Category Archives: China

Q&A Reference Library On Small Business Government Contracting And The Military Industrial Complex


Quora Questions with Answers by Ken that have undergone 677,000 Views on Small Business Government Contracting and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex Ken Larson Reference Library on Quora



A Russia/China Marriage of Convenience – The Rise of a Not-So-New World Order


China and Russia

“STRATFOR”   By Sarang Shidore  Senior Global Analyst

“For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. 

And as the Earth’s sole superpower turns inward, [Russia and China] will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves.”

“An Informal Alliance Emerges

First, a few observations about the Cold War. The multidecade conflict was much like the classical great-power contests that have taken place since the advent of the modern nation-state: Two blocs of roughly equal power (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) participated in a continuous arms race, waged proxy wars and engaged in the politics of securing spheres of influence.

But the Cold War also contained some striking new elements. Chief among them were the feud’s pervasive reach into most sovereign states, the presence of nuclear weapons, the two participants’ radically different economic and political systems, and the missionary zeal each superpower had for exporting its ideology worldwide. Moreover, membership within each alliance was sizable and stable, though developing countries occasionally shifted their loyalties after a revolution or military intervention by the United States or the Soviet Union.

On their face, any parallels between today and the Cold War of decades past seem overblown. The United States leads most formal alliance structures; Russia and China have no obvious ideology to export; and variations of capitalism have won out worldwide, leading to a deeply integrated global economy. Furthermore, Russia and China appear to have too many conflicts of interest to form an enduring partnership.

A closer look at recent events, however, suggests otherwise. Despite lacking an official alliance, Russia and China have acted virtually in lockstep on many major security issues. Both were first neutral, then opposed to, NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011. Both have taken nearly identical positions on the Syrian conflict and cybergovernanceat the United Nations. Both have issued a joint proposal to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula by freezing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Both are firmly opposed to undermining the Iranian nuclear deal. And both have lobbied against U.S. missile defenses in Central Europe and Asia, as well as the Western doctrine of intervention known as “responsibility to protect.” Meanwhile China — a well-known defender of the principle of national sovereignty — has been noticeably silent on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

At the same time, Beijing and Moscow have symbolically demonstrated their compact in the realm of defense. They have conducted joint military exercises in unprecedented locales, including the Mediterranean Ocean and the Baltic Sea, as well as in disputed territories, such as the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Weapons deals between them are likewise on the rise. Russian arm sales to China skyrocketed in 2002. After temporarily dropping off between 2006 and 2013 amid suspicion that China was reverse-engineering Russian platforms, Russia’s sales to China resumed. Moscow agreed to sell its most sophisticated systems, the Su-35 aircraft and the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, to its Asian neighbor.

The two great powers have signed several major energy deals of late, too. Russian oil has made up a steadily growing share of China’s energy portfolio for years, and in 2016 Russia became the country’s biggest oil supplier. China, for its part, has begun to substantially invest in Russia’s upstream industry while its state-run banks have heavily bankrolled pipelines connecting the two countries. Beijing, for instance, recently acquired a large stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft. Russian exports of natural gas, including liquefied natural gas, to China are climbing as well. These moves are rooted in grand strategy: Russia and China are privileging each other in energy trade and investment to reduce their dependence on locations where the United States is dominant.

With their robust indigenous defense industries and vast energy reserves alone, China and Russia satisfy the basic requirements of presenting an enduring challenge to the United States. But both have also begun pushing for greater financial and monetary autonomy by distancing themselves from the dollar-dominated order of international trade and finance. China has already partially seceded from the SWIFT system of global banking transactions by creating its own system, CIPS. Russia is following suit, and it too has started to build an alternative network. Moreover, the Chinese yuan recently entered the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights currency basket. Now most Asian currencies track far more closely with the yuan than the dollar in value. China plans to introduce an oil futures contract in yuan that can be fully converted to gold as well. This, along with Beijing and Moscow’s decision to boost their gold reserves, suggests that they may be preparing to switch to a gold standard someday. (The convertibility of gold is an important intermediate step toward boosting investor confidence in an up-and-coming currency like the yuan, which still suffers from many constraints such as illiquidity and significant risk in its country of origin.) The seriousness of their effort indicates their determination to move away from a system ruled by the U.S. currency.

Of course, China and Russia still suffer huge deficits with respect to the United States in technology, innovation and global force projection. But the gap may be closing as China makes substantial investments into sunrise technologies such as renewable energy, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. Plus, the projection of power to every corner of the globe probably isn’t their immediate goal. Rather, the two powers seem to be aiming for maximum autonomy and a proximate sphere of influence that encompasses Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East and Asia. They also seek to overhaul international rule-making with the intention of gaining greater influence in multilateral institutions, securing vetoes over military interventions, increasing global governance of the internet (albeit for their own self-interest), ending U.S. pressure regarding democracy and human rights, dethroning the reigning dollar and accounting for their interests in the design of the global security order.

A Durable Marriage of Convenience

China and Russia are not natural allies. They have a long history of discord and at least three areas of conflicting interests: overlapping backyards in Central Asia, competition in arms sales and a growing asymmetry in power that favors Beijing.

Over the years, the two countries have taken on somewhat distinct roles in Central Asia. Russia has become the leading security guarantor in the region by founding the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a formal alliance with a mutual self-defense clause, and by building military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Russia has also integrated Kazakhstan into its air defense system. By comparison, China is rapidly emerging as the leading energy and infrastructure partner in the region. The country’s Belt and Road Initiative is well underway, and several oil and natural gas pipelines connecting China to its Central Asian neighbors are already functional. That said, both powers have a stake in the region’s security and economic integration, as evidenced by the presence of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union and the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization there.

Despite their dependence on China and Russia, Central Asian states still enjoy considerable autonomy and cannot be deemed satellites of either great power. The recent resistance of Kazakhstan, a CSTO member, to Russian pressure to deploy troops to Syria is a case in point. Of the five Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are most closely intertwined with China and Russia; Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have kept a greater distance.

