Yesterday was so beautifully clear....
Here is an excerpt from the Nov 30th Nelson Report on Michael Swaine and US Taiwan policy. No comment from me, just enjoy. Go to READ MORE.... and after you are done, return to this deftly written piece by Shelly Rigger at AEI arguing that letting China have Taiwan would be a bad idea.
NOTES ON WED. MORNING'S CARNEGIE DISCUSSION OF MICHAEL SWAINE'S "AMERICA'S CHALLENGE: ENGAGING A RISING CHINA IN THE 21ST CENTURY", WITH COMMENTARY BY DAVID "MIKE" LAMPTON, SAIS, MODERATED BY THE FT'S GEOFF DEYER
As you know, normally we try to summarize key points of interesting, multi-hour discussions here in DC, but this time, we want you to follow along at the discussion's pace, and in the ways the "two Mikes" outlined their points and concerns. This is for two reasons: first, Mike S is sometimes mischaracterized as being hostile or unfriendly to key aspects of Administration China policy, since his views...and worries... are often more nuanced than US officials are comfortable reading about or listening to.
Second, this is especially the case of his discussion of Taiwan policy, which we can almost guarantee will be misunderstood and/or misrepresented by
some well-meaning friends of Taiwan, possibly to the detriment of the best interests of all concerned.
So we want you...all of you...if you are interested enough in the subject of the conceptualization and management of US policy toward China, to hear about it as Mike presents it, and on Taiwan, read not just his deconstruction of the 6 Assurances, but further down the Q&A's, his commitment to not throwing Taiwan to the wolves.
(Also...the book, including footnotes and index, weighs in at a trim 670 pages, and so rivals Ez Vogel's wonderfully interesting recent bio, "Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China".)
An apology: the following is from our notes, scribbled as the Lads went along, and while they are for the most part reasonably verbatim, no doubt some paraphrasing will sneak in, and some points will have been missed.
Geoff Dyer: recently posted by the Financial Times to DC after 6 years in the PRC...as part of his introduction, wryly noted "there are more interesting commentaries about China here in Washington they there are, for correspondents, at least, in China."
The book started as one chapter in something else. The focus is US policy...what is it...is it successful in achieving its goals.
7 areas are covered as key focus points, with recommendations:
I talked with some 50 practitioners past and present about what works best in terms of achieving US objectives, so it's very tactical more than strategic
US-China is the most critical bilateral in the world, so it's absolutely critical to get it right
There's been a huge change through the 1970's into this century, it's now multilateral and global engagement requiring mutual agreement on the basis of problems to address...yet the bilateral is not sufficient, although is necessary to address larger global problems, and this is an even bigger challenge now, as China gets more powerful and engaged
2 schools or theories on US policy...engagement and hedge...but this is misleading, as each has elements of the other, so the question is more the appropriate balance and means, and the changes between the US and CHina makes it more difficult to achieve balance...so you have to ask if US policy is sustainable
China is not now a major security concern for the US, but is one for E Asia and other parts of the world
The main difficulty: China's rise and the US historical role as security guarantor is increasingly coming into conflict, so the major unresolved question is how to sustain stability and prosperity in Asia long term, when the US and China have very different views...therefore we need to reach some overlaps, so the two can co-exist in Asia
The 3 most pointed (difficult) now: East and S. China Sea, and Taiwan
But values and norms in dealing with the international system is/are also a big issue, and we need to reach understandings on the basics (including): free trade, open access to resources, international agreements, human and religious rights, state sovereignty definitions and "internal intervention", legal principles to adjudicate, definitions of civil and legal rights, voting shares in international bodies for developing and developed states
ALL these issues affect US policies in Asia and the world, to sustain stability and growth
Basic sense: US policies now are designed to sustain US dominance in West Pacific, especially maritime, but US officials don't like to call it "predominance"...prefer to call it maintaining US "freedom of action" so the US can prevail IF there is a conflict...therefore there's a fundamental and basic conflict, since US policy IS "predominance"
Also...the US wants to offer a set of incentives to lead China to accept the US role because of the benefits for China of cooperating with the US in West Pac
So I worry...the US reaction to China rising has been heavy handed and misplayed, due to an over-focus on hegemony and strengthening predominance, so the US is pushing the region more toward polarization than is necessary
So a big question: can the US maintain predominance over time, in view of China's economic changes, and an increasingly complex and diffuse power structure...all equals less US leverage
So the key question: what are the factors in preserving US predominance? I don't really answer this in the book! There are no particularly good answers...it all looks like 1930's offshore balancing
Recc: selective engagement...the US is doing this now, is drawing down in other areas to shift to Asia; cooperative security mechanisms...would be good to get China to buy-into a system of mutual restraint and more equal balance...but all recommendations have big problems
A big issue" transition and how to do it ... recommendation steps look at how to strengthen cooperation incentives more than we are doing now ...especially China maritime hopes/plans on the S and E China Sea, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula
The US needs to find ways to get through to pursuing long term US interests and identifying acceptable quid pro quos which can be established
Big problem (for Swaine and others) is "accommodation" now is slammed as "appeasement", which (since Hitler) has become a dirty word, but which didn't used to be....it's increasingly important for the US and China to seek means of accommodation in order to establish the stability both seek
This is especially true of the book's recommendations on Taiwan policy...(not discussed until Lampton and the Q&A's below)
(Editors note: Swain fills out much of the above in the Q&A's following Lampton's commentary)
The very last page of the book contains this sentence, which would very well be the first in the book! "The status quo will not suffice".
