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One Belt-One Road and the South China Sea: Xi Jingping’s Priorities

Kjell Tengesdal

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War between China and the United States over the South China Seas (SCS) is imminent.  This is one example of the alarmist headlines that emblazon many western foreign policy journals and news articles following every incident between the U.S. and China.  Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia offered his warnings during his keynote speech at the “New China Challenge” conference in October2018. He highlighted the issue from the western perspective and called for a third approach aside from “capitulation or confrontation.”But how does China see the South China Sea issue?  Are China’s interests inside the Nine Dash Line considered a ‘core value’ and something that China is willing to go to war over?  How does China’s interest in the SCS compare to those related to its “One Belt-One Road” initiative?  How does President Xi see these issues?  This analysis evaluates these questions from the Chinese perspective.

On September 28, 2018, China surpassed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as the longest surviving communist state.  China sees itself as an ascendant power and Russia in decline.  China seeks to expand its influence in the Asian region and eventually emerge as a global power, equaling or exceeding the influence of the United States. Many economists project that China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will surpass the United States by2025.   Binnendijk compares China’s economy to a speeding bicycle, provided it continues to maintain access to adequate natural resources, energy and trade routes, it will continue to expand.  However, if one or more of these factors become unduly stressed, then the Chinese economy is in great danger of collapsing and it could drive the economy to a halt. Identifying this need to support the economy well into the next decade, President Xi Jinping has implemented a “One Belt-One Road” (OBOR) plan for securing the economic future of China.   China has made ‘excessive maritime claims’ according to many western nations and regional rivals within the South China Sea resulting in many disputed claims, largely perceived as part of its pursuit of natural resources.  China has also moved forward with enlarging and militarizing many of these islands and atolls in efforts to solidify and expand its regional influence (see Figure 1).All of these initiatives place China in direct competition with neighboring peers.

Figure 1: China’s “Nine Dash Line” and Territorial Claims in the South China Seas (source: Finance Twitter)

Like most countries, China has a set of core, vital, and principal interests.  Chinese core interests are those with which it will “never waver, compromise, or yield”, haggle or bargain, and “must stand firm, be clear, have the courage to fight and never surrender [these] principles.”  These core interests are considered non-negotiable and include sovereignty issues like Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.  Vital interests are those that China considers as irrevocably necessary to the safety and survival of the state, which include political and economic independence.  Principal interests on the other hand are negotiable and are targeted to enhance economic trade, foreign relations and friendly ties with regional partners.

Is China’s expansion in the South China Seas a core or vital interest? Western analysts often see the answer as a ‘yes.’  However, from China’s perspective and Xi Jingping’s in particular, it appears that China may be less inclined for military action in defense of its SCS interests than previously thought. China first started to discuss its core interests regularly starting in 2004.  Under President Hu’s regime, state councilor and foreign affairs expert Dai Bingguo declared China’s “core interests included maintaining the socialist system, national security, territorial integrity, reunification with Taiwan and economic development.”   On April27, 2013, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported in an interview with Japan’s NHK news network “that Chinese officials repeatedly told him during his visit to Beijing earlier in the week that the Senkaku islands are ‘one of China’s core interests.’” This would be confirmed later in the week by a Chinese Foreign Ministry official. It is important to note that this occurred before Xi Jingping came to power in 2013.  For Xi, the South China Sea issue, while a principal interest, is less important to the successful execution of his long-term plans and economic policies for China.

Prior to Xi’s election, China had pursued a two-decade foreign policy of ‘keeping a low profile and bidding time. ’Xi sees himself as a strong leader, from a long line of great Chinese leaders and has moved China towards a policy of “striving for achievement.”Early evidence of Xi’s economic plans occurred at China’s Periphery Diplomacy Initiative in November 2013 where he called upon China to “strive for obtaining an excellent peripheral environment for our country’s development, bring even more benefits of our country’s development to peripheral countries, and realize common development.”  A year later, he would make a similar appeal to Asian leaders at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).  This speech laid the ground work for his One Belt-One Road initiative. (Figure 2).