The dynamic Chinese economy’s steady outpacing of its Russian counterpart would ordinarily cause deep consternation in Moscow. However, Russia seems to have largely accepted the reality of China’s rising power — an acceptance that is key to the formation of a compact between them. Beijing, for its part, has tactfully walked back from its historical claims to Outer Manchuria, paving the way for the settlement of its long-standing border dispute with Moscow. China has also worked to keep its economic competition with Russia from degenerating into political antagonism.

Russia is still wary of China, though. Against the wishes of Beijing, which has a long-standing competition with New Delhi, Moscow supported and facilitated India’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Kremlin also keeps close ties to Vietnam and maintains an ongoing dialog with Japan. However, Russia has also compromised with China on some of these matters, including by agreeing to Pakistan’s simultaneous admission to the bloc. It has also limited its cooperation with Tokyo, dragging its feet in settling its Kuril Islands dispute with Japan.

These concessions indicate Moscow’s pursuit of a hedging strategy, not a balancing one. If Russia were truly trying to balance China, their rivalry in Central Asia would take on a security dimension, resulting in factionalization or, in the worst-case scenario, wars between their local proxies. So while some structural tension certainly exists between China and Russia and could lead to a security rivalry in the long run, their leaders have actively managed and largely contained it thus far. This marriage of convenience will likely prove lasting, given its goals for dramatically transforming the international system. And even if a formal Russia-China alliance never comes to pass, the durability of their partnership already makes it feel like one in many ways. That the two countries feel no need to formalize their alliance, moreover, indicates that informality will increasingly serve as a template for strategic partnerships in the future.

The Resurgence of the Middle

Could an alignment between Russia and China expand to new states? The country most likely to join their compact is Iran. A revolutionary state with deep enmity for the United States and its allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran has a strong desire to rewrite the rules of the current global order. As China’s Belt and Road Initiative has taken off, Chinese investment in Iran has started to rise. And though Iran and Russia have their differences, their security interests have recently aligned. In the Syrian civil war, for instance, they have closely coordinated their air and ground operations over the past two years. Iran, meanwhile, would add to the two great powers’ energy heft and welcome any attempt to shift global energy markets away from the dollar. Under the current circumstances, Iran has every reason to strengthen its strategic ties with Russia and China, even as it woos global investors.

Iran isn’t the only core state candidate that may join the Sino-Russian compact. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a formidable gambit, partly intended to draw several states into its orbit. Among them are Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Thailand. All of these nations, in theory, could join the Sino-Russian core. Still, it is doubtful whether most will. Turkey, a member of NATO, has worked more closely with Russia and Iran in the past few months to manage the Syrian conflict, and it is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies. But Turkey will find it difficult to abandon its commitments to NATO; instead it will most likely play a transactional game with all three powers.

On the Asian continent, it is in Sri Lanka’s and Bangladesh’s best interests not to antagonize their next-door neighbor, India, by tilting too far toward China. Moreover, Myanmar has a complex history with China, while Thailand is a U.S. treaty ally that lately has sought a middle ground between Washington and Beijing. Pakistan has been close to China for decades while maintaining an intense (if transactional) security relationship with the United States and complicated ties with Iran. If relations between Islamabad and Washington as well as New Delhi and Beijing deteriorate sharply, Pakistan may find that aligning with Russia and China brings more benefits than costs. But when all is said and done, any attempt to transform the Sino-Russian compact into an expansive, international alliance would encounter massive roadblocks.

Meanwhile, all is not going as planned within the United States’ own bloc. Washington’s treaty ally, South Korea, staunchly opposes any U.S. military action against North Korea. The United States’ ties with another major partner, Turkey, are deteriorating. The Philippines is trying to balance between the United States and China, as is Thailand. Australia is increasingly torn between its deep economic dependence on China and its commitments to the United States. Wide rifts have opened between the United States and Europe over trade, climate action and Iran. Hungary has moved closer to Russia as populist nationalism — in some cases laced with support for Russian President Vladimir Putin — rises across the Continent. Then there is Germany, which the United States has long worried is less than fully committed to balancing against Russia. On top of all this, a nationalist upswing in U.S. politics has made the superpower more hostile to trade agreements and foreign entanglements.

On the other hand, the United States is bolstering its security relationship with India and Vietnam, finding ready partners against China and Russia in Japan and Poland, respectively, and enjoying the prospect of a post-Brexit United Kingdom that is more beholden to Washington than ever before. With a population of more than a billion people, India’s future is particularly consequential to the global order — but only if it can transcend its many domestic challenges. And though India could become a core member of the U.S.-led bloc in the future, its historical autonomy and deep defense ties with Russia could limit just how close New Delhi can get to Washington and Tokyo.

Added to these factors are the non-state challenges to state power that have emerged since the 1990s and now show no sign of going away. Giant technology corporations, criminal networks, transnational terrorist groups, global civil society and growing environmental threats often weaken the system of sovereign nation-states, and they will continue to do so in the years to come.

Two Poles, Much Smaller Than Before

The upshot of these changes is that bipolarity, though not inevitable, is likely a foundational feature of the future. But it would be much diminished, compared with that of the Cold War — a “bipolarity-minus” of sorts. Each side in such a world would boast a much smaller set of core members: Russia, China, probably Iran and plausibly Pakistan, on one side, and the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, probably Japan and plausibly India and Australia on the other.

Though all other powers may lean in one direction or another, they would have more malleable relationships with each bloc and with each other. At the same time, there would be ample space for non-state actors and fluid minor coalitions to try to maximize their own freedom by, among other things, limiting the intensity of bipolarity among the great powers. Core states would have to work that much harder to win over the many swing states scattered across the globe, and alignment based on specific issues will become the norm. Existing institutions of global governance will either become moribund or will shrink as competing institutions with different approaches form and gain traction.

The Cold War years offered a faint preview of this world. The Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77 influenced issues such as decolonization, foreign aid and disarmament, while OPEC briefly shook the world with an oil embargo. Core bloc members occasionally demonstrated radical autonomy — the Sino-Soviet split of 1959, “goulash communism” in Hungary and Ostpolitik in West Germany are only a few examples. Still, these deviations never seriously undermined the global system, dominated as it was by two superpowers.

