Hong Kong, Summer 2019 – A Thorny Problem for Beijing.

Hong Kong in the summer of 2019 really is a thorny problem for Beijing. All things considered, it looks like there is no “win” for Beijing, only a “not lose.”

                              A “Perfect Storm”

A perfect storm of conditions is coming together to make an almost impossible situation in which the Chinese government cannot get a positive outcome. The Hong Kong government has been tasked with dealing with the massive demonstrations opposing the now-defunct extradition bill. The kidnapping of anti-Beijing booksellers in the not-so-distant past gave demonstrators just the ammunition they needed for their protest, as it proved to them that the true purpose of the bill was not to extradite criminals to face justice, but to smother dissent in Hong Kong.

This has been a near impossible situation to deal with for the government of the SAR considering that university students are on holiday and out in full force, and that the world is watching via international media. While there were accusations of excessive force, the demonstrators did enter and vandalize the Legislative Council Building despite police presence.

As of mid-July 2019, protests continue. The second round of protests have been against mainland traders who buy up huge amounts of goods in Hong Kong for resale on the mainland which drives up inflation in Hong Kong. Police and protesters scuffled at a shopping mall and injuries were reported.

Demands from the protesters, in addition to the permanent scrapping of the extradition bill, now include an investigation into police brutality and the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

                                   The Use of Minimal Force

At present, it appears that Bejing’s decision is to continue to let the Hong Kong government handle the situation. The use of excessive force by the SAR or the Beijing government would damage the “soft power” that the PRC has been developing for decades culminating in the “Belt and Road” initiative.

The specter of the CCP’s handling of the 1989 Tian An Men Square incident also hangs over the Chinese government. Moreover, those “on the fence” in Taiwan regarding re-unification might be pushed to the pro-independence side if they were to see the PRC clamp down.

And the “no win” situation is just not for the government of the PRC.The protesters who are acting in such a way to preserve the freedom of Hong Kong under the One Country-Two Systems arrangement might just be putting an end to it. 

                               Beijing’s Red Line

China’s long-term strategy is not yet clear. In the short term, the strategy is not to use excessive force. However there is a point where protest becomes anarchy. If anarchy were to ensue, then the PLA would be called in to maintain order. Once order had been restored, those “freedoms” that the protesters were fighting so hard to preserve might be lost forever.

No one knows where the red line is with the powers in Beijing and we are not privy to the thinking of the CCP. But be sure, there is a red line. When the passions of the protesters are aroused, it is unlikely that long-term thinking will prevail, and it is highly likely that anarchy will ensue. When anarchy does ensue, the CCP and PLA will act, and act decisively.

The above outcomes are not good for Hong Kong, and ultimately not good for China. But history has a way of being history, and in Hong Kong and other places around the world we can see history unfold from the comfort of our own homes on big-screen TVs.

What do you think about this matter? Please let us know.

photo: Etan Liam via flickr


India VS China Border Tension – Here we go again.

                            by David Parmer/Tokyo

An expert on international affairs from London’s famed Chatham House research institute was quoted by CNBC on August 16 as saying ” All logic says it won’t happen.” The expert was talking about the current India-China border tensions turning into war. Sadly, logic has little to do with situations that have reached a certain tipping point, and the current one might just have some logic-defying outcomes.

Tensions have been building since June 2017 when India sent troops to stop the building of a road by China in territory that it considers to be in Bhutan, a country whose defense matters are overseen by India. (The area is called Doklam by the Indians and Donglang by the Chinese.) Since then, China has beefed-up its forces and logistics in the area, and its media has repeatedly warned India to withdraw. A war of words has ensued.

On August 15 the South China Morning Post reported that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi gave a stern warning during his speech on India’s Independence Day when he said:

” Be it the sea or the borders, cyber or space–in all spheres India is capable and we are strong enough to overcome those who try to act against our country.”

As was the case in 1962, India’s forces are no match for the Chinese PLA on paper. This, however, does not mean that they would not put up stiff resistance should fighting occur. Also, this time the Indian Air Force would certainly enter the fray. Indian naval forces would also probably perform well when called upon to do so.

The Doklam Plateau area is a sensitive area to the Indians, first because, of course, it is a disputed border area, but also because it is only about 34KM from the Siligun Corridor which is a vital supply line to India’s Northwest region.

Tensions have also started to simmer in the Ladak, Jammu and Kashmir region where PLA troops attempted to enter Indian-claimed territory.

On August 20, China’s Global Times reported that China’s PLA Western Theater Command carried out military exercises in which 10 units took part, and that these exercises included live fire training.

