“If Taiwan is to fend off a Chinese invasion, it will need reluctant recruits like Roger Lin to summon the patriotism that inspired older generations but these days doesn’t burn as passionately in the young.
The 21-year-old French-language major regards his upcoming mandatory four-month military service as an unnecessary burden, even as complaints persist that such stints are too short to protect the nation compared with the two to three years that previous generations served.
Weeks of flaring tensions between China and Taiwan, which has been buzzed by dozens of Chinese warplanes in a disquieting show of force, have not emboldened Lin or changed his mind. If China and its much larger military decides to invade, the island’s devastation would be a fait accompli, he said, even with the outside chance the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense.”
“Lin’s fatalism and indifference are somewhat expected among the young. But they come at a perilous moment. Fraught relations between Washington and Beijing are, more so than in any other flashpoint, raising the possibility of war in Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island of 24 million — roughly the size of Maryland — that China has regarded as a breakaway province since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
The stakes for Washington are high. Losing a democratic Taiwan to China would probably signal the end of American power in the Pacific, freeing China’s military to project its strength in the region and beyond to the detriment of U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea.
Led by an increasingly nationalistic Xi Jinping, China has in recent weeks flown military sorties deeper into Taiwanese airspace and beefed-up military exercises aimed at invading the disputed territory. The best hope for preventing a conflict that would probably draw in the U.S. is Taiwan’s willingness and ability to deter China’s aggression, experts said.
But the Taiwan government has struggled to instill the same sense of urgency found in other countries with national service requirements such as South Korea, Israel and even Singapore, which faces no immediate threats.”
“Taiwan’s active duty military has shrunk to 165,000 from 275,000 three years ago. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army numbers 2 million.
Under public pressure to move to an all-volunteer army, Taiwan began phasing-out conscription in 2013.”
“a debate within U.S. foreign policy circles over whether to revise its stance toward defending Taiwan. The current policy, known as strategic ambiguity, leaves China and Taiwan guessing if the American military will respond to an attack on the island. The approach is credited with maintaining the peaceful status quo since 1979, when Washington cut official ties with Taipei to launch diplomatic relations with Communist China.
Now, leading voices — including the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass — are arguing that a more powerful and hawkish China must be countered with an explicit warning of U.S. force if it were to move against Taiwan.
“Such a policy would lower the chances of Chinese miscalculation, which is the likeliest catalyst for war in the Taiwan Strait,” Haass co-wrote”
“Some experts fear that could undermine Taiwan efforts to rebuild its military: “I worry [it] would potentially confuse this work that Tsai is trying to do and allow people in Taiwan to say: ‘We don’t need to do this military spending. We don’t need to beef-up our military because the U.S. is coming to our aid,’” said Shelley Rigger, a Taiwan expert and political scientist at Davidson College in North Carolina.”
“It’s also unclear whether the U.S. could successfully defend Taiwan given deficiencies in American forces in the region and Chinese weapons designed to thwart the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers.”
““Soldiers get more respect in places such as America, but we still don’t have that climate in Taiwan,” said Lai, who has yet to complete his four-month required service. “Military camp culture isn’t that strong, and our sense of patriotism isn’t as keen.”
His reluctance is partly due to the fact he and many other young Taiwanese don’t believe China would ever strike; they’ve spent their entire lives in peace. Only if the island were actually invaded would Lai volunteer to fight — with our without the U.S.”
“The Navy wants to double its number of submarines as part of a modernization plan to build more than 500 ships by 2045 to maintain a competitive edge against other naval powers such as China and Russia, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said”
“Esper said the need to modernize the Navy is in part due to China’s own naval modernization and shipbuilding efforts. The Pentagon’s China report released Sept. 1 determined the country aims to have a “world-class” military on par with the United States by 2049. It already has the largest navy in the world at 350 ships. The United States now has 296 deployable battle force ships, according to the Navy.”
“The first priority of that plan is to have a large number of attack submarines, with a target of 70 to 80 submarines overall. This will require the Navy to build at least three next generation Virginia-class submarines every year “as soon as possible,” Esper said. The Navy now has more than 40 operational attack submarines, according to Pentagon documents.”
“Large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers also will be part of the future Navy, still considered the force’s “most visible deterrent,” he said. The Navy is also looking at “light carriers,” such as the USS America amphibious assault ship that can go to sea with vertical takeoff and landing aircraft including the F-35B fighters and the MV-22 Osprey. These light carriers would free up the bigger carriers for more of the “critical high-end fight,” Esper said.”
“Unmanned naval vessels have been discussed in a number of congressional hearings about the future of the Navy and they are included in the Battle Force 2045 plan. Esper said the future force will have between 140 to 240 unmanned and “optionally manned” surface and subsurface vessels that can perform a variety of missions including surveillance, mine-laying and missile strikes.”
