Another big step for China on its road to becoming a great power: building a “string of pearls”

Summary:  One oddity of major events — world-changing events — is that they are often unrecognized until long after the fact.  So it is with China’s steps to becoming a great power.  It’s happening slowly and quietly.  Our response will likely be even more massive military spending, using funds borrowed from China (more broadly, Asia and OPEC).  Few Pentagon reports note the insanity of this, or question why China funds this financially suicidal policy.

The US military dreams of an arms race with China.  Of military confrontation — perhaps over Taiwan.  The US military is structurally the world largest remaining communist organization (the internal similarities are many), and they hold tightly to communist doctrine.

“Every Communist must understand this truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
— Mao’s concluding remarks to the Sixth Plenum of the Central Committee in November 1938

Unfortunately for us, China is no longer ruled by commies.  They recognize the many paths to political power.  Nor are they stupid, building a costly Empire with no tangible benefits (as we’ve done).

So, despite our generals’ and admirals’ wet dreams, China has chosen another strategy — deploying their vast capital to influence events and build alliances.  Without telling their allies how to live, without meddling — as we do.  They just do business, leaving the moralizing at home.   That’s how they reunited with Hong Kong.  That’s probably how they will reunite with Taiwan.  And that’s how they have developed a strong alliance with Sri Lanka.

Contents

  1. The dragon’s NIMBY concerns are central to its expanding orbit“, The Globe and Mail, 19 June 2009
  2. China’s aid revealed in Sri Lanka’s victory parade“, The National (of the Abu Dhabi Media Co), 8 June 2009
  3. Other articles about the China – Sri Lanka alliance
  4. How Iran Might Beat Future Sanctions: The China Card“, Time, 16 July 2009 — China’s next new ally (no questions asked about human rights)
  5. String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral“, Christopher J Pehrson (Lt Colonel, USAF), Strategic Studies Institute, July 2006:
  6. About our defense strategy
  7. Afterword and other relevant posts on the FM site

(1) The dragon’s NIMBY concerns are central to its expanding orbit“, The Globe and Mail, 19 June 2009 — “Without China’s military supplies and diplomatic cover, Sri Lanka’s victory over the Tamil Tigers couldn’t have happened.”  Excerpt:

For two decades, Chinese diplomacy has been guided by the concept of the country’s “peaceful rise.” Today, however, China needs a new strategic doctrine, because the most remarkable aspect of Sri Lanka’s recent victory over the Tamil Tigers is not its overwhelming nature, but the fact China provided President Mahinda Rajapaksa with both the military supplies and diplomatic cover he needed to prosecute the war.

Without China’s backing, Mr. Rajapaksa’s government would have had neither the wherewithal nor the will to ignore world opinion. So, not only has China become central to the global financial and economic system, it has now demonstrated its effectiveness in a region traditionally outside its orbit. On Sri Lanka’s beachfront battlefields, China’s “peaceful rise” was completed.

(2) China’s aid revealed in Sri Lanka’s victory parade“, The National (of the Abu Dhabi Media Co), 8 June 2009 — Excerpt:

The unprecedented parade was designed to showcase the country’s armed forces that, over the past three years, have been transformed from a badly equipped, poorly trained and demoralised force into a well-armed, motivated and highly trained counterinsurgency outfit.

But the parade also demonstrated the extent to which Sri Lanka’s foreign allies had been instrumental in the victory – especially China. There were tanks and planes from Russia and mobile radar units from Israel but the majority of the hardware on display was Chinese made.

Defence analysts say China’s support – both diplomatically and in terms of arms sales – played a key role in Sri Lanka’s ability to secure a military victory over Tamil Tigers after many western countries stopped selling weapons to Colombo, citing concerns over human rights abuses.

But one of the main reasons China threw its weight behind Colombo’s war is located at the southern tip of the teardrop shaped island. It is here, near the sleepy fishing town of Hambantota, that China is constructing a US$1 billion deep water port that will provide docking and refuelling facilities for the thousands of ships that ferry oil and raw materials from Africa and the Gulf though the Indian Ocean to China every year.

The deal to lease the land to China was signed in March 2007, shortly after Sri Lanka announced its push to recapture the Tiger-held territory. Between then and now China has supplied the weapons, diplomatic support and aid Sri Lanka has needed to win the war.

