Friday, October 6, 2017

India’s National Interest Lies in Collaboration with China, not Conflict

I wrote this article for Diplomatist, a publication based in India. It should have been published by now. Below is an electronic version.

The border scrum at Doklam, located between former kingdom Sikkim now under India’s control, Bhutan and China may have attracted front-page coverage in India and China, but not much attention elsewhere.

There were conflicting reports as to how the high altitude, shoving match started. Indian military force entered the Chinese side to stop road building undertaken by the PLA, alleging that the activity was a threat to India’s security.

The territorial dispute was supposed to be between China and Bhutan and India represented that they were intervening at the invitation of Bhutan.

Some observers noted that the Indian incursion begin shortly after Prime Minister Modi returned from his visit to the White House and hinted that perhaps President Trump encouraged Modi into acting as an anti-China proxy.

While there is no public evidence that Trump made such a suggestion, it would be well for Modi to keep in mind that while Trump believes in “America First,” it does not mean he supports “India Second.” Furthermore, he is well known for standing on one position today and an opposite position next.

More importantly, India should consider whether it is in their national interest to antagonize China and render them into an adversary.

Some hawks in India are spoiling for a fight reminding anyone that would listen that the India today is not the same as the India of 1962. In 1962, Prime Minister Nehru was under the impression that the legacy as a former British colony was enough to intimidate the PLA.

He was wrong and his poorly equipped and poorly prepared soldiers suffered a humiliating defeat. While India today is no longer the undernourished force of 1962, neither has China’s PLA been standing still.

Hosting the Commonwealth Games was nearly a disaster

A review of recent events should suffice to put matters in perspective. Beijing surprised the world with a spectacular staging of 2008 Olympics. Two years later, India was to host the Commonwealth Games, not exactly as grand as the Olympics but noteworthy enough as a sporting spectacle nonetheless.

India almost did not pull it off. As host, India didn’t have the resources to stage various venues in a style commensurate with the prestige of the international sporting event. The host had to explore whether Beijing would loan of some of the equipment such as scorekeeping displays to the Games.

Even though India has been a nation on the rise since 2010, there remains a significant gap between India and China. It’s rather comical that India would wish to turn China into a rival when India has so much more to gain with China as a friend.

The foundation of western civilization rests on competition and confrontation leading to conquests and colonization. The British Empire emerged following this fundamental tenet and the U.S. followed the English lead and became the hegemon in a unipolar world.

But the world is changing and shifting away from unipolar to multipolar, and the influence of the hegemon is eroding in face of cooperation and collaboration emanating from various corners of earth.

India does not need to westernize to greatness

As a once great eastern civilization, India hardly needs to follow the path of western imperialism to become great again. In fact, it’s in India’s national interest to seek collaboration and regain its pole of influence by leveraging friendly relations with its neighbors.

China has been offering its assistance building infrastructure projects around the world. Railroads, highways, ports and harbors are projects that qualify as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Rather than participating in the recent Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, India opted to snub the event. Since 160 countries were represented including the U.S., India’s absence was not conspicuous but India’s pout was nevertheless silly.

There is growing excitement in Pakistan over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multibillion-dollar bilateral development project that officials in Islamabad avowed would usher in an era of unprecedented progress and prosperity—from recent Asia Times.

What’s good for Pakistan should be good for India as well. All political leaders in India need to concede is that domestic priorities trump over national pride and a drive to supremacy over rivals.

The people of India are sure to appreciate a network of high-speed trains for regularly commute, and modern highways that are completed and continuous from north to south and east to west. The economic boom that would follow would surely exceed Pakistan by orders of magnitude.

China has demonstrated that such infrastructure projects belong in their sweet spot of competence. Under the auspices of the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), China has been building roads and railways not just in Pakistan but other parts of Asia and Africa.

China’s BRI is more a loose prescription for international cooperation and not a strict set of specifications to qualify projects for financial assistance and Chinese participation. The most important requirement is that the project upon completion would benefit the local economy and the financial return would justify the investment.

