Chinese Media Warfare Targets the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Posted on Friday, July 31, 2015 by Admin

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By Sabrina Tsai

On May 29, 2015, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai warned that U.S. alliances in Asia are being perceived as "anti-China." Positing that some in China do not see territorial disputes in the region as sufficient reason for military alliances, he warned that it is detrimental to U.S. interests that Chinese citizens perceive the U.S. as against them. A rhetorical warning such as this one from Chinese officials point to the bigger questions of how China views U.S. alliances in the region and, more importantly, what China is doing to influence these alliances through political operations.

Chinese Political Warfare

Aside from Chinese intransigence on recognizing its adversarial activities as hostile in the regional security environment -- such as land reclamation in the South China Sea and the arms buildup across the Taiwan Strait -- it consistently engages in psychological warfare to shape the way world events are viewed both at home and abroad. A favorite target of the Chinese state-run media is the U.S.-Japan alliance. In 2015, the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, China has ramped up its media and information campaigns to undermine the health and progress made between Japan and its partners since 1945. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) concerted efforts to commemorate the end of the "world anti-fascist war" intentionally emphasize Japan's wartime legacy instead of regional advancements. In a world of power politics, soft power and hard power maneuvers are conjoined to create a desired political outcome. In the case of China, this is not amiss. 

While psychological-political components are inherent in every diplomatic, economic, and military instrument of national power,[1] China employs a peacetime information campaign that  target individuals' unconscious framework for viewing the world, including its own citizens. Referred to by some as the "Three Warfares," which includes media warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare, Chinese political warfare encompasses a large umbrella of networked state actors who drive the creation and transmission of information to targeted audiences.  Media warfare is an extended tradition of the CCP and a powerful political tool designed to sway the audience toward a state-sanctioned national narrative. Ranked 176 out of 180 by a French-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, China's press freedom is among the worst in the world and is highly controlled by the state for political ends.

Targeting the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Certain thematic trends can be found in the Chinese media in framing events related to the U.S.-Japan alliance. Chinese reporting follows specific themes in order to influence and manage the perceptions of domestic audiences. They utilize the following thematic perception management tactics:

Highlighting regional expert commentators whose views are favorable to the CCP. In critiquing the U.S.-Japan alliance, Chinese media often uses opinions of experts or reporters from Japan and the region whose views align with their own. For example, Chinese reports have highlighted Australian expert Hugh White's criticisms on Japan's efforts to reform security policies, further stating that if Japan was to go to war with China, it would not have a decisive victory since it is uncertain whether the U.S. would actually follow through on its defense commitments to Japan during wartime.

Utilizing opposing voices in Japan's democratic society to its own political advantage. Japan's democratic society is backed by mature political institutions and civil society. With the freedom of expression, Japan's populace with opposing views have the latitude and platform they need in order to make their political opinions heard. Chinese media often capitalizes on views found within the pluralist society that favor its political positions. In analyzing Prime Minister Abe's motives for his policies, Chinese media highlights Japan's domestic opposition to legitimize its allegations of PM Abe's intentions as devious at its core.

Controlling how international events related to Chinese interests are covered. Chinese media regularly covers international events that relate to its national interests in a way that presents its side as just to the domestic Chinese audience. For example, a statement of concern released by G-7 summit conveners regarding heightened tensions in the South China Sea was covered by the Chinese media as a "Japanese effort" to "defame" China through a multilateral forum. Tactics like this one is commonly used to shape perceptions within China as a part of its overall psychological warfare. In order to win future wars, CCP leaders know that it would have to mobilize the populace, and peacetime information dissemination helps to ready the mentality of the nation against a specific, common enemy.

Commanding personal attacks on individual American and Japanese leaders. In addition to a relentless overhaul of reports criticizing PM Abe through attacks on his character, the CCP has also mobilized ad-hominem attacks against U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) Combatant Commander Admiral Harry Harris for his Japanese heritage. Chinese reporting of U.S. military statements and surveillance of China's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea have pinpointed Admiral Harris' Japanese ethnicity as the driving impetus for "hawkish" policies against Chinese escalations. USPACOM cooperation with Japanese forces have been covered in a way that implies that Admiral Harris has a personal vendetta against the Chinese military simply because of his heritage. Such racist ad-hominem attacks on key U.S. leaders reveal the CCP's political interests in managing domestic perceptions through psychological warfare.

While these four perception management tactics are not comprehensive, they cover basic trends utilized by state-controlled Chinese media outlets as a part of its psychological-political warfare against the U.S.-Japan alliance among its domestic audience. These tactics, some more blatantly inappropriate than others (e.g., racism), are unlikely to abate in the near future. The U.S. would be wise to monitor Chinese political warfare tactics more closely in order to strengthen its understanding and preparedness against unwanted political operations aimed at weakening its alliance partnerships.

[1] Fred Ikle, "The Modern Context," in Political Warfare and Psychological Operations, ed. by Frank Barnett and Carnes Lord. (National Defense University Press, 1989), pg. 20, at

Iran and North Korea: Partners in Proliferation?

Posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 by Admin

(Image Credit Yalibnan)
By: Ryan Henseler

On July 14, 2015 the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), collectively known as the P5+1, finalized negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the agreement, Iran will be required to disable many centrifuges critical to the uranium enrichment process necessary for weaponization, redesign the Arak nuclear reactor such that it is incapable of generating bomb-grade plutonium, and drastically decrease its stockpile of non-weapons grade uranium. In return, crippling UN trade sanctions will be lifted, which would immediately boost Iran’s economy, including the return of over $100 billion per year in oil exports currently lost due to sanctions. The deal purports to make it nearly impossible for Iran to construct a nuclear weapon within its borders and, “is not built on trust – but on verification.” In addition, UN embargoes on arms and ballistic missile sales to Iran will be extended for another five and eight years respectively.

Despite these recent signs of goodwill, Iran has long maintained cooperative ties with another rogue state, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), better known as North Korea. In 2002, both states were labeled as part of the infamous “axis of evil” by then-President George W. Bush. Both nations share a deep mistrust of the West, and this connection serves as the bedrock of the alliance between the two otherwise ideologically divergent countries. In 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared, “The Islamic Republic of Iran and North Korea have common enemies, because the arrogant powers do not accept independent states,” essentially restating the ancient Arabic proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

This relationship should be of concern for the United States and its allies moving forward. North Korea has flouted the UN arms embargo in the past, and is unlikely to be deterred by the signing of an accord between the P5+1 and Iran. The DPRK has also been accused of abetting Iran’s quest to obtain nuclear weapons through the illegal trade of uranium and other materials that could be used for weaponization. Though the verification methods spelled out in the agreement should sufficiently account for any illegal activities within Iran’s borders, a pressing question for the future is whether Iran will be able to relocate its nuclear ambitions and continue research and development within North Korea itself.

Cooperation and Suspicion

Iran and the DPRK’s pseudo-alliance began during the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Military cooperation through arms sales began shortly thereafter during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and continued throughout the 1990 Persian Gulf War. During this time, North Korea sold Iran various conventional weapons systems, including artillery, machine guns, and surface-to-air missiles, among others. In 2006 the UN released Security Council Resolution 1737, which began the arms embargo against Iran. However, the embargo did not break the partnership, merely moving it underground.

During the same time period, the DPRK was procuring nuclear weapons. North Korea dropped out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 based on 2002 findings that they were violating the agreement through a uranium enrichment program. In 1994, the US and North Korea inked the General Framework Agreement stating that the DPRK would halt and eventually disband its nuclear weapons program in exchange for US monetary aid in constructing civil nuclear reactors. Various opponents of the Iran deal in Congress have pointed out the current deal’s similarity with the 1994 General Framework Agreement and have voiced fear that Iran will find ways to bypass inspections in much the same way that North Korea did following the 1994 agreement, particularly because “anytime, anywhere” nuclear inspections are not guaranteed in the deal. Instead, they have been replaced by inspections “when necessary and where necessary” which allow Iran a 25 day buffer period before the inspections actually take place.

The Iran-North Korea alliance deepened in 2012 with the completion of a deal which pledged cooperation in several fields, particularly scientific research, information technology (IT), engineering and operation of joint laboratories. Naturally, this deal raised concerns about the possibility of an increase in missile and weapons technology trade between the countries. For years, North Korea has been accused of illegally selling Iran both conventional weapons and nuclear materials, possibly even weapons-grade uranium. In addition to being a political ally, the DPRK is Iran’s main supplier of ballistic missile technology and Pyongyang is reliant on the revenue created by these sales.

In 2002, it was suspected that Iran was involved in a cover up involving the spilling of a secret shipment of uranium from North Korea to Iran on a Tehran airport tarmac. While the cover-up was eventually investigated by US intelligence officials with help from those of its allies, there are few present-day signs that Iran’s cooperation with the DPRK has faltered.  Iran’s main opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) recently released information that showed extensive nuclear cooperation between the current Iranian government and the DPRK through visits from nuclear experts on both sides as recently as April 2015. Perhaps even more alarming, it was reported that Iranian officials were present at North Korea’s latest nuclear test in 2013.

Surprisingly, Iran has managed to not allow its extensive cooperation with the DPRK to influence its relatively strong commercial relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK), despite the enduring tension between the political systems on the Korean Peninsula. Economic ties, particularly in crude oil trade, between the ROK and Iran remain strong, but their relationship is largely limited to commercial dealings due to major ideological differences and their choice in key allies (the DPRK for Iran and the United States for South Korea). Most South Koreans view Iran negatively, and high-level political cooperation between the two is largely non-existent. However, their relationship, even if it is based solely on mutually beneficial trade, shows that democratic nations that strongly disapprove of Iran’s nuclear ambitions are willing to maintain good relations if they feel it is in their economic best interests.

Role of China?

A final interesting piece of this puzzle is the possible contribution to or at least tacit approval of the Iran-North Korea partnership by the PRC. The PRC has long been Iran’s most powerful friend, though the relationship seems more transactional than anything. China is the largest purchaser of Iranian oil and is Iran’s largest trading partner in both imports and exports, making a robust relationship with Beijing of particular importance to Tehran. Many experts see the PRC as the biggest winner of the Iran deal, as the lifting of economic sanctions will allow Chinese businesses such as banks and oil companies more access to Tehran, and avoiding a potential war between the US and Iran is crucial to Chinese trade interests.