“Congressional help will also be necessary to make the plan work. Esper said he wants lawmakers to stop using continuing resolutions to fund the defense budget and allow the military to divest from legacy systems so that the funds can be put towards “higher priorities.” He also said he will request that the Navy have the authority to put any end-of-year budget savings towards shipbuilding instead of the losing money when it is not spent.”
“The Philippine Navy is hiring maritime militia forces to patrol and protect fishermen in the South China Sea from intruding Chinese forces.
Navy chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told reporters on Tuesday that it is preparing to send over 200 militiamen to the disputed South China Sea.”
“These are our counterparts for Chinese maritime militia,” Bacordo added.
China employs a maritime militia composed of covert fishing trawlers, which support the Chinese coastguard and navy operations in the region. Hundreds of its vessels are reportedly deployed near Philippine-occupied areas.”
“The Philippines has won an international arbitration case against China for its claims in the South China Sea, but China refused to accept the ruling.
On June 9, 2019, a Chinese trawler rammed a Filipino fishing vessel in Reed Bank and abandoned its 22 crew members in cold water, drawing outrage in the Philippines.”
“The United Nations’s premier body for protecting human rights has elected serial human rights abusers, including Russia and China, to the panel, once again calling into question whether it’s actually an important platform to address the plight of millions — or an anachronism.
The Geneva-based, 47-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) does two main things: It passes nonbinding resolutions on human rights issues around the world, and it oversees the work of experts who investigate violations in specific countries. Its supporters, those of whom in the US typically lean left, say it’s a place where nations can address issues that don’t usually garner the world’s attention. Its critics, who mostly lean right, argue it’s a toothless organization that kowtows to authoritarians and harbors a deep anti-Israel bias.
Detractors gained an upper hand in the debate this week when China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan each won enough votes to sit on the UNHRC for a three-year term (though China received fewer votes than it had in previous years). Other despotic regimes angling for a spot, like Saudi Arabia, didn’t get the nod, however.”
“it’s fair to look at the council and think it’s a problematic forum the US should stay out of. But experts say there are a few problems with that view, namely that the US loses any influence in that forum to push back against the Russias and Chinas of the world — and Israel is left without a strong backer on the council.”
“Imagine China — the world’s top emitter of carbon, which in 2019 released nearly double the emissions of the US — with almost zero coal power plants.
Imagine it with zero gasoline-powered cars, and with more than four times the 1,200 gigawatts of solar and wind power capacity installed across the world today.
This could become reality by mid-century if China follows through on President Xi Jinping’s latest commitment to addressing the climate emergency.”
“the target puts China more closely in alignment with the European Union, the UK, and other countries that have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said is required to prevent over 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. In the US, some states and cities have moved in this direction, too. For instance, former governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order in 2018 for California to be carbon neutral by 2045. And Michigan’s governor made the same commitment Wednesday.
Along with the pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060, Xi Jinping also announced that China would submit a stronger set of goals under the Paris agreement and that China would aim to peak carbon emissions before 2030, upping the commitment from “around” 2030.
Meanwhile, in his UNGA remarks, President Trump defended his decision to withdraw the US from the “one-sided” Paris agreement while criticizing China for “rampant pollution.”
Increasingly, China is demonstrating it will use climate as a way to upstage the US, with Xi repeatedly committing to incremental climate action on the international stage in recent years.”
“Besides the geopolitical motivations, China also has a lot to lose from unmitigated climate change, from catastrophic floods like those this summer in the central Yangtze River Basin to worsening heat waves and sea-level rise, which will have a huge impact on coastal cities like Shanghai by 2050.”
“China has yet to publish an official plan for how it would achieve carbon neutrality, but climate researchers have mapped out pathways. The good news: Researchers say it is possible. Some of the key shifts are already underway — toward electric vehicles and renewable energy, for example. But China will be entering uncharted territory when it comes to cleaning up its behemoth steel and cement industries.”
“The next few months will reveal how serious China is about accelerating its decarbonization.”
“China’s announcement may also have ripple effects on other countries as they choose whether to more aggressively tackle climate change, in the absence of US leadership, approaching the next major UN negotiations on climate change (COP 26), which will be held in November 2021.
“For China, who is experiencing economic ramifications of Covid like every other country, to come out and make this kind of bold statement on carbon neutrality could potentially sway the balance of countries who have been taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to their enhanced ambition climate pledges ahead of COP-26,” Hsu said. Here’s hoping it does.”
