Asia Defense

This Could Be China’s Biggest Defense Deal Yet

Plus, trouble in the Kuril Islands again, a new intelligence war, and more. Weekend links.

This Could Be China’s Biggest Defense Deal Yet
Credit: (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

A few defense and security links to wrap up the week:

More details emerge about the China-Pakistan submarine deal. On Thursday, Pakistan and China agreed to what may well become China’s largest-ever foreign defense deal. Pakistan, China’s long-term ally and “all weather” partner in Asia, will purchase eight submarines from China. The Diplomat‘s Franz-Stefan Gady discussed the deal earlier, but the new agreement makes it likelier that this deal will pan out. The financial magnitude of the deal (certainly in the billions of dollars range) remains indeterminate, and officials haven’t disclosed which specific models the Pakistanis are eying, but it’s likely that the deal will be for the S20 export version of China’s Type 039A submarine (the Yuan-class). The Yuan (and S20) is an evolution of China’s Song-class submarine and borrows the design philosophy of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines. A notable feature of the S20 export variant is that the air-independent propulsion system isn’t included, but can be added on separately, thanks to a modular design.

Trouble in the Kurils again. Looks like Russia is serious about stirring up the Kuril Islands dispute with Japan. This week, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that the Kremlin is exploring a 10-year project to build up civilian and military infrastructure on the islands. The Diplomat‘s Katie Putz outlined the background of the dispute and its renewed salience over the recent year here.

Where and how much China invests abroad. The New York Times has compiled an invaluable interactive feature on China’s foreign investments, titled “China Global Ambitions, With Loans and Strings Attached.” While not directly related to security, understanding how and where China invests can offer a better sense of where Beijing may see opportunities for global leadership in coming years. The interactive graphic paints a picture that isn’t all too surprising for those of us following the proliferation of China’s economic stakes across the world: China mostly favors high-risk investment areas where more conventional (read: Western) investors are either withdrawing investments from or are ignoring altogether. China has also invested massive sums of cash in these destinations. An interactive map offers a few additional interesting tidbits, including that China’s investment comprises a whopping 79 percent of all foreign investment in Afghanistan and 93 percent in North Korea. Meanwhile, it comprises just 1 percent of all foreign investment in India and 3 percent in the United States. Among the BRICS states, Chinese investment is the most present in South Africa, at 16 percent.

A new intelligence war. Over at War on the Rocks, Peter Mattis outlines the growing intelligence struggle between the United States and China. Writing on the outcomes of the devastating hack against the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in which the data of over 20 million Americans was compromised, Mattis notes that “Security experts are right to suggest this information is a treasure trove for an intelligence service trying to penetrate the U.S. national security community. Such treasure is only as valuable as the motivation to use it and, for the MSS, such information would provide the foundation for a new espionage campaign against the United States and demonstrate its value to Chinese policymakers who have had good reason to be skeptical about what the MSS brings to the table. The OPM data offers a way for Chinese intelligence to focus on Americans that matter rather than relying on the creativity of individual agents to find ways to bridge China’s domestic intelligence base with national security professionals abroad.”

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Thinking deeply about the South China Sea. In case you missed it, the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a day-long conference on the South China Sea that resulted in the presentation of some great discussion and insight from scholars and experts working in the region and observing matters from the sidelines. The videos of the sessions are available for public viewing and are worth a watch for anyone interested in the finer details of the dynamics underlying the South China Sea disputes. My colleague Prashanth Parameswaran reported on a couple of interesting statements made during the conference, one by a Chinese scholar and one by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel.