By Michael Barr and Joy Y. Zhang, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Barr is lecturer in International Politics at Newcastle University. Joy Zhang is lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. They are the authors of Green Politics in China: Environmental Governance and State-Society Relations. The views expressed are their own.
Recent images of top golfers and spectators donning protective masks at the LPGA in Beijing has once again raised questions about air quality in China. During the event, pollution reached “hazardous” levels, as determined by the U.S. Embassy and Beijing's own air quality monitors. Such a reading carries the warning that all people should avoid outdoor exertion and that the elderly, children and those with respiratory or heart disease should remain completely indoors.
There is no doubt that China has paid a heavy environmental price for its rapid development. One study determined that in four cities alone (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Beijing) in 2012 over 8,500 people died prematurely because of pollution. The report also indicated that those cities suffered a combined economic loss of $1.09 billion.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, as well as the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, there seemed a glimmer of hope that air quality would improve. But one of the sad facts of the LPGA tournament is that beneath the headlines of big name athletes struggling to breathe, there lies over 20 million people who live in Beijing every day and have to endure the suffocating side effects of rapid industrialization, including a heavy reliance on coal power, and a dramatic increase in car ownership.
By Fareed Zakaria
“As India’s most dynamic states post rapid and sustainable growth rates, the country is rediscovering its natural fabric as a nation of strong regions. States still growing at or near double-digit rates represent India’s secret weapon for competing with the other major emerging markets, from China to Brazil, Indonesia to Mexico,” writes Ruchir Sharma in Foreign Affairs.
“The only hitch is that despite the chief ministers’ high popularity in their home states, many of them are pushing rapid development with an autocrat’s haste. Nevertheless, if India is to come back as a success story among the emerging markets, New Delhi should find ways to encourage the rise of its breakout states and the spread of their success to India’s other states.”
“It isn’t clear to me why China’s economy must deteriorate next year,” writes Jim O’Neill on Bloomberg. “China’s slowdown to its current 7.5 percent growth rate was well signposted by a sharp slowdown in leading indicators. Those measures, including monetary growth and electricity usage, are no longer flashing red. Coincident indicators such as the monthly purchasing managers’ index have picked up. Unless you believe that China is somehow doomed to fail, these signs are encouraging. They suggest that the rest of this year and the first part of 2014 might see slightly stronger growth.”
“The more resourceful pessimists next argue that the better growth signals are coming from parts of the economy where growth is unsustainable - such as the urban housing market and government-directed investment - from excessive growth of credit extended by shadow banks, and not from a broadly based expansion of consumer spending. If this were clearly the case, I’d be a pessimist, too, because a buoyant China needs consumers to take the lead.”
By Junjie Zhang, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Junjie Zhang is a senior advisor at Asia Society and assistant professor of Environmental Economics in the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The announcement at this month’s G20 summit that the U.S. and China plan to form a contact group to tackle the rapidly rising use of a key ozone-depleting chemical came on the heels of a June summit in which Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping agreed to work together to reduce the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
That agreement was itself followed by a report submitted by the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group in July to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue proposing five new action initiatives involving transportation; smart grids; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; energy efficiency; and data transparency.
Taken together, these developments have raised hopes that the so-called Group of Two is finally getting serious about climate change and low carbon development. But are they really?
By Abraham Denmark and Tiffany Ma, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Abraham M. Denmark is vice president for Political and Security Affairs at The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), and previously served as Country Director for China Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Tiffany Ma is a project manager at NBR. The views expressed are their own.
According to Chinese media, Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan arrived in Washington last month to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel with a grand bargain in mind: that Beijing would adjust its military deployments along the Taiwan Strait if the United States ended arms sales to Taiwan. Although a Chinese official reportedly claimed that Hagel had a positive response to the suggestion of forming a working group to explore this proposal, Washington quickly dismissed concerns that this might represent a change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan. Yet even after the media flames are doused, this proposal will likely encourage a small but growing contingent within the U.S. academic community that sees downgrading U.S. obligations to Taiwan as a justifiable trade for improved U.S.-China relations.
To be sure, this was not the first time that China has pushed such a proposal, and it certainly won’t be China’s last word on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Nonetheless, Washington has robust reasons to stand firm on its commitments to Taiwan and to disregard any such proposals that may come from Beijing.