Figure 2: China’s One Belt-One Road (source Economist.com)

During his opening speech at the G20 summit in 2016, President Xi again called for a course change towards a new global economy that incorporates the following four keystones: (1) innovation, (2) openness, (3) interconnectedness and (4) inclusivity.  In these and subsequent speeches, Xi has sought to highlight that OBOR is a regional initiative that will benefit all countries within its scope, not just China.  Xi sees OBOR as his legacy and will be the driving factor in China’s emergence from a regional hegemon to a truly global power.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), if a nation has territorial control over an island or mainland that borders the sea, then that nation may claim a Territorial Sea (TS) of no more than 12 nautical miles (nm); an Exclusive Economic Zone of no more than 200 nm and a continental shelf of no more than 200 nm. As shown in figure 1, many of China’s maritime claims far exceed these allowed ranges.  There is no question that China has become more assertive in expanding its sphere of influence in the South China Sea since President Xi took office, most notably its exertion of the Nine-Dash Line as territorial waters based on historical maritime claims. Several incidents highlight China’s aggressive stance in the region since Xi’s ascendance to the presidency in violation of UNCLOS. 

First, in May of 2014, the China National Offshore Oil Company, a state run entity, deployed the HYSY-981 offshore oilrig accompanied by several military vessels to a disputed region near the Paracel islands and an area inside Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This move was not successful from the economic perspective as it did not result in any economic gains.  Second, China has occupied, expanded, and militarized several of the Spratly Islands which are outside the UNCLOS recognized control of China as shown in figure 1. Third, in 2009, five Chinese vessels surrounded the USNS Impeccable, a research ship operating approximately 75 miles south of Hainan Island inside China’s EEZ. The ship was conducting routine seafloor mapping and submarine tracking activities.  China saw the U.S. vessel as violating its sovereignty and directly challenged its presence, forcing the ship to take collision avoidance measures. USNS Impeccable would return the next day escorted by a U.S. Navy destroyer.  This event immediately sparked harsh criticism on both sides for the other’s actions, but it should be noted that UNCLOS does not regulate military activities within an EEZ.

Chinese scholars have laid out an historical case for China’s claim to the Nine Dash Line and a legal basis for its actions in the South China Sea (see for example Keyuan, and Xinchang and Yee.)Despite this, the present analysis contends that the South China Sea is not currently a ‘core interest’ for which China will seek to defend with unwavering commitment. For example, Xue Gong’s research shows that several Central State-Owned Enterprises (CSOEs) have lobbied for national policies to expand Chinese economic interests in the SCS, particularly in areas of tourism, oil exploration and infrastructure development.  The author argues that China will continue to support these state-run agencies as “long as business interests converge with the country’s national interests.”China does have economic interests in the SCS, but they largely come from a desire to be the defining influence in the region as opposed to acquiescing and allowing that privilege to remain in the hands of the United States. 

In regards to the SCS issue, China and Xi will continue to “remain vigilant against the incursion of foreign influence in issue areas as disparate as a variety of international regimes, even if it realizes that it cannot deal with complex problems by itself.”  China has maintained bilateral relations with those nations with which it has territorial disputes, many going back centuries.  This is why China rejects decisions by outside global organizations as being shadow arbiters of U.S. interests.  Recent legal decisions on maritime claims against China, as well as its ratification of UNCLOS has superseded any historical claims to territories in the South China Sea.  As such, China is facing a difficult task of convincing other parties of the legitimacy of its maritime claims.  Xi realizes this and will limit provocative actions in the SCS to those that do not threaten the stability of the region.   However, actions that threaten to contain China or challenge his “strong man image” among the domestic population are likely to provoke Xi.  China wants a stable region to facilitate its economic development under OBOR.  An increasingly unstable region threatens that success.  As far as feasibility, Xi can achieve much greater success through OBOR than through the SCS issue

China, under President Xi, has undertaken an historic task to expand its economic influence across half the world through its OBOR initiative.  China sees it is safer to pursue economic advances under the New Silk Road (OBOR),which are seen as beneficial by China’s partners, than to push for aggressive expansion in the SCS over which the United States is most certainly going to challenge.  China will take advantage in the SCS where it can, but it will prioritize OBOR over the SCS for the foreseeable future.  Ever the long game player, China will bid its time until its position for expansion in the South China Sea is more tenable.

