In December 2016, Sao Tome and Principe—a country consisting of a group of islands and islets off the western coast of central Africa—broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and re-established diplomatic relations with China. The issue brief describes what happened, what it means for Taiwan, and how it fits into a series of measures that Beijing has taken to pressure Taiwan since the election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
•This is the second time since President Tsai’s election that Beijing has re-established diplomatic relations with one of Taipei’s former diplomatic partners—of which it now has only 21—marking a change in Beijing’s behavior. In 2008, Taipei and Beijing reached a tacit understanding to stop competing for recognition from each other’s diplomatic partners—a “diplomatic truce.” During the period that followed, Beijing also rejected overtures from several of Taiwan’s diplomatic partners to establish diplomatic relations with China.
•Taiwan’s diplomatic relationships are significant for symbolic and practical reasons. Although, Taiwan almost certainly gains more from its unofficial relations with countries that have extensive international influence, such as the United States, diplomatic relations are an important component of Taiwan’s toolbox for maintaining a presence on the international stage.
•Despite President Tsai’s pragmatic approach to cross-Strait relations and attempts to compromise, Beijing views her with suspicion due to her unwillingness to endorse the “one China” framework for cross-Strait relations. Other measures that Beijing has taken to pressure Taipei since President Tsai’s election include suspending official and semiofficial cross-Strait communication and meetings and excluding Taiwan from meetings of international organizations, among others.
China’s Beidou satellite navigation system—one of the country’s top space projects and only the fourth system of its kind currently in development or operation—is projected to achieve global coverage by 2020. This report examines the objectives behind Beijing’s decision to develop the system as an alternative to GPS, its efforts to build an industry around the system, and the effects this might have in security, economic, and diplomatic terms for the United States. The system’s primary purpose is to end China’s military reliance on GPS, although China’s associated industrial policies will likely affect U.S. firms operating in China’s market. Industry professionals assess there are no inherent risks to products such as smartphones receiving data from Beidou.
On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal adjudicating the Philippines’ case against China in the South China Sea ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines, determining that major elements of China’s claim—including its nine-dash line, recent land reclamation activities, and other activities in Philippine waters—were unlawful. Predictably, China reacted negatively to the ruling, maintaining it was “null and void.” China may take assertive and inflammatory steps to defend its position. The extent to which China abides by the ruling in the long term, and to which the international community supports and seeks to enforce the ruling, will have consequences for the utility of international law as a tool to ensure the peaceful, stable, and lawful use of the seas going forward.
The report, prepared for the Commission by Murray Scot Tanner and James Bellacqua at CNA, examines the Chinese government’s efforts to combat terrorism by analyzing China’s definition and perception of its terrorist threat, its institutional infrastructure, strategy, and policies for combating terrorism, international counterterrorism cooperation efforts, and the opportunities for, and challenges of, U.S.-China cooperation on countering terrorism.
China’s ability to conduct conventional cruise and ballistic missile strikes on Guam is growing, even as the island’s strategic importance to the United States is increasing. This report examines the reasons behind China’s development of new conventional weapons that can reach Guam, the array of forces it could employ against Guam in a potential conflict, and policy options for the United States to consider in response. Accuracy limitations and platform vulnerabilities render the current risk to U.S. forces on Guam in a potential conflict relatively low, but China’s commitment to continuing to modernize its strike capabilities indicates the risk will likely continue to grow going forward.
From December 2013 to October 2015, China built artificial islands with a total area of close to 3,000 acres on seven coral reefs it occupies in the Spratly Islands in the southern part of the South China Sea. Although dredging, land reclamation, and the building of artificial islands are not unique to China, the scale and speed of China’s activities, the biodiversity of the area, and the significance of the Spratly Islands to the ecology of the region make China’s actions of particular concern. In addition to damage to the reefs, China’s island building activities have negatively impacted fisheries in the immediate area of the reclamation sites, and could negatively impact the health of fisheries in the coastal areas of the South China Sea. The building of these artificial islands will almost certainly lead to increased Chinese fishing in the surrounding waters, which could raise the risk of a clash between Chinese fishing boats and those of other claimant countries. Moreover, China’s island building activities may have violated some of its environmental commitments under international law; the ongoing case initiated by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague regarding China’s claims and activities in the South China Sea is considering this possibility.
While the People’s liberation Army continues to build anti-access/area denial capabilities to deter or delay a U.S. military response to a potential conflict with China, Beijing also appears to be pursuing other options—including nonmilitary options prior to a conflict—likely intended to erode the United States’ strategic position, freedom of action, and operational space in the Asia Pacific. The nonmilitary options being pursued include engagement, coercion, and alliance splitting focused on U.S. allies and partners in the Asia Pacific region. Although Beijing’s attempts to limit U.S. force projection capabilities in Asia through these efforts have produced mixed results, there is little indication Beijing will abandon its efforts to mitigate the U.S. military presence in the region.
This report assesses the extent to which China has enforced its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, and considers the potential conditions and implications of a Chinese ADIZ in the South China Sea.
In February 2015, China and Argentina announced prospective weapons sales and defense cooperation agreements extending beyond the scope of any made between China and a Latin American nation to date. These plans include Argentina’s purchase or coproduction of 14-20 fourth-generation fighter aircraft, at least 100 armored personnel carriers, and five naval vessels; enhanced military-to-military exchanges; and China’s construction in Argentina of a space tracking facility in conjunction with satellite imagery sharing. If fulfilled, these agreements would vastly surpass China’s previous regional arms exports in value and achieve several new benchmarks in the breadth, competitiveness, and technological sophistication of its regional arms sales; altogether representing a new phase in China-Latin America defense engagement. These developments would present several implications for U.S. objectives in the region: U.S. arms suppliers would likely see continued market share reduction, the United States may face a new regional security hazard, regional actors might alter their political stances or use Chinese arms in ways unfavorable to U.S. interests, and the Falkland Islands dispute might briefly and temporarily intensify. Despite the rapid growth and proximity of China’s regional defense engagements, however, they present no direct security threat to the United States.
This Issue Brief examines the U.S. Navy’s recent freedom of navigation patrol in the South China Sea, and discusses what China, the United States, and the rest of the region might do next in the South China Sea. The last time U.S. military ships and aircraft sailed or flew within 12 nautical miles (nm) of Chinese-occupied features in the Spratly Islands was 2012. On October 27, however, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation patrol within 12 nm of Subi Reef, a land feature on top of which China has built an artificial island. Reportedly, the patrol “was completed without incident,” though China’s navy sent two ships to monitor and issue warnings to the U.S. destroyer. The U.S. ship also conducted freedom of navigation operations within 12 nm of land features occupied by Vietnam and the Philippines.
The objective of the freedom of navigation patrol appears to have been to signal that the U.S government does not consider China to have sovereignty over the 12 nm area of sea adjacent to Subi Reef. Transforming a low-tide elevation into an artificial island does not entitle it to a territorial sea. The patrol did not make a statement about the validity of China’s sovereignty claim over Subi Reef itself.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the United States Congress in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and to provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.