(3) Other articles about the China – Sri Lanka alliance

(4)How Iran Might Beat Future Sanctions: The China Card“, Time, 16 July 2009 — China’s next new ally (no questions asked about human rights!  Excerpt:

Iran may have an ace in the hole as Western governments weigh sanctions in response to the often violent crackdown on opposition demonstrators. The card Tehran is likely to play? China.

… Iran’s ties with China, which have steadily grown over the past decade, have accelerated rapidly in the past 18 months. In December 2007, the Chinese oil giant Sinopec Group signed a $70 billion deal to begin drilling in Iran’s Yadavaran field, which has estimated reserves of about 17 billion bbl. In January of this year, China’s biggest energy producer, CNPC, agreed to develop a medium-size oil field called North Azadegan — a deal worth about $2 billion. And last month, while demonstrators were fighting pitched battles with paramilitaries on Tehran’s streets, Iranian oil officials flew to Beijing to negotiate a $5 billion deal with CNPC for the newest phase of Iran’s huge South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf. Pummeled by the drop in world oil prices from $147 per bbl. last July to about $64 per bbl. this week, “Iranians are feeling more and more of an acute need for capital,” Downs says.

And China is awash in cash. Furthermore, having invested tens of billions of dollars in Iran’s energy sector, China — a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council — looks almost certain to veto any new tough sanctions against the country. In contrast, in the U.S. and Europe, there are growing anxieties over Iran’s nuclear program as well as outrage over last month’s violence.

(5)  The String of Pearls

Abstract of “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral“, Christopher J Pehrson (Lt Colonel, USAF), Strategic Studies Institute, July 2006:

China’s rising maritime power is encountering American maritime power along the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) that connect China to vital energy resources in the Middle East and Africa. The “String of Pearls” describes the manifestation of China’s rising geopolitical influence through efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, develop special diplomatic relationships, and modernize military forces that extend from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the Arabian Gulf.

A question posed by the “String of Pearls” is the uncertainty of whether China’s growing influence is in accordance with Beijing’s stated policy of “peaceful development,” or if China one day will make a bid for regional primacy. This is a complex strategic situation that could determine the future direction of China’s relationship with the United States, as well as China’s relationship with neighbors throughout the region.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the “String of Pearls” from within the context of the post-Cold War global security environment and propose informed recommendations for U.S. policy and strategy. Substantive, results-oriented engagement supported by pragmatic military hedging is the best strategy to influence and encourage China to participate in the international community as a responsible stakeholder. Bold leadership and prudent foresight will enable the United States and China to reap the rewards of strategic cooperation and avert the calamity of a hostile confrontation.

(6)  About our defense strategy

“My, my, my! Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains.”
— Private Detective Philip Marlowe in the movie “The Big Sleep” (1946)

(a) America’s Defense Meltdown” – Written by a team of our top defense experts, it describes how America’s armed forces are manned and equipped to fight, at best, enemies that do not now—and may never again—exist and to combat real enemies ineffectively at high human and material cost.

(b) “Shock and Audit” – MoJo dissects the defense budget so you don’t have to, 30 June 2009

(7a)  Afterword

If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below. You may find answers to your questions in these.

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

(7b)  For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Some posts about America’s Grand Strategy:

  1. The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
  2. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
  3. One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
  4. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I , 19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008
  5. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II , 14 June 2008
  6. America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008  – chapter 1 in a series of notes
  7. America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
  8. America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
  9. A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief” , 8 July 2008 — chapter 6
  10. The world seen through the lens of 4GW (this gives a clearer picture) , 10 July 2008 — chapter 8
  11. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
  12. Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009

17 thoughts on “Another big step for China on its road to becoming a great power: building a “string of pearls”

  1. You are right about how China is using their money to buy friends and alliances with no strings. They basically own Africa and are moving on to Latin America. They have no time for alliances with Chavez who made Anti-American conditions as part of his deals with them. They told him “we are here to make money, not stir up trouble”.

    However, I think you are giving them a little too much credit. The Chinese have a history of corruption and overly-grandiose plans that fall flat. They lost billions rebuilding Shanghai with little thought about whether anyone actually wanted to move their. It took them over a decade to recoup their funds from that. They built a costly dam for no other reason than to build it to show they could. If you think the Chinese military isn’t spoiling for a fight with the Yanks, you’ve never spoken to a Chinese officer. In their military academies, they teach that one day, they will fight us and win. That is their gold standard to prove they have arrived. Every culture is subject to “wet dreams” and the Chinese are just as likely to have wet dreams about beating our military or economy.