Today a new constraint on the emergence of true bipolarity exists: the intertwining of the U.S. and Chinese economies. Interdependence determinists will argue that such ties are incompatible with bipolarity and will ultimately prevent it. However, the limited nature of a bipolarity-minus world may allow the phenomena to coexist, albeit uneasily, as they did in a highly interdependent Europe before World War I. Alternatively, the United States and China may reorder their supply chains to reduce this interdependence over time. Technological advances are already shrinking these supply chains, a trend that could accelerate if the United States becomes far more protectionist.

If the future does indeed hold a bipolar-minus world, the United States may not be ready for it. To be prepared, Washington would have to recalibrate its strategy. In a world in which many major powers are uncommitted and have large degrees of freedom, tools like open-ended military interventions, unilateral sanctions, extraterritoriality and hostility to trade will likely yield diminishing returns. By comparison, incentivization, integration, innovation and adroit agenda-setting can be smarter and more effective options. The United States historically has been a pioneer of these approaches, and it may prove able to wield them persuasively once again. But perhaps most important, the superpower will have to resolve its internal polarization if it hopes to position itself as a cohesive leader of the international community. Only then will it once again become, as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it, “a shining city upon a hill.”



Jimmy Carter: “What I’ve Learned From North Korea’s Leaders”

Jimmy Carter...In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Age

Image – AP – Former president Jimmy Carter in Pyongyang


“Over more than 20 years, I have spent many hours in discussions with top North Korean officials and private citizens during visits to Pyongyang and to the countryside. I found Kim Il  Sung and other leaders to be both completely rational and dedicated to the preservation of their regime.

The next step should be for the United States to offer to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to support an international conference including North and South Korea, the United States and China, at a mutually acceptable site.

The Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement last week that “we have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation” is a good first step to defusing tensions.

“As the world knows, we face the strong possibility of another Korean war, with potentially devastating consequences to the Korean Peninsula, Japan, our outlying territories in the Pacific and perhaps the mainland of the United States. This is the most serious existing threat to world peace, and it is imperative that Pyongyang and Washington find some way to ease the escalating tension and reach a lasting, peaceful agreement.

What the officials have always demanded is direct talks with the United States, leading to a permanent peace treaty to replace the still-prevailing 1953 cease-fire that has failed to end the Korean conflict. They want an end to sanctions, a guarantee that there will be no military attack on a peaceful North Korea, and eventual normal relations between their country and the international community.

I have visited with people who were starving. Still today, millions suffer from famine and food insecurity and seem to be completely loyal to their top leader. They are probably the most isolated people on Earth and almost unanimously believe that their greatest threat is from a preemptory military attack by the United States.

The top priority of North Korea’s leaders is to preserve their regime and keep it as free as possible from outside control. They are largely immune from influence or pressure from outside. During the time of the current leader, Kim Jong Un, this immunity has also applied to China, whose leaders want to avoid a regime collapse in North Korea or having to contemplate a nuclear-armed Japan or South Korea.

Until now, severe economic sanctions have not prevented North Korea from developing a formidable and dedicated military force, including long-range nuclear missiles, utilizing a surprising level of scientific and technological capability. There is no remaining chance that it will agree to a total denuclearization, as it has seen what happened in a denuclearized Libya and assessed the doubtful status of U.S. adherence to the Iran nuclear agreement.

There have been a number of suggestions for resolving this crisis, including military strikes on North Korea’s nuclear facilities, more severe economic punishment, the forging of a protective nuclear agreement between China and North Korea similar to those between the United States and South Korea and Japan, a real enforcement of the Non- Proliferation Treaty by all nuclear weapons states not to expand their arsenals, and ending annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

All of these options are intended to dissuade or deter the leadership of a nation with long-range nuclear weapons — and that believes its existence is threatened — from taking steps to defend itself. None of them offer an immediate way to end the present crisis, because the Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.”

Court Raises Bar on Buy America Act

Court Getty Images

“Getty Images”


“If a company claims U.S. origin for products assembled from foreign parts, a recent U.S. Court of International Trade decision may affect its ability to sell those products to the U.S. government.

This higher U.S. origin standard raises very important new considerations for importers, government contractors and manufacturers that wish to claim that finished products assembled from foreign parts are U.S. origin and thus eligible for sale to the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense.

In a decision issued in December — Energizer Battery, Inc. v. United States — the court stated that Customs and Border Protection was right when it found that Energizer’s Generation II military flashlight, while assembled in the United States, is of Chinese origin for government procurement purposes. It reached that decision in part because virtually all of the flashlight’s components are of Chinese origin, even though it was assembled into a finished item in the United States.

Customs argued that the Chinese component parts were not “substantially transformed” by the relatively simple assembly process occurring in the United States such that Energizer could claim the flashlight is of U.S. origin. Even though a great deal of the product assembly occurred in the United States, the U.S. Court agreed the flashlight was not U.S. origin. The decision was not appealed, making it the law of the land.

This higher U.S. origin standard raises very important new considerations for importers, government contractors and manufacturers that wish to claim that finished products assembled from foreign parts are U.S. origin and thus eligible for sale to the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense.

Government procurement of items for military use is subject to a variety of often confusing laws and regulations, including the Buy America Act provisions of the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 that were at issue in Energizer. The act imposes restrictions on the U.S. government’s ability to procure products that are of foreign origin, although the law permits the president to waive Buy America requirements for eligible products from certain countries. China is not a country that qualifies for waiver, however, although many input materials, parts and components are made there.

Under the rules, a product that does not qualify for a waiver is subject to a “substantial transformation” analysis to determine whether it is a “U.S. origin” product — despite being produced from parts that are imported from foreign countries. Customs also enforces the law that every article of foreign origin imported into the United States shall be marked to indicate the country of origin — with some minor exceptions.

In Energizer, the court said assembly operations in the U.S. for foreign parts is not enough, by itself, to claim that the resulting product is U.S. origin and eligible for sale to the Defense Department. Too many companies are taking this overly simplistic approach and putting themselves at risk of substantial penalties. Whether a product comprising foreign components may claim U.S. origin is a more complex, very fact and law-specific question, requiring consideration of a variety of production, assembly and import processes.

Under U.S. law — 19 U.S.C. § 2518(4)(B) — a product is “substantially transformed” if it becomes a “new and different article of commerce with a name, character, or use distinct from that of the article or articles from which it was so transformed.” But the test is not as simple as some thought before Energizer. Now, the substantial transformation analysis requires a case-by-case analysis of multiple factors, including the country of origin of the foreign components, the extent of processing that occurs in the country of origin relative to assembly and production operations in the United States, and whether the U.S. processing results in a product with a new name or identity sufficient to meet the substantially higher bar established by Energizer.

Given the fact-specific nature of the analysis, Energizer highlights that the criteria considered may vary from case to case. After Energizer, if a company is assembling foreign parts into a product that it wants to call U.S. origin — and sell to DoD or another federal agency that requires U.S. origin items — it needs to revisit its analysis to determine if its product qualifies.

Specifically, the Energizer decision analyzes several key questions that companies selling products claiming to be of U.S. origin and comprised of or assembled from foreign parts must now consider.

What is the nature of the assembly process in the United States post-importation? Is it minor or complex? Does the assembly and post-importation processing in the United States change the foreign components into a different product? Is the end-use of the components pre-determined at the time of importation?

In analyzing these questions, the court relied on several critical facts to conclude that no substantial transformation occurred. It emphasized, for example, that final assembly and packaging of Energizer’s Generation II military flashlight at its U.S. facility does not change or alter the shape, material composition, or name of the Chinese component parts.

Among other factors, the court noted that these particular Chinese components did not undergo a change in use during processing in the United States and, instead, had a pre-determined use as parts of the flashlight at the time of importation.

While these are central aspects of the court’s analysis for this product, any company selling a “U.S. origin” product made of foreign parts should now reexamine the “totality of circumstances” surrounding the production, importation and completion of the product to ensure compliance.

Interestingly, Energizer is the first appeal in which the Court of International Trade interpreted the meaning of “substantial transformation” in the context of the Buy America provisions of the Trade Agreements Act of 1979. As government contractors, importers, manufacturers and others aim to take advantage of any anticipated Buy America initiatives under a Trump administration, and increased defense spending, knowing how to deal with the Energizer case will be critical for compliant federal sales programs.

Companies that fail to properly label a product’s country of origin risk noncompliance with a number of criminal and civil provisions. For example, the law governing the labeling of imported articles provides that mislabeled products are subject to monetary penalties and may be seized by Customs and withheld from delivery until the labeling errors are corrected.

Where Customs finds evidence that a product was intentionally mislabeled, companies are subject to additional criminal and monetary penalties. Furthermore, improper labeling can render a product ineligible for government procurement. Depending on the exact nature of the mislabeling or mischaracterization of the country of origin of an article, additional provisions of the law or regulations may be implicated.

Moreover, some companies have been accused in whistleblower suits of making false claims to the U.S. government about the U.S. origin of their products. A number have been forced to pay substantial penalties, a good portion of which may be paid to the internal whistleblower — or competitor — who alerted the government about the false claim.

The Energizer decision highlights the critical importance that companies closely examine their sourcing and manufacturing before claiming that a product is of U.S. origin. This analysis under the applicable law can seem daunting given the complex nature of many companies’ sourcing patterns and production processes. Most manufacturers have at least some percentage of foreign components, even if products are not wholly made of non-U.S. parts. But the analysis should be conducted to ensure compliance with U.S. law and to avoid future problems.

If claiming U.S. origin for products assembled from foreign components, it is recommended that companies take steps to conduct a risk analysis and/or audit to determine whether they are compliant with Buy America provisions, including the tough new Energizer test. ”

Science Offers Peace-building Mechanism in South China Sea Dispute


science diplomacy


“Territorial claims among China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei in the South China Sea remain a serious threat to the political and ecological security of Southeast Asia.

Science diplomacy is not a completely new approach to international relations, and, at the moment, has raised two important questions in efforts to successfully settle the South China Sea dispute, namely: Should we do it? And will it work?  The answer to both is, “yes.”

Protecting marine environments and ensuring the ocean’s sustainability is a global issue that is vital for all life, and nowhere is this more important than in the South China Sea.As such, environmental degradation remains at the center of South China Sea scientific policy conversations, and for an increasing number of policy shapers and scientists, there’s an urgent need to address acidification, biodiversity loss, regional impacts of climate change, coral reef destruction, and fishery collapses.

Enter science diplomacy. Defined by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as science being used to inform foreign policy decisions, promote international scientific collaborations, and establish scientific cooperation to ease tensions between nations, science diplomacy is a widely accepted method that environmental policy planners use to contribute to conflict resolutions and, for several decades, has been adopted as a diplomatic tool for peace-building by many countries. During the Cold War divide, scientific cooperation was used to build bridges of cooperation and trust.

Science diplomacy helps directly and indirectly promote confidence-building among the parties involved in the South China Sea dispute, offering a much-needed strategic pause in rising regional tensions. The probability that science diplomacy can successfully manage the South China Sea dispute is quite high because of timing, creditability, and the potential for support from major powers. It offers more advantages than not in terms of economics, politics, social responsibility, and beyond. Most importantly, there’s already a rising tide of cooperation in the exchange of data and information, consensus on the value of marine protected areas, and an increase in joint research expeditions.

There are strong ties among scientists across Southeast Asia and China, partly due to a series of international scientific projects, conferences, and training workshops, such as those associated with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s South China Sea Fisheries Development and Coordination Program from the mid 1970s to the mid-1980s. Informal “Track 2” working groups and associated fieldwork throughout the 1990s and up to the early 2000s included many regional scientists and their projects aimed at promoting peaceful joint resource management in the South China Sea. The UNEP and Global Environment Facility sponsored a South China Sea environmental analysis and management project from 2002 to 2009, and efforts are underway to initiate a follow up project. Other such confidence-building activities are under discussion.

