Archive for the ‘GEOPOLITICS’ Category


April 17, 2018

Fox News on April 16, 2018, published an article by US Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Heather Wilson, calling for America and her allies to strengthen their self-defense in space. Excerpts below:

America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries know it. They are developing and testing capabilities to deny us the use of space in crisis or war.

The Air Force is responsible for 90 percent of America’s military space assets and we see clearly where American interests are threatened. We are dramatically increasing our space budget this year and we are developing concepts and capabilities to deter and defeat any adversary who threatens our ability to freely operate in space.

While most Americans use space every day, few are conscious of it. It’s seamlessly woven into our lives. Air Force-operated GPS satellites give you the blue dot on your phone and provide the timing for banking, communications, and the stock exchange. One recent study showed that the Global Positioning System’s value to the U.S. economy was about $70 billion per year.

In the coming years, our military will undertake a number of steps to ensure our vital space capabilities are resilient so that our potential adversaries are deterred from attacking us. These steps include reducing the time to develop and to launch critical new satellites; creating warfighting tactics for our troops to train against satellite-jamming, laser attacks and other threats; and fielding defendable space systems and the capability to protect them.

Russia and China are developing anti-satellite capabilities that could become operational in the next few years. Our new National Defense Strategy correctly recognizes the reemergence of great power competition with China and Russia as the principal priority for the Defense Department.

There is much work to be done to ensure space continues to be open and accessible to the world and that our systems are secure from attack. It is an urgent national priority.



April 9, 2018

Washington Times on April 8, 2018, published an article on how the United States and India can work together to counter communist China’s aggressive economic and military moves across Asia. Excerpts below:

How might the United States and India, the world’s largest democracies, work more effectively together toward countering communist China’s increasingly aggressive economic and military moves across Asia?

That question loomed over a private, in-depth diplomatic conference this weekend on the future of U.S.-Indian relations.

The second annual U.S.-India forum played out under strict, off-the-record rules on reporting comments to foster what organizers said they hoped would be the most honest dialogue between high-level current and former officials and others from both countries.

But several in attendance spoke openly on the sidelines with The Washington Times about a China-inspired urgency for increased U.S.-Indian military ties and a more robust democracy- and capitalism-driven development and foreign investment plan to counter Beijing’s surging regional influence.

The Trump administration sent Alice G. Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, among others. Ms. Wells voiced concern about China’s fast-moving One Belt One Road initiative, through which Beijing pumps cash into infrastructure projects to buy access to resources around the region.

Ms. Wells told The Times that the initiative — laden with billions of dollars worth of China-funded projects in countries on every side of India, from Sri Lanka to Nepal to Pakistan — “lacks transparency and sustainability” and is saddling those nations with “predatory debt.”

But for all of our concerns about One Belt One Road, we have to have a positive vision,” she said.

“India and the United States and Japan and Australia and others have to stand for something, and we have to be able to provide countries with alternatives, options and sensible financing that meets the highest standards,” she said.

Ms. Wells and others stressed that President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi see eye to eye on the matter.

Several at this weekend’s conference told The Times that the U.S. and India need to get serious about expanding their military-to-military alliance to make clear who controls the Indo-Pacific.

“China’s activities create a large amount of impetus for a more focused and more action-oriented India and U.S. navy-to-navy, maritime-to-maritime, country-to-country engagement,” former Indian Vice Adm. Pradeep Chauhan told The Times.

Nitin Pai, co-founder of an Indian think tank on international policy, went further, telling The Times that there is “no choice. We’ve got to be able to manage China’s increasing influence in the Indian Ocean region, including the military aspect of it.”

In Mr. Pai’s mind, a dangerous military strategy undergirds Beijing’s expanding investment in regional seaports, though China presents the investment as purely economic and benevolent.

He argued that India should more deeply engage in operations beyond the Indian Ocean — more toward Chinese-claimed waters near East Asia — through joint exercises with the U.S. and others, including Japan, Australia, South Korea and Vietnam.

“India should be sending its naval forces east of Singapore so that we play an active role in the balance of power in the Western Pacific,” he said. “In my view, we have no choice but to do this.”

Many say Mr. Trump’s popularity here stems from his recent halt on all nonessential U.S. aid to India’s rival, Pakistan. But Mr. Mehta told The Times that Indians were excited about the U.S. president before he cut aid to Pakistan.

Rajan Navani, who manages an organization pushing digital-sector international trade for India, [said]: “It makes complete sense for India and the U.S. to align geopolitically when it comes to China.”

James Carafano, the head of national security and foreign affairs research at The Heritage Foundation, told The Times that he has “misgivings about India’s ability to think as a global power.”

“India knows it can’t live in a world where Beijing is the new London, and basically what Beijing is doing right now is an attempt to re-create the British Empire in reverse,” Mr. Carafano said. “The Indians know they can’t compete with China without technology that only the U.S. is likely to deliver, and they know that’s why they should work us.

“As for why we should work with them, look, the U.S. has to be strong in Europe, the Mideast and in Asia, simultaneously, and we just can’t do that without partners,” he said. “From a military strategic standpoint, the biggest thing we get from partnering with India is geography. It’s control of the Indian Ocean, which most of the world’s stuff travels through. We have a joint notion with India to keep it open to all, while the Chinese want to control it.”