    Your analogy that the US military is a communist organization is bizarre at best and insulting. It is an amateurish over generalization of our organization.

    Also, why do you think that the Chinese would loan us the money to have an arms race with them? Personally, I think we have little to gain from an arms race with them and they know it. We own their banks and they own our economy. A war would be a massive strategic blunder on both our parts. Right now, I believe the military industrial complex has a sufficient enough boogie man, terrorist, to justify their programs. Very little of my time is taken planning for China. It isn’t even on our radars.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers.

    (1) Listing China’s mistakes is absurd, as if any rapidly growing nation has not made massive errors. Such as England’s great railroad boom in the 1840’s, causing the 1847 bust — one of their worst. American history has many similar examples.

    (2) “If you think the Chinese military isn’t spoiling for a fight with the Yanks, you’ve never spoken to a Chinese officer.”

    I said no such thing. The PLA is firmly under the control of its government, and the government shows no signs of “spoiling for a fight with the Yanks.” What their junior officiers think has little import.

    (3) “Your analogy that the US military is a communist organization is bizarre at best and insulting.”

    Is that a rebuttal to this commonplace observation? Why not just cover your ears and hum loudly; it works just as well.

    (4) “why do you think that the Chinese would loan us the money to have an arms race with them?”

    An oddly phrased question. The Chinese have in effect loaned us the money for our defense spending. We can only guess at the reasons why, Certainly they would not have done so if they found our military threatening.

    (5) “”We own their banks and they own our economy.”

    Nonsense on both counts. Foreigners have only minority ownership of Chinese banks, and US investors are only a fraction of that minority. Foreign ownership of US companies is substantial, but hardly a majority. Chinese ownership of US companies is tiny, almost insignificant.

    (4) “Very little of my time is taken planning for China.”

    Our military spends a great deal of time planning for war with China, and typically lists it as a major threat and reason for increased funding.

  2. If you insist on a fully flesh out rebuttal to your incendiary statement as to the U.S. military, I would be happy to provide one, Fabius.

    Communism, according to wikipeidia, is a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general. It is an economic philosophy, as distinct from capitalism, thus it does not apply to any military per se. U.S. military culture is strongly antipathetical to communis, so to say that the U.S. military “holds tightly to communist doctrine” is absurd on its face. The military is rigidly hierarchical, unlike communism. Soldiers in the military, though primarily motivated by patriotism, are also motivated by pecuniary interests, unlike communism. Monetary compensation is a major part of military recruitment policy in the U.S., as it should be. I think you may not realize who many military people you are going to offend with such a blithe statement.

    Truthfully, though, you haven’t even got the right to insist on a rebuttal, Fabius Maximus. When making such an outlandish claim as you have, even by way of analogy, the burden is on you to show how it is accurate. The fact that you haven’t betrays a superficial and simplistic understanding.

  3. Re: common place observation.
    perhaps in the liberal circles you travel in it is common place. i’ve never heard the comparison and your rebuttal is childish and insufficient. do you have a cite for this “common place” opinion?

    Re: i said no such thing
    nope. you didn’t. my point was that it isn’t just us planning for war against each other and the ominous tone you used isolated the US as the belligerent in only telling half the story. it took a tone of “those poor commies being picked on by big bad america “dreaming” of war”. it’s statements like this that make me not take you seriously.

    Re: owning the banks.. do you call 1.4 trillion dollars minor ownership? that is the amount that we owe the chinese banks based on a 2007 report. I’m sure it is much higher now.

    Re: the “oddly phrased” question. it is not oddly phrased. it is simple and straight forward. if, as you suppose, we are in an arms race with china, why “would” they give us the money to continue it. the race is far from over as you can tell from any reports about how china is fielding systems to take away our naval advantage in their littoral area.

    Re: planning for china:
    if you were to poll every planner in the military and ask them “in the past year, how many plans did you make concerning china?” the overwhelming majority of them would tell you “none”. a minority of planners at the pentagon and the south pacific do that. so “a great deal of time” is a very subjective interpretation on your part.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Two points.

    ” do you call 1.4 trillion dollars minor ownership?”

    No, it’s not “ownership”. It is debt (for China, mostly some form of US government debt). If you owe money to the bank, they do not “own” you (no matter how it feels). Equity interests — like stocks, or a partnership — represent ownership.