In 2005, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), a coalition of democratic resistance organizations based in Tehran, accused the PRC of directly selling beryllium and components for centrifuge construction to Iran, and argued that these were unlikely to be used for civilian purposes. In 2011, Malaysian police confiscated a shipment from China to Iran that they suspected contained parts that could be used to construct nuclear warheads, one of multiple shipments between the countries that have been confiscated in recent years.

Although Chinese entities have been implicit in selling materials to Iran, the degree of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government involvement is unknown. China’s ports and airspace have been used in the passage of shipments from North Korea to Iran on multiple occasions. Suspicions of Chinese intentions still exist largely due to China’s cooperation with Pakistan’s illicit nuclear program in the 1980s and more current hot button issues such as the PRC’s recent advances in the South China Sea (SCS). It is questionable whether the PRC, as a member of the P5+1 and a contributor to the Iran agreement is intentionally allowing Iran to pursue nuclear weapons. In any case, China should be more proactive in preventing North Korean transactions involving dangerous materials from passing through its borders. Of course, the US should not count on China to solve this problem alone, and must closely monitor the state of relations between the DPRK and Iran and vigilantly look for illicit transactions between the two sides going forward.

China's Fifth Generation Air Power Development

Posted on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 by Admin

Image Credit (Key Publishing)

By: Ryan Henseler

Throughout its history, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has lagged behind the aerial programs of other world powers such as the United States. Now, the PRC has set its sights on producing indigenously designed “fifth generation” fighter jets comparable to the US F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. Many US officials and pilots suspect that the Chinese have been using hacked US technology to aid their indigenous development programs. The PRC is also leveraging additive manufacturing technology (better known as 3D-printing) in order to increase speed and efficiency in manufacturing aircrafts and compete with the US. The J-20 Black Eagle could be fully operational by 2018, and a second model, the J-31 Gyrfalcon, by 2020. If true, China’s new generation of fighters could have a substantial impact on its ability to either defend what it considers to be sovereign airspace, or to mount an aerial offensive in a wartime scenario, particularly against Taiwan (ROC).  

Recent Advances in the PLAAF

Between 1990 and 1992 the PRC purchased 24 Su-27 Flankers from Russia and slightly modified the design to become the J-11 Flanker B+.  In response, the US sold 150 F-16 Fighting Falcons to Taiwan. The acquisition of fourth generation Su-27s allowed China’s Air Force to enter modernity, and they have become progressively more capable ever since. In 2010, half of the PLAAF fleet still consisted of jets modeled after 1950s and 1960s Soviet MiG-19 Farmers and MiG-21 Fishbeds, but China’s ability to project air power has increased significantly within the past 5 years. Recently, the PRC and Russia completed a deal to transfer 24 Russian Su-35 Super Flankers, a potent “generation 4++” fighter, to the Chinese, in addition to China’s scheduled integration of fifth generation technology.

Currently the PLAAF relies on the J-11 as its primary fighter. However, this model is largely unproven. This aircraft is perhaps most recognized as the fighter variant involved in an August 2014 incident in which a single J-11 intercepted a USN P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft 135 miles east of Hainan Island. Twice the J-11 came within 50 yards of the US aircraft. The aggressive maneuvering by the Chinese pilot was an example of the PLAAF making it clear that US surveillance is not appreciated within the airspace over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Fifth Generation Capabilities

Since 2008 the PRC has worked to design and manufacture fifth generation concepts, both for its own use and to sell on a global scale. Two companies in China have worked on designs: the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (J-20) and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (J-31). Both are subsidiaries of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). It is likely that the J-20 and J-31 will complement one another when integrated into the PLAAF’s arsenal. The J-20 is closer to becoming operational, with an inaugural test flight in 2011; it is expected to reach initial operating capability (IOC) by 2018. Because both jets are still in prototype stage, their exact capabilities are not certain. However, it is speculated that the J-20 will provide a long-range strike system capable of reaching anywhere in the Western Pacific region, and incorporate a stealth design; the first of its kind in the PRC. In a conflict, the J-20 would likely be deployed in air-to-air combat with the mission of limiting the enemy’s radar coverage and strike range. The J-31 could be a potent complement to the J-20, similar to the planned US partnership of the F-22 and F-35.  While the J-20 is expected to possess superior dogfighting abilities, the J-31 will be “the perfect fighter for the PLA to carry out anti-access area-denial (A2AD) strategies in the Western Pacific”. The J-20 is slightly faster, with a maximum speed of Mach 2.5 compared to Mach 2 for the J-31. Both sport a combat radius of approximately 2000km (1242 miles).

US officials believe that the J-31 will immediately match or exceed the capabilities of US fourth generation fighters such as the F-15 Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, and could possibly even compete with the F-22 or F-35. But this would largely depend on several factors including the quality of Chinese pilots, the quantity of fighters produced, and the reliability of radar and other equipment on board. In late 2014, AVIC President Lin Zhouming made an even bolder prediction, saying, When [the J-31] takes to the sky, it could definitely take down the F-35. It's a certainty.” Even if neither of the Chinese fighter jets is entirely up to par with US fifth-gens, they still could drastically change the dynamic of both a conflict with the US or a scenario such as an invasion of Taiwan.


If the PRC decided to launch an attack across the Taiwan Strait, a contingency that it practices every year, air superiority would be essential for three reasons: the relatively small amount of airspace available over Taiwan; the ROC Air Force’s (ROCAF) ability to saturate its airspace with its own fighters, and the ROC's extensive surface-to-air missile defense system. If the PLAAF is unable to prevent or significantly limit attacks against its naval vessels when crossing the Strait, the mission would almost certainly fail. Ultimately, the PRC’s accumulation of cutting-edge fighter technology could provide the critical air advantage over the ROCAF to carry out a successful invasion, and should be cause for concern at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war for the US. 

US South China Sea Policy: The Case for UNCLOS

Posted on Friday, June 26, 2015 by Admin

Image Credit (GMA Network)
By:Ryan Henseler

Since 2012, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has embarked on a vast land reclamation project and artificial island building program throughout much of the South China Sea (SCS). The most extensive reclamation has included increasing the size of islands within disputed chains such as the Spratly Islands off the western coast of the Philippines, as well as the buildup of “artificial islands” on top of previously uninhabitable rocks and reefs. The PRC has pursued a strategy of fait accompli in the region, literally creating facts on the ground as part of a larger strategy to assert claims within its 9-dash line.  Thus far, Beijing has been committed to completing its expansion and island building without inciting or being forced into armed conflict. But as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Navy (PLAN) continue to build on 7 disputed islands, rocks and reefs throughout the SCS, the looming question of how the US can or should respond has become a focal point of US-PRC relations. Up to now, the US has pursued a policy whereby it has refused to “take sides” in the territorial disputes but has instead suggested that all sides seek a diplomatic resolution based on the principles of the law of the sea.  More recently the US has asserted that PRC activity in the SCS is in clear violation of its obligations pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, the legitimacy of this argument is undercut because the US itself is not a ratifying party to UNCLOS. Therefore, in addition to many other compelling factors for the ratification of UNCLOS, recent events have made ratification more crucial in order to bolster US legal standing vis-à-vis Chinese actions.

The US must take a strong stand in the region for a variety of reasons, including protecting the $5.3 trillion in world trade that passes through the SCS each year and responding to pleas from allies to help protect their own sovereign interests. Perhaps most importantly, the US cannot allow Chinese aggression in this critical geostrategic area to advance unchecked. Much of the reason that the US has not yet felt a real pressure to ratify UNCLOS is that opponents of the treaty claim it is unnecessary. They argue that the US has been served well by a Reagan administration policy decision that the provisions of UNCLOS dealing with FON are reflective of customary international law and thus the US has no reason to be bound by other more onerous provisions.  However, since the essence of the US argument is that PRC expansion is in violation of UNCLOS, the time may be ripe to reassess the advantages that might inure to the US should it ratify the treaty.  Specifically, would UNCLOS ratification actually bolster the legitimacy of the US position vis-à-vis the PRC? If China’s advance continues, and China is allowed to dictate the terms of navigation in the SCS it would be well on its way to achieving its goal of supplanting US hegemony in the region.

Illegality of Chinese Claims

Chinese efforts to build extensive artificial islands have changed facts on the ground that do not conform to the standards of international maritime law prescribed in UNCLOS, which the PRC ratified in 2006. The PRC’s 9-dash line asserts that over 80% of the SCS is sovereign Chinese territory based on “historical and legal” grounds. Under this overarching claim, the PRC has deemed it “justified, legitimate, and reasonable” to build within the line. Because several countries, including the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Brunei claim ownership of various SCS islands, the US has requested that all claimants cease land reclamations in order to mitigate the escalation of tensions in the region. The PRC has repeatedly flouted this request and stated that the US has no right to intervene in Asian affairs, and no jurisdiction to get involved with territorial disputes by invoking UNCLOS. While it is true that UNCLOS contains no provisions for the settlement of sovereignty disputes and lacks enforcement mechanisms, it is equipped to rule on the legitimacy of maritime claims asserted off of these islands. At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter defended the US right to be involved in the dispute as a, “Pacific nation, a trading nation, and a member of the international community.”

Under UNCLOS, coastal nations are allotted a 12 nautical mile (nm) territorial sea (TTS) along with a 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Foreign ships, both military and civilian, are allowed innocent passage through the territorial sea while ships and aircraft are free to operate in the waters and airspace outside the TTS to include conducting naval exercises and gathering intelligence. The PRC has frequently attempted to make US Naval operations difficult in parts of the SCS that it considers a part of its EEZ. Another part of the overall issue regarding the territorial dispute in the SCS revolves around which nation enjoys certain rights within their claimed EEZ’s.  Whoever “owns” an island also has rights to the natural resources within the EEZ surrounding that island such as fish, oil, minerals, and natural gas. Under UNCLOS, disputed maritime claims need to be multilaterally agreed upon by the countries in question, as opposed to the PRC invoking sovereignty based on the ever-ambiguous 9-dash line.