The stated purpose of BRI is to facilitate global commerce and trade. By definition such investments benefit all participants of world trade. There would be no losers, only winners. India occupies a strategic location on China’s maritime silk road and could only prosper by being part of it.

India’s paths to collaboration are many

India already has a number of venues to promote collaboration with China. Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one of these. India and Pakistan are recent members of SCO and Iran is expected to join next. Coupled with China, Russian and the Central Asia nations, SCO is a powerful organization not for military alliance but for economic and cultural exchanges.

Before SCO, India was part of the BRICS consortium, consisted of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the five largest of the fastest growing economies. BRICS meet regularly to discuss and arrange for closer business cooperation.

Finally as a founding member of Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, India already knows the benefits of obtaining financing from AIIB. Just last week, the Finance Ministry signed a USD 329 million loan agreement with AIIB for the Gujarat Rural Roads Project.


There is ample opportunity for India to collaborate with China. India should be pleased to find Great Britain leading the charge of developed nations into joining AIIB. If the former colonial master can see the wisdom of working with China, why not India?

Comment on Wolf Warrior 2

I added my two cents to the cinema hit from China in Quora.

Some go to the movies to be intellectually stimulated, some just for the entertainment. Belonging to the latter category, I found WW2 quite entertaining.
The movie opens with a 007 like action, except all taking place under water—a new twist. Near the beginning of the movie, the hero got into a drinking contest with a big burly black guy. All the beer they can chug-a-lug wouldn’t do the job, so then the hero whips out bottles of Mao Tai. Down the hatch goes the white lightening and sure enough, down goes the black guy. Since that free product placement, sales of Mao Tai in China have gone through the roof.
As for tidbits that could be considered as propaganda:
  1. As US navy was leaving the coast of the embattled African country, the PLAN was streaming toward the shore to rescue the Chinese workers in factories built by Chinese companies.
  2. There was a tag line that goes something like this: A PRC passport won’t get you to anywhere you want to go, but will bring you back from wherever you might be.
  3. The government and the rebels stopped shooting to let the Chinese convoy pass because “they are our friends and we will need them after the fight is over.”
A farfetched coincidence is that the hero and the numero uno bad guy had a personal vendetta involving the loss the love of the hero’s life. So the hero is consoled by getting the beautiful heroine at the end and he gets to beat the sadistic bad guy, who happens to be an American mercenary, to death.
So after the Chinese expats and their fellow African workers were safely on board the Chinese naval ships, both sides of the revolution presumably went back to fighting happily ever after.
What’s not to like in a movie like that?

Friday, September 8, 2017

The US can afford to take the first step toward North Korea

This piece was posted on Asia Times, September 7, 2017

ASIA TIMES

September 7, 2017

Mighty America must exercise magnanimity over North Korea

George Koo By George Koo

At 100 kilotons, North Korea’s latest underground nuclear blast was around 10 times as great as the one last year and more than 100 times as great as its first underground test back in 2006. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has raised the stakes by claiming to have set off its first hydrogen bomb.

The US reaction has predictably been more of the same old. More condemnation. More sanctions. More threats of reprisals of overwhelming force. As if to set the stage for actual reprisal to come, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, accused the North Koreans of “begging for war”.
For nearly two decades, America’s response to the DPRK has been to resort to ratcheting up the tension against it. In turn, the DPRK’s response to this increased pressure has been to detonate a bigger bomb or fire an intercontinental missile with longer range. Neither side has succeeded in getting the other to back down.

In early 1994, Bill Clinton’s White House began to contemplate making a pre-emptive surgical strike on Yongbyon, a location on the northeast coast of North Korea where weapons development was under way.