    “is the amount that we owe the chinese banks based on a 2007 report.”

    No. Chinese banks own little US debt. They hold Chinese government debt, as our banks own US treasuries. The Chinese government owns almost $2 trillion in US debt in their foreign exchange reserves (which includes China, Hong Kong, and Macao). The Peoples Bank of China is an agency of their government, not a bank (central banks are called this for historical and marketing reasons, but are in fact usually government agencies).

    Re: planning for China’

    Look at any of the DoD global planning documents. China has a high profile in most of them, esp the Navy and Air Force docs. As to the hours spent on China as % of total by DoD planners, I don’t know that — and neither do you, I suspect.

  4. “The Chinese have in effect loaned us the money for our defense spending. We can only guess at the reasons why, Certainly they would not have done so if they found our military threatening.” <– This is just silly.

    The problem of an arms race isn't so much between the US and China, nor a dream of US military planners, but rather between India, Russia, Japan, and China (and perhaps Vietnam and South Korea). (Making friends with Sri Lanka is nice, and perhaps China wants a base there, but I'm pretty sure that would truly raise hackles in New Delhi.)

    The notion that the infrastructure deals done in Africa come with zero strings attached is also pure nonsense. China is pretty popular there, but hardly as popular as the US–which saves hundreds of millions of people there pretty much annually.

    Yes, Iran has, since the Revolution, developed ties with China–indeed their original oil sales were conducted mostly in exchange for arms–but recent events show pretty clearly that the Iranian public will be structurally uncomfortable with set policy in Beijing.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Who believes that China’s infrastructure deals “come with zero strings attached”? Rather they are strong ties done on an above-board basis, which both sides find of value. Without bases and military forces in Africa, China can hardly exploit those nations. That’s the wonderful nature of commercial alliances.

    “the Iranian public will be structurally uncomfortable with set policy in Beijing.”

    What does that sentence mean?

  5. I cannot resist an unprecedented (and almost certainly never to be repeated) opportunity to agree with Major Scarlet. Fabius, what kind of claim did you make when you wrote that the U.S. military is “structurally” a “Communist Organization”? I frankly find it difficult to understand this assertion, given any imaginable ideological predilections. Do you mean that the U.S.A. espouses Communist dogma, that it dreams of bringing about a world in which all things are held in common, and each is given according to his needs, and asked to give according to his abilities? No, surely not—you are a reasonable person, and no reasonable person could think this.

    Perhaps you meant that the U.S.A. is in some way organized like one of the Communist parties of the past? Your adjective “structural” suggests this. I suppose that both types of organizations are hierarchical…but then the company I work for is hierarchical too, and I don’t think one can possibly mistake the Company officers for Communists, whatever sort of bad people they may be. Nor does the U.S.A. seem to have the cell structure that marked underground Communist parties; the U.S.A. is notorious for the job security it provides for its high officials; Communist parties—at least of the Stalinist variety—encouraged frequent turnover by liquidating its members randomly.

    The best I can do for you, Fabius, is to suppose that you meant to draw some sort of analogy. You think that the U.S.A. is, in some ways, like a Communist organization. One can’t refute an analogy, of course. Analogies aren’t true or false, they are bad or good, they may be judged fitting or inappropriate. So it’s appropriate to ask, in what ways is the U.S.A. like the Communist party (or some communist party)?

    It seems to me that far from being a “commonplace” observation, this is a most puzzling remark that you have made, and it requires elaboration on your part—if indeed you intended to make an important point. I might as well say that the U.S.A. is “structurally like the Catholic Church”. In fact, I think that would be a better analogy. Not a good one…but better.

  6. I find it funny that every time people look at China, people tend to think of Mao, without realizing that it is Deng Xiaoping that shaped China into the great power we are looking at today. To sum up China’s grand strategy, I’ll use Deng’s two quotes:

    * “Keep a cool head and maintain a low profile, … Never take the lead – but aim to do something big.”
    * “Wading across a river by feeling the rocks.”

    Translation: a strategy based strictly on profitablity and pragmatism. Thus there are few assumptions about China’s grand strategy we have to look more closly beforing jumping into conclusions.

    Assumption 1: the current Chinese arm build up is directed to challenge US directly…if they are trying that, how come it is the Chinese South Sea Fleet – the fleet that have the job to fight India – get the most of the new hardwares, fundings, and trainings? In fact, China is more worried about shippings in Persian Gulf than US Seventh Fleet speaks in volumes about what the Chinese arm build up is aimed for.

    Assumption 2: China want to invade Taiwan and attack US fleet in the future…then why do they even bother to offer the “One Country, Two System” to Taiwan if that is the case? By looking at Hong Kong, “One Country, Two System” in roughly means Beijing just want to collect taxes and establish a naval base on Taiwan…a full blown invasion would just destory that possbility, and a missile strike/economic war would achieve the same result with less cost.

    Assumption 3: China lending money for US to fund her defence budget… while the connection is there, I don’t believe China actually cared whether the money is going to the US arm forces or social programs. In fact, my guess is that they expect the money to flow back in the forms of payment for their cheap exports. By my understanding China want to establish a client/patron relationship with US. After all, from debtor’s point of view, for someone who owns 1.7 trillion dolloars, respects has to be shown and favors are expected.

    My conclusion is that China does not want to “destory” US on its quest to superpower (if they do, they will be like Kim trying to nuke Washington). They got bigger problems to worried about, like Falong Gong, India, Africa and North Korea. Besides, the Chinese leadership believe they have the US (and now Taiwan) in their pockets, they don’t even cared what everyone else is thinking.

  7. Man, have none of you heard the phrase, ‘we are here to defend democracy, not practice it?’ Perhaps communist was too harsh a phrase, I would more likely brand the military as a socialist organization. I took a military affairs class in college, even the Col. said it was a socialist organization!

    And socialist it must be. Unless you believe it could function with each company, platoon, even soldier pursuing its own agenda. In other words, “the idiots might vote not to make a drop!”

    Frankly I welcome China becoming a regional hegemon. We should be spending more time protecting our own regional interests instead of fretting on the happenings on the other side of the planet.

  8. “instead of fretting on the happenings on the other side of the planet.”

    Happenings on the other side of the planet affect most shoppers in the United States of America. Without China, Wal-Mart would be nothing. There is no way Wal-Mart’s current business model could survive without Chinese goods.

  9. The “DoD as a communinist state” seems to have received considerable attention. Although the answer is a commonplace sophomore-level social science discussion, that it needs to be said at all is interesting — and tells us something about American thinking.

    I will write something on this later this week.

  10. The US military is probably the largest command economy on the planet. The congress decides it wants to spend money on projects and then does so, without regard to profit. The money is also often spent without regard for realistic application to national security, either, unfortunately. Take, for instance, this little Rube Goldberg Device* (Link to description of Strategic Defense Initiative), which has devoured well over a hundred billion dollars since its inception in the 1980s. Despite the amount of money spent, SDI has not yet produced a practically useful system.

    * Rube Goldberg Device

  11. atheist,
    you are confusing cause and effect. if congress earmarks money for pet projects in their district and then funds the military, the military is just a conduit. we don’t have any say over where the money goes. yes, the military has a tough time figuring out what future needs will be and tends to get wrapped around the “technology” axel. i fail to see how a belief in the “revolution in military afffairs” translates into “the military is a socialist organization”. in fact, we are taking a hard look at the “cold warrior systems” and embracing a more COIN centric technology fielding. also, i’ve been in the Army 22 years and no.. i’ve never heard the phrase you mentioned. while we are a hierarchical organization, there are standards of behavior up and down the chain. our leaders can be relieved of command for creating a bad “command climate” and there are regulations that are designed to protect subordinates from abuses of poor leaders. you won’t find anything like that in a communist system. i expect anyone that thinks as you do to have a complete misunderstanding of military culture and rules.

    FM… i think many of us here await your post especially because you are going to bring us up to the “sophomore-level” of social science debate. so far, you have offered nothing in defense of your theory except snide remarks insulting your readers intelligence which says more about you than it does us.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: First, perhaps I’m awaiting your acknowledgment of my factual corrections to your comments. As a stand-up person, I am sure you will do so. (Your many previous failures to do so must be oversights)

    Second, my statement was precise and technically correct. That military organizations are organized along communist principles is a standard sophomore-level discussion in sociology and political science. There is nothing “snide” in pointing this out. (BTW, the distinction you misunderstood between equity (ownership) and debt (loans) is *freshman* level material in business courses. These things are of course rough aproximations, as curriculums are not standardized in US colleges)

    Third, the similarities are so obvious they should not need listing for anyone familar with both communiist states and military organizations. Authoritarian organization, minimal internal use of market mechanisms, government provision of all essential services, bureaucratic decision-making — its a long list. What’s interesting is that these things apprear invisible to you.

