Relations with China: History is Key

China’s growing influence over the Asian region is becoming obvious.  Their Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is gaining popularity and free trade agreements are both flowing and forthcoming.  The nations of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Mongolia, South Korea, and Taiwan all have history with China, and some millennia longer than others.  Navigating this past is necessary to maintain relationships in the present, but it has proven to be difficult.  With the exception of Bhutan, Chinese investment has improved relations with the South Asian nations and is perhaps taking the lead from India.  In terms of the East Asian nations, although trade is significant, China’s history tends to be more influential.

Bangladesh, caught in the crosshairs between the Subcontinent’s fragmentation, eventually won their independence in 1971, but at an international cost.  China figuratively fought alongside Pakistan and even vetoed Bangladesh’s UN entry.  It was only when Pakistan recognized the nation in 1974 did China alter its stance.  Formal relations began two years later, and ever since, the two have enjoyed mutual trade benefits.

China has invested billions into Bangladesh already.  In 2008, the Sixth China-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge opened.  Built by the China Road & Bridge Corporation, it links major agricultural areas to Dhaka, the capital.  Interestingly, a year later when President Zilur Rahman supported the “One China Policy,” Beijing granted funding to construct a Bangladesh-Myanmar-China road “to increase trade relations” between the two capitals.   Bangladesh officially became part of the BRI in 2016, “when the two countries signed several deals worth $21.5 billion.”  Two of these include the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor (BCIM) and the deep sea port at Pyra.

India is seemingly losing influence within the region, and another potential concern is China’s growing military focus in South Asia.  This is true with Bangladesh.  For the last two decades, it has been China’s third largest buyer of arms.  “The two sides have regularly exchanged high-level military delegations to review relations, negotiate weapons transfers, inspect military facilities, and cement personal [military] contacts.”  In addition the majority of Bangladeshi military vehicles have been Chinese-made.

Besides Ming expeditions under Zheng He, Beijing did not have a true historical relationship with the island nation of Sri Lanka.  When it achieved independence, Prime Minister Don Stephen Senanyake pledged a “middle path,” so as to not interfere in international rivalries of the Cold War.  Sino-Sri Lankan relations truly did not begin until diplomatic relations were established in 1957.  Since 1996, economic cooperation has increased.

Chinese activities in Sri Lanka are largely economic, focusing billions of dollars on military loans, infrastructure loans, and port development.”  In 2007 the two nations agreed upon a $1 billion deal to build a deep sea port in Hambantota and in December of this year, China was granted a 99-year lease for the port.  Some analysts predict it may become a naval base, while others speculate it is purely for trade.  In 2009, Beijing was granted an investment zone in Mirigama, some 34 miles from Colombo, the capital.  The Diplomat reported, “Chinese funds have been channeled into roads, airports, and sea ports, the two highest profile initiatives being the Hambantota Port Development and the Colombo Port Project.”  Sri Lanka is a BRI partner nation, and to further this relationship, they signed a free trade agreement last year.

China and Bhutan have a centuries-long history, and one in which the former was always superior.  To make matters worse, Bhutan and Tibet “share a similar language, customs, and culture, and most Bhutanese are followers of Tibetan Buddhism.”  There is no doubt major clashes have affected Sino-Indian relations over the decades, and Bhutan is always at the crossroads.  A disputed Himalayan border caused clashes with troops from both sides culminating a Chinese win in the 1962 Sino-Indian War.  Further border incidents occurred in 1967 and 1987.  Most recently, when China pursued building a road in Doklam, on the disputed Sino-Bhutanese border last year, another standoff ensued.  The Doklam Incident that began in June was quite reminiscent of 1962, but troops withdrew in August “shortly before Modi came to Xiamen for an emerging market summit.”

Although China and Bhutan do not hold diplomatic ties, it seems relations are improving.  “China planned to extend a railway linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal, and Bhutan by 2020, but they are still not part of the BRI.  “With the One Belt One Road project, China has managed to get the support of all our neighbours with the exception of Bhutan… out of loyalty for India, Bhutan has not joined the project,” Mr Mansingh [a former Indian foreign secretary] said.”  It will be interesting to watch how Bhutan’s strategic location and continued Indian influence plays a role in future Chinese relations.

The Yuan Dynasty, otherwise known as the Mongol Dynasty, controlled China from 1271-1368.  Despite furthering Chinese advancements and preserving China’s culture, Chinese pride was greatly affected as the “Middle Kingdom” could never be controlled by another power.  Centuries later, relations were still rocky, but China established diplomatic relations in 1949 when they became communist.  For many decades, however, Mongolia looked to the Soviet Union for influence, not China.  In 1994, a friendship agreement was signed, and relations have improved since.

Mongolia is in a strategic location per transportation and trade between China and Russia.  “China has reached a stage in its development where demand for metal commodities is especially intense” and is looking to the vast mining resources Mongolia has to offer.  China is the world’s largest consumer of copper, aluminum, lead, zinc, iron ore, nickel, and tin, so mining operations with Mongolia make sense.  In addition, Beijing is investing in two major transportation systems as part of the BRI: the Russia-Mongolia-China Road and Caofeidian-Ulaanbaatar Railway.  The former should be ready this year.  The latter began freight service in March with 51 containers of furniture, electrical appliances, and raw materials.

The Korean Peninsula, once a vassal state of ancient China, has endured millennia of influence, whether positive or negative.  The two civilizations exchanged cultural innovations throughout history, but likewise suffered together under imperialist Japan.  When the Korean Peninsula split, China naturally focused on North Korea.  It was not until 1992 when China formally established relations with the South.

The relationship between communist and noncommunist nations has led to tip-toeing on many areas of international affairs.  China and South Korea benefit from a strong trade, but the nuclear North and the South’s defense relationship with the US steers relations with China.  In 2017, Seoul installed a “US-designed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system (THAAD) that Beijing felt could monitor its own military activities.”  An informal boycott of tourism to South Korea had drastic results that are still felt this year.  From March to October, the number of Chinese tourists fell 61% and in January of this year, they were already down by 46% compared to 2017.  South Korea states it will not deploy THAAD, but Beijing has yet to end the boycott.  Although tourism is only one form of exchange from China, it has dealt quite the blow to the South Korean economy.

