(Video) Hitler and Chamberlain, Putin and Obama

June 2, 2014

Obama as Chamberlain

(Photo via Israel Matzav)

I’ve been saying for years, almost since the Jihadi War began, that the state of international relations gives me a “1930s vibe,” a feeling that we may be on a path toward another World War. That feeling has come and gone as the years passed, as I’m sure it did for those living in the 30s, but it’s never quite gone away. In fact, Russia’s predatory moves toward Ukraine have brought that feeling roaring back, the parallels being striking.

Bill Whittle has noticed the same trends and, in this video for Truth Revolt, compares a lion, a bear, and two lambs:

But it’s not Russia that worries me most, unless it’s in combination with other powers. Russia is a dying state, its demographic trends signalling serious future decline. Its military, outside of special elite units, just isn’t all that good, and, while they’ve made steps to rebuild, they’re still  a long way off. (They had trouble mobilizing the limited forces they used to assault Georgia in 2008.) Their economy is far too dependent on natural resources, especially oil, but Russian oil is notoriously expensive to extract. Fracking technology in the West promises to cut the legs out from under Putin and his successors as it drives the price of oil and gas down, making Russia’s less marketable.

China concerns me more: a rising power with a strong hyper-nationalist faction, an aggressive foreign policy, and a strong sense of (as Bill notes about Russia) historical grievance. Some incident in the South or East China Seas could easily be the spark for a major conflagration.

And then there’s Iran: a fascist theocracy that has promised to destroy Israel and is desperately seeking its own nuclear weapons to do just that.

We face a bear, a dragon, and a lion, while we are lead by lambs.

Yep. I have a bad feeling about this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Leaked Chinese documents show planning for a North Korean collapse

May 6, 2014
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“I’ve got some bad news, boss…”

To paraphrase Whoopie Goldberg, I’m pretty sure these weren’t “leaked-leaked,” so much as deliberately slipped to the Japanese, knowing they’d go public. It’s a not-so-subtle to warning to Dear Leader III: “If things fall apart, don’t count on us to bail you out:”

China has drawn up detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the North Korean government, suggesting that Beijing has little faith in the longevity of Kim Jong-un’s regime.

Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state.

The report calls for stepping up monitoring of China’s 879-mile border with North Korea.

Any senior North Korean military or political leaders who could be the target of either rival factions or another “military power,” thought to be a reference to the United States, should be given protection, the documents state.

According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.

The report suggests “foreign forces” could be involved in an incident that leads to the collapse of internal controls in North Korea, resulting to millions of refugees attempting to flee. The only route to safety the vast majority would have would be over the border into China.

“Foreign forces,” of course, being the United States and South Korea. Kim Jong Un’s behavior since taking power, from hysterical rhetoric to live-fire artillery drills in sensitive areas to his penchant for executing rivals in various psychopathic creative ways, and especially his continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, has to worry governments with security interests in Northeast Asia. And the last thing anyone wants is a Korean conflict that might again force Beijing to come to Pyongyang’s aid and place Chinese forces in combat against Americans. North Korea’s behavior has become unpredictable since L’il Kim took power, and a lack of predictability in Great Power relations makes everyone nervous. Hence a the message to Kim that’s about as subtle as a gun to the face: instead of helping you, we may put you in a camp, instead.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Chinese report comes out at just about the same time we learn of credible reports that North Korea has developed nuclear warheads that can fit on an ICBM. Missiles that can reach the United States:

According to the 16-page report, “The North Korean Nuclear Threat to the United States,” the Defense Intelligence Agency stated in an unclassified assessment made public a year ago that “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North [Korean government] currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”

“This is disturbing news,” the report says. “The North Korean regime is one of the most fanatic, paranoid, and militaristic dictatorships on the planet. … While North Korea has long made occasional nuclear attack threats, the scope, magnitude, and frequency of these threats have vastly increased in 2013.”

North Korea has in the recent months issued provocative threats to carry out nuclear strikes on U.S. cities and against American allies.

By the way, the Obama administration is trying to deny the conclusions in this report, because it doesn’t fit with their diplomacy. Feel reassured.

Anyway, back to Chinese planning for a North Korean collapse, one has to wonder if the Chinese haven’t seen the same information as DIA (they have much better contacts than we with the regime, though they’ve worsened in recent years) and decided to let Pyongyang know that no help would be coming their way if they decided to play a game of nuclear chicken with us. Quite the contrary, in fact. In that case, it might even be in China’s interests to euthanize its ally before it could push us over the edge. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they have a North Korean general on tap for a convenient coup, or that they were prepared to invade, themselves. For fraternal, humanitarian reasons, of course.

And let’s keep in mind that a military crisis might not be the catalyst for a North Korean state failure: East Germany fell apart after the Soviets left from sheer exhaustion, and the Soviet Union just sort of twitched and dissolved without us having to fire a shot. North Korea is subject to periodic severe famines, and the economy can’t produce what the people need. They’re only held in line through terror and constant propaganda — what if that suddenly stops working? Or what if some general decides he doesn’t want to be the next to go up against the wall? Rather than a military confrontation, Beijing might find itself dealing with hundreds of thousands of starving Koreans looking for food. Better to use the People’s Liberation Army to “restore order” south of the Yalu and keep those people from overwhelming the neighboring regions of Manchuria.

It’s a lot of speculation, I realize, which is all we have when dealing with a black box like North Korea. But, that the Chinese are taking the possibility of sudden regime collapse so seriously (and this isn’t the first time they’ve warned Pyongyang) means we should, too.

via Walter Russell Mead

RELATED: Earlier posts on North Korea.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Paging John LeCarre! #NSA leaker a Chinese agent?

June 10, 2013
"Would you believe..."

“Would you believe…?”