Strongly agree the hedge/engage policy is an unsustainable equilibrium...so like the book's focus on what areas of consensus to work toward
So my big question is...how to re-establish a stable equilibrium in the face of China's growing power, globalization, and trans national issues requiring US-China cooperation
All these push the US and China toward cooperation...yet we are increasingly more divergent!
3 big points:
On the 3 major areas of security relations, especially with Taiwan and the Cross Strait...book offers a very controversial set of propositions that I agree with
2d point: on norms of China's growing power as it moves into "space"...outer, global, economic areas in which the US has played the biggest role...therefore friction requires new norms to be developed
3d point: most importantly, look at US space strategy to see where dominance and predominance is really #1 US space strategy is THE core of US global and Asia power...so the big question will be if the US keeps the capacity to fulfill our ambitions, and if not all, which ones and how, as relative US power declines...this dilemma will require US-China accommodation
The 3 recommendations lead to major challenges to US decision-making structures:
Reduce immediate off-shore surveillance along the coast and move out to 200 miles...this is both a practical and a political issue
• Move away from Reagan's 6 Assurances to never negotiate Cross Strait force levels with China...and move this into the realities of the 21st Century
• Agree with Swaine about the importance of democracy and human rights, but of course these can't be the first (leading) US strategic objective
Therefore the fundamental transformation of the Chinese (Communist) regime isn't #1, despite Washington institutions focused on that...so maybe Swaine's recommendation on this is impossible!
LAMPTON's QUESTIONS, based on the book:
• US policy now is moving in the direction contrary to Swaine's recc's
• Is it possible for the US to create equilibrium with China moving so fast...US "decline" is the wrong word, but the US share of global power pie will definitely go down...so it will be difficult to re-negotiate as power positions regularly change
• WILL US politics be able to accept (or permit) anything but "predominance" in space....we had a deal with the Soviets, but can't do this with China??
• WILL Congress agree to fundamental changes in Taiwan policy...Swaine wants a more "active" US role...what does that mean? Will surely be controversial in this or any Congress
• How will US allies react to "less dominance" in West Pac...especially will S. Korea and/or Taiwan "reconsider" their own nuclear deterrence? And overall, less US dominance will have a knock-off effect all across the region
• The US, especially NSC role...its always difficult to coordinate China policy...see the current disconnect between White House/DOD and Hillary in the Philippines
• What about coming changes in China...Leadership is weaker and "society" is stronger, so can Leadership keep important agreements?
• What happens if the DPP is re-elected on Taiwan, coming at a time of increasingly difficult US-China relations?
• SUMMING UP: Lampton agrees with Swain's concerns and recommendations, but questions whether the US can reach an internal consensus on the changes ongoing, and on the recommendations
THE Q&A...led off by Moderator Geoff Deyer:
Are we really witnessing a big shift...does Obama policy really "pivot"...see the Marines to Australia, Hillary to Burma? Is hedging more important than engagement?
