Monday, January 26, 2015

China: The Eclipse of the Politburo


Evidence suggests the Politburo Standing Committee is in decline, while the central party bureaucracy gains more clout.

It is commonly believed that an incoming General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can enact whatever policies he chooses, so long as the top seven or nine leaders of the PBSC agree. If they do not agree, conventional wisdom presumes, then it is unlikely that the leaders will get much done. Such, at any rate, was the prevailing view at the start of Xi Jinping’s tenure. Analyses published at the time of Xi’s ascension confidently predicted that he would prove weak and achieve little, due to the challenge of gaining consensus among PBSC members of such varying backgrounds. Outcomes starkly at odds with such forecasts have done little to deter experts from making additional assertions following the same logic. It is not hard to find analyses today that claim Xi’s anti-corruption drive is fundamentally a power grab that is alienating fellow PBSC members and thus setting Xi up for long-term failure once his peers turn against him.

Xi may well fail in his reform agenda for a variety of reasons, but lack of consensus in the PBSC will not be the primary driver. The importance of consensus for enacting policy between the top seven leaders who comprise the PBSC is overstated. Consensus remains necessary, at least on the surface, for the most important policy initiatives such as the pursuit of structural and systemic reforms under which the current anti-corruption drive is nestled. In reality, though, PBSC members are increasingly constrained in their ability to undermine or drastically change the general direction of policy. For the overwhelming majority of the country’s policy directives, what really counts is the degree of consensus within the central party bureaucracy, or staff organizations (i.e., the key staff bodies and organizations primarily in the Central Committee, such as the General Office, Central Policy Research Office, Central Party School, Organization Department, etc.) and between the same central party staff organizations and the General Secretary. Individuals who seek to anticipate the future trajectory of PRC policy-making would be well served to master the publicly available documents produced by these bureaucracies in support of the General Secretary.

The weakening of the power of individual Politburo Standing Committee members and the growing importance of the relationship between the General Secretary and the central support staff owes partly to Xi’s personal initiative, but primarily to major, long-term changes in the nature of CCP rule. Because the retreat from revolutionary politics has undercut the most compelling argument for party dictatorship, the CCP increasingly bases its legitimacy on the claim to uniquely possess a superior intellectual methodology – its Marxist theory – that alone can ensure sound governance and China’s rejuvenation as a great power, as well as the results generated from this supposedly infallible methodology. In the words of Xi Jinping, the CCP’s political theory is “the only correct theory,” the adherence to which alone enables the party to “unite and lead the people to achieve national rejuvenation.”

While the principle of infallibility has always been a feature of the party’s Leninist nature, the original revolutionary incarnation proved much more amenable to the usurpation of authority by members of the leadership elite. After all, when the logic of a political theory favors revolutionary overthrow, authority can accrue to anyone willing to promote the most radical vision. Indeed, chaos in Maoist China frequently owed to this problem, as competing personalities vied for the mantle of revolutionary authority and thereby drove government policy in the direction of their own political agendas.

The party’s pursuit of a more technocratic style of politics in recent years retains the principle of infallibility, but has also narrowed and restricted its expression. To shore up the impression that its policies are derived from a scientifically rigorous intellectual methodology, CCP must invest as much energy elaborating its “theory system of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” as it does to develop sound policies that meet the needs of its people. Consequently, the most essential individuals and organizations in the CCP are those who can articulate the socialist theory system in a clear, consistent, and “scientific” manner, as well as those who can develop sound policies that promote the party’s objectives in a manner that validates the theory. It should be apparent already that a handful of busy individuals, especially those given extremely broad policy portfolios, lack the time and expertise to carry out this work. The individuals best positioned to meet these needs are those analysts, theorists, staff members, and experts who reside primarily within the permanent organizations of the Central Committee. These individuals collaborate on a continual basis to build the common understanding about China’s situation, develop theory concepts to guide policy, and outline the technical details of policy to shape elite opinion and support senior decision makers. The more effectively these staff organizations do their jobs, the easier it becomes for the Politburo Standing Committee to approve their recommendations and direct the implementation of policy accordingly. As a result, the consensus built by the central party bureaucracy under the supervision of the General Secretary has prevailed, and will likely continue to prevail, in setting the course for the nation’s policies.

Another consequence has been an erosion of the power of individual PBSC members. The increasingly institutionalized nature of the political system requires PBSC leaders and other elite leaders to develop their own teams of theorists, analysts, and policy experts if they are to drive policy in a dramatically different direction. Chinese leaders have shown little inclination to empower individual members of the PBSC to overturn the consensus built by the central support staff under the General Secretary’s direction. The reduction in number of PBSC members from nine to seven, at the start of Xi’s tenure, suggests that even then the pursuit of PBSC-level consensus was increasingly viewed as more of a hindrance than a help to achieving party goals. More dramatically, the case of Zhou Yongkang demonstrates in a vivid fashion just how vulnerable members of the PBSC have become. Overall, the trend in recent years has been towards a strengthening of the General Secretary’s influence, and of the central support staff as the primary instrument of his power. While this consolidation has become most apparent under Xi, in many ways his tenure represents an intensification of trends well under way in the Hu era. The most important of these trends include: 1) an expansion and elevation of the central party bureaucracy’s role in policy making; 2) the systematization of the party’s ideology; and 3) the standardization of the party’s policy making processes. These reforms have generally strengthened the influence of political and technical experts in the central party bureaucracy and constrained the power of individual Politburo Standing Committee leaders.

