Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’

01/12/2016

As Trump retreats, Xi Jinping moves to upgrade China’s global power play | South China Morning Post

With US president-elect Donald Trump threatening to build a wall on the Mexican border and force Asian allies to increase defence spending, Beijing is busy luring countries across the eastern hemisphere into its orbit.

President Xi Jinping, who is consolidating his power at home, is planning to host a big “One Belt, One Road” summit in China next year, sources close to the central government told the South China Morning Post, adding that the event would match, if not exceed, the scale of this year’s G20 summit in Hangzhou, which attracted about 30 state leaders.

China plans US$2 billion film studio and ‘One Belt, One Road’ theme park

At a time when established world powers are struggling with domestic problems, Xi sees a chance to push ahead with his oddly worded brainchild, a geopolitical push to extend Beijing’s influence to remote corners of the globe.

The belt and road initiative encompasses 65 countries including China, stretching through Southeast, South, Central and West Asia to the Middle East, Africa and East and Central Europe.

However, with globalisation facing increasing scrutiny and electoral scepticism in developed countries, it’s doubtful whether a one-party state with its own deep-rooted economic woes will be able to bind countries together through a programme viewed by critics as a Chinese plot to export its infrastructure and influence.

In addition, China’s shrinking foreign exchange reserves, the falling value of its currency and a tightening of central government control on big overseas investments have raised questions about whether there will be sufficient funds to grease China’s ambitions.

Hong Kong trade presence needed in ‘One Belt, One Road’ cities

The belt and road initiative was launched by Xi in 2013 as an attempt to boost connectivity between China and other countries along the ancient land-based and maritime Silk Roads through trade and infrastructure projects, including high-speed railway lines and energy pipelines. But the wave of populist, anti-globalisation reflected in Trump’s stunning victory in last month’s US presidential election has put its smooth implementation in doubt.

Previous Chinese infrastructure projects overseas, including energy- and resource-related ones in Africa, have triggered resentment in local communities, with Beijing accused of exploitation and failing to benefit local workers.

Even though an increasing number of key US allies, such as Canada and Britain, have joined the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), set up as part of the belt and road initiative, mistrust over Beijing’s efforts to extend its geopolitical influence are mounting.

James McGregor, greater China chairman of APCO Worldwide, a public relations and consulting firm, said the level of cooperation between Beijing and the incoming Trump administration would be crucial in determining the success of the belt and road initiative.

One of Trump’s policy advisers, former CIA director James Woolsey, has described the current Obama administration’s opposition to the AIIB as a “strategic mistake”.

How One Belt, One Road is guiding China’s football strategy

“Through OBOR and various diplomatic initiatives, China is seeking to lead peacekeeping and economic development efforts in the region,” McGregor said, referring to the belt and road initiative. “But this will be very difficult if the US and China are not aligned and working together in the region to help provide security and promote peace.“

So if Trump pushes an agenda of confrontation with China in regard to trade and security arrangements in Asia, China will have a more difficult time managing its investments in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.”

But Professor Wang Yiwei, from the school of international studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said Trump’s protectionist agenda, most notably with his vow to withdraw the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, would provide an opportunity for the belt and road initiative to “fill the gap in the market”.

“For a long time, countries around the world have been following America’s standards and development model. But now even the US itself has suffered from its system,” he said. “The US has not learned its lesson from the financial crisis – it has failed to adjust and reform its industries – and it is now blaming the problem on globalisation.”

Wang said that with the belt and road initiative, China was becoming more resistant to the risk posed by the incoming Trump administration and the anti-globalisation trend sweeping the West.“

[The belt and road initiative] is designed to counter the risk posed by the market in the West,” Wang said.

Long-term planning: China’s 21st century Silk Road strategy will take time to reap rewards

The decrease in America’s purchasing power in the wake of the financial crisis had caused the surplus production capacity in China, he said, and the belt and road initiative was a new way to boost China’s exports.

