Like 1947, Only Tougher

The National Intelligence Council sees the entire international system, in both the economic and security realms, being revamped between now and 2025. Worth a read, just in case you thought the stakes involved in Obama’s presidency were low.

It’ll Never Happen

The Chinese buying one or two of the Detroit 3, that is. Congress will never allow it, for fear of the national-security ramifications. It’ll let the carmakers go belly-up first.

Josh Whedon Was There First

All due respect to Niall Ferguson and Tom Barnett, but they’re hardly the only guys to posit a convergence between China and the US. Firefly major domo Josh Whedon has too — and he clearly doesn’t like the idea.

Turks as Friends

Turkey’s offer to mediate between the Obama administration and Iran is getting good reviews.

Ezra Klein:

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ivo Daalder, Susan Rice, and others have for some time been pushing this concept of “strategic leadership,” wherein America begins thinking more about its interests than its preeminence. Part of that means being willing to let allies take a leadership role in the regions where they’re most influential. It’s obvious enough how you do that in, say, Eastern Europe, but less so in the Muslim world. Unless, of course, Turkey is willing to step into a leadership role. And there’s evidence they want to do exactly that.

Patrick Barry:

A bajillion years ago, back when there were Byzantines, they called Istanbul the navel of the world, a metaphor which is at once gross but also useful for understanding Turkey’s traditional role as a node for East-West activity.  For centuries, Turkey has managed to fuse together cultures that to everyone else appared irreconcilable.  Today, for reasons political and economic, cultural and strategic, they seem willing to take on that part again.

A cautionary analogy, however, is the historical fact that Pakistan helped broker the Nixon Administration’s opening to China — to curry favor with both the Americans and Chinese. It didn’t make them a pivot, just a client, and not a particularly reliable one at that.

Doing Without Mr. Kim

The Chinese don’t really believe North Korea will collapse after Kim Jong Il passes from the scene:

Beijing isn’t alarmed about North Korea’s stability should Mr. Kim pass from the scene and believes Washington is overplaying the security implications, they said.

“Acting on a belief that Kim is ill and North Korea will descend into chaos invariably affects domestic outcomes in Pyongyang, and that violates China’s own principle of noninterference” in other’s internal affairs, said Zhuang Jianzhong, vice director of the Center for National Strategic Studies at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University. Based on those considerations, Beijing’s default response will be to do nothing, he said.

They’re probably right. Just as the regime in Cuba has shown no signs of falling apart now that Fidel’s on the sidelines, I suspect the Norks can figure out a succession. The Sovs and their satellites collapsed as a result of demoralization, which there’s not much sign of in the holdouts.

China-Taiwan Accord

Nothing but good news in the latest deal between China and Taiwan:

The direct sea links alone will cut shipping costs by around $36 million a year, according to estimates from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. This is no small change: More than 40% of Taiwanese exports went to China in 2007, and two-way trade was $130.2 billion — yet the trade and the traders had to travel through a third country, usually Hong Kong. The number of direct charter flights will increase to 108 per week from 36, and new air routes will cut hours off flying times. … 

Credit goes to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou for smoothing the waters. Elected in March on a platform of better relations with the mainland, Mr. Ma made it clear he wanted to negotiate on cross-Strait economic, transportation and cultural links on the basis of the “1992 Consensus,” under which the two sides agreed to disagree about what constitutes “China.” The Chinese delegation’s very presence in Taipei this week suggests negotiations on an equal footing. That’s a big change.

China and Taiwan will integrate peacefully as long as the mainland’s government continues to moderate over time. And as Thomas Barnett says, “The big-war scenario is dead.”

Never Trust Air You Can’t See

The city motto of Los Angeles seems to be China’s national ethos as well, as the smog problem in Asia gets worse:

The brownish haze, sometimes in a layer more than a mile thick and clearly visible from airplanes, stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to the Yellow Sea. In the spring, it sweeps past North and South Korea and Japan. Sometimes the cloud drifts as far east as California.

The report identified 13 cities as brown-cloud hot spots, among them Bangkok, Cairo, New Delhi, Tehran and Seoul, South Korea.

To be fair, it’s obviously not just the Chinese who are contributing to such a large-scale problem. But it illustrates that Bush was onto something when he administered the coup de grace to Kyoto on the grounds that it excluded China and India. Meaningful environmental treaties have to take in the big developing economies too.

Rule, Britannia

The Telegraph reports that UK forces won a major battle in Afghanistan to deliver material to a hydro project. Interesting sidelight:

The Chinese-made turbine will be installed as part of a project funded by the American development agency USAID to increase the output of the Kajaki power plant.

Chinese engineers already on the ground will install the equipment, which will boost the capacity of the plant, built in 1975, to three turbines with an output of 51 MegaWatts. Around 1.8 million Afghans are expected to benefit from the project.

China’s Stake

Robert Farley:

Territorial integrity is a value that Russia really shouldn’t have expected China to have a sense of humor about.

Read the whole thing.

China Steps Up

Folks like Thomas Barnett who’ve been wondering when and whether the Chinese would take a stand for international order just got their answer:

China and several Central Asian nations rebuffed Russia’s hopes of international support for its actions in Georgia, issuing a statement Thursday denouncing the use of force and calling for the respect of every country’s territorial integrity.

Not a call the Chinese necessarily needed to make, and not one you’d have expected from their prior willingness to play footsie with Putin. Galrahn sees an opening for a deal:

Russia needs the west to accept the independence of two breakaway provinces pretty bad right now, too bad there is no government for the west to recognize. Good news for Russia though, serious cooperation in regards to Iran while they stand up a couple of democratic governments could go a long way towards Russia achieving its objectives. Democracy doesn’t happen over night, if Russia sets up a couple democracies, which could take a year, and works with the west over that time period towards stopping Iranian nuclear development, I’d say there is a good bargain for both sides to be made.

“Democratic” is a pretty unrealistic hope, but the rest could be possible.

Addendum: Could the Chinese government’s attitude stem in some small part from seeing how its citizens reacted to Team USA in the Olympics? There were several occasions, the women’s soccer semi-final and the men’s basketball final most notably, when it was like our men and women were playing a home game.