Depending upon the expert or the historical text, Taiwan may or may not have been controlled by China.  However, the recent history is what currently matters.  When the Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911, China experienced a time of democracy, albeit quite weak, under Sun Yixian beginning in 1912.  When his rule failed, the nation succumbed to a period of reigning warlords.  Eventually, superficial democratic principles regained momentum under Jiang Jieshi and the Guomindang (GMD), although he was quite dictatorial.  He fought Mao Zedong and the Communists during the Chinese Civil War in the 1930s-1940s.  A ceasefire was in place during WWII as the two combined to fight the imperialist Japanese.  Eventually, Mao won, and the country became communist in 1949.  Jiang and his GMD fled to Taiwan and established the Republic of China (ROC).  Ever since, cross-strait relations have been quite shaky—the ROC is not a UN member, only 22 countries recognize it as a sovereign nation, and China has claimed a “One China Policy” all along.

Taiwan does not need to be part of China’s BRI.  They are an economic powerhouse and one of the four Asian Tigers, all on their own.  However, they do have a substantial trade with China.  As of April 2018, trade increased between the ROC and the mainland and Hong Kong by 13.1%.  Currently, trade is not really the issue, nationalism is.  “Nearly 60 percent of the island’s residents regard themselves as exclusively Taiwanese…”  As pro-independence sentiment grows, China is concerned, and perhaps rightfully so—their pride and possible historical legitimacy is at stake.  The US, regardless of the administration, continues to trade militarily with Taiwan; most recently, Beijing has warned Washington DC not to pass the Taiwan Travel Act, which it ultimately did in March 2018.  This furthers communication and travel between the two countries in terms of defense, economics, and culture.  Where this action will lead cross-strait relations has yet to be seen.

It is the 21st century and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Mongolia, South Korea, and Taiwan are modern countries.  Despite this, their relations with China are dependent upon history, and it is the individual nation’s interpretation that matters.


The Ice Dragon: The Way to a Win-Win in Sino-American Relations


The Arctic Circle’s once inhospitable environment is changing dramatically.  The geopolitics of the region have changed dramatically over the last ten years and climate change is part of this.  Russia planted their flag on the seabed of the North Pole in 2007 and have been building up military installments ever since.  China has been interested in the Arctic since the 1980s, and in January submitted their first white paper on the Arctic.  President Trump with his “America First” campaign and denial of global warming has left various vacuums for other nations to pursue their interests, especially in the Arctic.

The littoral nations make up the US, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Iceland, and Russia. These including Sweden and Finland make up the Arctic Council created in 1996.  It is the “leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States… on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.”  It also comprises of 13 Observer nations.  Besides attending meetings, these states are required to contribute to the group, can propose projects, and even present written statements.  With China’s interest in the area for decades, it made sense they became an observer in 2013.  A major focus of the Council is the melting icecap as it not only affects the coastal nations, but the rest of the world with global climate change and the search for natural resources.

China has been interested in the polar icecaps since at least 1981 when they established the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA).  It has five divisions: general affairs, policy and planning, operations and finance, science programs, and international cooperation.  They have a training base in Heilongjiang Province, in northern China.  The CAA has eight objectives including national strategies and laws, undertaking expeditions, science projects, and international cooperation, among others.  Besides extensive Antarctic activities, the CAA organized six Arctic scientific expeditions from 1997-2014. Additionally, they established an Arctic base in Norway and have gathered data there since 2004.

They established two polar bases, one on Svalbard Island and the other in Iceland; their next base will be in Canada if all goes well.  According to the Heather A. Conley of CSIS, “China’s scientific agenda focuses on mid-latitude weather, changes in Arctic sea ice, and ocean acidification.” A year later, they were part of the International Polar Year research organization.  Four Chinese universities, in cooperation with six Nordic ones created the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center in 2013.  China’s invitation into the Arctic Council paved the way for its current interest in the region, but another initiative got it here as well.

The Belt Road Initiative (BRI)[1] is China’s new Silk Road and Ming Dynasty maritime sovereignty combined. It is the world’s largest economic endeavor potentially involving 60 nations and more than 4.4 billion people.  Chinese President Xi Jinping figuratively discussed it in his 2015 statement at the UN.   A major component of this speech was his claim of “win-win” situations all over the world.  This new silk road would open unfettered pathways to Europe, Africa, and ultimately Latin America.  Scott Kennedy of the CSIS stated the BRI will “include promotion of enhanced policy coordination across the Asian continent, financial integration, trade liberalization, and people-to-people connectivity.”  In January, China released its “Arctic Policy.”  As it claims it is a “near-Arctic State,” Beijing has extended BRI funding to support a Polar Silk Road.

China is clearly ambitious in its cooperative economic goals.  They are staking claims worldwide making democracies uneasy.   That is not the only current event making countries concerned.  President Xi was unanimously elected again, and this time it is for life.  Beijing’s goals in the Arctic and all their implications remain to be seen, as well as if the US will be in a winning situation or not.

 China’s Arctic Policy

China’s Arctic Policy has five main objectives under which respect, cooperation, win-win results, and sustainability will be maintained.  In order they are “deepening the exploration and understanding of the Arctic, protecting the eco-environment of the Arctic and addressing climate change, utilizing Arctic Resources in a Lawful and Rational Manner, participating Actively in Arctic governance and international cooperation, and promoting peace and stability in the Arctic.”  The Polar Silk Road seems to be comparable to its already operating BRI.

Beijing has deemed scientific exploration and research the most important.  “China is actively involved in multi-disciplinary research including Arctic geology, geography, ice and snow, hydrology, meteorology, sea ice, biology, ecology, geophysics and marine chemistry. In addition, China observes the “atmosphere, sea, sea ice, glaciers, soil, bio-ecological character and environmental quality through the establishment of multi-element Arctic observation system, construction of cooperative research (observation) stations, and development of and participation in the Arctic observation network.  In such pursuits, it is equipped with environmentally friendly technology.

The second objective concerns the environment and climate change. “China is actively engaged in improving the Arctic environment by enhancing the environmental background investigation of Arctic activities and the assessment of their environmental impact.”  They work with other nations to limit waste sites and monitor pollution.  China has dramatically reduced its greenhouse emissions and will continue to promote the importance of understanding climate change worldwide.

Next, China will maintain all legalities concerning the Arctic.  They will abide by UNCLOS in not claiming sovereign rights and respecting EEZs of littoral nations.  China will continue its scientific endeavors, as well as newfound joint ventures in energy extraction by following all previous and current arrangements and treaties.

China has been active in the Arctic for decades and their Arctic ambitions have proven true by joining various organizations.  In furthering its role in governance and cooperation, “concrete cooperation steps include coordinating development strategies with the Arctic States, encouraging joint efforts to build a blue economic passage linking China and Europe via the Arctic Ocean, enhancing Arctic digital connectivity, and building a global infrastructure network.”  Beijing is working regionally and globally among a multitude of organizations.