    Fourth, even more interesting, is that you find this so offensive. These similarities mean nothing in themselves. The traditional family structure, inherited from our roots in both Israel and Greece, is a patriarchial tyranny. Just because our troops fought fascism in Europe, they did not return home to have the wife and kids vote on all decisions. “Organic” organizations — such as our bodies, tribes, families, armies — have characteristics different than capitalistic economies with democratic political regimes. So what?

  12. Major Scarlet in #12

    the military is just a conduit. we don’t have any say over where the money goes. yes, the military has a tough time figuring out what future needs will be and tends to get wrapped around the “technology” axel. …

    … while we are a hierarchical organization, there are standards of behavior up and down the chain. our leaders can be relieved of command for creating a bad “command climate” and there are regulations that are designed to protect subordinates from abuses of poor leaders. you won’t find anything like that in a communist system.

    Major Scarlet, I understand that you feel insulted by the structural comparison of the US Military to a communist system. You point out that US military leaders can be relieved of command if they abuse subordinates. It seems to me there were/are checks like that in communist systems as well.

    I am sorry if I blamed the military for something that is not really its fault. It is true that the military is often just a conduit for a congressman to put some industry in his/her district. As a long-time member of the Army you see it from a closer, more detailed point-of-view, so thanks for making that point. I only see the macro-view, that the US spends enormously on military (Link: breakdown of how $5000 of federal income taxes are spent, National Priorities Project). If the military is taking a hard look at Cold War systems, then that’s great.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You are being far to generous to an absurd comment.

    Major S: “the military is just a conduit. we don’t have any say over where the money goes.”

    Bizarrely false. While the military does not have final say where the money goes, they devote considerable resources to ensure the flow of funds for their key projects. Massive lobbeying and PR programs, careful political calcuations, and large assistance from defense contractors. Many organizations, such as the Center for Defense Information, have documented this process in detail.

  13. atheist,
    as an end user, i have little faith in our higher ups getting procurement right. richard martz wrote a piece a while back in which he touched on just how poorly we procure things.
    imo, we are making mistakes now by procuring too many COIN related weapons systems and it is leaving us vulnerable to high intensity conflict. Sec Gates “balance strategy” looks great on paper but I will be shocked if it is successful.

    FM…
    i was part of an Army sponsored China research project that was presented to the State Department. In my project, i was in charge of researching the economic equation of our engagement with china. I finally remembered one source i read (“Meddling in the Markets: Foreign Manipulation“, FELIX K. CHANG and JONATHAN GOLDMAN, Parameters, Spring 2008). According to Mr. Chang:

    “So, Chinese leaders believe that they have little flexibility on this issue. Even though China has markedly improved its military capabilities in the last two decades, its leaders recognize that, should any dispute result in open conflict, winning a military struggle against the United States — Taiwan’s principal protector — would be difficult. A more logical way for China to improve its odds would be to pressure Washington by means of financial and commodity market manipulation. Such an asymmetric tactic would strain the will of the American public and potentially sow confusion in Washington, allowing Beijing to gain a diplomatic or possible military advantage.”

    now, in that context, you see china’s plan unfold and it is part of the issue that i mentioned earlier. as you normally do, you attacked my question without answering it. there are many similar studies that have been done that reach the same conclusion. china is attempting to control our government by controlling (having a very large vote in) our markets. are we their puppets? no. but we are rapidly reaching the point that they have influence over our lust and need for cash.

    also, when i said you are giving them too much credit.. add this to your context. one thing that helps china is the fact that they aren’t america and they have lots of cash to spend. cash starved countries make deals with them so the chinese economy is seeing rapid growth. however, many of these countries have never dealt with china and have had no long term relations with them. when china starts being china with them, they may regret the day they made those deals. many already have. china doesn’t have a history of going away quietly once they establish a position in a country (based on asian history of course). whether this is long term or short term growth it is much to early to tell.

    besides all that… “china” itself may collapse from within. according to the US national strategy on china (2005?) there were over 50,000 protest inside china that year. protest have grown every year. as we are witnessing in iran, it is much more difficult to keep a lid on news reports and video. china, as it exists today, may not exists in 20 years.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You attempt to support your theories with incorrect statements. Then you present additional unsupported statements, which are difficult to take seriously given your previous erroroneous statements. I find this boring, but will go another round.