Kjell Tengesdal is a Health Physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and has over 35 years of service in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve. He is currently a student in the Doctorate of Strategic Intelligence Program at American Public University. He holds a Master’s in Engineering-Applied Science from the University of California Davis and a Master’s in Physics and Bachelors in Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Arkansas.

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Modi’s extremism: Implications for South Asia

Sonia Naz

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Hindutva is a main form of Hindu nationalism in India this term was popularized by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in the 20th century. It is reinforced by the Hindu extremist volunteer organization Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Hindu Sena. Hindutva movement has been expressed today as almost fascist in the classical sense (sticking to a disputed idea of homogenized majority and dominance of culture).  The Hindutva moment has gained enormous momentum under the government of Modi (Zaman A. , 2019). Under the Modi’s government dozens of Muslims have been killed for the protection of cows. Most of them are those who allegedly slaughtering cows. These attacks indicate that Hindu extremism has increased. Even, lower caste Hindus also faced violence from hardliner Hindu extremists. (Zaman A. , 2019) .

The prevailing extremism in India is no longer a national issue, but is spilling over to become a regional flashpoint and has worldwide implications. The regional stability is endangered due to the current situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) (Qureshi, 2019). Since the Modi’s extremist policies revoked article 370 of the constitution of India in which special and independent status had been given to the Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK). This kind of extreme move of a fanatical ruler was expected, whereas, such kind of unconstitutional effort of a democratic government was not expected. Moreover, it is not only a violation of India’s constitution, but it is also a breach of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, which confirmed Kashmir as a disputed territory.

Furthermore, Article 370 and 35-A cancellation changed the demographic structure of IoK. Article 35A prevented the outsiders from staying, buying properties, getting local government jobs or scholarships in IoK than it annulment permitted outsiders to buy properties there.  Hindutva forces are trying to conquer the IoK territory with its 800000 military crowd, which is making the situation more instable there. It would not have lasting consequences for India, but for the whole region (Jaspal, 2019). The Kashmir imbroglio should be the concern of the entire world because it is a perilous flashpoint that could lead to a catastrophic war between two nuclear powers. If this happens, it would not engulf the region, but the entire world. The International community is insensitive towards the recent brutal developments have taken place in IoK. The brutalities boldly committed by the more than 500,000 Indian troops in the occupied valley. There should be a strong response of big powers and the international community towards the atrocious changes in India (Elahi, 2019). 

It is not the first time, Narendra Modi’s administration has involved in many disputes with the regional countries which has put the regional security at risk. Like, the Modi government relationship is not just deteriorated with Pakistan, but other neighbouring states too. In 2015, Madhesi Crisis in Nepal and border issues tensed the India Nepal relations. However, India restricted the flow of trade at the check posts whereas; India did not accept this blame. India also has not good relation with Sri Lanka since 2014 as Sri Lanka has been more disposed towards China with the signing of the infrastructure projects of belt road and initiatives. Moreover, New Dehli was concerned about the harbouring of Chinese submarines in Colombo and ruler of Maldives Abdulla Yameen signed fee trade treaties with China, which was not digestible for India (Wong, 2017).

India’s offensive nuclear posture towards Pakistan and increased violation of the Line of Control (LoC) has made the situation more adverse. India holds Pakistan responsible for every attack on its territory and its attitude towards Pakistan is very hostile. The Pathankot attack in 2016 and Pulwama attack in 2019 increased the resentment as Modi government blamed the attack on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad. Pakistan asked India to provide evidence so that Pakistan can take action, but no evidence had been given. The Indian air force claimed launching air strikes on the camp of Jaish-e Mohammad mountainside in the Balakot region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa . While, following the attack international media and local media disgraced Indian claim of launching the attack and killing many militants. Next morning, Pakistan shot down an Indian MIG 21 fighter and captured the pilot who violated the Pakistan airspace. Still, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan showed peace gesture and released the captured pilot.  (Shoukat, 2019).