These proposed science collaborative measures are essential in the face of the rampant overfishing and coral reef degradation that has occurred across the South China Sea, in part because the conflicting territorial claims have made ecological analyses and management actions difficult. There are strong indications of impending collapses of fisheries and potential species extinctions. Given the fact that the South China Sea hosts a large proportion of known marine species, including threatened giant clams, sea turtles, and marine mammals, there is no time to waste.

The prospect of a fisheries apocalypse in the South China Sea should weigh heavily on all claimant nations, all of which rely on fish protein to feed a burgeoning population of roughly 1.9 billion people. Challenges around food security and renewable fish resources are fast becoming a hardscrabble reality for more than fishermen. In 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity warned that it could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly headed towards extinction by mid-century.

Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that Chinese scientists have been engaged in science diplomacy in polar regimes for the past three years. This includes cooperative fishing regulations research and especially their participation multilateral diplomacy efforts in the central Arctic Ocean. Although Beijing’s role is still limited, they are preparing to play a substantial role in good governance in the Arctic.

Despite the intractable SCS sovereignty issues, and difficulties in securing permissions for environmental field work, even in non-disputed areas, a focus among regional scientists on environmental protection and fishery issues may prove far less difficult than problems in the Arctic.

Science diplomacy seems quite affordable for all claimant countries. In fact, while it is hard to draw an exact comparison of the expenditures a government provides for other ways of solving the South China Sea dispute, science diplomacy would prove very cost effective. Because military and economic initiatives, especially the transformation of reefs into military outposts, unlike scientific ones, are often seen as the actions of one country protecting its sovereignty and is directly related to national defense, any non-state actor’s involvements are inevitably sensitive subjects and considered inappropriate.

The key is to encourage international scientific cooperation. Through joint marine research surveys, the region’s scientists can provide policymakers with the data and information they need to make informed and responsible decisions in the South China Sea.

Science initiatives are more widely accepted as efforts to solve global issues that require contributions from all players in the international relations arena. This not only makes science diplomacy-related initiatives financially possible, but also leads to broader dissemination of results and enhances their impacts on policy decision-making and capacity-building on the regional level.

Most SCS states have adopted marine protected areas to address present and future environmental issues, and there are plans to include areas that fall within disputed waters. Existing MPAs play important roles in the development of the marine economy; they improve the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities and also serve as an excellent directed science policy model. If sovereignty concerns could be set aside in treaties implementing freezes on claims and claim-supportive activities, as has been done in the Antarctic, these and other natural resource management tools could be used far more effectively to secure fisheries and biodiversity, and also to promote sustainable tourism.

Secondly, science diplomacy is a safe and neutral approach to international relations for all governments. While economic or military cooperation requires strong consideration for signs of foreign policy direction, scientific cooperation is much more neutral, even in conflict-torn countries, since they can cooperate with each other in scientific projects “to affirm and to improve human life” without worrying about misleading the international community about their foreign policy orientation or invoking domestic anger because of shaking hands with the “wrong partners.”

Finally, science diplomacy serves essential needs in the lives of human beings. While other types of diplomacy tend to only solve issues at the state level, like sovereignty or territorial integrity, the science research cooperation in the South China Sea aims at a more “down-to-sea” approach, namely ensuring that fishers can fish safely, marine products for human beings are unpolluted, and marine resources are protected correctly.

Looking at science diplomacy from a broader perspective, it provides collateral benefits to resolving the South China Sea dispute. Last year, Fidel V. Ramos, the former president of the Philippines (1992-1998), and a member of the ASEAN Eminent Persons Group stated that environmental cooperation could promise to bring about “mutually beneficial efforts to improve tourism and encourage trade and investment, and to promote exchanges among think tanks and academic institutions on relevant issues.”

Science diplomacy offers a peace-building mechanism for South China Sea scientific advisors to demonstrate their roles as “resource analysts, trend spotters, science communicators, and applied-policy advisors.”

With natural resource politics steering the South China Sea narrative, science diplomacy offers the dual hope of protecting coral cathedrals, marine habitats, and fish species, and it can serve as a peace-building model for similar environmental conflicts elsewhere.”




Eric Prince Of “Black Water” Fame is Back in the Business Working for China




“Erik Prince — founder of the private military company Blackwater,  brother to the new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and frequent Breitbart radio guest  has been offering his military expertise to support Chinese government objectives

“He’s been working very, very hard to get China to buy into a new Blackwater,” said one former associate.

“He’s hell bent on reclaiming his position as the world’s preeminent private military provider.”

The move could put him at odds with Trump, who has often taken a hard line against China, and could also risk violating US law, which prohibits the export of military services or equipment to China.

Former associates of the 47-year-old Prince told BuzzFeed News that the controversial businessman envisions using the bases to train and deploy an army of Chinese retired soldiers who can protect Chinese corporate and government strategic interests around the world, without having to involve the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

In December, Frontier Services Group, of which Prince is chairman, issued a press release that outlined plans to open “a forward operating base in China’s Yunnan province” and another in the troubled Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for Frontier Services Group provided a statement and strongly disputed that the company was going to become a new Blackwater, insisting that all of its security services were unarmed and therefore not regulated. “FSG’s services do not involve armed personnel or training armed personnel.” The training at the Chinese bases would “help non-military personnel provide close protection security, without the use of arms.”

“Mr. Prince and Mr. Trump know each other and share mutual respect,” the statement added.

White House spokespersons did not respond to emails requesting comment for this story.

Frontier Services Group trades on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and its largest shareholder is an investment fund owned and controlled by the People’s Republic of China, CITIC. Until last year Frontier claimed to be merely a logistics and transportation company, steering clear of Prince’s specialty of providing private military capabilities for operations — though last March The Intercept news organization ran a story saying that Prince, sometimes using his role at Frontier, was pitching security and paramilitary services. In the story, Frontier denied the company was involved.