If we look at the 1962 India-China conflict, we see a number of similarities. In both cases we see a “war of words” carried out in their respective newspapers and now online. Today we can also see steadily rising tensions and warnings by the Chinese.

What followed in 1962 in India (and in China’s border disputes with its other neighbors, Russia and Viet Nam) was a lightning Chinese military strike followed by a period of calm and a Chinese withdrawal. In China’s border conflicts the term “teach a lesson” was repeated by China as one of its military objectives.

The question is now will China attempt to “teach a lesson” again to India, or will tensions de-escalate? The truth is it could go either way, and logic aside there could again be armed conflict at the top of the world. Please log in and give us your thoughts on this question.

Photo: dhiraj kateja via YouTube

Rand Report: U.S.—China Military Scorecard

              by David Parmer/Tokyo

Of all of the recent reports about Chinese and U.S. military capabilities (RG21 links below) and strategies, the new report by the Rand corporation is the most specific and comprehensive regarding a possible China-U.S. conflict in the Pacific.

The report, The U.S.-China Military Scorecard, Forces, Geography and the Evolving Balance, 1996-2017, takes a look at the military capabilities in 10 areas and how these capabilities would impact and future conflict in two possible scenarios; A U.S.-China conflict in the Taiwan area, and a U.S.-China conflict in the Spratly Islands (South China Sea). The scorecard ranks capabilities on both sides in such hypothetical conflicts. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force and drew from extensive non-classified sources.

                     Table of Contents 

  • Chapter One
  • Chapter Two
 Different Paths: Chinese and U.S. Military Development, 1996–2017
  • Chapter Three
 Scorecard 1: Chinese Capability to Attack Air Bases
  • Chapter Four
 Scorecard 2: Air Campaigns Over Taiwan and the Spratly Islands
  • Chapter Five
 Scorecard 3: U.S. Penetration of Chinese Airspace
  • Chapter Six
 Scorecard 4: U.S. Capability to Attack Chinese Air Bases
  • Chapter Seven
 Scorecard 5: Chinese Anti-Surface Warfare
  • Chapter Eight
 Scorecard 6: U.S. Anti-Surface Warfare Capabilities Versus Chinese Naval Ships
  • Chapter Nine
 Scorecard 7: U.S. Counterspace Capabilities Versus Chinese Space Systems
  • Chapter Ten
 Scorecard 8: Chinese Counterspace Capabilities Versus U.S. Space Systems
  • Chapter Eleven
 Scorecard 9: U.S. and Chinese Cyberwarfare Capabilities
  • Chapter Twelve
 Scorecard 10: U.S. and Chinese Strategic Nuclear Stability
  • Chapter Thirteen
 The Receding Frontier of U.S. Dominance
  •   Chapter Fourteen
 Implications and Recommendations

The report can be downloaded in PDF format here:


(Photo: U.S. Dep. of Defense via flickr)






U.S. Issues 2014 Report on PLA

Soldiers_of_the_Chinese_People's_Liberation_Army_-_2011.jpg         (Chinese Infantry Photo: U.S. Gov. Def. Wikimedia)

                       by David Parmer

Public Law 106-65, provides that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report “in both classified and unclassified form, on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development of the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese security strategy and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts supporting such development over the next 20 years. The report shall also address United States- China engagement and cooperation on security matters during the period covered by the report, including through United States-China military-to-military contacts, and the United States strategy for such engagement and cooperation in the future.”  (Prologue U.S. Defense Annual Report to Congress 2014)

The United States Department of Defense has released its annual report on China’s military. Titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” The report states that the PRC continues its long-range modernization program that will improve its ability to fight and win short-duration high-intensity conflicts. China has focus on Taiwan, but is also the South and East China seas.

Military relations between the U.S. and China are expanding, but the U.S. side has concerns about China’s transparency regarding its real military spending figures.

In 2013, the report continues, relations were good, and the U.S. calls on China “to contribute constructively to efforts with the United States, our allies and partners and the greater international community to maintain peace and stability.”

 The report consists of six chapters: four special topics and three appendixes.

  • Annual update
  • Understanding China Strategy
  • Force Modernization goals land Trends
  • Resources For Force Modernization
  • Force Modernization For A Taiwan Contingency
  • U.S.-China Military-to-Military Contacts

There are also four special topics and three appendixes. One of the special topics deals with China’s first aircraft carrier and one of the appendixes deals with China and Taiwan forces data.

China’s reaction was swift, and not positive. In a China Daily (USA) article entitled “Experts take aim at ‘biased’ Pentagon report on China” China’s Ministry of Defense is quoted as stating: “It is completely wrong that Washington issues this so-called report year after year, making irresponsible accusations over China’s normal development of its national defense and military.”