The Indian airstrike’s that were launched in response to Pulwama attack were clear a breach of Pakistan’s space sovereignty. It was a clear perspective of war, however; India has continued to justify its position by calling it non-military strike. It was extremely reckless behaviour of a nuclear state. Even, history shows that such events are very rare between nuclear weapons states while the US and Russia never engaged in direct airstrike’s (Jan, 2019). Afterward, an Indian submarine also detained by the Pakistani Navy, which tried to infringe Pakistani water.  India blames Pakistan for every attack and defies the Pakistan air, space and land territory itself. Besides, India is also responsible of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan through its spies as one of them is Kulbushan Yadav (Shoukat, 2019).

 India’s nuclear doctrine also changed from No First Use (NFU) to First use. The false description of surgical strikes and attacks on non-state base points has demonstrated the uncertain security environment in South Asia.  The Indian nuclear doctrinal change increases the security risks in the region, particularly for Pakistan and China. At Pulwama, Pakistan clearly exposed India’s long-held fable of conventional superiority. At the same time, it is obvious that India would keep its behaviour hawkish towards Pakistan under the radical Hindutva mindset (Nawaz, 2019).

Additionally, India took another major step against the Muslims as it passed a bill on December 9, 2019 that would give the nationality to those migrants who want to become citizens of India except Muslims. This step of Prime Minster would increase the Modi Hindu-nationalist agenda. It would modify the India secular status, preserve by its founders in 1947. The Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by the lower house, the Lok Sabha with 311 votes. Now, it would be presented in the upper house and would become law soon. Hindu extremist agenda deeply unsettled the Muslims with this new law as they would make more than 200 million Muslims second class citizens and many of them stateless. It is not first extremist step of Modi, he also stripped away the autonomy of Kashmir, which was Muslim majority Indian occupied state.

 Furthermore, Hindu fundamentalist build a new temple over the remains of the demolished mosque in the Ayodhya. According to Modi this would protect the maltreated Hindus, Christians and Buddhists who want to migrate from Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this brutal legislation would extradite innocent Muslim residents, even those whose families have been in India for generation, if they cannot provide evidence of citizenship. Under the Modi’s leadership, attacks and intimidation against Muslim community have augmented and anti Muslim sentiment has become deliberately more mainstream. The people of Assam are protesting in the streets and hoisting placards again the bill because it is against their rights and identity (Gettleman & Raj, 2019).

Besides, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his visit for two days Indian Ocean Dialogue and Delhi Dialogue XI, to India. He also rejected a statement by Indian home minister Amit Shah that the new citizenship law will provide safety to “persecuted minorities” from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.  An official visit to India by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also been delayed due to the unrest in Assam. Following the protests began in Assam, a curfew was forced in four of the main cities in the state and the internet was shut down. Two paramilitary battalions were deployed to contain the demonstrations. (News, 2019).

In a nutshell, as evident from the aforementioned  brutal developments, it seems that India aspires to increasingly showcase itself  hegemon and potential big power in the region. The Prime Minister Modi government is impressed by the Hindu extremist ideology and making IoK its integral part by forcefully. Its hawkish policies towards Muslims in India and IoK has once again put at stake the peace and stability of the entire region of South Asia. Indian government not only targeting Muslims everywhere, but it is also seizing their identities which is dismantling secularism foundations of India. Moreover, Indian hawkish nuclear posture increases arms race in the region and it is not only threat for Pakistan but the entire region.