Michael Pillsbury, the head of Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute, said: …New Delhi realized the gravity of the situation last summer during a standoff between Indian and Chinese troops along a disputed Himalayan border territory after Beijing suddenly begun building a road through the area.

“I predict more U.S. military sales to India very soon,” Mr. Pillsbury said.

Total U.S.-Indian trade continues to rise, hitting nearly $120 billion last year, and Indians are by far the top recipients of H-1B visas, which provide highly skilled, educated Indian labor to the U.S. tech sector.

At the same time, economic expansion in India, whose population of 1.3 billion is projected to soon eclipse China as the world’s largest, presents what many see as a vital growing market for U.S. companies.

Ms. Wells, meanwhile, stressed that the wider alliance known in diplomatic circles as “the Quad” — the U.S., India, Japan and Australia — is suited to grow such a framework but needs to think more creatively about how to increase private investment.

“How do we tap our private sectors, which is a huge asset that we have?” said Ms. Wells. “[We must] work with our private sectors through trade development authority and feasibility studies and provide the private sectors with the information they need to be able to tap into what is a huge demand for infrastructure in this region.”


April 8, 2018

”The Return of Marco Polo’s World and the U.S. Military Response” is an essay by journalist turned geopolitical author Robert D. Kaplan. It was published by the Center of New American Strategy (CNAS) in 2018 being originally a paper by Kaplan for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA). Kaplan (b. 1952) is a senior fellow of CNAS and advises the Eurasia Group. He is a member of the U.S. Navy’s Executive Panel. In March 2018 Kaplan published the book ”The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy and American Interests in the Twenty-first Century”.

Geography matters and Kaplan has defended this view in a number of books (he has published eighteen in all). More and more foreign policy is a matter of what is happening in Eurasia. It is the old Eurasian Question. The Eurasian supercontinent is home to old and now rising empires – the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian. The existing crisis from Eastern Europe to the Chinese modern empire challenging the West is interlinked and turning into one singular battlespace.

It is however not only a question of empires but of civilizations. As a string of pearls they are from east to west the Chinese, the Indian, the Babylonian, the Egyptian and Western civilizations. The presently leading civilization, Western civilization’s roots, go back to the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome but also Jerusalem. One could argue that NATO actually is a cultural phenomenon based on the idea of protecting the West. The Atlantic is however not any longer the central battlespace, It is Eurasia.

It is time, in this connection, to go back to the geographer Sir Halford Mackinder. His view that whoever controls the world island (Eurasia and Africa) controls the world. (for more on Mackinders views on this subject see Halford J. Mackinder, ”Democratic Ideals and Reality”, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1919, National Defense University edition 1942), pp. 45–49) is once more central in grand strategy.

When thinking in global strategic terms the American admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan focused on sea power as an answer to empires rising in Eurasia. The American geopolitician Francis P. Sempa in an article in The Diplomat (”The Geopolitical Vision of Alfred Thayer Mahan”, December 30, 2014) wrote:

Mahan also grasped as early as 1901 the fundamental geopolitical realities of the Cold War that emerged from the ashes of the first two world wars. In The Problem of Asia, Mahan urged statesmen to “glance at the map” of Asia and note “the vast, uninterrupted mass of the Russian Empire, stretching without a break . . . from the meridian of western Asia Minor, until to the eastward it overpasses that of Japan.” He envisioned an expansionist Russia needing to be contained by an alliance of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, which is precisely what happened between 1945 and 1991.

Similarly, in The Problem of Asia, Mahan depicted a future struggle for power in the area of central Asia he called the “debatable and debated ground,” and identified the “immense latent force” of China as a potential geopolitical rival. “[I]t is scarcely desirable,” Mahan wrote, “that so vast a proportion of mankind as the Chinese constitute should be animated by but one spirit and moved as a single man.” Mahan knew that Western science and technology would at some point be globalized and wrote that under such circumstances “it is difficult to contemplate with equanimity such a vast mass as the four hundred millions of China concentrated into one effective political organization, equipped with modern appliances, and cooped within a territory already narrow for it.”

In geopolitical theory the United States is a large island and a maritime power. The mission is to defend free trading. Like the British Empire America is protecting the global commons. It supports free enterprise and democracy. This strategy is supported by allied Indo-Pacific nations because the United States has no territorial ambitions in that region.

So what is the United States protecting around Eurasia? Mainly it is the navigable rimland of Eurasia (rimland being a term used by American geopolitician Nicholas Spykman for the coasts along the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean). In addition to a strong navy the United States needs strategic strongpoints where supplies can be pre-positioned and long strikes conducted (Oman, Diego Garcia, India, and Singapore. Land strategy is secondary and would follow from air and naval strategy.

Kaplan’s focus is on the dominating importance of geography in the complexity on the modern foreign policy stage. In addition it is of importance to use classical geopolitics as a theoretical model for grand strategy. Geopolitical analysis should be central to the study of international relations, foreign policy, and strategy. This view is expressed by American geopolitician Phil Kelly in his book ”Classical Geopolitics – A New Analytical Model” (2016).

