Monday, August 31, 2009

In other East Asian news...

I have to say I'm glad for the de-escalation on the Korean peninsula that we've seen recently. Since I've started paying attention to Korea in the early 2000s, it felt like the tensest time I'd seen. Now, with the release of both the American journalists and the South Korean fishermen, it seems like we might be back to our traditional glarefest.

I also find it interesting that the trailing of one of their ships by ours was so heavily reported, but when the UAE actually stops a North Korean ship and finds illicit weapons bound for Iran, it's a big yawn-fest to the media. We'll see if anything comes of it.

Religion and Security in China

I sometimes wonder if China realizes or cares about its strategic communications. If it did, it would work a lot harder to not seem evil to the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese government seems intent on trying to cast this man as the biggest threat to peace and order in the world. I understand why they do so, in that he represents the focal point of the best-organized, most high-profile secessionist movement in China, but it neglects the fact that most people in the world see in him the loving, doting grandfather they wished they had. Even if he was to secretly support the subjugation of the entire Han race under a Buddhist tyranny, most of the world would still love him and consider him on par with the Pope. (Actually, with the current pope, the Dalai Lama may be better loved.)

To be fair to China, I understand that a (maybe) secessionist leader being invited by a political party that advocates secession for a province that's already a separate country probably looks like the grand alignment of secession. Never mind that, just as the Dalai Lama has no power in Tibet, the DPP is out of power in Taiwan as well, and the current Taiwanese president has been busting his ass to play nice with China.

It is particularly telling that the Chinese government accuses the DPP of inviting the Dalai Lama in order to sabotage cross-strait relations, as if the actual damage was being done by the Taiwanese, instead of by Chinese anger.

In the end, of course, like all things involving Tibet or Taiwan, this will blow over and China will remain in the dominant position. China has been careful not to sabotage relations with President Ma, but it still does not help their image around the world any.

Friday, August 28, 2009

China and Afghanistan

Francesco Sisci writing in the Asian Times says that recent Chinese maneuvers aimed at force projection could be a wink to NATO and the US that China is prepared to assist in Afghanistan. Sisci goes a long way to showing why China would be useful to the NATO powers in Afghanistan (which, aside from the Byzantine possibility of settling some kind of grand deal with India and Pakistan, has plenty of obvious benefits for an international force that is pleading for more troops).

Galrahn of Information Dissemination believes it to be wishful thinking. (He does add that it would be an amazing thing for Obama is he managed to convince China to participate.)

I would like to put forward my thoughts on a possible hook to bring China into Afghanistan, which unfortunately is part of the possible problem with doing so.

Xinjiang. The Taliban was not only allowing anti-US radicals to operate bases on its territory; it is well known that there were Uyghur nationalist (and possibly terrorist) training bases as well. If Afghanistan was to collapse again, it will happen again. In particular, the East Turkestan Liberation Organization and the (possibly non-existent) East Turkestan Islamic Movement are considered allied to the Taliban.

Unfortunately, the price for getting Chinese help would probably be a free hand to do as they like in dealing with these bases and "terrorists". And, for all the faults of the US in the handling of the War on Terror (and I would argue there are quite a few), it is difficult to believe the Chinese would be less brutal than we have been. Moreover, China would most likely demand an independent structure, due to their strong feelings of sovereignty. (It should be noted that while China contributes to peace-keeping, it has never provided peace-keeping TROOPS, but only engineers, police, doctors, etc.)

I'm not willing to say which would be worse, the complete disintegration of the Afghan government or allowing China the kind of free hand they would likely want in Afghanistan. But dismissing the idea as fantasy doesn't help, and neither does thinking it would be cost-free.