This is getting weirder and weirder, but, at the same time, tantalizingly plausible:

Former CIA case officer Bob Baer revealed on CNN Sunday evening that intelligence officials were possibly considering Edward Snowden’s case as Chinese espionage, after Snowden came forward this afternoon from an undisclosed Hong Kong location.

“Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence,” Baer said. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case.”

“On the face of it, it looks like it is under some sort of Chinese control, especially with the president meeting the premier today,” Baer said. “You have to ask what’s going on. China is not a friendly country and every aspect of that country is controlled. So why Hong Kong? Why didn’t he go to Sweden? Or, if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”

When you think about it, the possibility of Snowden being used by Chinese intelligence is not at all unreasonable: the US news had been filled for months with items about Chinese hacker attacks and complaints about stolen data, and Obama was expected to bring this up at their summit here in California. Could he have been used by a Chinese “handler” to release this information when it would be both embarrassing to Obama and useful to China by cutting O’s legs out from under him at the summit? “Shut up, you guys are spying, too?” I’ve got no firm opinion about Snowden, himself, though, from what I’ve read, he does strike me as a immature narcissist who could be played by skilled operators. And what free-speech and civil liberties advocate who donates to Ron Paul would take refuge in China, of all places? (1)

There’s something really, really odd about this.

via Legal Insurrection

PS: I haven’t written much about these NSA revelations, the phone metadata collection and the information culling from Internet providers (PRISM), because there is so much to absorb and it has such profound implications for a free society that I think silence, on my part and for now, is better. I’ve seen too many outraged knees jerking, too much heat and not enough light, too much reaction and not enough reading; it makes me worry that, traumatized as we are by the IRS and Rosen scandals, etc., we may throw the “national security baby” out with the bathwater. For now, though, let me leave you with an article by Jonah Goldberg that best captures my thinking at the moment: healthy skepticism.

Footnote:
(1) Yeah, I know he is/was in Hong Kong, which is very free market and capitalist, but if you don’t believe Beijing pulls the strings of what goes on there, especially in an intelligence matter, I have a bridge for you.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Honey trap: US missile defense contractor sold secrets to the Chinese for sex

March 20, 2013
"Would you believe..."

“Would you believe…”

It’s amazing how stupid we get when our hormones and feelings are involved: a 59 years old former Army officer, who now works on missile defense, has thrown his career, his honor, and his life away for a woman half his age… who also happened to be a Chinese spy.

“According to the affidavit, the national defense information that [Benjamin Pierce] Bishop passed to [the woman] included information relating to nuclear weapons; information on planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems; information on the ability of the United States to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of foreign governments; and information on the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim,” the Justice Department announced yesterday.

The alleged leaks took place between May of 2011 and December 2012, according to DOJ, while the “romantic relationship” supposedly began in June 2011.

Interesting that this comes soon after the Obama administration reversed plans to end Bush-era missile-defense deployments.

Bishop faces up to 20 years for his treason; I think it’s a shame he’s not liable for hanging.

So-called “honey traps” are not at all uncommon in espionage, though I think the Soviets/Russians and other Communist agencies used them far more than we did or do. And men are not the only ones to fall for them: though it’s fiction, the excellent “The Americans” TV show on FX shows an FBI confidential secretary being seduced by an undercover KGB agent.

Stupidity is a universal constant.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Want to know how badly China has bungled its foreign affairs?

December 10, 2012

map east asia

The Philippines says it supports Japanese rearmament:

The Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan shorn of its pacifist constitution as a counterweight to the growing military assertiveness of China, according to the Philippine foreign minister.

“We would welcome that very much,” Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times in an interview. “We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor.”

The unusual statement, which risks upsetting Beijing, reflects alarm in Manila at what it sees as Chinese provocation over the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by Beijing. It also comes days before an election in Japan that could see the return as prime minister of Shinzo Abe, who is committed to revising Japan’s pacifist constitution and to beefing up its military.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of World War II in the Pacific knows the brutal, almost unspeakable suffering the peoples of East Asia suffered under Japanese occupation. The Philippines alone lost roughly one million people. Many who survived were nonetheless subjected to torture and starvation, or knew those who were. That’s still in living memory for many Filipinos, making it understandable why they would fear a militarily powerful Japan, and why Rosario’s announcement is such a shocker.

Walter Russell Mead comments:

Today, the Philippines is thought to be one of the countries most subject to Chinese pressure. It has a weak economy and a small military. That a country like this is rallying against China rather than joining up with it, and doing it in such a dramatic way, tells us a lot about what is going on in Asia and the effect Beijing’s foreign policy is having on its neighbors.

China has been anything but deft in its handling of its neighbors, making aggressive claims to islands in the South China Sea, possession of which would give it control of potentially vast oil wealth under the sea bed. This, however, has also had the effect of frightening its neighbors and leading them to seek allies from amongst old enemies.

And now the Philippines, worried by Beijing’s ambitions, wants a rearmed Japan to balance China. (How soon will they be inviting us back into Subic Bay, I wonder?)

This has implications for Japanese politics, too. Japan has a general election in a few days, and the expected winner, Shinzo Abe, has advocated changing Japan’s highly pacifist, restrictive constitution to allow for greater military spending and a larger overseas role for Japan’s military. Concerns about China, where nationalist anti-Japanese protests have become a regular occurrence, and a growing approval of Japanese rearmament from her former enemies could give Abe’s party a boost, in which case we could expect to see Sino-Japanese relations become much more strained.

Obama has made a “pivot to Asia” a focus of his administration’s foreign policy. That’s actually logical (1), but no one should underestimate the challenges Washington faces there.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, I’m surprised. Given the general incompetence Obama, Clinton, and the rest of the Smart Power team have shown in foreign affairs, they’ve generally done a good job in East Asia. I’m sometimes tempted to think it’s the doing of some Undersecretary acting on his own, hoping the bosses won’t notice…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


China begs the question: Why would anyone want to “own” North Korea?