To create better understanding of classical geopolitics Kelly recommends that by a serious study of the subject the distorted image of the science could be erased. It is necessary then to legitimize the study of geopolitics. Also it is important to emphasize the classical over the critical, postmodern geopolitics, the latter being a distortion and dominated by leftist political ideas. Furthermore classical geopolitics should be separated from the theory of realism in international relations. Also an appropriate geopolitics definition should be agreed upon. Kelly’s own definition is that geopolitics is the study of the impact or influence of certain geographic features – positions and location of regions, states and resources, in addition to topography, climate, distance, demography, states’ shape and size – as these may condition states’ foreign policies and actions as an aid to statecraft. Accordingly, this study lends itself both to theory and to policy.” (Kelly, pp. 168-169).

Finally Kelly calls for a university to initiate study and research in the field of geopolitics with the addition of a professional journal focused on research and information related to the classical version of geopolitics. Some connection with foreign ministries could lend support as well.

Both Kaplan and Kelly have in the passed few years contributed greatly to the revival of classical geopolitical thinking. Their contributions have helped in understanding why the three empires of China, Russia and Iran/Persia on the world island are the main challengers to the West.


April 7, 2018

The Korea Times on February 25, 2018 reported on Hanwha Systems and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) will carry out studies on technologies for future battlefields. Excerpts below:

Hanwha Systems, the country’s leading defense business, and state-run science research university Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have launched a project to co-develop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to be applied to military weapons, joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms.

The two parties recently opened a joint research center at KAIST, where researchers from the university and Hanwha will carry out various studies into how technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be utilized on future battlefields.

Twenty-five researchers from KAIST will participate in the center, while the defense arm of Hanwha Group will dispatch its researchers in accordance with subjects of research, according to a PR official from the firm.

AI arms, which would search for and eliminate targets without human control, are called the third revolution in the battleground after gunpowder and nuclear weapons.

Such weapons would include an AI-based missile that can control its speed and altitude on its own and detect an enemy radar fence in real time while in flight. AI-equipped unmanned submarines and armed quadcopters would also be among autonomous arms.

The Hanwha official said the joint research center will focus on four tasks by priority _ developing an AI-based command system, an AI algorithm for an unmanned sub’s navigation, an AI-based aviation training system and an AI-based object-tracking technique.

Chang Si-kweon, CEO of Hanwha Systems, said his company is well-prepared to lead the development of defense technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, based on its advanced skills and achievements it has made so far in the area of defense electronics.

“We will make our full efforts and keenly cooperate with KAIST to provide innovative AI technologies to our customers,” he said. “We will also work to secure technology competitiveness in global markets.”

Major countries such as the United States and Russia have already been in competition to develop AI weapons.

Washington has reportedly applied AI features to its new, long-range anti-ship missiles that will replace the Harpoon. For its part, the Pentagon is increasingly testing experimental AI technologies from drone swarms and ground robots to naval ships.

Advocates for AI weapons say such arms can help reduce defense costs and casualties in warfare.

Washington’s development of robots for military use is taking place based on the concept of intelligence augmentation (IA), not AI. This also reflects the position that humans should make the final decision, while robots are used to conduct reconnaissance missions or dispose of explosives.

Fred Kennedy, deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office, the Pentagon’s research arm, has made clear the Pentagon’s goal, saying, “Autonomy is going to be our asymmetric approach to how we fight,” according to

Comment: The reported research development will strengthen South Korean efforts in defense against North Korean aggression. United States and Western allies should support advances in South Korean and Japanese in the military technological field. For years there has been a growing similarity between North Korean and Chinese aggressive military activities in East Asia and the situation in Europe in the 1930s. For too long West European politicians allowed Nazi German expansion hoping that war could be avoided. Appeasement resulted in a destructive Second World War. It is now time for a stronger Western response to the rise of China and the nuclear threats of North Korea.


April 6, 2018

On January 9, 2018, leading American geopolitical expert Francis P. Sempa in RealClear Defense argued that geopolitics ought to play a greater role in US National Security Strategies. Excerpts below:

What is crucial is that the nation’s foreign and defense policies be rooted in an appreciation and understanding of classical geopolitics. This means that U.S. policymakers should have a knowledge of history in its geographical settings and a familiarity with the works of the greatest geopolitical scholars: Alfred Thayer Mahan, Halford Mackinder, and Nicholas Spykman.

Alfred Thayer Mahan graduated from the Naval Academy in 1859, served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War, and ended up teaching at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, between the 1880s and his death in 1914. He authored 20 books and hundreds of articles on history and naval strategy. He achieved world renown for his book “The Influence of Sea Power upon History” (1890).

His most important geopolitical work was “The Problem of Asia” (1901), but his geopolitical insights can also be found in “The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire” (1892), “The Interest of America in International Conditions” (1910), and “Naval Strategy” (1911).

Mahan understood that the United States was effectively an island or insular continental power with no potential peer competitor in the Western Hemisphere but with several such potential competitors in the Eastern Hemisphere. Because the U.S. was separated from the Old World by two great oceans, sea power was essential to its national security.

Mahan viewed the United States as the geopolitical successor to the British Empire. He studied how insular Britain repeatedly used its sea power and economic might to support coalitions of powers on the Eurasian landmass against potential continental hegemons such as the Austrian-Spanish Hapsburgs, Louis XIV’s France, and Napoleon’s empire.

