These signs show that China is starting to crack

Is China (a) an economic juggernaut, rapidly overtaking the United States in the technologies of tomorrow? Or is it (b) an ailing giant, doomed by demography, failing real estate developers and counterproductive government diktat?

Trick question: China is both. But the country’s weaknesses increasingly dominate its strengths.

Start with the evidence for juggernaut China. Back in 2000, the country’s spending on research and development, government plus private, was about one-ninth that of the United States, according to Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development statistics. Fast-forward to 2020 and it was 85 percent. Further, by concentrating its resources, China has achieved global leadership in strategic areas.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent withdrawal of the Baltic countries from the ‘17+1’ format displays changing perceptions of China due to its ambiguity towards the war in Ukraine.

While the Russian invasion of Ukraine only confirmed Central and Eastern Europe’s views of Russia, it is also affecting their relations with China. Although the relationship was already complicated due to unfulfilled Chinese economic promises to CEE countries and growing indications of efforts to influence their domestic politics, China’s support for Russia is pushing Central and Eastern Europeans even further away.

This shift was highlighted, and formalized, recently by several countries in the region leaving the ‘17+1’ format, through which China cooperates with a group of countries from the region. The shifting attitudes towards China will also influence the relationship between the European Union as a whole and China.…  Seguir leyendo »

China representa un desafío para nuestros servicios de inteligencia

Durante las tres décadas de carrera en el Servicio de Inteligencia Secreto del Reino Unido, China nunca fue considerada una gran amenaza.

Si perdíamos el sueño era por desafíos más inmediatos, como el expansionismo soviético y el terrorismo transnacional. El surgimiento vacilante de China de la caótica era de Mao Zedong y su aislamiento internacional después de que soldados chinos sofocaran las manifestaciones prodemocracia en la plaza de Tiananmén en 1989 hicieron que pareciera un páramo insular.

Hoy vemos un panorama distinto. China ha adquirido influencia económica y diplomática global, lo que permite que se establezcan operaciones encubiertas que van mucho más allá de la recopilación tradicional de inteligencia, que están creciendo a gran escala y amenazan con rebasar a las agencias de seguridad del mundo occidental.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2018. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Almost seven months into the Russia-Ukraine war, China is still claiming to be a neutral party, despite the evidence. And when Vladimir Putin meets Xi Jinping this week, the falsity of that claim will come into full and dramatic view. China’s increasing support for Russia is driving some in Ukraine to push for closer cooperation with Taiwan, a fellow democracy under threat.

The Ukrainian government has been careful to walk a fine line in its relations with Beijing and Taipei. Even though Xi and Putin pledged a partnership with “no limits” when they last met in February, the idea that Ukraine should develop closer ties with Taipei has been controversial in Kyiv.…  Seguir leyendo »

Time Is Running Out to Defend Taiwan. Ann Wang / Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it abundantly clear that “reunifying” Taiwan with mainland China is a legacy issue for him, something he intends to accomplish on his watch through political and economic means or, if necessary, through military force. Right now, he is preoccupied with the COVID-19 crisis, the slowing growth of the Chinese economy, and the upcoming 20th Party Congress, where he hopes to secure a third term as chair of the Chinese Communist Party. But once these immediate concerns are addressed, it is possible that sometime in the next five years Xi will consider taking Taiwan by force, either because nonmilitary efforts at reunification have fallen short or because he believes his chances of success will diminish if he waits and U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

China’s Covert Offensive Is Here. Are Democracies Ready?

In my three-decade career with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, China was never seen as a major threat.

If we lost sleep at night, it was over more immediate challenges such as Soviet expansionism and transnational terrorism. China’s halting emergence from the chaotic Mao Zedong era and its international isolation after Chinese soldiers crushed pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989 made it seem like an insular backwater.

It’s a different picture today. China has acquired global economic and diplomatic influence, enabling covert operations that extend well beyond traditional intelligence gathering, are growing in scale and threaten to overwhelm Western security agencies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un tramo seco del río Jialing, un importante afluente del río Yangtsé, en Chongqing, China. Stringer/EPA vía Shutterstock

El mes pasado viajé con mi esposa y mi hija de cinco años para ir a acampar desde nuestra casa en el suroeste de China.

