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THE WEEK IN STRATEGY

 

 

 THE WEEK IN STRATEGY.

Summaries and Links to This Week’s Curated Strategy Articles


 

This Week In Strategy focuses on China, from Chinese opinion and the arts to hacking, the economy, and naval strategy. Watch for Chinese “dumping” excess goods on countries as their domestic markets seek foreign goods. The trade war this is moving toward could be disastrous for China.

 



UNITED STATES – UNITED KINGDOM

 

U.S. and U.K. Sanction Chinese Hacking Group

The censure isn’t likely to rein in Beijing’s cyberespionage campaigns

By James Palmer

Foreign Policy - March, 26, 2024


Summary:

The United States and the United Kingdom have imposed sanctions and filed criminal charges against APT31, a Chinese hacking group, accusing it of conducting a long-term cyberespionage campaign. This action comes after significant cyberattacks, particularly in the UK, where voter information from the Electoral Commission may have been compromised. These cyberattacks have led to increased tensions and public condemnation from UK politicians. The situation reflects broader concerns over China's cyber capabilities and their potential impact on democratic processes. Despite these tensions, China continues to seek foreign investment and improve its international relations. However, its efforts are complicated by its aggressive cyber operations and the diplomatic fallout from these activities.


Link:

 

Bottom Line:

The article's central point is the announcement by the U.S. and U.K. of sanctions and charges against Chinese hacking groups for alleged espionage. This marks a significant moment in the escalating cyber and diplomatic tensions between these countries and China. The allegations and subsequent reactions highlight the complex dynamics of international relations in the digital age, where cyber operations have become a critical and contentious aspect of statecraft.


 

ASIA PACIFIC

 

China’s Economic Collision Course

As Growth Slows, Beijing’s Moves Are Drawing a Global Backlash

By Daniel H. Rosen and Logan Wright

Foreign Affairs - March 27, 2024


Summary:

China's economy has faced a significant slowdown in growth over the past two years, attributed to a decline in property construction and the impacts of strict "zero COVID" policies. Despite previous years of robust GDP growth, China now struggles to implement the policy reforms needed to sustain even moderate growth rates. The National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 2024 was anticipated to signal a change in direction towards boosting domestic demand and moving away from an export-driven economy. However, China continues prioritizing exports and investment in industries that exacerbate global trade imbalances, drawing international criticism and leading to trade disputes with other countries.


Beijing's reluctance to stimulate domestic consumption and its commitment to supporting industries driving export growth suggest continuing policies that could lead to larger trade surpluses and challenges for global trade. Comparisons are made to Japan's trade imbalances in the 1970s and 1980s, which were addressed through international agreements and reforms. However, China appears uninterested in making similar adjustments, potentially setting the stage for intensified trade conflicts. The NPC's outcomes indicate a doubling down on an outdated growth model, raising concerns about China's willingness and capacity to shift towards a more sustainable economic strategy that balances domestic demand with production.

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

Deliberate or not, China’s trade imbalances are not sustainable for the rest of the world, and China should not be surprised if foreign governments start to respond more aggressively. Beijing will likely reject measures similar to those the United States and its partners adopted in the 1980s to address Japan’s trade imbalances, such as an exchange rate arrangement resembling the Plaza Accords or Louvre Accords. The Trump administration's tariffs on Chinese imports were circumvented by many Chinese suppliers shipping goods through third countries. With limited policy options and an unwilling negotiator in Beijing, Western governments may consider stricter restrictions on Chinese trade. This shock may prompt China to take structural reforms seriously to protect its economic health and avoid an irreparable split in global trade.


 

ASIA PACIFIC


The Evolution of China’s Naval Strategy

By Bernard D. Cole

National Bureau of Asian Research - March 26, 2024


Summary:

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has evolved from a primarily river and coastal defense force to a significant maritime power with global reach. This transformation reflects the changing priorities and strategies of the PRC's military over the decades.

The PLA Navy's strategic orientation shifted under Hu Jintao's leadership in 2004 with the articulation of the "new historic missions." These missions expanded the navy's roles beyond coastal defense to include protecting far seas and safeguarding China's maritime security and sovereignty globally. This shift was part of a broader strategic reorientation of China's military posture from a primarily continental focus to a more maritime-oriented approach. It reflects China's growing economic interests and ambition to project power and influence globally.


Key factors driving the development and implementation of new operational concepts like "near seas defense," "far seas protection," and "active defense" include the desire to protect China's territorial claims and maritime interests, respond to perceived threats to these interests, and position China as a major global maritime power. These concepts have guided the expansion and modernization of the PLA Navy, which now boasts the world's largest number of ships and has significantly enhanced capabilities in terms of technology, shipbuilding, and global reach.


As the PLA Navy continues to grow and modernize, it faces the dual challenge of balancing domestic and international demands. The Chinese leadership's primary focus on maintaining the Chinese Communist Party's power suggests that the navy's development will continue to be a priority, supported by sustained investment in defense capabilities and maritime infrastructure. However, the future trajectory of the PLA Navy will also be influenced by broader geopolitical dynamics, including China's relations with neighboring countries and major powers like the United States, as well as internal challenges that could impact resource allocation and strategic priorities.