Halford Mackinder was a British geographer, lecturer, and statesman who wrote three of the most important and influential geopolitical analyses between 1904 and 1943. The first, “The Geographical Pivot of History” (1904), was an address to the Royal Geographical Society in London, which later appeared in the Geographical Journal. The second, “Democratic Ideals and Reality” (1919), was written immediately after the end of the First World War and urged the statesmen of the world to construct a peace based on geopolitical realities rather than utopian ideals. The third, “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace,” appeared in Foreign Affairsin 1943 in the midst of the Second World War.

His geopolitical map of the world consisted of the Eurasian-African continent that he called the “World-Island,” because it potentially combined insularity with unmatched population and resources; the surrounding islands, including North America, South America, Great Britain, Japan, Australia and lesser islands; and the world ocean.

The Eurasian landmass or “great continent,” contained most of the world’s people and resources. The “pivot state” or “Heartland” of Eurasia was the inner core region stretching east-to-west from the Lena River in Siberia to the edge of Eastern Europe between the Black and Caspian Seas and north-to-south from just below the arctic circle to Inner Mongolia and the northern Central Asian republics. The Eurasian Heartland was geographically impenetrable to sea power but suitable for mobile land power.

Abutting the Heartland or pivot state on the Eurasian landmass, according to Mackinder, was a vast crescent-shaped region or coastland, which included Western Europe, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, India, China, and the continental nations of the Far East, all of which was accessible to sea power.

Mackinder rounded-out his map with an outer or insular crescent of powers, which included Britain, Japan, Africa south of the Sahara Desert, Australia, Indonesia, North America, and South America.

In 1919, he colorfully suggested that some “airy cherub” should whisper into the ear of Western statesmen: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: Who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

In 1943, Mackinder suggested that a Heartland-based power could be contained by a coalition of powers based in the “Midland Ocean,” which included the United States and Canada, Great Britain, and the nations of Western Europe, a remarkable and prescient description of the NATO coalition that formed six years later in response to a Heartland-based Soviet empire’s expansionist policies. In this latter paper, Mackinder hoped for a “balanced globe of human beings, [a]nd happy because balanced and thus free.”

Nicholas Spykman taught international relations at Yale University in the 1930s and 1940s. He wrote two geopolitical masterpieces, “America’s Strategy in World Politics” (1942) and “The Geography of the Peace” (1944), that latter of which was published posthumously. Spykman accepted the geopolitical division of the world as described by Mackinder, but differed with Mackinder about the power potential of the world’s regions.

For Spykman, the world’s most powerful region was not the landlocked Heartland, but the crescent-shaped area bordering the Heartland that he renamed the “Rimland.” In “The Geography of the Peace”, he issued a counter-dictum: “Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia, who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world.”

Spykman nevertheless agreed with Mackinder that the postwar struggle would potentially pit a Heartland-based Russia against the maritime power of the United States for control of the Rimland, and so it turned out to be. Spykman even foresaw that China would one day be a “continental power of huge dimensions,” and her size, geographic position, natural resources and population would force the United States into an alliance with Japan to preserve the Asian balance of power.

Indeed, Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman all understood that China’s geographical position, resources, immense population, and access to the sea made her potentially a formidable power on the Eurasian landmass. All three scholars understood that American and Western national security depended on the political pluralism of Eurasia—what Mackinder called a “balanced globe of human beings.”

President Trump’s first formal National Security Strategy speaks of the need to preserve a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East, which roughly approximates Spykman’s Rimland. It recognizes that the two most likely global competitors of the United States are China and Russia, both continental-sized powers situated in or near Mackinder’s Heartland. It expresses the need for greater investment in naval power in order to maintain and increase our access to allies and bases on the Eurasian landmass, consistent with the teachings of Mahan. In these ways, it reflects an understanding of classical geopolitics.

History and experience always trump theory…An understanding of classical geopolitics will not enable U.S. policymakers to shape the world to their liking, but it may enable them to, in Bismarck’s words, “float with and steer” the “current of events.” The best we can and should hope for is a prudent National Security Strategy that seeks geopolitical balance based on the political pluralism of Eurasia.

American Francis P. Sempa is the author of “Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21stCentury”, “America’s Global Role: Essays and Reviews on National Security, Geopolitics and War”,…. He has written lengthy introductions to two of Mahan’s books, and has written on historical and foreign policy topics for [various journals and magazines]. He is an attorney, an adjunct professor of political science at Wilkes University…

Comment: Sempa is correct in his view that classical geopolitics should be the basis of US national strategy. Varldsinbordeskriget has since 2009 numerous times pointed out the importance of meeting the challenge of China, Russia and Iran/Persia poses to the United States and the rest of the West. These totalitarian and authoritarian empires are based on Mackinder’s World Island. If they combine the challenge would be even graver. From time to time Russia and China declare that they will cooperate to challenge American influence. At present it seems as if Russia, Iran/Persia and Turkey is forming an alliance to guide the future of Syria. Sempa correctly argues in his article that the Trump administration recognizes China and Russia as the two most likely comnpetitors. He should have added Iran/Persia.