The final component of the Arctic Policy promotes peaceful and stable operations and ventures.  “China calls for the peaceful utilization of the Arctic and commits itself to maintaining peace and stability, protecting lives and property, and ensuring the security of maritime trade, operations and transport in the region.”  In addition, China will assist in resolving any Arctic territorial disputes, all the while maintaining international laws.  In doing so, China and its partners will enjoy win-win conditions.

Implications and Recommendations

China is the largest trading partner of a multitude of countries and has the fastest growing economy.  Ting wrote, “…the expansion is the latest illustration of Xi’s desire to play a greater global role as the US turns more inward-looking under Donald Trump.”  She continued explaining that Xi has invited Trump to join the BRI, but he has yet to accept the offer.  Remarkably, Japan has shown interest and Canada has already joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Chinese-run bank currently investing in BRI projects.  Another concern is with the opportunities to collaborate scientifically, “There has been limited interaction between Chinese and American experts.” Two solid US allies are influenced by Beijing and Americans losing an opportunity to further the nation’s knowledge—it is a wonder Trump is not bothered.

Sherri Goodman is a Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center and former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense in environmental security.  In an interview she answered something very important.  The interviewer pointed out that the first lines in the China Arctic Policy were about global warming.  She responded,

China clearly recognizes that that climate change is happening…so they make no bones about wanting to confront it and adapt to it. In fact, they’re using it, in many ways, as a source of strength. It is in part what spurs their interest in the Arctic because there is greater access to the region and the energy and mineral resources that are just now becoming ice-free.

In Svalbard alone, they have more than 500 scientists, but Greenland and Iceland are what interest them in terms of the BRI.  Beijing is taking advantage of this opportunity to learn and capitalize on the potential extensive natural resources.  This would be a tremendous business opportunity for American companies, and Trump should be showing much more interest.

At a recent Wilson Center Ground Truth Briefing, experts gathered and there were mixed feelings.  Retired Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries, David Balton, said, “Chinese activities in the Arctic that I have been involved in have been non-controversial and positive and constructive. That said… I would say that China is trying to assert an enhanced role in the Arctic and the Antarctic region as well.”  Also, “I don’t actually think that the Arctic states are likely to embrace China’s invitation to create or adopt the moniker of a ‘Polar Silk Road,’ even as they may welcome China’s engagement in some appropriate ways.”  Robert Daly, Director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States said, “the [Chinese white paper] also speaks continually about a ‘shared future for mankind’… This is really Xi’s most important phrase for framing China and China’s rise — the role it wants to play in the international order — as benevolent.”  Although somewhat ambiguous, these are all statements Trump must consider if they want to be viewed as a true Arctic nation and taken seriously in any of its endeavors in the region.

Two other quotes are significant.  Michael Sfraga, Director of the Polar Initiative said,

as the Arctic ice continues to retreat, there’s both opportunity and challenge there. How we best situate our own interests and those of like minds is probably best considered quickly…I think there are ways we engage with them in a very productive, meaningful dance forward – and that can be for the good of a lot. But we should not be lulled into a false narrative either way.

The fact that Trump has not engaged with the BRI opportunity is alarming, especially understanding his commercial background.  Regardless, it makes sense with his “America First” initiative.  The second quote is from Captain Lawson Brigham, a distinguished professor of Geography and Arctic Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  He said, “I did find it very interesting that the word ‘military’ is not mentioned once throughout the [document], and that’s maybe positive.”  A multi-page document from China, where they just elected Xi as leader for life, did not once mention anything concerning the military.  This speaks volumes for the time being and Trump should take note.

China will not be leaving its Arctic interests soon. Clearly it is determined and ready to pursue multiple angles within the region.  Knowing these ambitions, although quite lofty, the US should read this scenario in two ways: competition for scientific knowledge and cooperative endeavors.  Either opportunity would be one in which America could prosper and further its influence.  Beijing is not an enemy in the Arctic, but an energetic and scientifically-driven joint venturer.  Frustratingly, Washington DC cannot say the same.


Many nations regardless of their latitude are involved with scientific research of the Arctic and its melting icecap.  The shifting geopolitics of the region is something to watch, especially since many American allies are already participating and investing, whether littoral or not.  China’s goals in the north are not a concern to the United States, nor any of the Arctic nations.  As they are unable to claim sovereignty, their next best endeavor is financial.  Whether the Belt Road Initiative is funded enough to truly work remains to be seen, as well as nations genuinely wanting Chinese support.  Regardless, for now, Beijing’s motives are cooperative and scientific projects only help to serve the common good.  China’s Arctic Policy has four main principles: respect, cooperation, win-win results, and sustainability, and they appear to be following these.  Until they prove otherwise, the US should continue to engage with China, create joint ventures, and explore the unknown together.  Then, the United States would be in a true win-win partnership.

[1] Also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR).

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Putinization of the Arctic: Friend or Foe?


The Arctic Ocean is one of the few places left unexplored on Earth.  Its vast frozen landmass and seas encompass all that is north of 66° 33’N, otherwise known as the Arctic Circle. It is bordered by the United States (Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Iceland, and of course, Russia.  Outside of the littoral nations, Sweden and Finland are pertinent to the area and are also members of the Arctic Council created in 1996.

The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

A major focus is the melting icecap as it not only affects the coastal nations, but the rest of the world with global climate change studies, and funding the search for natural resources, and the claiming of borders.

There is no doubt the Arctic ice has been melting at an alarming rate.  According to the IceNational Snow and Ice Data Center, “Arctic sea ice extent for March 2018 averaged 14.30 million square kilometers (5.52 million square miles), the second lowest in the 1979 to 2018 satellite record.”  The once harsh climate and frozen waters have lessened and opened to the world.  These newfound waterways are fundamental for several reasons.  First, they can provide quicker and cheaper shipping lanes.  Next, it is presumed there will be a hydrocarbon extraction boom.  Finally, to protect these lucrative discoveries, nations may want to secure their Arctic borders.

Russia’s vast coastline almost makes it synonymous with the Arctic.  Far more Russians live in the Arctic Circle than do Canadians, its second largest border.  Its long history of claiming a warm water port assisted in Russia to explore its immediate north after World War II.  Imminent tensions with the United States created several Arctic bases on both sides.  The Cold War is supposedly over, yet Washington DC and Moscow maintain uneasy relations at its best and dangerous at its worst.  “In July 2007, a team of Russian scientists led by Arthur Chilingarov descended to the ocean bottom of the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the seabed.”  This symbolism speaks volumes, but determining its meaning is the difficult part.  There are two schools of thought: Russia is either aggressive and following its historical norms of nationalism or cooperative and aiding in developing the natural resources in the region. One may spark a new Cold War, while the other will create a new world order.  The United States Department of Homeland Security must determine which it will be to maintain national security.