Furthermore, it will be interesting to see what rights the PRC attempts to assert over the artificial islands it has built; UNCLOS specifies that artificial islands or rocks incapable of sustaining human life are not entitled to either territorial waters or an EEZ. At Shangri-La, Secretary of Defense Carter made it clear that, “turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit.” China has not explicitly claimed territorial waters or EEZs around the artificial islands, but is very likely to regard them as such because it considers everything within the 9-dash line its sovereign territory.

The UNCLOS Solution

China’s claims to the South China Sea fall outside the scope of international law. The question then, is what the US can do to deter an aggressor that is comfortable with stepping over legal boundaries and making claims that most of the international community deems illegitimate. Though solving the problem and managing excessive Chinese claims in the SCS will undoubtedly be a many-step process, the next move that the US should make in this political chess match is ratifying UNCLOS. Although the US already adheres to the navigational provisions of UNCLOS as a matter of policy, actually ratifying the document provides a sturdy legal leg to stand on when denouncing Chinese sovereignty claims. Ratifying the convention assures others that the US is willing to play by the same rules that it is trying to enforce, while not doing so at best weakens its legal argument and at worst strips its legitimacy in making policy towards the South China Sea entirely. Because the United States has taken a rules-based approach in framing the issue, it is essential that it be bound to the same legal framework as every other country involved.

Ratifying UNCLOS would also give the US legal standing to protest Chinese assertions such as a "military alert zone.” This term was used by the PLAN on August 20, 2015 when a US P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane flew a routine mission over contested islands in the SCS, and was asked to leave. The US pilot responded that he was flying through international airspace in accordance with international law. Like territorial waters, a state’s airspace extends 12 nm past its borders. However, unlike territorial waters, foreign planes are not allowed to enter another country’s airspace without permission. The US is careful not to fly within 12nm of any of the disputed islands within the SCS, not necessarily because it is acceding that it is Chinese sovereign airspace, but because it is somebody’s airspace. The question remains; what exactly is a military alert zone? The term does not appear and is not defined under international law. If the US were a ratifying party to UNCLOS it would strengthen its argument that the Chinese use of ambiguous terms such as “military alert zone” to impede freedom of navigation does not comply with international law.

The move also would be highly appreciated by US allies in the Asia-Pacific, as ratifying UNCLOS would be a concrete show of commitment to the region and would solidify the US role as a legitimate international leader with a vested interest in easing tensions. Ratifying the treaty provides the US Navy legal basis to peacefully travel through Chinese territorial seas—a right that it already asserts, but would be strengthened by becoming an official party to UNCLOS.  Finally, ratifying UNCLOS could provide a way for the US to impose cost and penalties on the PRC when they break international law through litigation in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

The Debate

Why has the US refused to sign a treaty that is in US national interests? The answer lies in the original drafting of the document during the Reagan administration. After the plan was drafted, President Reagan refused to sign based on various objections, particularly that it could subordinate the US government to agencies such as the International Seabed Authority (ISA) created under the purview of UNCLOS. This objection was cleared up in 1994 when a revised version of UNCLOS provided the US and other countries with the power to veto ISA decisions. Many Republican Senators today who oppose UNCLOS still cling to the argument that Reagan disapproved of the treaty, and trumpet the false notion that US sovereignty would be compromised.

Throughout the years UNCLOS has been supported by an impressive collection of officials, including the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations; every Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; military legal experts; The Chamber of Commerce; “Big Oil”; “Big Labor”; environmental activists; and the National Association of Manufacturers. In addition to providing the necessary and relevant leverage in the SCS for US forces, UNCLOS would help to ensure that the US gains exclusive access to the resources of its own North American continental shelf beyond the 200nm EEZ that is already asserted, which could potentially boost the commercial viability of oil companies and create jobs. In addition, ratifying the treaty would ensure the US a place at the table with other the Arctic countries when discussing the distribution of the resources made available by the melting of the polar ice cap. Furthermore, the treaty sets environmental guidelines in the world’s oceans. It is clear that becoming a ratifying party to UNCLOS would be sound strategy for the US in both economic and security terms.  The current administration should prioritize the ratification of this treaty, especially now when it is needed the most.

Hollywood and the Chinese Market

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 by Admin

(Image Credit: The Wrap)
By: Loujing Pan

China’s film industry has attracted intense interest from Hollywood, with industry specialists such as Ernst and Young predicting that will surpass even the American market—currently valued by IBIS at USD$31 billion—in 2020.   Aided by relaxed foreign film quotas—from 20 to 34 in 2012—and increased state efforts to crack down on piracy, Hollywood has sought to increase its presence in the Chinese film market.  Currently, Hollywood productions such as Avatar, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, and Titanic rank as some of China’s all-time highest grossing films.  Hollywood has been increasingly enticed by China’s film industry and its audiences, particularly as movie revenues in the U.S. fall and production costs rise —but at what cost? 