Nuestro destino era una región de la provincia de Sichuan en la que ríos de agua clara bajan de los Himalayas por entre valles estrechos antes de irrigar las fértiles tierras bajas que ayudan a alimentar al país más poblado del mundo. Mi hija, Evelyn, aprendió a nadar el año pasado y estábamos deseosos de zambullirnos en las frescas y espectaculares pozas de las montañas.

Lo que pasó más bien fue que nos encontramos con una prueba atroz de las consecuencias del cambio climático causadas por la histórica ola de calor en China este verano: paisajes devastados, ciudades paralizadas y poblaciones llevadas al extremo.…  Seguir leyendo »

A security guard watches from a tower at the detention facility in China's Xinjiang region on March 21, 2021. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

On her very last day in the job, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released her long-delayed report on the Chinese government’s mass atrocities against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the western region of Xinjiang. The damning findings are shocking — but they should come as no surprise, considering the world has known about these abuses for years. So why isn’t the U.S. government doing more to stop them?

The U.N. report stops short of designating China’s abuses in Xinjiang as an ongoing genocide — contrary to the Biden administration, which has described the situation in exactly those terms.…  Seguir leyendo »

Michelle Bachelet with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, in Guangzhou, China, May 2022. Photograph: Deng Hua/AP

On Wednesday, minutes before the midnight end of her four-year appointment as UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet’s office at last published her long-delayed report into the continuing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region of China. That it would do so remained uncertain to the last. Just the day before, it was being reported that her term would come to an end with the issue unresolved, despite numerous demands at Tuesday’s meeting of the human rights council – including from Britain’s ambassador to it, Rita French – that the report be released.

For scholars of Xinjiang, the uncertainty was nothing new.…  Seguir leyendo »

"Those who play with fire will perish by it". Xi Jinping’s threat to Joe Biden in July was a warning against Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. And after her departure from the island, China fired ballistic missiles and took other dangerous actions in the waters surrounding the island. Twenty-two Chinese aircraft crossed the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait. Ships from the Chinese navy ran drills that mimicked a blockade of Taiwan—no small threat for an island which imports over 60% of its food and 98% of its energy.

For the past four decades, Republican and Democratic American presidents have maintained the policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward the defence of Taiwan, maintaining the capacity and military capabilities to defend the island against attack by China without explicitly committing America to doing so.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front row center, at the closing ceremony for the 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in October 2017. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech in Beijing late last month at a conference on United Front Work. As the state-run news agency Xinhua reported, Xi “stressed promoting the unity and hard work of Chinese people at home and abroad to pool strength for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. And he described the “united front” effort, the agency said, as one that would “truly unite all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation from different political parties, ethnic groups, social strata and groups, as well as those with different beliefs and living in different social systems”.…  Seguir leyendo »

El día en que cayó Kabul la embajada China bloqueó sus puertas, pero nadie huyó o corrió a refugiarse en los búnkeres. El complejo diplomático situado al lado del Palacio Presidencial no pensó en evacuar, ni tampoco se preparó para un posible asalto. El 15 de agosto de 2021, mientras el aeropuerto Hamid Karzai era un hervidero de gente desesperada y del cielo llovían los cuerpos de los afganos agarrándose a las ruedas de los aviones norteamericanos de transporte C-17, el personal diplomático chino estaba tranquilo y ajeno, salvo excepciones, ante una ciudad presa del pánico.

Pekín había pactado de antemano la seguridad de sus ciudadanos y la de sus lucrativos negocios en Afganistán.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taiwán se ha convertido en el mayor dilema estratégico de Washington y Pekín en el juego de poder por dominar el tablero geopolítico global. Ya lo era antes de la visita de la presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos, Nancy Pelosi, aunque su paso por la isla ha supuesto la actualización de las respectivas agendas estratégicas.

En la nueva normalidad resultante, los intereses nacionales de ambas partes no cambian. Por parte de China, la intensificación de las maniobras militares en el estrecho es una clara advertencia a Taiwán, y a su opinión pública, de que en esta cuenta atrás acelerada hacia la reunificación se podrían desplegar escenarios de bloqueo de la isla que impidan la llegada de asistencia por parte de Estados Unidos y Japón.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arriving travelers line up for coronavirus tests at Changshui International Airport in Kunming, China, on Aug. 8. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed its covid guidelines, dropping recommendations for quarantining, social distancing and regular daily school testing. Thailand has downgraded the coronavirus to the same category as the flu. The European Union has ended its emergency phase of the pandemic, and restaurants and bars are packed again. Australia and New Zealand have fully opened to tourists.