April 4, 2018

Washington Times on April 3, 2018 published a commentary by Jed Babbin, a former US deputy undersecretary of defense, on a new foreign policy agenda for the United States. Excerpts below:

There are at least four policy matters that could comprise an initial agenda for Mr. John Bolton, each of which would significantly assist the president in bolstering our national security.

In August 2016 Mr. Trump,…, said, “Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”

Mr. Trump was right and strategically so. Radical Islamic terrorism is motivated by a religiously-based ideology. It can only be won by the defeat of that evil ideology.

[Mr. Bolton] will be able to assemble the best psychological warfare…to craft and commence the campaign. He will be able to guide the president and other government leaders, to play their critical roles in defeating the Islamist ideology.

The ideological fight will take many years, perhaps decades, to win but there is no prospect of defeating this enemy unless it is won.

The next big item on Mr. Bolton’s agenda should be Mr. Obama’s 2015 nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Mr. Bolton, from the outset highly critical of the deal, can be expected to press the president to do the right thing and cancel the deal in May.

[The new national security advisor] steps into his new job at an opportune moment to address a third item on his agenda. The president is supposed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the next few weeks. Mr. Bolton will be able to advise the president on the pitfalls of any proposed agreement with Mr. Kim. When the meeting ends, as it almost certainly will with no agreement other than to talk again, he will be able to convince the president to do far more than has been done to improve our defenses against ballistic missile attacks.

One of the ways to improve our ballistic missile defenses is a space-based system called “Brilliant Pebbles” first unveiled in the 1990s. It is a system of small interceptor missiles, linked to our satellite missile tracking systems, which — even with 1990s technology — would have made America almost penetration-proof against such attacks. Modern technology would make the system even more effective depriving many adversaries, not just North Korea, of a “first strike” capability.

The fourth item on Mr. Bolton’s agenda should be to recommence sending captured terrorists to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Gitmo, isolated and secure, is a place where terrorists can be interrogated at length. Such interrogations, which take place over months and even years, have proven to be a consistent source of actionable intelligence.

Under the law of war, we can hold prisoners until the conflict is over. It has never been demonstrated that Gitmo benefits terrorist recruitment, but so what if it does? Gitmo — and the fact that no prisoners are tortured there, a fact that is verified by frequent inspections by international groups — is another weapon we should use in the ideological war.

Comment: In addition to the war against terrorism the West is at present facing three major imperial challengers: China, Iran/Persia and Russia. Of Mr Babbin’s policy recommendations two deal with the war on terrorism, one with Iran and one with the threat of missile attacks by North Korea, China and Russia. The two latter recommendations are helpful in the case of the challenges the West is today facing from empires in the rimland of Eurasia and the Russian heartland.


April 3, 2018

Daily Beast on March 26, 2018 published an article by leading China expert Gordon G. Chang. Chang said that China would risk the falling apart of their economy and political system if opposing the United States. Excerpts below:

…President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from various countries, including China, pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

…he has signed a memorandum that will soon lead, pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, to the levying of tariffs on perhaps $60 billion of Chinese goods. At the same time, he directed the Treasury Department to consider the imposition of curbs on Chinese investment.

It certainly looks like a trade war is brewing. China’s Ministry of Commerce [has] announced tariffs of 15 percent and 25 percent on almost $3 billion of American products in 128 categories, retaliation for Trump’s Section 232 tariffs.

At the same time, Chinese officials have been making threats, especially promising to not buy American agricultural products or to reduce purchases of U.S. Treasury debt.

[USA holds the winning cards.] First, [China] is growing more dependent on access to the American market. In 2016, a stunning 68.0 percent of China’s overall merchandise trade surplus related to sales to the U.S. In 2017, that figure increased to 88.8 percent. Trade-surplus countries, as history shows, generally suffer more in trade wars.

Beijing, therefore, is generally vulnerable to being pushed around by Washington.

Second, the American economy is far bigger than the Chinese one. Beijing claimed gross domestic product of $12.84 trillion in 2017. America’s economy, by way of contrast, clocked in at $19.39 trillion last year.

China’s GDP numbers are surely overstated because, especially during the last two years, the country’s growth was less than half that reported by the official National Bureau of Statistics. America’s larger economy is, at the moment, in fact growing at a faster clip than China’s.

Third, the American economy, for all its faults, is stable, and China’s, by most accounts, is on the verge of a debt crisis. China’s debt-to-GDP ratio looks like it is somewhere, depending on the amount of so-called hidden debt, between 350 percent and 400 percent.

Chinese concern about the state of the economy led to extraordinary capital flight in 2015 and 2016, with net capital outflow probably reaching $2.1 trillion in the two-year period. Only the imposition of draconian capital-control measures beginning in the fall of 2016 stopped the outbound torrent of capital.

In this regard, Beijing has been, on balance, selling American Treasury obligations since the middle of 2014 in order to defend its currency, the renminbi, and this has not caused any noticeable effect on the ability of the U.S. to finance deficits.

In addition to ignoring the fundamental balance of power between China and the U.S., experts in recent days have been making specific arguments that are particularly unconvincing.

[A false argument is] when American retailers, politicians, and others contend that Trump’s tariffs will punish Americans, who have become accustomed to buying cheap goods.