July 10, 2012

I’ve often referred to North Korea as the “world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation.” And let’s face it — it’s a basket-case made in a Stalinist hell: the people are brutally crushed, often rented out as slaves in all but name; the economy is frequently on the verge of collapse, dependent on drug dealing, counterfeiting, and smuggling; famine is an ever-present specter; the regime is nearly isolated internationally as a terror-sponsor and nuclear proliferator; and its almost certain eventual collapse presents nightmare scenarios to the world. So, why would anyone in their right mind want to own it? (1)

I don’t know, but that’s what China has in effect said:

China has told South Korea that it will not allow the unification of Korea under a democratic government. North Korea will remain under Chinese “influence.” If worse comes to worse, China will send in troops to set up a North Korean government that will faithfully follow orders from China. In an effort to dampen some of the anger in South Korea (the United States, Japan, and so on), China would maintain North Korea as a separate entity (and not a new province of China). China wants no misunderstanding about who “owns” North Korea.

Actually, one can understand China’s position. As the linked Strategy Page article notes, China has for years been urging North Korea to liberalize its economy along lines similar to China’s: a form of state capitalism under a one-party regime. For various reasons, North Korea has largely balked and thus often come to China for aid. Pyongyang has also in recent years caused China foreign policy headaches due to its nuclear program, aggressive moves against South Korea, and even harassing Chinese fishing vessels. By all accounts, relations between these two “allies” aren’t at all good.

Thus, as the “big dragon” in the region, China has a deep-seated interest in stabilizing North Korea. A sudden collapse would be almost or just as disastrous for China as it would for South Korea, with potentially millions of refugees flooding over the border into Manchuria and bringing huge headaches regarding food, shelter, and security in their wake.

Almost as bad, from a geopolitical perspective, would be a regime failure similar to that of East Germany’s, which lead to its absorption by West Germany. The specter of the Soviet Union’s collapse soon thereafter is almost certainly in the back of Beijing’s mind, and one of the last things China wants to see is a unified, prosperous, multi-party Korean democracy on its border, giving the Chinese people ideas. The Chinese military, in particular, would blow a gasket if this meant the US military entering the North as part of a stabilization force — which it might, just to secure any nukes.

So, consider this claim of ownership a bit of “defensive imperialism” on China’s part, a message to South Korea, Japan, and their American patrons that “we can handle the problem ourselves, thank you.”

While I’m not in any way a fan of the Chinese regime (unlike certain NYT columnists and US cabinet secretaries), considering the alternatives, I have to hope Beijing is right.

via Breitbart.com

Footnote:
(1) Well, not everyone is unhappy in North Korea. At least Dear Leader Junior gets his Disney stage show and hot date. The rest can go eat grass.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


April 8, 2012

Phineas Fahrquar:

Al Gore and Thomas Friedman shriek in rage.

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

From John Droz’s newsletter with a hat-tip to Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. for bringing it to my attention and via the “I can hear Joe Romm’s head exploding” department and Electric Light and Power comes this story:

CHINA TO DROP SOLAR ENERGY TO FOCUS ON NUCLEAR POWER
Asia Pulse

China will accelerate the use of new-energy sources such as nuclear energy and put an end to blind expansion in industries such as solar energy and wind power in 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says in a government report published on March 5.

View original 125 more words


Four must-reads on North Korea

December 20, 2011

Busy day today, but I wanted to share with you four articles on the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, aka “North Korea,” and its uncertain future. Each has something worth your attention:

Writing from Tokyo, the New York Times’ Martin Fackler interview Korea “experts” (as if anyone can be a true expert on what goes on in a closed, paranoid land) whose general consensus is that the new dictator, twenty-something Kim Jong-Un, and the factions surrounding him will likely see a period of consolidation and reduced tension with the US, as the country sorts out its leadership and deals with crushing internal problems:

Masao Okonogi, a specialist on North Korea at Keio University in Tokyo, said that during the new leader’s first few years, North Korea would most likely avoid confrontation with the United States and its allies, like South Korea.

That was the route taken by Kim Jong-il after his father’s death, said Mr. Okonogi, and he seemed to hold out an olive branch by observing a 1994 deal negotiated by his father to freeze construction of two reactors suspected of use in North Korea’s covert atomic weapons program. North Korea eventually suspended the deal in 2003, three years before testing its first nuclear weapon.

“Look for Kim Jong-un to make some offer, like to restart the six-party talks,” Mr. Okonogi said, referring to stalled multilateral negotiations on dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons. “He’ll need to reduce tensions with the United States in order to buy time.”

Some analysts said the new leader would probably use this time to try to fulfill his father’s promise to turn North Korea into a “strong and prosperous” country by 2012. To do that, he must revive a moribund economy that ranks near the bottom of the world in many measures, including per capita gross domestic product of $1,800 per year, versus $30,000 in technologically advanced South Korea. The North’s unwillingness to forsake the centrally planned economic system, its severe isolation and its utter reliance on food and fuel handouts from China and international aid groups have perpetuated or deepened the crisis.

That would be wonderful, presuming the North Korean leadership was rational and motivated by national self-interest. But, if US intelligence is right, the new Kim on the block may be even more deranged than his father:

“It’s been only about a year and three months since Kim Jong Eun was officially tapped, so it would be very difficult for him to effectively seize power within the old guard in the party as well as the military,” said Yoo Dong-ryul, a researcher at the Police Science Institute in South Korea. “I think whether Kim Jong Eun succeeds will ultimately depend on the role by Jang Song Thaek.”

