Tag Archives: China

Camaraderie at the Hangzhou meeting

My China Trip, Part 3: The First Conference and on to Wenzhou

Continued from  My China trip, part 2

I woke up next morning feeling refreshed and ready for the first conference. I made a cup of coffee and looked out through my hotel window. It was a bright day.

View from my hotel room in Hangzhou hotel

View from my hotel room in Hangzhou

I saw tall buildings, green trees and broad roads with orderly traffic. I was used to that sight in the USA. But there was a preponderance of scooters relatives to cars. This allows for less congestion, pollution and comparatively cheap transportation in a country of over a billion people, a sensible approach. After breakfast I headed downstairs for our first set of meetings.

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Dinner, Hangzhou Restaurant

My China Trip, Part 2: Hangzhou and West Lake

Continued from My China Trip, part 1: Getting There

We got off the train from Shanghai, hailed a taxi and headed towards New Century Hotel in Hangzhou. It was almost noon. Chen took care of the check-in formalities. We had just enough time to dump my bags in my room and rush downstairs for lunch. I was famished!

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Chinese flag

My China Trip: Part 1: Getting there

I was spending the last four years comfortably traveling, writing and editing when I received an unexpected invitation. I was invited to attend and speak at the 5th International Conference on Growth Factors organized by Wenzhou Medical University (WMU) in Wenzhou, China. It took a while for this to sink in. Should I go…

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Prolonged Rohingya Crisis: A Regional Solution

The Prolonged Rohingya Refugee Crisis: a Regional Solution

The future is not looking good for the thousands of displaced Rohingyas. Last year, close to 600,000 escaped the pogrom unleashed by the Myanmar army aided by machete wielding Buddhist neighbors and escaped to Bangladesh swelling the numbers already there.

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International hotspots under Trump

A Survey of International Hotspots under President Trump

The Trump presidency in fast approaching its 100 day mark. It is time for a quick appraisal of its performance in office. Trump ran on his appeal as a ‘take charge, decisive CEO’ who would rapidly solve all or most of our problems. He started with a travel ban from certain countries followed by ‘repeal and replace Obamacare”. Those did not turn out as expected. But soon international events, some unexpected, overtook domestic policies. I will group the hotspots into two main theaters based on their geography.

Russia, Syria, ISIS and the Middle East

It seemed that under President Trump, a gradual rapprochement with Russia was underway. It would become our partner in combating ISIS. Sadly, that dream went up in smoke as cruise missiles slammed into an airfield in Syria and the FBI continues its investigation into possible collusion of Trump’s election team with Russia during the election of 2016. The chemical attack by President Assad on civilians was ghastly, horrific and contrary to all norms of civilized conduct, in 2013, 2017 and on all the other occasions. Perhaps Trump was genuinely moved by pictures of children gasping for breath or dead babies seemingly asleep, cradled in their father’s arms in Khan Shaykun. Perhaps he wanted to differentiate himself from Obama as a decisive leader who would not hesitate to act if someone crossed a red line. So, he put Assad, Russia, North Korea and the whole world on notice with the missile barrage on Shayrat airbase in Syria. An opening gambit.

But, a salvo does not a strategy make. What is the next step? What are the plans for Syria, for dealing with ISIS and the entire Middle East? The Russians were warned before the attack and this time they quietly stood aside, but they won’t the next time. Relationship with Russia, a nuclear armed power, is at an all-time low since after the cold war and it continues to bolster Assad and his grip on power. This is to Russia’s advantage. Assad gives Russia a secure footprint in the region, airfields, a warm water port in the Mediterranean and a steady stream of refugees that continue to destabilize Europe and NATO, Putin’s dream.

It is not clear if there is a coherent plan for Syria, ISIS and the Middle East in general. We need clarity on:

  1. Can there be a peaceful solution for Syria with Assad in power? If he is displaced, what are the plans for managing the aftermath? Remember Iraq after Saddam Hussain!
  2. What are the plans post ISIS? Once they are driven from Raqqa and other strongholds, what are the plans for a peaceful, inclusive civilian government and who is responsible for ensuring that those places do not degenerate into sectarian violence. The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan are still fresh in our minds.
  3. Is the US getting gradually sucked into a Middle East quagmire again? We hear of more and more boots being sent to Syria and of our (not so well advertised) involvement in Yemen, a country at the other end of the peninsula. In Afghanistan, next door to Iran, the war is in its 16th year. There, we just dropped a MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the world. This bomb has been in our arsenal for quite a while but Presidents before Trump had carefully avoided using it. So, what was the reason for using it now?

The USA should not and cannot afford to be the policeman of the world. This is the platform Trump ran on in 2016. This is still true. But history has taught us that unexpected events do happen. Sometimes, after diplomacy and all other options have been thoroughly exhausted, we may have to take extreme measures when our security or those of our allies are directly threatened. But a military solution should not become a reflexive habit just because we have an overwhelming military capability. War should always be the very last resort.

China and North Korea

China is the second largest economy (after the US) and these two economies are inextricably linked. During the election Trump had repeated incessantly that China would be labeled a ‘currency manipulator’ and China would be taken to task for stealing jobs from the US. Now, after dinner with President Xi at Mar-A-Lago, President Trump has reversed his opinion regarding currency manipulation. He now needs China’s help to restrain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea is perhaps the most acute problem in Trump’s inbox but unfortunately with very few solutions, all bad ones. North Korea is rapidly building up its nuclear arsenal and rockets including solid fuel ICBMs that can theoretically reach the United States. That is indeed alarming. However, threatening a volatile, insecure, young dictator like Kim Jong Un with an aircraft career strike force may not be a good idea. He could retaliate unpredictably and preemptively. Seoul is just 35 miles away, within range of his conventional artillery and his huge army is poised just across the DMZ.

China shares a land border with North Korea, is its biggest trading partner and the only country that has the best chance of persuading North Korea to change course. Here again, instead of saber rattling, a diplomatic solution with all the regional powers, China being the predominant one, is needed.

President Trump is clearly learning on the job. That is not necessarily a bad thing. What is disquieting is how diametrically opposite some of his current views are from what he said during the election. What were those statements based on? That is a fair question. And what would his ardent, vociferous supporters who cheered him then, think now? I am just curious.

Intrigue in the Arabian Sea: Gwadar, Chabahar, and the associated Realpolitik

We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors: Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A little history

Chabahar and Gwadar are two ports separated by just 72 kilometers, but worlds away in terms of geo-strategy. But let us go back a few decades when India and Pakistan won independence from Great Britain. In the immediate aftermath, Pakistan grabbed a large slice of western Kashmir from India. Three wars were fought between these two countries where India got the upper hand including the liberation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. This left a deep distrust and a desire for revenge in the Pakistani psyche. In 1962, India and China went to war over disputed borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. China got the upper hand.

The Old Order Changeth

From the 90s, improved economic policies and the desire to do better saw an explosion in the economies and living standards of the citizens of China and India. And with an improved economy and living standards, came the desire for more, hence the need to look for more resources, including energy resources (read oil), raw materials and safe shipping lanes to get these resources to the homeland.

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