Cameramen film under the North Korean flag during the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang October 10, 2015. Reuters/Damir Sagolj
Cameramen film under the North Korean flag during a parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, on October 10, 2015. Photo: Reuters / Damir Sagolj

According to Dr William Perry, then US secretary of defense, Pyongyang invited former president Jimmy Carter to visit North Korea, whereupon the North Koreans expressed to him that they had an interest in beginning negotiations. Carter promptly conveyed this sentiment to president Clinton.

War was averted and both sides quickly arrived at an “Agreed Framework” by the end of 1994. The basic terms of the Agreed Framework were that the DPRK would halt producing plutonium and not built large reactors that could be used to produce weapons-grade fissionable material. Japan and South Korea would each build a light-water reactor in the DPRK for power generation and the US would supply fuel oil until those reactors were built.

The framework held, albeit tenuously, until the end of Clinton’s second term. Perceptions and expectations of what the framework meant were very different on both sides. The North Koreans were hoping that it would lead to a bilateral treaty that would give them assurances of no US intention for regime change. A ceasefire armistice since the end of the Korean War seemed too flimsy to offer them a sense of security.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a Security Council meeting on the situation in North Korea at the United Nations, in New York City, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in North Korea on April 28, 2017. Tillerson has allowed that he would be open to talks if certain conditions are met. Photo: Reuters / Stephanie Keith

The US side considered the framework as an informal agreement that would not require ratification by the US Senate – a way of keeping nuclear non-proliferation on the Korean Peninsula out of domestic politics. In fact, persistent congressional opposition to the DPRK meant reduced funding for the fuel-oil shipments, causing delays and shortfalls in those shipments.

When George W Bush entered the White House, he was not interested in dealing with a member of the “axis of evil”. The bad blood came to a head in 2003 when an American delegation went to Pyongyang and, in a public confrontation without any pretense at diplomacy, accused the North Koreans of violating the Agreed Framework via covert nuclear-weapons development.

On its side, the DPRK had not seen any sign of the completion of the two light-water reactors promised nearly nine years earlier, and only intermittent deliveries of fuel oil. Each side had plenty of reason to accuse the other of dealing in bad faith. Distrust and suspicion have poisoned relations ever since.

In response to worldwide condemnation, the DPRK has cleaved to the line that its nuclear-weapon development is for self-defense and a “gift package” for the US. In point of fact, the North Koreans see no other recourse against the US threat of regime change. The fate of Muammar Gaddafi, of Libya, who publicly gave up nuclear weapons but was removed from power anyway, serves to remind them of the alternative fate awaiting.

As the imbroglio deepens, world opinion is shifting toward caution and moderation, not so much in sympathy for the puny underdog taking on the hegemon but out of concern that the confrontation, without a course correction, could lead to catastrophic consequences exceeding any rational imagination.

The people of South Korea are relatively blasé about the actions of their neighbor to the north because they believe they understand the North Koreans. They fear instead US President Donald Trump because of his unpredictability and the seeming opacity hiding his real intentions.

Their newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, has advanced the notion of continuing dialogue with the North. President Trump has accused Moon of appeasement, but surely as the next-door neighbor, South Korea has more at stake than the US, which exists in relative safety thousands of kilometers away.

Moon is not the only one to suggest letting talks begin. Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China, while joining in the near-universal disapproval and condemnation of the DPRK, have also proclaimed that negotiation is the only viable approach.

Even the mainstream media in the US are coming to the same conclusion: namely that talks are necessary to reduce the tension. Key members of the Trump team such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis would not rule out diplomatic solutions. State Secretary Rex Tillerson has allowed that he would be open to talks if certain conditions are met.

With 12 times the population of North Korea, and military and economic power of a much greater magnitude of multiples, it would seem that mighty America can afford the magnanimity of making the first gesture of accommodation. But even then, the US diplomatic effort would need infinite patience to gradually overcome the years of bad blood and distrust.

Perhaps another high-profile emissary to Pyongyang is needed to break the ice. Instead of former president Jimmy Carter, might not Bill Clinton fill the bill? As I have suggested previously, it’s time to think and act differently about North Korea.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Economic War between China and the US

Sputnik Radio interviewed me by phone on whether the US and China are ready to wage economic war. The audio of the interview is here.