When Frontier later told its board it was shifting into security services — largely to assist China’s international development policy — the development disgusted two American executives at Prince’s Hong Kong company.

Gregg Smith, the former CEO of Frontier, said he was ready to quit last March if Erik Prince was not removed from the company. Then, at a board meeting late that month, he said a company official made clear that Frontier would be providing security services in support of Chinese government objectives. “That was the final straw,” he told BuzzFeed News.

Retired US Admiral William Fallon, a Frontier board member, was at the same board meeting. He resigned too when he heard that the firm was providing security services. “That wasn’t what I signed up for,” he said in an interview.

President Donald Trump has talked tough about China. To be sure, he recently reaffirmed that the United States will formally recognize only mainland China and not Taiwan, a crucial point for Beijing. But Trump has installed a sharply anti-China critic as the head of his National Trade Council. Before winning the presidency, Trump called China an “enemy.” Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, who interviewed Prince on Breitbart frequently, predicted last year that the US will be at war with China “in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” And even if no hot war breaks out, many experts believe Trump is gearing up for a trade war with the country that manufactures much of the world’s goods (including some Trump brand products.)

During the campaign, Prince donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Committee, which supported both Trump’s election bid and the Republican Party. Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who has long covered Prince, recently wrote that the businessman is advising the Trump Administration.

Just four days before the election, Prince gave an interview to Breitbart radio, part of the media empire that Bannon used to run, in which Prince pushed an unfounded theory that the NYPD had been about to announce arrest warrants in the Clinton investigation but was blocked by the Justice Department, and that Hillary Clinton had been to a “sex island” with a convicted pedophile “at least six times.” Prince’s bizarre claims were prominently displayed on Breitbart’s website leading up to the election and were widely distributed on right wing websites.

Now, however, Prince’s new business foray could put him at odds with Trump.

Former executives said that Frontier’s “forward operating bases” will be training former People’s Liberation Army soldiers to work as discreet non-uniformed soldiers for hire.

The former associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Prince “is making Frontier Services a full-on private military company.”

As of the summer, this person continued, “the plan was to set up Blackwater-like training facilities specifically to train the Chinese.”

Another former ally of Prince said: “The idea is to train former PLA soldiers in the art of being private military contractor. That way the actual Red Army doesn’t have to go into these remote areas.”

Asked about Frontier’s claim that Prince was planning “unarmed” security projects, both sources dismissed it, and emphasized that was not their understanding. It is “ridiculous,” said one.

“Are they using sonic weapons,” joked the other. “Is it psychic powers?”

Prince is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a private military company — Prince objects to the term “mercenary” — that did phenomenal business during the war on terror. The firm was frequently embroiled in scandal: Four of its employees were killed in Fallujah in 2004, leading to a Marine Corps onslaught on the city; several former employees pleaded guilty to arms violations in a lengthy investigation; and still others were convicted in a wild shooting spree in Baghdad in which 17 civilians were slaughtered.

Typically, Prince has been involved in ventures that he claims are in line with US foreign policy goals. He has reportedly helped the United Arab Emirates set up a military unit of former Colombian soldiers; pushed for an anti-piracy operation in the Puntland region of Somalia; and tried to sell a mercenary operation in Nigeria.

The current China plan appears to be different. China is widely understood to have interests that are adversarial to the US, and the two powers compete for world influence. And US law bans US citizens from exporting defense-related services or equipment to the country.

Frontier’s December press release said the Yunnan base would “allow FSG to be able to better serve companies in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.” The Uighur region, which would be home to the company’s second base, abuts Afghanistan.

According to the press release “these bases will provide training, communications, risk mitigation, risk assessments, information gathering, medevac and joint operations centers that coordinate security, logistics and aviation.”

The press release said the company was “expanding its security offerings” to include “training for personnel,” as well as “Personnel Protection” services, which is industry jargon for providing bodyguards. The December press release did not state that the security offerings would be unarmed.

Frontier’s expansion into China, its December press release said, was designed to help clients take advantage of China’s new development plan, “One Belt One Road,” a massive program that many experts believe aims to increase Chinese economic and political sway.

China expert Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute said US regulators would likely take a dim view of security operations in China’s Uighur areas. “It’s at odds with the American government view that we don’t want to help the Chinese oppress the Uighurs in Xinjiang.”

Considering the Role of the Defense Industry on the 4th of July – 2016



Free Download at “Academia. edu

In 1968, Ken Larson came home from serving two US Army tours in Vietnam, having been awarded five medals, including a Bronze Star.

For 36 years thereafter he participated in the design, development and production of large scale weapons systems under Federal Government and Foreign Military Sales Contracts.

He worked in several different disciplines for the companies that produced these weapons, negotiating and controlling the associated contracts with procurement agencies in the U.S. Armed Forces and allied countries. 

“ODYSSEY OF ARMAMENTS”  is a free download below, detailing the twenty-five weapons and communications systems to which Ken was assigned and the twelve companies that produced them.  Many are in use in the Middle East today.

His  account supplies the reader with personal insights into the management of the US Government Military Industrial Complex, the largest of our federal agencies and a principle contributor to our national debt.


Ken Larson


OPM Hack Compromised Tens of Millions of Additional People


OPM Breach


“Last summer attackers opened files on 21.5 million national security personnel.

Other family members and close contacts of those victims are “affected,” according to an updated OPM FAQ.

Newly-disclosed stolen records include personal information of parents, siblings, other relatives, and close friends.  Suspected Chinese cyberspies set their sights on forms submitted by Americans seeking clearance to handle classified information that, among other things, included details on their private lives.

The stolen data about the newly announced victims contains what is “generally available in public forums,” OPM officials say. The FAQ, which apparently was changed late Friday, does not quantify how many additional people are affected.

What knowledge might adversaries now possess about the larger group of individuals?

OPM officials, in explaining who else is a victim, state: “When you submitted your background investigation form, you likely provided the name, address, date of birth, or other similar information of close contacts. These individuals could include immediate family members, co-habitants, or other close contacts.”

Much of the information about the additional category of individuals already is visible in internet directories or social media, officials said.