The Northern Sea Route

            Various Arctic travel routes have existed, but they are not extensive, and are truly only viable in the summer NSRmonths.  As the ice melts faster, more lanes have opened.  The Northern Sea Route (NSR) “runs along the Russian Arctic coastline from the Kara Sea to the Bering Strait.”[1]  More temperate waters allow the NSR to extend westward into Scandinavia and even the North Sea.  According to a Wall Street Journal map (2013), this route could even reduce the distance between Europe and China by upwards of 40% as compared the norm of traveling the Suez Canal.

Maritime boundaries differ from those on land.  Østhagen wrote, “each coastal state [has] rights in the adjacent maritime space: a maximum 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, which can be extended further given adequate proof of its geological contiguity.”  The US and Russia are at odds with two Arctic shipping routes: the NSR and the Northwest Passage (connecting the Canadian Atlantic to the Pacific).[2]   The former asserts both are within international waters and should not be claimed by a country.  The latter says that the NSR is within their EEZ, and therefore has authority.  Russia’s tremendous interest in and claim to the NSR is evident in their developmental policies and state papers.  For example, in 2008, the Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation up to 2030 was created.  “According to this document, Russia aims to develop the NSR by commissioning nuclear icebreakers, improving the ports along the shipping lane and creating a ship monitoring system.”  In addition, Russia seeks to create numerous search and rescue (SAR) stations along the NSR.  Clearly these are beneficial to the Russians.

International shipping has increased since the ice has melted.  It appears Russia is maintaining its control of the shipping lane via legal barriers.  For example, “vessels navigating the NSR are responsible for environmental pollution, tariffs, and providing proof of liability and insurance.” Alternatively, Devyatkin also asserts that Moscow will internationalize the NSR for the benefit of all.  Both the China Ocean Shipping Company and the Danish-operated Maersk are interested in traversing the lane.   The NSR is still too new to know what will happen in the future.  The US-Russian disagreement has yet to unfold into something larger but must continue to be a focus of the United States.


Hydrocarbons            Simply stated, hydrocarbons are compounds that are made up of hydrogen and carbon—they are essential components in fossil fuels like oil and natural gas.  In a globalized world, energy extraction is fundamental to the maintenance of developed nations and the modernizing of developing ones.  According to Bird et al., the Arctic may hold 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and up to 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas supplies.  In other figures by the United States Geological Survey,

Using a geology based probabilistic methodology, the USGS estimated the occurrence of undiscovered oil and gas in 33 geologic provinces thought to be prospective for petroleum. The sum of the mean estimates for each province indicates that 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids may remain to be found in the Arctic, of which approximately 84 percent is expected to occur in offshore areas.

Russia, having the largest coastline with the Arctic, will therefore have the most of these energy resources.[3]  This potential competition should be a concern for the US.

As with Russia’s involvement in the NSR, its energy interests are also multi-faceted.  In 2000 when Vladimir Putin first became president, he solidified his power by transitioning private oil and gas companies into governmental-controlled entities.  Some experts speculate this proves his desire for personal gain as the Arctic opens.  The Kremlin has put forth several government papers explaining the significance of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.  The annual Development Strategies of the Russian Arctic espouse this.  In exploring the resources of the Arctic, Moscow will rely less on the diminishing supplies in Siberia.  Putin’s nationalism spreads further.  “In 2012, the State Program for the Development of the Continental Shelf in the Period up to 2030 established the Arctic continental shelf as a territory for exploitation solely by state companies, namely Rosneft and Gazprom.”

In reality, Devyatkin wrote, with the amount of hydrocarbons potentially present in Russian EEZs, there is no need for Moscow to claim other nations’ supplies.  To support this, Russia sought technological and business cooperation with the US.  “In 2012, Rex Tillerson and Igor Sechin, the then chief executive officers of ExxonMobil and Rosneft respectively, signed a deal that was worth $500 billion.”  Complications ensued, and the deal ultimately failed in 2017.  Russia does have successful ventures with both British Petroleum and the Norwegian government and is looking towards working with China.  It will be interesting to see if the US could ever have an energy relationship with Russia in the Arctic.

Militarizing the Arctic

russia militarizing

If the previous explanations of shipping lanes and hydrocarbons seemed ambiguous, then analyzing Russia’s military in the Arctic will be consistent.  When the Cold War ended, the Warsaw Pact disbanded, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remained.  Moscow may be regretting this decision as all their actions or inactions impact NATO members.  Neither Sweden nor Finland are part of NATO but would seek Western assistance if Russia were to pursue military endeavors too close.  Specifically concerning the newly discovered riches in the Arctic, it makes sense that Russia would focus on it militarily to protect its ventures.

For the years of the Dimitri Medvedev-Putin regime, several government policies passed regarding the Arctic.  Some were military focused, while others were more cooperative and economic focused.  In February 2013, the Development Strategy of the Russian Arctic and the Provision of National Security for the Period Until 2020 was passed.  It elaborated on a previous policy concerning the Arctic, as well it maintained Russia’s national security issues were also those of the Arctic’s.

For example, one priority is the establishment of an integrated security system for the protection of territory, population, and critical facilities. National security in the Arctic requires an advanced naval, air force and army presence in the Arctic. Further aims include developing the Russian icebreaker fleet, modernizing the air service and airport network, and establishing modern information and telecommunication infrastructure.

In addition, according to Devyatkin, another policy, the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, created in 2014, stated that soldiers must be stationed in the Arctic, even in times of peace.  These policies are mere words compared to actual figures.


There are 14 non-Russian bases within the Arctic Circle, much of them in Alaska, one in Norway and Greenland, and the rest in Canada.  Russia has 17, at least six of which are new.  These comprise of both air and naval bases.  Russia’s Arctic military buildup began in 2007, a month after the flag planting.  There it “resumed strategic bomber and Northern Fleet patrols in its Arctic waters for the first time since the end of the Cold War,” as well as highly invested in its navy.  Its Northern Fleet currently maintains approximately 40 submarines (many with nuclear capabilities), one aircraft carrier, 17 larger ships, 33 auxiliary ships, 100 planes, and 40 helicopters.  It is true that the Northern Fleet is significantly less than that of the Cold War.  However, Russia is also increasing its missile defense system.  Devyatkin further explained, “the Ministry of Defense has announced that they aim to put more than 100 military facilities into operation in 2017” and soldiers with Arctic combat training will be stationed there.  What exactly these have to do with maintaining its resources has yet to be seen.