Back in 2001, Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill coined the term BRICs to describe the key fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. But a dozen years later, is the focus on the BRICs misplaced? Indeed, is the group “broken,” as Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma has suggested?
“Although the world can expect more breakout nations to emerge from the bottom income tier, at the top and the middle, the new global economic order will probably look more like the old one than most observers predict,” Sharma wrote earlier this year. “The rest may continue to rise, but they will rise more slowly and unevenly than many experts are anticipating. And precious few will ever reach the income levels of the developed world.”
Each day this week, a leading analyst will assess the prospects of a BRIC nation and weigh in on whether it still deserves its place in a group of economic high flyers. Today, Minxin Pei looks at China, the only country that Sharma was relatively upbeat about.
By Jeffrey W. Hornung, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey W. Hornung is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu and an Adjunct Fellow with the Office of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are his alone.
The anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, which falls today, has increased the focus on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with many wondering how he will commemorate the event. Such attention is not new. Since becoming premier in December, the dominate narrative is that Abe, a nationalist who is jerking Japan dangerously to the right, is pursuing an agenda that will result in relaxed rules on Japan’s military, thereby destroying the pacifist principles embedded in its constitution and angering those countries Japan invaded or colonized during World War II. Now that Abe’s party and his allies control both houses of parliament, Abe is free to reveal his true self and unleash this agenda.
But this is a simplistic caricature of Abe and his policy agenda.
Whether it is Abe’s desire to revise and reinterpret Japan’s constitution or make changes to Japan’s military, his actions are consistently interpreted as leading Japan away from its postwar pacifism. In fact, while Abe is pursuing several significant changes in Japan, the truth of his agenda is often distorted or completely lost by the nationalist narrative. While Abe’s personal views on Japan’s role in World War II are questionable, the policies he is pursuing do not lead to the militaristic slippery slope his critics fear.
By Ziad Haider, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ziad Haider is director of the Truman National Security Project's Asia Expert Group. He served as a White House Fellow in the U.S. Department of Justice and as a national security aide in the U.S. Senate. You can follow him @Asia_Hand. The views expressed are his own.
“Let China sleep; when she awakes, she will shake the world.” Uttered by Napoleon Bonaparte two centuries ago, these words now seem prescient. Yet pitfalls a plenty remain in China’s rise. Chief among these, of course, is the stability and legitimacy of one-party rule. But why has the Chinese leadership turned to another Frenchman, political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville? Why has his classic work The Old Regime and the Revolution become a best seller in China? And ultimately, what lessons can Beijing learn from the French Revolution?
Interest in China in Tocqueville and the revolution can be traced to the upper echelons of China’s highest leadership body, the Politburo’s Standing Committee. Vice Premier Wang Qishan, chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, is responsible for combating corruption in the party – a priority for China’s new leadership to shore up its standing after a string of scandals. Now, Tocqueville is featured in the bookstore of the Communist Party School where China’s leaders are trained, where his 1856 book is reportedly described as “recommended” by Wang Qishan.
So what lessons might Chinese officials draw from Tocqueville’s account of the revolution?
By Richard Wike, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Richard Wike is associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Follow him on Twitter @RichardWike. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
It’s not easy being a superpower, and that’s something China is learning. A few years back, international headlines featured breathless accounts of China’s economic transformation and rave reviews of the Beijing Olympics. But today, news stories often portray a country battling over disputed territories overseas, while struggling at home with vexing issues such as pollution, corruption, and political dissent. China’s power is growing, but as it assumes a more prominent role on the world stage, its global reputation is beset by a host of challenges. Welcome to the travails of being one of the big boys on the block.
While China’s rise has been the subject of considerable debate among elites in recent years, ordinary citizens around the world have also taken note, and for many it’s a troubling development. Pew Research Center polling has shown that a growing number of people see China as the world’s leading economic power. Moreover, people not only see the economic balance of power shifting; many believe that in the long run, China will surpass the U.S. as the overall leading superpower. Across the 39 countries included in a spring 2013 Pew Research poll, a median of 47 percent say China has already replaced the U.S. as the leading superpower or will eventually do so. Just one third think China will never supplant the United States.