I do think hedging now is more prominent, but US policy makers don't see it as a strategic change...rather it's a refocus of US attention and resources to meet regional perceptions the US has not been as assertive as it needs to be. I agree it's not a fundamental change in strategy, but is one in how it's being played out
However, the perception in China is its ALL about them...and the media (theirs and ours?) is hyping this, and the media is not ALL wrong
US officials say the region demands American leadership. OK, but what this means exactly? There are lots of individual differences, lots of countries want more from us, but there are differences in what they want
There IS consensus on maritime concerns and that the US should increase its resources as China increases theirs...so the question is how can this process avoid a zero sum game that strains the system
China is at fault here too...they always see a Grand Conspiracy against them, especially the PLA...they are certain the real US policy is containment...it isn't in fact, but the Chinese see it this way
Agree with Mike S...we are seeing a new policy but not a new strategy, we are reinforcing the old US dominance, and now are less concerned about reassuring China, so this feeds Chinese fears and historic insecurities
Obama setting a firmer policy will improve Chinese behavior? I don't have high confidence in the success of this! The US HAS to care about how China's reacting
US budget politics tells the region the US has to cut resources...so Asia will fear US promises now can't be met...so US credibility is at risk
On the maritime issues and Taiwan, you both agree? What are the US bottom lines on Taiwan, and if there's a big shift (by this or any Administration) how would you negotiate it with Congress?
I agree with Mike L's basic questions...I can ask them but I can't answer! You can't just seek the "most rational policy". So my bottom line - the US needs to be able to address China's security concerns and its periphery concerns. It's a fact China will continue to grow and the US will continue to change, and Taiwan policy is front and center on this...
SO the first step is to make it a goal to achieve a quid-pro-quo across the Strait...so the US should seriously consider dealing directly with China on arms sales, in return for assurances from China on its behavior toward Taiwan, and especially PLA deployments with the goal of moving to CBM's with teeth...and with the goal of moving to China-Taiwan discussions on Taiwan's status
That's a big question and there's no current US Gov't desire to deal with it now...the US sees it as a status-quo situation "that ain't broken so why fix it".
But here's a big risk...there's no interest in China on dealing with a military drawdown and it won't unilaterally. So...the US over time WILL need to sell more arms to Taiwan and China will be increasingly less tolerant of this...and it WILL become more messy
But the biggest obstacle to my recc's? Political perceptions of Taiwan among US elites. The US public knows nothing and is not concerned and certainly won't support war to defend Taiwan...yet the US could back into one! So we need to re-visit the 6 Assurances and figure out what we need, to justify what we would give
You agree? This can't be done in an election year! And if Ma is re-elected, maybe no change is needed. But if the DPP comes back, the status quo question raises a set of entanglement dangers and questions will arise quickly...therefore the Taiwan elections are a major US interest.
Also, no one wants to be seen as abandoning a democracy to China, so overall Swain is presenting a very dangerous policy assessment!
EPOCH TIMES: what are China's ultimate strategy objectives? Should the US be willing to fight for Taiwan because it is a democracy?
SWAINE: am not sure China has one clearly defined "ultimate strategic objective" beyond general acceptance as a significant and major power by mid century. So China can't be ignored on issues it cares about in Asia, and therefore more influence on its neighbors is a vague objective.
China is struggling with self-definition of this question...for example, China can't reverse its expansion of power and engagement in the international system to secure its position in W Pac is the Leadership consensus, but the question becomes how...especially the strategic position of the PLA/N beyond Taiwan and the S and E China Seas
So the issue of what China does with the PLA and strategy is still a big debate in China, which means China can be influenced. Asians ask does China seek pre-eminence in Asia? It's not that clear...it does want to be taken seriously, but do they have to be more accommodating to build up trust in the region?
But others say China has been too soft against US predominance, and this does not serve China's interests...therefore China must weaken the US role...this is a big debate
On the Taiwan question: not for one minute can or should the US give up its commitment to Cross Strain peace and stability, and higl level Taiwanese ability to defend its sovereignty...therefore the US must deter any direct use of coercion against Taiwan...for example the Anti-Secession law being "enforced"...the US should stop that. This [challenge] will prevail over a long time
MY recommendation? We've got to deal with Cross Stratit problems so as not to GET to that point!
LAMPTON: China wants to be powerful enough to prevent the US defeating China's "core interests"...the problem is defining "core interest" on Taiwan. I agree with Mike S.