They wrote a short piece based on the interview as below.

The United States formally launched a probe into China's trade practices to find out whether the country's actions may harm American commerce, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Friday.
Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Dr. George Koo, founder and former managing director of International Strategic Alliances as well as a director of New America Media.
“I don’t think China has expressed any desire to wage economic war with the United States. However, I think China is very interested in continuing its very healthy robust economic growth and there may come a time, maybe 10 or 20 years down the road that China’s economy will be larger than the US. But it’s not a zero-sum game, it’s not like one economy grows at the expense of the other one,” Koo said.
He further said that what former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon disclosed about the covert economic war with China is not what is happening.
“If the US fails to keep up with China’s growth there will be domestic causes, such as not investing in education, not believing in science, not investing in innovation and not encouraging technological advances,” the expert said.
According to Koo, Trump’s administration is “on the wrong approach in terms of the economic policies.”
Talking about the consequences of the world’s two largest economies going head to head in an “economic war” with one another, the expert said that all the world’s economies will be affected and suffer as a result.
However, the expert doubts that this will occur. “I doubt that it’s going to happen. China is emphasizing its One Belt, One Road initiative, which is really trying to create and spread the wealth among the less developed countries to create situations which will be win-win and mutually beneficial,” Koo said.
He further said that the world’s economies are so tied together that it is like “Siamese twins” – if you kill one, the other one will die too.
Earlier in the week Steve Bannon said that the US has been locked in a covert economic war with China. The official said the next few decades would decide who would be the "hegemon." 
He also insisted that an investigation of China’s trade practices under US President Donald Trump’s order ought to take place. The probe will look into whether Beijing improperly requires foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access. 
However, after his resignation on Friday, the question remains whether the new US trade policy toward China is here to stay.
After US media reports of Trump's plans to investigate China’s alleged intellectual property theft from US companies, the Chinese Commerce Ministry criticized Donald Trump’s decision saying that it violated international law. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called US plans to crack down on trade with China "unacceptable."
Recently, US President Donald Trump has stepped up criticism of China amid Pyongyang's numerous ballistic missile launches. Trump said last month that he was "very disappointed in China" over its failure to put pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile tests.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The two sides of Liu Xiaobo


Edited version first appeared in Asia Times.

China’s Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo has succumbed to liver cancer. Lionized in the West, his passing was little noted in China. Just a smidgen of reflection would explain the dichotomy.

Liu did not win the Nobel Prize for physics or economics or any of the others administered by the Nobel committee in Stockholm. He won the Peace Prize administered out of Oslo Norway.

The Nobel committee for the peace prize is appointed by the Norwegian parliament and has been responsible for the most politicized honor among the Nobel prizes.

Since there hasn’t been a whole lot of peace around the world, it’s understandable that there were more years when a peace prize was not awarded than for any of the other awards. Some of the prize recipients were matters for debate.

The peace prize has been the most burdened in controversy. For example, some say the committee gave the peace prize to the Dalai Lama in part to atone for repeatedly passing over Mahatma Gandhi, universally recognized as the most deserving to not have received the honor.

The committee also rushed headlong in the opposite direction and couldn’t wait to see what Barrack Obama was going to do as president of the U.S. They awarded Obama with the Peace Prize shortly after he was elected president just to flaunt Norwegian indignation at the war mongering policies of George W. Bush, Obama’s predecessor.

Alas for the prestige and credibility of the committee and the Peace Prize, Obama would be hard-pressed to point to any achievements toward peace in his two terms as the U.S. president.

If it’s easy to become a Peace Prize laureate, it’s hardly surprising that it’s a low bar for anyone to become a peace prize nominee. All it takes is to possess credentials with the proper slant.

The late Harry Wu (Hongda) is a good example. The aftermath of his death has revealed him to be a thief and philanderer. He stole the money set aside for Chinese human rights activists and he was a serial groper of women.