But, as the U.S. has often learned, power does not necessarily generate affection. More typically, it creates anxiety. In regions throughout the world, people worry about how a superpower will use its clout and how it will behave in the international arena. For instance, our polling has consistently found majorities in most countries saying the U.S. ignores their interests when making foreign policy decisions – this was true during the George W. Bush era and it remains largely true today.
By Jason Miks
U.S. Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and co-chair of the China Caucus, answers GPS readers’ questions on China, the U.S. military and U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific.
America is losing its air power edge, but its naval supremacy is secure, for now at least. Do you agree?
It’s a difficult question, but I appreciate the challenge. I could simply say that both our airpower and seapower capability are in decline, which I believe they are in certain areas, but it is more complicated than that. First, we need to ask what our global national security interests are and what objectives we have for our policies. When it comes to our defense policy, the answer to this question will inform what sort of military power we need to build. For instance, during various periods of the Cold War we invested in irregular military power, long-range strike, mechanized capabilities, and naval power, among others. And during the last decade we invested heavily in our land power, including counterinsurgency training and capabilities. In other words, we do not just build seapower or airpower for its own sake or because our competitors are.
When I look out over the next decade or two I see a number of trends that will create new demands on our military. First, from the Persian Gulf, to the Indian Ocean, to the South China Sea, to the East China Sea, the character of this global environment strikes me as increasingly maritime. Second, while the United States has enjoyed advantages in areas such as precision-guided munitions, satellite communications, stealth technologies, and cyber, our competitors have found ways to match or undermine these advantages with their own asymmetric investments.
By Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Katrina Lantos Swett is chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Mary Ann Glendon is vice chairwoman of USCIRF. The views expressed are their own.
As much of the world’s attention has been focused on the huge human rights abuses in Syria, a severely persecuted group from China has quietly marked nearly a decade-and-a-half since the start of a brutal campaign of detention, defamation and public degradation.
On July 20, the Falun Gong – a peaceful movement founded in 1992 and characterized by the practice of meditation exercises and moral precepts – marked 14 years since the launch of a government campaign against it. It is time for Washington and the world to take note of its plight.
Beijing’s efforts against the Falun Gong, which stem from fears over its substantial growth as an independent-minded group thriving outside of Communist ideology and control, have been remarkable. The government has mobilized the whole of Chinese society – from media to the police, from education to the judiciary – specifically against its members. Relentless propaganda campaigns label practitioners as “obsessed,” “evil,” “unbalanced,” and cult-like threats to the nation. The government is alleged to have created an extra-legal police force, called the 6-10 Office, which hunts, arrests, and detains them without trial in “re-education-through-labor” centers, where they are tortured and mistreated and may constitute half of the inmates. Practitioners also are sent to psychiatric hospitals where they are reportedly involuntarily administered drugs, electric shock, and beatings.
Fareed speaks with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about Chinese cyber theft and future ties. Watch GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET for the full interview.
A lot of Americans look at China and they think this is a country that, the phrase that is often used, is stealing our jobs. What do you say to them?
Look, there are things that are going on in China that are a real problem. I've made this point. The president, more importantly, has made this point. You know, the cyber theft of trade secrets is a real form of theft. And it's something that we’ve said has to stop.
The subsidies that are provided to businesses don't provide for a level playing field. They need to move toward a more market determined, open access in pricing. You know, it's a competitive world. I remember when, in the 1970s, people were saying the United States was going to be slipping behind Japan. Now, in the last number of years, people have said the same thing with China.
I would just point out that coming out of the recession in ’08 to ’09, the economy that's emerged from the recession strongest is the U.S. economy. It's shown the durability of our system, our economic system. And, with all this noise, our political system. We’re not going to grow at 7, 8, 9, 10 percent like a developing economy can. But we've seen our economy emerge from the recession with a resilience and a strength that makes it clear that we remain the strongest country and the largest economy in the world. I think that we can compete fairly with any other country. And that’s all we ask.
What should the U.S. and its allies make of China’s rise? What military challenges does it pose? And what kind of shape is America’s military anyway in to respond to changing realities in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere?
U.S. Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and co-chair of the China Caucus, will be taking GPS readers’ questions on these and other issues. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.