AIIB president Jin Liqun said in early November that the AIIB was “on track” to meet its big first-year targets, including lending US$1.2 billion by the end of this year. So far it has lent US$829 million to six projects in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

China invested about US$14.8 billion in 49 countries of the 64 other countries along the Silk Road last year, or 12.6 per cent of the country’s total outbound investment, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The US and the European Union remain the top destinations for Chinese outbound investment, which totalled US$146 billion in the first 10 months of this year.

Whether Chinese companies will be as enthusiastic as they used to be about pouring money into overseas projects remains to be seen, with Beijing banning overseas investment deals of more than US$10 billion until September next year and cracking down on overseas mergers, acquisitions and real estate deals involving more than US$1 billion because of concerns about capital flight.

But economists, citing the unsustainability of a strong US dollar, uncertainty about Trump’s policies and China’s need to push ahead with economic reforms, said the restrictions were more of a short-term constraint than a permanent hurdle.

“Restricting outflows is a step back, but it will not alter China’s long-term direction of capital opening,” said Tim Condon, chief Asian economist at ING.

Professor Zhang Jiadong, a belt and road specialist at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said the impact of foreign exchange controls on the belt and road initiative would be limited.

“Forex controls will mainly affect the speed of approval, but will have little impact on infrastructure investments, which usually involve lengthy preparations for feasibility studies and financing arrangements,” he said.

State-owned enterprises, with their capital size and building expertise, are major participants in the initiative. Foreign exchange clearance is just one of many long regulatory procedures they have to navigate, and they usually needed approval from the state asset watchdog and financial backing from state-owned banks.

“Overall, OBOR investment represents only a small proportion [of their activities],” Zhang said.

Chen Fengying, an economist at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the foreign exchange regulator did not cover belt and road projects.

“Investment in OBOR countries is groundbreaking and needs more government support,” Chen said. “They should be encouraged, rather than regulated.”

The biggest difficulty faced by the belt and road initiative is the need to ease suspicions among countries such as India and Japan, another big investor in Asian development projects, about Beijing’s strategic intentions.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a forum in Beijing on Wednesday that China would be accommodative to the needs of different nations in pushing ahead with the belt and road initiative. The AIIB is regarded as a rival to the Japan-led Asian Development Bank and the US-headquartered International Monetary Fund.

Zhang Jianping, an expert on belt and road policy at the National Development and Reform Commission’s Institute for International Economic Research, said mistrust remained a hurdle for China.

“Just because the US withdrew from the TPP doesn’t necessarily mean that its economic power is in decline,” he said. “All the major global financial and investment standards and institutions are still led by the US and Europe. Any attempt by China to rewrite those rules is bound to meet scepticism from the West.”

Observers said investors’ top concerns were returns on investment and safety, and that made developed countries the top destination for market, technology and management expertise, rather than developing countries . They faced bottlenecks in terms of capital, talent and management expertise in belt and road investment, which usually involved labour-intensive manufacturing or resource projects.

Beijing is pushing to build dozens of economic cooperation zones, which will be used to facilitate bilateral trade and investment and potentially draw more private firms. However, more government guidance in terms of policy and financing is needed to help private Chinese firms better integrate into economic development plans in other countries.

Liang Haiming, chief economist at the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, said opportunities were opening up for China.

“The yuan’s depreciation against the US dollar will not affect China’s investment plans in OBOR countries,” he said. “The Chinese currency is actually strengthening against major Southeast Asian currencies.

“The capital flowing from emerging economies to the US will leave a good opportunity for Chinese capital to enter those countries.”

The Post’s annual China Conference in Hong Kong on Friday will bring business leaders and policy advisers together to share their latest insights on the business opportunities and challenges brought about by the belt and road strategy.

Source: As Trump retreats, Xi Jinping moves to upgrade China’s global power play | South China Morning Post

21/11/2016

A China-America romance? | The Economist

AFTER the wildest political upsets this year, here’s a prediction for next: China will deem its relations with America to be entering something of a golden period.