Political Appeasement or Self-Censorship?

Hollywood directors and studios looking to gain a foothold into China’s film industry face several barriers, particularly censorship laws.  Already there appears to be a trend of Hollywood directors practicing if not self-censorship, at least political appeasement to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by 1) casting Chinese film stars, 2) removing certain scenes, or 3) adding China-only scenes.  Given Hollywood’s towering presence in the global film industry, is this trend of political appeasement indicative of not only China’s rise, but also its future dominance?  If so, what are the implications for future Sino-American relations?

Superficially it may appear that Hollywood’s willingness to abide by, even arguably pander to China’s censorship laws, signals China’s rise and perhaps future dominance.  For example, in the past, Hollywood filmmakers have produced movies that were 1) critical of the CCP’s policies and 2) banned in China such as Kundun (1997) and Red Corner (1997).  More recently however, Hollywood filmmakers appear to have turned away from making politically sensitive films and are now focusing on gaining access to the Chinese market by appeasing the CCP’s censors. For many Hollywood filmmakers, the most efficient way to bypass China’s foreign film quota system is to register its films as a co-production and access Chinese funding.  On paper, co-productions seem ideal as they allow Hollywood to achieve its primary interests in the Chinese market—funding and market access.  However, any films produced as co-productions require the State Administration of Radio, Film, & Television (SARFT) and the China Co-Production Corporation (CFCC)’s approval at every step, from licensing a co-production to distribution.  Most notably, under a co-production, the script must be submitted in Chinese and reviewed by SARFT to ensure that it is in compliance with censorship laws, and after the film is completed, it is reviewed once more to ensure compliance.  Under such laws, blockbusters such as Iron Man 3, a U.S.-China co-production, have been released in China to include additional scenes featuring Chinese actresses.  Even Hollywood productions that have not been released as co-productions have had to edit their content for the Chinese audience. The 2012 thriller Red Dawn, for example, changed the antagonists from Chinese to North Koreans while scenes such as a Chinese security guard’s death were cut from Bond: Skyfall (2013) Given the SARFT’s tight control over film production and distribution in China, it may appear to be the case that Hollywood has had to bow down to Chinese interests.

Yet such a viewpoint does not convey the entirety of the situation.  While Hollywood has certainly had to take steps to appease SARFT, the CCP still has a strong interest in promoting Hollywood blockbusters.  Since the 1980s with the breakdown of the centralized, state-controlled and subsidized studio system, China’s film industry is highly dependent on commercial revenues.  As such, while some Chinese political elites may object to Hollywood’s dominance as a form of cultural and economic hegemony, Hollywood productions have played a crucial role in revitalizing China’s film industry post-1980.  For example, since China’s 2002 ascension to the WTO, it has increased its foreign film quota, its investment in the U.S. entertainment industry overall—according to the Rhodium Group, in 2014 alone, Chinese firms made 10 deals worth USD$275 million.  Thus, just as Hollywood is incentivized to engage in a degree of political appeasement, if not censorship, the CCP has demonstrated its current need for Hollywood and willingness to compromise.  Rather, what the current state of Hollywood’s relations with China’s film industry seems to indicate is a cooperative—albeit uneasy—mutually dependent relationship.   

What may be more telling regarding the future state of China-U.S. media and film relations, however, is China’s ability to step into Hollywood by either acquiring existing firms or creating independent subsidiaries.  For example, in March 2014, Huayi Brothers, one of China’s largest film studios, announced its plans to invest between $120 and $150 million in Studio 8, a firm to be launched by former Warner Bros. film studio chief Jeff Robinov.  Huayi Brothers ultimately lose out on this bid—to Fosun International, another Chinese conglomerate that has emerged as the dominant shareholder of Studio 8.  Furthermore, despite Huayi Brothers’ failed attempt to bid for Studio 8, it announced in September 2014 that it would invest USD$130 million to establish a U.S. subsidiary to produce and distribute movies and TV shows.  As illustrated by the case of Huayi Brothers and Fosun International, it appears clear that Chinese conglomerates are seeking to increase their foothold in Hollywood, portending an increasingly influential and assertive China.  

SPECIAL: Sun Tzu Simplified: An Approach to Analyzing China’s Regional Military Strategies