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Emerging Cyber warfare threats to Pakistan

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The potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber-attack.” -Leon Panetta

In the modern era, war has been revolutionized due to rapid advancements in technology. As a result, cyber security along with its pros and cons is contributing increasingly to modern warfare. Pakistan, however, is still in the developmental phase of cyber security. Although Pakistan has passed its first law related to cyber-crimes, in the form of the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, the overall legislation related to cyber security is still vague and not as strong to deal with the dynamic and broad-ranging nature of threats that emanate from the realms of cyber security.

In recent years, the government has taken some initiatives in order to build capacity amongst the general public such as through PAK-CERT, Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC), Skills for all Hunarmand Pakistan, Kamyab Jawan, and National Vocational & Technical Training (NAVTTC).Yet, as has been the case for quite some time, most of these initiatives are aimed simply at spreading greater awareness to help lay the foundations for a more robust cyber security architecture. Amidst such developments, the question that arises for Pakistani policymakers is thus where their country currently stands in the cyber domain and how cyber warfare is posing threats to its national security.

In this era of innovation and connectivity even major powers such as the U.S, Russia, China, Israel and the United Kingdom remain vulnerable to an evolving spectrum of cyber threats. Across the world, states are now increasingly dependent on cyber technology which has greatly increased their chances of vulnerability. The most known example is 2015 Stuxnet virus, whereby a devastating cyber-attack on Iranian nuclear facilities wreaked havoc such as at the Nantaz Nuclear facility, significantly rolling back the Iranian nuclear program. Similarly, the WannaCry outbreak in 2017 caused mass disruption by shutting down vital computing systems in more than 80 NHS organizations in England alone. This resulted in almost 20,000 cancelled appointments, 600 GP surgeries having to return to pen and paper, and five hospitals simply diverting ambulances, unable to handle any more emergency cases. Widely attributed as being state sponsored, the attack set another devastating precedent testifying to the wide-ranging vulnerabilities that exist even in some of the world’s most advanced countries. 

Pakistan’s cyber space too is insecure for many reasons because Pakistan is dependent on others for technology. According to leading global cyber security firms such as Symantec, Pakistan is among the ten most targeted countries in the world. Main targets include Pakistan’s nuclear and other critical installations, with publicly revealed assaults on an assortment of media houses, as well as the communications networks, of key government departments including, transport and, basic utilities. Such threats for instance were further confirmed by the Snowden documents released between 2013-2014 that had showed how the NSA was keeping an eye on Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders, utilizing a malware called SECONDATE.

Recently in the year 2019, Rising Security Research Institute has captured the attack launched by the internationally renowned Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) organization “Rattlesnake” through the Rising Threat Intelligence System. This time, the organization had targeted the Pakistani Navy via Target collision hijacking method. Specifically targeting the Pakistan Naval Public Relations Bureau, the attempt was aimed at stealing vital information from secure military networks while planting misleading documents masquerading as official statements from the Pakistan Navy regarding its regional neighbors such as China and India.  Based on such threats, Pakistan must be readily prepared for any kind of cyber espionage and take steps towards establishing a strong national cyber policy to protect its civilian and military infrastructure.

Therefore, at this stage it is imperative that Pakistan seriously focus on the development of a robust cyber war apparatus. This would especially help mitigate the numerous threats being posed to its banking system, as well as major government networks such as its ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as other military networks that have been previously targeted such as in the case shown above. As such Pakistan can take a number of initial steps by developing strategies to prevent malwares and denial of service (DOS) attacks to reduce such threats at least to a certain level.

Yet, Pakistan has still not developed a cohesive Cyber Command or any National Cyber Policy to deal with the regional cyber threats being posed to Pakistan. Even though Pakistan has recently developed a cyber-security auditing and evaluation lab, it is still in its formative stages. There is still immense space to develop advanced tools and research technologies to protect Pakistan’s cyberspace, sensitive data, and local economy from cyber-attacks while restricting illegal penetrations in it. Especially such as the initiative taken by the newly setup National Centre for Cyber Security which aims increase the number of indigenously trained cyber security professionals within the public sector.