The prediction is no more outlandish than others that have recently come true. But is it madness? On the campaign trail, Donald Trump singled out China as the prime culprit ripping jobs and business out of the United States “like candy from a baby”. Mr Trump threatened a trade war. He promised that, on day one as president, he would label China a currency manipulator. He said he would slap a punitive tariff of 45% on Chinese imports. For good measure, he also promised to tear up the climate agreement that President Barack Obama signed with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, in September—a rare bright point in the bilateral relationship.Throw in, too, amid all the disarray inside Mr Trump’s transition team, the names being bandied about for those who will be in charge of dealings with China. They hardly reassure leaders in Beijing. Possibles for secretary of state, for instance, are Rudy Giuliani, New York’s former mayor, who has little experience of China, and John Bolton, a hawk who is actively hostile to it.

And yet China is starting to look on the bright side. Driving the growing optimism in Beijing is a calculation that, if Mr Trump is serious about jobs and growth at home, he will end up in favour of engagement and trade. Put simply, protectionism is inconsistent with “Make America Great Again”. From that it flows, or so Chinese officials hope, that Mr Trump’s campaign threats are mainly bluster. Yes, he is likely formally to label China a currency manipulator. But that will trigger investigations that will not be published until a year later. Even after that, there may be few immediate practical consequences.

What is more, China’s leaders may divine in Mr Trump someone in their mould—not delicate about democratic niceties and concerned above all about development and growth. Reporting on the first phone conversation earlier this week between Mr Xi and Mr Trump, the normally rabid Global Times, a newspaper in Beijing, was gushing. After Mr Xi urged co-operation, Mr Trump’s contribution to the phone call was “diplomatically impeccable”; it bolstered “optimism”, the paper said, in the two powers’ relationship over the next four years. Indeed, thanks to his “business and grass-roots angles”, and because he has not been “kidnapped by Washington’s political elites”, Mr Trump “is probably the very American leader who will make strides in reshaping major-power relations in a pragmatic manner.”

No doubt optimism among more hawkish Chinese is based upon calculations that Mr Trump’s administration will prove chaotic and incompetent, harming America first and playing to China’s advantage in the long game of America’s decline and China’s rise. “We may as well…see what chaos he can create,” the same newspaper was saying only a week ago. And Chinese leaders are delighted to see the back of Barack Obama. They hate his “pivot” to Asia. They are bitter that Mr Obama’s “zero-sum mindset” never allowed him to accept Mr Xi’s brilliant proposal in 2013 for a “new type of great-power relations” involving “win-win” co-operation. How could Mr Obama possibly think that the doctrine boils down to ceding hegemony in East Asia to China?

And so, it is not hard to imagine what gets discussed in the first meeting between the two leaders, after Mr Trump’s inauguration. In his victory speech, the builder-in-chief promised a lot of concrete-pouring: “highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals”. Mr Xi will point out that he has a fair amount of expertise in construction, too. It comes from running a vast country with more than 12,000 miles (18,400km) of bullet-train track where America has none, and a dam at the Yangzi river’s Three Gorges which is nearly as tall as the Hoover Dam and six times its length. Mr Xi will offer money and expertise for the president-elect’s building efforts, emphasising that China’s help will generate American jobs. In return, it would be an easy goodwill gesture for Mr Trump to reverse Mr Obama’s opposition to American membership of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and to lend more support to Mr Xi’s “Belt and Road” plans for building infrastructure across Asia and Europe. Advisers to Mr Trump suggest that is already on the cards.

The other leadership transition

A honeymoon, then, that few predicted. China certainly wills it. A calm external environment is critical for Mr Xi right now. He is preparing to carry out a sweeping reshuffle of the party’s leadership in the coming year or so. His aim is to consolidate his own power and ensure that he will have control over the choice of his eventual successors. That will demand much of his attention.

But don’t expect the honeymoon to last. For one, China may well have underestimated the strength of Mr Trump’s mercantilist instincts. It may also have second thoughts should a sustained dollar rally complicate management of its own currency. And even though America’s panicked friends have been this week, as the New York Times put it, “blindly dialling in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world”, Trumpian assurances of support have been growing for the alliances that China resents but that have reinforced American power in East Asia since the second world war. (As The Economist went to press, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was about to become the first national leader to meet the president-elect; he will reassure Mr Trump that Japan is taking on a bigger role in defending itself.)