The portrait of Kim Jong Eun that emerges in his U.S. profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence analysts believe, for instance, that Kim Jung Eun “tortured small animals” when he was a youth. “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome,” a senior U.S. official said, summing up the U.S. assessments.

Great. Just what we need: a potential serial killer in charge of nuclear weapons.

One of the great questions is what China will do. As revealed in the Wikileaks cables, China regards North Korea as a pain in the rice bowl and rather an embarrassment, particularly for a nation trying to establish itself as as global superpower. (Kind of like a gangster trying to be “respectable” and not wanting to be seen with his crazy friend from the old neighborhood.) There have even been preliminary feelers about the conditions under which China would accept Korean reunification. My own opinion is that China would like to see a stable, less embarrassing North Korea survive, if for nothing else than the prestige hit it would take from an ally falling apart. Failing that, reunification with the South would be acceptable — provided it did not mean American troops on or near the Yalu river border. In that case, China would want to see some sort of disengagement of the currently tight relationship between Washington and Seoul.

But there’s another possibility: a North Korean descent into chaos that leaves outside powers no choice but to intervene. Back at the NYT, Victor Cha wonders if North Korea won’t wind up as China’s newest province:

The allies’ best move, then, is to wait and see what China does. Among China’s core foreign-policy principles is the maintenance of a divided Korean Peninsula, and so Beijing’s statements about preserving continuity of North Korea’s leadership should come as no surprise. Since 2008 it has drawn closer to the regime, publicly defending its leaders and investing heavily in the mineral mines on the Chinese-North Korean border.

But even as Beijing sticks close to its little Communist brother, there are intense debates within its leadership about whether the North is a strategic liability. It was one thing to back a hermetic but stable regime under Kim Jong-il; it will be harder to underwrite an untested leadership. For Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s president over the next year, the first major foreign policy decision will be whether to shed North Korea or effectively adopt it as a province.

In other words, China may feel it has no choice other than to quietly take North Korea over.

Like Mr. Cha, former American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton sees great danger in a North Korea that slips into instability or outright chaos, to the point that US and South Korean forces might themselves have to intervene on a moment’s notice to secure the nukes:

While an authoritarian DPRK state, armed with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is a threat regionally and globally, a fractured DPRK, leaderless and perhaps descending into civil war, is an even greater threat. The prospect of conflict among various military and other security forces, which like the Kim family also have everything on the line, is real. Control over the weapons of mass destruction and other key assets (missile launch sites and storage facilities, communications facilities, the loyalty of major military formations such as the artillery, and armor massed near the borders) will be essential.

Moreover, North Korea’s civilians are not, despite decades of effort by Pyongyang, totally ignorant about conditions outside the hermetic state. Already desperately impoverished and hungry, they may well decide at the first signs of regime collapse, or even before, that their moment is at hand. Aided by South Korean activists, they could begin moving north toward the Yalu River border with China or south to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has divided North from South since the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement.

South Korean authorities, together with the nearly 30,000 U.S. forces there, have long prepared for the contingency of massive refugee flows toward the DMZ. They also have plans for entering North Korea in force on extremely short notice, to prevent massive instability, to secure the nuclear weapons, and to control the DMZ.

The last thing we need is for the North’s destructive weapons (or other elements of its nuclear program) to be used during internal conflict, or auctioned off to foreign states or terrorists by military factions desperate for hard currency to continue their struggle or flee the country. But while we believe that large stocks of chemical and biological weapons are located near the DMZ, we have very little knowledge of where the nuclear weapons actually are. If South Korean and U.S. forces have to enter the North, time will be short, the dangers high, and the odds long.

Bolton is highly critical of what he sees as almost nonexistent efforts by the Obama administration to get clear information from Beijing and coordinate with them over a possible Korean crisis. If Cha is right and China decides it needs to “put North Korea under new management,” and if those efforts fail and the US and South Korea decide they have to intervene, the potential for an accidental clash that reignites the Korean War gets white-hot.

Which makes me feel so good about having Team Smart Power in charge.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Having trouble sleeping?

September 1, 2011

Maybe this will help: Is China contemplating a surprise nuclear attack against the US?

Rest well!

PS: The Soviets seriously contemplated the same thing in the late 60s-early 70s, when they felt they had achieved strategic superiority and thought it might be a good idea to… finalize things, according to documents that became available in the 90s. Thankfully, someone must have said something reasonable, such as “ARE YOU CRAZY??” One hopes someone would proffer the same thoughtful question in Beijing.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Biden: the gaffer who keeps on gaffing

August 23, 2011

So, our vice-president is in China. While there, you would think our nation’s second-highest constitutional officer would do his best to represent American values to our biggest creditors China’s rulers with wit, intelligence, and grace.

But then you would remember this is Joe Biden we’re talking about.

And when it comes to the Chinese national policy of once child per family, with its forced abortions, near genocide of female infants, and forced sterilization, Joe fully understands:

D’oh! 

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review quotes Speaker John Boehner to blast Biden’s… well, Biden’s moral stupidity:

“It’s disappointing that Vice President Biden did not mention the severe women’s rights atrocities that are committed in the name of the One Child Policy — forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, and gendercide,” Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights without Frontiers, says. “China’s One Child Policy causes more violence to women and girls than any other official policy on earth. To merely mention the economic consequences is to turn a blind eye to the terrible human suffering caused by forced abortion. Chinese women are literally dragged out of their homes, strapped to tables and forced to abort.”

KJL also mentions in passing the demographic bomb that will set off an economic disaster for China: briefly, China’s one child policy means that fewer and fewer workers will be available to support an increasingly aging and huge population, and it’s going to hit soon, by 2039, in some estimates. It is also a danger to their military, and thus China’s global ambitions. By any measure, China’s one-child policy is a self-inflicted slow-motion national disaster.