    This Parameters article is evidence of my primary point, another of DoD’s efforts to portray China as a threat. The article is absurd on many levels.

    * To destabilize the US dollar China need not resort to manipulation. They can just stop buying US debt. In fact, they could just announce that they were slowing purchases of US debt. Since they own mostly short-term securities, they could just let them mature — and not buy more. None of this would be improper or manimulative.

    * They have not done so for 2 reasons. First, they buy US debt to maintain a low value of their currency (mercantilist policies). Stop buying US debt and the RMB would rise in value, eliminating much of their competitive advantage — not good for an export-led economy. Second, they would lose a lot of money if they torpedoed the US dollar. A 20% loss on their fx reserves would equal 10% of GDP.

    “now, in that context, you see china’s plan unfold”

    You cite no evidence that China has such a plan, no evidence of China doing anything untowards.

    “there are many similar studies that have been done that reach the same conclusion.”

    Can you cite any study by actual financial experts or economists (not geopol gurus)? I have not seen any.

    “china is attempting to control our government by controlling (having a very large vote in) our markets.”

    I doubt you can provide any supporting evidence for this. China is a major player in the global economy, and as such naturally effects markets. But your statement is IMO absurd, and without factual support.

    “A more logical way for China to improve its odds would be to pressure Washington by means of financial and commodity market manipulation”

    This is obvious, although poorly stated (“manipulation” is not an accurate word in this context). While their debt holdings are somewhat like an atomic bomb (difficult to use effectively), China can use them to pressure the US (power goes to creditors, not debtors). For more on this see Words to fear in the 21st century: Lǎo hǔ, lǎo hǔ, Lǎo hǔ.

  14. The point that the military is structurally similar to a real-world communist government, with rigid top-down command structures, universal indoctrination, rejection of individual freedoms for the collective good, central planning, etc, gets thing backwards. It is not the military that copies communism (or fascism), it is fascism or communism that copies the military.

    The point is as insipid as it is incendiary. Cheers!
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree that this is a trivial observation (the reaction to it is interesting, however). It was a throw-away point in the post, to note the irony of our military (with a communist structure, following Mao’s dictum about power) eager for a war with a no-longer communist China (using capitalist means to build geopol power).

    Which copies which is a moot question, as both military structures and communist social organizations have roots deep in human history.

  15. This back and forth on the claim that the U.S. Army is a “communist organization” is a nice paradigm of blog discussions in general. My impression is that the comment was originally made off-the-cuff, and that he who made it had given little thought to what the comment was supposed to mean, though he was probably aware of its incendiary nature. Upon receiving fire for the comment, the commentator assumed the natural defensive stance: the proposition in question is simply obvious, it is common fodder for the lower echelons of academe, anyone who doesn’t just see it is a dunce, etc.
    I’m sympathetic to the commentator because I have done the same thing many times myself in various internet fora. For example, I was once involved in a highly offensive public name-calling flame war over a question of quantum mechanics, of all things—long before there was a World Wide Web or a “blog”. Worst of all, I was using my real name.
    Because of the sheer length of my experience in these matters (I won’t claim “depth”), I feel qualified to offer some advice to all who post here and in similar fora: you don’t have to be right. In fact, chances are that you are often wrong. If you say something, and then see that your point was mistaken or trivial, then you have gained a great good: you have learned. The one thing that will prevent you from ever having such an epiphany is the compulsion to fight back to the bitter end.
    Intellectual combat is one of the great thrills of life. But I do not engage in such contests only for their own sake, but primarily to obtain the highest prize of all: to be taught by my opponents. May God help me be mindful of this more often…

  16. Just as in Iraq, China looks like a bigger winner than the US in Afghanistan.

    “CNPC (Chinese energy company) close to Afghanistan oil deal”, Financial Times, 5 September 2011 — Excerpt:

    “CNPC, the Chinese energy company, is poised to win the first oilfield to be tendered in Afghanistan since the US ousted the Taliban in revenge for sheltering Osama bin Laden a decade ago.

    China’s push into Afghanistan is part of a broader drive to secure resources to fuel economic growth that has seen its state-owned companies venture into increasingly risky countries.

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