Yet China, as its promoters have told us for a half-decade, is no longer the lowest-cost producer of many items. Take… [the]example of apparel. At the beginning of this century, about 90 percent of apparel sold at Walmarts was made in China. By the end of 2012, that balance between China and the rest of the world essentially reversed.

Trump’s tariffs on apparel or other items, even if they make Chinese goods more expensive or unavailable, will not result in significant cost increases beyond a month or two. Americans will soon be buying their low-cost items from other producers, which are already, if I may use the phrase, beating the pants off China.

…consumption is ultimately not the driver of growth in China. The ultimate driver remains investment. Consumption in China falls whenever Beijing reduces the flow of state-directed investment. And because of debt concerns, Chinese technocrats are losing the ability to create growth by investing.

For decades, Chinese leaders have staked their legitimacy primarily on the continual delivery of prosperity. Trump not only threatens the Chinese economy but also the Communist Party’s political system. That gives China’s leaders great incentive to hold back retaliatory moves.

Boeing executives and American soybean producers are right to be nervous [about Chinese moves], but they surely know how global markets work. If China does not buy soybeans from the American heartland and purchases them from Brazil instead, American producers will sell soy to Brazil’s customers.

There are only so many soybeans in the world at the moment, and the same principle generally holds for commercial aircraft. Airlines and leasing companies are unlikely to wait years longer because Airbus’ production has been diverted to China to fill orders that would have gone to Boeing. In most cases, Airbus customers will opt for Boeing craft to fill needs.

In short, Trump holds the high cards when it comes to China, and, unlike his predecessors, he knows it.


March 29, 2018

Washington Times on March 28, 2018 published a commentary by Lt. Colonel L. Scott Lingamfelter on the necessary shift in United States foreign policy. Excerpts below:

Mr. Trump [early on] understood the importance of Saudi Arabia in not only reshaping the Middle East but in dealing with the emerging threat Iran poses to regional and world peace. Indeed, Mr. Trump is a practitioner of realpolitik. In that regard, his selection of former Ambassador John Bolton, who adheres to that philosophy,…represents a profound fulcrum shift in the crafting and orchestration of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy agenda.

Mr. Bolton’s arrival could not be timelier. Here some context would be illustrative. Consider the diametrically opposed foreign policy views of Mr. Trump and his predecessor, Barrack Obama. President Obama drew “redlines” in Syria as a warning to Damascus to refrain from chemical warfare, a threat he failed to keep. Mr. Trump attacked the Syrian regime with 60 cruise missiles for using those chemical weapons, even while having dessert with the president of China.

Mr. Obama was caught off-guard by the rise of ISIS. Mr. Trump destroyed them mercilessly. Mr. Obama placed U.S. and world security at risk by agreeing to a horribly constructed Iranian nuclear deal. Mr. Trump is poised to abrogate it. Mr. Obama continued the legacy of effete diplomatic efforts to contain North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions. Mr. Trump is moving to end it. Mr. Trump’s practical view of the world stands in stark contrast to the disoriented approach by Mr. Obama.

Indeed, the distinction between these men is further apparent in the difference between the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) Document, the road map for achieving…vital national interests,…Under Mr. Obama, the NSS read like a community organizer’s handbook. His NSS was filled with lofty nostrums about leadership, keeping “pressure” on the war on terror (as opposed to destroying it), and of course, climate change.

…Mr. Trump has taken a decidedly realpolitik view more appropriate for the challenges before us. His strategy is based on four pillars: (1) Protect the homeland, the American people, and the American way of life, (2) Promote American prosperity, (3) Preserve peace through strength, and (4) Advance American influence.

Mr. Bolton’s clear-eyed view of the world will be additive to the president’s instincts to see things as they are, not as he would wish them to be, which is why Mr. Trump has tapped him for the job. The former U.N. ambassador knows firsthand the nature of today’s international actors — some who are quite malevolent — in the multi-polar world we live in.

Mr. Bolton will be a wise and patient counselor in helping the president realize the foreign policy objectives that are clearly articulated in his NSS.

Indeed, Mr. Bolton’s arrival is a fulcrum shift…And there is much to do. The war on terror, the nuclear threat from both North Korea and Iran, the revolution in Syria and the military ambitions of China all pose profound challenges to the vital interests of the United States. None may be more exigent than a resurgent Russia in the hands of Vladimir Putin.

Here the weight of Mr. Bolton’s expertise is precisely what is needed to help the president navigate very turbulent waters.

Comment: Lt. Colonel Lingamfelter in the article above well describes the importance of a realist view in foreign policy.

Russia in the heartland of Eurasia and China as well as Iran/Persia are the present challengers to the United States and the rest of the West.

Russia under Putin has a strong military and the Russian president has shown willingness to use that force against neighbour Ukraine.

The goal of China is to surpass the United States as world leading power and with that the risk of military aggression in the South China Sea and in the rest of the Pacific. Both China and Russia have a tradition of centralized political authority based on what Karl Wittfogel (1896 – 1988) in his important book “Oriental Despotism” described as “hydraulic bureaucratic despotism” based on irrigation in agriculture. This tradition of despotism was brought to Russia by the Tartars in the Middle Ages and continued in Czarist Russia and now under Putin’s rule.