Expansion and elevation of Central Committee organizations in policy making. Both Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping invested considerable time and resources to strengthen their control of the central support staff. They also expanded and elevated the role of these staffs in the policy making process. The introduction of Politburo study sessions and expanded meetings in the 2002 time frame, for example, provided a regular venue for party experts to coach, mentor, and teach senior leaders, a function managed by the Central Policy Research Office (CPRO) and Central Committee General Office. Under Xi, the CPRO has also been designated the administrator of the Central Reform Office, which manages the all-important Central Leading Group for Deepening Comprehensive Reform, while the General Office administers the National Security Commission. Xi has also added two departments to the CPRO to handle the expansion in responsibility. Similarly, while head of the Central Party School (CPS) for ten years prior to his ascent to General Secretary, Hu oversaw a major expansion of the school. Xi also served for five years as director of CPS prior to his ascent. The CPS has become a principal think tank for the party’s theory work, as well as the premier training ground for senior leaders.

Systematization of party theory. In 2004, Hu oversaw a major overhaul in party ideology to render it more functional and pragmatic, resulting in the theory system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This multi-year effort systematized the various elements of the party ideology, keeping and refining those elements that could be useful for the new policy agenda and discarding the less useful parts. The end result was a modern ideology better suited to serving the CCP’s needs as a governing party. However, it has also empowered experts in the Central Committee as the resident authorities on how to define and articulate an increasingly technical, systematic, and specialized ideology.

Standardization of party policy making processes. Beginning in 2002, the party saw a great expansion in the numbers and types of CCP rules, policies, and procedures to govern most aspects of party activity, to include recruitment, promotion, evaluation, and decision-making. To support policy making, the 16th Party Congress in 2002 also introduced and standardized a number of strategic objectives (zhanlüe mubiao), major strategic tasks (zhongda zhanlüe renwu), policy documents (such as the annual “Document Number One” for rural reform), and high level training events aimed at forging consensus behind the policy agenda set by the central leadership. The process of drafting key strategy and policy documents, to include Party Congress reports and Plenum decisions, has become increasingly routinized and the work largely led by experts in the central party bureaucracy. Officials of the central party bureaucracy also manage the training and education of cadres to carry out the agenda accordingly. In 2003, for example, central authorities began an annual training seminar for the nation’s provincial and ministerial level leaders in the most important theoretical concepts and policy priorities for the coming year. The increasing standardization of many of the party’s political processes constrains the ability of individual leaders to drive dramatic shifts in policy through informal, behind-the-scenes politicking.

To be clear, much about Chinese politics remains poorly or only semi-institutionalized. Secrecy and behind-the-scenes politicking shroud many of the most sensitive political issues, such as the selection of individual leaders and other matters of elite politics. Nevertheless, a decade of ideological and political reform has resulted in a stronger central party bureaucracy capable of providing the cohesion, vision, and depth of expertise needed to help senior leaders carry out an expanded policy agenda aimed at providing more effective governance and realizing China’s rejuvenation. The relentless promotion of Xi as the most important leader among his peers, and the accretion of power in the hands of Xi through the creation of the National Security Commission and numerous small leading groups to carry out structural reforms, represents the culmination of these trends. The more Xi takes on responsibilities and new powers, after all, the more he depends on the experts, specialists, and officials of the central support staff to prepare and oversee the policies carried out under his direction. The strengthening of the central party bureaucracy has enabled the party to withstand the shocks of the Bo Xilai case, the arrest of senior officials such as Zhou and former CMC vice chair Xu Caihou, and the turmoil generated by the pervasive anti-corruption campaign.

The evolving pattern of politics suggests that the common understanding of the relationship between the General Secretary, PBSC members, and the central support staff needs to be refined. General Secretary Xi and PBSC members continue to provide oversight of all policy work. The PBSC members also play a critical role in handling day-to-day decisions for their respective portfolios. However, the central party bureaucracy, under the General Secretary’s leadership, largely defines the “default” mode of policy through a dense network of mutually reinforcing theory, analysis, and central directives. PBSC members continue to play an important role through participation in the central leading groups, but the precise nature of the interactions remains hidden from view. What is clear is that the consensus forged through all of this activity, manifested most importantly in key policy documents such as speeches by the General Secretary and in Party Congress reports and plenum decisions, plays a decisive role in setting China’s policy agenda. Analysis of such documents will therefore likely continue to provide the most reliable insights into future trends of PRC policy.