And then who knows what might roil the world’s most important relationship? No crisis has recently challenged the two countries’ leaders like the mid-air collision in 2001 of a Chinese fighter jet and an American spy plane. Yet some similar incident is all too thinkable in the crowded, and contested, South and East China Seas. Remember, it is not just Mr Trump who is wholly untested in a foreign-policy crisis of that scale. Mr Xi is, too.

Source: A China-America romance? | The Economist

17/10/2016

China launches longest manned space mission | Reuters

China launched its longest manned space mission on Monday, sending two astronauts into orbit to spend a month aboard a space laboratory that is part of a broader plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.

The Shenzhou 11 blasted off on a Long March rocket at 7:30 am (2330 GMT) from the remote launch site in Jiuquan, in the Gobi desert, in images carried live on state television.

The astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or “Heavenly Palace 2”, which was sent into space last month. It will be the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts, state media reported.

Early on Monday, Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, met astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong and wished them well, state news agency Xinhua reported.

“You are going to travel in space to pursue the space dream of the Chinese nation,” Fan said.”With all the scientific and rigorous training, discreet preparation, and rich experience accumulated from previous missions, you will accomplish the glorious and tough task… We wish you success and look forward to your triumphant return.”

Shenzhou 11 is the third space voyage for Jing, who will command the mission and celebrate his 50th birthday in orbit.

In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1.Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

China insists its space program is for peaceful purposes.

Shenzhou 11, whose name translates as “Divine Vessel”, will also carry three experiments designed by Hong Kong middle school students and selected in a science competition, including one that will take silk worms into space.

The U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations using space-based assets in a crisis.

China has been working to develop its space program for military, commercial and scientific purposes, but is still playing catch-up to established space powers the United States and Russia.

China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover landed on the moon in late 2013 to great national fanfare, but soon suffered severe technical difficulties.

The rover and the Chang’e 3 probe that carried it there were the first “soft landing” on the moon since 1976. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had accomplished the feat earlier.

China will launch a “core module” for its first space station some time around 2018, a senior official said in April, part of a plan for a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.

Source: China launches longest manned space mission | Reuters

14/10/2016

India and Russia to sign air defence deal – BBC News

Russia and India are expected to sign a deal on Saturday for the delivery of an advanced air defence system to Delhi, a Kremlin official has said.

The S-400 missiles are Moscow’s most sophisticated aircraft defence system.Yuri Ushakov said the agreement would be signed at a summit in Goa where President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

India is also hosting a Brics summit in Goa this weekend involving Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“An agreement on the delivery of S-400 ‘Triumph’ anti-missile defence systems and other deals will be signed as a result of the talks,” Russian news agencies quoted Mr Ushakov as saying.

Russia’s missiles send robust signal

The Kremlin earlier this week said the talks with Mr Modi would focus on “a wide range of matters of bilateral relations, especially trade and economic ties”.

The S-400 surface-to-air missiles have been deployed to Syria, where Russian forces have been operating in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.Russia and India were close allies during the Cold War, but recently the relationship has become more complex.Talks have been held annually since 2000 and hosted alternately by Moscow and Delhi.

Source: India and Russia to sign air defence deal – BBC News

06/10/2016

Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

At a time of Brexit and talk of a wall between the United States and Mexico, it seems the Chinese are embracing international engagement.

They think their country’s power is rising, that their living standards will keep improving, that corruption is being cleaned up and that air pollution should be fixed even if it means slowing down economic growth.

These are the views which have emerged from a broad survey from Washington-based the Pew Research Center.

Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.

When asked about economic globalisation, 60% of people said it is a good thing and only 23% think it is bad for China.

While some China watchers are warning that this country’s mounting local government debt could mean that a hard landing is on the way, Chinese people don’t appear to share this pessimism.