Therefore, the compromise of this information generally does not present the same level of risk of identity theft or other issues,” they added.

This subset of hacked individuals will not be offered IDprotection services.

The records filched include personal information of parents, siblings, other relatives, and close friends — but not their Social Security numbers, the OPM FAQ states. In addition, the files might document individuals that applicants know in foreign countries.

On Monday afternoon, OPM officials told Nextgov the agency clarified its cyber incident FAQ website, in response to questions received over the past year about the breach and the agency’s handling of the situation.

An agency official stressed that the number of people impacted whose Social Security Numbers were compromised remains the same: 21.5 million.

We haven’t changed the number of people impacted by these incidents, or our definition of impacted,” OPM spokesman Michael Amato said.

The agency could not provide an estimate on the number of people “affected” whose personal information was stolen. These affected individuals will not be notified, because their Social Security numbers were not exposed.

The website refresh was designed to streamline the content, make it more user friendly and to include all of the progress our cybersecurity team has made to secure our systems over the last year,” Amato said. “We have received a lot of feedback from impacted individuals and we updated the website to help better answer their questions.”

A security clearance expert said at least 43 million individuals could be affected, given the new information provided by OPM.

If every one person whose data was hacked only had one relative (spouse or parent) on the form, that is 21.5 million right there,” said Cheri Cannon, who practices federal labor and employment law at Tully Rinckey.

This population affected by the OPM hack should be more concerned about their personal security than their finances, said Cannon, who also is a former panel member of the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records.

It appears no financially sensitive information was hacked, so the issue would be an adversary using the data to acquire information from the applicant or employee, Cannon said. In other words, the personal information stolen from these other individuals could be “a source of potential blackmail or embarrassment for one or all of the listed folks,” she said.”

Washington’s Honeymoon in Cam Ranh Bay

Vietnam_1 National Interest dot org

Image:  National


“On May 23 U.S. President Barack Obama lifted a longstanding embargo on arms exports to Vietnam.

Most intriguing for any U.S. mariner is the news that Hanoi might reopen the splendid deepwater harbor at Cam Ranh Bay to U.S. Navy warships as part of the quid pro quo for revoking the arms ban.

Asian politics has seen few stranger bedfellows than Vietnam and the United States. To borrow from Trinculo again, Chinese bellicosity in disputed waters in the South China Sea has created enough misery to unite the former foes in defense of Vietnam’s offshore waters and skies.

Depending on the agreement’s terms, that could let the U.S. Navy mount a regular presence in the western reaches of the South China Sea. Doing so is a must if the United States wants to uphold freedom of navigation in the 1.4 million-square-mile sea. China has challenged the customary and treaty law of the sea — which both maintain that no one owns the sea — by claiming “indisputable sovereignty” across a massive swath of Southeast Asian waters and skies, including expanses allocated to Vietnam by the law of the sea. Washington replies to Beijing’s challenge by flouting it.

Sending U.S. ships through contested waters and planes through the sky overhead — preferably in unison with allies and friends — constitutes a statement that the international community does not accept Beijing’s effort to poach its neighbors’ offshore waters and airspace or to otherwise exceed its prerogatives under the law of the sea. That’s a statement seafaring states must make, over and over, to preserve hard-won nautical freedoms. There’s an unwritten use-it-or-lose-it principle in international law: Treaties are little more than bits of parchment. They can lose force over time if governments ignore them in part or in whole. If stakeholders in the legal order neglect to challenge an unlawful claim, that claim has a way of calcifying into international practice over time.

It’s imperative, consequently, that underwater surveys, surveillance flights, flight operations, and the other hosts of operations guaranteed by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea continue throughout Southeast Asia’shigh seas and offshore exclusive economic zones. Use it or lose it! To sustain that regular offshore presence required, though, navy and coast guard vessels need nearby logistical support. Ships cannot remain at sea for long without refueling, rearming, or restocking their storerooms.

Enter Cam Ranh Bay. Cam Ranh has been an important naval outpost since France colonized Indochina in the late 19th century. And it has featured in events of world historical importance. For instance, Russian Adm. Zinovy Rozhestvensky brought his ill-starred Baltic Fleet into the bay in 1905. There, it took on coal and stores before continuing north to meet a grim fate at the hands of Japanese Adm. Heihachiro Togo’s fleet at the Battle of Tsushima Strait (111 years ago this May 27).

Nor was Cam Ranh Bay’s role in history a one-off thing. Imperial Japan captured the seaport during its 1941 to 1942 onslaught on the “Southern Resource Area” — aka Southeast Asia — and its strategic position made an ideal staging base for assaulting Malaysia and Singapore. Starting in the mid-1960s, the U.S. Navy and Army developed seaport infrastructure in the bay to help wage the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union expanded the port after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, while Russian engineers have renovated it in recent years. The infrastructure to host U.S. and other foreign ships is now in place. All that’s missing is a decision from Hanoi to readmit the U.S. Navy to its erstwhile operational hub.

One hopes Hanoi and Washington both hold their noses at the fishy smell and conclude an arrangement providing such access. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, perhaps history’s foremost exponent of sea power,explains why places like Cam Ranh Bay are so crucial. For Mahan, the strategic value of any seaport hinges on three attributes: its geographic position; its strength, meaning its natural defenses or capacity to be fortified against attack; and its resources, meaning the port’s capacity to provide for its own needs and those of visiting fleets.

Apply Mahan’s yardstick to Cam Ranh Bay. The harbor is abundant in all three attributes. It adjoins the eastern approaches to the Strait of Malacca, granting ships based at the bay influence over shipping through this vital nautical thoroughfare. It’s closer to the disputed Paracel Islands than China’s nearest naval hub, the base at the city of Sanya on Hainan Island to the north. And besides outflanking China, Cam Ranh supplies ready access to deep water: The seafloor drops off precipitously outside the harbor — letting submarines submerge, and vanish, soon after leaving port. Small wonder that over the last eight years, Hanoi has invested in a flotilla of Russian-built diesel-electric subs to counter China.