Ironically, just when the study of Chinese official documents, political processes, and ideology produced by the central party bureaucracy was becoming increasingly essential to understanding PRC politics, much of the China watching community turned its attention elsewhere. The prevailing mode of analysis remains focused on the personal networks, factions, interest groups, “princeling” connections, and individual backgrounds of PBSC members. Such research has provided fascinating insight into the dynamics of elite politics and reaffirmed the importance of personal networks in PRC politics. But this mode of analysis has provided little useful insight regarding the prospects for Chinese policy. Meanwhile, the few articles that have attempted to tackle key PRC policy documents merely demonstrate how much the study of such sources has deteriorated. One analysis published in 2012 dismissed analysis of Party Congress reports as a waste of time, asserting that such events serve as little more than an exercise in “tedious sloganeering” and in “pumping up the party faithful.” It concluded that observers would “need to look elsewhere” for clues as to the Xi administration’s likely policy agenda. Tellingly, the article offered no suggestion as to where that superior source of insight might lie.

No better source has emerged. To more effectively anticipate policy developments, observers should deepen their study of the analysis, theory, and policy documents produced by the central support staff and frequently issued under Xi’s name. The good news is that many of the most relevant and useful documents are widely available on the Internet. With careful study and mastery of these sources, analysts have within their grasp the means to better understand PRC intentions regarding strategy and policy.

Tim Heath is a senior defense and international analyst at the RAND Corporation. He has over fifteen years of experience as a China specialist and is the author of the book, China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation, published by Ashgate (2014). This article was first posted in the Sinocism newsletter.


Should U.S. Allies in Asia Get Their Own Nukes?

With the U.S. stretched to provide a conventional deterrence, is it time to reconsider a fundamental policy?

The prospects for the U.S. being able to project is power and defend its allies in Asia are not good. The U.S. security guarantee – known as “extended deterrence” – was never really tested in Asia the way it was on a daily basis in Europe during the Cold War. Understandable, since Asia was not the global center of strategic gravity. But it is now. Military modernization and expansion by all the players is causing greater friction between the tectonic plates of Japan, China, South Korea, and the United States, testing the limits of U.S. extended deterrence, which currently minimizes the role of nuclear weapons. However, the very foundations of this concept were designed to deal with a land, European theater, not the Asian maritime environment.

Historically, the foundation of power projection has been sea-control. Since the end of World War Two, U.S. power in Asia has been uncontested. What contributed to making the U.S. such a decisive power there for over sixty years was a robust sea-control capacity with low risk, with therefore little cost. Since the late 90s, however, China has been gradually building up its sea-denial capabilities, which have progressively increased the costs for the U.S. to maintain sea-control. And as Hugh White and others have pointed out, whilst Washington has commitments all over the world, Beijing only has to focus all its military power in one area and focus on a denial strategy. And sea-denial is a lot easier than sea-control. What strategic effect does the U.S. want to achieve with the deployment of its forces? Is there a theory of victory? The vast logistical challenges of relying mainly on conventional forces for sea-control means that if Washington wants to keep playing the extended deterrence game, then nuclear weapons are going to have feature much more prominently in American strategy.

Nuclear weapons are special. They “connect” allies (especially those in far-flung lands such as Australia) in a way that was not possible in the past without the protector state forward deploying substantial conventional forces to the ally’s territory – a costly exercise. In the conventional world, commitments need to be much more explicit and physically visible to appear credible. And that becomes more difficult and costly for the protector state depending on geography. Relatively less effort is needed when nuclear weapons are involved. Compared to Western Europe, the Asia-Pacific is a vast maritime environment, with many more actors , and allies that all have diverging interests. Big geography (the Pacific, Russia), and big military and industrial bases require big weapons (nuclear weapons) to reassure allies that the U.S. is capable of defending their vital interests in a major conflict. Currently, the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy is marginalized. It is not even clear what U.S. strategy in Asia actually is, let alone how nuclear weapons fit in the picture. But they should.

Whilst nuclear disarmament will not happen any time soon, lowering the stockpiles of the United States and Russia to a few hundred weapons each brings big issues of “conventional” strategy back to the surface. And these may be much harder to manage in a world where much more precise conventional systems (including ballistic and cruise missiles) take center stage. Furthermore, the proliferation of precision-strike weapons poses additional challenges for conventional deterrence. China, for instance poses a formidable arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles. The nuclear aspect of U.S. extended deterrence has always been important for Seoul, Tokyo, and even Canberra. Conventional forces alone simply do not provide the same level of reassurance. Compared to Western Europe (which was never happy with a purely conventional deterrent anyway), there are immense logistical difficulties extending conventional deterrence in a maritime environment as vast as the Asia-Pacific. Tasks include the need to ensure the prompt replenishment of destroyed combat ships, establishing defensive perimeters for fleet support, and ensuring the safety of fleet replenishment oilers and dry cargo/ammunition supply ships, to name but a few. Meanwhile, the budget constraints of sequestration in 2013, coupled with longer-term financial uncertainty raise questions about the future of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command and its Combat Logistics Force. As David Gompert and Terrence Kelley have argued: “Air-Sea battle does not solve the underlying problem of U.S. forces’ growing vulnerability in the Western Pacific. That is the result of military-technological trends, geographic realities, and the limitations and costs of defending overseas deployments.” Europe was, and remains, one single geostrategic entity connected by land. In the Asia-Pacific, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan are more dispersed and far apart from each other, with neutral and non-aligned states dotted here and there in between. U.S. forces need to be able to move around a lot of vessels, aircraft, troops, and munitions. A significant problem here is that U.S. and allied air and naval bases in the western Pacific are vulnerable to Chinese conventional ballistic and cruise missile strikes. The closer the base is to Chinese territory, the more vulnerable it is. Guam is also within range of cruise missile strikes launched from aircraft and submarines.