Nearly 90% of respondents amongst this group of 3,154, interviewed face-to-face in China earlier this year, think that the state of their country’s economy is either “very good” or “somewhat good”.

GETTY IMAGES – Chinese people seem to remain optimistic

Looking into the future things will apparently get even better: 76% of people think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 70% said their personal financial situation will improve and eight out of 10 people believe that their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

Bread and butter issues

It’s not that people are without concerns.

“Corrupt officials” is at the top of the table when it comes to people’s worries (83% said this was a “very big” or “moderately big” problem) and yet here too we see optimism.

Some 64% of them said that President Xi Jinping‘s massive anti-corruption drive would improve the situation over the next five years.

Running down the concern list, an alarmingly high number of people see income inequality and the safety of food and medicine as “very big” problems.

This should give the Chinese Communist Party pause for concern.

If you enjoy monopoly power on the basis that you are delivering “socialism with Chinese characteristics” then a small group of ultra-rich driving around in their sports cars and showing off their wealth while most struggle to pay the rent is surely at odds with your central message.

Then, if ordinary Chinese people can’t even trust the food and medicine they are giving their children, the possibility for social unrest over bread and butter issues is looming large.

The environment also emerges as a massive challenge with water and air pollution at the front of people’s minds.

Air pollution is so bad in China that half of those polled said their country should fight air pollution harder even if it means sacrificing economic growth.

GETTY IMAGES – Emissions from coal-powered industries, cars and heating systems generate the smog

Only 24% saw air deterioration as a necessary price to pay.

When it comes to the war of ideas in the top echelons of power here, those ministers in favour of tougher environmental protection measures could do worse than table this research.

A “major threat” to China?

The South China Sea and other geo-strategic tensions offer some of the most bleak opinions.

Nearly six out of 10 people think that territorial pressures with neighbours could lead to military conflict; 77% say their way of life needs to be protected from “foreign influence” (up by 13 percentage points since 2002) and only 22% say China should help other nations.

Regarding relations with rival superpower the United States people views are complex and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Around half of Chinese respondents rated the US favourably but more than half think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power.

About 45% said that US power and influence poses a “major threat” to China. In fact the US came in at number one as the top international threat to the country.

GETTY IMAGES – More than half of Chinese people think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power

It’s interesting that some would see the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” as a greater threat than say jihadist extremist groups just across the western border promoting bloody conflict in China’s vast Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Either way, whatever the perceived threat, China is seen as becoming ever more important and with ever more power at its disposal.Information is being controlled here ever more tightly – whether it is coming from the traditional media or sources online – so some analysts will see these views as the inevitable result of messages being delivered to the Chinese people by their government.

This may the be case but, in a world where politicians in various countries are accused of exploiting people’s fear and insecurity, could it be that a quarter of the globe’s population are going around with a smile on their dial because every day they look out the window and to them it just gets better and better?

Source: Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

23/09/2016

Guns and ghee | The Economist

TO MANY Indians, their country’s strategic position looks alarming. Its two biggest neighbours are China and Pakistan. It has fought wars with both, and border issues still fester. Both are nuclear-armed, and are allies with one another to boot. China, a rising superpower with five times India’s GDP, is quietly encroaching on India’s traditional sphere of influence, tying a “string of pearls” of alliances around the subcontinent. Relatively weak but safe behind its nuclear shield, Pakistan harbours Islamist guerrillas who have repeatedly struck Indian targets; regional security wonks have long feared that another such incident might spark a conflagration.

So when four heavily armed infiltrators attacked an Indian army base on September 18th, killing 18 soldiers before being shot dead themselves, jitters inevitably spread. The base nestles in mountains close to the “line of control”, as the border between the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of the disputed territory of Kashmir is known. Indian officials reflexively blamed Pakistan; politicians and pundits vied in demanding a punchy response. “Every Pakistan post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire,” blustered a retired brigadier who now mans a think-tank in New Delhi, India’s capital.

Yet despite electoral promises to be tough on Pakistan, the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi has trodden as softly as its predecessors. On September 21st it summoned Pakistan’s envoy for a wrist-slap, citing evidence that the attackers had indeed slipped across the border, and noting that India has stopped 17 such incursions since the beginning of the year. Much to the chagrin of India’s armchair warriors, such polite reprimands are likely to be the limit of India’s response.

There are good reasons for this. India gains diplomatic stature by behaving more responsibly than Pakistan. It is keenly aware of the danger of nuclear escalation, and of the risks of brinkmanship to its economy. Indian intelligence agencies also understand that they face an unusual adversary in Pakistan: such is its political frailty that any Indian belligerence tends to strengthen exactly the elements in Pakistan’s power structure that are most inimical to India’s own interests.

But there is another, less obvious reason for reticence. India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest. Puzzlingly, given how its international ambitions are growing along with its economy, and how alarming its strategic position looks, India has proved strangely unable to build serious military muscle.

India’s armed forces look good on paper. It fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations (see chart).

It has topped the list of global arms importers since 2010, sucking in a formidable array of top-of-the-line weaponry, including Russian warplanes, Israeli missiles, American transport aircraft and French submarines. State-owned Indian firms churn out some impressive gear, too, including fighter jets, cruise missiles and the 40,000-tonne aircraft-carrier under construction in a shipyard in Kochi, in the south of the country.

Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained. “Our air defence is in a shocking state,” says Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs. “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.” On paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly. A report earlier this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%. They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.

Such delays are far from unusual. India’s army, for instance, has been seeking a new standard assault rifle since 1982; torn between demands for local production and the temptation of fancy imports, and between doctrines calling for heavier firepower or more versatility, it has flip-flopped ever since. India’s air force has spent 16 years perusing fighter aircraft to replace ageing Soviet-era models. By demanding over-ambitious specifications, bargain prices, hard-to-meet local-content quotas and so on, it has left foreign manufacturers “banging heads against the wall”, in the words of one Indian military analyst. Four years ago France appeared to have clinched a deal to sell 126 of its Rafale fighters. The order has since been whittled to 36, but is at least about to be finalised.

India’s military is also scandal-prone. Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight. In July a military transport plane vanished into the Bay of Bengal with 29 people aboard; no trace of it has been found. In August an Australian newspaper leaked extensive technical details of India’s new French submarines.

The deeper problem with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Mr Shukla. Bizarrely, there are no military men inside the ministry at all. Like India’s other ministries, defence is run by rotating civil servants and political appointees more focused on ballot boxes than ballistics. “They seem to think a general practitioner can perform surgery,” says Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has worked as a consultant for the ministry. Despite their growing brawn, India’s armed forces still lack a brain.

Source: Guns and ghee | The Economist

23/09/2016

India signs deal for 36 French fighter jets to counter China, Pakistan squadrons | Reuters

India signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France on Friday for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades and a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s plan to rebuild an ageing fleet.

The air force is down to 33 squadrons, against its requirement of 45 to face both China, with which it has a festering border dispute, and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, in New Delhi, ending almost 18 months of wrangling over terms between New Delhi and manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

India’s defence ministry said it would confirm the exact price later on Friday, but a ministry official said it was 7.8 billion euros ($8.7 billion).

Air force officials have warned for years about a major capability gap opening up with China and Pakistan without new state-of-the-art planes, as India’s outdated and largely Russian-made fleet retires and production of a locally made plane was delayed.

India had originally awarded Dassault with an order for 126 Rafales in 2012 after the twin-engine fourth-generation fighter beat rivals in a decade-long selection process, but subsequent talks collapsed.

Modi, who has vowed to modernise India’s armed forces with a $150 billion spending spree, personally intervened in April 2015 to agree on the smaller order of 36 and give the air force a near-term boost as he weighed options for a more fundamental overhaul.

The first ready-to-fly Rafales are expected to arrive by 2019 and India is set to have all 36 within six years.

Dassault Aviation said in a statement it welcomed the contract signing.

($1 = 0.8920 euros)

Source: India signs deal for 36 French fighter jets to counter China, Pakistan squadrons | Reuters

15/09/2016

China Enter Syria on Assad’s Side: Is This A World War?