Wu rose to fame when he was arrested as he tried to enter China under disguise. After his much publicized release, he trotted around the world as a self-proclaimed defender of human rights in China. His anti-China criticism and attendant publicity got him nominated for the peace prize.

Wu and his ilk have learned that there is a career in paimapi, a Chinese saying that literally means petting the horse’s rump or in a cruder version, inducing equine flatulence. It’s a Chinese expression for obsequious flatter.

The profit is in petting the westerner’s mapi, by expressing admiration for the western concept for democracy and as if only through democracy can one achieve human rights and dignity.

The important difference between Wu and Liu is that while Wu remained in the safety of the protective West, Liu went back to China from a teaching position in the U.S. to advocate the overthrow of China’s CCP.

Liu even expressed the idea that 300 years as a colony of a western power would have done China wonders and enabled China to catch up to the standards of western democracy. That was paimapi of the highest order. No wonder the West adored him.

Conveniently overlooked by Liu is that in nearly the 3 decades since Liu went back to China, China has become the second or largest economy in the world, depending on the yardstick used in measuring China’s economy.

According to Pew’s regular polls of the sentiments of the people in China, their satisfaction and approval rating of China’s one party rule and CCP has hovered around 80% in most recent years.

Thus we have a situation where western countries that boast of popular approval ratings under 50% hectoring China to reform. They encourage China to change their system of government so that the popularity of their government can be more like the West.

May Liu Xiaobo rest in peace. Difficult to know how long he will be remembered in the West. He’s already a forgotten man in China.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Time to think and act differently on North Korea

Edited version first appeared in Asia Times.


North Korea’s latest missile test—with the range to threaten American cities—has put the Trump Administration between wishful thinking and a hard place. Too bad neither represents a realistic resolution of the conundrum.

The easy way out, for the U.S. at least, is to “let China do it.” Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, Defense Secretary Mattis and UN Ambassador Haley have in unison chanted the same basic mantra. Namely, problem solved if only China would apply more pressure on North Korea.

Unfortunately, this naïve wishful thinking is based on several false premises.

First there is no evidence that China can tell North Korea what to do.  The two countries are not buddies and there is no love lost between China’s President Xi ‘s and Kim Jong Un. They have not met since both leaders came to power and they communicate via messengers.

China has joined the chorus in support of the UN resolution strongly condemning North Korea. The Kim regime no more pays heed to China than it has to protests from South Korea, Japan and United States.

Just as China cannot stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapon and intercontinental missile technology, North Korea is not developing those technologies for China’s sake. North Korea needs nuclear strike capability in order to be taken seriously by the U.S.     

To date sanctions on North Korea have not deter them. The American response has been to ask the UN Security Council to impose more sanctions. In particular, Trump does not feel that China is tightening the screws hard enough.

Shutting down North Korea’s economy might bring Kim to heel from the American perspective but clearly unacceptable from China’s view. Economic collapse would trigger a massive humanitarian crisis and China would be left to deal with the refugees since migrating north into China would be the only viable option.

There is also a flip side to this approach. Even if the sanctions do indeed bring North Korea to its knees, it does not mean that the Kim regime would become more conciliatory. Kim may decide that he has nothing to lose and simply launch an attack on the south.

The other hard approach is to launch a Rumsfeldian shock and awe on North Korea before the north can begin their attack.

There is no chance that carpet-bombing of unprecedented scale could vaporize the array of artillery and missiles facing South Korea. The consequent damage on Seoul and other parts of South Korea from the retaliation would be significant, not to mention the danger to the 30,000 American troops stationed in the south.

There is also no assurance that any precision strikes could successfully take out Kim and his inner circle nor knock out all the nuclear weapons and development centers. The risks of failure are simply to too great to contemplate.

There is a more sensible approach and increasing number of commentators and foreign policy observers are suggesting for the Trump Administration to consider. And, that is why not offering to sit down and talk without preconditions?