And how strong is the seaport? No military base, including Cam Ranh, is exempt from missile attack in this age of long-range precision weaponry. But Cam Ranh is better off than many potential targets. The harbor’ssprawling size and shape would allow navies based there the luxury of dispersing assets to piers and anchorages all around the periphery. That would help confound Chinese rocketeers’ efforts to target U.S. and Vietnamese vessels. And old-fashioned “hardening” measures — toughly constructed buildings and infrastructure on the port guarded by antiship and antiair missiles — would lend the seaport resiliency. Such improvements should be part of any U.S.-Vietnam accord on naval access.

And lastly, the harbor is lavishly endowed with natural resources. Cam Ranh Bay is located not just adjacent to important waterways, but also sits in the verdant southern part of Vietnam, not far from the important metropolis Ho Chi Minh City. Foodstuffs to feed the port and the fleet are in ready supply. Nor should fuel pose major problems: Vietnam’s crude oil reserves are second only to China’s in the region. If Hanoi consents to a long-term U.S. Navy presence, meanwhile, stockpiling supplies and spare parts at Cam Ranh should cause little trouble: The U.S. Navy has based ships in foreign ports such as Yokosuka, in Japan, Bahrain, and Naples for many decades. It could replicate similar arrangements in coastal Vietnam.

Some things to watch for as Obama’s excellent adventure unfolds: First, the big question of whether or not Vietnam’s communist leadership will decide to readmit the U.S. Navy. Second, on what terms? Will Hanoi accept only a “rotational presence,” whereby ships tarry at Cam Ranh for lengthy intervals but then return home? Or is the leadership amenable to more generous terms, such as permanently establishing a home port for a squadron of ships? Third, how large a presence will Hanoi allow? How many hulls will it permit to dock there, and what types of hulls?

A flotilla featuring major combat vessels like destroyers or cruisers — ships festooned with sensors and armaments of all types — is quite a different policy implement for Washington than a squadron of lightly armed littoral combat ships. It would also make quite a different statement vis-à-vis Beijing about U.S. and Vietnamese capability and resolve.

And, lastly, what will Hanoi let the U.S. ships do once stationed at Cam Ranh Bay? Welcoming a former enemy back into Vietnamese territory is no small move, even four decades after the Vietnam War. Will the two navies mount joint patrols of disputed expanses? Will their coast guards form joint units to police Vietnamese waters? Or will Hanoi permit U.S. commanders a free hand to do Washington’s bidding?

One imagines, since Trinculo is sheltering beneath Caliban’s cloak for expediency’s sake, Vietnamese leaders will take a restrictive view toward U.S. maritime exploits. That will let Hanoi doff the protective cloak when (and if) the storm passes. It will grant the U.S. Navy access to Cam Ranh Bay while reserving the right to withhold that access for any reason — or no reason at all. And for two erstwhile enemies making common causes, that’s fitting.”

Washington’s Honeymoon in Cam Ranh Bay


Arms Sales To Vietnam



Defense Secretary Ash Carter with his Vietnamese counterpart in 2015


“One word from Defense Secretary Ash Carter  opened the door to US arms sales to Vietnam.

A former enemy turned potential ally against a rising China.

The administration has tiptoed towards easing the ban on lethal weapons sales ever since Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang met with Obama in 2013, but Carter’s statement goes farther at a critical time, on the eve of Obama’s first visit to Vietnam.

It was an exchange so brief and muted I had to listen to the audio half-a-dozen times and check with sources before I could believe Carter had really said something so momentous, yet apparently so casually. At yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan showed a map revealing how Chinese fighters could potentially strike throughout the South China Sea, the northern Philippines, and Vietnam. SASC chairman John McCain — a former prisoner of war in Hanoi turned advocate of reconciliation — followed up with this question to Carter: “You would support lifting restrictions on provision of weapons to the Vietnamese?”

Carter’s response? “We’ve discussed this in the past, and I appreciate your leadership in that regard, Chairman, and yes.”

That final “yes” is the figurative bombshell that might let the US sell literal bombshells to Vietnam, which has fought multiple wars and skirmishes with its ancient enemy, China, since the US withdrawal in 1973.

“Assuming he [Carter] has a green light from the White House, this is a genuine shift,” said Patrick Cronin, director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “The Obama administration went halfway in this direction when it announced a partial lifting of the ban; this would go all the way if Congress lets it happen.”

“An unfettered arms sales policy toward Vietnam would give strategic weight to America’s rebalance to Asia,” continued Cronin, a longtime advocate of such sales. “The timing is crucial, given that China is stretching its influence over the South China Sea in advance of the international tribunal ruling (on China’s territorial dispute with the Philippines) and President Obama is preparing for his first visit to Hanoi.”

Besides the strategic symbolism of the US standing with Vietnam — which has already agreed to US Army stockpiles of humanitarian supplies on its soil — arms exports could assist Vietnamese operations to secure their airspace and waters against Chinese intrusion.

“Drones are an interesting possibility,” said Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation. So are long-range radars and other intelligence-gathering tools, and perhaps helicopters for maritime patrol and resupply of island outposts.

“What they don’t need, for example, is M-16 rifles,” Cheng said. Vietnam’s military is mainly equipped with robust Russian-made or similar equipment, he noted, and bringing in large quantities of maintenance-hungry American-made gear would require “opening up a new supply system in Vietnam, training an entire new logistical cadre.”

“Their military infrastructure is built on Soviet tech,” agreed Gregory Poling, head of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The administration is therefore looking at those areas where Vietnam doesn’t have much of a current capability–long-range air patrol, Coast Guard, radar, etc.–not fighter jets and the like.”

In the longer term, added Cronin, “completely lifting the ban on lethal arms sales sets up the possibility of genuine co-production of defense arms in the years and decades ahead.  Joint production is far more likely to be sustainable and serious than simply transferring excess military hardware.”

Such a strengthened Vietnam — and a strengthened US-Vietnam relationship — might go a long way to deterring Chinese aggression in Southeast Asia.”

Carter: ‘Yes’ To Arms Sales To Vietnam; DoD Won’t Elaborate