The Conversation Room

At what point does Syria become a World War?

News has emerged today that China has joined a tripartite alliance with Russia & Iran to prevent the fall of Assad in the up until now secular and relatively stable Damascus. China has its own fears that the chaos of jihadist factions ruling various clusters of Syria, would become birth grounds for instability, may spill over to Russia & even lead to major trouble with separatist movements in China itself.

Questions have been raised as to whether Syria has become  a Third World War. When examining the power dynamics of The United States, Saudi & Israel on one side with China, Russia & Iran on the other, the internationalization of the conflict is of grave concern.

If diplomatic solution was not already an immediate necessity it certainly is even more so now.

For more in depth analysis, read:

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/china-enters-fray-in-syria-on-bashar-al-assad-s-side-1.2764979

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04/09/2016

China says should constructively handle disputes with India | Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday that the two countries should respect each other’s concerns and constructively handle their differences.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have been moving to gradually ease long-existing tensions between them.

Leaders of Asia’s two giants pledged last year to cool a festering border dispute, which dates back to a brief border war in 1962, though the disagreement remains unresolved.

Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Xi said relations had maintained a steady, healthy momentum, and should continue to increase mutual understanding and trust.

“We ought to respect and give consideration to each other’s concerns, and use constructive methods to appropriately handle questions on which there are disputes,” Xi said, in comments carried by China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to work hard with India the maintain the hard-won good position of Sino-India relations,” Xi added.

China’s Defence Ministry said last month that it hoped India could put more efforts into regional peace and stability rather than the opposite, in response to Indian plans to put advanced cruise missiles along the disputed border with China.

Indian military officials say the plan is to equip regiments deployed on the China border with the BrahMos missile, made by an Indo-Russian joint venture, as part of ongoing efforts to build up military and civilian infrastructure capabilities there.

China lays claim to more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) ruled by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. India says China occupies 38,000 sq km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.

India is also suspicious of China’s support for its arch-rival, Pakistan.Modi arrived in China from Vietnam, which is involved in its own dispute with China over the South China Sea, where he offered Vietnam a credit line of half a billion dollars for defence cooperation.Modi’s government has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the BrahMos missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam, according to a government note viewed by Reuters and previously unreported.

Source: China says should constructively handle disputes with India | Reuters

04/09/2016

UK’s May to review security risks of Chinese-funded nuclear deal | Reuters

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she wanted her security advisers to review a delayed nuclear power investment from China – a source of diplomatic tension – as she arrived in the country to attend a G20 summit.

May upset Chinese officials in July by delaying a $24 billion project that would see French firm EDF (EDF.PA) build Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in decades with the help of $8 billion from China.

Speaking during her first visit to China, May was asked whether she would ask the National Security Council, a team of ministers supported by intelligence officers, to look at the potential security implications of the Hinkley deal.

“I will be doing exactly as you’ve said,” May replied, saying it would be part of her decision-making process. The comment marked the first official acknowledgement that national security was a factor in her decision.

The initial delay caught investors by surprise and has cast doubt over whether May, who took office in July following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, will continue to court China as a major source of infrastructure investment.

“This is the way I operate,” May earlier told reporters en route to the summit, which will include a one-to-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I look at the evidence, …take the advice and consider that and come to my decision.

“A final decision is expected later this month.

May, a former interior minister, is wary of the risks of allowing China to invest in nuclear projects, according to a former cabinet colleague. The EDF deal is viewed as a precursor to Chinese involvement in another two nuclear plants.

Asked whether she trusted China, May said: “Of course we have a relationship with them… What I want to do is build on that relationship.

“She also stressed a need to broaden the group of nations that Britain can trade with and tap for cash to help reinvigorate its power, transport and technology infrastructure.”This is the G20, this is about talking to a number of world leaders. I’m going to give the message that Britain is very much open for business… I want to be talking about the opportunities for free trade around the world.”

Source: UK’s May to review security risks of Chinese-funded nuclear deal | Reuters

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