North Korea fears the U.S. and knows that Beijing cannot speak for nor commit on behalf of Washington. Pyongyang wants to deal directly with Washington and does not see China as a credible intermediary. Why not begin a direct conversation?

The Clinton Administration almost reached an agreement with Pyongyang when the clock ran out on his term of office. The incoming George W. Bush elected to ignore North Korea and then imposed preconditions before being willing to resume negotiations.

Pyongyang saw the Bush White House as dealing in bad faith and that the only way to gain American respect was to complete the development of the nuclear bomb. North Korea detonated their first nuclear bomb in October 2006. (George W came into office in 1999.)

The Obama administration unfortunately elected to follow his predecessor’s line. Namely, no agreement to negotiate unless North Korea first agreed to abide by certain preconditions and in lieu of North Korean agreeing, Washington bandied the threats of sanctions and solicited Beijing for their help.

In the intervening 16 years since the end of the Clinton administration, Washington and Pyongyang have made no progress to reaching a common understanding. Each accused the other of acting in bad faith. The U.S. threatened more sanctions; North Korea kept testing weapons with bigger bang and missiles with longer range.

This endless cycle is clearly not getting anywhere.  The threat of American shock and awe is clearly what worries Pyongyang. Why can’t Washington soften a bit and show a willingness to talk without preconditions? What have we got to lose?

Will the world respect us less as a fearsome hegemon because we are willing to swallow our pride, or will the world applaud us for being willing to make the first move towards peace? Donald Trump has an opportunity to accomplish an important foreign policy triumph that has eluded his two predecessors.

For a more detailed review of the complicated history between China and North Korea, go to here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Graham Allison’s Thucydides’s Trap is about how America can avert the War with China

An edited version of the discussion on Graham Allison's book first posted on Asia Times.


The just published book called “Destined for War” addresses the question: “Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap?” Given the state of tension between the two powers, the publication is timely and the subject matter vitally important.

Coined by author Graham Allison, the Thucydides trap is based on the “History of Peloponnesian War” written by historian Thucydides who observed that a rising Athens inevitably came to blows with a ruling Sparta.

Allison is the founding dean of Harvard Kennedy School, eminent scholar and prominent adviser to the federal government on matters related to defense and national security. He and his students reviewed the past 500 years of history and identified 16 cases of a rising power facing a reigning power. Twelve of those cases ended in disastrous wars.

The book is a tour de force on identifying all the different ways a rising power and a reigning power can collide despite the best of intentions and despite conscious efforts to avoid war. Some times the process begins with a trivial misunderstanding that magnified with each reaction until open conflict becomes inevitable.

One of his chapters was devoted to conjectures of how a war between China and the US could develop. Various scenarios begin with a minor provocation misunderstood by the other side, which leads to a response in turn misunderstood and thus an escalating series of thrust and parry until the two countries stand at the brink of nuclear holocaust. 

The author did not intend to sell his book as a prophesy of doom but to make sure that his cautionary tale is sufficiently frightening, so that readers will take the threat of conflict seriously and more importantly leaders in Beijing and Washington will be sufficiently alarmed to avoid the trap. 

As his four no-conflict cases demonstrated, war between a rising power and reigning power does not have to be inevitable. Allison suggests that China and the US face four “mega threats” that would require their working together rather than in opposition, and in so doing help them avert falling into the trap.

The first is the threat of mutual assured destruction from a nuclear Armageddon. Both sides should be deterred from an all out nuclear war from which there can be no winners. This is the same deterrent that kept the 70 years of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union from getting hot.

Along the same lines, both powers have the same interest in keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of as many nations as possible and out of the hands of terrorists. He calls this scenario “nuclear anarchy.” Joint efforts would naturally be more effective in preventing nuclear anarchy than working separately. 

Both also face terrorism based on biological weapons derived from genetic engineering. “Extensive cooperation, through bilateral intelligence sharing, multilateral organizations and the establishment of global standard will be essential,” said Allison.