“when the United States walks away from cooperative bodies — from the Paris climate accord to the WHO — it leaves behind a vacuum. China has hastened to fill it, and that, more than anything, is bolstering Beijing’s rise and influence. It gives China a chance to be a good guy — say, pledging $30 million to the WHO when the US threatened to withdraw, a fraction of the money the US provides annually. The Trump administration, in abandoning institutions for being too China-centric, is allowing them to become just that. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Again, this is not to say the US doesn’t have legitimate criticisms of the WHO, or China. But by refusing to work within the system, it is actively ceding leverage and losing credibility. Last week, in a discussion with reporters about the implications of the US leaving the WHO, Elizabeth Cousens, the president and CEO of the UN Foundation, said that even as the US is trying to push the WHO to reform, it’s “losing influence in that conversation because they’ve stepped off the field.””
“Vast research shows that, while subsidies might prop up the direct recipients, governments that subsidize harm their economies overall. That said, in the name of national security or geopolitical concerns, these principles may sometimes be traded off against other concerns.
But this doesn’t mean that all subsidies should get a free pass. There must be a concrete strategy behind the effort to use subsidies in this way. For instance, China mostly operates in lower-income nations. If Ex-Im is serious about competing with China, that’s where its loans should be going, rather than continuing to finance foreign borrowers in rich countries such as Italy, France, or the United Arab Emirates, where they’re served well by a commercial banking market.
Ex-Im’s recent annual conference was full of bold statements about fighting China as mandated by Congress during the agency’s reauthorization process back in December 2019. Unfortunately, despite much bluster from its leadership, there’s been no fundamental change in the way Ex-Im operates or in which companies Ex-Im extends financing to with taxpayer backing.”
“the Export-Import Bank’s failure ultimately lies with the policymakers who believe an agency that has been devoted to serving well-connected companies for so long would actually change.”
“Russia’s main strategy is to sow discord and division, and diminish faith in democracy. It also favors President Donald Trump, partly because he helps advance the first two goals, and because of his oft-stated desire to improve relations between Washington and Moscow.
China and Iran are more averse to chaos in the US, and are much more focused on pushing their own national objectives. They want different things from the United States, Emerson T. Brooking, a resident fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, told me.
For China, that might mean promoting its Covid-19 narrative, or getting the US to shut up about Hong Kong protests. For Iran, that could mean promoting criticism of Israel or US sanctions policy.
All three countries have different capabilities. China might not use online trolls in the way Russia or even Iran does because it has other, far more effective tools — economic, technological — that could achieve those aims.
And, of course, interference may go beyond disinformation or influence campaigns. There is the threat of hacking or cyber intrusions of politicians, or campaigns, or even election infrastructure. There is also a concern over how individuals with ties to foreign governments might use money in politics. And there’s probably something else, because as one analyst told me, what the US doesn’t want to be doing is fighting the last war.”
“A Department of Homeland Security whistleblower complaint also alleges that the administration tried to downplay the Russia threat because it upsets Trump, and that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien pressured the department to elevate China and Iran activities to the level of Russia’s, even though that didn’t fit with the actual intelligence data available.”
“Russia is still pushing disinformation through social media and has reportedly attempted to hack campaigns associated with both Democrats and Republicans. The Kremlin is also filtering pro-Russia narratives through Ukrainian politicians to undermine Biden and the Democrats, talking points that are being regurgitated by Trump and GOP allies. The ODNI has said that Russia “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden.”
Taken together, Moscow’s tactics create chaos and distrust in US institutions and democracy, exacerbating America’s partisan divides like a finger pressed to a bruise.
Based on what’s known publicly, China and Iran are echoing some of those strategies. They’re spreading disinformation. They reportedly targeted campaigns and political entities.
But China and Iran want different things when it comes to America.
Russia wants to disrupt and destabilize and confuse people on how to see the world. Iran and China would like the world to see things their way. At least right now, China, in particular, sees a lot more value in building itself up than in tearing America apart.
“For China and Iran, ultimately, their interests are not served by an American political system that is chaotic, unable to think long-term, make strategic decisions about their relationships with either of those two countries,” Priscilla Moriuchi, an expert on state-sponsored cyber operations and fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said.
This is not to say that China and Iran are cool with the United States as is. But China doesn’t want a chaotic world, Brookings’s West told me. It wants stability. So if it’s going to meddle in the 2020 election, it’s not out to cause Russian-style pandemonium.”
“The ODNI report says Russia wants to denigrate Biden, but says Iran and China have particular preferences when it comes to the 2020 election. US intelligence assess China “prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection.” But the ODNI doesn’t say that China is necessarily tipping the scales for Biden. Instead, China’s operations are mostly focused on deflecting criticism of China.
As for Iran, the ODNI says it seeks to “undermine President Trump” and democratic institutions, saying it’s mostly focused on online and anti-US propaganda.