But Joe fully understands.

LINKS: My blog-buddy ST has a spot-on post with several good links of its own.

AFTERTHOUGHT: This is the guy Obama picked to lend “gravitas” to his administration? In that case, I’d hate to have seen what his idea of “buffoonery” was.


China will overwhelm us! Mmm…. Not so fast.

August 16, 2011

America is going through one of its periodic crises of confidence (1) in which large segments of the population are worried that our time is past and someone else will come to dominate the world. Roll up the flag, forget anything about being exceptional, and start learning Chinese; our new masters are on the way.

Ehhh… Hold on a minute there, Doc.

Those fears are predicated on our own economic problems (serious ones, not making light of them at all) and are compounded by a president and a ruling party that are trying to make us be people we aren’t and do things we’re almost genetically predisposed against. The strain and turmoil caused by all that makes us look at a rising power like China and think our run is done; it’s their turn, now.

Except they have serious, deep problems of their own. Among them are a housing bubble and a huge number of bad loans. Sound familiar?

Professor Niall Ferguson (2) recently toured out-of-the-way locations in China  and saw the warning signs of a Chinese crash:

And yet … A closer look at the Chinese economy reveals that an astonishingly large part of what is going on today is investment in urban residential real estate, which is growing at more than 25 percent a year. The evidence was all around me as I drove through my sample of Chinese provinces. On the outskirts of every city I saw, there was a veritable forest of apartment blocks under construction.

These are the fruits of China’s own stimulus. When the Western economies first tanked in 2008–09, China’s communist rulers ordered the country’s banks to lend, lend, lend. The biggest borrowers were property developers and local governments.

With inflation above 6 percent and the stock market down, the new Chinese middle class has gotten in on the act. An unknowable proportion of these new apartments have been bought as investments by people who already own one or more. With new-property prices up about 20 percent in just two years, who can blame them?

Sound familiar? Yes, this looks a lot like a real-estate bubble—with Chinese characteristics. As for debt problems, Chinese bank loans were 97 percent of GDP in 2008. Now they’re at 120 percent.

This isn’t the only article to mention the vast money (and debt) being sunk into real estate in China in perhaps irrationally exuberant hopes of big returns. Check out this piece on China’s “ghost cities” (3)

Take the New South China Mall, in Dongguan. The Dateline crew took a tour of the place, which has been 99 percent vacant since it opened in 2005, and the result is one of the most depressing things I have ever watched. Six years after its creation, what is touted as the largest mall in the world sits almost empty. One of the very few stores that’s in business is a toy shop, where the wistful owner spends his days dusting children’s bikes that no child will ever ride. He is lucky if he makes one sale a day.

And it’s not just that mall that sits empty. So do rows of massive skyscraper apartment buildings and central business districts in new cities around the country. This is at least part of the reality behind the megacities the Chinese are creating. “All the shops in this mall are empty,” says reporter Adrian Brown, walking down an immaculate but deserted street in one of the new cities, this one in north-central China. “Not that that worries the government, because they’re simply more concerned with maintaining economic growth, and one way of achieving that is building cities like this one.”

According to Hong Kong-based real estate analyst Gillem Tulloch, who is interviewed in the piece, the housing units are priced well above what an average Chinese person can afford. The result, he says, is a housing bubble that is terrifying in size, “a property bubble like which I don’t think we’ve ever seen,” he says. “It will make the United States pale in comparison. It’s said that there’s around 64 million empty apartments…. It’s essentially the modern equivalent of building pyramids. It doesn’t add to the betterment of people’s lives, all it does is it promotes GDP.”

And all this building is supported by bank loans, the extent of which has started to worry Beijing to the point that they’re laying down new regulations, which has created an underground banking economy with its own set of bad loans on top of the already-vast public bad debt.

When their crash hits –and it will, inevitably– it will undoubtedly affect their global reach, just as ours is being hindered by our problems. Only, given the potential size of the bad debt, I suspect theirs will be far worse and far more disruptive, including affecting the stability of their political system, which has little experience with the ups and downs of market economics. (4)

So let’s not write ourselves off and turn China into SuperNation just yet; they may soon be finding they’ve swallowed economic Kryptonite.

via Real Clear World

RELATED: Don’t get the impression that I’m dismissing the strategic challenge and even threat posed by a rising, aggressive China. In my opinion, the dynamics resemble that of Imperial Germany’s rise before World War I, when the new power became the rival of the guardian of the old order, Great Britain. For something to chew on, consider that China has just launched its first blue-water aircraft carrier. Gee, I wonder who that’s aimed at? Meanwhile, this must-read article by J.E. Dyer looks at Chinese intentions in the South China Sea and, by extension, one of the world’s major choke-points, the Strait of Malacca. The Dragon and the Eagle are keeping an a wary eye on each other, believe me.

Footnotes:
(1) I’m old enough to remember the 70s and 80s when Japan, Inc., was going to eat our lunch. How’d that turn out?
(2) Smart man, should be on everyone’s must-read list. Have fun as he rips Obama’s clueless foreign policy.
(3) Here’s a fascinating satellite pictorial.
(4) How China’s rulers will react to that crisis, however, should be worrisome.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The next wave in death-penalty efficiency: mobile execution vans!

July 8, 2011

Okay, I generally favor the death penalty in a restricted number of cases and when there is overwhelming evidence of guilt: there are crimes so terrible that the only the death of the offender will bring justice. And it frustrates me no end when states like my own California let the number of death-row inmates awaiting execution skyrocket because of almost endless and often frivolous appeals. Justice delayed is justice denied.