Unless the U.S. maintains permanent bases on allied territory, it is not clear that the American military would be able to deploy replacement capabilities on short notice if its ships/aircraft carriers were destroyed. Consider the geographic setting. It is difficult to concentrate large numbers of strike aircraft other than on aircraft carriers (which are limited in number anyway), which substantially reduces sortie rates. As a recent RAND study shows, posturing high numbers of strike aircraft close to the enemy during interventions against Iraq’s attack on Kuwait and the Serbian atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, allowed U.S. and coalition forces to generate high sortie rates and put a significant amount of ordnance on targets, making important contributions to victory. However, those were small adversaries that largely lacked the capabilities to strike U.S. bases and major weapons systems. That is not the case with China, which wields a formidable arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles. True, placing more forces in-theater and closer to allies makes them highly vulnerable to enemy surprise attack. Then again, the same holds true for enemy forces, since closer basing results in shorter warning times for enemy forces, and compressed decision times for leaders. In addition, placing aircraft carriers away from enemy forces (to reduce vulnerability) in a crisis reduces sortie rates, thereby reducing the potency of the deterrent threat they can bring to bear. Penetrating long-range bombers may offer an advantage here, but they alone may not be sufficient to perform all war-fighting and deterrence tasks. In addition, having more shore-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems would reduce the demand for BMD ships, which are more vulnerable to enemy missiles.

Also, there are more air bases across the western Pacific islands suitable for aerial refueling tanker operations than there are for combat aircraft. A lack of bases greatly increases the demands and stress on an aerial fleet and the logistics involved in keeping U.S. forces adequately supplied. It also makes for significantly longer ship and submarine transit times to and from more distant resupply points. The U.S. Navy does not procure war reserve replacement equipment, weapons, or sensors. These items would need to be purchased and built at the outset of a war. Submarines and many surface combatants are unable to replenish their missile magazines without sailing back to the U.S. West Coast.

Indeed it is only now that U.S. planners are starting to think very seriously about the logistics and operational issues of extended deterrence in Asia, which were never given much attention because U.S. sea power in this region was never contested. A recent CSBA report points out many more of these issues: how quickly cruisers and destroyers exhaust their missiles; how adversaries will attempt to use “cheap” missiles (such as the BrahMos cruise missile) to attack U.S. warships to get them to use their most effective defenses first (such as the long-range SM-6), then strike with more effective weapons to destroy carriers and their escorts; the rate at which missiles can be launched; the amount and availability of sensor resources that can be devoted to BMD versus other missions (especially since the demand for BMD ships will likely increase given the proliferation of such systems); the capacity of combat logistics forces to cycle ammunition ships between rear bases and forward reloading areas; maintaining long-range, high capacity, carrier-based aerial refueling capabilities; the sustainability of different operational concepts over long periods of conflict; and ordnance consumption rates.

On July 31 2013, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the Obama administration was considering reducing the number of carrier strike groups from 11 to perhaps 8 or 9, and to draw down the size of the Marine Corps from 182 000 to between 150,000 and 175,000. There are also concerns that the number of nuclear attack submarines could be reduced by 2020. The advanced conventional capabilities of the United States are produced in small numbers and take considerable time and money to make. Depending on where one draws the “starting line,” the duration of the design and development phase, the duration of production time can be long and variable. But in terms of production from a stable design, indicative figures for an F-35 or F-22 would be around three years. An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer requires four years, and an aircraft carrier six. While the F-35 program is a major expense, what is more significant is the time that it takes to build any of these critical systems.

