Posts Tagged China

My Very Own Chinese Hacker Story

As told on Grassroots Radio Colorado last night:

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This was the picture they hacked:

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Game of Thrones, High Altitude Edition

Walter Russell Mead has aptly characterized the ongoing re-working of strategic relationships in Asia as the “Game of Thrones,” and he takes notice of the latest developments on the disputed Chinese-Indian border.

The government on Friday for the first time admitted that People’s Liberation Army(PLA) troops had intruded as much as 19 km inside Indian territory to pitch their tents there, even as it kept a third flag meeting between local commanders in eastern Ladakh “on hold” to give China “time and space” to withdraw its soldiers on its own.

The move has to be seen in at least 4 different contexts.  First, there’s the simple straightforward ongoing border dispute with India.  India still has bad memories of having lost that war, and is clearly shying away from a direct confrontation this time.  It doesn’t have the organization to take on the Chinese right now, and doesn’t have the irredentist passion that existed in, say, pre-1914 France.  Anyone who’s ever tried to climb a 14er, or has followed a rescue from such a peak, understands the difficulty of conducting operations in such an environment.  So the Chinese may have stolen a 12-mile push forward, but it’s not as though there’s much more than pride at stake here.

Of course, Chinese-Indian tensions now extend well beyond the Himalayas.  As Robert Kaplan as pointed out, the Chinese have made Pakistan a strategic ally, with an eye towards an outlet to the Indian Ocean; the two countries are engaged in a struggle for economic influence in Burma, which has a direct bearing on the question of who will end up being responsible for naval security in the vital Straits of  Malacca.  And the Indians have taken suitable umbrage at Chinese resource claims in the South China Sea.  China’s Hiamalayan gambit can also be seen as an effort to put India back on its heels.

Not only does this serve as a remind to India of who’s in front right now, it also reminds others in the region that India can’t protect them, and of their own, weaker positions vis-a-vis China.  And globally, it calls into question the United States’s willingness and ability to continue to stabilize the situation in Asia.

Thus the fruits of taking punch at your strongest rival in his weakest spot.

The risks, of course, are they someday you’ll misjudge your own strength or your neighbors’ willingness to resist such incursions, even as your strengthen their resolve.  China, without serious allies in Asia (unless you count Russia’s willingness to make distracting trouble elsewhere), now has simmering direct or proxy disputes with India, Burma, the Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

It’s also worth remembering that China’s population is becoming older and unbalanced, with more men that women, thanks to sex-selective abortions, putting it in a mid-term (no longer a long-term) demographic bind.  This, even as the population grows increasingly displeased with Communist Party rule, has led the Party to stoke nationalist flames.

The analogy to pre-WWI Germany is looking increasingly apt, with baleful possibilities for all concerned.

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The Pivot – The Republicans’ Secret Weapon

When sequestration was designed by the Obama administration, the idea was that the required spending cuts would be unpalatable to both sides – cuts to Democrat-favored patronage programs would be balanced by cuts to Republican-favored defense spending.  Few of us who supported the debt ceiling deal realized how seriously the deck was stacked against Republicans, with tax increases scheduled to take effect, at the same time that entitlement spending remains untouched.

The game is to box the Republicans into permitting tax increases now, in return for promises of spending cuts, and promises to examine entitlements.  I’m sure Obama will give entitlements all the attention he can, in-between the front and back nines.

The game is aided and abetted by a number of institutional and political factors.  They have a President who seemingly believes that whatever the consequences of raising taxes on a fragile economy, and defense cuts in a world whose stability largely rests on US power, the political blame will largely fall on Republicans.  Republicans have allowed themselves to be trapped by the Democrat publicity arm media into negotiating with themselves on national television.  The President hints darkly about “not playing that game” of using the debt ceiling for leverage, but in the absence of a proper budget process, Congress institutionally has no other leverage to control executive spending.

