Friday, June 28, 2013

What Should We Do About China?

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Admiral Dennis C. Blair (USN Retired) is speaking on "What should we do about China?".  Admiral Blair started by saying he would later speak about the "young man"  Edward Snowden (who allegedly leaked intelligence from the NSA). However, he then returned to the advertised topic, saying that "China is so large and diverse you can find evidence to support any assertion about it". The task, he suggested, was to find what was most significant. He characterized China's leadership as driven by domestic issues and what is in China's interest, not some rigid ideology. However issues such as the sovereignty of Taiwan remain. Admiral Blair asserted that countries in the region need to be thing about what to do about the Taiwan issue.

Admiral Blair said that China's ambitions would expand as its economic and military power increases. He asserted that China's ballistic missiles were intended to intimidate nations which might wish to intervene over Taiwan. He further said that China's aircraft carriers were more for show than military use. This seemed to me to be a bit glib. China's first aircraft carrier (Shi Lang), is clearly a learning exercise. With its spacecraft, China has shown it can adapt and improve on existing technology obtained from other countries. China now has a operational spacecraft, the Shenzhou, while the USA has none.

Admiral Blair was the co-chair of the Commission on the theft of American intellectual property, which reported in May 2013 for the National Bureau of Asian Research.

At question  time one of the audience took the Admiral Blair to task about the USA's condescending attitude to China. He conceded in reply that there tended to be a "dialogue of the deaf" with both countries tending to state positions, rather than having a genuine dialogue.

In answer to another question Admiral Blair suggested that international treaties to limit weapons in space and cyber-warfare were possible. I suspect that the prospects for cyber-warfare controls are limited.

In the last few months ANU has hosted a series of talks by Australian and US strategic experts about regional issues including the South China Sea. It would be interesting to hear the views of their Chinese counterparts and others in Asia.

ps: The ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre has a Centre of Gravity Series of papers.

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