The pandemic might not be over, but most of the world is moving on. Yet there is one conspicuous exception: China.

Other countries are shifting to living with the virus, but China’s Communist rulers are sticking to their strict anti-epidemic policy known as “dynamic zero covid”.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump don’t agree on much, but their administrations together have executed the most important pivot in U.S. foreign policy since the 9/11 terrorist attacks: centering grand strategy around systematic great-power competition with China and Russia. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has genuine rivals for international leadership with the ability to potentially defeat U.S. forces in military conflict. Yet approaching this geopolitical earthquake purely as a competition doesn’t tell the full story and makes it hard for presidents to garner popular support for difficult policy choices in what is a generational struggle.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dried-up riverbed of Jialing river, a Yangtze tributary, China, August 2022. Thomas Peter / Reuters

China is on the brink of a water catastrophe. A multiyear drought could push the country into an outright water crisis. Such an outcome would not only have a significant effect on China’s grain and electricity production; it could also induce global food and industrial materials shortages on a far greater scale than those wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Given the country’s overriding importance to the global economy, potential water-driven disruptions beginning in China would rapidly reverberate through food, energy, and materials markets around the world and create economic and political turbulence for years to come.…  Seguir leyendo »

La crisis en el Estrecho de Taiwán: otra bofetada a la globalización

Cuesta trabajo pensar en una visita más disruptiva que la que realizó Nancy Pelosi, presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes estadounidense, a Taiwán el pasado 3 de agosto. En poco más de 24 horas, Pelosi consiguió levantar la ira del Gobierno chino que, inmediatamente después de que la dirigente demócrata abandonara Taiwán, bloqueó unos 3.000 productos importados de la isla y anunció ejercicios militares durante varios días en seis áreas cercanas a las costas de Taiwán. Por si esto fuera poco, China ha anunciado que no seguirá cooperando —ni tan siquiera dialogando— con Estados Unidos en áreas enormemente importantes a nivel global, como puede ser el cambio climático.…  Seguir leyendo »

El presidente Joe Biden, al resumir el mundo actual como un conflicto entre democracia y autocracia, muy probablemente peca de una simplificación excesiva, pero tampoco se equivoca. Aparentemente, no hay nada que permita comparar civilizaciones y situaciones geopolíticas tan distintas como Ucrania y Taiwán, pero resulta que ambas han respirado el aire de la democracia, es decir, de la libertad de expresión y el Estado de derecho. Parece pues que este aire es propio de la condición humana, muy agradable de respirar, sea cual sea la cultura de origen.

No se puede negar que, de hecho, los ucranianos son de civilización rusa, igual que los taiwaneses son, de hecho, de civilización china.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, September 2021. Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

As relations between the United States and China have spiraled down to a half-century low, a frightening new narrative has taken hold among some U.S. analysts and policymakers. It supposes that China’s window of opportunity to “reunify” Taiwan with the mainland—one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s core foreign policy objectives—is closing rapidly, intensifying the pressure on Beijing to act swiftly and forcefully while it still has the chance.

This narrative rests on the belief that China’s rise is nearing its end. Unprecedented demographic decline, a heavy debt burden, uneven innovation, and other serious economic problems have slowed China’s growth and are likely to slow it even further, leaving the country without the military power or political influence to challenge the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

En las últimas semanas, se han producido dos hechos relevantes con respecto a Taiwan: por una parte, la presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes norteamericana, Nancy Pelosi, ha cursado una visita oficial a la isla, con lo que parece que su país ha abandonado la strategic ambiguity y se ha comprometido con su defensa; y por otro lado, la República Popular China ha realizado unas largas maniobras militares con imponente exhibición de poderío naval, misiles y fuego real.

En un artículo publicado en El Debate recientemente, anotaba cinco tropiezos en el año pasado de la diplomacia norteamericana, que reflejan su actual debilidad estratégica: la salida de Afganistán, el parón absoluto en el proceso de desnuclearización de Corea del Norte, los avances del castrismo-chavismo en Iberoamérica, el fracaso de la opción Guaidó en Venezuela y la guerra de Ucrania.…  Seguir leyendo »