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2015 by Admin

Image source: AP
By Dennis J Blasko
 The Art of War by Sun Tzu can be summarized into what I call 1) the prime objective: to win without fighting and 2) the prime directive: to know yourself and know the enemy.
All other rules for fighting in The Art of War and in current PLA doctrine follow directly from these two guidelines. Today, Sun Tzu’s prime objective and prime directive are reflected in the PLA’s continued emphasis on:
1)      People’s War focused on the defense of Chinese sovereignty by leveraging the strengths of China’s large population and land mass.
2)      Active Defense, which is based on the premise that “We will not attack unless we are attacked; but we will surely counterattack if attacked.” This principle predicts, if not requires, an action-reaction dynamic when China perceives its interests are threatened and includes the obvious danger of an unending cycle of escalation.
3)      China’s multi-dimensional deterrence posture, which extends far beyond the concept of nuclear deterrence. PLA doctrine states specifically that effective deterrence is based on warfighting capabilities which must be demonstrated to the world. It also sees deterrence as a means to achieve strategic objectives, preferably without fighting.
4)      The preference to use traditional fighting methods of close battle, night combat, speed, deception, and stratagem, all of which, in order to be successful, require good intelligence on the enemy.
All of these atavistic concepts have been adapted and modified for the 21st century. They will continue to develop as conditions change, especially as new technologies become available to the PLA.
With regards to the prime objective, “winning without fighting” is the belief that China can achieve its objectives through methods other than the use of brute military force, such as political, economic, or diplomatic means. Nonetheless, this concept permits the gradual use of force through both deterrence and other non-military government agencies, while keeping a strong military in reserve as a basis for deterrence. However, if deterrence and other non-military means fail, deadly force may be employed as a last resort and is to be used cautiously and only when China feels confident in its ability to win.
As required by Active Defense, if China is attacked or its sovereignty is challenged, China will respond even when it considers itself weaker than the enemy. Though PLA doctrine is based upon a strategically defensive posture, the PLA understands that offensive operations are essential at all levels of war in all phases of a campaign to achieve victory. If circumstances require, doctrine permits China to use military force to preempt an impending hostile action if an enemy is clearly preparing to strike first at Chinese sovereignty, territory, or core interests.
Such calculations, whether at the strategic or tactical levels of war, require a significant degree of knowledge about China and the PLA’s capabilities, as well as the PLA’s potential opponents’ intentions and capabilities. The PLA constantly assesses its own and its potential adversary’s “comprehensive national power,” which consists of many elements beyond military force. Thus, we see the enduring emphasis on knowing yourself, knowing the enemy, and the use of all elements of national power present in PLA doctrine.
Additionally, the PLA operates under several principles that most other contemporary militaries do not:
1)      The requirement that all Chinese armed forces pledge loyalty to the Communist Party.
2)      The subordination of military modernization to economic development, even though the “coordination” of the two creates growing defense budgets.
3)      The assumption of a strategically defensive posture forced upon a relatively weak PLA, though this calculation is changing for some contingencies.
4)      Developing doctrine based on the precept that “technology determines tactics.”
5)      Efforts to mobilize the entire country  if forced to fight, resulting in an emphasis on military-civil integration. In theory, this helps reduce the amount of resources necessary to be dedicated to the military.
6)      A reluctance to be involved in alliances (a dependence on others to protect China).
These principles are reinforced by the continuing role of People’s War as the basis for PLA strategic thinking in conjunction with the strategy of Active Defense. The principles of People’s War are ingrained in the collective minds of PLA leaders. Various descriptions of People’s War can be found in many sources, but they are most easily accessible in the 2005 English-language version of The Science of Military Strategy, which actually contains two different but similar lists of the “Principles of People’s War” (pp. 107-112/230-31). The various colors show parallel principles in the two lists; note the light red and green entries below, stressing caution and prudence.

Mao’s Strategic Guidance Principles of People’s War, Chapter 3

Strategic Principles for People’s War, Chapter 10

  1. To Preserve Ourselves and Annihilate the Enemy
  2. Founding Base Areas and Creating Battlefield Are Strategic Tasks
  3. Change the Main Forms of Operations in Accordance with the Development and Changes of War
  4. Fight No Battle Unprepared and Not Sure to Win, and Formulate Strategy Beforehand Based on Worst Condition
  5. You Fight in Your Way and We Fight in Ours. We Will Fight If There Is Possibility to Win; If not, We Will Move
  6. Concentrate Superior Forces to Annihilate the Enemy Forces One by One
  7. The Main Target Is to Annihilate the Enemy’s Effective Strength Regardless of the Gain or Loss of One or Two Cities or Places
  8. Be Prudent in the First Battle and Fight the Decisive Battle to Our Advantage

  1. Knowing ourselves and the enemy
  2. Preserving ourselves and destroying the enemy
  3. Striving for the initiative and avoiding the passive
  4. Employing military forces and tactics flexibly
  5. Combining closely the three battle forms of mobile war, positional war, and guerrilla war
  6. Concentrating superior forces and destroying the enemy one by one
  7. Fighting no battle unprepared, fighting no battle you are not sure of winning
  8. Being prudent in fighting the initial battle
  9. Unifying command and being coordinated and united
  10. Closely coordinating military and non-military struggles, etc