Russia also participates with NATO countries in joint military exercises and SAR.  From 2010-2013, Russia and Norway held naval drills in the Barents Sea and since 2015 have held joint Northern Fleet and Norwegian Coast Guard drills.  Russia also conducted exercises with France, the United Kingdom, and the US (FRUKUS), but these ended in 2013.  When Putin annexed Crimea, NATO drills with Russia stopped.  In a Boston Globe article from 2017, Andrew Grant explained that the Coast Guards from the eight Arctic Council nations established the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) in 2015 to coordinate emergency responses.  Joint military exercises and SAR cooperation adds to the uncertainty and confusion of Russia’s military presence in the Arctic.


The Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC) is a Science and Technology Organization within the Department of Homeland Security.  They have a couple of projects working towards a better understanding of the region.  For example, in cooperation with the Woods Hole Institute, they are creating a Tethys Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LRAUV).  “Once complete, the LRAUV will be a propeller-driven robot used in situations too dangerous for humans,” such as deep-sea data collection or oil spills.  Thus far, it will be used in the Alaskan Arctic.  Other projects include mapping sea lanes, modelling ice and currents in the region, and various tools for mapping oil spills.  These programs are helpful scientifically and must continue, but they do not add a defensive or even offensive component to national security.

In researching a specific US Arctic defense policy, there was very little information.  On the Department of Homeland Security website in searching for “Arctic Policy,” there are a multitude of articles, but the majority are between two and six years old and mostly scientific in nature.[4]  In 2013, Defense Secretary under President Obama Chuck Hagel, announced an update to the 2009 Department of Defense (DoD) Arctic Policy.  After more searching, two articles were found: one explaining the passing of National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and a DoD document both supported by Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan.  Perhaps this is evidence to President Trump’s denial of climate change.  Regardless, the Pentagon claims reduced ice levels are a national security threat.

The NDAA was passed in 2016 by a huge margin: 85-13.  It provided significant funding for the Alaskan and Arctic region.  Senator Sullivan said,

From near-peer adversaries like a resurgent Russia and an emergent China, to unstable and unpredictable threats from ISIS and North Korea, I fought to include provisions in this bill that will ensure that our troops get the best equipment and training, and that our nation is assertively responding to growing threats in regions like the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic.

In addition, the NDAA would work with the Coast Guard to upgrade ports and increase the fight for icebreakers.  This last piece is very important as the US only has three icebreakers, compared to Russia’s 30.  According to Admiral Stavridis, seven of them are nuclear powered, including their newest addition, the Arktika, which has 80,000 horse power and is 567 feet long; it can break up to 10 feet of ice at a time.  This NDAA funding is necessary, especially since Russia is elevating its presence in the Arctic, and clearly the Senate understood that.  This is necessary funding, especially since Russia is elevating its presence in the Arctic, and clearly the Senate understood that.

Also, in 2016, the DoD submitted their Report to Congress on Strategy to Protect United States National Security Interests in the Arctic Region.  “It is also in DoD’s interest to shape military activity in the Arctic region to avoid conflict while improving its capability to operate safely and sustain forces in a harsh, remote environment in anticipation of increasing accessibility and activity in the Arctic in the coming years.” Additional components comprise of infrastructure, preserving freedom of the seas, and strengthening alliances.  As with the NDAA, this policy is heading in the right direction for Russia’s current and potential future aggression.

If the President and the Department of Homeland Security do not deem the Arctic a current concern, perhaps the US should let the other NATO littoral nations take charge.  The European Command of NATO (EUCOM) would be a beneficial fit.  They are already in the region of potential concern, already keeping watch over Russia’s actions, and Norway and Denmark are involved with Russia concerning joint ventures and exercises.  Admiral Stavridis explained that they have the technology and icebreakers necessary: Canada has six, Denmark has four, and Norway has one; outside of NATO, but part of the Arctic Council are Finland and Sweden with seven each.  Utilizing the power and influence of our allies with the Arctic is imperative, especially with the recent current events involving Russia.


Vladimir Putin is an interesting leader.  He is a former intelligence officer of the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB), the Soviet Union’s leading security force with more than a decade of experience.  He saw the Fatherland collapse under Boris Yeltsin in the late 1990s and has since run the country in one form or another. In a landslide election, he just won his fourth term as president. Under his control, Russia acquired Crimea, but there is a history of war with Chechnya and Georgia and there are several border disputes with former Soviet Satellites.  Putin’s history, as well as Russian territorial antagonism is significant to note.

In addition, Moscow is currently dealing with several international issues.  The 2016 voting scandal of the American elections is still present. It is assumed Russia poisoned double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia causing tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions in several nations.  Most recently, their involvement in Syria’s Assad regime and the potential gas attack has increased tensions with the West.  Russia’s hawkish actions only prove their international aggression and nationalist tendencies.

True, no fighting has occurred in the Arctic, there are no landgrabs, and military installations are significantly lower than those of the Cold War.  Nevertheless, it comes down to Putin. He has a shady history, one of having the constitution altered to maintain legitimacy, celebrating WWII victories, military parades, and nationalizing major energy corporations.  He eccentricity and determination even led to a Russian flag on the seabed of the North Pole.  This intensity could prove to demonstrate his eagerness and willingness to militarize the Arctic for Russian gain, not international cooperation.

In 2014, Putin said, “you can do a lot more with weapons and politeness than just politeness.”  He was referring to a Russian soldier in Crimea in March earlier that year.  Despite that it was spoken four years ago, it still applies to how he views the Arctic.  By appearing to be cooperative, Russia is gaining the advantage, and cleverly so.  One must look at Russia with realist skepticism; the United States should be leery of the nation’s involvement in the Arctic—they are not a friend but a foe.  Even according to Vladimir Putin, “Russia never lost the Cold War… because it never ended.”

[1] The aqua lanes on the map.

[2] The red lanes on the map.

[3] On the map, the darker the color, the more hydrocarbons believed to be present.