While Harry Reid has steadfastly refused – in blatant violation of the law – to pass a budget, Speaker Boehner has abandoned that process in favor of closed-door negotiations.  The Speakership simply is simply not a position that generally produces men suited to that role.  Boehner is acting like most Speakers – a legislator who sees it as his job to legislate.  It is the relentless logic of the situation that led Boehner to punish fiscal hawks by removing them from key committee positions; he’s assumed a role that he really shouldn’t be in at all, and it’s led him to take some rash and unwise personnel decisions in order to try to preserve caucus unity.  He would be better served by trusting his committee chairmen in a complex process such as this.

But as long as the Republicans are committed to this process, the defense angle may not be as one-sided as we’ve been thinking.  Walter Russell Mead provides the clue:

The rising regional tensions, if anything, underline the need for a continuing U.S. presence. The Philippine foreign minister, like Japan, has welcomed that presence and agreed to “more U.S. ship visits and more joint training exercises.” This is a good sign. America is a stabilizing force in the region; we don’t want war, and we don’t want boundaries changed by force.

Reassuring our allies while reaching out to China and trying to keep the temperature cool is going to be a tough assignment, and there is no way to do this on the cheap. The President and his new Secretary of State have their work cut out for them. Pivoting is hard work.

Indeed it is.  The US has already been initially shut out of a new multi-lateral trade pact in Asia, and much of the Chinese aggressiveness can be traced to administration weakness around the world.  We can survive a couple of months of sequestration, if it leads the administration to recognize that its plans for its pivot to Asia depend on having a naval presence to back it up, assuming they really care.

In fact, the House Republicans could always simply walk away and let the cliff happen.  They could also do as Rand Paul suggests, pass the President’s plan, an immanentize the financial eschaton.  But they have a number of better options: they could pass Bowles-Simpson and dare the President and Harry Reid to ignore it; they could pass a bill retaining all of the Bush tax rates, and then pass an additional package that would target tax benefits largely enjoyed by blue-state limousine liberals.  They could pass actual budget and tax bills, and inform Sen. Reid that until he returns to lawful and orderly governance, there will be no debt ceiling increase.  The knowledge that the President’s high-profile foreign policy initiatives depend on getting a deal done should strengthen their hand considerably.

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Sun Sets On Solar

Chinese solar manufacturers, heavily subsidized by the Chinese government though they are, are not completely immune from the laws of economics.  Faced with falling demand, falling prices, and growing inventories, they’re cutting production.  The follows on the heels of a number of high-profile failures of solar manufacturers here in the states.

True that the Chinese government, in its relentless mercantilism, was, and is, subsidizing solar heavily enough that three of their companies may survive the shakeout, whereas it’s possible none of ours will.  But in fact, they were just responding to a market that largely existed because of European and American solar subsidies in the first place.  The collapse of solar prices isn’t about new manufacturing techniques (yet), it’s about Europeans realizing that not only is the energy more than they can afford, so are the jobs, and they’re mostly going overseas, anyway.

The irony is that we’re still being told that we need to “invest” in solar because the Chinese are committed to it, and that must validate the idea.  It turns out that the Chinese were only invested in it because they figured to have us as their high-priced customers.   Not only were we funding both sides in the solar arms race, we were using the result to justify nonsense subsidies like Solyndra and LightSquared.  It’s like one of those experiments where the monkey reacts to itself in the mirror.  Only in this case, it was more like Lucy and Harpo pretending to fool each other.

Colorado, under former Governer Bill Ritter, began to pursue a “New Energy Economy,” chasing and subsidizing alternative energy companies, hoping to lure them to the state.  Ritter was elected in 2006, and the financial meltdown and succeeding recession created revenue shortfalls that limited the damage he could do.  The latest brouhaha over missing funds at the Governor’s Energy Office hasn’t done their cause any good, either.

The ideologues won’t be swayed, of course, but perhaps many of the more pragmatic politicians can be persuaded that these are bad bets for governments to be making.

 

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