action is essential to encourage democracy and democratic elements in China, history’s most powerful totalitarian state.

These tools include consumer boycotts and protests at Chinese embassies, for example. But there is an additional social movement tactic that could powerfully communicate the world’s criticism: a boycott of mainland China’s national language, Standard Mandarin, a combination of the Putonghua dialect spoken in Beijing with simplified characters. Putonghua is also called Modern Standard Chinese, which was promoted since the 1940s, and which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have zealously promoted since 1956 as a form of increasing state control beyond Beijing. I here call the combination of simplified characters and Putonghua, “PRC Mandarin” or “CCP Chinese”. Taiwan uses traditional characters and speaks a slight variant of Mandarin called Taiwanese Mandarin (Guoyu).

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Japan Forgetting: A Syndrome Afflicting U.S. Foreign Policy

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 10, October 2018 

By Arthur Waldron, Ph.D.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA SEPTEMBER 18: The silhouette of two Indonesian Navy personnel guards the JS Suzutsuki 117 docked at Tanjung Priok port, Jakarta, Indonesia on September 18 2018. The arrival of three Japanese Navy warships, including JS Jaga 184, JS Suzutsuki 117 and JS Inazuma 105 along with 800 soldiers, aims to strengthen diplomatic ties on the 60 years anniversary of the two countries relations. (Photo by Eko Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Hearing an analyst say recently that we must come to terms with China, led me to spit out my coffee and ask myself, more importantly, “What about Japan?”

Forgetting about Japan, or what might be called “Japan forgetting”, is a besetting failure of American foreign policy. It has been since the early years of the last century, most notably after 1922 when the Anglo-Japanese alliance, a source of stability comparable to the 1887 Reinsurance Treaty of Bismarck and Wilhelm I. In 1890 when Wilhelm II refused to renew the treaty, leading in part to World War I.

The end of the Anglo-Japanese alliance came with the Washington Conference of 1921-22. If you are serious about understanding China, read the “Conference on the Limitation of Armaments”, which was published by the U.S. Government, half in English and half in schoolboy French, so it is not as formidable as it appears. It is the indispensable starting point.

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Remove Duterte And Modernize The Armed Forces Philippines

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 10, October 2018 

By an Anonymous Filipino

Troops pledge their allegiance to the Philippine government and constitution during a prayer rally in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City suburban Manila on May 3, 2010. Photo: Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images.

This is a critical time for the Philippines, in terms of economics, politics, and national defense. Immediately at the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term the congress was already submissive to him. There were just a few dissenting Senators. But Duterte is taking them down one by one, especially the opposition stalwarts. Senator Leila de Lima was accused of a sham case, conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading (1), and is now in prison. Senator Antonio Trillanes is having his amnesty revoked [2]. Duterte is under criminal investigation, breaking the Constitution, running the Philippines into the ground, and gradually giving our sovereignty away to China. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is slowly losing its allies and competitive edge against China, the Philippines’ biggest threat. Duterte should immediately be removed, and the AFP should seek the help from its traditional allies to quickly modernize.

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Ukraine’s Former President Yanukovych Deposited Billions of USD with China

Viktor Yanukovych, Xi Jinping.

According to two independent JPR sources, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, deposited billions of dollars before and during his departure from Ukraine in the spring of 2014.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has deposited billions of dollars with the Chinese, according to two independent sources available to the Journal of Political Risk.

President Yanukovych deposited approximately $1 billion USD with China on either his first or second visit to that country, according to one of the sources. Two large pallets of cash, of approximately $1 billion USD, were delivered to China through Hong Kong.

The other source, which we accessed in April 2014 on a visit to Ukraine, said that President Yanukovych transferred most of his deposits to China prior to departing the country and closing the banks with which he was associated. His bankers fled the country at that time.

When President Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia in February 2014, he transferred billions of dollars in a hurry. He and his family closed their four banks, according to our source. President Yanukovych’s men stuffed several vehicles full of cash, and drove them to Russia. What is reported here for the first time is that most of his estimated $32 billion in assets were wired to China, according to our source.

Former President Yanukovych denies having foreign bank accounts.

Update (3/7/2015): An email request for comment to the People’s Bank of China was not returned. The JPR was unable to reach Viktor Yanukovych for comment, though he is thought to reside in Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Anders Corr, Ph.D. is the founder and principal of Corr Analytics. JPR Status: Report, archived 2/28/2015. 

The New Face of Russia’s Relations with Brazil

Defense Minister of Brazil, Celso Amorim, receives his counterpart from Russia, Sergei Shoigu, during bilateral meeting in Brasilia.

Defense Minister of Brazil, Celso Amorim (L), receives his counterpart from Russia, Sergei Shoigu, to bilateral meeting at the Defense Ministry in Brasilia, capital of Brazil, on October 16, 2013. Shoigu’s visit included an attempt to win a $4 billion deal to supply 18 fighter jets.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 2014.

By Matthew Michaelides

Abstract

Bilateral trade, high level personal communication, and military-technical relations between Russia and Brazil have all grown significantly over the past decade. Recent weapons sales to Brazil include a $150 million contract for MI-35 helicopters in 2009 and a 2012 deal for seven Ka-62 helicopters. Moreover, the Russian defense ministry has indicated its intention to increase Russian military capacity in Brazil and Latin America more broadly. This paper examines the causes for the increasing depth of Russian-Brazilian military-technical relations and concludes that informal patronage politics play an essential role in understanding Russian actions. A detailed analysis of contemporary Russian-Brazilian relations and existing theoretical perspectives is provided, as well as a thorough examination of recent Russian arms and equipment sales from the informal patronage politics perspective.

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