[4] See

The Dragon and the Elephant: Communication Rebooted

There is no doubt major clashes have affected Sino-Indian relations over the decades.  The 1959 Tibetan Uprising protesting Chinese rule resulted in Indian recognition and promised sanctuary of the Dalai Lama.  A disputed Himalayan border caused clashes with troops from both sides culminating a Chinese win in the 1962 Sino-Indian War.  Further border incidents occurred in 1967 and 1987.  Most recently, when China pursued building a road in Doklam, on the disputed Sino-Bhutanese border last year, another standoff ensued.  The Doklam Incident that began in June was quite reminiscent of 1962, but troops withdrew in August “shortly before Modi came to Xiamen for an emerging market summit.”

Borders are not the only issue between the two neighbors.  According to Dr. Siwei Liu of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, he believes third-party actors are also involved.  These include the Belt Road Initiative, the Quad, and the role of media.

India may be concerned with the growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean and South Asia.  The BRI is the world’s largest economic endeavor potentially involving 60 nations and more than 4.4 billion people.  In recreating the famed Silk Road, Chinese investment has attracted many players, some of whom were strong benefactors of India.  After political upheaval in the Maldives, the island nation is looking more towards China for assistance than India.  Beijing garnered a 99-year lease of the Sri Lankan port Hambantota.  They are investing heavily in the Pakistani port cities of Jiwani and Gwadar, as well as the nation itself—perhaps the most concerning for India.  The late 2017 election of Communist Prime Minister Oli of Nepal also seems a blessing to China.  Perhaps India feels like Sinicization is closing in.

On the other hand, China’s third party actor may be with the Quad.  This potential alliance involves the United States, Japan, Australia, and India.  Dr. Liu writes, “these actors undoubtedly hope to make use of the contradictions and differences between China and India and seek their own best interests in the Indo-Pacific region and forcefully advocate for the revived ‘Quad’, a strategic alliance designed to have a negative impact on China.”  With the docking of the USS Carl Vinson in Vietnam and Trump’s recent tariffs on Chinese imports, Beijing may feel overwhelmed with a growing American presence.

Both nations also feel an increased negativity with the media, both domestically and internationally.  They fuel nationalist fervor and spread false information.  Dr. Liu explains, “his kind of reporting frequently and demonstrably results in…action traps for the respective leaderships, where compromise or even a basic explanation of positions to the satisfaction of the other is seen as retreat.

Things seem to have reset.  In early March, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said to his Indian counterpart Vijay Gokhale, “‘the two sides should increase strategic mutual trust and accelerate common development based on the political consensus of the leaders of the two countries. It is hoped that India will handle sensitive issues with prudence and work toward the same goal of promoting healthy development of China-India relations.’”

In a South China Morning Post interview, Indian ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale proves communication is consistent.  He explains that there is an existing Joint Economic Group between the two led by their respective commerce ministers.  “Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan will be in India later this week…where they will discuss how to improve the trade relations and investments between India and China.”

He went on to explain that talks between foreign ministers would take place at the end of March and Prime Minister Modi will visit with President Xi Jinping in June for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

That March visit was a success according to Suhasini Haidar of The Hindu.  They celebrated Sino-Indian trade which reached a growth of 20.3% from the previous year resulting in $84.4 billion; China maintained its position as India’s largest trade partner.  In addition, Chinese investments in India have become one of the most significant.

Mr. Zhong, who co-chaired the 11th meeting of the India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology with Mr. Prabhu, said a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and China would be negotiated in due course, which would be a breakthrough in ties.”  As this is a future endeavor, there were four other foci of the meeting.  First, the two would promote the BRI and Indian investment projects equally.  Various campaigns including “Make in India” and “Digital India” would be exploited to its fullest.  The second is to promote Indian exports to China to aid in the trade imbalance.  Next, “the two sides agreed to set up a special working group to draw a road map for developing two-way trade…The two sides supported the multilateral trading system and safeguard the interests of developing members.”  Finally, in November 2018, Shanghai will host the first ever China International Import Expo.  More than 180 countries will attend with more than 1500 companies.  “The Indian government has made clear that it would actively organize Indian business to participate in the expo.”

Both China and India are powerful nations.  Their histories go back millennia as well as their inspiration in Asia.  The modern norm has always been a South Asian following of Indian influence and stimulus, but that is changing.  As China meets the demands of trade and infrastructure, some nations are straying from India, but have not turned their backs completely.  Globalization is changing the status quo worldwide, so why would Asia be any different?  The poorer nations that once looked only to India will grow immensely having two solid partners.  Standards of living will increase, and millions of lives will improve.  Pakistan, India’s greatest concern, will no doubt be forced by China’s BRI to quit harboring terrorists.  This win-win would be beneficial to all.

These meetings appear to have given both Modi and Xi a solid footing in June.  In the end, regardless of Doklam, the increase in Chinese presence surrounding India, the potential for the Quad, other third-party actors, or the concerns of the neighboring countries, the Dragon and the Elephant must not get lost in translation.

The Power of Our Example

United States domestic policies under President Trump have obvious implications within the US, but internationally as well.  Some nations have publicly decried these beliefs, but interestingly, these governments tend to be strong and its citizens generally safe.  Few of these countries have spoken up for the newer or emerging republics, or the governmentally struggling.  Trump’s policies regarding women’s rights, immigration status, and the environment are significantly affecting nations in South Asia.

Presidencies throughout history have had their scandals, but many feel how Trump has treated women in the past, and more recently in current events with former aid Rob Porter are first and foremost in the American psyche.  Nevertheless, while the US watches the #MeToo Movement unfold, women in Nepal are losing their fight on women’s rights.  When former President George W. Bush assumed office, one of his first plans was to institute the “global gag rule.”  Essentially, he withdrew funding for any international organization that provided information or actual abortions.  The impoverished nation was already dealing with a horrific maternal mortality rate of 539 deaths per 10,000 live births.  Former President Obama reinstated this funding and women’s rights dramatically improved per the assistance, as well as the impact of globalization granting a higher standard of living.  By 2015, the maternal mortality rate was reduced to 258 deaths.  “American aid has made a very valuable contribution to women’s health, but these policy reversals undermine it. Nepali women’s welfare is vulnerable to the whims of each new administration.”  As with the US, women’s rights organizations extend far beyond abortion.  They also include menstruation information and sanitary products, birth control options, and reproductive health visits.  Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, women’s health in general should not be limited.

The pro-life Trump reverted to the Bush model in January, but took it a step further.  Because 120 countries disapproved of the new US stance on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, Trump retaliated with reduced funding for major UN organizations.  Nepal could lose part of a $5 million grant from USAID which would dramatically reduce the number of trained doctors, nurses, and midwives for three districts. Another reduction includes UNICEF, at 16%.  UNICEF is involved in a variety of child welfare programs such as health and education.  Part of this organization also concerns child brides.  According to the Global Citizen, “India has more than 10 million child brides, the most of any country in the world…”  India, the largest democracy by hundreds of millions, a diverse nation of religions, languages, and histories is striving for equal rights, but it will take time.  Withdrawal of UNICEF support for this education will only make it worse.  The President needs to set aside his ego and realize serious human rights abuses are occurring daily.