But, as much as I favor speeding up the process (while respecting the legitimate rights of the condemned), even I became squeamish when I learned of China’s mobile execution vans:

“Makers of the death vans say the vehicles and injections are a civilized alternative to the firing squad, ending the life of the condemned more quickly, clinically and safely. The switch from gunshots to injections is a sign that China “promotes human rights now,” says Kang Zhongwen, who designed the Jinguan Automobile death van in which “Devil” Zhang took his final ride.”

Click through for a picture.

Somehow the idea of making execution as convenient as calling the mobile dog-groomer is a bit appalling, no?

The article points out that China executes three times as many people as the rest of the world, thus there’s pressure to make them more efficient. China also executes criminals for more crimes than most nations: while they recently took 13 off the list, there are still 55 capital crimes — including official corruption.

I wonder if the “death van” comes with air-conditioning?

via someone on Twitter. Sorry, lost the link.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Poor Obama. Presidents of China have it so easy by comparison…

March 11, 2011

One reason Chinese presidents have it so easy.

Jeez, what a whiner. I seem to recall he wanted the job, real bad. In fact, he wanted it so much that he started running for it after only two years as a United States senator.

But now he finds it too tough and envies the Chinese President:

How Mr. Obama manages to do that while also balancing American interests is a question that officials acknowledge will plague this historic president for months to come. Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”

(Emphasis added)

Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be because the Chinese government has an almost unbroken history of tyranny against its own people? That Hu’s predecessors are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions? That it doesn’t give a damn about individual liberty and, indeed, as the photo shows above, sends tanks against unarmed protesters demanding their unalienable rights? That is conducting a slow-motion ethnic cleansing in Tibet? Could it be because Hu isn’t accountable to his people, nor even to the legislature, but just to an elite oligarchy of Communist Party hierarchs?

No wonder he has such an easy time of it, and no wonder no one seeking his or her liberty cares a rat’s hind end what Hu Jin Tao has to say.

Okay, Mr. President. It’s time for a basic lesson in why people in Tahrir Square (or Tiananmen Square) might care about what you have to say. Not you as Barack Obama from Hawaii by way of Chicago, but you, Barack Obama, as President of the United States.

You are the Chief of State of a nation that, over the course of the last 235 years, has:

  • Fought for its own freedom
  • Fought a civil war to end slavery
  • Sent an army to Europe to defeat the German Empire in World War 1
  • Sent armies and navies around the globe to defeat Germany (again) when Europe was nearly crushed and at the same time to crush Japan in World War 2, saving the lives and liberties of hundreds of millions
  • Fought North Korea and China to preserve South Korea as a free country (Turned out pretty good)
  • Fought to preserve South Vietnam (Okay, that one didn’t turn out so good)
  • Fought to save Bosnians and Kosovars and give Iraqis and Afghans a chance at a better life

And on and on…

But if the military angle doesn’t get though to you, how about the moral? The nation that gives you such a hard time as president also gave the world the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the radical concept that sovereignty derives from the people and not their rulers, and that Mankind’s liberty is best preserved when his government is limited. (That last one bugs you a lot, doesn’t it?)

And we didn’t just keep it to ourselves; we proclaimed it the right of all humans everywhere and acted as a shield for those wanting those rights and as a loud voice for those whose voices were silenced by the guns of the dictators. Not perfectly, not always consistently, sometimes screwing up badly, but often enough and strongly enough that oppressed people around the world look to the American president for words of encouragement and aid, not the Chinese president. It wasn’t some jumped-up autocrat from Beijing who stood in front of one of the bleakest symbols of tyranny the world has seen, the Berlin Wall, and demanded that the barbarians who built it tear it down.

No, it was an American president, one you like to compare yourself to.

And that’s why people in the Tahrir Squares of the world care what you say.

Instead of whining that dictators have it easier than you, maybe you should stop and think about the role your predecessors have played and why the world would look to them for leadership in the cause of liberty. Maybe you’ll learn something.

Maybe you’ll even grow up a bit.

via Ed Morrissey

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bolton: the ‘Stache rocks CPAC

February 12, 2011

Foreign affairs and national security issues are my primary interest*, so I was glad to see they got some extended attention at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in DC, which has mostly (and understandably) focused on domestic policy issues. I was even happier that the speaker was John Bolton (and his mustache), who is not shy about insisting that the primary duty of the federal government in foreign affairs is to defend American interests, not to be a team player in the Club for Transnational Statists. He is a very, very sharp observer of foreign affairs and what they mean for the United States. Click on the image below to watch his speech, courtesy of The Right Scoop. At 25 minutes, it’s worth every second:

Let’s just say I’m in 99% agreement with The ‘Stache.

John Bolton is considering running for president in the next election, in order to make sure national security issues are brought before the public. To be honest, I don’t think he’ll get out of Iowa, but I do think he’d make a fine National Security Adviser for President Palin.

*Though I often get distracted. I really need to get back to covering them more.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Dissed at our own state dinner

January 23, 2011

Wow.

Chinese Pianist Plays Propaganda Tune at White House
US humiliated in eyes of Chinese by song used to inspire anti-Americanism

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

The movie and the tune are widely known among Chinese, and the song has been a leading piece of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. CCP propaganda has always referred to the Korean War as the “movement to resist America and help [North] Korea.” The message of the propaganda is that the United States is an enemy—in fighting in the Korean War the United States’ real goal was said to be to invade and conquer China. The victory at Triangle Hill was promoted as a victory over imperialists.

According to the article, the pianist claims to have chosen the piece himself. Regardless of whether he did or was told to play it by Beijing, the Chinese government certainly knew its significance. And so did the millions in China who saw the performance via Phoenix TV, which, like many media outlets in Hong Kong, has strong Chinese Communist Party connections and knew in advance what would be played.