Additionally, later in the book (pp. 456-57) “five combinations” of People’s War provide additional details in general terms of how Chinese forces and resources will be used. These “five combinations” overlap in the following ways:
1) Regular troops with the masses, including capabilities found in civilian government ministries.
2) Regular naval warfare with guerrilla warfare on the sea, developing the strategy and tactics of People’s War on the Sea, including tactics of “sparrow warfare” and sabotage, as well as ambush and covering operations.
3) “Trump card” or “assassin’s mace” weapons with flexible strategy and tactics, especially in playing “hide and seek” with the enemy.
4) Combining high-tech weapons with common weapons and understanding that several generations of weapons and equipment will coexist for a long time. Both combinations 3 and 4 demonstrate that People’s War is not confined to the war of low technology only.
5) Combining military warfare with political and economic warfare in order to present the widest front possible to the enemy.
The 2006 Chinese Defense White Paper states, “The Navy is enhancing research into the theory of naval operations and exploring the strategy and tactics of maritime people’s war under modern conditions.” Needless to say, one can find many examples of the “five combinations” in PLA organization, training, and in its real world missions. Based on the location, opponent, and other variables, the “five combinations” can result in a multitude of operational methods and techniques. However, PLA leaders most likely understand that the farther away from China’s borders they attempt to apply People’s War principles, the lower the chances of success. Therefore, we now see an emphasis on building forces and creating doctrine for air and maritime operations in waters beyond the near seas.
For the last six to eight years we have been watching the Chinese government execute a maritime People’s War under modern conditions; incorporating the principles of both deterrence and Active Defense in the South and East China Seas. Beijing’s objectives in this total government effort are to demonstrate its sovereignty over disputed territories and to deter the U.S. military from conducting close-in surveillance in its Exclusive Economic Zone, utilizing all available methods short of going to war.
Two examples illustrating the combinations of People’s War are found in the case of the USNS Impeccable and in Chinese efforts to challenge Japanese administrative control of the Senkaku Islands. In March 2009, the USNS Impeccable was operating in international waters in China’s EEZ in the South China Sea when two civilian trawlers “shadowed and maneuvered dangerously close” to the Impeccable. These trawlers were backed up by a Fisheries Patrol vessel, a State Oceanographic Administration vessel, and a PLAN intelligence collector, an example of combining regular troops with the masses. They combined the low-tech trawlers with the high-tech naval intelligence collector and could have been vectored to the area based on high-tech reconnaissance or low-tech visual means. The close quarter operations to cut the towed array were an example of “sparrow warfare” or ambush. These actions, however, did not achieve China’s objective of deterring U.S. surveillance in its EEZ and, in fact, it only hardened U.S. resolve over its Freedom of Navigation missions (if that resolve needed to be hardened any more than it already was).
In the East China Sea, around the Senkakus, once again we see China’s mix of the masses with regular PLA forces with the use of Chinese Coast Guard vessels and aircrafts to patrol near the islands, coupled with a mostly over the horizon presence of the regular PLA Navy. Presumably, there is some sort of high-tech communication between these forces. What Beijing is attempting to do is send the political message that the Chinese Coast Guard can exert control over the waters around the islands in the same way Japan can. They could send the same message much more forcefully by substituting gray Navy ships for the white colored Coast Guard, which they do occasionally.
We can find other recent examples of variations of the “five combinations” in action, such as the land-reclamation construction underway in the Spratly Islands or the activities of the civilian Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig and its accompanying escort in the SCS last year.
In the East China Sea, Beijing knows that the U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty would apply if it first used military force in a hostile action over the Senkaku islands. It likely calculates the PLA could not at this time win a shooting war 300 kilometers from the Chinese coast against combined Japanese and U.S. naval and air forces.
The distances are greater in the South China Sea and the chance of U.S. involvement still remains high, therefore China’s current calculations regarding the South China Sea are most likely the same. However, China is actively working to shift that balance over the long term.
For the foreseeable future, in any of its contingency operations where the U.S. military has a potential role, the PLA’s calculations of the balance of power will not provide it with the confidence it desires in order to initiate major hostilities. However, no matter what those calculations, if China’s core interests are threatened it will respond. Though how it responds will depend on the specific situation, the time, and other international factors.
Yet, the Chinese government probably understands its People’s War at Sea strategy for the ECS and the SCS has not achieved its objectives and has resulted in an escalated spiral of action taken by both China and the countries with which it has territorial disputes. Fortunately, to date, all sides have succeeded in keeping the level of intensity below the intentional use of deadly force, but accidents and miscalculations could change that in an instant. If any participant in these territorial disputes intentionally decides to use deadly force in this action-reaction cycle, then China’s strategy will have failed and what comes next could be devastating. The best solution, desired by everyone in the region, is a negotiated settlement and while the beginning of that process may be underway with Japan, it will require the good faith support of all military, paramilitary, government, and civilian actors from all sides who have a stake in the outcome.
China’s calculations of its relative political, diplomatic, economic, and military strength will change as conditions in China and the region evolve. Unless compelled to respond to a challenge with direct military action, Beijing likely will attempt to calibrate its actions by continuing to employ a wide array of civilian, government, paramilitary, and military capabilities up to the line of the intentional use of deadly force to achieve its objectives. To do so effectively will require the Chinese government and the PLA to understand their own strengths and weaknesses as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the other players in the region. China’s use of integrated, multi-dimensional approaches that differ based on the specifics of each dispute presents an asymmetrical test to foreign governments who do not have the same range of options available but, unlike China, may have the explicit, implied, or potential support of the American military presence in the region.
(This essay is adapted from remarks presented at Project 2049’s conference on “China's Military Development and the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” March 20, 2015.)
Dennis J. Blasko, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), was an army attaché in Beijing and in Hong Kong from 1992-1996 and is the author of The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, second edition (Routledge, 2012).

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