A major component of Trump’s campaign was immigration restrictions; this proves true with his presidency as well, whether with resettlement issues or H-1B visas.  Pakistan is an ultra-religious nation, and Christians are often discriminated against.  This is chilling as OpenDoors USA ranks Pakistan the fourth most dangerous nation in the world.  OpenDoors USA continued in their article that in December 2013, a Christian family of four fled Pakistan to Thailand en route to seeking refugee status in the US.  By January 2017, they were approved to resettle in New Mexico.  Shortly after, Trump “issued a controversial executive order suspending all refugee resettlement to the United States for a period of 120 days.”  The family was even considered to represent a rare case for the UN High Commission for Refugees. The president’s so-called Christian views have failed minority families in dangerous countries.

In an ever-increasing virtual world, IT knowledge is a must.  Rogue nations are accused of online crime in everything from fraud to ransomware, but dangerous terrorist organizations like ISIS are also using the internet for profit.  Knowing this, IT jobs are on high demand worldwide.  India has a phenomenal IT generation that could truly benefit the world, but the US may be excluded from this advantage.  Trump’s “America First” agenda might prevent future Indian migration within this field.  According to the LA Times, “India’s army of young tech workers is bracing for new restrictions on a visa program that has represented a path to the middle class for thousands over the last two decades.”  This will hurt both the US and the Indian American dream.

The final US domestic policy that affects South Asia is the environment.  The Paris Agreement, a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) obviously affects the world.  Many nations are doing what they can to reduce carbon emissions and lessen pollution.  However, there is a small South Asian country that has bested them all.  Bhutan, a landlocked nation in the Himalayas, is the world’s only carbon negative country.  This means that they absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce.  Ecowatch states, “To boot, Bhutan is aiming for zero net greenhouse gas emissionszero-waste by 2030 and to grow 100 percent organic food by 2020. The Himalayan nation is currently 72 percent forested and the constitution requires that no less than 60 percent of it remains forested. It has even banned export logging.”  With Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, one of the only nations in the world not endorsing it, Bhutan’s incredible status may be disrupted.  Part of Bhutan’s uniqueness is that they live according to the Gross National Happiness Index, not a gross domestic product (GDP).  With such a simple but amazing strategy, it will be devastating to see it disappear because of governmental climate change deniers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said, “Look.  You know why we’re the most powerful nation in the world. It’s not just the example of our power, it’s the power of our example.”  The United States has a privileged position of being the most influential country in the world, whether wanted or not.  It must use this status as an example setter.

Mackinder and Mahan: The Chinese Geopolitics in South Asia

Geopolitics are always at play within international relations, but none more so than the current role the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has in South Asia.  Sir Halford Mackinder explained the Heartland Theory in “The Geographical Pivot of History” in 1904.  Whichever nation controlled Eastern Europe would control the Heartland (the core of Eurasia); subsequently this nation would then control the World Island (all of Europe and Asia); and finally, would dominate the world.  Alfred Thayer Mahan’s view was focused upon the oceans.  Simply, whoever conquered the seas would control the world.  Both have proven true throughout history, but not at the same time with the same nation.  The partnership of Mackinder and Mahan’s theories are found within the PRC’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.

The OBOR is the world’s largest economic endeavor potentially involving 60 nations and more than 4.4 billion people.  It was first mentioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.  He figuratively discussed it in his 2015 statement at the UN.   A major component of this speech was his claim of “win-win” situations all over the world.  This new silk road would open unfettered pathways to Europe, Africa, and ultimately Latin America.  According to Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the OBOR will “include promotion of enhanced policy coordination across the Asian continent, financial integration, trade liberalization, and people-to-people connectivity.”  This project is not without its political implications for South Asia as well.  If China is successful in its goals, they will prove both geopolitical theories as symbiotic, and become the new superpower.

India and China have been significant rivals in South Asia for centuries, whether in politics, economics, militarily, or religion.  The US has bolstered the former, being the world’s largest democracy, and has aided in its development and transformation into an economic center and regional influencer.  On the other hand, the PRC is clearly Asia’s economic powerhouse with tremendous ambition to Sinicize.  Lately, it seems China’s authority has transcended that of India, as seen in Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The One Belt: China’s Heartland

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a venture that will benefit Pakistan tremendously as it struggles with an increasing younger generation, limited social opportunities, and greater radicalization.  The CPEC website outlines these projects.  The PRC financed four railways: the Karachi Circular completed in May 2017, the Greater Peshawar Region and Orange Line in Lahore are under construction and Quetta is in the feasibility process.  In addition to rail, China funded three roads and one canal projects.  In the Punjab Province, an iron mining and steel processing plan is underway.  The heart of Deng Xiaoping’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” was Special Economic Zones (SEZs).  China is in various stages in developing nine of these within Pakistani urban areas.  They will be connected to rail, road, waterways, as well as airports.  The SEZs involve a multitude of industries including produce, textiles, pharmaceuticals, appliances, and agricultural machinery.  Chinese SEZs boosted its economy and will do the same for Pakistan.  In retaliation to a January tweet by President Trump, the Pakistani Central Bank declared it officially adopted the Yuan, only strengthening a solid trade between the two nations.  These numerous economic outcomes are obviously necessary for a growing younger generation.  Nevertheless, they also need educational and social opportunities.  Knowing this, the PRC is funding a university, a business school, and various opportunities for the two countries to exchange cultures.  With less poverty and greater prospects, perhaps fewer men will turn to radicalization.  The safety of thousands of Chinese nationals living and working in Pakistan is also of concern to Beijing.  The PRC has already pressured Pakistan to do more to counter terrorism.  The CPEC is clearly a win-win economically, socially and politically.