This has created a sense that Russia is on one side and China and Iran are on the other — one for Trump, two for Biden. But this is the wrong way to look at it, experts told me. It muddles the actual efforts and objectives of each of these actors.
“It’s certainly true that different US adversaries might have different preferences for the outcome of the election,” Brooking, of the Atlantic Council, told me. “But they don’t go about executing their goals the same way.””
” This is a US presidential election; Beijing has a preference, but so do Brussels and Mexico City and Tokyo. Allies and adversaries alike are going to have an idea of an outcome they’d like to see based on their own foreign policy, national security, and economic interests. As Cordero said, that’s not the same thing as “taking specific actions using their intelligence services, using their military, cyber capability to actively affect the outcome of our election.””
“”it is not clear that China is really interested in turning a lot of this apparatus to privilege one candidate or another in the presidential election.”
So far, China hasn’t really shown itself to be interested in that kind of disruption, James Andrew Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told me. Instead, he said, China is “more interested in getting the US off their back.”
“With China, it’s to benefit China,” Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center”
“Moriuchi, at the Belfer Center, cautioned against the notion that this somehow means China is the JV team to Russia’s varsity, because, again, they’re essentially playing two different games. Russia is trying to disrupt the 2020 election and see what kind of disorder it can create. Beijing is playing the long game.”
“Russia is an adversary, but Moscow can’t directly challenge the US’s economic dominance, or its position in global hegemony. Trying to bolster the Russian political system in the US wouldn’t be as useful in weakening US democracy as, for instance, amplifying doubts about mail-in voting.”
“Russia’s disruption tactics are a kind of asymmetric warfare against a larger power. It’s low tech and not all that costly, but America’s homegrown political dysfunction has made it seem wildly effective.
This isn’t the case for China. China is challenging the US for global hegemony. “China — the Chinese Communist Party — believes it is in a generational fight to surpass our country in economic and technological leadership,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in July. China does want to manipulate the American political system to help achieve those ends. It just has a lot more capabilities than Russia does.
“It’s certainly true that if China wanted, they could have extraordinary impact on this social media space,” Brooking said. “But the Chinese also don’t need to do that.” They’re the second-largest economy in the world, he added. “They have so many levers of influence and power, which don’t rely on creating sock puppet accounts and botnets.”
China is carefully, and strategically, expanding its influence in the US in ways that might not fit with our perception of “meddling.” And if China doesn’t like what the US or others are saying about its policies, it doesn’t necessarily need to rely on a fake Facebook page.”
““The Chinese don’t want you to say what we did in Hong Kong was bad, and they use market pressure and money and influence operations to push that China’s great: ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’” CSIS’s Lewis said.
This also prompts certain industries or institutions to self-censor, tiptoeing around sensitive issues to avoid displeasing China. But China can also more directly use its economic prowess, enticing Wall Street or Hollywood with investment or funding think tanks and universities that may push more Beijing-friendly talking points.
There are also legitimate concerns about what China is doing with its technology. China uses apps like WeChat to spread pro-Chinese messaging, including to the Chinese diaspora around the world, and the government almost certainly uses it as a surveillance tool. The same goes for concerns about censorship and/or data tracking on Chinese-owned apps like TikTok.
And then there are the hacking operations meant to gather intelligence — that is, to spy. FBI Director Wray said in that same July speech that the US opens a counterintelligence case against China every 10 hours; of the FBI’s 5,000 counterintelligence cases, about half involve China.
China has waged a relentless campaign to steal technological and trade secrets from the United States. Hackers with ties to Chinese military or intelligence have carried out cyber operations to steal massive amounts of data — hacks like the 2017 Equifax breach that affected about half of all Americans, or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack.
“So China is probing campaigns like the Russians (and Iranians), but what it will do with that information is a lot less clear. In 2016, Russia released stolen information through WikiLeaks, which was far more dramatic and influential than just quietly collecting information for its own use. China, we know, has these cyber capabilities, but so far it hasn’t tried to dump any information to alter the presidential race.”
“Iran definitely has cyber capabilities. But Zoli said, overall, they’re not sophisticated enough to have a truly enormous impact. “They don’t have the capabilities and they haven’t thought through a really multi-pronged strategy. They’re not going after, you know, these ancillary institutional sites to try to have a big impact on political decision-making.””
“Plenty of other countries — even those who’d fall into the US ally camp — are using social media to spread state propaganda, or messaging that favors their foreign policy goals. Saudi Arabia-linked accounts have spread pro-Trump messaging on Twitter. During the George Floyd protests, Turkey tried to link Syrian Kurds to antifa. Whether this stuff really works isn’t the point; it doesn’t require a lot of resources, it’s not all that complicated, and right now, getting taken down by Twitter or Facebook is a fairly low cost.”