To twist the knife on this humiliating insult, the White House knew this song would be played, but apparently no one in charge bothered to check into its significance — or they knew it, but didn’t want to risk offending their loan sharks guests by prohibiting it.

How embarrassing. Obamateur Hour strikes again.

via Blue Crab Boulevard

LINKS: Moe Lane would be chewing out the Chinese ambassador right now. Big Peace has the relevant clip from the propaganda movie the song is featured in.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Did Obama throw Japan under the bus?

January 23, 2011

It sure smells that way. During the state visit of Chinese tyrant President Hu Jintao, a Chinese blogger asked a key White House official about America’s position over a territorial dispute with Japan:

The United States recognizes no claims to the sovereignty of a set of islets in the East China Sea, an adviser to the U.S. president said Friday.

“The U.S. does not have position on the question of sovereignty regarding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands,” Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, said in a video conference with Chinese bloggers set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

He was responding to Chinese blogger Ma Xiaolin, who questioned the United States taking the side of Japan on the issue by including the islets under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

“We do not recognize the sovereignty claims by neither China nor Japan,” Rhodes said.

But, as L. Douglas Garrett points out at Competing Hypotheses, that highlighted statement simply isn’t true:

First, that isn’t historically correct. The U.S. in fact was the author of the postwar partitioning of territory in the area, and specifically mandated their return-by-transfer as part of the Okinawa reversion to Japan. P.R. Chinese and ROC claims to the area postdate that.

Second, it isn’t correct as extant policy. The status quo is expressly covered in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States, under which the territory is specified as part of the territory of Japan to be defended, as amended since reversion).

Keep that in mind: the United States is obligated to take military action should some nation (i.e., China) try to seize them by force.

Japan calls the islands the Senkakus and maintains that they were terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) when annexed in 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War. China, on the other hand, claims those islands were coerced from it as part of the treaty that ended the war. There are good background pieces on this dispute here and here. Though themselves uninhabited, the islands are important to both nations (and to Taiwan) for the control they give over the surrounding sea lanes and potentially large underwater oil and gas fields. A recent incident in which the Japanese Coast Guard seized a Chinese fishing trawler off the islands last September brought this dispute to the forefront, again.

Thus, it seems more than a coincidence that the President’s Deputy National Security Adviser would suddenly equivocate on past bipartisan American policy during a visit from our biggest creditor. Maybe this was the price for the pandas?

And, let’s face it: Japan wouldn’t be the first US ally tossed under the bus in an act of appeasement. Poland and the Czech Republic were both knifed in the back over missile defense. Israel has been under intense pressure in order to please the Arab states. One of our closest allies, Great Britain, which has troops fighting at our side in Afghanistan, found out we didn’t have their back over the Falkland Islands. Japan is, apparently, just the latest example of the Lightworker’s brilliant foreign policy, by which he promised to restore our standing in the world.

But such betrayals in pursuit of our enemies’ favors come at a price: our allies, the nations we rely on in a crisis, will more and more wonder if they can depend on us in a pinch and may seek “other arrangements.” In the case at hand, Japan is the foundation of our policy in East Asia and the Pacific; without its support, our position vis-a-vis China in the western Pacific would be much weaker, perhaps even untenable.

This one incident will not cause Japan to walk out on our alliance in a huff, of course, but consider it as another example that should make chancelleries around the world wonder whether they should stick their necks out for us, when we won’t protect their interests.

Smart Power, indeed.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A Chinese Trifecta

January 20, 2011

On the occasion of the State visit by Chinese fascist junta leader President Hu Jintao, PJTV analysts Stephen Greene, Scott Ott, and Bill Whittle look at the growth of Chinese economic and military power, and the challenges a rising dragon may pose for the US:

I thought Whittle’s observations on the Chinese military perceptive, particularly regarding the PLA’s focus on the top-line weapons without the support structure and the experience we and other great powers have had. And I agree with their “middle ground” approach to assessing the challenges posed by China: neither making light of them, nor going into a panic-driven depression on the assumption that all is lost. (Besides, preemptive surrender is France’s job.) For my own part, I see China not as our “great good friend” and not as a declared enemy (yet), but a strategic competitor whose assessments of its own interests often work at right angles to our perceptions of our interests.  Diplomatic and economic competition and conflict is inevitable, but a shooting war is not. It all depends on how both sides manage their relations.

I do wish they had taken the time to talk more about China’s internal problems, because they’re serious and threaten China’s rise to Great-Power status and even its stability: banking regulations hiding bad loans that could make our situation look like chump change; rampant corruption that’s creating more and more popular resentment; the anger of rural workers who come to the cities to work and then don’t get paid; a ham-handed diplomacy that winds up scaring much of East and Southeast Asia into our arms; and an aging population that, as Mark Steyn has put it, means the nation will grow old before it grows rich.

One eye-popping fact: China has to add 17,000,000 jobs per year to keep up with population growth.

Like the Trifecta crew, I’m confident we’ll do fine in our competition with China… as long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


And you mocked Smart Power?

January 20, 2011

I'm so happy I get to stay!

So, Hu Jintao was feted last night at a state dinner, where the world was treated to a big announcement from President Obama of an important agreement between our landlords China and the poor house United States. What do you think it was? A way to euthanize the North Korean regime peacefully?  A deal to bring China’s undervalued currency up to realistic levels? An agreement by China to release the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner from house arrest?

Don’t be so pedestrian, folks! I’m talking something really big: we get to keep the pandas!

Let’s also never forget that throughout our history our people have worked together for mutual progress. We’ve traded together for more than 200 years. We stood together in the Second World War. Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans have helped to build America, including many who join us here tonight.