So I say "preserve the way of life of the Taiwanese people" and those not working in Taiwan's favor are not working toward Cross Strait stability. Yet the question is how can the US do this without increasing anxieties?
BOXFORD GLOBAL: you say US policy-makers believe in the inexorable rise of China. I doubt that. How do US allies see this? Singapore, S.Korea, Japan...
SWAINE: US policy makers don't assume China's rise will continue at the same rate of the past 30 years. There's a growing believe in non-USG experts, especially economists, that China is facing major decisions on sustainable growth, job creation, living conditions, resource allocation, et al, and so this is a big open question, and being open, the USG sees China's leverage over time may not be so big, and therefore US policy can be sustained over time...so China won't be able to challenge the US...so the net is "contingency" acts to sustain US policy
Short to mid-term, of course, the US can't assume China's collapse [due to all the problems] Economists all agree on the diffusion of global economic power
But there is a big debate on China's political decision-making capability to make the right choices, but they do feel 8% growth need not be needed as China's population gradually shrinks by 55 million at mid-century
The basic US problem in Asia is different Chinese conceptions of its regional interests, plus the difficulties the uS has with its own allies...see political relations with Japan and the ROK which are quite good [now] but it's highly problematic Japan will agree to policies which risk more difficulties with China
Japan is very ambivalent about dealing with China as the US wants. Japan's economic stake in China is enormous and growing.
Also, S. Korea/Japan relations are always difficult under the best circumstances and aren't likely to improve...and S. Korea is also ambivalent about China over the long term, even though, short term, it will boost the military alliance due to concerns about China and N.Korea
LAMPTON: agree you need to ask whether China's growth is inexorable...it may not be the case and if not, the pressure on US policy may not be so great.
But...economists do doubt another 10/20 years of continued [high] growth. We think too little about China's increasing downsides for the US, and not enough about China's failure to deal with its core problems. I see [rising] Chinese difficulties are more likely
The problem: US allies all have their own agendas and see it as in their interest to involve the US for them against China, and this may not be in US interests...therefore the US needs more sophistication about what's in US interests...and so it's not good to see US multinationals move into disputed areas [eg Philippine disputed waters, etc.]
WILLIAMSON: global cooperation issues...NK? energy in that US and China are top 2 consumers
SWAINE: China/US-NK interactions have a long and complex history...in recent years a fair amount of overlap, but not "coordination" to curtail a crisis on the Peninsula
China has established a role in moving forward on the de-nuclearization issue in hopes of underpinning a more stable outcome, and the US has relied on China for this
BUT, the dynamics have been changed by NK provocations and concerns over what kinds of measures can stop what NK really sees as part of its negotiating strategy
So China is very cautious about agreeing to "undue pressure" on NK...China thinking all long-term, hoping for evolution toward China-style reforms of the 1970's...so China wants a stable NK Leadership transition, whereas the US wants regime change with a soft landing.
So the US is pushing for changes for which China can't accept the risk, and China's concerns have deepened recently. China is more concerned about the NK political transition, so while the US tries to tell China it's not working to push regime change, that's not credible to China
LAMPTON: on energy, other than contesting choke-points like the Strait of Malacca, the PLAN can't challenge the US principle of freedom of navigation. How would it? stop all shipping? That's not possible and anyhow, oil is always fungible. So what would the PLAN do, set up convoys?
The real competition for oil/energy is over pricing, and China seeks privileged access by trying to lock in relationships...and it's true that for now, all oil is controlled by individual governments
NELSON: you mentioned coming elections in Taipei and Seoul. In one and perhaps both, there seems to be a real chance that today's opposition will be tomorrow's government. In either case, there would likely be a risk to current US policies. What's your assessment of each?
SWAINE: and you forgot to mention the coming transition in China! Yes the US is concerned about a return by the DPP, as we saw in the message to the Financial Times, because the US doesn't know where Ms. Tsai is going, she has not supplied enough reassurances to the US...yet the US [has to say it] is not in favor of either party. But the US assumes that China is thinking more about the possibility of a DPP government
The US won't alter policies if the DPP wins, but it will want to see more reassurances from key leaders, and will probe on what Ms. Tsai will do, and not do
LAMPTON: our S. Korean allies, like many US allies in Asia, are democracies and so policies DO change, so the US must expect change...in Japan leaders change all the time! The current regional environment now demands US leadership, but that too will change
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