Those problems are compounded by the estimated build rate of the Chinese ballistic missile inventory provided by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). According to the authors of a CSBA report, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) inventory is likely to number in the thousands by the 2020s. China’s forces pale in comparison to U.S. forces in the region, but the major issue is that China holds home-court advantage in terms of political resolve in a conflict. And it is clear that Beijing has been trying to redress the military imbalance, including with land-attack cruise missiles and nuclear-powered submarines armed with ballistic missiles. As a result, U.S. bases are increasingly under threat from precision-strike systems. According to one report, Navy leaders do not believe the U.S. fleet’s carriers and destroyers have the anti-aircraft capacity to defend against modern air and missile threats, such as those posed by China, and lack the reach to defeat submarines and surface ships before they can attack with long range anti-ship cruise missiles. As a recent defense think tank reported, there are also major issues with the number of missiles that would be used in a confrontation with China. According to Bryan Clark from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “A cruiser or destroyer will exhaust its missiles relatively quickly against incoming missiles — about 50 incoming missiles will use up the inventory of air-defense weapons.” Even worse, a warship’s most effective defensive weapons — expensive long-range SM-6 Standard missiles — will probably be used up first, since they’ll be engaging missiles further away. An opponent could saturate a carrier strike group with cheap missiles, using up the defenses, then strike with effective weapons that would wipe out the carrier and its escorts. Not surprisingly, according to the report, that Navy leaders today do not believe U.S. warships have the anti-air warfare capacity to defend against modern air and missile threats.

Numbers are but one part of the story. What will be important is 1) which U.S. and Chinese ships, aircraft, and missiles are available at the outset of hostilities 2) how they perform in a particular military contingency, and 3) the resolve of both parties to achieve various military objectives. What malevolent behaviors will U.S. forces be postured to deter in the western Pacific? Will U.S. carriers even be able to get close enough to China’s shores to launch effective air strikes? Will U.S. naval vessels be “outgunned” by Chinese ships? Will China conduct conventional missile strikes against U.S. regional airbases, and how well would those airbases withstand attacks? For how long? How will China’s home-court advantage in logistics affect combat outcomes? How might the Chinese navy and air force project power beyond Taiwan against U.S. and allied forces? Again, resolve is a major issue here.

During much of the Cold War, the credibility of extended deterrence depended on Washington being able to show that it was capable and willing to “fight” a nuclear war. Hence the deployment of short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and concepts such as escalation control and damage limitation. The same issues hold true for conventional extended deterrence, except the challenges for U.S. forces in Asia are immense. If the U.S. cannot demonstrate its ability to fight a conventional war with China, then U.S. allies – Japan, South Korea, and Australia – will have to do a whole lot more for their own defense. Nuclear weapons helped prevent the Cold War from turning hot. In Asia they can stop a conventional arms race that is forcing the United States to invest in weapons that can block the Chinese military on its doorstep, thousands of miles from its own. America’s policy of opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons needs to be more nuanced. It does not want Iran or Saudi Arabia to get the bomb, but why not Australia, Japan, and South Korea? It is opposed to nuclear weapons because they are the great military equalizer, because some countries may let them slip into the hands of terrorists, and because the U.S. has a significant advantage in precision conventional weapons. But its opposition to nuclear weapons in Asia means the U.S. is committed to a costly and risky conventional arms race with China over its ability to protect distant allies and partners lying nearer to China and spread over a vast maritime theater. But there is a better, cheaper way to provide security in Asia. Washington should encourage its allies to acquire their own nuclear weapons, and let its Asian allies defend themselves with the weapon that is the great equalizer.

Christine M. Leah is a Postdoctoral Associate in Grand Strategy at Yale University. Previously a Stanton Postdoctoral Fellow in Nuclear Security at MIT.


Cambodia: Justice Delayed

Lawyers for Pol Pot’s henchmen are proving skillful at delaying their clients’ trials.

Almost 40 years after Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan seized control in Cambodia, Phnom Penh’s efforts to finalize justice for the incredible hardships inflicted upon Cambodians by the dreaded Khmer Rouge have stalled yet again.

Incessant complaints and petitioning for more time by defense lawyers in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have been widely seen as deliberate stalling tactics, further complicated by Khieu Samphan’s health and recent stints in hospital.

Like Nuon Chea, the former head of state has already been found guilty of crimes against humanity and been jailed for life in Case 002/01. But for prosecutors the elusive goal is to secure genocide convictions for the travesty that occurred here under their 1975-79 bloody rule.

“It is good to see the Khmer Rouge defense attorneys providing such a wholehearted defense for such indefensible clients,” trial observer and author of Law and War, Peter Maguire, said.

“However, theirs’ is a standard criminal defense strategy. When the facts are against them, they argue the laws; when the laws are against them they argue the facts; when both are against them, they attack the other side.”

The ECCC has been dogged by controversy and predictions of an early demise ever since the first judges were sworn in back in 2006 and the first investigations into the deaths of between 1.7 million and 2.2 million people got underway.

Such predictions have proved groundless. Case 001 provided initial success when Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, was sentenced to life behind bars for the deaths of thousands of people he had processed at the S-21 torture center for extermination at the Killings Fields.

Prosecutors had held back on pursuing charges of genocide until last year, preferring instead to prosecute for lesser crimes and amass evidence that would potentially secure genocide convictions, which legal experts argue is always a difficult crime to prove beyond doubt.