Iran (Persia) is a classical challenger to the West. Much of the present chaos in the Middle East is a result of Iranian intervention. Like in other cultures in the area Iran accepts and even values conflict, conspiracy and war. Muslim rulers have for a long time and are still relying on psychological warfare, espionage and subversion in the search to weaken the influence of Western civilization. Iran is supporting terrorist organizations in Lebanon and Gaza and is a constant threat to mainly Israel but also the rest of the West.


March 26, 2018

On March 25, 2018, Newt Gingrich, speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, on Fox News reported on a visit to an American university. He was hosted by Dr. Kiron Skinner at Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon has a top level artificial intelligence (AI) program. Mr. Gingrich, a futurist of some note himself, wanted to learn more about technical developments that might evolve into something important in the future. Excerpts below:

…in 1965, as an undergraduate student at Emory University, I began working with Pete Jensen at what would later become the Rich Computer Center at Georgia Tech. Pete was one of the great pioneers of computing and in a few years introduced me to ideas…which evolved over the next half century into the Internet and modern computing. My own activities had been dramatically enriched by Pete’s ideas and teaching.

…(later) I had been privileged to work with Alvin and Heidi Toffler as their thinking evolved from their bestselling book, “Future Shock,” to their even more important book, “The Third Wave.” The observations and insights they developed for “The Third Wave” are still valid over three decades later. They gave me an entirely different perspective on the scale of change our civilization was going through. The Tofflers and their work were very influential in the thinking that led to the Contract with America in 1994.

Starting in 2001, I began looking at nanoscale science and technology, quantum computing and the revolution these two systems would bring about – a revolution that is still only in its infancy.

Around 2007, I began talking with oil and gas experts about the revolutionary breakthroughs in fracking, and their inevitable impact on our ability to produce oil and gas. In 2008 that led me, in collaboration with my former colleague Vince Haley and Sean Hannity, to launch “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.”

My wife Callista and I also made a documentary, “We Have the Power.”

Influenced by the growth of fracking, in 2012 I wrote the book, “$2.50 a Gallon.”

…in Pittsburgh, I saw another powerful glimmering of technologies that will change our world. The ability to develop intelligent systems that can learn and adjust is rapidly evolving. These systems will give us new capabilities and new insights in ways we have never imagined.

In a few brief hours at Carnegie Mellon, I saw a voice analysis system that could be combined with cellphone technology to enable remote medical analysis of virtually everyone on the planet. It would create an extraordinary new approach to early diagnostics and constant monitoring at an astonishingly low cost.

I watched a robotic assistant reduce the invasiveness of heart surgery so that instead of patients taking 14 days to recover, they could leave the hospital after one day.

And the potential for 3-D printing and robotics, combined with reusable rockets, will totally change how we think about space. This is just astonishing.

Artificial intelligence will displace many traditional service jobs, while also creating new jobs. The challenge will be helping adults make the transition from outdated skills to the new, higher-paying and more interesting skills made possible by artificial intelligence.

Of course, during this development, we must constantly work to improve these systems to make sure they are safe.

We must learn from and continuously work to prevent tragic accidents…

It is also clear that we have to invest heavily in artificial intelligence if we are going to maintain our competitive and national security advantages in the face of massive Chinese investment in the artificial intelligence field. We already know Chinese companies are working to build a huge fleet of self-driving vehicles. You can bet they will use and apply everything they learn in this endeavor in their military programs.

As I learn more over the next few months I will report on additional exciting new developments.

The future is going to be amazing,..There is much more to come.


March 25, 2018

Sirius XM on March 23, 2018 hosted China expert Michael Pillsbury, Hudson Institute, and author of The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (2015). Excerpts below:

Pillsbury noted that Trump praised Chinese President Xi and thanked China for its assistance with the North Korean nuclear missile crisis even as tariffs were announced, framing the situation as a “major negotiation” between friendly states with competing interests rather than an all-out “trade war.

He’s offering them some solutions that he hopes they’ll move toward,” Pillsbury said. “One of them is, they simply purchase $100 billion worth of U.S. exports.

Pillsbury found it necessary for Trump to take aggressive action to move negotiations forward because China simply has not taken American concerns seriously until now. Adding to the pressure on China is the release of a study that details “what China really has been trying to do to the United States.”

The Chinese treatment of the United States has gotten more unfair [since 2015], if I can put it that way, than was the case three years ago when I wrote my book trying to sound the alarm.

“They’re going to put enormous tariffs on American imports to China, they’re going to stop buying soybeans and sorghum and live hogs — three of our biggest products in the farm states — and so the farmers are going to be angry at President Trump, and this is all going to be terrible for world trade, because everybody sort of knows that as tariffs go up it’s a tax on all the countries involved so the world growth rate will drop.

“My own view is quite different from the critics of President Trump,” Pillsbury countered. “I think he’s on the right track and this is really a historic decision that takes the past presidents, like…Obama – [he] whined and they complained and they made speeches about Chinese unfair trade practices, but they really wouldn’t do anything about it.”

Pillsbury cautioned that many Americans retain an “out of date” image of China as poor, technologically backwards, and reluctant to provoke economic warfare with wealthier nations while so many of its people struggle with poverty.