The fourth common mega threat identified by Allison was combating emission of greenhouse gases to stop global warming. The President of the U.S. has said, “This is not going to happen.” Oh well, three out of four should be enough for leaders of Beijing and Washington to choose collaboration rather than competition. 

On his book tour at Stanford, Allison and his moderator and former colleague at Harvard, Niall Ferguson, joked that the Chinese leaders follow western ideas and thinking closely and most have already read this book even before it was published—suggesting another case of piracy (ha-ha). Both lamented that the Trump White House is unlikely to have read the book and probably never will. 

Sitting in the audience, I asked whether a model of one hand clapping could still evoke the risk of falling into the Thucydides’s trap. I was hoping that they would take the cue to discuss the dominant US role as the provocateur in face of  a relatively passive reaction from China. Allison understood my question but he simply said that China’s island building activity in the South China Sea could create two hands clapping required by the trap.

Allison admits that his expertise is in national security and not on China. I believe seeing China from a western frame of reference is a significant flaw of his book. While he acknowledges a China as a 5000-year Confucian based civilization, he seems to attribute China with the same zero-sum mentality of a western nation.

All sixteen cases of Thucydides’s trap involved western nations. Japan was the rising power in two of the cases, but I would argue that Japan became a rising power after they decided to vigorously adopt all manner of western values and thus should be counted as a westernized nation.

As Michael Wood, award-winning producer of documentaries on major world civilizations, concluded at the end of his series that only the western civilizations went around killing each other and slaughtering others to extinction.

China does not send battleships to the Caribbean nor surveillance planes off the coast of California. China’s presence in the Middle East has been to help restore and rebuild infrastructure. The soldiers China dispatches overseas wear the blue UN helmet and serve as peacekeepers under UN auspices.

Washington gasped in alarm when China finally established its first offshore military base outside of China. China justified their base in Djibouti on the horn of Africa as needed to support their naval ships on patrol as part of the multinational efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Africa.

China’s heavy-handed influence on Djibouti was to lay a fresh water pipeline in the country and connect the coastal port with a railroad to Addis Ababa, capitol of landlocked Ethiopia. This is an example of China’s strategy to “dominate” the world, namely helping other countries build their infrastructure via the Belt and Road Initiative.

The author is rightly concerned about world and American national security. I respectfully submit that the hand doing the clapping, namely the United States, is the reigning power that can do the most to cease and desist their aggressive actions and thus avert the infamous trap.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is EEA giving cover for FBI racial profiling of Chinese Americans?


 This was first posted in Asia Times.
 
On the Friday before the Memorial Day Weekend, the Committee of 100 (C100) published their findings on the systemic profiling of Chinese Americans as economic espionage spies by the US federal government.

The Chinese American community, have always known that they are victims of institutionalized racism. This study puts a measuring dipstick into this controversial issue.

Andrew Kim, recent Cum Laude graduate of Harvard Law School, performed the actual analysis of public arrest records of cases charged under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) from 1997 to 2015.

Kim found that under the Obama Administration, i.e., since 2009, the percentage of people charged under EEA that were Chinese Americans tripled to make up 52% of all the cases.  If all non-Chinese but of Asian descent were included, the total would add up to 62% of all the cases.

Since ethnic Asians represent only between 5-6% of the total US population, it would seem that Asian Americans and particularly Chinese Americans are extraordinarily busy spying on America.

However, Chinese or Asians charged under EEA are also twice as likely as those with western surnames to have the charges dropped or reduced to minor offenses so as to justify release on probation.

Conversely, if convicted of espionage, the average sentence in prison is 25 months for Chinese Americans as compared to 11 months for those with western surnames.

In summary, if you are a Chinese American living in the US, you are more likely to be suspected of being a spy, more likely to be falsely accused, and more likely to pay dearly no matter whether you are guilty of any real infractions. Just having the FBI imagined wrongdoing is enough to put you through hell.