But the advanced years of both men, Nuon Chea is 88 and Khieu Samphan is 83, has raised fears that they will die before judgment day, like Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and Pol Pot’s former foreign minister Ieng Sary who died almost two years ago. Ieng Sary is the only man in history to be charged with genocide twice.

Anta Guissé, counsel for Khieu Samphan, and Victor Koppe, lawyer for Nuon Chea, said the rights of their clients were paramount and even more important than the rights of the ECCC.

They boycotted the trial late last year.

Guissé argued she needed more time to prepare her appeal in Case 002/01 while Koppe has demanded that four of the five sitting judges be removed because his client believes they are irredeemably biased because of their tenure over previous trials.

Both lawyers pushed their strategies despite disciplinary warnings from the bench of local and international judges. As a result, temporary defense teams have been brought in from the outside and put on standby to handle genocide charges in Case 002/02, if the stalling tactics continue.

“A fascinating game of chess is taking place in the Trial Chamber between the defense and the judge,” said Craig Etcheson, trial expert and Visiting Scholar at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in the United States.

“The defense attempts to provoke the judges to such a degree that they will make a strategic error which can provide grounds for a successful appeal to have the case thrown out, to reverse a conviction, or to reduce the punishment.”

He said it was in the interests of the defense to slow-walk the trial process as much as possible as the rules grant the defense a plethora of procedural maneuvers which they would take advantage of to the maximum extent.

“If an accused expires before a verdict is reached, as in the case of Ieng Sary, he dies with his presumption of innocence intact.”

Etcheson also said that reaching a verdict on genocide is crucial for the legacy of the ECCC.

“Symbolically, especially for the Cambodian people, genocide is the most significant crime alleged to have been committed by the accused persons.

“If the court fails to render a judgment on genocide, many people will regard the tribunal as a wasted opportunity to define the modern history of Cambodia.”

Trials are also in the offing for Meas Muth, Khmer Rouge navy commander in Case 003. Prosecutors also want to try Im Chem, a former district chief, as well as deputy zone secretaries Yim Tith and Aom An in Case 004.

However, allegations of political interference by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has signaled that he does not want to see any further prosecutions, routine procedural delays, and defense tactics have also heightened concerns that these cases might not go ahead.

In a bid to accelerate the process, the ECCC last week adopted new provisions that will allow co-investigating judges and the Trial Chamber to trim back the scope of investigations and drop some accusations against suspects.

This was expected to ease the work load in the genocide trial, and allow the high number of accusations against the four suspects in 003 and 004 to be reduced to a more workable level. But critics have warned the move could also silence victims who were prepared to testify.

“Cases 003 and 004 have obviously been troubled for a long time, but it is too soon to know what their ultimate fate will be,” Etcheseon said. “Who now remembers when Hun Sen said that he would not allow anyone to ‘touch’ Ieng Sary? As the objective situation evolves, historically he has shown great tactical dexterity.”

Critics of the tribunal have been loud and quick to pounce on the politics and the controversy that came with the ECCC from the outset, particularly the lengthy delays and the costs, which at slightly more than $200 million to date represents about $100 for each person who died under the ultra-Maoists.

“It is up to the judges to rein in this time consuming exercise and get on with the trial,” Maguire added. “It will be a pity if the UN’s obsession with procedural correctness allows the Khmer Rouge trial to become a second Milosevic case with the defenders dying before their trial is complete.”

Luke Hunt for The Diplomat


Philippines 49 police commandos killed in Maguindanao bloodbath


AT least 49 police commandos have been confirmed killed in the bloodbath that occurred on Sunday in Maguindanao province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

An 11-hour gun battle broke out after police entered the remote town of Mamasapano, held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), around 3 a.m. on Sunday without coordinating with the rebels as required under their ceasefire agreement.

The bodies of 49 policemen have been recovered and moved to an Philippine Army camp, regional police spokeswoman Judith Ambong said.

She did not say whether any MILF members were killed.
Police had been targeting two high-profile terror suspects in the operation.

“This is going to be a big problem,” the MILF’s chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said when asked how the fighting would affect the peace process.

But he and government officials said the ceasefire still held.
Philippine National Police chief Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd flew to Maguindanao on Monday.

In a statement, Espina said the police commandos were chasing a “high-value target” believed to be behind recent bomb attacks in the South. He did not elaborate.

Iqbal said they were trying to arrest a member of regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah called Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, among the United States’ most wanted with a $5- million bounty for his capture.

Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli is the most prominent of the 10 to 12 foreign JI members believed hiding in the Philippines.

Authorities were also allegedly targeting Basit Usman, commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.


The state of the pivot: A missed American opportunity

Just days after US President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address, the American public may well have been surprised to find the US leader in Asia, namely India, for a landmark visit following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to the United States last September. Obama's address to the US Congress, after all, said little to nothing about Southeast or South Asia, excluding Afghanistan. And as for the once much discussed "Asia pivot", or rebalance of US foreign policy to focus more on Asia, little has been heard from Obama recently in the midst of a disastrous midterm election for his political party and continued turmoil in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.