“I wrote my book against that idea,” he said. “One of President Trump’s key advisers, who was obviously present today at the meeting with the president and has gone on television since, is a gentleman – a professor, actually, University of California Irvine in the past – named Peter Navarro. Very courageous fellow, he wrote three books blowing the whistle on Chinese unfair trade practices.”

“One of his books is called Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World. What this caused is the opening of a debate among China experts in America: are the Chinese really as friendly and poor? Often people say they will collapse soon. They sort of present a picture of China as about to collapse. While all this debate has been going on, the Chinese have doubled their economy again. They’re quite close to passing us. This is really a shock to most people. How can a poor, backward country surpass the size of the American economy? It’s just astonishing,” he said.

Pillsbury pointed to the new United States lawsuit against China in the World Trade Organization over the behavior outlined in yesterday’s report as another serious measure against Chinese trade practices, and further evidence that President Trump appreciates the scope of the problem.

“We’ve sued China before. China is the country we’ve sued the most in the World Trade Organization, but never this scale of criticism,” he noted.

The products targeted by the new tariffs and the rationale for including them will send a strong message to China. “It’s going to be examples, as this report explained today, the examples are based on a kind of reciprocity that if China has stolen intellectual property, stolen trade secrets and then made money off of it, that is the kind of product that will have the tariff placed on it. It’s kind of like a stiletto, if you will, not a sledgehammer,” he explained.

Pillsbury predicted that the Chinese will now understand Trump means business, and will make concessions to hold off further sanctions.

“I happen to think they need us more than we need them,” he said. “I don’t measure just trade. I measure all the things we’ve essentially — I hate to use this phrase — given away to China over the last 30 or more years. They still need our investment, our technology, our goodwill, our buying their products, the scientific programs we share with them – there’s an extremely long list of the benefits China gets from the United States, counting everything.”

“My own forecast is there’s not going to be a big trade war. The Chinese are quite afraid of being demonized in the United States and around Asia…I think what’s actually going to happen is we’re going to have some successful negotiations for the first time,” he said.

“The kind of stonewalling they were doing last year is going to end. They’re not going to roll over and just suddenly buy $100 billion worth of products in the month of April, but I think we will see a number of steps by the Chinese that will justify what President Trump did today in this historic decision,” he anticipated.

Pillsbury lamented that many people don’t appreciate the severity of the challenge to American interests posed by China.

“But they will when China begins to fight back, at least rhetorically,” he told Mansour. “They don’t understand…that China is wrapped up with the loss of jobs, the competition for resources in Africa and Latin America – just a whole range of competitive things we’re engaged in with the Chinese.”

Even as the Trump administration pursues what Vice President Mike Pence described yesterday as “the end of the era of economic surrender,” Pillsbury advised keeping areas of productive cooperation with China in mind, most notably North Korea.

“That’s a brilliant way to start out,” he said of President Trump’s remarks on Thursday. “He didn’t say, ‘You’re bastards, I hate you, I’m going to bring China to its knees with my memorandum today.’ He didn’t say anything like that.”

Furthermore, he noted that even the American freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea, which the Chinese frequently complain about, do not represent an aggressive challenge because the American ships follow “innocent passage” protocols, keeping their weapons radars off and avoiding military maneuvers as they cruise through the area.

“We have not challenged China in the South China Sea yet. That’s the important thing to understand. Some people think we should.

Pillsbury quoted U.S. trade representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer’s statement that in addition to imposing tariffs and blocking intellectual property theft, one of the Trump administration’s top goals is to place “restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States.”

“They blocked large sectors of their own country, and they say, ‘We will not permit foreign investment in this sector,’” Pillsbury said of the Chinese. “We’ve negotiated with them for more than ten years to try to reduce that list – it’s called the ‘negative list,’ for lack of a better phrase – and the Chinese just won’t budge.”

Pillsbury found it telling and encouraging that two days ago, with the Trump tariffs looming, Beijing for the first time signaled a willingness to open new sectors to foreign investment.

“The Chinese anticipated this, and they’re trying to deal with it calmly.

“They want to continue what I described in Hundred-Year Marathon as a kind of stealthy acquisition of the role of the Number One economy in the world.

“We need to harden our own economy against Chinese theft, Chinese investment,” Pillsbury recommended. “Sometimes it can come in a small company. They will buy a technology in a joint venture or through a small company, let’s say in Silicon Valley, that no one’s ever heard of. Back in the days when robotics and artificial intelligence wasn’t a household word, they were acquiring these high technology companies, sometimes very small.”

“So China will be not only the dominant economy in the world, which they’re well on their way to doing, but they’ll be the dominant military power in the world. Now, this isn’t in the next few months or the next few years, but this is the trend. What President Trump is doing is trying to halt that too with these restrictions on Chinese investment in our high-tech sectors,” said Pillsbury.

Comment: Opening up to China was a wise move by President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger during the Cold War. The failed policies of Democratic administrations in the United States in relation to the Soviet Union were based on the false belief that the communist society in Russia would with time become open. The same failed policies have been dominating in regard to China. The rising economic wealth in that country would create an open society in the worlds’s most populous nation. Progressive elites in the West allowed China to rise to become a serious challenger to the West. President Trump is taking action to prevent China’s continuing rise. March 2018 is an important turning point.