Frank Wu, Chairman of C100, recruited Kim to do the study. Kim’s work did not start from scratch but was built on top of the data already collected by C100 member Jeremy Wu. Wu in turn initially took notice of the disparity based on ethnicity from the works of a Palo Alto law firm.

C100, a national organization of prominent Chinese Americans has been following closely cases when Chinese Americans were arrested. When Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was arrested and put in solitary confinement in 1999, the C100 had a leadership role in coming to his defense.

Nelson Dong, then general counsel of C100, via a series of conference calls, organized a national coalition of Asian American organizations to present a unified voice of protest to the Clinton Administration. Dr. Lee was not given due process and the group protested that the FBI agent gave misleading and false testimony during Lee’s trial.

Even though the presiding judge apologize to Lee for government misconduct, Lee still had to plead guilty to downloading data into his computer in violation of accepted national laboratory procedure. The misdemeanor charge was necessary to justify his 10 months of solitary confinement. There was no other way for the government to save face.

Eventually, the Lee family got some monetary compensation from the media for violating Lee’s privacy thanks to C100 member Brian Sun who acted as the plaintiff’s counsel. Getting compensation from the government for wrongful prosecution is nearly impossible as my review disclosed as recently as two years ago.

There are currently two pending cases involving Chinese American scientists seeking compensation from the government. As reported last year, even after all charges were dropped against her, Sherry Chen still could not get her job back.

Chen had since then retained legal counsel and got a hearing with the Merit System Protection Board of the Federal Government that took place in Cincinnati in March. The purpose of the hearing before the administrative judge of MSPB was to determine as to why Chen should not get her job back.

At the hearing, it became clear that Deborah Lee was the principal cause for denying Chen her old job. Even after the charges against Chen were dropped, Lee wrote a two page letter insisting that Chen was a danger to the US. Tom Adams, one time colleague of Lee and Chen, told Chen’s supporters at the hearing that on a social occasion, he had heard Lee expressed hatred and prejudice against ethnic Chinese.

Lee’s letter apparently became the basis for Laura Furgione to draft the letter to dismiss Chen in her capacity as the deputy director of National Weather Service. Furgione, a self-described ambitious career bureaucrat, had to submit her removal letter twice because the director of NWS refused to have anything to do with this sordid business.

Until her appearance at the hearing in Cincinnati, Furgione has never met Chen, did not know her and had no personal reason to insist on denying Chen her old post. Perhaps she thought writing the proposal to dismiss Chen would be a boost for her career.

Since last December, Furgione has moved from NWS to become chief of Office of Strategic Planning, a small office with a handful of staff at the US Census Bureau. Wu who had retired from the Bureau observed in LinkIn that given the organizational disarray there and in face of a pending national census, Furgione might be given assignments where she has no chance to succeed.

Professor Xiaoxing Xi attended the C100 conference in Washington and I interviewed him about the civil suit he filed against FBI agent Andrew Haugen. He said the decision to sue Haugen was a very difficult one because the action required having to relive the trauma of being taken away in handcuffs at gunpoint in front of his family.

However, he was infuriated not just by the way he was treated and that his right as an American citizen has been violated, but because he has never been given any explanation from the government as to why he was the target.

His complaint against the FBI agent charged, “FBI Special Agent Andrew Haugen, who intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly made false statements and representations and material omissions of facts in his reports, affidavits, and other communications with federal prosecutors, thereby initiating a malicious prosecution of Professor Xi.”

Xi hopes his legal action will give him some answers. He understands and expects that the due process will take a long time and that the system protects government wrongdoing. 

The way the system works in the US, even when an officer shoots an unarmed black man in the back, the officer may still find a justifiable probable cause to wiggle away. So it is with Haugen. Even if Haugen has a proclivity to arrest Chinese on sight on trumped up charges, he can hide behind his badge of authority and never face charges for hate crimes.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and does not represent the views of Asia Times nor The Committee of 100.