Accounting for the Count: COVID and the Vote

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2020

By S.C.M. Paine, U.S. Naval War College

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announces a national emergency to further battle the Coronavirus outbreak, at a news conference Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Republicans argue that the presidential vote numbers are so close that they should be reconfirmed. Yet the much reviled Hilary Clinton conceded with even closer margins and with less secure voting machines. These are the wrong numbers to track.

In contrast, the numbers are not close concerning American deaths on Donald Trump’s watch. He is scheduled to lose more Americans in a single calendar year than all American deaths in World War II. Very shortly we may be losing each day, the number of Americans we lost on 9/11. China is a threat, but it is not killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Trump’s incompetence is.

As a China specialist, it was obvious that there was an ongoing epidemiological disaster in Wuhan by late December or early January, when we should have shut down all travel to and from China, called on our allies to do likewise, invoked emergency measures to produce protective gear, and educated Americans about the rationale for the restrictions to come. One would think that the U.S. consulate in Wuhan provided information at least a month earlier unless it was asleep at the switch. Imagine the difference if we had shut our borders in November and put the full-court press on virus containment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans might have survived 2020. Yet Bob Woodward has Trump on record minimizing the problem in April. Continue reading

China Celebrates The Anniversary Of Its “Victory” In The Korean War

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2020

By William R. Hawkins

Korean War. Units of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers celebrating their joint defeat of an attack by US forces. 1953. (Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On October 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at a major gathering in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) entering the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1950. He claimed the purpose of military intervention was to help North Korea resist U.S. aggression. The speech is representative of the kind of propaganda Beijing creates to send messages to audiences both at home and abroad at a time of rising tensions across the Indo-Pacific.

Xi’s speech is not the only event staged to celebrate China’s role in the Korean War. Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of a new exhibit dedicated to the war on October 19. According to state media, Wang’s history ran as follows. On October 19, 1950, as requested by the DPRK, CPV forces crossed the Yalu River to aid the DPRK’s fight in the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea” (Beijing’s official name for the conflict). The war lasted until a truce was signed in 1953. A total of 2.9 million CPV soldiers entered the battlefield, and 197,653 died. New films and books are also being released pushing the theme that China was acting to defend Korea from an American invasion, motivated only by a desire to regain peace and stability. Continue reading

China’s Rise and the Weaponization of Soft and Hard Power: How the U.S., Japan, India and Australia are Responding

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2020

By John Garrick (Charles Darwin University) and Yan Bennett (Princeton University)

Detail from mural of Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in Berlin, Germany in 2020. Source: Yan Bennett.

China has now fully weaponized its entire soft power repertoire and dramatically upgraded its military arsenal. The Middle Kingdom is no longer unwilling to openly challenge U.S. global hegemonic supremacy or coerce less powerful nations that do not accede to its will. The shocks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have unmasked the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ambition to be at the centre of global power, but at the same time, the CCP also faces uncertainty over China’s chances of achieving its 2017 strategic targets set by General Secretary Xi to ‘comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society’ by 2021.

Wary of what a world order under the CCP might entail, democratic countries including the United States, Japan, Australia and India have re-activated the informal Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (‘Quad’). The Quad involves informal summits, information exchanges and combined military drills known as the Malabar exercises. Including Australia in this year’s Malabar drills follows an upgrade in June 2020 in the security relationship between Australia and India to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’. Why ramp-up the QSD now and what are the potential risks and benefits to member nations? Continue reading

China: The Struggle for Territory Eclipses Trade

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 6, June 2020

By William R. Hawkins

A tank unit of the Chinese Army underway. The number of tanks in China’s armored forces ranks third in the world. The main battle tanks have the ability to fight under nuclear and night conditions. Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In February 1999, President Bill Clinton opened a major foreign policy speech by  claiming, “Perhaps for the first time in history, the world’s leading nations are not engaged in a struggle with each other for security or territory. The world clearly is coming together.” This was the height of the post-Cold War delusion that history had come to an end and that a new world order had dawned based on a global partnership for economic development. Yet, Clinton knew that this was still a work in progress. In the same San Francisco speech he talked about conflicts in the Middle East, Southwest Asia and the Balkans, the threat of nuclear proliferation, and the need to bring Russia and China “into the international system as open, prosperous, stable nations.” The emphasis, however, was always on economics, a peaceful way to rise within classical liberal theory, transcending political issues and separating wealth from power in an interdependent world.

The classical liberal view held that wealth could be best pursued outside the bounds of sovereign territory. Borders were not to impede the movement of people, capital or goods which were motivated by material gain and self-improvement. Their frame of reference was the efficient use of resources world-wide to maximize global output, not their relative use among national sub-units. Peace would be the result of economic interdependence as trade could gain access to resources at less cost than conquest, and that once entangled in global supply chains, the cost of disruption for political reasons would be unbearable. The classical worldview was very popular in the 19th century prior to World War I and revived briefly during the interwar years only to be once again vanquished by World War II. The rapid onset of the Cold War kept such idealism in check, but it burst forth again after the Berlin Wall came down, symbolically opening the world to new possibilities.

Continue reading

Revisiting Grand Strategy

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

By 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. Continue reading