With the eyes of America upon him, it's understandable that Obama played primarily to a domestic audience and focused on hometown concerns in his penultimate State of the Union address. As I argued in Fortune Magazine, however, that's unfortunate.

Prior to embarking for India, Obama had a chance to put that trip in the context of America's enduring commitment to Asia. He missed the opportunity to further what could still be a hallmark of his now waning administration, namely underscoring to America and to Asia the critical importance of strengthened US-Asia business, educational and cultural engagement.

Indeed, what could have been a "teaching moment" - on the value of strengthened trade and stronger ties with all of Asia - for American viewers as well as those watching from overseas proved to be a bust from an Asian perspective. Full of praise for what the president saw as his own domestic victories, the 70-minute speech said little of America's relationship with the world's most dynamic region, and why Asia matters to all of the United States - Wall Street to Main Street.

From initial words on disengagement - "for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over" (though some 15,000 US troops remain) - to the less than diplomatic - "as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region [and] put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage" - references to Asia in what is typically the most watched presidential speech of the year were limited and brief.

What of a comprehensive trade agreement now being negotiated - the Trans-Pacific Partnership - by the United States and 11 other Asia-Pacific nations? Little was said. The president did call for "both parties [of Congress] to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren't just free, but fair". But then, he quickly moved on, doing little to explain the jargon or to convince sceptics of his commitment to the hard work necessary to move such trade agreements forward.

And what of rising tensions in the South China Sea, as a wary Asia adjusts to a resurgent China, still the world's second-largest economy despite slowing growth rates? The US president was equally brief.

"In the Asia Pacific, we are modernising alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules - in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like non-proliferation and disaster relief," Obama said before pivoting to the topic of climate change.

What else might he have said? According to the latest data from the East-West Centre, a non-partisan Hawaii-based think tank, Obama could well have underscored to Americans that:

l 28 per cent of US goods and 27 per cent of US services exports go to Asia;

l 32 per cent of US jobs from exports depend on exports to Asia;

l 64 per cent of international students in the United States are from Asia - contributing $14 billion to the US economy;

l 8.5 million visitors from Asia contribute $41 billion to the US economy; and

l 39 states send at least a quarter of their exports to Asia.

To be clear, America's security and prosperity are closely and increasingly linked to Asia-Pacific. The region is home not just to China, but also to two of the world's largest democracies, India and Indonesia, as well as several nations, including Japan, the Philippines and South Korea, that the United States is bound by treaty to defend. Critically, Asia also provides growing opportunities for US trade, investment and entrepreneurship.

That's a point that US Secretary of State John Kerry underscored at a speech at the East West Centre in Honolulu in August 2014. "In the 21st century, a nation's interests and the wellbeing of its people are advanced not just by troops or diplomats, but they're advanced by entrepreneurs, by chief executives of companies, by the businesses that are good corporate citizens, by the workers that they employ, by the students that they train, and the shared prosperity that they create," he said.

Too bad that is a message that Obama chose not to share in his take from Washington on the state of the US union, as Asia looked on. Whether delivered amid a state visit to India or in the hall of the US Capitol building, the critical point remains: America matters to Asia, but Asia also matters to America.

Curtis S Chin is managing director of advisory firm RiverPeak Group, LLC, and a former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank.

The Pope, the Pill and the Population Explosion

The poor have but a few things in life. But at least they have Pope Francis.

He gives them hope, encouragement and, now and then, a turn of phrase that draws good-natured laughter. When he visited the Philippines earlier this month, he met a Filipino woman who had risked her life to bring forth seven children, all by Caesarian section. She got a papal scolding.

Just because God gave you the right to bear children, he said, that doesn’t mean you should go for broke in exercising that right.

“Some people think,” he said, “that — excuse my expression here — that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Parenthood is about being responsible.”

In a world where the rich get richer and the poor get children, who can argue against that? But I’ve read somewhere that rabbit farmers in Germany are incensed by the Pope’s remarks.

“What does he have against rabbits?” they ask. “Rabbits don’t breed like rabbits. Only people do that.”

Actually, the pope has resurrected an ancient notion that Catholic families must be big families — because they resort only to the rhythm method of contraception, which doesn’t work. It’s not called “Vatican roulette” for nothing.

In the same vein, here’s another papal story, one told to me by a Chicago-based journalist: when Pope John Paul II visited the US in 1979, he dropped in on a hospital to comfort the sick. He came upon a man lying in a hospital bed, with his wife attending to him, and a bunch of frisky young children, obviously their progenies, swarming around them. The pope began to praise them for keeping faith with Catholic family values.

“I’m sorry, Holy Father,” the man interrupted him, “but we’re not Catholics. We’re just sexy Protestants.”

That story should remind us that population growth is not just a matter of government policy, nor is it just about the teachings of a religion. It’s also about sex. To be exact, sex as recreation.