Keeping to this trajectory Pakistan should emphasize more on indigenously developing its own cyber security industry so that in the near future it could benefit both its civilian and military infrastructure in the long run. Hence, while Pakistan may be limited in its ability to wage a strong offensive campaign within the realm of cyber warfare at the moment, such steps would go a long way in helping lay the foundations to build something greater on.

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Are we aware of Black Biology?

Sabah Aslam

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Biology is the study of life but many in the recent times, when conventional warfare is almost disappearing, the study of life is used for killing humankind. Despite all the marvels that this particular field gifts human beings with, one must not forget its role in almost wiping out life from the face of earth. The same biological research that was initiated as a savior of homo sapiens have been turned into an assassin by some realist powers. What could have been used for the uplifting of a civilization, is now used to turn it into a memory.

History has witnessed various moments where biological hazards infected the cities and countries. Black death in 14th century  hadleft a significant footprint on the history of Europe. Plague of Justinian in 541-542 was another nightmare, which Europe went through. It is said that it wiped half of the continent’s population with approximately 25million dead. However, with the passage of time the severity lessened. While various states are trying to eliminate other such diseases that pose threat to human life,  there is always another side of the coin and in this regard the other side is dark and chaotic.

Smallpox was said to be used as a weapon in conquests of inca by pizarro. It is also said that the Black death which was scorched upon Europe was initiated when Mongols used infected carcasses and catapulted them into the city of Kafa of now known as Feodosia.  In the contemporary history,WW1 saw the use of Anthrax while WW2witnessed the use of biological warfare aside of nuclear. Similarly, Iraq used Sarin, Tabun and chemical agents during Iran- Iraq war and on Kurds.

After World War-I states went for bio weaponizing themselves in order to have superiority over their nemesis. In this regard, many biological facilities were established for research. Although, later after the establishment of United Nations numerous treaties and regimes came into force and banned any such actions which can harm the human race. The Biological weapons conventions remains as one of the most efficient one in order to halt such horrendous actions to eliminate humans. Despite the fact that the first multilateral agreement, the Geneva Protocol, was made in 1925 which was signed by 108 states it seems that laws are subject to moral obligations, thus many states continue to do so in order to have sufficient knowledge of bio-synthesis. In 1968 about 6000 sheep near a government facility in US were poisoned by a chemical weapon known as VX, which was created in a facility. Not only this in 2002 a group of scientists in New York at Stony brook created the first artificially synthesis Polio virus. Later the news was covered by New York Times and it was revealed after subtle investigation by the agencies that the study was funded by the DARPA, a US government entity. It is clear that states are being sneaky in researches on biosynthesis and are looking forward to have an edge in bio-weaponry.

What differentiates biological warfare with conventional one is that biological weapons needs a single entity, mostly humans as, carrier and human body becomes potential weapon. While the Europe and West, along with engaging in such acts are finding solutions as well, yet the underdeveloped part of the world remains aloof from any such understanding.

Pakistan facing many problems had rarely focused or done some work to counter in case of emergency. Being the immediate neighbor of China and keeping in view the rising threat of Corona virus the authorities in Pakistan should be alarmed and show maximum restraint in order to combat what apparently seems a biological threat. In case of Pakistan, the question is simple that how much are we prepared in order to combat any sort of mischief event.

Most of the time, any parochial outbreak is politicized like any other social issue and politicians rant while death toll rises. Recent dengue outbreak is one of the examples where there were no ample resources and management either on federal or provincial level. Despite the fact that after 18thamendment health was no longer, a matter of federal concern and was made the provincial subject in order to make things more effective. However, things did not go as planned. The politicians stuck in parochial politics deliberately neglected the fatal effects of not focusing on health.

Under these circumstances, Pakistan needs proper structural understanding of not only about pandemics but also needs to focus on the discourse of biological warfare. Academia and professionals need to be employed with maximum possible resources. The country needs proper professional and academic facilities in order to cope-up with the growing threat of epidemics and biological warfare. Keeping the status-quo of Pakistan in consideration it would be a tough nut to crack but it is high time that we look towards the professional practitioners.

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