Nepal has been a geopolitical pawn of two powerful Asian nations.  Today is no different, although they are leaning closer to China than India.  The recent election of Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli proves this stronger relationship.  According to a South China Post article, “Nepal’s new communist prime minister will restart a Chinese-led US$2.5 billion hydropower project that was pulled by the previous government considered friendly towards India, and wants to increase infrastructure connectivity with Beijing to ease the country’s reliance on New Delhi.”  Previously Nepali internet access came from Indian companies.  In January that changed with China Telecom Global taking the lead.  In addition, Beijing will help build the first railway, over the Himalayas into China, not down the valley into India.  Beijing is also trying to reduce Nepal’s dependency on India for trade.  When a 2015 Indian blockade of Nepali roads ensued, they looked to China for help.  Although China could not provide all the nation’s fuel needs, it opened significant talks between the two.  In a landmark decision, Nepal will now have ocean access via the Chinese port city, Tianjin, not just ports in India.  This allows for greater third-party trade, especially with those nations restricted by trade in India.  Interestingly, these infrastructure projects come at the same time the PRC has encouraged the two Nepali communist parties to merge and become stronger.  Again, both nations appear to enjoy win-win scenarios in economics and politics.

The One Road: China’s Maritime Influence

The transformation of Chinese influence in the Maldives has been interesting.  Malé only recently acquired a Chinese embassy in 2011.  Since then, Chinese presence has been powerful.  Gateway House of India explained the PRC has more than 20 government and privately-sponsored projects “ranging from big infrastructure (airport, bridge), housing, hotels and urban infrastructure.”  The three greatest is estimated at over $1.5B, putting the islands into even greater debt.  The most significant economic opportunity in the Maldives is tourism, and China sends the most vacationers.  Strategically, Beijing is now closer than ever.  As the political crisis in the Maldives unfolds, both China and India are vying for power and influence.  According to The Maritime Executive, Chinese warships entered the Indian Ocean on February 20—the same day President Yameen extended another 30-day state of emergency.  The chaos involved, whether it is Yameen’s directive to revert to the former one-party system or India’s claim that warships did not arrive, has given Beijing more authority.  In this volatile environment, it is too early to tell who will benefit from these win-win policies.

Solely because of size, Sri Lanka is the stronger of the two island nations when it comes to Indian Ocean shipping.  Knowing this, Beijing invested billions into various infrastructure projects.  The Diplomat reported, “Chinese funds have been channeled into roads, airports, and sea ports, the two highest profile initiatives being the Hambantota Port Development and the Colombo Port Project.”  In December, the PRC was granted a 99-year lease for Hambantota. Some analysts predict it may become a naval base, while others speculate it is purely for trade.  Chinese presence is also noted in telecommunications.  Anti-Chinese protests ensued as unions were unhappy with the lease.  Huawei, China’s largest cellular phone manufacturer, is the second largest producer in Sri Lanka.  Like the Maldives, a Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2017.  Reduced tariffs will allow a greater flow of Chinese products.  Despite the union clashes, it seems there will also be win-win situations among Sino-Sri Lankan relations.


Are communist ideals wining over democratic principles?  Does India’s Modi have fences to mend?  The Hambantota protests were the first against Chinese investment; will this become a norm?  Should the US do more to protect Indian, and hence democratic interests in the region?  When the US pulled out of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), did the geopolitics of Makinder and Mahan aid in China’s ambition to becoming a new superpower?  Time will only tell.

Community of Han Destiny, Not a Common Destiny

The Middle Kingdom has struck hypocrisy again with its lofty ideals of equality, security, inclusive development, promoting respect for differences, and a greener environment.  How can Xi Jinping Thought encompass these optimistic beliefs along with his socialism with Chinese characteristics?  Since the two cannot merge, one strategy becomes dominant, while the other a façade.  His speech to the UN in 2015 has become that falsehood.  The loosely translated, the “Community of Common Destiny” plan will only work if Xi takes the biblical plank out of his eye.

Xi’s first request was of equality and mutual understanding.  He claimed that conflicts should be resolved “through dialogue and consultation.”  For the last four years, China has dredged, built, and created new land in its disputed Spratly Islands.  The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative confirmed military building on the land.  Construction is also prevalent on its outposts on the Paracel Islands.  Collectively they also encompass shoals, banks, and reefs, claimed additionally by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei and Vietnam and Taiwan respectively. How are possible surface-to-air missile installments dialogue?  The arguments for protecting its navy and shipping in a disaster are absurd.  These are not the win-win outcomes he expressed; China one, Southeast Asia zero.  Xi is clearly trying to make China the maritime hegemon that it was under the Great Ming.

Xi’s second desire was worse than the first, stating, “we should create a security architecture featuring fairness, justice, joint contribution and shared benefits.”  This pretense is glaringly obvious with its maltreatment of Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighurs.  The simple designation of autonomous regions is laughable.  Tibet’s His Holiest, the Dalai Lama, is in exile.  Children receive a mostly Chinese education with Mandarin as the language of choice.  By 2020, it is expected the Han population will be 30%, clearly destroying the Tibetan culture.  The Uighurs know this devastation all too well.  Much more of a concern is how Beijing accepts their Muslim identity.  They do not.  They have restricted Hajj, forced men to trim their beards, denied certain baby names, and have claimed thousands as terrorists.

The third component of the “Community of Common Destiny” concerned “inclusive development that benefits all.”  Again, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region remains under attack.  It is a valuable province for Beijing with its swaths of fertile farmland and abundance of natural resources, including coal, oil, natural gas, copper, and gold.  The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps also known as the bingtuan was established under Mao in 1954.  It controls the paramilitary, prisons, and the economic and agricultural output of the region.  Under Jiang Zemin’s leadership, Han migration dramatically increased with his “Great Western Development,” “Go West” and “Open up the West” government sponsored programs.  Not only is the population dominated by the Han, but so are positions within the bingtuan.  The native Uighurs continually suffer political, economic, and religious persecution.

The next component of Xi’s address to the UN suggested harmony among the world’s people and promoting respect for differences.  Not much needs to be addressed here as I would be repetitive.  Nevertheless, the very name of China should be examined.  Zhōngguó translates to “Middle Kingdom.”  For more than two millennia the name represented the belief that the Han ethnic group were positioned on the earth between Heaven and all the other people. How is Xi not trying to live up to this history?

The final appeal was for a greener environment.  This may be its loftiest goal yet.  Do an image search of Chinese cities, and many will show people wearing face masks.  No, they are not all trying to prevent the spread of a disease but are trying to keep their lungs clean from the “Shanghai cough” and other such pollution-born illnesses.  When a nation needs to have a four-tiered pollution alert, compared to the US five-tiered terrorist alert there is clearly a problem.  Smog has even closed schools.

Xi Jinping was born into an elite family of the Chinese Communist Party.  He rose through those ranks and became the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping.  Knowing this history, why would anyone believe in his “Community of Common Destiny” plan?  Xi claimed that “history is a mirror.” Maybe he needs to purchase one.