There’s a great deal of anecdotal evidence to show that when a poor family saves enough money to buy a television set, the production of babies in the family radically slows down. That’s especially true when a tearjerker of a telenovela is on during prime time, after dinner.

On the other hand, poor families that have no visible means of entertaining themselves in the restiveness of tropical evenings, well, they just keep on producing children. Procreation is their only recreation.

Apart from that, some families see a large brood as the solution to rather than the cause of an economic problem. This is often the case for small farmers in rural communities, where it’s not unusual for a peasant family to have as many as 10 children.

The more children a man has, the more help is available to him as he tills his small farm, the thinking goes. Try convincing the man that he’s got it wrong and he’ll laugh in your face.

The payback comes when the 10 children grow up and they have children of their own. The farm can no longer feed all the mouths in the much-extended family. Some of the children will have to go out into the world, very likely to some city. Having done nothing but farm all their lives, they aren’t fit for jobs that pay decent wages. Some resort to petty crime. They all become part of a huge social problem.

Pope Francis is right when he says that people should exercise their right to reproduce with a strong sense of responsibility. But to do that, they need to be equipped with more than the Vatican roulette.

Partly because he says the cutest things, many women all over the world love the pope. But they take the pill.

Jamil Maidan Flores is a Jakarta-based literary writer whose interests include philosophy and foreign policy.


US and India — Two Democracies Should Join to Balance China’s Rise


Obama’s presence at the birthday party of the world’s largest democracy, just four months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, is highly symbolic. The visit is also expected to ramp up bilateral cooperation on economic growth, energy and climate change as well as address important differences such as intellectual property rights and civil nuclear liability law that pose a hindrance to taking the cooperation to the next level. However, the larger goal that the United States should be pursuing here is to convince India to join a coalition of democracies to balance China’s rise. Although it won’t be publicized, this topic will likely be ever-present in their private conversations.

Since the Second World War, the United States spurred global economic growth and made substantial investments in Asia. Deng Xiaoping’s opening up of China’s economy in 1978 began China’s full integration into the global economy and normalized its diplomatic relations with other countries. The resulting transformation of China’s economy allowed it to ultimately challenge the supremacy of the United States. China seeks to be the preeminent power in the Western Pacific and consolidate Asia into an exclusive bloc that is deferential to Chinese national and security interests. Although China’s military capabilities are not formally equal to those of the United States, it still is capable of inflicting sufficient damage to increase the cost of a conflict to the United States to an unacceptable level. China’s territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea and its actions in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands with Japan illustrated to US policymakers the dangers of China’s approach to its neighbors and the risks of a major conflict in the region.

In 2012, the Obama administration announced that it was going to be intensifying its focus to the Asia-Pacific in a policy popularly known as the “rebalance to Asia.” The objective was to address the fact that the balance of powers in the Asia-Pacific region shifted in China’s favor following the 9/11 attacks and the US war on terror. The policy signaled that the US would be refocusing its interests and resources toward the Asia-Pacific region by investing and developing new capabilities, strengthening existing alliances and investing in key partnerships. This “concert of democracies” strategy involved courting democracies in the region to manage the uncertainties caused by a rising China.

Currently, it is unclear whether there will be any formal version of a policy such as the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (QSD) that was unveiled in 2007 by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. But what is clear is the bilateral relations between Asia’s maritime democracies — India, the United States, Australia and Japan — are stronger than ever. These four countries interact regularly at a military-to-military level as well share intelligence regularly.

The United States’ “rebalance to Asia” was always going to be complicated because of the special nature of the US relationship with China. While the United States and China compete on geopolitical and military terms, they are also deeply dependent on each other economically. To add to the complexity, China has slowly but steadily replaced the United States as the largest trading partner for almost all the Asian states, and many of these states consider China as an important vehicle for their future growth. Thus, the United States and its allies in Asia find themselves in a difficult situation: they want the United States to protect them from any Chinese aggression but at the same time also want the United States to be sensitive to Chinese interests.

There is no denial that the US presence in Asia provides stability and certainty to India. There is also increasingly less doubt that India finds comfort in a US-centric world order based on shared values and mutual perceptions of stability. The US presence in Asia ensures peaceful resolution of disputes as well as economic progress. It is unclear if India has the capacity or the resources to address challenges posed by a rising China on its own or with the cooperation of its other allies. For this reason, it is important that India and the United States deepen their engagement on military, economic and security levels to make the US rebalance a success. When Obama celebrates India’s democratic achievements as a state and society along with Modi, they ought to discuss the role that India can effectively play in making the US rebalance successful, which is vital to both American and Indian interests. More importantly, the US and India should work together on exploring ways to reassure China and include it for regional problem solving to ensure a peaceful, prosperous and stable Asia.

Jon Huntsman Jr. is the chairman of the Atlantic Council and was the former US ambassador to China. Bharath Gopalaswamy is the acting director of the South Asia Center.