Link:

 

Bottom Line:

The PLA Navy's evolution from a riverine and coastal force to the world's largest navy reflects China's rising status as a global power and its strategic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. The navy's modernization and expansion have significant implications for regional security dynamics, maritime disputes, and the global balance of naval power.


 

ASIA PACIFIC

 

China is Selectively Bending History to Suit Its Territorial Ambitions

Beijing’s unwillingness to let go of certain claims suggests there’s more at stake than reversing past losses.

By Frederik Kelter

Foreign Policy – March 18, 2024


Summary:

The article delves into China's strategic use of historical narratives to justify its territorial claims in the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, and Himalayan border regions. Despite historical periods of influence over various regional states, China's current claims are selectively focused on areas with strategic, political, or economic importance, like Taiwan, parts of India, Russia, and maritime territories in the East and South China Seas. These claims are rooted in the "century of humiliation" and the "unequal treaties" of the 19th and 20th centuries but are pursued with more vigor today as China's power has grown. The article illustrates how, under different leaderships, China has alternated between aggressive territorial claims and strategic compromises, depending on its internal stability and international standing. The case of Taiwan is highlighted as a core interest, tied to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President Xi Jinping's vision, distinguishing it from historical claims that Beijing has not pursued with the same intensity.

 

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

China's current territorial ambitions reflect a combination of long-held claims and strategic interests. It selectively emphasizes historical narratives to justify these ambitions while also being prepared to use military force to support them. This approach poses risks to regional stability, especially as China grows more assertive in claiming territories that are also claimed by other countries or that have strategic value.


 

ASIA PACIFIC


China’s Public Wants to Make a Living, Not War

Discontent about the country’s poor economic reality is starting to drown out nationalist calls to attack Taiwan.

By Tao Wang

Foreign Affairs  - March 21, 2024


Summary:

This article presents a nuanced view of the Chinese public's attitude toward the prospect of war with Taiwan amidst worsening economic conditions within China. Contrary to the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) narrative of unanimous support for "reunification with Taiwan," social media reactions to official statements and the outcome of Taiwan's 2024 elections reveal a spectrum of opinions, ranging from skepticism and economic concerns to admiration for Taiwan's democratic process.


Following Foreign Minister Wang Yi's speech emphasizing the resolve to achieve reunification with Taiwan, many Chinese citizens expressed opposition to war, highlighting personal economic struggles and questioning the prioritization of nationalistic goals over public welfare. This sentiment reflects a departure from past nationalist fervor, which romanticized the notion of a swift, uncontested takeover of Taiwan. The change is attributed to China's economic downturn, including high youth unemployment, a housing crisis, and significant stock market losses, which have shifted public focus to domestic issues.

The disillusionment is also linked to unmet expectations from previous government rhetoric, particularly around the visit of then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in 2022, which failed to result in the aggressive military action some nationalists anticipated. Despite this, there remains a base of extreme nationalism, and public opinion could swing back toward support for military action under different circumstances.

 

Link:

 

Bottom Line:

While extreme nationalism and support for military action against Taiwan exist within China, the prevailing economic hardships and the visible success of Taiwan's democracy have led to a more divided public opinion. Many ordinary Chinese prioritize economic stability and personal well-being over nationalist ambitions, suggesting that the CCP's efforts to rally support for aggressive moves against Taiwan might not be universally effective, especially during economic downturns.


 

ASIA PACIFIC

 

The Art of Propaganda

Are brilliant films and TV shows made in Xi’s China?

By Chloe Hadavas

Foreign Policy – March 24, 2024


Summary:

The article explores the evolution of film and television in China under Xi Jinping's leadership, highlighting the increasing strictness of Beijing's censorship regime. Since 2013, the space for art-house filmmakers has diminished significantly, giving way to a proliferation of patriotic blockbusters and military dramas that blur the line between art and propaganda. The government's tighter grip on media content has steered the entertainment industry towards narratives that glorify the Communist Party and the nation's military achievements while suppressing any form of dissent or alternative viewpoints.


This shift is underscored by examples like "The Long Season," a show that somehow navigated the censorship landscape to critical acclaim for its nuanced storytelling, contrasting sharply with the typical content encouraged by the state. The entertainment sector's transformation is partly due to deliberate market engineering by censors, creating a demand for propaganda through restrictions on other forms of content. The success of these patriotic narratives is further bolstered by private partnerships that enhance the Communist Party's propaganda efforts, suggesting a strategic alignment between nationalistic goals and entertainment.


Link:

 

Bottom Line:

The article's central point is that under Xi Jinping's rule, China's film and television landscape has been significantly shaped by an overarching censorship regime that prioritizes propaganda and patriotism over artistic freedom and diversity of thought. This environment challenges creators to navigate a fine line between compliance and creativity, often at the cost of the latter, as the state's vision of promoting a unified nationalistic narrative takes precedence over individual artistic expression.

 

 

 

 

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