Zachary Keck

Is China a Paper Tiger?

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Zachary Keck

Is China a Paper Tiger?

Plus, Fukuyama on the absurdity of U.S. foreign policy. Weekend reading links.

Some weekend reading material:

In the new issue of the National Interest, David Shambaugh revisits the argument from his latest book that China, whatever appearances to the contrary, is essentially a “paper tiger” or partial power.

Meanwhile, on the National Interest’s website, Bill Driers, a retired Air Force Colonel who “has worked on the development and implementation of the Air-Sea Battle concept since 2011,” provides one of the first in-depth and comprehensive ASB critiques of T.X. Hammes’s Offshore Control strategy.

Writing in the Financial Times, Francis Fukuyama once again proves there’s still hope for the U.S. foreign policy establishment, even the neoconservatives. In what is one of the most sensible analyses you’re likely to read regarding Iraq and Syria in particular, and the current state of American foreign policy more generally, Fukuyama warns that Washington’s obsession with terrorism and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant are distracting from the real global challenges America faces: China and (to a lesser extent) Russia.

This description really doesn’t do the piece justice since it is chock full of different insights from start to finish. To cite just one example: “Strategy is about setting priorities, saying that some things are more important than others and explaining why this is so. The notion that there is no place unworthy of U.S. attention is not a strategy.” The whole piece is a must read, however.

Over at Foreign Affairs, Jennifer Lind has a plan to deal with China’s salami slicing tactics– and not a moment too soon.

In typical fashion, War on the Rocks featured a number of excellent articles this week. Among them, CNAS’s Ely Ratner argues that China is increasingly undeterred and unapologetic.

Also on WOTR, with the Navy wrapping up its update to A Cooperative Strategy for 21stCentury Seapower, Bryan McGrath — who helped craft the document — revisits the 2007 strategy. In particular, he notes that one of the major criticisms of the maritime strategy was that it was predicated largely on the possibility of a great power war, which then looked so remote. This criticism now rings increasingly hallow, McGrath argues, writing, “The threat that critics then charged did not exist is now gathering on both ends of the Eurasian landmass. Both Russia and China are little invested in the present global order, and both openly challenge it with force and through other means even as they have benefited handsomely from it. Great power politics (and its continuation by other means, great power and proxy war) is all of a sudden back in fashion.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports on the latest scheme by North Korea’s Office 39 to raise foreign currency for the regime: opening up restaurant chains throughout Asia. According to the report, these restaurants began springing up in the 1990s (coincidentally, during the famine years, I’d note) mostly in China. They began booming in the 21st century, however, and there are now an “estimated 100 branches across Asia.” Bertil Lintner, an expert on North Korea, is quoted in the report as saying, “The North Korean government runs those restaurants to a) raise foreign exchange for the government in Pyongyang, b) to finance the activities of the North Korean embassy in the country where a restaurant is located, and c) to launder money from other activities.”