The Chinese and American people work together and create new opportunities together every single day. Mr. President, today we’ve shown that our governments can work together as well, for our mutual benefit. And that includes this bit of news -— under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.

There you have it, my friends, straight from the lip of the most powerful man in the world*. These are the fruits of the Smart Power we were promised in 2008.

Via Allahpundit, who collects some of the best snark on this.

*No, not Hu Jintao. The other guy!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The return of the Axis of Evil

January 17, 2011

Michael Ledeen looks at events around the world and sees a coordinated message being sent to the US: we’re going to take you down:

Obama’s getting kicked around from Lebanon to China, but nobody seems to notice the pattern. Why shouldn’t we think that the near-simultaneous attacks — China’s humiliation of Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and Hezbollah’s (that is to say, Iran’s) takedown of the Lebanese government — were coordinated? Or do you believe that the remarkable simultaneity of the events is sheer happenstance?

The two key bad actors — Iran and the People’s Republic of China — are known to be in cahoots. And Syria is one of Iran’s closest allies (some might say it’s a virtual Iranian colony). All three have strong reasons to demonstrate that the United States has opted out of the geopolitical game, or has been effectively stymied by the three. That message is a lot stronger when it’s sent in two separate theaters at the same time than if it has to be inferred from events spread out over weeks and months. It’s like the terrorist strategy of blowing up two targets in separate countries at the same hour, as they did to American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 or on occasion during the fighting in Iraq.

There is every reason to believe that we’re looking at the return of the axis of evil. These are not random events; they’re part of a global pattern aimed at our domination and ultimate destruction. If you read the articles linked above, you’ll find the same “message to the world” in both cases.

But a more recent event, the revolution in Tunisia that’s scaring the pants off dictators across the region, points a way forward against this challenge — standing up again for the American idea, something President Obama seems incapable of doing:

On the other hand, we are the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and — as Obama once unfortunately put it — whether we like it or not, our very existence inspires a lot of the desire for democratic revolution. Many, perhaps even most, of the people in the streets of those countries, are our greatest weapon against the jihadis.

So we should support the revolutionaries. Obama has praised the bravery of the Tunisians, and although he has cravenly refused to do the same for the Iranian people (who, after all, have been fighting tyranny longer, and have paid a far greater price in blood and torture than the Tunisians), logic demands that he now do so.  There is no convenient way for him to praise freedom fighters in one Middle East dictatorship and waffle in baffling generalizations elsewhere. Democratic revolution is ours, and we had best embrace it.

This support doesn’t require military action, which might in fact be counterproductive. But, as the last stages of the Cold War showed under Reagan, America as an ideal can be an inspiration to those fighting oppression, simply by being openly, unashamedly, and loudly in their corner at every opportunity and in every forum. As Natan  Sharansky related in his The Case for Democracy, Reagan’s “evil empire” speech about the Soviet Union echoed through the gulags, inspiring political prisoners to persevere, emboldened by the knowledge they weren’t abandoned. In Poland, the moral support the United States provided was so instrumental to Solidarity’s survival and the fall of Communism there, that statues have been raised to President Reagan and public squares named for him.

The point, of course, is not that Obama should do this for the honors he might get, but that American moral leadership in the cause of human liberty truly has an effect and is a genuine weapon to be wielded against the tyrants in Beijing and Tehran who work against us. It’s about time he started.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


China’s big challenge to the US Navy

January 4, 2011

For the last 70 years, the centerpiece of US naval strategy –and, indeed, essential for the projection of American power around the globe– has been the aircraft carrier. Born of necessity after the disaster at Pearl Harbor decimated our battleships, the carrier battle group has been an effective tool of hard power for American presidents of both parties when the time came to show a foe we were serious. They provide the United States with a flexible and rapidly deployed instrument, and any plans to challenge us must find a way to neutralize them.

Something the Chinese may be on the verge of doing:

The Chinese have made significant progress on a missile system designed to sink a moving aircraft carrier from nearly 2,000 miles away, according to the top U.S. commander in the Pacific.

China’s anti-ship missile system has reached the rough equivalent of what the U.S. military terms as “initial operational capability,” Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview with Japan’s Asahi newspaper Tuesday.

At the heart of the system is the Dong Feng 21D, a mobile, land-based missile that is projected to strike a carrier from between 1,200 and 1,800 miles, depending on its payload and other factors.

Willard said that the “component parts of the anti-ship ballistic missile have been developed and tested,” according to Asahi.

The missile has not yet been flight-tested over water, Willard acknowledged.

A report at Fox News relays opinions from experts that the Chinese are a decade away from developing the guidance systems need to give the Dong Feng 21D the needed accuracy, but we all know how perceptive outside observers were about developments in the Indian nuclear program. (Hint: we were caught completely by surprise.) We shouldn’t rest easy.

What makes a weapon like this all the more threatening is that, being land-based and mobile, they can be very hard to find and put out of action. Our experience hunting missile launchers firing at Israel in Gulf War I bears witness to that.

The possibility of deployed Dong Feng 21Ds will have to factor into any actions we take during periods of tension or crisis in East Asia. Both Korea and Taiwan are potential flash-points for conflict, as are Chinese claims to international waters. Whenever there has been friction with China involving any of these, we have deployed carriers to the area to demonstrate our resolve. The new Chinese missile threatens to make that a much riskier proposition.

Of course, military technology is a game of call-and-raise. Whenever someone has developed a new offensive weapon, the other guy has found a way to counteract it — and vice-versa. Sword met shield, armor met gun, and radar met stealth. One can bet that the US Navy is looking for ways to parry the Dong Feng 21D before it’s even deployed.

We’d better hope they find them.

RELATED: A very interesting article at The Diplomat on China’s risky bet against history, with a comparison to Germany prior to World War I.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,853 other followers